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Don LaFontaine, "The Voice of God," Hospitalized

In a world where movie trailers always contain the phrase "in a world where," there's unfortunate news. Don LaFontaine, nicknamed "The Voice of God," was brought in to Cedar's Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles Friday afternoon August 22 by his wife, Nita, after LaFontaine was experiencing shortness of breath. By Saturday morning, wife Nita had emailed members of the voiceover community to ask for prayers, stating that LaFontaine is "fighting for his life."

This news comes on the heels of an email sent from LaFontaine earlier in the month describing his year long battle with what he describes as a "suspicious growth" on his lymph nodes and left lung.

A biopsy on the lung indicated the tumor was benign, but during the procedure, his lung was nicked, causing it to collapse and air to be released into his upper body several times over multiple days. Further tests found a growth in his colon and a tumor under his lung that threatened to encircle his Aortic Valve.

LaFontaine's doctors began chemotherapy over several months which eventually led to his being able to return to work. However, the radiation therapy had spread to his lungs, making it virtually impossible for him to draw the breaths he needed to even walk, let alone work as a voiceover artist.

His email describing his year comes to a close with this plea, highlighted in green:

"But the real point of all this is the Genisis [sic] of the condition. I was a smoker, on and off, for thirty years. I quit nearly twenty years ago, but that crap has a tendency to lie doggo in your system. It finally caught up with me, and as you've just read - it ain't pretty. For those of you who are in the Voice Over business, and you think that smoking is adding some wonderful quality to your instrument - WAKE UP! Quit! Today! Whoever you are - if you smoke - Stop! All you are adding is garbage to your vocal cords, and a nice deep layer of tar and poison on the linings of your lungs."

LaFontaine's wife, Nina, asks today for thoughts, prayers, and well wishes be sent out for him, and for his daughters.


The Rodeo

The Rodeo This story would probably be better if I was some left wing PETA type nutjob renting a houseboat in Sausalito. But I'm not, so when I went to the Truckee National Championship Rodeo a few days back, I was beside myself. I was throwing back Kers Light like I belonged. I scratched my balls, not sure that's a "rodeo-centric" thing, and let loose a yeehaw! Though I fashioned it on Jim Morrisons primal scream in "The End." Everything about the whole thing was great. Teenage girls with big ole belt buckles, Wrangler jeans, bucking broncos, a mean ass bull. Even a bunch of hippies who had no problem watching a calf get a rope around the neck, but did take a moment to remind my son that pointing guns, even a cap gun, at people is bad. True, hippie-types, but shove it. He's five. Let him bust some caps in people while it's still fun.The only major issue with the whole Rodeo thing is the MC. That mofo talks and talks and talks. Won't shut up. The Rodeo, start to finish lasted 2.5 hours. He made it seem like a week and a half."All the people in the audience who served in the military stand up!"Two dudes stood up. God love them. But the MC makes it sound as though these two guys single handedly ended WW2 and through serious crisis management, averted WW3."Look at that would, you. Brings a tear to your eye."Two F-ing dudes stood up!!!! I'm not tearing up over two guys!The MC went on and on. If you thought vaudeville was a dead art, go to a rodeo.Regardless, the rodeo is fun. You drink beer, talk to people you never would imagine talking to, and feel you are a part of something that passed you by.Here's a link to the Truckee Rodeo. Maybe. It was my dad's 74th birthday tonight, and I've got a bit of a heat on.


Perfect Days...

Sometimes perfect days creep up on you. You go about things, daily things, and unexpected moments pop up. The weather wants you to fall in love, all the people who live in your city decide to stay home and out of your way and then before you know it, it's the end of the day. You find yourself having a cocktail over looking the pacific ocean while listening to part 4 of that 27 part song about being in a closet and you think, "Wow, what a perfect day."
Then there's other days. Days you wake up and say, I'm gonna blow off life and head on down to the beach club. Next thing you know your playing a little frisbee with Ryan O'Neal, watching budding starlets express themsleves all over each other, then crack open your 14th can of Tecate and watch the sun set while tending the teriyaki chicken skewers roasting on the BBQ.
At some point in the middle of Perfect Day Number 2, I realized, Los Angeles is just like anywhere else in the country. Granted, people in Witchita aren't swimming naked with super models at the Roosevelt, or watching dolphins do double back flip gainer thingy's while having lunch. But they are having lunch. And hell. All roads lead to LA. Soon all those peeps in Wichita will be out here. The cute ones, at least. So I'm gonna help. For starters, I'm going to give people the inside scoop on the good and the bad and ugly of LA. Though, I'll tell you right now. There's nothing bad or ugly about the dream factory. Worse case, you end up in some sort of Star 80 scenario. But even that would be cool.
Anyway, if I find something, I'll let you know. If I don't... I tell you something funny my kid said. He's always saying the darndest things.


12 Galaxies in SF Closing Its Doors...Get Ready For More of This

I came across this the other day in SF Weekly's Blog and I can guarantee this won't be the only club to close it's doors in the "City by the Bay". My sources are telling me that clubland is taking a big hit in the current downturn in the economy. In cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, high rents and club patrons tightening their belts could result in some of your favorite live music venues going the way of the dinosaur.

Another factor that is weighing on club owners is major corporations like Live Nation are buying up clubs or offering acts more money to play their venues. This effectively prices out the "mom and pop" club. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL!! They need your help...

One of the Mission's few live music venues -- and the only one of its size -- is closing later this month. Robert Levy, owner of 12 Galaxies since the club opened five years ago, says the financial climate is too rough for him to continue to keep the space open. It's some sad news for music lovers, as there have been some amazing shows at 12 Galaxies over the years -- from Lightning Bolt to Jay Reatard to Kelley Stoltz (and that's just off the top of my head), not to mention the fact that it removes one of the bigger venues in a neighborhood packed with young music fans. -- Jennifer Maerz


Two Ways Out, Indeed…Darker My Love Grab at the Brass Ring.

Down the street from my house there is a breakfast place called Mama's. Everyday I pass the restaurant and the line out front stretching down the block. And everyday, as I pass the line comprised mostly of guidebook-clutching tourists and yuppies (who love waiting in line for things more than anything else in the world), I ask myself the same question, "It's just eggs right?"

What does this have to do with Darker My Love and their record release party at the Independent Tuesday night? Over the last few months there has been a big push by both their label, Dangerbird Records (home to 2006's surprise breakout Silversun Pickups) and local promoting behemoth Another Planet Entertainment, in the run up to their sophomore release "2". After completing a month long "West Coast Residency" of free shows at hipster clubs (the Echo, Popscene, etc.) in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, Darker My Love emerged onto a stage lined with photographers. As I listened to the feedback slowly giving way to a pounding psychedelic riff, I found myself asking, "It's just a rock and roll band, right?"

DML’s sound has always drawn heavily from late sixties psychedelia and early nineties shoegaze. They, along with Wooden Shjips, The Black Angels, the Warlocks, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, are part of decade long revival to bring back that retro drone. DML were formed in 2004 and its members hail from both LA and SF. They have built up strong local followings in both cities, signing with LA based Dangerbird Records in 2006. Tuesday night’s material drew heavily from the new album “2” and their self-titled debut.

In an interesting marketing ploy, a copy of “2” was given out free to those that purchased a ticket to the record release. I see this as an attempt to energize the hardcore base of the band. By giving local scenesters and tastemakers “free” music, the hope is that they in turn will go forth and evangelize on behalf of Darker My Love. The 2/3rds capacity crowd gathered at the Independent were primed.

Darker My Love seems to suffer from a split personality. On one side they are confident purveyors of wah inspired, freak out jams, however; they seem less comfortable negotiating the tighter structure of the pop leanings on the new record “2”. Live, you can get away with less polish on the longer, jam-oriented pieces. Grooves emerge out of the rubble of constructing and deconstructing the three chord patterns laid down by Tim Presley (Guitar/Vocals), Jared Everett (Guitar), and Rob Barbato (Bass/Vocals). But the more tightly written and hooky compositions require a tightness that was not quite there.

That’s not to say there wasn’t moments of trancendence. The band, anchored by Barbato’s rich, round bass parts, hit you in the hips. I’m sure this is one reason why there were so many women in attendence. DML’s songs contain a sexual undercurrent that leaks out of the fuzz. Songs build, then release. On the popier songs, like the single Two Ways Out, airy vocals take over. Presley and Barbato sing very well together, hitting a nice, easy harmony. Two Ways Out has the potential to be a huge hit. It’s simple, infectious, and you can dance to it. It’s the kind of song that will undoubtedly surface in a commercial.

One pet peeve I have with DML in the live setting is how under utilized Will Canzoneri: (organ, clavinet) is, his playing buried in the mix. I’ve seen too many bands that have organ players relegated to atmospheric filler, rather providing another layer of texture to the music. If you’re going to lug a vintage organ onto the stage and mic it, let me hear it!

Visually, the band employed a huge backdrop with images projected onto it. They were severly reminscent of the late sixties. The ink blotter designs replaced by digital images achieving the same effect. The band members themselves, in appearance, embody the split-personality character inherent in their music. Half the band look like they were cast in a mid-sixties mod tribute. The other half sport the bearded visage du jour, the latest trend in indie rock. Which in itself is a wink and nod to the seventies. All these elements work to produce a simulacra of a band out of time.

Time will tell if “2” is the record that will make Darker My Love a household name. I think the band will benefit from the intensive touring breaking an album will entail. The buzz generated by label, publicist, and promoter with the new release will subside and then the hard work of converting those that the press attracts, one town at a time, begins. Maybe one day a line will be stretching down the block outside the Independent for Darker My Love. If you find yourself in it, you might want to ask yourself, what it is your waiting in line for?


The Real State of Real Estate...

This month, we're going to give you investors the simple, knock-out combination for creating your real estate legacy. Caution, this may cause your great grand-children to raise a glass anytime your name is mentioned.

Buy SFR's. Most of you know that SFR stands for "Single Family Residence". But for some savvy investors, their SFRs are making them So Filthy Rich.

Now, we're sure some of you are saying; "SFRs? What about units? I want units!".

Here's why SFRs:

- NO RENT CONTROL: Avoid relocation fees (up to $17,000!), impossibly low rents, and bad tenants you can't get rid of. SFR's aren't subject to LA's lovely rent control laws. Hooray!

- Easier To Rent: Most renters would choose an SFR over sharing walls with some stranger any day. And most are willing to pay a premium for it.

- Higher Rents: See above.

- Fewer Expenses: Have your SFR renters pay all their utilities. Water, gardener, etc. Plus you can lock in a home warranty that will cover the costs of minor break-downs to keep you from having to run out and fix a clogged sink at 1am.

- Friendlier Loans: Anyone trying to get a loan on a non-owner occupied income property right now? It ain't easy, especially anything over 2 units.

Lending on an SFR is far more user-friendly.

- Better Re-sale: There are more buyers in the market for an SFR than income units. More buyers = greater demand and we all know what that means.

Food For Thought: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." Goethe

This is an opinion and should be treated as such. Investing in general carries significant risk. You could lose your entire investment.


This means that just because a particular investment worked in the past does not mean, in and of itself, that the same indicators will cause a similar profitable effect.


Unfortunately we cannot guarantee you profits. There are no guarantees of profits in real estate or in any other investment for that matter. In fact, in many cases customers suffer a loss of all or part of their investment dollar.


Every sale produces a winner and a loser. Money is not created or destroyed, it just changes ownership. If investing will alter your style of living in any manner to the worse, do not invest.


But is it Batman?

Here's what I know about Batman, having lived on Planet Earth in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Stop me if I come up with something you've never heard before.

"Batman" is the alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne, who lives in Wayne Manor. His home base is a place called The Bat Cave, which is located below Wayne Manor, where he keeps his Batmobile and other assorted Bat-objects; plus he can do crimesolving on computers he keeps there.

Have I lost you yet? Anything new so far?

Batman's secret identity is known by his faithful butler, Alfred. It's also known by his ward, Dick Grayson, who tags along with him to fight crime under the name Robin. This dynamic duo has a liaison in Gotham City police with whom they trust, a police commissioner by the name of Gordon.

Still with me? Are you saying "yeah, yeah, I know all this" yet?

Batman, with the assistance of Robin and Commissioner Gordon, fights criminals in Gotham City. When there's trouble, Commisioner Gordon calls for Batman by using a big arclight that shines the Bat Signal into the sky, alerting Batman about criminals who dress up in costumes and have clever names. These individual villains usually have accomplices who dress up in similar costumes. One of these villains is named The Joker. There's one called The Riddler, and one called Catwoman, and one called The Penguin. When Batman captures these criminals, he sends them to a looney bin called Arkham Asylum.

Hey, bet you didn't know the name Arkham Asylum. Or did you?

You know, I liked that new Batman movie. I like that it's called "The Dark Knight," which hearkens me back to the day I sat and read the entire Frank Miller graphic novel "The Dark Night Returns" in trade paperback format back in 1988.

References abound in Miller's tale - some I was aware, some slipped past me while I raised my eyebrow. I could not look up on Wikipedia who this baddie was or that reference was - I just had to read the story, and wonder how much deeper my enjoyment would have been if I'd spent 40 years reading Batman comics. But in truth, I didn't need to. The story was so engrossing, the tapestry so well woven, that his more obscure references simply inspired me to want for more - I didn't feel left out of the tale being told.

And so now here is a movie that may just be the second highest grossing film of all time. I didn't love it. It didn't grab me and compel me, like my experience with Miller's untouchable piece. We can talk about Heath Ledger, who, yes, does an amazing performance and actually seems like The Joker. But as with anything, that which is written on the page will always be greater than what is on screen, because of the individual readers' tailored imaginations filling in the pauses. Miller's vision overcame my imaginings and overwhelmed them - Tim Burton's did not. Nolan's have not. The latter has come close. But the last two Batman movies, to me, haven't seemed like Batman.

Don't get me wrong - I liked them both, and I saw Dark Knight twice in subsequent Sundays. I enjoyed it the second time far more than the first screening, mainly because I wasn't sitting so close to the screen and I had preemptively peed. As it began, I thought for sure we were starting out on the right foot - The Joker had henchmen who dressed like him, and he puts a grenade in a guy's mouth that poofs out colored smoke. It's the familiar in a new way.

What entangled and snarled me in Miller's book is all that was familiar to me already was presented in a new, dangerous, and exciting way. These new movies are filled with new, but not so much of the familiar. After the big opening sequence, very little of what I already know comes through again. Sure, there's a batcycle, of sorts, and once again we get a filmed version of the story of Two-Face. But why do we never see Gordon's daughter? So we can cast the part later? Is there anyone on earth who doesn't know who Barbara Gordon becomes?

You know what - maybe there is. But my guess is most people know everything I wrote at the beginning of this. Sure, we can keep making film after film to tease out the story over multiple years, but you know as well as I do that Nolan and Bale won't keep making them; we've got one more, at best, that is any good. Isn't it time we had a movie that is as good as this Dark Knight AND includes everything we already know about Batman? In a new and daring way?

I keep waiting. And if you are, too, then go pick up Miller's book - it's the best Batman movie ever made.