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City Lights

By Michael Miller | March 7, 2012
The thought hit me the other day, about the time the news broke of former Monkee Davy Jones' death, that I might live to see the '60s. Those would be the next '60s, of course. When the year 2060 hits, if I am still around, I will be 81, not an uncommon age nowadays, and life expectancy is increasing. By that time, will the phrase "the '60s" still have the resonance it does now? A few outliers aside, everyone who lived through the age of Abbie Hoffman and the Merry Pranksters will have passed on by then.
By Michael Miller | February 22, 2012
Last week, I judged a competition where entrants had to have a grabbing lead, a dynamic storytelling style and a wealth of information condensed into a finite number of words. I'm talking, of course, about Poetry Out Loud. For the second straight year, I got invited to help preside over the annual event sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in which high school students dramatically recite poems from memory. Friday afternoon, a dozen students vied at the local competition at the Orange County Department of Education headquarters in Costa Mesa.
By Michael Miller | February 15, 2012
One of the great moments in magazine reader mail came after Entertainment Weekly critic David Browne, comparing the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, admitted that he thought less of the Fab Four because his mother liked them. Soon after, a man shot back on the letters page, "Why not let his mom review records instead?" If it came down to a contest between, oh, "Let It Be" and "Honky Tonk Women," I would guess most people's mothers would favor the Beatles. But a cursory listen to the bands' 1960s output shows that it's much more complex than that.
By Michael Miller | February 8, 2012
Jonah Folk truly is the Million Dollar Baby. The 1-year-old star of the Doritos ad "Sling Baby" may not officially qualify as a child star yet, having no agent or multipicture deal, but he turned out to be quite a moneymaker for his director, Kevin Willson, who pocketed a cool $1 million after the ad topped the USA Today/Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter. Willson, a documentary and commercial director who grew up in Huntington Beach, entered his 30-second ad in Crash the Super Bowl, an annual contest in which filmmakers submit Doritos ads to run during the big game.
By Michael Miller | February 1, 2012
Jim Christensen will run the Surf City USA Half Marathon this weekend - which means, mathematically speaking, he will run 13.1 miles. It's a much longer distance than his finish line a few years ago, when he struggled to make it two houses down. The Huntington Beach resident has entered the half marathon three times since 2008. He's never finished first, but competition is the least of his concerns. Every time Christensen completes the final mile - in fact, every time he completes a few paces - he remembers how he conditioned himself to run by shedding 226 pounds.
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.
By Michael Miller | January 18, 2012
If you're within a decade of my age, you may forgive my ignorance when I say that I grew up associating autism with the movie "Rain Man. " For those who, like me, saw the film during middle school and rarely mingled with special-education peers, Dustin Hoffman's protagonist seemed like both a medical anomaly and a screenwriter's concoction — we marveled at the split-second math skills and the "Who's on First?" memorization as much as we empathized with his plight. Years later, as an education reporter for the Daily Pilot, I got a real-world introduction to autism.
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.
By Michael Miller | January 4, 2012
On New Year's Day, my wife and I saw Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" at the Cinemark at Bella Terra. For those who haven't seen it yet, it's about a young orphan who lives in a train station in Paris and finds escape through the silent movies that play at the theater around the block. I haven't seen all the Oscar contenders yet, but if I had to mark my ballot today, I would name "Hugo" the best film of 2011. I usually favor gritty realism over sentiment, but Scorsese's 3-D opus is that rarity: a movie that breaks through your defenses and reconnects you to some innocent core of your personality that you thought you'd abandoned.
By Michael Miller | December 28, 2011
I was about to write that this column is the Independent's Christmas wish list, but then I realized that Dec. 25 will have passed by the time the paper hits the newsstand. It will also barely miss Hanukkah. Kwanzaa, maybe? Well, never mind any particular holiday. Here's what we'd like to see happen in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley in 2012: 1. Fewer alcohol problems. This year saw several positive developments after a January report showed Huntington to have an abnormally high number of alcohol-related injury traffic collisions.
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