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Friday, February 20, 2009

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

A couple weeks ago I had jury duty in Inglewood (home of "The Forum" - where the Lakers use to play). Running errands during the lunch break I stumbled across this sign in nearby Hawthorne. OK ... WHAT is the "Beach Boy Monument"?? (Isn't it the Beach Boys?) I had a few minutes - had to stop and see.

Then I remembered: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys grew up in Hawthorne. Maybe this was their boyhood home? Close ... but not exactly.

Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, on the corners of Kornblum Ave. and 119th St., is where the boyhood home of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson use to be.

OK, a monument ... but why no home? Then I realized - I was up against the Century Freeway. In an ironic twist of fate, The Beach Boys' - who glamorized California's "car culture" as well as, of course, surfing - childhood home was demolished to make room for Los Angeles' most recently constructed freeway, the Century Freeway ("The 105").

The plaque reads: It was here in the home of parents Murry and Audree that Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson grew to manhood and developed their musical skills. During Labor Day Weekend 1961, they, with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, gathered here to record a tape of their breakthrough song "Surfin'." This marked the birth of the rock group known worldwide as the Beach Boys and the beginning of an historic musical legacy that would change the recording industry. The music of the Wilsons broadcast to the world an image of California as a place of sun, surf and romance. Brian Wilson would become a legendary producer, arranger and songwriter.

For Beach Boys fans, the monument commemorates Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson - as well as their cousin Mike Love and David Marks and Al Jardine. The image face of the landmark was inspired by the album cover of Surfer Girl. In another ironic twist, the Beach Boys were a singing group who sang about surfing - but none of whom actually surfed.

You can see how close the freeway is to the monument. I've driven by spot this dozens of times - never knew it was there.

Here's a few photos of the neighborhood Brian, Dennis and Carl grew up in. Just your typical working class community. The neighborhood - like all of Los Angeles - has changed since "The Boys" grew up here. Some homes in the neighborhood had bars on the windows, but I also saw some real pride of ownership and nicely kept up homes. The palm trees in front of the home below definitely says "California".

I've blogged several times previously about the idea of legacy - how we invest our lives. As a Christian, I appreciate and am challenged by the words of Hebrew prophet Isaiah: "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:6,8

Grass and flowers: they're an integral - and often beautiful - part of the Creation. Isaiah's point isn't that they're "good" or "bad" . . . but simply that they're temporal.

Very few of us will ever have the house we grew up in recognized - let alone a monument placed where it stood. But even that is ultimately very temporal. In light of eternity, I'm wondering how much time and effort I place in things that are simply temporal.

My character, the things we do for others, how I treat others (especially those who are different than me), justice, compassion, forgiveness . . . those are the things that matter.

I like what C.S. Lewis once wrote: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither."

Borrowing from the title of a Beach Boys song, wouldn't it be nice if that's how I really lived out my life?

You'd have to be a real Beach Boys fan to make a special trip to see the monument. But if you're in the area and driving by (it's very close to the Lowe's in Hawthorne) it might be worth seeing. Either way, a great reminder - for me, at least - of what I want to invest my time on.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not Ashamed: Benetton in Santa Monica

This past weekend my wife and I walked by the Benetton store on the Third Street Promenade - a three block outdoor public shopping area in Santa Monica.

Music was blasting from inside the store ...

. . . with four employees in the front window - dancing . . .

. . . and drawing a huge crowd.

My wife commented that no one was in their store; everyone was outside watching the show!

They eventually got some younger kids to dance along with them, which only increased the size of the crowd out front.

I was impressed with the number of people - like myself - taking photographs. So, I decided to photograph the crowd taking photographs. That's the Criterion in the background.

Benetton (based in Milan) is certainly not unique to Los Angeles - they have stores are all over the world, including several in the media capital that is L.A.

Two thousand years ago, St. Paul - the most influential leader in the first century church - wrote to a group of new Christians in the capital city of the Roman Empire:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:20)

"I am not ashamed." The folks dancing in the window certainly were not ashamed. (Of course, some would argue that it helps working for a retail chain that spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year in advertising and perfecting it's image.)

"I am not ashamed." A local pastor once said, "when some Christians talk about their faith, they should use breath mints: the gospel is offensive enough. They don't need to add to it."

Over the years, I'm sure I've needlessly added to the what Paul called the "offense" of the gospel. Chalk it up to the stupidity of youth (or just stupidity).

The great thing about living on the westside of Los Angeles - where many people consider themselves "spiritual, but not religious" - is that it causes me to constantly go back to what I believe, not to take my faith for granted.

"I am not ashamed."

Or am I?

I appreciate the folks over at Benetton and the reminder - in a very indirect way - that it's the very last thing I should be.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Andy Griffith Lake (Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir)

Remember the old Andy Griffith Show? Franklin Canyon Reservoir, located here in Los Angeles, stood in for that North Carolina lake . . . 

. . .  where Andy Griffith and a much younger Ron Howard walked to go fishing during the opening credits.

Franklin Canyon Reservoir is a small (three acre) lake located just north of Beverly Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains cut through the heart of the city of L.A., dividing the San Fernando Valley from the rest of Los Angeles. According to the National Park Service website, this lake is technically the geographic center of the city of Los Angeles. I know, it's unbelievable. The lake, the hills, the trees (and the fact that I tried to avoid photographing homes that you can see from the lake) really gives the illusion of being hundreds of miles from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

Early Thanksgiving Day about five years ago I took my kids and members of my extended family to see the lake, and walk around. There is a very simple, easy trail - great for little kids. It's took about 30 minutes to walk around the lake (we took our time). It's really a special little gem in Los Angeles and, of course, is still used as a location for films and television shows.

When I think about walking, specifically walking with my kids, I'm reminded of what Moses told the people of Israel some 3,500 years ago:

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up ..." Deuteronomy 6:7,8.

I love this challenge to believers to integrate their faith into their every day life with their children, rather than compartmentalizing it to a once a week activity. Plenty of places to do that in Los Angeles - including Franklin Canyon Reservoir.

Oh yeah, and ducks. I'm not sure if there are ducks there year round, but they were definitely around when we were there in November.

More info on the old Andy Griffith show and Franklin Canyon Reservoir (which went by the name "Myers Lake" in the show). can be found at:

The address is "2600 Franklin Canyon, Los Angeles, CA" if you're trying to find it on google maps.

Friday, February 6, 2009

"For Your Consideration" (Part I)

A year ago in our Sunday Los Angeles Times we received a large, expensive four-color brochure printed on glossy card-stock.

A brochure for a luxury car?
New homes?

No, in fact the brochure was higher quality (and probably more expensive to produce) than anything I've either requested or been given. But this being Los Angeles, it wasn't about something for me to buy ...

The brochure was to promote the Miramax film "There Will Be Blood". It was specifically designed for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ... and their neighbors? I have no idea why we receive this.

This brochure was apparently placed in every Sunday Los Angeles Times within certain zip codes here on the westside of Los Angeles.

While there are only about 6,000 members of the Academy, someone at Miramax decided it would be worth it to place a copy of this brochure within every L.A. Times in our zip code (and many others, I'm sure). Impressive images of the film were placed side by side glowing reviews from major media sources.

Not only do I not know any "members of the academy" - but I didn't even see this film.

The brochure was a reminder that the movie was nominated for 8 Academy Awards (It ended up winning 2: Best Actor for Day-Lewis, and Best Cinematography for Robert Elswit).

While Wikipedia is not considered a credible source for academic research, it's fine for this blog (and this topic):

"For Your Consideration is a heading frequently used in advertisements in entertainment trade publications such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. They are specifically directed towards members of awards voting groups in the entertainment industry."

"Each year, the major movie studios, and to a lesser extent their affiliated television studios and the television networks, spend large sums of money on For Your Consideration ads extolling the alleged virtues of their films or programs released over the previous year."

Wow - I guess so. On the night of the Academy Awards, the film won a couple of Oscars. I wonder what kind of difference, if at all, this expensive promotion made. A year later, I still haven't seen the film.

A couple of weeks later we received yet another brochure. Same heavy cardstock, glossy four color printing, etc. Only this brochure wasn't a brochure. It was a menu - for the Disney/Pixar film "Ratatouille."

Hey, now we're talking. A film our whole family has actually seen (at least on DVD).

OK, it wasn't really a menu. It was another over the top promotion brochure "for my consideration." But it was designed to at least look like the menu to a fancy French restaurant. Creative.

The first couple of pages included nice reviews from the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times.

The rest of the brochure consisted of photos from the film, along with recipes of real French food.

Promotion, yes, but a much more low key approach than the "There Will Be Blood" brochure. I liked it.

Along the top of each page were the words "Pour Votre Consideration" - a subtle (or not so subtle) request to members of the Academy. If I ever meet one, I'll be sure to pass this along.

The final page was a quote from the character "Ego" (remember him?) indirectly comparing the skill of the character Remy to the film itself. Nice touch.

"Ratatouille" won Best Animated Feature Film (it was up against "Persepolis" - which I never even heard of - and "Surf's Up" - which my kids made me watch).

Hollywood must love sequels, or at least someone in Burbank must have thought these promotional brochures were a great return on investment (hey, got my attention). Read more in "Part II."

"For Your Consideration" (Part II)

As I shared in "Part I" of this blog entry, about a year ago we received via our Sunday Los Angeles Times two expensive, four-color glossy brochures designed to promote Miramax's "There Will Be Blood" and Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille."

Hollywood loves sequels. Over a couple of Sundays in this past December, we received two more promotional brochures in our paper.

As you can see from the photos, the first was for "Wall-E," another Disney/Pixar film.

Over the top doesn't describe this brochure. These photos don't do justice.

This promotional for "Wall-E" is forty eight pages on heavy, glossy cardstock. It's beyond what you'd expect a company like Apple or Microsoft to send to their stockholders. If it was designed to attract attention simply based on "size and scope," I'd say it succeeded. What's incredible to me is that a brochure of this magnitude was placed inside tens of thousands of copies of the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times in targeted zip codes here on the westside of Los Angeles.

Huge color photos were set against glowing reviews of the film.

Time, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times all had wonderful things to say about the film ... and this brochure is a reminder of that.

A week after receiving the "Wall-E" brochure, we found another promotional insert in our Sunday paper. This time it was for the film "Bolt."

Seems a little ironic - as both of these films are owned by Disney. I guess someone in Burbank really wants to make sure their studio walks away with "Best Animated Feature" (as well as - I'm sure - awards in other categories).

As you can see, the "For Your Consideration" promotional for "Bolt" was a calendar. My 9 year old immediately asked if he could have it (he's got it hanging on the wall in his room).

"Bolt" was an enjoyable film - one our family actually went and saw in the theater. According to it's been nominated for six Academy Awards:

The last page (as well as the back of the calendar) was entitled "For Your Consideration" - an appeal to members of the Academy (and those in their zip code? Again, I have no idea why we received this). You can click on any of these images for a larger view.

Thinking about the upcoming Academy Awards, I'm reminded of much earlier award ceremonies mentioned in the New Testament. Almost 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul, a leader in the early church, compared the Christian life to the ancient Olympic Games:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." Paul's 1st letter to the church in the city of Corinth 9:24-25

Interesting that Paul wasn't critical of the ancient Olympic games he was referencing. Studio executives green light millions of dollars in the pursuit of an award that, while notable, is ultimately temporal. As a Christian, I often settle for the mediocre in my own life when God calls believers to run, to strive, to fight, to excel.

I'm impressed with the effort studios make toward promoting and marketing a film. I hope I would put that same, no - much greater energy - towards Christ and His Kingdom.

Looking forward to seeing how "Wall-E" and "Bolt" do in their completion, Sunday evening February 22nd.

And thanks for the fun brochure and calendar.