ChatterLog August 2010

Humor


Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

Greetings everyone, and welcome to the August ChatterBulletin and to the charismatic sign of Leo! Many of us are experiencing pretty “hot” summers this year so the fiery nature of the Leo is expressed perfectly by the extreme heat during the month of August before we turn the corner into September and head for fall. Although Leos are known to be very regal (they are after all the “King of the Jungle”) they are really a bunch of big kids who would prefer to have fun rather than be responsible. So in keeping with my fellow fun-loving Leos, my theme for this month is “Humor.” As I said, Leo’s like to have fun, and they have this marvelous ability to “lighten” the mood by making everyone laugh. They are also extremely creative people, which is why many of them become artists of one kind or another. I have a ton of Leo friends who are performers, actors, artists or musicians. This also explains why Leo is the sign associated with “drama” – and by that I don’t simply mean the drama we see on TV or in a movie. Leo’s will have drama woven into their lives at all times. And if there isn’t any, they’ll create some.

Some famous dramatic Leo’s you might have heard of are – Madonna & 1st husband Sean Penn, J-Lo & almost-husband Ben Affleck, as well as his brother Casey Affleck, both Antonio Banderas & his wife Melanie Griffith, and then we have such notables as Lucille Ball, Mae West, Helen Mirren, Kyra Sedgwick, Halle Berry & Sandra Bullock, along with Steve Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Dustin Hoffman, Robert de Niro, Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Wesley Snipes, both David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson (of X Files fame), film directors Roman Polanski, James Cameron & Alfred Hitchcock, writers Sir Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame), J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), Beatrix Potter, Emily Bronte & Danielle Steele, designers Yves St. Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel & Martha Stewart, and artist Andy Warhol, musicians Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston, George Clinton, Louis Armstrong & Count Basie, and athletes Roger Federer, Magic Johnson, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Hulk Hogan, along with such notables as Henry Ford, Fidel Castro, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Marcus Garvey, Bill Clinton (& Monica Lewinsky!) as well as our current president, Barack Obama. The list literally goes on and on and on, but notice how many famous performers, artists, musicians and writers we have here, along with famous as well as infamous rulers and/or world leaders! All very “Leo!”

But back to our theme and the subject of “Humor.” There are some kinds of humor that can be considered as universal and others that are most definitely culturally or even age-specific. I grew up in England and our somewhat eccentric sense of humor is certainly not always understood or appreciated by others. And then every now and again, something transcends and can be translated across cultures and oceans. People of all ages respond to humor, whether it is a young child watching a puppet show or Tom & Jerry cartoon, or an intellectual adult who goes for something more mature and satirical. Humor provokes laughter and provides amusement, but even more interesting is that the term “humor” derives way back to ancient times and refers to the “humors of the body” which were believed to control human health and emotion and therefore the goal was to keep these body fluids, or humors, in balance. The Four Humors were Yellow Bile, Black Bile, Blood & Phlegm and were directly related to each of the Four Elements, Fire, Earth, Air & Water. Consider this, when times are tough, do we not use humor to see us though? So in order to find balance with all of the stress in our lives, we have to find some sort of humorous outlet. When my sister and I were (and still are) dealing with the loss of our mother, as much as there was to cry about, we have had and continue to have a lot of laughs and a multitude of hilarious stories.

Click here to read the rest of the ChatterLog!

And in closing, I would just like to wish all of my fellow Leo friends out there a very Happy Birthday, including my good pals Rowena, Ringo, Kim and Pam from my college days, my dear friend and musician Gretta in Seattle, our mutual friend and bass player Jared in Hoboken, and in Williamsburg, my always hilarious pal Julie, and in London, my old friend Andy who recently resurfaced after a long absence. And then there is also Pam, neighbor and friend to our family for many years, and Jordan, my dear friend Tracy’s daughter who came and interned with me this year. Happy Birthday!

ChatterArtists August 2010

Continuing on with our theme of “humor” this month we are showcasing photographers who shoot surprise, surprise, imagery that is humorous! And by this I don’t mean photographers that shoot a funny image once in a while, I mean these are photographers whose humor is an integral part of their work and is woven either blatantly or subtly throughout their imagery. So go on, have a good chuckle!

Michael Sahadi

First up is a client of mine from Philadelphia, Michael Sahadi. I really enjoyed working with him because he was very keen to refine his imagery down into one single portfolio that reflected his specific style of environmental portraiture, and I think we accomplished that. This is a recent image from him that is a hilarious portrait of two dentists. I cracked up when I saw it, and I loved the subject line he chose for the e-mail promotion, which was,

“Just say ahhhh…”


© Michael Sahadi
http://www.michaelsahadi.com

Brett Deering

Another client who I had fun working with is Brett Deering. Our conversations were always funny and silly, but the consultations still very productive, and what I wanted to show with Brett’s website was his ability to bring out this quirky sense of humor that lies within. The image we selected however, is not one of his personal project portraits, instead we chose an image from a shoot where the client wanted a more straightforward group portrait with the two business men along with the group of kids, all smiling nicely. That’s what the client wanted. However, Brett managed to shoot his own version of the concept, with all of the kids making funny faces, and I think the result was brilliant. Remember, it is okay to shoot what the client wants first, and then politely ask if you can take a few frames using your own idea. And often, the client becomes inspired and chooses that image!


© Brett Deering
http://www.brettdeering.com

George Fulton

Next up are two photographers I have known for a while now. First we have my pal George Fulton, who was a client of mine way back when I was working at the Black Book. I always loved George both as a person and as a photographer, with his sense of humor running through both. Based in South Carolina, George is represented by Tricia Scott and Brett Sahler, who make up Merge Left Reps here in New York.


© George Fulton
http://www.georgefulton.com
http://www.mergeleftreps.com/site.html

Chris Buck

And the second photographer I’ve also known for a good while is Chris Buck, who has an undeniably hilarious sense of humor that is most apparent in all of his work. It is very gratifying to see how throughout his career, he has not strayed from his specific point of view and he is therefore hired to shoot with his specific point of view. Often “off the wall,” but always entertaining, Chris has also appeared on my panels for APA NY a few years ago and is currently represented by another of my pals, Patrick Casey and Marge Casey & Associates, also in New York.


© Chris Buck
http://www.chrisbuck.com
http://www.margecasey.com

Hannah Kuo

From the seasoned to the student, so next up I am showing you the work of Hannah Kuo, a young emerging photographer whose work I reviewed at Parson’s graduating class this spring. I absolutely loved Hannah’s series of “couples with their pets” portraits. When I asked her more about them, I discovered that she spends some time reviewing the couples’ wardrobes, and specifically selecting items that she felt would work for the session, along with a plain color background that made the portraits pop.


© Hannah Kuo
http://www.hannahkuo.com

Christopher Lane

Although I do believe that certain humor is universal, I can’t but help love the unique sense of humor that is uniquely “British.” Let’s be honest, no other country could produce something as the likes of Monty Python. So next we have a very funny and wonderful photographer friend of mine, Chris Lane. Although we met in New York, Chris’s style of humor is still very English and he spends a fair amount of time over there as well as in the U.S. documenting subjects that both interest and amuse him, at the same time as giving him a sense of society. We chose these two hilarious portraits from his series on the “Handle Bar Club” and yes, the “Handle Bar” refers to the mustaches and only eccentric old England could come up with that one!


© Christopher Lane
http://www.christopherlane.com

Gary Salter

And last but not least we have Gary Salter, another “Brit” whom I met some years ago in London, again when I was with the Black Book. There is a tinge of “twisted” in Gary’s work which I love, and he has successfully built a good reputation for producing fun images. I will also be writing one of my ChatterCorner articles for PhotoServe on Gary as he recently completed a wonderful campaign for CRF Health in which the client and art director were willing to allow him to put his wonderful sense of humor to work. He is represented in the U.K. by Horton Stephens and in the U.S. by Ralph Mennemeyer at M Represents.


© Gary Salter
http://www.garysalter.com
http://www.horton-stephens.com/
http://www.mrepresents.com/

ChatterCorner August 2010

Amy Salzman

For my latest article on PhotoServe’s Surveillance section, we switched things up and I interviewed my pal Amy Salzman, former Art Buyer with McCann Erickson and now Senior Art Producer for William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which is part of the McCann World Group. Amy has also taken part in several of my creative panel discussions and has always been a lot of fun to work with, so check out the article for some inside insights…


Amy Salzman

Click here to read the full article:http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/content_display/photoserve/surveillance/e3i2a62321a15dd65d808d9e413847f1703

And be sure to watch out for my next article which will be posted this month on PhotoServe. In perfect keeping with our Leo theme, I will be writing about San Francisco-based photographer Erik Almas, who recently shot a wonderful advertising campaign for the Ritz-Carlton luxury brand using a live lion – amazing stuff!

ChatterNews & ChatterEvents August 2010

August is typically a quiet month for both business and events so we don’t have much to tell you about.

But don’t forget in last month’s bulletin we gave you a bunch of websites for free summertime events in New York, so you can always check on those again. And if you want to go back to any of the previous bulletins, they are all archived on the ChatterBlog: http://chatterboxenterprises.com/chatterblog/

Photobook NYC

A NYC Photography Contest

Contest Deadline is Thursday, August 12th, 2010.

From the website:

“PDN introduces PHOTOBOOK NYC, a new project in conjunction with Blurb calling for the best New York City related photography. From the iconic grandeur of the skyline, to the heart of the communities, we want the grit and the glam. Show us the five boroughs as you know them and our panel of NYC experts will help choose 35 WINNERS to be published in an PDN branded special edition book celebrating the images that capture true NYC experiences.”

For more information and to enter the contest please visit: http://www.photobooknyc.com/

PPE

PhotoPlus Expo registration is now open!  Louisa J. Curtis will be moderating a panel Friday, October 29th from 1:15-3:15pm called The Wonderful World of Websites: Portfolios, Promotions and Solutions. Be sure to check it out!

The full event and seminar schedule will be on the PhotoPlus Expo website shortly.  For more information and to register please visit: http://www.photoplusexpo.com/

Debbie Miracolo

My client, Debbie Miracolo is part of a group show titled “Objects of Affection” currently exhibiting at Calumet Photo Gallery in NYC. The show features photos by members of Professional Women Photographers and will continue through Friday, August 13th!

Calumet Photo Gallery

22 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor (between 5th & 6th Avenues)

New York, NY


Image © Debbie Miracolo
http://www.debbiemiracolo.com

Josh Gerritsen

Josh Gerritsen is a young photographer who has worked as a photo assistant for our friends the Katvans and they recommended I touch base with him. Josh recently returned from an amazing photo trip to Russia and Mongolia across the Trans-Siberian Railway and has written all about his travels on his Blog. Here is one of my favorite images from his voyage of a young Mongolian boy on his father’s motorcycle.


© Josh Gerritsen
http://www.joshgerritsen.com/
http://joshgerritsen.com/blog/

CPW Events

The Center for Photography at Woodstock is hosting more workshops and lectures for the month of August. This month one of their featured events is a two-day workshop with renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark.


© Mary Ellen Mark

For more information on these events please visit: http://www.cpw.org/WPW/2010/pages/August.html

ChatterNews & ChatterEvents August 2010

August is typically a quiet month for both business and events so we don’t have much to tell you about.

But don’t forget in last month’s bulletin we gave you a bunch of websites for free summertime events in New York, so you can always check on those again. And if you want to go back to any of the previous bulletins, they are all archived on the ChatterBlog: http://chatterboxenterprises.com/chatterblog/

Photobook NYC

A NYC Photography Contest

Contest Deadline is Thursday, August 12th, 2010.

From the website:

“PDN introduces PHOTOBOOK NYC, a new project in conjunction with Blurb calling for the best New York City related photography. From the iconic grandeur of the skyline, to the heart of the communities, we want the grit and the glam. Show us the five boroughs as you know them and our panel of NYC experts will help choose 35 WINNERS to be published in an PDN branded special edition book celebrating the images that capture true NYC experiences.”

For more information and to enter the contest please visit: http://www.photobooknyc.com/

PPE

PhotoPlus Expo registration is now open!  Louisa J. Curtis will be moderating a panel Friday, October 29th from 1:15-3:15pm called The Wonderful World of Websites: Portfolios, Promotions and Solutions. Be sure to check it out!

The full event and seminar schedule will be on the PhotoPlus Expo website shortly.  For more information and to register please visit: http://www.photoplusexpo.com/

Debbie Miracolo

My client, Debbie Miracolo is part of a group show titled “Objects of Affection” currently exhibiting at Calumet Photo Gallery in NYC. The show features photos by members of Professional Women Photographers and will continue through Friday, August 13th!

Calumet Photo Gallery

22 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor (between 5th & 6th Avenues)

New York, NY


Image © Debbie Miracolo
http://www.debbiemiracolo.com

Josh Gerritsen

Josh Gerritsen is a young photographer who has worked as a photo assistant for our friends the Katvans and they recommended I touch base with him. Josh recently returned from an amazing photo trip to Russia and Mongolia across the Trans-Siberian Railway and has written all about his travels on his Blog. Here is one of my favorite images from his voyage of a young Mongolian boy on his father’s motorcycle.


© Josh Gerritsen
http://www.joshgerritsen.com/
http://joshgerritsen.com/blog/

CPW Events

The Center for Photography at Woodstock is hosting more workshops and lectures for the month of August. This month one of their featured events is a two-day workshop with renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark.


© Mary Ellen Mark

For more information on these events please visit: http://www.cpw.org/WPW/2010/pages/August.html

ChatterTip of the Month August 2010

Natural Remedies for a Healthy Heart!


Image courtesy of http://www.speaking-up.com/blog/

The sign of Leo rules over the heart (as well as the back) so it is not unusual for people born under this sign to have issues with their heart. Leo is also connected with love, think of an affectionate and purring pussycat that just wants to be stroked and adored, who wouldn’t love that? And then put the two together and you have the reason as to why we associate our organ “the heart” with “being in love.” So a heart problem might not always be something physical, it could be a case of a “broken heart.” But for now, let’s stick with some physical remedies for a healthy heart:

Cardiovascular Exercise – may sound obvious but it is really important because your heart is a muscle, like any other in the body, so bottom line is it needs exercise. We talk about exercising and losing weight, cardio classes and all of that, but think about it – cardio = heart, so we need to exercise the heart muscle by raising the heartbeat during our workout. It might be a walk, a swim, a dance class, or perhaps something more intense such as a treadmill, bike, rower or stepping machine. But whatever your level, pedestrian to athlete, and whichever exercise genre you choose, you simply need to elevate the heart rate so that you are working the heart muscle out and, it should be for a sustained period of time (minimum of 20 – 30 minutes) several times a week (3 – 5 days, depending on you and your workout.) And if you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t do too much to begin with, start with a few minutes and build it up over a period of time. This way you will avoid injury and allow the body to build endurance.

Foods to help prevent Heart Disease – so besides exercising our heart muscle, we also need to be aware of what we are eating. Cardiovascular diseases also include those related to the blood vessels as well as to the heart itself, and combined they form the cardiovascular system. The heart is the organ responsible for “pumping” blood throughout our bodies, so if it’s not working too well, the rest of the body is in trouble. And, if our diet is poor and we eat lots of fried food and junk in general, and we don’t exercise, chances are that we are going to be overweight for starters, which will put additional strain on that heart muscle, and then our blood vessels could become constricted so our blood won’t flow properly, and then well, it’s not going to produce any good scenarios really, whether it is high “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure or worse still a “heart attack” – so we have to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies and feed it well.

The following foods are great for fighting against heart disease and strokes (also good for asthma and rheumatoid arthritis) – Squash or Zucchini, Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Oranges, Corn,Pineapples & Lemons – and notice how many of these foods reflect the warm fiery color palette of Leo. Also great for the heart is our old friend Ginger and I even read somewhere that, 3 – 4 teaspoons a day of Ketchup (yes ketchup) helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, who knew?

Vitamins & Supplements for a Healthy Heart – so aside from exercising and eating well, here are a few supplement suggestions to help promote a healthy heart. First of all, many of you have no doubt heard that Aspirin has been recommended for many years to help aid against heart problems. Then we have the supplement Co Q10, which is known to act as an antioxidant and can be beneficial for treating heart disease, heart failure, cardiac arrest as well as high blood pressure. And then we also have the Omega 3 Oils including Fish Oil (commonly found in the oilier fishes such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), Flaxseed (or Linseed) Oil, and Borage Oil – all great for promoting a healthy heart.

Love Yourself – again, this may sound obvious to some, but above all, we have to love ourselves. We do this by exercising regularly, eating sensibly and by generally doing good things for our mind, body and soul, whatever those might be. Only then can we truly be able to give love to others.

ChatterRecipe August 2010

Salmon Burgers


Image courtesy of http://brandyfei.blogsome.com/

So even though Leo is the lion, and therefore a carnivore that traditionally likes his meat, I am switching my recipe up this month and in keeping with our “healthy heart” theme, bringing you a recipe for a lovely summer burger made with one of our oil rich fish instead of ground meat. I remember my cousin and I having lunch one day at a local restaurant near me, ironically called “Jane” (which is my middle name) and we had salmon burgers and they were great! This recipe comes from Rachel Ray and is served with a ginger-wasabi mayonnaise, serves 4. And, if you fancy some French Fries with your Salmon Burgers, Rachel also suggests simply heating some pre-cut frozen fries in the oven, and before they are fully crisp, add some sesame seeds and toss them amongst the French Fries, then return to the oven and cook for a few more minutes so that the sesame seeds toast and release their flavor.

For the Burgers

1 ½ lbs Salmon Fillet (remove the skin & pin bones)

2 cloves of Garlic (chopped or grated)

3 inch piece of fresh Ginger (minced or grated)

3 tablespoons Tamari (aged soy sauce) or substitute with regular Soy Sauce

2 Scallions (chopped)

½ small Red Bell Pepper (seeds removed & finely chopped)

2 teaspoons Sesame Oil

2 teaspoons Grill Seasoning or substitute with Salt & Pepper

Coarse Black Pepper

1 tablespoon Oil (use something light such as Canola, Safflower or Peanut)

4 Sesame Kaiser Rolls (split and toasted) or substitute with your own roll preference

Red Leaf Lettuce (for garnish) or substitute with another lettuce or green of your choice

For the Wasabi Mayonnaise

½ to ¾ cups Mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Wasabi Paste

Juice of 1 Lime

Cube the Salmon into bite-sized pieces and place in a food processor. If you don’t own one, then cut the salmon into very small pieces, equivalent of a coarse grind so it takes on the consistency of ground meat. Transfer into a bowl and combine with the Garlic, 1/3 of the Ginger, the Tamari, Scallions, Red Bell Pepper, Sesame OilGrill Seasoning and Coarse Black Pepper. Don’t be afraid to mix it together with your hands, it really is the best way for something like this! Form the mixture into 4 patties, approximately 1 ½ inches thick. Drizzle both sides of the patties with the Oil, and cook in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 -6 minutes on each side for well-done, and a little less time if you prefer “pink in the middle.” Don’t overcook otherwise you’ll dry them out. While the burgers a re cooking, mix together the Mayonnaise, the remaining Ginger, the Wasabi Mayonnaise and Lime juice. Split and toast the Rolls or Buns and spread the Wasabi Mayonnaise mixture on them. Top each with a Salmon Burger and some Red Leaf Lettuce before setting the Bun tops in place.

Humor


Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

Greetings everyone, and welcome to the August ChatterBulletin and to the charismatic sign of Leo! Many of us are experiencing pretty “hot” summers this year so the fiery nature of the Leo is expressed perfectly by the extreme heat during the month of August before we turn the corner into September and head for fall. Although Leos are known to be very regal (they are after all the “King of the Jungle”) they are really a bunch of big kids who would prefer to have fun rather than be responsible. So in keeping with my fellow fun-loving Leos, my theme for this month is “Humor.” As I said, Leo’s like to have fun, and they have this marvelous ability to “lighten” the mood by making everyone laugh. They are also extremely creative people, which is why many of them become artists of one kind or another. I have a ton of Leo friends who are performers, actors, artists or musicians. This also explains why Leo is the sign associated with “drama” – and by that I don’t simply mean the drama we see on TV or in a movie. Leo’s will have drama woven into their lives at all times. And if there isn’t any, they’ll create some.

Some famous dramatic Leo’s you might have heard of are – Madonna & 1st husband Sean Penn, J-Lo & almost-husband Ben Affleck, as well as his brother Casey Affleck, both Antonio Banderas & his wife Melanie Griffith, and then we have such notables as Lucille Ball, Mae West, Helen Mirren, Kyra Sedgwick, Halle Berry & Sandra Bullock, along with Steve Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Dustin Hoffman, Robert de Niro, Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Wesley Snipes, both David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson (of X Files fame), film directors Roman Polanski, James Cameron & Alfred Hitchcock, writers Sir Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame), J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), Beatrix Potter, Emily Bronte & Danielle Steele, designers Yves St. Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel & Martha Stewart, and artist Andy Warhol, musicians Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston, George Clinton, Louis Armstrong & Count Basie, and athletes Roger Federer, Magic Johnson, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Hulk Hogan, along with such notables as Henry Ford, Fidel Castro, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Marcus Garvey, Bill Clinton (& Monica Lewinsky!) as well as our current president, Barack Obama. The list literally goes on and on and on, but notice how many famous performers, artists, musicians and writers we have here, along with famous as well as infamous rulers and/or world leaders! All very “Leo!”

But back to our theme and the subject of “Humor.” There are some kinds of humor that can be considered as universal and others that are most definitely culturally or even age-specific. I grew up in England and our somewhat eccentric sense of humor is certainly not always understood or appreciated by others. And then every now and again, something transcends and can be translated across cultures and oceans. People of all ages respond to humor, whether it is a young child watching a puppet show or Tom & Jerry cartoon, or an intellectual adult who goes for something more mature and satirical. Humor provokes laughter and provides amusement, but even more interesting is that the term “humor” derives way back to ancient times and refers to the “humors of the body” which were believed to control human health and emotion and therefore the goal was to keep these body fluids, or humors, in balance. The Four Humors were Yellow Bile, Black Bile, Blood & Phlegm and were directly related to each of the Four Elements, Fire, Earth, Air & Water. Consider this, when times are tough, do we not use humor to see us through? So in order to find balance with all of the stress in our lives, we have to find some sort of humorous outlet. When my sister and I were (and still are) dealing with the loss of our mother, as much as there was to cry about, we have had and continue to have a lot of laughs and a multitude of hilarious stories.

So what makes us laugh? We all have our own particular favorites and for me, I know there is a certain brand of humor that always wins me over, and that is the ability to have you laughing one minute and then crying the next, because it is all about the emotional experience and how you “feel.” One of my favorite examples of this comes from British writer and comedian Ben Elton.


© Ian Bradshaw

http://www.ianbradshaw.com/


This Ben Elton portrait was taken by my old pal and English photographer Ian Bradshaw
http://www.ianbradshaw.com

Ben Elton is a magician for mixing outrageous humor with very real and politically driven issues that are relevant and recognizable to the reader. He always seems to be ahead of his time starting with his 1st book “Stark” that dealt with environmental awareness (look at us now!) to his more recent analysis of the Facebook culture in “Blind Faith.” I own every single one of his books and absolutely loved each and every one of them. His characters are always brilliantly funny, and sometimes pathetic or simply tragic. For instance, his 2nd novel “Gridlock” depicts a near-future London in which traffic congestion has reached almost critical levels thus becoming “gridlocked” – and although the government is apparently planning a new road system, they typically ignore investing in the more obvious mass transportation solutions (such as trains) in order to alleviate the problems. The book was published in 1991 and 12 years later in February of 2003, in order to combat the ever-increasing traffic concerns, the City of London introduced a controversial “congestion” charge for anyone driving into the inner city zones. Gee, what a shame they closed down so many railways all those years ago…

And while we are on the subject of brilliant English comedy, another of my absolute favorites has to be Fawlty Towers, created by John Cleese of Monty Python fame and co-written by his wife at that time, American-born actress Connie Booth, who also played the maid Polly to John Cleese’s hotel proprietor, Basil Fawlty. They were very smart and only broadcast 2 series of 6 episodes each, thus quitting while they were ahead. Each episode was brilliantly crafted and written, often escalating to outrageous heights. Who can forget the “Hotel Inspectors” or “Don’t Mention the War” episodes, and one of my all-time favorites, the one with the dead body, the “Kipper and the Corpse.” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1225102734036773727#
And one of my favorite features was the way the Hotel’s sign changed each episode, so “Fawlty Towers” became “ Watery Fowls”, “Fatty Owls” or even “Farty Towels!”

Here is a link to watch all of the episodes!
http://www.google.com/search?q=fawlty+towers+episodes&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&prmd=v&source=univ&tbs=vid:1&tbo=u&ei=hfZaTKukMcH68Ab-rczmAg&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCAQqwQwAA

We grew up on Monty Python, watching it from the very beginning. I remember my mother coming home from work one day to find a group of us gathered around the TV set glued to the likes of the “Ministry of Silly Walks”, the “Dead Parrot” and the “Spanish Inquisition.” “What on earth are you watching?” she declared incredulously. Always curious to see what the younger generation was up to, she joined in and began watching along with us, and it didn’t take long before she was totally hooked as well! It literally became an institution, especially in our family, and whenever something totally bizarre or randomly funny happened, we would exclaim, “Pure Monty Python.” One such day when my mother had been to see her bank manager, she described how he had instructed his secretary to grandly bring in Mrs. Curtis’ files. She expected a little dossier, something small and neat, but what arrived on the desk instead were mounds and mounds of huge files, big as telephone books! She came home chuckling to herself as to how “Pure Monty Python” the whole thing had seemed, that little old her required so much paperwork. And I also fondly recall when I took her to see their movie “The Life of Brian” when it first came out. We laughed ourselves silly, well, it was so silly and quite controversial at the time, so when Jesus started singing, “Always look on the bright side of life…” from the cross, well… that became one of our signature songs. And, just the other week, I was watching Graham Norton, another of my favorite irreverent comics (this one Mum passed on to me ironically) and one of his guests was Sir Eric Idle, one of the Monty Python members. And guess what, he actually stood up and started singing our song!

Here, for your viewing pleasure are 20 of the best ever Monty Python sketches!
http://gnews.com/the-life-of-python20-greatest-monty-python-sketches-03200918105104/

Another of my favorites is, or should I say was, the TV show Ugly Betty, which I thought was one of the funniest series to come along in a while. I was totally surprised and devastated to hear they had cancelled it – a real shame.

Again, I thought the writing was so clever because one minute you would have Betty or another character in a seemingly silly slapstick situation and then the next, it would be totally tugging at your heartstrings. Vanessa Williams was brilliant as the evil Wilhelmina Slater, a true Cruella de Vil of the fashion-publishing world. I honestly thought I would feel completely lost without this show, but I am pleased to announce that I have recently and unexpectedly fallen in love with the hit show Glee. Now, I had no idea what a “Glee” club was, (we didn’t have them in England) and I’m not exactly a huge fan of “musicals” but I have to say, I have laughed out loud in every single episode and have become a big fan. It really is very clever the way they have combined the crazy cast of characters, with their individual stories, along with all of the song and dance routines. Truly a delight!

And in closing, I would just like to wish all of my fellow Leo friends out there a very Happy Birthday, including my good pals Rowena, Ringo, Kim and Pam from my college days, my dear friend and musician Gretta in Seattle, our mutual friend and bass player Jared in Hoboken, and in Williamsburg, my always hilarious pal Julie, and in London, my old friend Andy who recently resurfaced after a long absence. And then there is also Pam, neighbor and friend to our family for many years, and Jordan, my dear friend Tracy’s daughter who came and interned with me this year. Happy Birthday!