Fig Jam: The Key to Life

Brimming.

Precisely how I would describe today.

First, false courtesy from she who has offered me a roof. She and a friend leave for brunch with no invitation or inclination to include me. An obvious move to make an obvious statement. Certainly not the first time I’ve experienced this, so the disturbance is measured in ripples that spread through the shallows. But, beyond the surface, the calculated move bears no real penetration. Just merely skips off the periphery. My only concern is, after so many years of developing an intuition to avoid such superficial relationships, how did I let this one develop? How did I let this one slip through the cracks? Is it a weakness in my foundation? Or, was meeting me a necessity in the development of hers? My hunch is a little of both…

Moving on. The Italian-American takes me to the Beverly Hills farmers market. He collects blood “red” oranges, imported cheeses, cilantro basil pesto and a small purple orchid, which he gives to me. I love orchids. They are exquisite in their feminine delicacy. This one is petite, yet lavish with blossoms. Ten blossoms blushing with pink, speckled with a richer plum. Five more blossoms on the way. For me, her beauty is yet more striking in this realm thirsting for authentic refinement. Quickly, I find myself attached, jumping at her every shimmer and sway…. fussing over her blossoms like a mother fusses over a newborn.

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The Doheny Mansion. He’s right. Only tourists with guide books delight in this peaceful escape. Would be an ideal location for lifestyle photography. Too bad you need a license to shoot anywhere in this city. It seems everything is marked with bureaucratic, bourgeois tape. Basically, anything worth anything has already been pissed on, marked by the dogs, 100 times over. Common grounds for the public? Dream on. The smell of rain-soaked lavender, so refreshing and soothing, softens my edge and lulls me to a calm…

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A hidden trail finally leads up back to where we started, a small Coy pond…

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Next we pass the Beverly Hills witch house. It looks as if it’s straight out of a Brother’s Grimm tale.

Another Beverly Hills oddity… this one a house inspired by Gaudi:

Quickly, we breeze through Santa Monica just after the rains, strolling along the broad boulevard as the sun begins to break through the clouds…

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Venice… Despite six months in this city, this is the first time I’ve explored her charm. Wow… so there is hope. A far cry from so many of the hidden escapes I’ve come to adore, yet finally some true character! Bohemian flair, a few small canals that survived the city-wide larson, eclectic shops, sophisticated galleries. I will have to find a haven here if I shall make it for any length of time in this city. It’s so wonderful to breathe in the salty sea air… always she calls to me, the sea.

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Ducking into the Ritz Carlton, we seek a quick reprieve from the rainy weather and sip a glass of wine before the crackling fire.

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Winding upwards to the tip top of the Pacific Palisades. We pass clearance and an automatic gate lets us into the clifftop mansion, home to the inventor of Sony PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot. Fine wine. Homemade pizza after homemade pizza spill from the outside oven, barely hitting the granite counter top before we scarf them down. Imported cheeses, truffle oil, a bountiful selection of savory sauces, fig jam… the list of toppings seems endless. I hand toss, hand roll my first ever homemade pizza. Pesto sauce, chunky slices of Parmesan cheese imported from Italy, red onion, gobs of rictotta, drizzle of honey, crushed black pepper all sent to the outdoor oven. We dress the pizza with buffala, balsamic must and top quality olive oil before serving. The general consensus: mmmMMMMM. The pink panther is my friend’s creation. Can’t remember all the ingredients but wine saturated Manchego cheese, dates and fig jam were key ingredients. He has discovered that fig jam is the key to life.

Gelato to finish us off. Pistachio mixed with chocolate my favorite.

Throughout the night, my friend’s stories, impersonations and jokes carried the delightful evening and roused bouts of laughter. He, as well, a refreshing encounter with true character.

With simple ease, he revealed many of LA’s gems…

Inspiration in the City of Angels

Excerpts from articles I’ve written about a few of the compelling stories I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles:

‘Gifted’ Musician Rocks ‘Social Harmony’

He boasts a four-octave vocal range and has written more than 300 original songs. In just one year, he has led his band through nearly 60 performances in more than 30 venues. When he holds his15-second falsetto note, one wonders if he just might one day soon rival the long note of soul great Bill Wither in “Lovely Day.” Yet, there is one more reason they call this young musician “gifted.” Twenty-five year-old Scott Siegel lives with autism…

Filmmaker Leads Grassroots Campaign to Bring OCD to the Big Screen

It is a film about extreme paranoia and debilitating fear. It is a story of illusion and immobilizing dread. No, this is not a horror movie. It is a narrative drama meant to illuminate the disturbing realities of the fourth largest mental illness plaguing millions of Americans today. Machine Man, a feature film about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a story meant to save lives.

“I didn’t know that it’s so common and that people have these thoughts that are called ‘harming thoughts,’” Kellie Madison said. “They walk around in life worried that they’re going to hurt another human being and the anxiety is so great it debilitates them… it was so heart-breaking learning about what these people are going through. I knew I had to make a movie on it.”

Neighbor Goods Leads the Borrow Lend Movement

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the idea behind 32-year-old Micki Krimmel’s new project – a website that facilitates lending and sharing within local communities. In an age where neighbors seem more like strangers, NeighborGoods.net encourages people to again borrow and lend as friends. “NeighborGoods is a service that connects friends and neighbors to save money and resources by sharing stuff they already own instead of purchasing new stuff,” Krimmel explained.

Flickers Glinting through the L.A. Brume

I was “completely love struck.”

As my eyes briefly flutter over the prose that was written by a most smitten soul in A Rare Soul Indeed, a slight chuckle escapes from my lips.

Oh, Laurita. What a romantic you are!

And proudly so. This fairytale romance has come to an end. Much quicker than I had hoped. Yet the fruit of it was sweet, but for an ever so slightly bitter bite to its aftertaste. As always, I have learned and I have grown… and I am grateful for yet another magical experience.

Here I am in L.A: the city of illusion, the slum of smoke and mirrors. Three months with him. Three months without him.

Admittedly, I still haven’t recovered from the “culture shock.” Everyday the waves of nostalgia for foreign lands wash over my heart. I long to leave this “labyrinth of madness” and return to the journey. But, a small voice inside me insists not yet.

Why not? my heart forlornly whispers back. The answer remains hidden in the smoggy haze that envelopes this city. Not many understand my silent mourning as I search for the straggling gems in a land stripped of its natural beauty. Stripped for a manufactured glamour that, in reality, hardly even exists.

I, the hopeless romantic and the eternally smitten, feel less than charmed by this famed Hollywood seductress.

Yet, something unknown is keeping me here. And, just now, thanks to TweetDeck… a hint flashes in the bottom left corner of my screen:

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~Proverb (@AinBelton)

And again, with an ever so slight smile, I admit that I do spy soft flickers of light, glinting through the brume that permeates the city of angles…

Evening soirees. Waterslide waterfalls. Mystic lairs of enchantment. Eclectic expression. Scraps of nature stolidly resisting concrete vanity.

Below the kindling I’ve begun gathering for the great bonfire:

Girls Night In Art Experience
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Flying from LA to Camarillo
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Mixed Media Art: Clara Berta

I found Clara Berta and her art classes thanks to a ‘Google alert’ for “Los Angeles.”

Curing With Los Angeles Painting Lessons | Comparing Fashion

By Clara Berta

Los Angeles Painting Lessons may cure you. Those who are weighed down by negative thoughts but cannot convey them in thoughts and words might be able to come across curing in art therapies…

When we create something, we give it our complete undivided attention. We immerse ourselves within the process. The music or the paint or the wood and the cake flour or the patch of fertile ground in the back garden lifts us over the difficulties we have and takes us away from ourselves, despite the fact that what we may be producing is incredibly internal. Producing art offers us something to look forward to and will take us outside of ourselves. It offers us hope…

Clara Berta is a globally renowned combined new media artist who focuses on painting lessons los angeles, classes and everything else. Interior designers simply adore this modern art and she is also most desirable for her popular collage painting in Los Angeles. For anyone who loves art, she surely does not let down!

Further delving into art has long been an objective of mine so I eagerly contacted Clara. She invited me to a free introductory class, where I discovered how much I LOVE to throw paint and whatever else onto a canvas. Perhaps I’m not making anything worth anything but I don’t care… just the creative process… the journey of turning a blank canvass into well, something, if not art… is utterly liberating!

I’m so grateful for Clara’s mentoring and her willingness to share her creative expertise with me along with her creative workspace in her own home. Clara is a most welcoming woman who takes joy in sharing her passion with others.

I will definitely see her again next week!

Mind Scraps: The DNA of Music… The Beginning of the End of Idolizing Talent?

Improvox is a new iPad application developed by the concert pianist Robert Taub and his company MuseAmi. Improvox came about after Mr. Taub tried to help his kids learn music. (New York Times)

Amazing, exciting… and thought-provoking.

So I’m seeing a trend here… this program which can turn a tone deaf crow into a harmonized singer is just the latest tool that demonstrates how “talent” is becoming less and less of a limited commodity. Modern technology is essentially enabling people to have “unnatural talent.”

An interesting phenomenon when you consider that our society IDOLIZES people who possess talent and talent alone. So, I ask you, if talent is no longer a “limited resource” what will our society value? As any valued “talent” becomes a technology that anyone can buy, what, then, will make people stand out from one another?

One of two things… or maybe both:

1. People with the ability to constantly and I mean constantly invent and reinvent.

2. People who love and live from the heart.

That’s my hypothesis anyway.

So, my advice to all… start stimulating your creative juices are start really learning how to live and love from the heart!

FYI: I”ve come to find that, when you live from the heart, you end up hitting a reservoir of creativity you never knew you had. Well, perhaps, we never have it. Perhaps through the act of loving we simply become the best “conductor” there is for creativity/creation.

Hmmmm… that’s a thought.

Love is the optimal conductor for creation.

Didn’t we already kind of know that?

******

I don’t know… maybe it’s just the way I see things in the wee hours of the morning.

Live It Up! L.A.

Landmarks

Hollywood Sign
6342 Mulholland Highway, L.A.

Hollywood & Highland
Hollywood Boulevard, between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive

Kodak Theatre
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, 323-308-6300
Level One of the Hollywood & Highland Center
Home of the Academy Awards and Cirque du Soleil 2011

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Hollywood & Highland Center

El Capitan Theatre
Hollywood & Highland Center

The Greek Theatre
Vermont Canyon Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-1927

Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Road, L.A., 213-473-0800

Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, 323-956-5000

Olvera Street
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Ste. 400, L.A., 213-485-6855

Third Street Promenade
1351 Third Street Promenade, Ste. 201, Santa Monica, 310-393-7593

Nightlife

Universal Studios City Walk
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

The Grove
189 The Grove Dr., L.A., 323-900-8080 Continue reading “Live It Up! L.A.”

US: Dirty Politics with Honduras and Haiti

For those who believe the only motives behind U.S. involvement in third world countries like Honduras and Haiti is simply to preserve democracy…

Why Washington “Cares” about Honduras and Haiti
by Mark Weisbrot

When I write about U.S. foreign policy in places like Haiti or Honduras, I often get responses from people who find it difficult to believe that the U.S. government would care enough about these countries to try and control or topple their governments. These are small, poor countries with little in the way of resources or markets. Why should Washington policy-makers care who runs them?

Unfortunately they do care. A lot. They care enough about Haiti to have overthrown the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice. The first time, in 1991, it was done covertly. We only found out after the fact that the people who led the coup were paid by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. And then Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the most notorious death squad there – which killed thousands of Aristide’s supporters after the coup – told CBS News that he too, was funded by the CIA.

In 2004, the U.S. involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government’s collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the U.S. State Department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.

In Honduras this past summer and fall, the U.S. government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organization of American States from taking the position that it would not recognize elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama Administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.

This was only partly successful, from a public relations point of view. Most of the U.S. public thinks that the Obama Administration was against the Honduran coup; although by November of last year there were numerous press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough. But this was a misreading of what actually happened: The Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup changed the Administration’s public relations strategy, but not its political strategy. Those who followed events closely from the beginning could see that the political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to restore the elected president, while pretending that a return to democracy was actually the goal.

Among those who understood this were the governments of Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil. This is important because it shows that the State Department was willing to pay a significant political cost in order to help the Right in Honduras. It convinced the vast majority of Latin American governments that it was no different than the Bush Administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.

Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximizing U.S. power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals – not necessarily antagonistic to the United States – they don’t like…

View the entire article from Counter Punch by clicking here.

Introducing Mind Scraps

I keep coming back to this idea of posting every day. Still working on making it stick. I tend to have two posting seasons: flood season and dry season. Ha. But, after discovering the journal entries from my first trip abroad in Italy (which I just published in Unearthing Firsts), I am once again inspired to make another go. As a professional writer who hopes to one day publish a book I really should commit myself to writing at least scraps of my daily thoughts and experiences. Even if there are days where I’m offline, I need to commit to jotting something down and posting when I regain internet access. These little so-called scraps are just too invaluable. They bring old, nearly-forgotten memories back to life. They reveal how much one has changed… or, perhaps, hasn’t. And, writing helps sort my own thoughts.

Thus, I’d like to present:

Mind Scraps
Daily notes from the life of Laura McNamara.

I’ve hit a slump in living out my own professed philosophies. I’m dishing out the advice… but, at this life juncture, can I really say I’m living it?

I am the risk-taker. I am the free-spirit. I am the go-getter. I embody the essence of can.

Yet, right now, I don’t feel I’m living up to these personas I’ve developed for myself, these traits that I claim. I’m feeling bound, trapped, limited.

After spending eight months in Central America, I came back to a weakened American economy. The endeavor to find any real stable work has, thus far, been fruitless. In my frustration, I’ve begun to open myself to terms I know I don’t want. Letting the economy force my hand so to speak. Strike one. I should not be settling for anything less than what I desire from life. I should not be selling myself short. Up until today, I was near ready to.

With little resources, I’ve succumbed myself to waiting. Strike two. To wait is against everything I believe in. Of course, I’ve been actively pursuing leads for work, sending out applications and portfolios – in every which direction it feels like. But, as of yet, nothing solid has materialized. So… I wait? Ack! No!

To forge on would mean more risk than ever since I have no disposable income right now and certain bills to pay. But I’m the risk-taker am I not? Is this not one of my featured quotes on Facebook?

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” -Steve Jobs Continue reading “Introducing Mind Scraps”

Trading Cubicles for Cardboard Boxes



“I would rather live in a cardboard box on a street somewhere and make art, than spend my life in a cubicle doing something I didn’t want to do.” ~Dominique Elise

This quote from an up and coming artist caught my attention. Here’s more about the artist:

Her first album, “Outside Influence” (available on iTunes and CDBaby), has a Gospel, Soul, and R&B infused sound, a reflection of the African-American music roots in Chicago…

“My goal in my life is to take my passion for volunteering and find a way to blend it seamlessly, peacefully, without conflict, with my being a singer and wanting to tour and perform,” said Dominique who uses a vision wall adorned with her goals and scriptures that reflect what she feels God is telling her.

She also is a self-proclaimed “Yogi” and says that yoga has helped her release the ingrained patterns of thought that would have prevented her from pursuing her dream.

Read the entire article from SingleWomenRule.com by clicking here.

Dim Wit

I peered within to find… nothing seemed to be lit inside.

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