Tag Archives: Travel

Story & Review: Dive Bar Shirt Club and The Giant Jackalope

The Giant Jackalope illustration by Henry Chamberlain

It is always a pleasure to review anything that falls within the category of attire or accessory in the geek lifestyle. So, Comics Grinder is very happy to share with you Dive Bar Shirt Club. As the name implies, this is a club devoted to shirts. Each month you get a quality shirt honoring a dive bar chosen for its distinction and originality. A new dive bar design is featured every month and, once that month is up, that shirt is retired forever.

We all seek distinction and originality. It’s another way of simply saying that we are attracted to things that are cool. I was on the road, during a carefree summer in my youth, when I spotted what had to be the best roadside attraction I’d ever seen. It was an homage to the jackalope, that staple of Americana, the cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. This sucker was huge and it was perched atop a glorious dive bar. It was a warm summer night that seemed to promise adventure. I had to walk in.

Inside the bar, I did a double-take. The place was immaculate. I was expecting it to be a well-worn, musty, and gaudy place. But, no, this place was classy. And there was no carryover of the jackalope theme. Instead, the red leather booths were nicely kept and all the brass piping was polished. There were a couple of gents in suits looking very retro. Again, I was expecting a far more casual vibe. The waitress was a beauty all done up in a vintage dress. All this seemed too formal for a place in the middle of nowhere. I was outside a little town in Texas, not a Vegas casino in the ’50s.

Her name was Sadie. “What will you have, stranger?” she asked with the longest lashes I’d ever had the pleasure to admire.

I’d had a good look at the list of mixed drinks. When I read it on the menu, I had to have it. “I’ll take The Jackalope.”

Sadie just stared at me. Her eyes grew wide. With a tremble in her voice, she asked, “You mean, The Jackalope, right?”

“Yes,” I said firmly, “I’m here for The Jackalope!”

I must have raised my voice because the two fugitives from “Mad Men” turned to have a good look at me. They proceeded to get up from their booth and walk over to me.

“You’re really here for The Jackalope?”

I think I lost it at that point. “I don’t know what you people mean!” I yelled and ran out the front door.

I was heading for my car when it dawned on me. I slowly turned around and looked up. There it was. It hissed and glared at me. Then, with a mighty leap, that monster flew up into the air like the most lucid nightmare. This was followed by a massive thud which was quickly followed by the lightening speed of a creature from hell. And, hell yes, it was distinctive and original!

If you’re like me, you desire that added spice, that distinction and originality. You too can find it in a unique t-shirt from Dive Bar Shirt Club. In the video below, I’m sporting just the ticket. This Dive Bar Shirt Club t-shirt celebrates Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, California. This is one awesome combination of style and comfort.

Visit Dive Bar Shirt Club right here.

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Filed under America, Americana, Beer, Fashion, pop culture, Style

Review: HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

What if you could run away and live off the land as you help settle the North Pole? Sounds kinda nutty, doesn’t it? Well, it made total sense to Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist, active at the turn of the last century. Luke Healy’s new graphic novel, “How to Survive in the North,” published by Nobrow Press, looks back on this most quixotic journey.

Healy brings in a contemporary narrative thread that is interlaced with this bizarre arctic misadventure. It provides a nice counterbalance to the often dire arctic narrative. As weird as the attempt to settle the North Pole is, it is also weird, in a good way, to embark upon a graphic novel based upon this relatively arcane history. But a gem is a gem and it takes a certain talent to see that.

Panels excerpt

Panels excerpt

There’s a wonderful depth to this book with its full-bodied scope following the rhythms of a prose novel. Healy’s drawing style is economical while not missing a beat. The pacing, the light but spot on composition, and the compelling dialogue provide a rich experience. A lot of people today are ready to dive in and create their own graphic novels. There is no trick to it and there’s a great chance of failure. But, if you’re in love with it, then there’s no other way. Healy is clearly in love.

Panels excerpt

Panels excerpt

In fact, there’s plenty of love to be found within this story. One primary plot line, set in the present, follows the ill-fated affair between Sully Barnaby, a tenured professor, and Kevin, his student. Sully has been put on a forced one-year sabbatical to temper his lack of judgement. It is during this bittersweet one-year paid vacation that the prof immerses himself in the various documents related to the two arctic expeditions of 1912 and 1926. In the process, Sully gains a renewed sense of purpose.

Full Page Excerpt

Full Page Excerpt

Was it a very good idea to try to tame the North Pole? Spoiler alert: No, it was not such a good idea. But you will definitely root for the survivors. And reading this quirky and highly entertaining graphic novel is certainly a great idea! This book was first introduced to American audiences via the Center For Cartoon Studies, which launched the careers of Chuck Forsman, Jen Vaughn, and Sophie Goldstein, amongst others.

“How to Survive in the North” is a 192-page full-color hardcover. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Nobrow Press right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Nobrow Press

Portland Focus: Portland Art Museum

South Park Block: Theodore Roosevelt guards the Portland Art Museum

South Park Block: Theodore Roosevelt guards the Portland Art Museum

One of my favorite strolls is walking down the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland and then making it over to the Portland Art Museum. I was recently in Portland and enjoyed such an outing. This was just prior to the new Andy Warhol show. So, I need to make another trip from Seattle in the near future. That said, I had a wonderful time spending most of my time taking in the permanent collections. Just for fun, here are some observations.

PAM 2016: Cymatic Modular Triangle

I was in a contemplative mood. I found myself focusing on the various juxtapositions of art I came across. There were so many pleasing combinations on view that I could not help documenting some of the most striking ones. So much to see and process. This is just a quick sampling. I also include one of the temporary exhibits that intrigued me, “Sound Beyond the Auditory,” on view until the first of the new year. I’ll say a few words and you can go to the video that showcases a really cool pulsating triangle. This exhibit is made up of experiments in cymatics, the process of making sound visible and tactile. People enjoyed each work on view and were compelled to linger over the Cymatic Modular Triangle. They would stomp, tap, click, whatever sound they could think of, to influence the colorful patterns it responded with. This exhibition was developed in partnership with CymaSpace. For more information on their programs or how to volunteer visit cymaspace.org.

Bourdelle and Monet

Bourdelle and Monet

Getting back to my study in coupling of art works. In no specific order: we begin with Bourdelle and Monet. The massive yet pensive bust, “Head of a Figure Called Eloquence,” 1917, by Emilie-Antoine Bourdelle, takes in the scene and is a perfect counterbalance to a water lily painting by Monet.

Caro and Oldenberg

Caro and Oldenberg

Anthony Caro’s quirky “Table Piece XXX,” 1967, fits right in with what looks like a study for a large scale Oldenberg, “Profile Airflow,” 1969.

Rauchenberg and Stella

Rauchenberg and Stella

Rauchenberg shares space with Stella.

Rodin and Monet

Rodin and Monet

Rodin’s exuberance gives way to Monet’s calm.

Smith and Berman

Smith and Berman

David Smith’s spiky sculpture, “Portrait of Don Quixote,” 1952, wages a battle with Eugene Berman’s expansive “Time and the Monuments,” 1941.

Smith and Berman

Smith and Berman

Olin Levi Warner’s sculpture rides the ebb and flow of time with the paintings of Edward Lincoln Espey.

"Charrette de boeuf (The Ox Cart)," July, 1884

“Charrette de boeuf (The Ox Cart),” July, 1884

"The Thatched-Roof Cottages of Jorgus, Auvers-sur-Oise," June 1890

“The Thatched-Roof Cottages of Jorgus, Auvers-sur-Oise,” June 1890

By far, the most moving combination is of a painting early in Vincent van Gogh’s life coupled with a painting from the month of his suicide. The space between the paintings seems to stand for such a troubled life as Van Gogh’s. One painting seems perhaps serene and studios. The other painting we might read into it resignation. We can sense a mastery, a certainty within uncertainty.

Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum is located at 1219 SW Park Avenue. “Andy Warhol: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” runs from October 8, 2016 to January 1, 2017. For more details, visit the PAM website right here.

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Filed under Andy Warhol, Art, Portland, Travel, Van Gogh

Hotel Review: Hotel Eastlund in Portland, Oregon

Hotel Eastlund is One of a Kind!

Hotel Eastlund is One of a Kind!

Portland beckons. Perhaps you are heading out to the Oregon Convention Center or you’re just looking for a centrally-located hotel right next to the Max light rail. Hotel Eastlund is a great place to stay when visiting Portland. I made that discovery during a recent stay. It coincided with the annual 24-Hour Comics Day that I take part in along with countless cartoonists around the world. For me, the location, the atmosphere, and the hospitality all added up very nicely. I was able to easily get around town and rely upon a quiet and comfortable room to settle into a drawing marathon.

Hotel Eastlund in Portland, Oregon

Hotel Eastlund in Portland, Oregon

It all began with my arrival at Union Station. I took the train from Seattle. In fact, I read and prepared my review for this year’s Best American Comics during my train trip. I then walked over a few steps to the Max light rail and hopped on. Moments later, I was at the hotel. An upbeat and peppy style welcomes each visitor. The eye follows low-key colors and a pleasing combination of white and orange.

Hotel Eastlund: An Adventure Awaits

Hotel Eastlund: An Adventure Awaits

Boutique hotels are all about an upbeat and hip environment and Hotel Eastlund definitely met and exceeded my expectations. You feel, as you enter the lobby, with hints of the futuristic and the urban, that anything is possible from your new home away from home. The surroundings are chic and yet practical. There is plenty of comfortable seating and lots of informative brochures. Walk down a bit and you’ll find a roomy business computer station. And past that you’ll find a welcoming and nicely stocked café. There is also a gym and a chic rooftop restaurant. The more you take in, the more you see that this is a boutique hotel with a grand hotel vision and scope.

The Magic of Hotel Eastlund

The Magic of Hotel Eastlund

The room was quite pleasant. I fired up my laptop and set about planning my visit using the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. I looked out the window to observe the Oregon Convention Center and the Max light rail. Just beyond that, at walking distance, I would find a number of shops and restaurants including the Lloyd Center shopping mall. But, first things first, I jumped into the shower to help keep me alert for the long day of sightseeing followed by an extended drawing session. I’d already made a number of sketches but there was more that lay ahead, along with inking what I had started in pencils. And I also managed to fit in going to see Peahces at the Wonder Ballroom. I did not stay late but late enough. Before going out, I did make a quick trip up to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar, Altabira City Tavern. The view is simply stunning. I had a delicious glass of house red wine. My only regret is that I did not stay longer and, with spacious seating and inviting fire pits, it was quite tempting not to leave.

Once back to my room to pursue my night of drawing, I settled in with some coffee. I wanted to tie in the quirky offbeat character of Portland with my own drawing sensibility so I focused on work from my ongoing graphic novel about the science fiction writer George Clayton Johnson. Among his accomplishments, he co-wrote, with William F. Nolan, the landmark sci-fi novel, Logan’s Run. Bill Nolan, by the way, was in Portland to celebrate with the Portland Film Festival, the 40th anniversary of the blockbuster movie, Logan’s Run. So, all that said, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. As daybreak emerged, I flipped on the TV and enjoyed Hotel Eastlund’s Channel 2 which focuses on Northwest filmmakers and storytellers, presented by Lower Boom. Among the programs, “The Benefits of Gusbandry,” starring Brooke Totman and Kurt Conroyd, is totally hilarious. Check out the video for more about my hotel stay and the drawings I did during my visit.

That morning, I was grateful to sit down with a hot breakfast. I could have called room service but I chose to throw on some flip flops and my jogging clothes and make my way down to the hotel café, Citizen Baker. I give the hotel high marks for a lively and upbeat atmosphere throughout my stay. Considering I had a pretty hectic schedule as I set about taking in Portland from various angles as well as being true to my drawing regime, it was most appreciated that I could rely upon Hotel Eastlund’s professionalism and thoughtful hospitality. The hotel is utterly gorgeous. We can sometimes take things for granted. I think Hotel Eastlund makes it all look carefree and easy. Hotel Eastlund is a refreshing and smart new addition to Portland’s Eastside making it a fun and exciting destination in its own right.

Citizen Baker at Hotel Eastlund

Citizen Baker at Hotel Eastlund

Another visit to Hotel Eastlund is on my agenda and the sooner the better. There is simply so much more to enjoy. So, if your next destination is Portland, keep in mind how easy it is to get here from the Westside on the Max light rail, just a brief trip across the Willamette River then you are literally just steps away from the hotel. And, if you have more involved needs, there are five stunning private dining and meeting rooms including the 3,400 square foot Cosmopolitan Grand Ballroom that features floor to ceiling windows and breathtaking views.

Find Hotel Eastlund at 1021 NE Grand Avenue. Their phone number is (503) 235-2100. And visit the Hotel Eastlund website right here.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Hotel Review, Hotels, Portland, Travel

Tacoma Focus: Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace at the Museum of Glass

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

You can steam bend pieces of alder wood to create beautiful and haunting images. The artist team of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace offer various compelling examples such as enigmatic birds. Their outline frames are positioned so the light casts intriguing double shadows. They beg you to ask endless existential questions. We were so lucky to view them and a wide assortment of other artworks reviewing the careers of Kirkpatrick and Mace. This show is on display through September 6, 2016 at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

“Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace: Every Soil Bears Not Everything” exemplifies what the Museum of Glass is all about. Kirkpatrick and Mace met as students at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1979, at the height of the studio glass movement, and have been creating compelling work ever since. Known for their oversized fruit and vegetable glass sculptures, examples of these begin the show. We then move on to works utilizing various unconventional, or understated, materials such as alder wood.

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

There is an overall calming and introspective nature to this show. I don’t know that being calm is as essential a prerequisite for an artist as making daring use of unusual materials. I will say that, while glass can certainly be shattered, and we can definitely get cut by glass, the overwhelming quality of glass, the quality we seem to seek out the most in glass art, has to do with states of serenity and quiet contemplation.

Alphabet Animals

Alphabet Animals

Kirkpatrick and Mace consistently invite us to enter a meditative state. Whatever the medium, each piece seems to raise more questions than provide answers. Or perhaps the overriding answer is that we can only see so much. Nature will only reveal itself so much. We are left to understand as best we can. And, through art, we can attempt to express our limits.

The limits of our vision to understand nature.

The limits of our means to process nature.

The Limits of Expression

The limits of our means of expression.

The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock St., in the heart of Tacoma’s Museum District. For more information, visit the website right here.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Museum of Glass, Museums, Tacoma, Travel

Hotel Review: Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Sometimes you need to take a detour and see where it takes you. I chose Hotel Murano in Tacoma Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

This week we focus on Tacoma, Washington, home to a unique glass art culture linked directly to Tacoma native and world-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly. For those of you considering a visit to the Pacific Northwest, it is Tacoma where you can find an intriguing blend of old and new including the Washington State History Museum, America’s Car Museum, and the Museum of Glass.

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Glass is about openness and clarity. I love how Hotel Murano plays with the theme of glass. Looking down from Bite, the hotel’s restaurant perched on the fourth floor, you can take in quite a spacious view.

A playful and inviting use of  space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

A playful and inviting use of space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

You sense that open feeling all around, accented with smartly placed art like the full scale horse standing by the bar. You feel as if you could ride that regal black horse, trot around the lobby, and canter down the hall. With that lampshade on its head, you just know it’s a whimsical, or magical, horse. If it were a nightmare, it would not make very good company with your scotch and soda.

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Friendly and courteous service count for everything in a hotel stay. Hotel Murano comes away with high marks. Beginning with the front desk service, all our requests were promptly met and all our questions were thoughtfully answered.

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

There’s an old favorite home style restaurant from many years back that I had difficulty recalling but the front desk was able to reconnect me with Southern Kitchen! If you are looking for some good catfish, that’s the place to go. And, if you do wander off, you may also want to treat yourself to the local art house movie theater, Grand Cinema.

A Comfy Bed Awaits

A Comfy Bed Awaits

Our room at Hotel Murano was just what we had hoped for: stylish, comfortable, and with a sense of fun. The bed was comfy and spacious. I rested on a pile of pillows and read for a while. I found myself reading three chapters without any disturbance. The book I was reading is about a man on a business trip. He checks into an inn but becomes restless and wanders off into the woods where trouble soon finds him. At Hotel Murano, you won’t become restless. You can either enjoy the hotel or quite easily walk over to check out some fun spots for a bite to eat in the Museum District like Elemental Pizza or Pacific Grill. And you can certainly take the nearby link rail and venture further out. And, like I say, you definitely won’t get restless with plenty to see and do.

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

The Murano islands in Venice are a center for glassmaking dating back to 1291. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Murano brings to mind clear blue waters and skies. The name Murano itself evokes wanderlust and adventure. It is a fine name for a hotel that helps each guest find their own special Murano experience.

When your travels bring you to Tacoma, be sure to stay at Hotel Murano.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Hotel Review, Hotels, Pacific Northwest, Tacoma, Travel, Washington state

Review: ‘Cruising Through the Louvre’ by David Prudhomme

CRUISING THROUGH THE LOUVRE

CRUISING THROUGH THE LOUVRE

Paris, and the Louvre, are beacons to artists and art lovers and will always be. What we know is that such things matter dearly, are a deeply essential part of life. Now, in the aftershock of the horror of the terrorist attack in Brussels, we choose to remain alert and vigilant but we also choose to remain steadfast in our celebration of humanity at its best. There is no other way. So, with that in mind, it gives me added resolve and passion, as I share with you this latest item. Oh, yes, this is such a relevant book with that heightened sense of timelessness. Look at this book and you’ve met a good friend, David Prudhomme’s new graphic novel, “Cruising Through the Louvre,” published by NBM Publishing.

With old pal, Rembrandt

With old pal, Rembrandt

David Prudhomme is a man to watch, indeed. He is a fellow cartoonist who I would love to meet sometime. I’m sure we’d have plenty to talk about. I see his work as full of a zest for life in all its lusty and gritty splendor. Now, take a cartoonist such as this and set him loose in the Louvre. Well, Mr. Prudhomme certainly lives up to the challenge. I know that, if I was set loose in the Louvre, I would have my own idiosyncratic view, and so it certainly is with this masterful artist. It may seem easy but to throw down the scenario of an offbeat observer wandering through some of the greatest art of all time is quite a mind-bending proposition. This requires a steady hand, brain, and hours of editing as all these impressions that come to mind must finally adhere to some coherent narrative.

Reading "Cruising Through the Louvre," by David Prudhomme

Reading “Cruising Through the Louvre,” by David Prudhomme

Prudhomme has a beautifully loose style that evokes a stream of consciousness outlook. Prudhomme is in the Louvre ostensibly to find his girlfriend, Jeanne. This may or may never happen. That does not really matter. The guy is wearing a baggy coat, a huge Russian fur cap with ear flaps, and he’s got his cell phone at the ready. He gets to spend some time with his good pal, Rembrandt, and then he’s on the move, looking for Jeanne, marveling over art, and endlessly people-watching. The sensory overload is intoxicating. Soon he is recombining people with art: one tourist’s foot aligns with the foot from a sculpture; or one sleepy heap of museum patrons seamlessly fit as an extension of Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa.”

A zest for life

A zest for life

We enter into a whole other world when we inhabit such a place as the Louvre. It really isn’t something you want to leave for just a couple of hours. I would easily go each day for weeks, months, if not years. It would not take too much in the way of convincing for me to return to my old museum guard days. Roaming through such vast expression of sensual delight, it would also not take too much convincing for me to return to my days as a life drawing model. Ah, such is the power of the Louvre. But, most of all, it is a place that inspires me both as writer and artist. Everyone finds something to lose themselves in. Prudhomme is wonderfully uninhibited with his observations. He is keenly aware that, once out of one’s element, people can get in touch with content they would normally zone out. For instance, consider Prudhomme’s drawing of a tourist snapping a photo of an old warrior’s genitals. Well, within context, it makes total sense. Snap away!

What Mona Lisa saw

What Mona Lisa saw

The Louvre has always been a place for the people. Give people a chance to enjoy art, and they will rise to it. Give them the Louvre, and you have provided heaven on earth. Prudhomme does not shun or ridicule the public’s hearty appetite for snapping photos and video. In fact, instead of shaking his head over what some might dismiss as the spectacle over viewing the Mona Lisa, he wonders what people do after they’ve gotten their good look. He also wonders what Mona Lisa would see if she bothered to look back at all her admirers. There’s no easy answer. There’s just too many people to consider. All that humanity enjoying their time in the Louvre for a multitude of reasons, no one reason being better or worse than the other! All this, Prudhomme manages to speak to in this quite remarkable book. Bravo! This is a keepsake that you will enjoy many times over.

"Cruising Through the Louvre," by David Prudhomme

“Cruising Through the Louvre,” by David Prudhomme

“Cruising Through the Louvre” is an 80-page full color hardcover. For more details, visit NBM Publishing right here.

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Filed under Comics, David Prudhomme, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM, NBM Publishing, Paris, The Louvre, Travel

The Oscars and the True Meaning of Entertainment

Hollywood and Highland

Hollywood and Highland

I found myself in Los Angeles these last few days of February for a number of reasons. Let me put it to you this way, I was there as much to enjoy a day long visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as I was for anything else. And, of course, I devoted a chunk of time to the Oscars. Here is the key to a lot in life: keep an open mind. Now, when it comes to entertainment, the more flexible you are, the better. I keep things to a broad spectrum, from the intellectual to the spectacle. That said, I’ll share with you some observations from this last visit. In the end, we can explore the idea of what it is to be entertained.

Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, Los Angeles

The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, Los Angeles

Seattle is my home base. It is in this relatively small, yet bustling, city that various forms of entertainment are created by some very talented individuals in music, film, fiction, comics, and so on. And then there are just as many, perhaps even more, individuals involved in commenting on all this creative work. That’s something I am very sensitive to as I am both a creator and a commentator. Let’s just say I appreciate when the air has gotten too thick. Sometimes, you just want some frog legs at The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, which I definitely enjoyed. And, to be sure, the level of discourse at tables was quick, smart, and unpretentious. If I say I am going to talk to you about the true meaning of fiction or entertainment, it’s in the spirit of an open discussion without the pretense. Please, we have too much of that.

Chris Burden's "Urban Light," at LACMA

Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” at LACMA

It’s all about going from the specific to the general. Take the time to give one particular subject its due, focus on that, consider its merits, and then reap the rewards of entertainment and insight. I will compare for you two events in Hollywood that are closely related: a tribute to screenwriter George Clayton Johnson at the American Cinematheque this last Friday; and then some observations on the Oscars this last Sunday. I really wasn’t planning on doing this. I want to keep it light but offer you a few ideas. The best thing I can do is jump right in with some observations beginning with the tribute. Here, I want to make clear that much depends upon your understanding and knowledge.

George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood

George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood

If such things as the literary background of The Twilight Zone are new to you, then perhaps this will spark interest. I know a great deal about this subject, particularly the writers known as, The Group, from which much of this springs from. George Clayton Johnson was a key member of The Group. He had within his power the ability to write some of the most compelling magical realism. That’s important because, despite the many disadvantages he had in life, he was a writer with not only a vision but a determination. George went on to create some of the most iconic and beloved episodes of The Twilight Zone which is the gold standard for what can be done when melding the art forms of fiction and television. Don’t let yourself think that Masterpiece Theater holds the key. That is too obvious a venue. Actually, it is within The Twilight Zone, at its best, that you will find much that is stimulating and intriguing with great literary merit.

George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood

George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood

So, here you have this very special individual, George Clayton Johnson, who understood better than most, the fundamental inner workings of fiction. He took his insight, skill, and hard work and did what he did with it. He primarily wrote for television. All of his work on The Twilight Zone is remarkable. This led to him writing the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast. Among other TV work, he wrote an exceptional episode of Kung Fu where the main character experiences a flashforward, as opposed to a flashback, to help him save his life. And, to cap it all off, George and William F. Nolan wrote the classic dystopian novel, Logan’s Run. Beyond those achievements, it is George’s life story that is inspiring. He was close friends with such greats as Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon. George was simply a man who loved to keep it simple: write what you believe in, give back to the community, love thy neighbor. The outpouring of love and admiration for George at this tribute was very moving. I had the opportunity to get to know George. I can fully understand how bright his light shines.

Chris Rock tells it like it is at The Oscars.

Chris Rock tells it like it is at the Oscars.

A couple of nights later, lo and behold, it’s the Oscars. Now, mind you, I did not have any set plans. How I wish my Comics Grinder credentials would have gotten me a press pass. Perhaps they would had I pursued it. I’ll tell you something, I am a keen observer and a friendly interviewer. I can easily adapt to any situation. This segues to what I did for Oscars night. Due to a few things going on that night, I found myself outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Let me back track a bit, a buddy of mine suggested that as a great spot to maybe see something going on. In fact, the plan was to meet up with him. I show up and, yes, it is a great spot, right on the corner of Orange and Hollywood overlooking that whole block of Madame Tussauds, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Dolby Theatre.

25 Degrees at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

25 Degrees at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Well, on that corner are a bunch of onlookers, of course. Shades of “The Day of the Locust.” I mingled for a bit. No one knows exactly what to expect, if anything. I then made my way into the Hollywood Roosevelt and 25 Degrees, one of the hotel’s seven bars. 25 Degrees is known for its gourmet burgers and onion rings, which I fell in love with. I patiently waited for a cozy table overlooking the bar and two big screen TVs broadcasting the Oscars. Chris Rock was doing his monologue. I saw any number of what appeared to be otherwise jaded industry folk carefully listening and giving way to outbursts of laughter. Just as I was assured by my hostess that I could have the table, this one lady sat down at that very same table. The hostess explained to her that I had already been given that table but I said it was alright. Sure, it’s the Oscars, I’ll share the table. Well, it was definitely for the best. The lady turned out to be an executive with a Mexican network. We ended up chatting about the decline of culture in general and the disturbing rise of Donald Trump.

Behind the scenes at the Oscars

Behind the scenes at the Oscars

It always comes down to the coveted issues of time and space. That table had a fixed value of one hour. You could not stay at that table beyond an hour. I sweet talked my hostess into letting me begin a new hour given that I had to share it. In the meantime, my new friend, the Mexican TV executive, had hoped that I could hold on to the table as she had wanted to return after a while. Well, there must have been a lot of discussion in the back. At first, yes, I could keep the table if I ordered more food. After having the delicious Patty Melt, and a half jug of Pinot Noir, I opted to start with a Dark and Stormy. Later, the supervisor negotiates with me. It turns out that the table really needs to be relinquished. If I am alright with moving to the bar, he will treat me to another drink. Well, that’s fine with me. And, well appreciated too!

Behind the scenes at the Oscars

Behind the scenes at the Oscars

We always hear the long-running jokes about the Oscars being too long. The crowd that night enjoyed every minute of it and would have been happy to see more. The high points were the Chris Rock monologue, the announcement for Best Actor to Leonardo DiCaprio, and the announcement for Best Picture to “Spotlight.” In between, and throughout, careful attention was given to each category. I ended up chatting a bit with other patrons at the bar. The consensus seemed to be that this was one of the best Oscars. I certainly found myself in a perfect setting. The bar, with its old-school charm, was impeccable.

Here I am in front of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood.

Here I am in front of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood.

One Oscar tradition never fails to move me. That’s when a tribute is given to notable members of the Academy who had passed away in the previous year. I was certain that George Clayton Johnson would receive a mention. While he wrote primarily for television, he also co-wrote the story that was the basis for “Ocean’s Eleven” and he also co-wrote an Academy Award nominated animated feature with Ray Bradbury, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.” But he did not get his mention. That left a sad note hanging in the air. But it was still grand to be at the Hollywood Roosevelt on Oscar night. I can tell you, I can share with you, the fact that both nights, the tribute to George and Oscar night, were both magical. George is still remembered and people will enjoy his work whether they realize he wrote it or not. George will always be part of that magic that people seek out whether they know it or not.

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Filed under Chris Rock, Entertainment, Farmers Market, George Clayton Johnson, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Oscars, pop culture

Hotel Review: BLVD Hotel & Suites in Hollywood

BLVD Hollywood 2015-01

I’m a lot like you, someone who loves to be creative and follow their wanderlust. My latest adventure took me to Los Angeles and I want to share with you the wonderful place I stayed at, BLVD Hotel & Suites. What follows is a review of this boutique hotel complete with my own illustrations. Hope you like this and will see yourself at BLVD on your next visit to L.A.

BLVD Hotel & Suites has three locations in California. I stayed at the one in the heart of Hollywood near the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Highland Blvd. Thus its name, BLVD. It’s easy to remember and easy to find. You are within walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and beyond.

BLVD Hollywood 2015-02

BLVD in Hollywood is located at 2010 N Highland Avenue and that proves to be a really convenient hub to return to as you go about your day and night. I need to emphasize this fact because a lot of people will take a hotel’s location for granted. Where you start your day plays a pivotal role. This made it easy to wander over to a number of great places for meals. At the top of my list is Musso & Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. A new find since my last visit to L.A. is Loteria Grill on 6627 Hollywood Blvd. Another old favorite is Miceli’s on 1646 N Las Palmas Avenue off of Hollywood Blvd. All are walking distance from BLVD Hotel & Suites.

BLVD is a very pleasant luxury boutique hotel at a reasonable price. All the staff are courteous and friendly. The room, as they say, exceeded expectations. I think when you get a welcome home feel to your room, that says it all: great bed, plenty of room to spread out, ample television screen, plenty of care with amenities.

BLVD Hollywood 2015-03

Everything has been looked after: from well-stocked toiletries and ample towels in your room to an inviting lobby and lounge. They even have a snack bar for a quick bite on the go. Other features include a pool and a gym. Here is where you get refreshed and relaxed in a comfortable setting before your next L.A. adventure.

This is what I had hoped for and this is what I ended up getting. Yes, indeed, location is everything. Specifically, you are very close to the Hollywood Bowl. And, for fans of film history, let me tell you here that you are in for an added treat: you are near the Hollywood Heritage Museum at 2100 Highland Avenue. This is just an interesting fact that I want to throw in since, as I say, you are close to everything.

Visit our friends at BLVD Hotel & Suites right here.

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Filed under California, Hollywood, Hotel Review, Hotels, Los Angeles, Travel

Travel Review: Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

If you are visiting Seattle, then the perfect place to start your adventure is at Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I had the privilege of having Hotel Hotel host my 24-Hour Comics Day drawing marathon this past weekend. Under these special circumstances, I found myself with the opportunity to review the hostel and share with you my observations. The hostel is for visitors outside of Seattle. For Seattle locals, there is the PizzaBar located adjacent to the hostel. If you are in Fremont, you will find it as it commands a prime spot within a building that is also home to other local favorite boutiques and shops.

Nancy, co-owner of the Hotel Hotel Hostel with her husband, Lee

Nancy, co-owner of the Hotel Hotel Hostel with her husband, Lee

Nancy, co-owner of the hostel with her husband, Lee, was a great guide and hostess. I witnessed her firsthand joking and making everyone feel welcome. She has a gift for meeting each task with grace and a friendly smile. Both Lee and Nancy love to travel and meet new people so they are a natural together in their hostel business.

Hotel Hotel is what you would call a boutique hostel in that it has gone that extra mile to create a welcoming and comfortable environment. Many hostels can be found in that category. It’s just a way of saying that you’re in very good hands.

Private room with bath

Private room with bath

Hotel Hotel is, at the end of the day, a hostel which means it’s affordable, centrally located, and convenient for the traveller not only on a budget but with an eye for something different.

Hotel Hotel Computer Station

Hotel Hotel Computer Station

Keep in mind that location is everything. If you choose Hotel Hotel, you are in a very fun and active area. You could spend your whole time just in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. You are also right next to a fast and easy bus ride into Seattle.

I had a private room and bath and it is a spacious space with an upbeat and stylish layout: leather couch, king bed, nightstands, added lights, chair with ottoman, bookcase, fresh towels. All in all, it has the nice look and feel of a boutique hotel room.

I found the recreation room and kitchen to be ample and easily accessible. Along with the free Wi-Fi, you’ll notice that, at the stairs in a commons area, there is one tablet available for the use of guests. That can come in very handy and it is not something you can expect at just any hostel.

Complimentary breakfast

Complimentary breakfast

And what a nice complimentary breakfast all spread out for guests to enjoy! A great way to start the day.

How about that Fremont Troll?

How about that Fremont Troll?

Another great feature that Hotel Hotel offers its guests is a free walking tour of the Fremont neighborhood. It is your chance to have Megan, who is in charge of tours, to give you an in depth look at what was once a logging town that went on to become “the center of the universe.” There’s a lot to this story with plenty of local scenery, art, and landmarks to provide a fascinating journey. Have you wondered about Fremont’s curiously offbeat fixtures like those naked cyclists, or that huge statue of Vladimir Lenin? Or how about the Fremont Troll? Well, find out on this tour.

HotelHotel PizzaBar

HotelHotel PizzaBar

Ah, and getting back to the PizzaBar. This is a relatively new addition to Hotel Hotel and it’s a fun addition to Fremont’s night life. It is a perfect spot to settle in with friends, have some pizza and beer, play a game of pool, and check out whatever else is going on: a movie, a Seahawks game, a special open mic event.

Pizza at HotelHotel PizzaBar!

Pizza at HotelHotel PizzaBar!

As an avid traveller and adventurer, I was very impressed with the quality and care that Hotel Hotel provides. It is part of City Hostel Seattle, located in downtown Seattle. Both hostels are perfect places to stay and start your own Seattle adventure.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics Day, Comics, Food, Fremont, Hostels, Hotel Hotel Hostel, Pizza, Seattle, The Fremont Troll, Travel