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And Now, the Very Lovely and Talented–

Sometimes, in life, you meet someone and  just know there is something special about them.

At the time I first met Angela Carole Brown, some 20 years ago, she had this really cute bob, and her sparkle and throaty laugh were immediately intoxicating.  She was working as a waitress, picking up a paycheck like the rest of us, and I would soon be her co-worker.  What I didn’t know at the time, though, was how extremely talented and diverse she is.

In those days, everyone I knew was working some entertainment angle, so when I heard that Angie would be singing at a club, I wasn’t altogether surprised.  It was L.A., after all.  But as we were sat and she was ushered to the stage, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

She had full command of the audience, and her song selection was impeccable.  Her voice can be both full-bodied and strong, then turn on a dime, becoming incredibly intimate.

While she made her mark singing standards and jazz in L.A. clubs, she also fronts Orchestre Surréal, is an accomplished artist, and published novelist.  There isn’t much she can’t do, and my hope for her is that she find an even wider platform for her art. (more…)

(Un)Hidden Talents

Talent is an odd thing.  Some people long for it.  Others have it, but don’t use it.  And fewer still can match their talent with the drive and determination needed to truly succeed.  To be willing to do what ever it takes — to put their talent out there, on display, for all to see.

Think about what talents you have.  What are you good at?

Whatever it is, would you have the guts to go to your local mall, set up a stage and sound system, and begin to sing, or recite your poetry, or do your needlepoint, or stand on your head?

To take such a leap requires steely ambition, nerve, and the sheer belief that you will somehow — against all odds — triumph.

Not too long ago, we took the boys to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, which I hadn’t been to in years. In my memory, the area had been filled with the usual, forgettable street entertainers, with far too many interchangeable Peruvian bands, pedaling their nicely-fluted, generic CD’s.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find on this random foray not one, but two, terrific performers. The first, John West, has been performing on the Promenade for several years.  Just Google any variation of “amazing 3rd street singer” and you’ll find scores of home-loaded videos by tourists drawn in by his subtle grooves.

What is really amazing is that we almost missed him.  He was performing next to a loud and energetic hip-hop dance troupe, which normally would’ve held our boys interest.  But just to the side of them, a guy sat quietly with his guitar, with another guy on drum.  Despite the frenetic show in front of us, the kids pulled us away, gravitating toward him and his really smooth sound.   The songs he played were the kind of hypnotic thing you’d want to listen to after-hours, drink-in-hand.  Music you linger in… (more…)

Swedish. Meat. Balls.

When I picture the Nordic landscape, a place I’ve longed to visit, I envision long streaks of grays, blues, greens, and browns, interrupted with flurries of brilliant color, as in the many fishing villages which dot the coastline.  And in my mind, these magnificent splashes juxtapose perfectly against the coolness of the countryside.  The counterbalance of the two is what gives each its power.

Here in America, we seldom consider balance.  If something is good, our thought is to then accentuate it, and make it even “better.”  The mantra of America seems to be “show more, do more, bigger, higher, louder, faster.”  Our films, for example, are big, over-sensory experiences where there is no such thing as “too much.”  But focusing on the easily exploitable is not a very difficult bulls-eye to hit.  What takes real artistry — balls, even — is to present life in a fully-nuanced and realistic manner, in all its complexity, and doing so is much harder than it would appear.

When I was younger, I knew little of Sweden, aside from IKEA.  And while I appreciated all-things-lingonberry and the clean design aesthetic the big blue store presented, I was always disappointed to get the products home and discover that, as pretty as they had appeared, they rarely stood up in terms of quality.  Whereas the stores themselves had no problem serving up heaping piles of meatballs, their poorly-made products clearly lacked “the meat.” (more…)