Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paley Center for Media

Tim and I love television. We were kids when it was still a relatively new medium and love to regale each other with tales of life without color TV.

One of the best things (for us, at least) about living in L.A. is being so close to the entertainment industry. I grew-up in Burbank under the shadow of Warner Bros. and NBC. We now live in Culver City, where Sony Studios is king. L.A. is also home to the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio), which holds screenings and seminars on TV shows, old and new. Their big annual event is the Paley festival—a two-week extravaganza featuring the casts of television’s hottest hits—but even more exciting are the museum’s intimate series celebrating people and shows that aren’t necessarily among Nielsen’s top ten. Last year, Karen and I attended a tribute to legendary filmmaker Robert Altman, who had his start in television, a few months before he died. We were also among the handful of fans to attend a seminar on “Nip/Tuck” before it became a cable TV phenomenon. True to his character on the show, Julian McMahon (aka Dr. Christian Troy) looked like a sculpted god.

More recently, Tim and I went to panel discussions on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and “Friday Night Lights,” my favorite TV show du jour. Julia looked quite fetching in her vintage cocktail dress and mod hairdo; but I nearly swooned at seeing all my favorite actors from “Friday Night Lights.” I was in testosterone heaven!

I went by myself, last night, to see a special seminar on “Cane,” the CBS drama about a rich Cuban family growing sugarcane in Florida. Jimmy Smits, who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast, not only stars as the prodigal-son-turned-murderer Alex Vega, he also produces the show. Obviously, he was the main reason most of us were there. The real attraction, though, was Rita Moreno, who plays the family’s matriarch. She sashayed across the stage in her brown leather pants and gold-coin belt and generally looked fabulous. It was hard to believe that she was my mother’s neighbor when they were both growing up in NYC.

Even better yet was the Paley’s “toast” to “Mad Men,” AMC’s spot-on drama about the advertising business in 1960. Still stuck in the 1950s/60s ourselves, this is the perfect TV show for us with all its perfectly recreated mid-century furniture and wardrobe. Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, the advertising exec with the mysterious past, is a lot more petite in person than he is on the screen. Actresses Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks were also far less voluptuous. "They must be forced to wear padding on the show," Tim kept insisting. If only the rest of us were so lucky!


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Home Improvements, Pt. 2

After living all summer with a grassless, defoliated backyard, we heard from our landscaper Joel that the weather was finally cool enough to plant new foliage. So we schlepped all the way out to the Theodore Payne Foundation, a 22-acre California native plant preserve and nursery in Sun Valley, to go plant-shopping. With Joel’s (and, thank goodness, Karen’s) help, we selected three varieties of salvia (i.e., sage), three types of Manzanita bushes, two succulents, and an assortment of plants that will eventually cover the ground and (fingers crossed!) bloom in festive colors come next spring.

Joel also picked out a small tree (cercis occidentallis—i.e., redbud), which produces tiny magenta flowers in the spring, a luscious gardenia bush (my favorite flower), and tall brown-and-green cannas for two of my many pots. The real centerpiece, however, is the magnificent octopus agave that we decided to include rather last minute. It is the most dramatic element of the entire project and gives me hope that the rest of the yard will soon be just as beautiful.

The gardeners showed up to plant everything on Wednesday — the day I teach, unfortunately, so I wasn’t able to appreciate their handiwork until the next morning. I was surprised to see what looked like a lanky man standing on the front porch, though, when I drove up that night. It turned out to be one of the cannas greeting me with its brilliant orange flowers.

To say that I’m now obsessed with my garden would be an understatement. Much like a mother hen with her chicks, I check my baby plants daily for any signs of progress and even slunk outside before dawn with a flashlight, Saturday morning, to make sure they had survived the rainstorm the night before. Most of the plants are very small, but should start looking like their own nature preserve within the year.

Stay tuned . . .