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By Michael Miller | October 26, 2011
One time in college, I found myself in a heated debate with a classmate over whether "The Blair Witch Project" was a scary movie. Such a debate can be embarrassing, because the more convincing your argument, the more you reveal to your opponent how squeamish you are. Still, I was able to persuade her that when those cameras rattled to the floor in the final scene, it was at least a little creepy. The bottom line is that with horror shows, you're either spooked or you're not. So perhaps my old college friend wouldn't get much out of Ken and Teri Earwood's annual Earrywood Haunted House, in which they convert the side and back yards of their Huntington Beach home into a chamber of mutilated limbs, crazy clowns, hidden monsters and other unspeakable terrors.
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Michael Miller | May 20, 2010
" A man went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere." So read the poster of the 1969 movie "Easy Rider," which came out at the height of the counterculture's disillusionment with mainstream America. It's a time Virgil Bartolomucci remembers well. The Huntington Beach resident served with the Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 and, like many, came home to a less-than-friendly welcome. When Bartolomucci arrived at the airport, he said, protesters were waiting to jeer anyone in uniform — which prompted him to change into civilian clothes for the ride home.
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By Michael Miller | July 27, 2010
There's a great and little-known song by the 1960s British band the Creation called "Painter Man," which laments the difficulty a former art student has trying to find a job to suit his talents. The song's narrator studies hard to earn his degree, then finds himself making a living not quite worthy of Picasso: Tried cartoons and comic books Dirty postcards, women's looks Here was where the money lay Classic art has had its day Being a working artist in any medium is tough.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | November 27, 2012
This column has moved but will not require a new name. "City Lights" - I originally thought of that title as a play on the city editor position. Now, as I move into the features editor spot, I'm reminded of from where else the inspiration came. City Lights, for those who have been to San Francisco, is one of America's legendary bookstores, the epicenter of the Beat movement in the 1950s and, for any performance poet, the equivalent of playing Carnegie Hall. "City Lights" is also the title of Charlie Chaplin's greatest film, made defiantly in 1931 after talking pictures had arrived, and is home to one of the most moving final shots in history.
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By Michael Miller | March 30, 2011
A bit of "Sesame Street" terminology is in order here: One of these homes is not like the others. Last week, I toured what may be the greenest house in Huntington Beach, a 2,300-square-foot property that Russell and Susan Kadota have spent the last year converting into an eco-friendly haven. The Kadotas, who won the city's annual Environmental Award in January for their efforts, tore down most of the structure that once stood on Elizabeth Lane and rebuilt it with fluorescent lights, low-flow plumbing, cork floors, recycled tiles and more.
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Michael Miller | July 30, 2010
There's been a debate in the Los Angeles Times recently about whether all of America's servicemen and women should be labeled as heroes. William J. Astore, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, began with a July 22 opinion piece arguing that automatically calling troops "heroes" was misguided and even dangerous. "By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down," he wrote. Then, predictably, came the backlash: Dorian de Wind, a retired U.S. Air Force major, denounced Astore's views and argued that the brutal actions of a few soldiers don't diminish the bravery and selflessness of most.
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By Michael Miller | January 11, 2012
Mark Magana never played football in high school. In fact, he didn't play sports at all as a child, except for a little T-ball and track and a few games of soccer. He got most of his exercise when he joined the Army right after high school. Derrick Woods has a cousin who served in Iraq, but the 18-year-old has no plans to join the military. Instead, he has his sights on joining the NFL. Under most circumstances, the Afghanistan veteran and the Inglewood High School wide receiver might never have crossed paths at all. But Saturday in San Antonio, the two met halfway.
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By Michael Miller | July 21, 2010
Remember Haiti? The impoverished Caribbean island became the focus of international attention in January when a 7.0 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and left countless more displaced. For a while, it was hard to open a newspaper without reading a story about relief efforts on the ground or a fundraiser in the classroom. Nowadays, with BP and Abby Sunderland dominating the headlines, you rarely hear it mentioned. The title of the Los Angeles Times' series on Haiti this summer — "Living in Limbo" — hinted at how much work still needed to be done.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | January 25, 2012
Everyone has at least one skill that doesn't have a practical use. Mine is the ability to name every movie ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. I absorbed that knowledge from years of reading critical studies of the Oscars, to the point where, if someone blurts out any year from 1928 to the present, I can pinpoint that year's winner within three seconds. Go ahead, try me — my number is at the bottom of this column. I guess having that photographic memory has one practical use: It gives me a leg up in making Oscar predictions.
NEWS
June 16, 2010
One of the most most oft-quoted statements in American literature is F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment "There are no second acts in American lives." With a little pluck and perseverance, it's also one of the easiest statements to disprove. For this week's Exhibit A, turn to Sally Cameron, the Huntington Beach native who is among the chefs competing in a nationwide event to benefit food banks. Cameron, who graduated from Edison High School and lives in Las Flores, grew up in culinary surroundings.
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By Michael Miller | November 5, 2013
I once met a woman who had known three of the Beatles as a college student in Liverpool. At least, so she said. Having a personal connection to the Fab Four is probably a favorite lie among the British. But her story seemed down-to-earth enough that I could go along with it. In her telling, John Lennon had a reputation as a sardonic punk who browbeat local bartenders into giving him drinks. She remembered Paul McCartney for his "sickly gray complexion" and George Harrison for his ravishing good looks.
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ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | December 4, 2012
The following column is very funny. At least, it better be. A prize-winning comedian helped me write it. The other week, an email landed in my inbox declaring that Mark Schumacher, a high school teacher who lives in Trabuco Canyon, had trounced the competition in the Orange County's Funniest Person Contest. The 11th annual contest, held at the Encore Dinner Theatre and Club in Tustin, puts standup comedians through one grueling round after another before a packed crowd and a panel of judges.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Miller | November 27, 2012
This column has moved but will not require a new name. "City Lights" - I originally thought of that title as a play on the city editor position. Now, as I move into the features editor spot, I'm reminded of from where else the inspiration came. City Lights, for those who have been to San Francisco, is one of America's legendary bookstores, the epicenter of the Beat movement in the 1950s and, for any performance poet, the equivalent of playing Carnegie Hall. "City Lights" is also the title of Charlie Chaplin's greatest film, made defiantly in 1931 after talking pictures had arrived, and is home to one of the most moving final shots in history.
NEWS
By Michael Miller | November 15, 2012
Two of my greatest passions had a nasty scuffle recently in Huntington Beach. Animal rights won on the street, while artist rights scored a knockout in the media. At times like these, it smarts to be in the middle. For those who missed Chris Epting's last In the Pipeline column - and the spate of sympathetic followups in the local and national media - here's a recap: A mural on a liquor store wall, which faced a McDonald's near Edinger Avenue and Edwards Street, got an unrequested paint job recently.
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By Michael Miller | November 14, 2012
Saturday afternoon, I sat in a cramped, paper-laden office inside Don the Beachcomber - the kind of setting that evokes thoughts of long hours and minute detail - and listened to a man on a computer screen talk about leaving reality behind: "That's what the idea was - that you can enter into a place where you can leave everything else in the whole world outside. This all is fantasy. The drinks that were - that he created in Hollywood never existed in the South Seas. If they're in the South Seas now, which they are, all over, being served to tourists, it's because they were sent - they were carried into the South Seas from America, where Tiki took over the whole country.
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By Michael Miller | November 5, 2012
When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be the Beatles. Not just one of the Beatles - I wanted to be all four of them. I was very precocious that way. Some time around the second grade, I got a hold of my parents' record collection and serenaded the house almost daily with "Rubber Soul," "Abbey Road" and those other vinyl slabs. After awhile, my admiration grew to the point where I launched my own one-man rock band in the living room, wielding a pair of drumsticks and playing an acoustic guitar, drum and cymbal all at once.
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By Michael Miller | October 30, 2012
Come back, Mitt Romney. All is forgiven. That comment you made about the binders full of women? Yes, it sounded a little off-kilter at the time, and the nation's comedians have teed off on it. But in the annals of off-the-cuff remarks politicians have made about the opposite sex, it's hardly the worst. President Obama? Yes, you got some scathing reviews for your performance in the first debate, but we all have our listless days. Justin Verlander? The Giants shelled you pretty badly in Game 1 of the World Series, but that happens in the course of a long career.
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By Michael Miller | October 24, 2012
I remember my great-grandmother a little. She was nearly 100 when I saw her in the nursing home, and my mind retains a sketchy image of a white-haired woman who remained seated and stared bemused at the G.I. Joe toy that I brought to show her. I was 7 or 8 then, and I'm sure I had a vague understanding that my great-grandmother had once been as young as me, and that someday, with luck, I would live to be her age. At the time, though, the concept didn't...
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By Michael Miller | October 16, 2012
Everyone has questions they hate to be asked. High on my list is, "Are you religious?" I dread it especially if I sense that a "no" answer will prompt a barrage of other questions, some of them rhetorical. Usually, in those circumstances, I say something on the level of "I'm spiritual, but not religious" or "I believe in a higher power, but not any organized religion. " I suppose it's the same as posting a "Support Our Troops" bumper sticker on your car while declining comment on the Afghanistan war - a middle ground between taking sides and sounding like a churl.
NEWS
October 10, 2012
By now, many people have seen the orange posters around town that say "No on Z. " But what exactly is Measure Z? Measure Z proposes the elimination of a property tax that helps to fund the pensions of public employees. Unfortunately for the city and its residents, if this passes, the city will still be obligated to pay these pensions and will consequently be forced to cut essential safety and social services in order to do so. So even though homeowners would save around $6.25 a month, they would lose so much more.
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