Monday, January 30, 2012


If you happen to subscribe to any basic cable package, most likely you've run into Cesar Millan. Armed with nothing but a keen sense of canine awareness, and the best athletic wear on television, he is known as "The Dog Whisperer."

Sounds like a bunch of post modern, mumbo-jumbo, right? WRONG! As far as I'm concerned this guy is 100% legit. And if you don't believe me, just watch his opening credits where he rollerblades via pitbull. Nuff said—

Cesar (pronounced SAY-SAR) teaches that a dog's behavior is reactive to the energy by which it's surrounded as well as to the rules, boundaries, and limitations that their owners establish. In other words, a dog may speak excellent English, but if the owner can't give a command in a calm and confident manner, the dog won't respond.

One of the real hallmarks of Mr. Millan's "whispering" is the command he uses in order to snap a dog out of less than desirable states of being. This command isn't exactly easy to spell out because it only consists of consonants and air, but I think if I were to write it down, it would look something like, "TSH!"

Seems simple, right? And yet Cesar Millan's "TSH!" is incredibly effective with man and/or woman's best friend. The sound requires a lot of energy to produce, and that energy is essential when snapping a dog out of its behavior.

A word of caution, though. After a few weeks of TSH-ing , I soon found myself fighting the impulse to use it on humans. And regardless of how proficient your "TSH!" may be, I don't think people would ever respond to it as nicely as dogs do.

Don't you kind of wish they would, though? Personally, I think it would be fun to "TSH!" someone every now and then. For example, I was in Pottery Barn at the end of last year doing some Holiday shopping, and I heard a female customer berating this poor employee because only some of the store's merchandise was discounted. How cool would it have been if I had walked up to that woman and TSH-ed in her face?

"NO!" I would have added, "BAD HUMAN! BAD!!" Who knows, maybe she would have retreated to a comfortable throw pillow right there in the middle of the store and waited for me to tell her what to do next.

Then again, I suppose a more civilized idea would be to simply "TSH!" ourselves every now and then. You know, like if you're walking to a pan of brownies for the third time, or starting to lose your patience on the freeway, or watching a marathon of "America's Next Top Model…" Just snap yourself out of it with a good, hearty "TSH!"

If only it were that easy…

The real reason why "TSH!" works so well with dogs, and might prove less effective with people, is because dogs only think about one thing at a time. In order to abandon a feeling or behavior, all they need is a strange noise or a squirrel. It's actually one of the great lessons we can learn from the canine kingdom. If we don't like what's in our brains, then fill them with something else!

Sometimes that seems like an impossible task. Sometimes it actually hurts to force yourself to choose a new thought. But the good news is we, as humans, have the ability to do it. And guess what? We don't even need a "TSH!" to make it happen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Anjelica Huston Week

Last week I announced that my very first "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" would be dedicated to the films of Anjelica Huston. Why? Because I only know her as the well lit Morticia Addams in the Addams Family movies, and doesn't she deserve more than that…?

So now I'm back to report that over the course of the last seven days, I hunted down and successfully watched seven films featuring the great Ms Huston. I feel like I know her now. Well I don't know her, obviously, but I do know more about her. For example, that creepy lady from the Disney theme park attraction Captain EO that I thought looked like Anjelica Huston is actually Anjelica Huston!

Upon learning this, I briefly considered revisiting Captain EO as part of my week long event (after all, any excuse to go to Disneyland is a good one), but the purpose of "Anjelica Huston Week" was to see movies I hadn't seen. That being said, here is a brief rundown of the films I did watch and the roles she plays in each of them:

The Grifters- Easily one of the best movies I saw this week, Ms Huston plays Lily, a con artist living with the pros and, forgive the pun, "cons" of her profession.

Manhattan Murder Mystery- Filled with good, clean, murderous fun, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton try to solve a hypothetical murder with the help of Alan Alda and (who else?) Lady A.

The Crossing Guard- Sean Penn wrote and directed this very heavy film in which the best scenes belong to Anjelica and her real ex Jack Nicholson as they battle through the debris of a failed marriage.

Prizzi's Honor- This is the film that won Ms Huston an Oscar for her performance as a jilted mob daughter. Her dialect choices alone are worth the 99 cents at Blockbuster, but only if you can find a Blockbuster that carries it...

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou- I decided to watch only one of the Wes Anderson films Anjelica Huston appeared in, and based on recommendations, I rented The Life Acquatic instead of The Royal Tenenbaums. Fear not, however, I turned on the television the next day and happened upon the last 45 minutes of the latter. (Thank you, universe!) Both of these films and her performances in them are filled with quirk and a deadpan to die for.

Enemies: A Love Story- Angie, as I started calling her by this point, is featured in this story as a Holocaust survivor who finds her way to America only to discover that her husband has been remarried…to two other women. A surprisingly funny and moving story.

The Dead- Based on the famous short story, you-know-who's dad, director John Huston, made this lovely ode to their Irish homeland a family affair. It's sweet, and simple, and sad. Just as James Joyce intended-

Now before you praise or deplore the amount of time I spent watching all of these movies, I'll have you know that I fell asleep during four of the seven films I just mentioned. And while this cinematic narcolepsy no doubt reminds us all how nice it is to rewind a DVD instead of a VHS, I also believe it disqualifies me from any professional film viewing occupation as well as dismisses any claims that I simply have nothing better to do with my life than sit around and watch movies.

You see, eventhough visiting countless Blockbuster stores in between Netflix deliveries can be exhausting, the true reason for my sleep deprivation was because I opened a brand new show last weekend.

This new play is a total departure for me. It doesn't follow any conventional rules of theatre. Most of my performance is motivated by the leading character's state of being. His needs and fears magically inspire my character to dance in the hope of accelerating him to a higher plane of existence, which I do while wearing little except underwear and neon orange shoes.

Funny enough, somewhere in the middle of "Anjelica Huston Week," I started looking at my new role with different eyes. As I watched Ms Huston in these movies, I couldn't help but feel impressed by the ferocious appetite that she brings to each of her roles. It's almost as if she has something to prove and yet nothing to lose. She does, after all, come from a dynasty of film royalty, but the real reason you want to watch her is because you feel how badly she wants to be there.

This inspired me to think of my own performance. How badly did I want to be in this new show? Enough to dance in my underwear? Absolutely. Enough to dance in my underwear confidently? That question still needed to be answered.

I realized there was still more to do. I needed work up an appetite for my work. Just like Anjelica Huston, I needed to crave my role in a way that only I could crave it. The opportunity to step up my game had presented itself, and I had to take it. As it turns out, sometimes you just gotta dance like you're fully clothed.

That's really what I took away from "Angelica Huston Week." When you find your passion, it may require you to be more vulnerable than you're prepared to be. It may mean your work won't be received with the same appetite with which you devour it. But regardless of the role, big or small, only you can step up to the plate, and dig in.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- January 2012

Welcome to the very first post of a brand new series I'm calling, "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week!"

In this monthly, two part series, I will first announce a non-essential task that I will do during the forthcoming week. These tasks will be things that I really don't have to do, but have always wanted an excuse to complete. Then, after seven days, I will report on said task with my typical fire & music.

This week, I have decided to take on the challenge of watching "The Films of Anjelica Huston."

You see, I recently realized that the only 3 roles I've ever seen Ms Huston do are:
  1. The devilishly beautiful Morticia Addams in The Addams Family movies.
  2. The devilishly Wicked Stepmother in Ever After.
  3. The Devil, or rather, the Grand High Witch in The Witches.
In a career that spans three Oscar nominations, one win, and who knows how many other accolades, I think this lady deserves to be known in my mind as something more than "the mom from The Addams Family." So, I dedicate "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" to one of the most imposing screen presences in cinema, as well as a pioneer for white women living with ethnic sounding first names: Anjelica Huston!

I am certain this week will be filled with many misadventures as I try to track down her thirty year old films as well as find the spare time to watch them, so come back next week to read all about it. In the meantime, however, have a devilishly good day.

View the results of Anjelica Huston Week

Monday, January 9, 2012

Eating Perfume

I recently went to lunch with a friend, and toward the end of our meal, we started discussing dessert.

"Have you ever tried Persian ice cream?" she asked. I wasn't even aware that Persians had their own ice cream. Rugs, yes, but ice cream?

Saying nothing further about it, we finished lunch, and then she took me to a Persian ice cream shop in West LA, assuring me all the while that I would not soon forget it. She was right.

Persian ice cream is unlike anything I've ever tasted, and yet it's exactly like something I've smelled. You see, it's a sad reality of life that just because something smells delicious, doesn't mean it tastes delicious; kind of like when you taste cocoa powder or accidentally inhale a spray of perfume.

Persian ice cream, however, takes a step toward reversing that reality. It's like you're eating perfume…except you're not. Your mouth fills with the aromas of Rose, Saffron, and Orange Blossom while your brain scrambles to figure out how it still tastes good. The whole thing is really yet another reason why my taste buds are grateful to be living in Los Angeles.

Since moving to LA, I've been introduced to and fully embraced a variety of new foods into my diet. Some of which include: Sushi, Pad Thai, Hummus, Curry, Sweet Potato Fries, Coconut Water, Chocolate-covered Goji Berries, and now, Persian Ice Cream.

As I've developed an appreciation for all these exotic "ethnic" foods, I'll admit that I've also developed a bit of resentment toward my own race. Why are white people so boring? And furthermore, why are our taste buds so bland?

Can anyone tell me what white folk have done for the advancement of taste buds other than inventing fake food? I mean Jell-O is hardly a badge of honor. They may have tried to make it cooler by making Bill Cosby the spokesman, but we all know white guys are the only ones lame enough to create that stuff. In addition, we honkies can take credit for neither Pie nor Fried Chicken because black servants were probably responsible for both. I guess that just leaves us with Chicken Noodle Soup. Yep, that's it. We created a delicious, but ineffective cure for the common cold. You're welcome, world.

All kidding aside, though, it's really me who should be thanking everyone else in the world. I'm grateful for all your many flavors. From Saffron to Cilantro, from Tahini to Taragon, my life is a whole lot tastier because of all of you.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year of Cold Toilet Seats

I've recently realized that I never had truly, original idea until High School.

Not that I'm saying I wasn't creative before that. In Elementary School, Writing was always an artistic outlet for me. I loved filling my flimsy, third world writing tablets with all kinds of stories. Of course, the sad truth is most of those stories were rehashed episodes of the Disney Channel program Kids Incorporated.

A few grades later, and armed with upgraded writing supplies, I was still scribbling my little heart out. But even a spiral bound notebook and colored pens weren't enough to encourage the kind of originality I knew I had inside.

No, it wasn't really until high school that I remember writing something that was undeniably me. It came in response to the inaugural assignment of my creative writing class. Our teacher asked us to write something about ourselves, but promised that he would only be reading our responses not grading them. No sooner had the words left my teacher's lips than I knew exactly what I was going to write. I was thrilled! Free from the pressures of teachers, peers, and television programming, my creative consciousness was finally about to be born! And so with a grown up pen and piece of paper, I sat down and wrote about warm toilet seats.

You see, I had recently realized that I hated the feeling of a warm toilet seat, and upon further investigation, I thought the reason why was a terrific introduction to my psyche. I hate warm toilet seats because it usually means someone else was there right before me. I'm ambitious, and I don't like coming in second. Even if it is for number two…

Now that I look back on that assignment, I kind of wish I'd gotten some feedback from my teacher. Was he shocked that a polo wearing preppie like me wrote something so crude? Who knows. I liked it, though. I thought it was funny, and self-deprecating, and informative. It was, I guess, my first blog.

Of course that was long before blogging. (The speed of technology obviously hadn't caught up with the genius that was my adolescence.) But now that blogging does exist, I'm grateful for it. My "blogs" give me the opportunity to take inventory of my life, laugh at it a little, and then write it down for an audience to read.

Therefore it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to a new year of the JSP blog, and hereby decree that 2012 will be known as "The Year of Cold Toilet Seats."

The reason it will be known as such is because I have decided (in accordance with the semi popular demands of at least three people) that I will be writing on this blog more than once a month. (Cue jubilant applause from at least three people.) I have no doubt this new creative commitment will push my writing to the very brink of the literary "blogosphere," and will subsequently create metaphorical toilet seats that are so cold, I'll be wondering where the penguins are hiding. Either that, or my blogs will just be shorter…

Regardless, it's going to be a great year, and I'd love to have you along for the ride. If you’re already member of Blogger, follow along! If you're not, but still want to be made aware of all my new posts, take a moment to fill out the "follow by email" box at the top right corner of the website, and you'll be made aware of them.

While I can't guarantee that every idea I post will be as ambitious as the feeling of a cold toilet seat, (And, let's be honest, what is?) I can at least guarantee that every idea I post will be my own, and the freedom that comes from that sort of authenticity is ultimately what really matters. It's what makes every new thought, every new blog, and every New Year something to celebrate.

Happy Reading in 2012!