Monthly Archives: February 2015

Get on Board the Hollywood Express

CH 12  Depression sq SELF PORTRAITIn this year’s Oscars where history, genius and war are highlighted subjects among the films nominated for Best Picture, so is identity.

In Whiplash, aspiring drummer Bob Ellis confirms his future desire: “I wanna be one of the greats.” But his mentor and teacher pounds it into Bob’s head the reality of who he is now: “You are a worthless pansy-ass.”

In Boyhood, little Mason struggles with growing up and a father who asks, “What do you want to be, Mason? What do you want to do?”

Still Alice, although not Best Picture-nominated but includes Julianna Moore’s Best Actress nomination performance, centers on a woman with Alzheimer’s whose past identity must define her future’s: “I must stay connected to who I once was. To live in the moment … is all I can do.”

And in Birdman, a struggling ex-megastar suddenly reprises the role that flew him to stardom. “You were a movie star, remember? You’re Birdman!” as if to say, “That’s who you are now and always will be.”

Films are visual expression about one’s identity. The film-making process itself lends itself to questioning who you are even more, or it did for me.

“Quiet on the set. Roll tape. Mike Andberg’s ‘Hollywood Express’ documentary. Take one. Action.”


About to graduate film school, my biggest question at the time was, “Do I stay or do I go? Do I move to Hollywood to make films or not?”

I was filled with wonder making the documentary on my first trip to Hollywood. Constrained by a student budget, I packed only twelve minutes of 16 mm film stock for the entire project (from which making an intelligent four-minute film deserves an Oscar for something). I had no agenda but to capture what I thought was interesting about Hollywood.

Rolling ever westward by car from Santa Fe, New Mexico, I asked many questions along the way. “Doesn’t moving ahead to something new mean the loss of something else? Didn’t the people who ventured to Movie Town leave a life behind just to pursue their art? What am I willing to leave behind? Am I even going to Hollywood to make film? – Oh, don’t think so much. Just go.”

Cue the beautiful palm trees, sleek Jaguars and huge billboards driving through Hollywood. “Oh my gosh, this place is amazing. But isn’t it just a fantasy world here?”

Cue downtown Hollywood and Vine. “Oh, come on. Look around. People here are just like regular people walking along the street anywhere. We’re all the same, aren’t we?”

Cue all the people approaching me because I have a movie camera in my hands. “Yeah, but isn’t fame what most people here really want? Is that what I’m after? What do I want to be? What do I want to do?”

It’s funny, isn’t it? I had any subject to choose from in creating my little Hollywood documentary and it wound up being a personal essay about me and what I wanted – or didn’t want – to be.

As it turned out, I never moved to Hollywood. I never pursued film-making. But I learned a lot about myself in the process of deciding I didn’t want to dedicate my life to it, and why.

So, I can’t help it. I hope this years’ Oscars go to films about identity.


Image above:  Self Portrait by Mike Andberg, 1996;  24″ x 36″ charcoal on paper




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Diving into Valentine’s Day Wild Blue Yonder of Cyberspace Dating

skydiver; TdZ pond 003Not too many years ago, spurred on by Valentine’s Day energy and excitement, I joined several online dating services.

A year later, instead of answering another computer match, I wrote in my journal, “The Dimensions of Combatibility List, Points 1 – 29, by Mike Andberg.”  The entry that day went something like this: 

 Tuesday.    From my online dating experiment, I’m even more cynical about women and compatibility than ever. Tired of reading ridiculous “match” profiles dating services have sent me, I’m writing this list to help clarify, without a doubt, the things I never want to experience in a “match” again, or, in other words, the kind of woman who:

1.)  Expresses love as the desire to “snuggle with my sig, my very special sum1.”
2.)  Wants “to do it ALL in life – sell real estate, too.”
3.)  Has “adorable kids living at home who are twenty-five and twenty-seven.”
4.)  Has “adorable kids living at home who are twenty-five and twenty-seven” and she’s forty-one.
5.)  Writes, “Still want to see everything – Indochina, Sri Lanka, South Africa – maybe you too?”
6.)  Has any part of her hair poofed.
7.)  Has big teeth, then tries to compensate with lots of poofs.
8.)  Actually considers ice-skating to be TV sports programming.
9.)  Says she already feels she’s known me forever and that it’s obviously from a past life.

 Not to mention a woman whose:

10.)  Perfect online man “will complement me in every way. If that’s you – LET ME KNOW!!!”
11.)  Every written sentence ends in an exclamation point.
12.)  Favorite month is “winter.”
13.)  Secret treasure is the magazine rack at the grocery check-out.
14.)  Best online photo is with her dog, and it’s a toss-up which I’d rather get close to.
15.)  Coffee table magazines are “Le Courier,” “The Economist” and “The Guardian.”
16.)  Every outfit must have rhinestones on it.
17.)  Toenails resemble fish scales. Or rhinestones.

Then there are the characteristics I have already experienced without help of online services about a woman who:  

18.)  Thinks a newborn baby is cuter than a puppy.
19.)  Wears hair rollers to the mall that day “to look good for everyone at the party tonight.”
20.)  Says, “No way!” to smoking, but lights up at the very whiff of Jagermeister.
21.)  Says she can eat hotter chili than anyone and downs it with a fifty dollar bottle of wine.
22.)  Demands diet colas but downs every Goober before the movie previews even start.
23.)  Reacts with “Hm-m-m” after every line in the movie.
24.)  Sneaks syrup to the dinner table.
25.)  Has more pets in her house than usable sharp knives.
26.)  Gets back at me by re-setting the car seat adjustments to fit Orson Wells.
27.)  Talks so much I review TV Guide in my head to survive.  
28.)  Likes to sleep in sky-diver positions.
29.)  Likes to sleep in sky-diver positions with all her pets.

Writing this list is SO cathartic. I’m taking a hefty gulp from an Old Fashioned to toast my accomplishment.

Wednesday.    The buzz has worn off. I feel like a schmuck. Sure, my list represents many real losers I’ve met. But let’s face it. Someone who says those things about women doesn’t deserve a date. I’m bound to show up on every “What Kind of Man to Absolutely NOT Date” list written by women all over online America.

Thursday    How on Earth does anybody live happily with one person every day for the entirety of a lifetime? I want to know, but it’s unfathomable to me how. It’ll take the rest of my life to answer that question. I guess I’ll just navigate life by myself in the meantime.

Friday    Wait a minute. Remember “Loaded and Looking,” “Real Women Have Curves,” and “Fun Waiting to be Had ?”  Dude – SO much more could be worse than navigating life by your damn self for a while.


The excerpt above is from the chapter titled “Girls” in my memoir Maybe Boomer.


Filed under The Daily Thought

Remember This? February 9?

Last year, this date kept popping into my head and I didn’t know why. Why was February 9 such a big deal to me? It’s a day in the middle of cold, boring, depressing February, so what’s so special about February 9?

Ah-ha. Last year, February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first Ed Sullivan performance.

That live telecast was a benchmark event in my childhood. I’ve often wondered what the event meant to others. Did girls everywhere really scream when they saw the Beatles sing? Did adults hate them? What did boys think of the group?What do children of those who saw it that night think of the Beatles now?

Remember that night?

With just one enthusiastic yell and sweep of his arms, Ed Sullivan proclaimed, “The Beatles!”

girls scream Beatles 002A roll of screams overtook Ed’s voice, a cavalcade of shrieks that nearly obliterated Paul McCartney’s opening lines, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you ….”

As the four Liverpool lads sang  “All My Loving,” a camera cut to the audience: girls jumping, some pulling their hair, one crying in abject misery.

Cutting quickly back to the stage, the world got an up close and personal view of all four Beatles, each with their first name superimposed on the TV screen. The lads wore matching dark suits, white shirts, black ties, and tight pants. Their hair, completely straight and dry – nothing like Elvis Presley’s – was combed down to their eyes and over their ears, but their handsome faces bore striking differences – John’s long nose, Paul’s pouty lips, George’s angular jaw, and Ringo’s hawkish eyes.

A few minutes later, a close-up zoomed in on Paul as he crooned, “Till There Was You.” How could one guy sing so beautifully and have such great hair? It seemed unfair. Just as any girl wanted to be alone with the Beatles in any way possible someday, this boy – sitting around the old Silvertone TV set inside the basement of his unimportant little Silver Spring, Maryland house – wanted to be them. I, too, wanted to pull my hair out, but couldn’t. Not in front of my family.

I looked behind me at Cathy, my thirteen-year-old sister, sitting on the ottoman, keeping appropriate control of her emotions while watching the cuddly mop tops perform (or was she really leaning in closer and closer with each second, about to slip off the ottoman and crash on our hard, carpet-less floor).

Next to her sat Don and Doug, my seventeen-year-old twin brothers, flopped all over the couch, as if bored by the Beatles. But deep down, what were they really feeling?

And Mom rested in her chair, completely unmoved, except for a quivering upper lip, no doubt brought on by a view of John’s tight pants and crotch area as he led the way on the next song, a rollicking “And I Saw Her Standing There.”

Then I saw Dad standing there, just behind Mom, his arms folded, flattop haircut flat as ever, with not so much as one hair rising over the Beatles’ electrifying act.

What was wrong with my family?  I wanted to jump, kick, twist, shout – anything – but wound up having to wait an hour after the show to even tap my fingers. Finally, in private, while lying in bed, I patted the pillow, but that was all. How pathetic I’d look doing something outrageous like twisting my hips or dancing on the bed.

From that night on, I knew I wanted longer hair. Until I got it, I was a nobody to girls at school. Convinced I’d have hair like Paul McCartney one day, I rocked myself to sleep, savoring images of walking to school with my long hair flying about while I sang, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ….”

That was my take on the Beatles performance from the Ed Sullivan Show February 9 so many years ago. What was yours?




Filed under Blog, Remember This?

Patriots vs. Seahawks and Swords vs. Stickum

Coliseum 48bit 800 dpi 168Tonight’s Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale will be glitzy. Confetti will fly. Crowds will roar. Players will battle. Owners will … well … be owners.

But down on the field, football is brutal and violent. How savage this game is.

So, what’s the difference between the Super Bowl and vicious Roman gladiator fights of two thousand years ago?

Nothing. Well, one thing – death. Gladiators battled with swords until they or their opponents died. NFL players battle until the scrawny referee’s gun goes off.  (However, note that some NFL players will act dead to get a free injury time out, giving Coach time to figure out why the team’s been getting slaughtered.) Whether the game is played today or way back then, it’s all about competition, period. Modern football may not allow gladiator swords, but stickum, gloves and deflated balls may be. Anything to win.

What both spectacles have most in common is spectatorship. Believe it or not, two thousand years ago, just like today, fans were entertained by players bearing fantastic tattoos. Muscular combatants love to parade the fancy tattoos etched on their svelte, muscular bodies. Fat players wear tattoos, too, but get much less attention, the only difference that fat NFL players earn enough money to buy every tattoo parlor on the planet while fat gladiators were happy just to live for another day and another tattoo.

The significance of fans’ interaction with players can never be overlooked. When a gladiator was wounded, Romans heckled, “habet, peractum est!” (i.e., “He’s had it, it’s all over”). Similarly, tonight, New England fans will yell, “Ged ap ya bam ‘n stap fakkin’ it!” (expletives deleted). Fans will do almost anything to get into stadiums for the chance to dialogue with players. Unfortunately, many Romans weren’t even allowed through the stone turnstiles because they were gravediggers, actors or former gladiators. The NFL, however, will take anyone’s money.

Left-handedness is another aspect that has bonded these two sports. Fans were treated to the Coliseum’s special Left-handers Event, enjoying the slaughter of fighters, unable to handle moves and blocks suddenly coming in from the left side. Similarly in the NFL (Steve Young, Boomer Esiason and Mark Brunell aside), fans have adored watching millionaire left-handed quarterbacks get mauled and blindsided. Lefties never make good pro quarterbacks and only waste high draft picks, and thus deserve to be eaten alive.

Roman citizens discovered news of big upcoming matches by reading announcements on street walls. Today, unless in a coma, everyone knows the Super Bowl is coming. Entertainment between gladiator clashes included public executions right on the field.  Billion dollar commercials will be shown tonight that, if not funny, will feel as disastrous as watching an execution.

After a long run of popularity, Rome’s great games faded out in 432 AD due to the high cost of curing gladiators. Time will tell if the NFL will run out of money. My guess is the NFL will eventually pay such high insurance and litigation fees for decades of player concussions and injures that it will go bankrupt. Ouch.

Till then: “Aw farr Chys sak, ged ‘im aff the feel an brang in hiz sab!”





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