Lehman Family Christmas Letter 2005

Christmas Music (Beastie Boys, Billy Joel, and the Gap Band): Check

Christmas Beer (Guinness): Check

Christmas Gifts, Decorations, Spirit, etc: Uhhhmmm….

With the semester from Hell finally finished, I have one week to take a break with the family and forget about life for awhile. That is, I had one week until Mom dropped a bomb on me: “So, when are you going to write the Christmas letter?” Not satisfied with the answer “As soon as you provide me with all the women and riches I please,” she and Dad threatened to burn all of my underwear if it wasn’t done by tomorrow. Strange threat though it be, I decided that I’d like to celebrate the season with some scrotal support. So instead of fighting for my right to party, here I am pulling my last all-nighter of the year and school’s already out. Hooray for Christmas!

Seriously, folks, it’s been a decently alright year for the Lehmans, and if you’re not already sick of Christmas letters and don’t hate me too much for bringing such cynicism to your home during the holidays, you’ll find this out as you continue reading.

’05 started somewhat rough, with Dave’s father, Grandpa Lehman, heading to the hospital with fluid in his lungs and Grandma Lehman not really knowing what was happening due to worsening Alzheimer’s. Luckily, Grandpa pulled through, but shortly thereafter, Dave and siblings had to put Grandma into a special care facility for seniors with memory problems. Despite a few foiled attempts at escape, including one which involved Grandma taking cover behind some parked cars and pelting “the enemy” (read: facility staff) with rocks, she has since adapted and enjoys it there, from what she can remember.

Aside from the ’rents, Dave kept himself busy with work, deaconry, and the numerous vacations Michelle and he took. Oh, excuse me, I mean “Century 21 Conventions”—as if anyone were buying that old line, anyway. The first was held in Orlando in spring, where they managed to cruise through Epcot, the Wild Animal Kingdom, and the MGM lot, despite “attending many classes and seminars.” The second, near the end of summer, took place in the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. Claiming they networked with many of the higher-ups, mom and dad more likely drank a lot, played with marine animals, and laughed about how Daniel and I were busy working while they were getting paid to drink and play with marine animals. If they weren’t paying thousands of dollars to get me edumacated, I might have some words for them.

Mom and Dad also had the unique pleasure of attending the rededication mass at the newly-remodeled cathedral in downtown Sacramento. Dave was even asked to serve at the mass with the Bishop—you know, the guy with the big hat and wizard’s staff. Mom took her mother, Grandma David, as a date, and everyone had quite the fun time being Catholic and whatnot.

Speaking of Michelle, she had an above average year as well. She had the chance to oversee several new projects around the house, including re-landscaping the front, back, and side yards. The most magnificent new addition, however, has to be Mom and Dad’s birthday/anniversary present to themselves: the HotSpring® Tiger River® Spa Series, Bengal model, with Wavemaster® jet and SilentFlow 5000® circulation pump technologies. With a calmness and tranquility that will wash over you in an awesome wave, yet enough horsepower to cause semi-permanent nerve damage, it’s the definition of both perfection and awesomeness. Think of all the most amazing and wonderful things you could ever know, assign them each a score of awesomeness, add up those scores, multiply them by 17,306, and you would still not be anywhere near the awesomeness score of the hot tub. And that’s all I have to say about that.

When she wasn’t straight trippin’ across North America, Michelle was makin’ dolla$ in real estate, yo. She helped manage the family business, CENTURY 21 Noel David Realty, to Centurion Office status, which meant all of the agents put together sold $1.59 mil in gross closed commissions. If you don’t know what all that means, just know that’s really freaking good, especially for a fairly small operation.

Michelle also took some time out of her Realtor schmoozing to help me prepare and pass my real estate license exam to become a card carrying member of the hottest profession of the decade. If you don’t believe me, look inside this letter/card for a special prize! (Hint: It might be one of my business cards.) The rest of the summer was spent revamping Mom’s website, www.FairOaksHomes.net, and creating various marketing materials for her. She also completed two more designations, CRS & SRES.

At school before summer, I spent most of my time working on the Los Angeles Loyolan (www.theloyolan.com) as Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor. Still, I managed to enjoy life outside the office by helping make up skits and dancing in the annual luau put on by LMU’s Hawaii club, and by serving as an officer of Sursum Corda, one of the service orgs on campus. How I earned a leadership role in anything is beyond me, but apparently I fooled enough people into thinking I am “responsible.” Silly mortals.

Fast forward to August, when I went back down to LA and took over as head A&E Editor, as well as dove back into the world of yearbookery as Production Editor. This meant I was in charge of designing the pages and managing the editors of the Greeks, Seniors, and Student Life sections, which make up about 1/3 of the book. Combined with the 30 hours or so devoted to the Loyolan, this took the place in life typically reserved for sleep. Somewhere in the haze of life, I managed to find time for a girlfriend as well, and if it weren’t for her and the rest of my friends, I likely would have forced myself into a coma months ago.

Just down the street from LMU, Daniel is getting ready to retire from the Washington Mutual business of lending and get back into the nitty gritty of real estate by being an assistant to Juliet Zacarias, an agent at the #1 Coldwell Banker office in the world. Though he will be working for the competition, he typically just runs away from the feelings of guilt and remorse. When I say runs away, I mean he literally runs, since this year he completed both the LA Marathon in March and “The Relay,” a 12 person 200 mi relay race from Napa to Santa Cruz. Each person on the team for “The Relay”—called Team Drug Runners because of their pharmaceutical company sponsors—ran the equivalent of three 10k stretches back-to-back-to-back. Interestingly, Daniel did not die like we thought he might, and found time in between work, races and training to keep up with his surfing—he has four different boards now—and journalism writing on LASplash.com and for Valley Scene Magazine, even attending and reviewing his third film fest - LA Film Festival. He, Pat & Brian (college buddies) are still renting the same house/apartment in Venice, a mile or so from Venice Beach. Tough life!

On the vacation front, the family actually found time to get together and be Canadian for a few weeks in May, touring through Victoria, Vancouver, and the hills of Whistler. During our visit to our backwards neighbors to the north, we snorted pollen at Buchart Gardens, called our captain Ishmael during our whale watching trip, zip-lined through the trees of Blackcomb Mountain with the Ewoks, and Dave, Daniel and I even jumped off of a bridge attached only by a big rubber band (otherwise known as bungee jumping). Like all Lehman vacations, it was a blast, and we actually got some time to lounge around a bit too, so we didn’t need a vacation from vacationing afterwards.

Daniel and I both went back down to SoCal, and Mom and Dad went on another vacation with their friends, the Reibolds, to the big island of Hawaii, where they snorkeled in the warm waters, jumped over lava pits at the top of a volcano, and even made friends with a donkey who was quite the social butterfly (try doing the math on that one). All in all, it was a well-traveled year for the both of them.

As for the dog, suffice to say that we’re all pretty surprised she’s still alive. From the look on her face every time she wakes up and comes to say hello, I’d say she is as surprised as we are.

Well, since it’s only 3 a.m., I guess I came in way under deadline, so maybe some of my undies haven’t been set fire to yet and I’ll still get to wear boxers for Christmas morning mass. If not, well… hopefully it won’t be too cold. For all of us here in the Lehman house, we wish you and yours a warm, wonderful holiday season and a 2006 that could kick the collective ass of all past years combined, even if they were to gang up on it with handheld and/or projectile weapons.

Love,
Dave, Michelle, Daniel, Mark, and Harley Lehman

Appliance of the Month: The Tangent Salutes Garbage Disposal

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Appliance of the Month
The Tangent Salutes Garbage Disposal

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Thursday, December 8, 2005

We've had our problems in the past, to be sure -- remember that time you ate my mom's favorite silverware? -- but during this holiday season, I thank Father Christmas for you, Garbage Disposal.

Your name is deceptive, because though you do, indeed, DISpose of my garbage, you also EXpose me to new sensations, new feelings, new experiences. I remember the first time we played together, Mom warned me to be careful. She said you were "dangerous," but I knew then what I know now -- you might be dangerous, but I know you'll always use your powers for good.

You've taught me so much about life, Garbage Disposal. You taught me about death, when my goldfish Franco died of natural causes. Dad said you were a portal to Heaven as he dropped Franco's limp, lifeless fish body into your gaping maw, and suddenly, I wasn't quite so sad anymore. You taught me about pain, too. I still have the scar from when I accidentally dropped my class ring and you caught it for me. You taught me a lesson that day-that if I'm not careful with my valuables, you'll cut me-and I've never forgotten it.

And, Garbage Disposal, you are especially helpful these weeks of December with the overabundance of fruitcakes. You know we can't (and won't!) eat all of those crazy concoctions, so you eat them for us like a true champ. You know, I still feel bad about last year when you got that particularly sneaky piece of candy cane stuck in your teeth and we had to call Mr. Fix-It to get it out. I know that hurt you, but I was so proud of you for being so brave as the handyman unplugged you and performed his surgery. We were all glad you made it through, and even happier that you were back to good health in time for the holidays.

So, although from time to time you mangle our ever-decreasing supply of forks, I know that your heart is in the right place, and I love you for it, Garbage Disposal. I'll try to sneak you a slice of pumpkin pie this year, because I know how much you love it. Merry Christmas, buddy.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.399380]

Rent: The Musical Rocks as Hard as Ever

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Rent: The Musical Rocks as Hard as Ever
A review of the film compared to the Broadway show.

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The screen is pitch black as small, insignificant titles fade in. There's nothing flashy here -- only a palpable anticipation. And when the familiar block letters that spell out "Rent" come on screen accompanied by the almost universally-known intro to arguably Broadway's most popular song, "Seasons of Love," those who have seen the live show feel that certain flutter in the pits of their stomachs.

Thankfully, even with a few hitches, the film version of this generation's greatest musical hits way more than it misses, making it a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours. The film allows those audience members who missed out on the show to enjoy the story with almost the entire original Broadway cast.

For those who have been living in a cave the last 10 years, the story of "Rent" revolves around roommates Mark (Anthony Rapp), an aspiring filmmaker, and Roger (Adam Pascal), an aspiring musician, as they and fellow Bohemian artists struggle to live the way they want while coping with AIDS, which half the characters have, and fighting landlords over rent in a run-down section of New York called Alphabet City.

Director Christopher Columbus -- famous for "Home Alone " as well as the first two "Harry Potter" films -- brings this adaptation to the screen with his usual lack of creativity and flair, but luckily for him, the story is so incredible and emotional that it overtakes any flaws in direction. Plus, writer Stephen Chbosky, who penned another of our generation's great stories, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," crafts a taut adaptation of the original story by making a few small changes that help the transition from theatre to film, such as changing much of the dialogue to spoken word rather than singing.

However, aside from the elaborate sets, the film looks very much like someone took a camera to the musical and shot. The staging and cinematography are all reminiscent of the stage show and often seem forced on screen where in live theatre it would be perfectly acceptable. Luckily, the movement is very visceral and keeps things entertaining.

As for the acting, most of the players make the transition from theatre to film with ease. Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin) and Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) in particular play incredibly well off each other, and their contagious charm and charisma easily infect the audience. Pascal's performance as Roger, though, is somewhat less appealing, as most of his closeups show him more confused than anything else.

For lovers of the show, the film might disappoint slightly, but not nearly enough to fail to entertain or affect the emotions.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.399511]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my News articles.
More than "Just Voices"
Week of events and speakers comes to a close.

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Friday, November 11, 2005

The fifth annual Bellarmine Forum runs through Saturday. The Loyolan highlights a presentation on Middle East relations.

At noon on Monday, a 31-year teaching veteran wearing a yarmulke stepped to a podium in front of a full house in University Hall 1000.

Arthur Gross-Schaefer, an LMU professor of business law and ethics, began the Bellarmine Forum presentation titled "Towards Peace in the Middle East: A Little Less Finger Pointing and A Little More Cooperation" with a warning for all in attendance.

"Monologues are dangerous. That's not how you create peace. You must share each person's story. My goal is dialogue."

A member of Rabbis for Human Rights as well as a former aid to a member of the Israeli Parliament, Gross-Schaefer has recently visited Gaza during the preparations for the disengagement. Upon completion, there will no longer be an Israeli presence in Gaza. While there, he was able to take a tour of the security wall from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. He spoke of the unique perspective he gained from the trip and shared his thoughts on Israel-Palestine relations during the presentation.

"Israel is fearful that many countries would like to wipe [them out]," Gross-Schaefer explained. He continued by stating the Palestinian sentiment that "when the Israelites were being oppressed, they came and settled on our land."

He then introduced Nonie Darwish, an Arab-American woman who spoke about her experience growing up in the Middle East and shared methods she felt would bring peace to the region.

"I can support Israel and still love and support my culture of origin. That is the right attitude for peace," Darwish said. "Diversity, pluralism and tolerance should not just be virtues in the West, but in the Middle East as well."

Some students and teachers felt the speakers presented both interesting and informed perspectives.

Esther Dzida, a junior sociology major, was intrigued by the hope exuded by the speakers.

"I liked how even though they brought up all the conflict and danger many people live with in [the Middle East], they also emphasized optimism for the future and resolve toward peace between these two group of people," Dzida said.

Gamlin anticipates a continued openness among students during the rest of the Forum.

"I hope the dialogue will continue well beyond this year's Bellarmine Forum, which is already becoming a great success," he said.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/news/1.399595]

This Poultry Packs a Punch (Film Review: "Chicken Little")

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
This Poultry Packs a Punch
Film Review: "Chicken Little"

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Monday, November 7, 2005

To get an idea of how the new film "Chicken Little" plays out, imagine Zach Braff during the first season of "Scrubs" -- somewhat cowardly, slightly effeminate, incredibly wacky and unbelievably clumsy -- with glasses, feathers and a penchant for interspecies dating. Now just add a baseball game and an alien invasion, and you've got the formula for a hit flick to get a struggling animation division off to a good start.

At least, that's what the execs at Disney's now Pixar-less animation studios think.

While I applaud the effort, the movie ends up being such a massive smattering of pop culture references and pieces of other films that, though I laughed, I was left wondering exactly what had just happened to me.

Let's be different and original and start at the beginning. The curtain comes up, and the narrator, who we never hear from again after this introduction, runs through the stereotypical movie opening sequences, such as the storybook and even the famous "Lion King" exposition when Rafiki calls all of the animals together. The narrator ends up rejecting all of these ideas in favor of a more unique beginning, and this is supposed to be the objective of the rest of the film as well. Sadly, mission unaccomplished.

Within five minutes, we find out it's just another Disney character with a daddy problem. Think about some of the other Disney flicks you've seen. In "The Little Mermaid," "Pocahontas" and "Aladdin," Ariel, Pocahontas and Jasmine all had overbearing fathers forcing them to get married even though they fell in love with a different guy from the wrong side of town, so to speak. Cinderella's dad married some nasty witch (with a capital 'B') before he died and left her stuck with the wicked stepmother. Hell, even Simba, "The Lion King," had to crawl out of his father's shadow before he took the throne. C'mon Disney, let's get some fresh material instead of rehashing the same stuff you were doing more than 50 years ago.

Luckily, the target audience for the Giant Mouse changes cycles about every three years, so they can afford to do this, but they have to make sure they remember that parents have to sit through this crap, too. I guess that's the reason for so many of the jokes about Barbra Streisand and Gloria Gaynor.

Don't get the wrong impression, though. Sure, it lacks originality both in its theme and its plot. (The alien invasion is harshly reminiscent of this summer's "War of the Worlds." A word to the wise: if you're going to rip off movies, make sure that they're actually good; otherwise it's like adding water to an already diluted concoction of nastiness.) Yet somehow, "Chicken Little" still pulls off charming. It's like a puppy that poops all over the carpet but still manages to be so cute that you can't help but coo as it eats your new shoes.

Most of this sweet goodness comes from the voice talent and the animation that goes with it. Braff has the perfect adolescent/pre-pubescent nasally voice for the title character, and Joan Cusack and Steve Zahn as Abby Mallard (Ugly Duckling) and Runt of the Litter, respectively, seem as though they were talking animals in another life -- their performances are that spot-on. Add to this the Brooklyn-accented Garry Marshall as Little's father, Buck Cluck, and a host of cameos including Patrick Warburton (best known as Puddy on "Seinfeld"), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini from "The Princess Bride") and even Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, and you've got yourself an eclectic voice cast that would wow even the worldliest of whimsy-watchers.

Fans of the quasi-flop "The Emperor's New Groove" might see some similarities in the fast-paced and frenetic slapstick comedy of "Chicken Little." Nonetheless, all the voice talent combined with the numerous funkadelic animated dance sequences make "Chicken Little" a fairly pleasurable filmic romp. If you're looking for originality, though, search elsewhere.

Grade: B
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.399643]

Appliance of the Month: The Tangent Salutes Electric Knife

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Appliance of the Month
The Tangent Salutes Electric Knife

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Welcome, friends, to the best season of the year. No, it's not because of Halloween, Thanksgiving or hot cocoa mornings. It's because of you, and only you, Electric Knife.

They broke the mold when they made you, Electric Knife. Knives in and of themselves are totally awesome, as everyone knows, but when you add the sheer power of that new technology called "electricity" to the mix, it's the best combination since that evil genius of the 13th century put peanut butter and banana together into a sandwich.

Sure, your use is usually limited to Christmas and Thanksgiving, when you are busted out to carve the hell out of those turkeys, but that's okay. You keep doing what you're doing, Electric Knife. It's working for you. You know exactly what I need, and you deliver the goods with style and gusto.

Some of my friends have been in my face lately about whether you are really worthy of my adoration as appliance of the month, taunting me with jeers like "It's not an appliance, it's a utensil!" But don't worry, Electric Knife; I don't let that faze me. I know what we have is real, and I believe you're man enough to be both utensil and appliance. Some might even say that makes you that much cooler, and when they say that, my heart goes pitter patter with pride and admiration.

If others got to know you like I know you, they'd see past your outer plastic casing and your bi-annual turkey-carving performance, and look deep inside to see the things that make you truly special. For instance, I know that if I'm ever in trouble, you're there in a flash to help me out, since you can triple as not only an appliance and a utensil, but in dire situations, as a weapon as well. Electric Knife, you're nothing but surprises, and that's just one of the many reasons why I love you.

So don't be nervous this coming holiday season when I take you home to meet my family. I know they will all love you, and we'll have a long and happy life together.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.399809]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Not Since Jesus Has Someone Been So Perfect
Interview with Keira Knightley

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Friday, October 14, 2005

Some say that it takes two years to know if you really love someone. I knew within five minutes.

I am in love with Keira Knightley. If she was to ask me to drop out of school and run away with her to a remote island in the South Pacific tomorrow, I likely would.

Moments after walking into the press room for her interview for "Domino," an upcoming film very loosely based on the life of bounty hunter Domino Harvey, she shares an anecdote. Her story is about swordfighting, swashbuckling and performing various dangerous feats during the filming of "Pirates of the Caribbean III" the day before, only to hurt herself that morning while getting out of her car. She is candid and charming, and even slightly loopy from not having slept at all and running on adrenaline and coffee.

At first glance, her persona does not quite fit the character of Domino Harvey, a young girl who is jaded by life and decides to become a bounty hunter for the fun of it. Knightley admits that she realized this as well.

After playing Elizabeth Bennet in the upcoming "Pride and Prejudice," she said, "I was having a really hard time getting my head into the character, and I haven't really had the problem of getting my head into a character before. And one day I was passing a hairdresser's, and I just decided I would cut Elizabeth Bennet out of my hair, and after that I could look at a page and go 'Right, I can see it.'"

In keeping with her strong female character trend a la Guinevere in "King Arthur" and Elizabeth Swann in "Pirates of the Caribbean," Knightley steps into the bad girl role, at first with trepidation.

"Talk about a wake up call--my first couple days of shooting, I did the lap dance scene with the gangsters, and that really helped put me into character."

If that was not enough to entice Knightley to play the role, director Tony Scott offered further incentive--he let her pick her own body double.

"Tony calls me up and says, 'Come into the office, I think you need to see something.' I walk into his office, and there were three naked women standing in his office, and he goes, 'Which one do you want?' So I picked my bum.

"They were three lovely bottoms, really," she continues. "I tried to pick one that could be as close to mine as possible if mine were the perfect bottom."

No buts (or butts) about it, Keira Knightley keeps things in perspective while still bringing every ounce of herself to her character. Still, she encountered her share of problems, particularly with the sheer complexity of the plot of "Domino," which involves a large host of intriguing characters in situations ranging from intense showdowns to satire on reality TV programming.

Not only that, the script, written by Richard Kelly (writer-director of the cult classic "Donnie Darko"), was in a state of constant change.

"On the plane from London before rehearsal," reminisces Knightley, "I was reading and breaking down all the details of the script to get my head around it, and then when I got to L.A., I was handed a brand new script that was completely different. So, there was a kind of feel that you didn't know what was going to happen next, and I think that's the right kind of vibe for the film. I felt a little bit like I was flying by the seat of my pants."

From the way the film turned out, it sounds like there are worse ways to fly.

Though Knightley puts on a performance that is severe yet exciting, and even displaying a fiendish side, none of the other actors should be overlooked. Mickey Rourke plays Ed, Domino's mentor and father figure--another character in his niche of grim and gruff roles. Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez has an amazing screen presence as Choco, the third in the bounty hunter trio and the man who pines quietly in a stoic, rugged, attractively-foreign way. Some of the best dialogue stems from Choco's use of Spanish, and as it turns out, much of that was improvised anyway. Christopher Walken brings his usual offbeat humor to the project, and Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering of "Beverly Hills, 90210" fame provide some wonderful comic moments playing caricatures of themselves.

As fun as the characters and the story can be, don't look too hard for character development, because it's just not there. The film spends so much time bouncing around from all of its various characters that it hardly has time to build motivation and meaning for some of the main players. Luckily, Scott is a master of the mindless but fun action film, having directed some classics like "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder" as well as more modern action flicks like "Spy Game" and "Enemy of the State." "Domino" is no different in that Scott's frantic and borderline schizophrenic energy keeps audiences either entertained, epileptically seized or both. And if one can't be entertained by seizures, then there is more to worry about in life than poor character development.

With all its flaws, "Domino" will not fail to divert, and if nothing else, see it for Keira Knightley so she can make some money and eat something. Just kidding, she's healthy and beautiful and will forever have my heart.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.399916]

Blog This

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Blog This

James Malins
Tangent Editor
   and
Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Internet has a long history of providing mind-numbing worthlessness with no redeeming value. Primary examples include Hampsterdance, Hot or Not and the Dancing Baby. Blogs are shaping up to prove that little is being done to change such trends. What should be an excellent forum for thought and writing typically amounts to little more than a Harry Carey-style play-by-play account of what happened during the day. It is incorrect to believe that people are interested in the flavor of Starbucks you bought, or even that you went to Starbucks. The only time this might be interesting is if, say, you happened upon Scott Baio at that particular Starbucks, and he was not only drinking the same beverage as yourself, but was also covered head to toe in red war paint.

So don't let your blog fall into the steady drone of boring and overly-detailed personal narration. Don't become one more person to hate in this world-that list is already filled to capacity with people like Hitler and Tony Danza, post-"Who's the Boss?". In other words, don't be "That Guy," especially if you are female.

The following dos and don'ts will help you develop a blog that people might prefer over repeatedly gouging themselves in the eyes with unsharpened No. 2 pencils. (It happens, I've seen it.)

Dos:
  • Update. This is a big one. Though reading about summer shenanigans in February can provide a welcome trip down memory lane, if the purpose of the blog is to provide up-to-date information about yourself, it might make sense to, you know, actually do that.
  • List a song you are currently jamming to. One of the best ways to find new music is to see what your friends are listening to. Provide this information and help spread quality songs-and by quality, we're talking Hanson circa 1996 ("Mmmbop") as opposed to Chumbawumba during the "Tubthumber" fiasco. This is not to be confused with embedding songs on your page that play automatically when you visit. Those are annoying, and sometimes make one feel that life is not worth living any longer. 
  • Funny pictures. 'Nuff said. 
  • This may be obvious, but it clearly needs to be said: write interesting stuff. If you don't do this, you should not be blogging. Keep a diary instead so nobody has to know about any aspect of your sad existence.
Don'ts:
  • Tell every excruciating detail about your day. Unless you are famous-which you probably are not if you are reading this-nobody cares. Do not do this. 
  • Typing LiKe ThIs Is ReAlLy AnNoYiNg. Do not do this. 
  • Surveys. In sixth grade, these were cool. No wait, they were never cool. Do not do this. 
  • Checklists of things you have done. This is much like the first "Don't," but in bulleted form. Still not okay. Do not do this.
Blog Stats
  • A new blog is created every second. 
  • There are currently 14.2 million weblogs (not even including Myspace pages). 
  • Only 13% of blogs are updated weekly.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.399967]

(And yes, the irony that I'm posting this on a blog is apparent to me. Hopefully I'm following my own advice. If I'm not, someone come fire me. Please.)

Xingolati: The Groove Cruise of the Pacific

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Xingolati: The Groove Cruise of the Pacific

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Friday, October 7, 2005

Imagine yourself on a Carnival cruise, shipping out from the port of Long Beach for a weekend of hot tubs, spa treatments, and all the surf and turf you can eat. On the way to the on-deck pool, you strike up a conversation about museums in Spain with a somewhat oddly-dressed fellow, and only after the on-board concert three hours later do you realize said fellow is the lead singer of The Flaming Lips.

You've just finished imagining what Mark McLarry wants to make a reality with the concert cruise he is producing, Xingolati-Groove Cruise of the Pacific.

The key phrase here, according to McLarry, is the "blending of worlds." McLarry explained, "When this idea was brought to us, we were trying to find a unique venue that could support what we were trying to do, which is what we like to call 'the blending of world'-live music with theatrics. We were looking at everything from Pac Bell's parking lot where they set up Cirque de Soleil, and we were thinking 'Well, let's set up a circus tent and do a show like that.'"

As soon as someone thought of having the festival on a cruise ship, "that's when the light bulb went off and we said, 'There's the ultimate venue,'" McLarry recalled.

The concert boasts 25 bands and performance groups with an eclectic and diverse range, from The Flaming Lips to G-Love, and several different DJs.

"We probably approached 30 to 35 bands, and we confirmed 25," clarified McLarry. "One of the biggest tasks and one of the things that made this kind of difficult was first finding the right bands and then making it fit into their schedules.

"If there was one hurdle, it was definitely the booking fees," McLarry continued. "Since this is a first year event, it was important that we sell [the performers] on this event and let them know that this is going to be one of the most unique events out there."

There are also various events planned during the cruise, including a wine tasting and a Zaireeka party, in which the lead singer from The Flaming Lips plays four CDs together to make one synchronous sound.

One of the more bizarre/interesting ensembles on the cruise, Mutaytor, call themselves a combination of "the worlds of Blue Man Group and Cirque de Soleil." Matty Nash, the frontman and founder of Mutaytor, expounded on how he formed his group and what he hopes to gain from McLarry's concert cruise, Xingolati.

"We've been characterized as a futuristic vaudeville. We perform at a lot of corporate and civic events and it's a real wild stage show-very fast-moving and very dance-oriented, and we're very excited to work with the Xingolati cruise," he said.

When trying to enlighten people on what exactly goes into Mutaytor performances, Nash elucidated, "It's a modular show with a cast between 10 and 25 players that incorporates musical and visual elements such as spider dancing, aerial stunts, tribal dancing, martial arts and interactive video projections. It works well in smaller, more intimate venues as well as stadium size, and we create custom content for each performance."

Nash believes strongly in Xingolati and feels that Mutaytor's brand of performance will fit well with the eclectic and groundbreaking aspect of such a unique show. "The goal of Xingolati is to create an experience of music that has never been attempted, creating a new demographic for the cruise industry," Nash articulated. "The perception is that cruise ships and festivals are for the 40-plus age range-senior citizens doing shuffleboard and cocktail jazz. We're trying to dispel that myth by creating a really vibrant music festival on the water that caters to music fans and to a younger audience.

"Another goal for Mutaytor is collaboration and improvisation," Nash continued. "We do a lot of that anyway and the potential to collaborate with a lot of the other artists on board during concerts is going to be big. I'm really excited about the potential of rocking with some of the other groups aboard."

If there's one point that everyone seemed to agree on, it's that Xingolati is something brand new and never experienced before, yet something that will blow everyone away to such a degree that it will become a staple for years to come.

"This is going to be setting a precedent for a new kind of concert experience," said Nash excitedly. He pressed on enthusiastically, "This is really the first concert of its kind, so we're absolutely a beta tester to see if this will work. But if it's a success, I hope we can help bring this form of entertainment into the future."

McLarry concurred, "What makes this event really unique is the intimacy of it. A lot of these bands can only be seen at huge festivals with thousands of people, whereas in this case the biggest crowd of people you'll see is 2,000 people. Also, you can interact with the bands, since they're all out on that ship with you.

"We're taking all these different pieces, these different components," McLarry said, "so that people can experience a little bit of it all. To us, this will create the ultimate atmosphere, the blending of worlds."

For tickets and information, visit www.xingolati.com.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.399981]

Appliance of the Month: The Tangent Salutes Toaster

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Appliance of the Month
The Tangent Salutes Toaster

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Toaster, you're unlike any appliance I've ever known. When I wake up in the afternoon, you know just the way I like my toast. Sure, we've had our difficulties, like that time I accidentally turned you up to "10" and you ruined my breakfast-miscommunication on my part, I suppose. In the end, though, I think our working toward a common goal has helped us grow together in ways I never could have imagined before I knew you.

There are so many great memories with you, it's hard to think of just one. Why, I remember the last time we made waffles together like it was yesterday, when we both know it was the day before that. I remember we didn't get to spend as much time together as usual, since I got that phone call and had to leave those Eggos in your capable hands, but when I came back five minutes later and saw you had toasted them to that perfect shade of golden brown-soft and chewy enough to practically melt in my mouth, yet with a slight crunch to give them personality-I knew right at that moment that I had found someone I could trust forever. It was so cute how you had the crumbs on you and I wiped them off with my napkin. Ahhh, la amore.

Heck, you can even make Pop Tarts taste good, and I didn't think that was possible! Some have said that the toaster oven is better, combining the best qualities of the oven and the toaster, but we both know that is flat-out incorrect. The toaster oven could never compare to you, Toaster, because we all know the toaster oven is just a poser, not being able to "oven-ate" as well as a normal oven, yet at the same time not possessing the ability to toast at a quality expected of such a proud and honorable appliance as you, Toaster.

Even its name is unoriginal! It poses as two different appliances bundled into one package when it is intrinsically incapable of performing either duty to the extent one might wish.

So, Toaster, I salute you this week for not compromising your integrity and I laud you for your sticktoitiveness. The world would be a lonely place without you-a lonely place with soggy, microwaved waffles and stale Pop Tarts. And that's not a world in which I want to live.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.399807]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
The Elephant In The Room
Preview of LMU's production of "The Elephant Man."

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Thursday, September 29, 2005

"It's like food," Dr. Ron Marasco waxes metaphorically. "Every once in a while, you really want a gooey piece of pie. And then, after a while, you've had so much junk food that a potato and a glass of water taste good. And that's theatre to me-you want a mix of those things."

Did he really just compare the LMU Theatre Department's first play of the season to "a potato and a glass of water"? Who in the world thinks that sounds good?

Marasco sure did, and after hearing what he has to say about the upcoming play, "The Elephant Man," it sounds pretty delicious to me.

"Most people know the story of the hideously deformed man who worked in a freak show but ended up becoming known throughout upper class society," Marasco states plainly. "Though he was deformed, he was also quite an extraordinary person, and there was a tremendous beauty inside of somebody who had such a broken physicality. The message was that society shouldn't shun people who are deformed or handicapped or in any way physically challenged."

Marasco quickly veers in a different direction. "In 1979, when the play was written, this was a very important message, but I don't think this is a big problem now. There are many bad things about America, but I don't think this is one of them," he admits.

Throughout the conversation, Marasco points out several of these "bad things," including admissions policies on counting high school theatre courses for college credit, the degenerating health of the environment, and Republicans. And while his musings are often serious in a whimsical sort of way, one can easily tell that his passion, at least for the last month, has been updating Bernard Pomerance's play and creating a piece of pure theatre in the modern retelling of a somewhat classic story.

"There's another aspect of the play, though," he further explains. "This man is somebody who is ugly, broken, malformed and has a tremendous cross to bear from the get-go, and yet he struggles to create some sort of beauty. So to me, the story of the play is the quest to create beauty out of grotesque situations."

Marasco interlaces commentary on beauty and what it should mean to us in between talking about the specifics of the play. "You cannot carve up the earth and not expect to have it change beauty; you cannot gut artistic programs and expect people to still be artists. So the story of the elephant man and how it relates to our time is that-it's very hard for you to make something beautiful in this country at this time. There are a lot of forces against it. Alexis De Tocqueville said, 'America will always prefer the useful to the beautiful,' and a lot of times he's right. But the problem with the useful is that it often creates a lot of smog, and I think you see that."

Anyone can tell Ron Marasco loves this story and all the directions it can take, but he makes it clear that it's the theatre itself that has his heart, particularly the creative process that involves the actors, the director, and all those who collaborate on a work such as this.

"It's a marvelous cast of actors. Great plays humble you and make you work hard, and I think if I locked these actors in that room with this play alone, they would make something absolutely beautiful. They know they are telling a special story and when that happens, you bring your best self."

The decision to stage the first main theatre production of the season in the tiny black box theater formerly known as "The Wine Cellar" also seems strange at first, but not to Marasco. "The level of intimacy there is really amazing. I wanted people to have the simple experience of an actor telling and living a story in front of an audience so close the audience could touch him, because a lot of the play is about being repelled by the human form and then learning to move closer to it. That kind of electricity of live human beings in a room close together in an intimate setting with an interesting story to tell is the magic of the theatre, and I wanted people to have that experience in a pure, raw and direct way.

"There are times in rehearsal where you can really feel the performance in your skin," he continued, "and it's absolutely thrilling. I just love that vibe. Everything else is boring."

Among all the beauty and the ugliness in the world, Marasco feels that "what draws people to the theater is desire for a lot of different experiences, so I like things to be eclectic." In just one month of rehearsal and preparation, it seems as though he has achieved this quality in his creation. And like a true lover of beauty, he knows that although audiences will enjoy the play, the road leading up to this is truly one of the best parts. "If we never opened the play," he declares contentedly, "it still would have been the most worthwhile experience."
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400066]

Drum Roll Please: Preview of the World Festival of Sacred Music

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Drum Roll Please
Preview of the World Festival of Sacred Music

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Monday, September 26, 2005

I take two steps into the office, and there my journey ends abruptly. There is literally no more space to walk into, and the only direction I would be able to move would be back toward the door from which I entered. Luckily, I know my purpose, so I take a seat and get comfortable.

The man behind the desk in this office/closet hybrid-so called due to both its infinitesimal size and seemingly infinite amount of clutter-greets me warmly and enthusiastically. Dr. Paul Humphreys is a busy man, especially since last February when he got the ball rolling on arranging to have LMU's Sacred Heart Chapel play host to one of the 43 events of this year's World Festival of Sacred Music.

"The festival is a tri-annual event started in 1999 to observe the millennium as a suggestion of the Dalai Lama as a way of affirming our common humanity through music," Humphreys explains carefully. "I've had the privilege of performing in the other two festivals, but this time LMU will be hosting, and we're very excited to be sharing our performance with the LMU community and with the larger community as part of the festival."

Humphreys grins widely and speaks excitedly, like a child telling Santa what he wants for Christmas. He knows he has been a good boy and worked hard all year, and he's pretty sure he's going to get what he has been wanting and waiting for. Even so, he knows it might be a hard sell at the beginning of the concert this Friday.

"In the first hearing, you might turn your head a little bit and wonder 'Whose idea of music is that?'" Humphreys continues calmly and confidently, "As the Dalai Lama says, music is a vehicle that reaffirms our common humanity. We can make sense of other people's music without even having grown up with it. It's this realization that we're all interconnected, that we're all in this together, and that we all share in the well-being of one another."

Throughout our chat, Humphreys is caught in a whirlwind of interruptions, but he handles them with the fluidity of someone who is accustomed to not being able to accomplish anything without a number of intrusions. In the short 20 minutes of my visit, he had at least three visitors and a phone call, and gave each enough time to solve the most immediate issue while hardly skipping a beat in answering my questions about his pet project.

"I've had the good fortune to have a department and a university that have supported my efforts," he conveys graciously. "We've been laying the groundwork for this since last February, getting the clearance for the Chapel, and contacting the musicians involved."

Even with such an early start, a concert of this magnitude can take much more work than anticipated. "We rehearsed this summer for eight solid days with the student gamelan group. We're used to performing at the end of the semester, but the timing of the festival was such that we had to be ready by the end of September.

"We held summer performance intensives co-taught by Jeffrey Dent, the guest director for this performance. They were very successful, and we learned a lot of music-a nine movement work, in fact. So we had a very productive month in August."

The Balinese-influenced student gamelan group, called Gamelan Kembang Atangi-gamelan being the percussion instrument used and Kembang Atangi meaning "flower of awakening"-will perform with a Western vocal group called Zephyr: Voices Unbound, "an ensemble that dates back to the 18th century. The two styles are being juxtaposed and woven together in the performance, and it embodies a sort of reconciliation between East and West. It's a wonderful thread of shared purpose." Humphreys promises that all performers are "fabulous musicians, and when you put them all together it makes for an experience you won't forget."

The event at LMU-entitled "Visions of Conflict & Reconciliation"-was born out of reactions to major events of the past few years. "The piece really has its motivation in the big calamities of the early 21st century. We had 9/11 in America, and then in Bali a year, a month, and a day later on Oct. 12 (there was another terrorist attack). Bali is a very small island, so it really shook them on a large scale the way 9/11 shook us. With my experience as an American in this country in 2001 and as a friend to the Balinese in 2002, it almost seemed inevitable that a piece like this would come about."

Though it may seem heavy, Humphreys has high hopes for the kind of effect the concert will have on those who attend.

"I'm certain that students will come away with a sense of discovery, particularly of the gamelan since most students have not heard traditional Indonesian orchestra music, so that will be an ear-opener for them. They'll also realize the notion that this music is compatible with music with which they are more familiar."

Perhaps most importantly, Humphreys knows that those in attendance "will be witnesses to an intercultural dialogue, and I'll be very interested to know what they make of that."

I leave the tiny walk-in closet known as Dr. Paul Humphreys' office knowing that I, for one, will be one of those witnesses.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400127]

One Hot Date

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
One Hot Date

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Friday, September 2, 2005

The tangent knows that living on campus without a car can be a frustrating experience, especially in terms of dating. With that in mind, we'd like to help you out. The following is a dating scenario specifically designed for those poor car-less souls stranded on campus.

This one is perfect for you lovers of all things Italian. Start out by taping a sign to your bike that says "Vespa," then head over to your date's dorm to pick them up. Sure, it's nerdy, but with the right amount of confidence and charm, they'll get a kick out of your quirky sense of humor and be willing to go along for the ride of their life.

Next, pedal your way to a romantic Italian dinner for two at the Lair. I'm thinking fettucini alfredo, but you're welcome to improvise with tortellini or ravioli. Grab one of the booths in the corner where the lighting isn't too harsh, and set fire to a few sugar packets to "set the mood." By the final slurps of pasta, your date will be giddy with anticipation of what else you have in store.

Your after-dinner moves require some advance preparation. Get a hold of a plain white t-shirt and some red magic markers, and color in some horizontal stripes so you get a "Where's Waldo" effect going. Then, call up your local canoe dealership and rent a canoe for an hour (Don't worry-they deliver. I checked). Lead your date by the hand to Foley Pond, where you'll have already set up your boat. Next, strip off your shirt and tie to reveal the Waldo shirt. You both will know what comes next: a romantic boat ride accompanied by you belting out tunes such as "That's Amore" and "Libiamo, Libiamo."

Once your date is sufficiently "swooned," seal the deal in true Italian fashion-more eating. Bring your date back to your room, and blindfold him or her with the promise of a "delightful surprise." Grab some Haagen Dazs from your fridge (bought earlier that day from the Lair), spoon a few scoops out into two bowls, place one in front of your date, and shout an exclamatory ("Kablow" or "Booyaka" perhaps) while pulling off the blindfold. Fake like it's homemade gelato (learn how to make it off the internet in case they want an explanation.)

You are sure to score big with this last feat. That, combined with the rest of the well-planned and perfectly-executed date, and you'll have him or her exclaiming "Mamma mia!" in no time.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.400416]

This 'Cake' Ain't Sweet (Film Review: "Layer Cake")

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
This 'Cake' Ain't Sweet
Film Review: "Layer Cake"

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Friday, August 12, 2005

Matthew Vaughn helped produce both 1998's critically acclaimed "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and the 2000 cult hit "Snatch." Is it any wonder, then, that the first film he directs features the same gritty settings and the same grizzled mobsters facing problems with soured drug deals and dead friends?

"Layer Cake," Vaughn's directorial debut, centers on his unnamed protagonist, played by Daniel Craig ("The Jacket"), and tells the convoluted story of a man who has made a decent wage in the drug trafficking business by keeping a low profile and dealing discreetly with only those he trusts most. When he decides he wants to retire, however, he quickly finds it's easier to get in than to get out. Forced to accomplish two more tasks before retiring--finding the daughter of an important mob boss and pulling one last deal with an obnoxious petty drug dealer who has happened on a big payload--Craig's character finds his life spinning in and out of all the wrong circles.

Though very genre-specific, "Layer Cake" remains an exceedingly compelling film with some genuine human touches to it. Unlike some others in the genre, the film keeps its audience close and connected to the characters rather than keeping them as outsiders who are simply watching the story elements unfold. In other words, the film engrosses the viewer not only through adrenaline and fun but also through emotion and some slightly heavy drama.

Part of what creates such an engrossing characteristic is the acting, which remains cool and unsympathetic while managing to stay serious and real. Craig brings to his character a calm confidence, yet exudes a subtle feeling of a man who is losing control despite his best efforts at maintaining charge over his environment. In one scene in particular, Craig gives an awesome glimpse at the anguish associated with dealing with such high-pressure situations on a regular basis. Both he and the director deserve praise for including such a moment, as those types of events rarely receive screen time.

Apart from some other excellent performances by character actors such as Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the last "Harry Potter") and Colm Meaney, who has played bit parts in "Under Siege" and "Mystery, Alaska," the film does not offer much else of note. While the story stays solid throughout, it fails to take that extra step to go from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Even the ending--which fits well with the film and does not try to wrap it all up into a nice neat package--misses the mark insofar as it does not really knock the wind out of the viewer like a surprise ending should.

While the title "Layer Cake" fits well with the many layers of plot and character development--not to mention the metaphorical use of life as a layer cake that one simply must claw one's way to the top of--the execution of the film does not quite "take the cake." Instead, it is left somewhere around the second or third layer. Still, "Layer Cake" is one treat worth checking out, and it might even leave a pleasant aftertaste.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4435/1.400477]

Evolution vs The Catholic Church

Another philosophy class required another end of semester project, this time studying the differences between the theory of evolution and the beliefs of the Catholic church, as witnessed by 15-20 students of Loyola Marymount University. Oh, and since I'm not at all mature, the two different viewpoints are manifested by a "champion" for each team.

James Malins - Nitro, Champion for Team God
Daniel Walker - DJ F√ľnke, Champion for Team Darwin

Mark-ing My Territory: "That's Jacked!"

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Mark-ing My Territory
That's Jacked!

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published April 13, 2005

Cruising down the 405 at a steady five mph with nothing to entertain myself but, well, myself, I popped on the radio. After plunking through my presets and finding nothing good on—save for some savvy mariachi music and the bi-hourly dose of Nirvana on KROQ—I decided to forego mix tape syndrome and broaden my horizons of radioland. I soon happened on some quality mid-90’s music from Better Than Ezra, and after sticking on that channel for 20 minutes, I had heard Madonna follow the Rolling Stones, the Gin Blossoms lead in Depeche Mode, and Sugarhill Gang (w)rap it all up in a nice little package of eclecticism. The station? Jack 93.1 FM.

The new station took the place of the long-standing god of classic rock radio Arrow 93.1, leaving aging Los Angelino rockers and those with an appreciation for Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan and the like in a—shall we say—“funk.” You’ll be happy to know—or unhappy, depending on your take on this—that Los Angeles is just a small part in a sort of radio overhaul that has been sweeping the country for the past year, and which gains more momentum every day. How much momentum, you ask? LA’s Jack FM began March 19, only six days after a station in Indianapolis changed their format, and less than two weeks before much-loved Star 100.7 FM in Detroit became Jack 100.7 FM, something which most listeners thought was some cruel April Fool’s joke but have since realized this Jack guy is serious.

Since you’re wondering why radio stations across the country are being taken over in an Alexander the Great style conquest, here’s some quick insight into what has made the format so popular. With the out of control growth of the iPod and now the iPod Shuffle, the idea of switching off the radio and plugging in one’s mp3 player on random play has irked broadcasting moguls. So, they’ve begun to take the next logical step in radio evolution—fire the DJs, create a playlist of the top 40 hits from the past 40 years and do what radio expatriates have been doing for months—hit “shuffle.” Thus, we unhappy few who have not yet bought into the iPod phenomenon can enjoy hearing the Police, the Pretenders and Primus all in a 15-minute span.

Many have begun to wonder if this style of radio will actually catch on and—perhaps more importantly—last. From a purely business standpoint, it makes great sense for broadcasting companies. With everything computerized, there are no DJs to pay, no morning shows and theoretically, no phone calls, as most Jack stations adopt a smart-alek/rebel attitude of “We play what we want. No requests.” What about the listeners, though? Radio has long been the place to hear the newest tunes and grow in one’s music repertoire, but if all your favorite station plays were the songs you grew up listening to in high school or in utero, you’ll soon be living in a broken-down cottage in some horrid place like Montana or one of the Dakotas, thinking everything new is bad and mumbling incoherently to yourself about the “good old days” while trying to throw a football over a mountain. It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly not happy.

Still, one thing Jack has going for it, paradoxically, is that despite playing all old hits, the station presents something new and different in style and format. Jack takes a giant step away from traditional radio with DJs playing the same few songs in the same genre and gives its listeners something that will keep them guessing while keeping them entertained. And for me, that translates to letting me finally clean out all those old mix tapes that have infused themselves with the carpeting of my car through a unique melting process involving 100 degree weather, rolled-up windows and discarded pieces of Trident. Sure, cleaning won’t be a fun job, but at least I’ll have some chill tunes to bob my head to.
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]

New Spin with 'Oldboy' (Film Review)

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
New Spin with 'Oldboy'

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published March 30, 2005

The new Korean film by Park Chan-wook has a truly scary concept for college students—a man gets supremely inebriated and wakes up imprisoned for 15 years.

While most will not actually be worried about this sort of scenario playing out in their own lives, this is precisely the situation in which the main characer finds himself in 2003’s “Oldboy,” just now being released in America.

A detective-style mystery film that borrows from such eclectic sources as film noir, Victorian literature and classical greek tragedy, “Oldboy” is certainly something new in the theaters.

The film centers on Oh Dae-su—a family man and business man—who comes to in a small hotel room one day and is kept locked inside for 15 years only to be released one day, handed a cell phone by a stranger, and challenged to figure out who put him away and why. Truly a psychologically heavy film, “Oldboy” keeps one guessing for the majority of its running time and even after the finale leaves its viewers disturbed and questioning.

Don’t be disheartened, though. To keep the film going at a steady, non-breakneck pace, director Chan-wook throws in flashbacks and humor, and he uses narration by the main character as an effective plot device to show the complex mental breakdown that slowly torments Dae-su.

Choi Min-sik, who plays Dae-su, gives a haunting performance as a man who has lost everything and drifts from scene to scene of his life with the on thought of revenge on his mind. At times his quest reeks of the Count of Monte Cristo story, an element of which the director is very much aware and even inserts a direct reference to the book. However, it seems Chan-wook only makes reference to that story so that people will realize just how he has manipulated it to create an intense new twist on an old concept.

Chan-wook also pulls a few strings with his visuals and camera work, which is highly stylized and uses dynamic camera movement to help convey emotion at times and static shots in parts to let the elements of the story speak for themselves.

The screenwriters deserve major credit here because the script is taut and dizzying. While at times one might question the reality of the situation, the different characters that come into play and their seemingly inconsequential roles that turn out to be essential make the story one which must be paid attention in great detail to fully grasp all the intricacies. In other words, one viewing just isn’t enough.

The only real issue that the film has trouble with is that of believability. It’s difficult to imagine real people acting the way some of these characters do in these types of situations, but fortunately for the film, these types of situations don’t come up too often in real life so it’s difficult to say what anyone would do if confronted by one.

Rarely does a film come along that is so haunting and gritty that vivid images stay in one’s mind for long after the film has ended. Chan-wook and his writers have created a truly bizarre and thrilling story in “Oldboy,” and one which will leave anyone who sees it reviewing and replaying and remembering it for weeks.

Grade A-
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]

Achieving 'Glory' (Film Review: "Dust to Glory")

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Achieving 'Glory'
Film Review: "Dust to Glory"

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published March 20, 2005

Extreme sports has a new name.

Well, not really; the name, the Baja 1000, has been around for years. With the new documentary “Dust to Glory,” director Dana Brown gives a backstage pass to a single race that attracts hundreds of riders every year and pits motorcyclists against quasi-monster truckers, VW beetles—the old model—against million dollar dune buggies.

Brown, whose father Bruce Brown created the ultimate surf documentary with “The Endless Summer” and followed it up with “The Endless Summer 2,” has finally fully stepped out of his father’s shadow with the new film. To take a giant step in a completely different direction from his past two films, the breathtaking surf documentaries “Step Into Liquid” and “The Endless Summer Revisited,” younger Brown has gone from the ocean to the desert to film a 1000 mile race open to anyone with any kind of motorized vehicle and a death wish.

Admittedly, many a capable documentarian could take an event this exciting, ridiculous and dangerous and make a watchable film out of it. However, with his background in shooting extreme surfing footage through about eight different cameras filming all at once, Brown knows how to always capture that unbelievable shot that places the viewer right in the driver’s seat.

He also knows that even in documentaries, if the characters aren’t intriguing enough, the film inevitably will bore its viewers. So aside from the amazing cinematography by Kevin Ward, Brown and Scott Waugh do an excellent job of editing the film and providing voiceover to create several side stories to give names to the faces and life to the characters. From NASCAR great Mario Andretti breaking down in the middle of the desert to a young man called “Mouse” who wants to ride the whole race by himself on a motorcycle, the characters’ and the riders’ stories give the audience a chance to breathe in between action shots while keeping us interested throughout.

The only flaw in Brown’s method of filmmaking comes from his intrusiveness—that is to say, his inability at times to step back and let the grandeur of the film speak for itself. There’s no question that his sweeping shots of motorcycles racing across beach and desert at 100 mph are breathtaking, but his constant voiceover work commenting on the similarities between each racer’s reason for participation and outlook on life effectively allows him to make his point and then bash his viewer over the head several times with it.

Dana Brown is an excellent documentary filmmaker with the potential for greatness. While he has some things he needs to work on, his newest effort “Dust to Glory” takes him out of his comfort zone of surf-filmmaking and lets him explore the boundaries of his ability in a brand new environment. And his exploration has created a fascinating and remarkable film that’s sure to make anyone wonder.

Grade B+
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]

Let's get personal with some aliens

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Let's get personal with some aliens

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published March 16, 2005

“I am a 20-year-old college student who is involved in community service, online publishing, and writing for the school newspaper. Seeking an attractive, intelligent woman who is goal-oriented but has fun along the way.”

These are the sentences that begin the personal ad I just posted to craigslist.org, a site which allows free classified and personal ad postings for about 100 different cities and areas in the US and overseas. And here are the closing remarks of that same ad: “PS Any aliens out there in space getting this, shoot me an email. I don't discriminate. But you've still gotta fit the profile.”

Anyone not privy to craigslist or the swarm of news articles surrounding it this past week should be very confused right about now. The site, which has burst onto the internet scene with amazing force and expanded by leaps and bounds within the past year or two, recently won an online auction by Deep Space Communications Network for the first private communications transmission light years into deep space. Jim Buckmaster, craigslist’s CEO, decided to bid $1225 for this right with the idea of letting the site’s users transmit their ads into hyperspace. So now someone like me who wants to have a “close encounter” or someone who is getting a new apartment wants to sell a couch to one of the creatures from the “Alien” films can post an ad for free and hope for the best.

While the notion of extraterrestrial life is fascinating, and the idea of contacting alternate life forms is something I never thought would happen during my lifetime, I question the methods of doing this. Though astronomers at the SETI Institute have stated that the chances of extraterrestrials receiving and understanding the craigslist transmission are slim to none, suppose that it does happen—that not only do non-human beings from another world pick up the transmission but decipher it and understand it.

Do we as a people really want our first contact to include a written log of Joe Blow’s quest to find MILFs? Or John Smith’s attempt to get $50 for his LA Dodgers bobblehead collection?

The other problem here is the auction itself. Do we really want it left to chance who gets to send personal messages to ALF? These types of foreign relations don’t seem like something best left to the highest bidder.

There are plenty of things that could have gone wrong with the whole auction process. However, though it seems absurd, Earth lucked out with craigslist. And at least we’ll keep ourselves honest this way. After all, besides personals craigslist has job listings, activity partners, classes, housing, and even discussion boards on everything from haikus and pets to nightlife and fetishes. If we want the Klingons to get a sense of who we are, a personals site would provide almost the perfect cross-section of our world. Or in this case, at least they’ll get a good chunk of Americana.

So next time you’re looking for someone to play tennis with or trying to find someone to work the late shift at work, don’t be afraid to check that box that says “ok to transmit this posting into outer space.” After all, who knows? You might find that ET can double your production, or perhaps be the next Andre Agassi.

As for me, I’m just hoping for one who looks like Keira Knightley. Bring on the alien babes!
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]
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