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ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | September 12, 2013
Once in a while, a venue sports a plaque declaring that literary history took place there: that a famous author lived in this house, a great songwriter penned a tune on this train platform, and so on. If Alta Coffee ever seeks to honor poet John Perry, it might want to put a miniature sign on each of its napkin dispensers. Not that the Newport Beach coffeehouse was the only location where Perry wrote the original drafts of his new book, "Notes on Napkins. " Those small bits of paper span eateries up and down the coast, from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to Tully's Coffee.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | January 16, 2014
Forget Best Picture, forget Best Director, forget the screenplay and acting categories. On Oscar night, my attention is going to be focused squarely on Best Makeup and Hairstyling. That's the one where "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" scored a nomination. Yes, "All Is Lost," that magnificent survival tale starring Robert Redford, and "Before Midnight," Richard Linklater's brilliant meditation on love and middle age, got the same number of nods as a movie with "Jackass" in the title.
NEWS
By Michael Miller | April 26, 2012
A former editor of mine sometimes referred to what he called a "Hey, Martha" story. That was his term for a story with an offbeat or amusing twist. In other words, if an old couple were rocking on their front porch while the husband read the paper, he might push his glasses up from the tip of his nose and say, "Hey, Martha? You ought to check out this article... " I love "Hey, Martha" stories too, but after so many years, I can get blase about them. When you've gotten your 11th phone call about a great-grandmother turning 100 or a man running cross-country to fight muscular dystrophy, the thrill starts to wear off. The other day, though, my colleague Lauren Williams wrote a story that truly took me for a loop.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | December 12, 2012
One day in my high school philosophy class, the teacher gave us a list of different methods of expression and asked us to determine which ones constituted language. Among those that ended up in the "no" stack was music, since, we decided, it worked on a subjective level and couldn't relay concrete messages. No doubt we were right. But even if music doesn't count as language per se, there are moments when it comes close - for example, the night when late jazz great Dave Brubeck visited the Orange County Performing Arts Center two days after 9/11.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | June 20, 2013
If I had my indulgence - if I could direct the Pacific Chorale's leaders on how to preserve "The Shore" for posterity - I would have them keep the inappropriate applause. Not that I'm any authority on how to record a piece like Frank Ticheli and David St. John's opus that debuted June 1 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. A work so painstakingly crafted deserves a pristine recorded version, and that's what it will get - according to Ticheli, the chorale and Pacific Symphony held a studio session two days after the premiere, and the version on the upcoming CD from Delos will blend those studio takes with portions of the live one. Still, I hope someone will hold onto the opening-night recording, if only to include as a bonus track on some future compilation.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | October 8, 2013
When I was a graduate student in creative writing, my classmates hewed mostly to predictable topics: dating, family bonds, drinking and clubbing. One day, though, a robust gentleman surprised us by handing out 20 stapled copies of a story he had written for children. Evidently, he was concerned about his success, because along with the story, he submitted a sheet of positive blurbs from kids who had given it a first read. His story, as I recall, was intriguing - a folk tale of sorts about a tribal boy who discovers a beautiful animal that only his eyes can see, and whose name he can articulate in his head but not say out loud.
NEWS
By Michael Miller | February 26, 2014
I don't have a recording of the first poetry feature I ever gave, but part of me is glad I don't. As I recall, I was dreadful. Like any nervous undergraduate facing a big-time venue - well, Alta Coffee in Newport Beach, although it might as well have been Carnegie Hall - I overprepared the poems and under-enjoyed the occasion. Rather than treat a coffeehouse reading like the jovial get-together it was, I thought of it as a one-man show to be delivered with intense precision. Before the reading, I rehearsed my set down to the transitions between pieces - which proved difficult, since I was paired on the bill with a guitarist who had a decidedly looser approach.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | December 24, 2012
I know you're all disappointed. And here in the newsroom, we're taking it harder than anyone. According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to end Friday. The news always slows down around the holidays, so we at Times Community News South were counting on that story for our weekend coverage. We had the layout all prepared, the bylines assigned and instructions given to our photo desk: Just aim the camera at the sky and you're bound to capture something. Of course, we always do our best to scout out neighborhood stories rather than "localize" national ones.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | April 22, 2014
One of the things I pride myself on is having outgrown best-of lists. When I was a teenager and people asked me to name my favorite movie, though, my quick answer was usually "Unforgiven," the Clint Eastwood Oscar-winner about an aging, widowed gunfighter who mounts the saddle again to hunt down the men who slashed a prostitute's face. At the time, the movie swept me away with its grim, fatalistic take on the Old West. Certainly, it came along at the right time. It opened a few weeks before I turned 13, an age when many boys crave gutty realism, and when I proclaimed it my favorite film, I felt a tinge of pride that I had made such a sophisticated - and, not coincidentally, R-rated - choice.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | August 14, 2013
To young cancer patients nationwide, Roger Daltrey is the new boss. And whatever The Who may have sung decades ago, he's not the same as the old boss. That was the thought that crossed my mind when I attended Daltrey's show Saturday at the OC Fair, then put in a call Monday to the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program, which the singer launched with bandmate Pete Townshend in 2011. The men who once snarled at those who "try to put us down" are now serving as protectors for a very different generation.
ARTICLES BY DATE
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | April 22, 2014
One of the things I pride myself on is having outgrown best-of lists. When I was a teenager and people asked me to name my favorite movie, though, my quick answer was usually "Unforgiven," the Clint Eastwood Oscar-winner about an aging, widowed gunfighter who mounts the saddle again to hunt down the men who slashed a prostitute's face. At the time, the movie swept me away with its grim, fatalistic take on the Old West. Certainly, it came along at the right time. It opened a few weeks before I turned 13, an age when many boys crave gutty realism, and when I proclaimed it my favorite film, I felt a tinge of pride that I had made such a sophisticated - and, not coincidentally, R-rated - choice.
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NEWS
By Michael Miller | March 26, 2014
If you've ever been to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, you may recall the installation that tracks the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. One of the early scenes depicts an outdoor cafe in Berlin in the early 1930s where customers talk casually about their reactions to Hitler coming to power. I thought of that museum display when I had lunch last week with Barbara English at Native Foods in Costa Mesa. I don't believe genocide will come to America any time soon. But this cafe couldn't have been too different from ones in Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere - and as for it being a sunny spring day, consider that the genocide in those countries, as well as Armenia, Sudan and Bosnia, all started in April.
NEWS
By Michael Miller | February 26, 2014
I don't have a recording of the first poetry feature I ever gave, but part of me is glad I don't. As I recall, I was dreadful. Like any nervous undergraduate facing a big-time venue - well, Alta Coffee in Newport Beach, although it might as well have been Carnegie Hall - I overprepared the poems and under-enjoyed the occasion. Rather than treat a coffeehouse reading like the jovial get-together it was, I thought of it as a one-man show to be delivered with intense precision. Before the reading, I rehearsed my set down to the transitions between pieces - which proved difficult, since I was paired on the bill with a guitarist who had a decidedly looser approach.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | January 16, 2014
Forget Best Picture, forget Best Director, forget the screenplay and acting categories. On Oscar night, my attention is going to be focused squarely on Best Makeup and Hairstyling. That's the one where "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" scored a nomination. Yes, "All Is Lost," that magnificent survival tale starring Robert Redford, and "Before Midnight," Richard Linklater's brilliant meditation on love and middle age, got the same number of nods as a movie with "Jackass" in the title.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | December 30, 2013
When I saw the ads for "American Hustle," the new Jennifer Lawrence movie that's fast racking up Oscar buzz, I realized I had reached a breaking point of sorts. It's easy, after all, for a tried-and-true property to cross the line into media saturation. I can only see the same image on movie posters and magazine covers so many times. No doubt it's in Hollywood's nature to beat a brand name into the ground, but it's high time we moved on to the next marketable commodity. Do you think I'm talking about Lawrence?
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | December 3, 2013
When I was 12, I got a copy of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bookends" album and found myself transfixed by the bridge of the song "Old Friends. " The lyrics, sung in a fragile tenor by Art Garfunkel, declare, "Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be 70. " Seventy seemed terribly strange then, and now that I am 34, it still does — as does 35, 40 and every other age in between. Perhaps I live in a constant state of denial; perhaps many of us do. We are surrounded by people further on the path of life and know that we'll someday catch up to them, but how easy is it to imagine our own hair grayer, our own face more lined and our head filled with decades more knowledge?
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | October 8, 2013
When I was a graduate student in creative writing, my classmates hewed mostly to predictable topics: dating, family bonds, drinking and clubbing. One day, though, a robust gentleman surprised us by handing out 20 stapled copies of a story he had written for children. Evidently, he was concerned about his success, because along with the story, he submitted a sheet of positive blurbs from kids who had given it a first read. His story, as I recall, was intriguing - a folk tale of sorts about a tribal boy who discovers a beautiful animal that only his eyes can see, and whose name he can articulate in his head but not say out loud.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | September 12, 2013
Once in a while, a venue sports a plaque declaring that literary history took place there: that a famous author lived in this house, a great songwriter penned a tune on this train platform, and so on. If Alta Coffee ever seeks to honor poet John Perry, it might want to put a miniature sign on each of its napkin dispensers. Not that the Newport Beach coffeehouse was the only location where Perry wrote the original drafts of his new book, "Notes on Napkins. " Those small bits of paper span eateries up and down the coast, from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to Tully's Coffee.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | August 14, 2013
To young cancer patients nationwide, Roger Daltrey is the new boss. And whatever The Who may have sung decades ago, he's not the same as the old boss. That was the thought that crossed my mind when I attended Daltrey's show Saturday at the OC Fair, then put in a call Monday to the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program, which the singer launched with bandmate Pete Townshend in 2011. The men who once snarled at those who "try to put us down" are now serving as protectors for a very different generation.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | July 15, 2013
Years ago, I attended an outdoor festival organized by a vegan friend at which Veggie Grill had agreed to hand out food samples. One passerby tried something from the tray - a soy chicken strip, maybe - and remarked how delicious it was. "See?" my friend exclaimed as he walked on. "Meat is so unnecessary!" Would that it were. Well, let me qualify that statement. It is unnecessary for me - and for the 5% of Americans, if last year's Gallup poll can be trusted, who follow a meatless diet.
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