Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Lists

A List of Memorable Books

I was in a list making mood today.
The following books are ones I found dramatically memorable and that left a permanent impression on my delicate little psyche. They are probably, at least in part, responsible for the state of my mind today.

  • Possession by A. S. Byatt
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion by Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

And two I found memorable in an “I think the book is brilliant, but you will never get me to read it again because it gave me the willies” sort of way.

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Ping rss

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Spotlight: The Father of Hollywood.

The Spotlight is On:

The Father of Hollywood by Gaelyn Whitley Keith:

Hobart Johnstone and Gigi Whitley are considered the patriarchs who presided over the creation of Hollywood. Their city has forever changed the course of history, portraying visions of glamour and romance to a degree unmatched anywhere else. Nestled in hills covered in towering eucalyptus and orange groves, Hollywood was built as part of a grand scheme by visionary developer HJ Whitley, " The Father of Hollywood."  Why did the Los Angeles Times and others in the community give him this title?

Whitley Heights was the Beverly Hills of yesteryear, and some of the most impressive homes in Hollywood are located there. Stars like Jean Harlow, Ethel Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, W.C. Fields, Harold Lloyd, Carole Lombard, Rudolph Valentino, and many others lived and held legendary parties in the Heights.  Inside the pages of The Father of Hollywood are all the juicy details.

Author Bio:

Gaelyn Whitley Keith was raised in Manhattan Beach, California, a stone's throw from Hollywood. Gaelyn went to college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in the early 1970’s and spent the years after college traveling around the country and the world, writing short stories and working for South Bay Magazine. She has been awarded top honors in national writing competitions.
Gaelyn discovered her longing to be a writer when she was a child listening to her mother’s imaginative true stories about Hollywood. In adolescence, encouraged by English teachers who described her as a “born writer,” she began writing her own stories, as well as keeping prolific journals that chronicled her experiences, both internal and external, a practice she has continued throughout her life.
Today Gaelyn lives beside a lake in El Dorado Hills, with her husband Randy. She writes in a book-lined upstairs study where she can look out at the lake and wildlife. She is working on her new book, “The Father Of Hollywood: The Final Event.”


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The First Hollywood Movie

Today we have a little bit of Hollywood History spotlighted:

First Hollywood movie filmed on Whitley Estate on October 26, 1911.

Of all the products of popular culture, none is more sharply etched in our imagination than the movies. Most Americans instantly recognize images produced by the movies: Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones, as an adventurous archeologist in Radars of the Lost Ark. Sean Connery, the gun-toting James Bond in Gold Finger, and Carrie Fisher, the beautiful princess who is fighting the evil emperor in Star Wars.   Even those who have never seen ET, Casablanca or Gone With the Wind respond instantly to the advertisements, parodies, and TV skits that use these films' dialogue, images, and characters.  So when was the first Hollywood movie filmed?

According to Hollywood myth, the first film made there was produced Cecil B DeMille's The Squaw Man in 1914, after the director decided not to alight in a snowbound Flagstaff, Arizona, but to proceed to Los Angeles. However, in 1911 a new exciting era of Hollywood was ushered in. The motion picture industry already had several studios in the heart of Los Angeles. The movie In the Sultan’s Power was produced in 1908 by Colonel Selig. It was the first full-length motion picture shot in an old mansion at Eighth and Olive.

The motion picture industry did not come to Hollywood until HJ Whitley, The Father of Hollywood, spent over fifteen years and millions of dollars developing and beautifying the area. Considering how strenuously others urged producers and directors to settle in a number of other excellent sites, it is amazing that one man could convince the majority of them to settle in Hollywood. The first Hollywood motion picture taken by a Hollywood film company was taken on October 26, 1911. Although the movie never really had a name, it was a true piece of Hollywood’s history. The Whitley home was used as its set. The movie was filmed in the middle of their groves. The motion picture was directed by David and William Horsley and Al Christe. HJ was fortunate to meet the Horsley brothers as they were touring Hollywood and suggested that they might be able to lease the Blondeau Tavern on Sunset and Gower. He felt sure that it could easily be converted into a movie studio.

In the fall of 1911, the Nestor Motion Picture Company opened the first motion picture studio in Hollywood in the Blondeau Tavern.  In May 1912, the Universal Film Company was formed and David Horsley and other small studios merged, each accepting shares in Universal as payment for their business.

HJ realized at once that he had found a rare, untapped jewel that would make his town stand out from others. The rules of the game he now played were simple, much like the game of marbles he played when he was a child. The games would last several minutes, and the best player would leave with all the jewels. In this new game, the jewels were movie producers and directors. Others would try; but HJ possessed a decisive edge, a mystical power that drew people to him. HJ’s charm disarmed strangers and made them instant friends. He was a friend to everyone, one who would cheer you on when you were successful and who would support you when the going got rough. It was difficult to explain just how HJ created these bonds. After knowing HJ for just a few hours, it was like you knew him all your life; and you knew you would be friends forever. HJ stood out from others because of the levels of concern and service he offered.

David Horsley was walking down Hollywood Boulevard near the Hollywood Hotel and looking a little lost and confused when a pleasant, well-dressed gentleman appeared and asked if he could help. David told HJ what he was looking for. HJ not only pointed him in the right direction; he escorted him all the way down the street to his destination. David asked him his name and occupation. To David’s surprise, he introduced himself as the developer of Hollywood.
“I built the bank and hotel at the corner of Highland and Hollywood Boulevard.”
When HJ spoke, his face lit up with an inward fire. He was transfigured. As the conversation wore on, an instant friendship developed. HJ even offered David the use of his elaborate gardens for filming. HJ was thrilled with the idea that this young, budding filmmaker would soon be opening a studio that would enhance the face of Hollywood.

Horsley’s studio achieved great success; and soon, many other studios were drawn to the area. HJ convinced David to purchase three lots: 3639 Whitley Heights, 3737 North Heights, and 4546 Whitley Heights Park Tract. He never lost a chance to make a sale. Hollywood began to grow by leaps and bounds, attracting many others to its famous hills.

The Hollywood Hotel which HJ Whitley built played an enormous role in placing Hollywood on the world map. Industry giants, such as Jesse Lasky, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, Harry Warner, and Irving Thalberg would stay at the hotel. Producers, directors, and writers held conferences on its broad verandahs. There was a continuous flow of silver screen stars arriving daily.

Many of the famous silent screen movie idols made it their home. They were a lively bunch who attended dances held every Thursday night in the ballroom. Rudolph Valentino taught tango lessons to an influential studio executive, June Mathis, who later offered him the lead in Metro’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The movie was a commercial and critical success and the beginning of Valentino’s career as a star. The Hollywood Hotel gained celebrity status when Valentino impulsively married actress Jean Aker in the lobby days after meeting her there. Rudolph Valentino lived in room 264.

Where there were stars, there was gossip about their adventures. It was considered the place to be seen, and many business deals were transacted in its rooms. HJ made a suggestion to movie mogul Joe Schenck to put his entire company, including his movie star wife, Norma Talmadge, at the hotel while moving his studio from New York to Hollywood. Many years later, Norma would be their neighbor in Whitley Heights. HJ and Gigi (his wife) became friends with other notable stars that stayed at the hotel. The hotel register listed Charlie Chaplin, Norma Shearer, Douglas Fairbanks, Fatty Arbuckle, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, King Vidor, Lon Chaney, Carrie Jacobs Bond, Blanche Sweet, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Buster Keaton, and countless others. As a thank-you to their faithful patrons, the hotel painted stars on the ceiling of the dining room with the actors’ names inside them. That way it was easy to identify which table belonged to which star.  When the hotel was demolished in the 1950s the Hollywood Chamber decided to continue the tradition with the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Silent film stars danced and romanced in the hotel’s Dining Room of the Stars. As Hollywood grew, the hotel had a continuous flow of silent screen movie stars making it their home. Many ordinary citizens would stay at the Hollywood, hoping to get a glimpse or an autograph of their favorite star.

The Cahuenga Pass also played its part by offering a route through the hills to the Valley. It had originally been a simple, winding trail over which cattle had been driven. In 1909 H J Whitley headed a land syndicate that purchase 48,000 acres to develop the San Fernando Valley.  In 1911, the tracks to the Red Car were laid. When the San Fernando Valley became a center for the movie studios, the pass was the main link between it and Hollywood. For the biggest stars in Hollywood, there were mansions. The hills of Hollywood were filled with directors, producers, writers, stars, HJ and Gigi’s close friends. But the crews and struggling extras that stood in line daily, hoping to get picked for parts, needed less expensive places to live. HJ saw that the Valley offered such a spot. Soon, thousands of hopeful young men and women came to California seeking fame and fortune in the motion picture industry.

Not long after Nestor Company opened in Hollywood Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith began making movies in Hollywood. They had been drawn to the community by HJ Whitley marketing campaigns.  By the early 1920s, Hollywood had become the world's film capital. It produced nearly all films shown in the United States and collected 80 percent of the revenue from films shown abroad. During the '20s, Hollywood strengthened its position as world leader by recruiting many of Europe's most talented actors and actors, like Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, directors like Ernst Lubitsch and Alford Hitchcock, as well as camera operators, lighting technicians, and set designers. Silent cinema defined a new art form in the comedies of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd and the psychological dramas of Erich von Stroheim and King Vidor. They joined a homegrown supply of actors — lured west from the New York City. By the end of the decade, Hollywood was the nation's fifth largest industry, attracting 83 cents out of every dollar Americans spent on amusement.

The studios that made the first silent classics in Hollywood would continue to grow for the next century and become the giants of today.  Warner Brothers Pictures incorporated in 1923. In 1924, MGM, Columbia Pictures and MCA were founded. In 1926, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation spent $1 million on United Studios' property where Paramount Pictures have been located since 1935. If you want to learn more about Hollywood visit  Just imagine, on October 26, 2011 we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first film produced in Hollywood.

It's a wonderful life!
Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Also may you could help get the word out to nominate H J Whitley, The Father of Hollywood into the California Hall of Fame.  Visit:

You can check out Gaelyn Whitley Keith's book The Father of Hollywood on

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being Human: Old vs. New

Some thoughts on the new version of the TV show, Being Human:

-Attention, some spoilers follow- 

I watched the North American remake of the show Being Human on Monday, and I actually enjoyed it.  I wasn't expecting to, as the Canadian preview trailers were less than stellar.  For those of you that don't know, the original Being Human is about three friends, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, who share a home and try to fit in with the human world.  The new show stayed close to the original BBC version, with only some name and location changes and a few minor tweeks.

Mitchell, George and Annie are now, Aidan, Josh and Sally.  They live in Boston, the guys still work in a hospital and the plot parallells the original series, with most of the same conflicts and interactions.  Changes include the age of the character of Aidan, who is older than Mitchell, and the addition of Josh's sister.

The actors (Sam Witwer as Aidan, Sam Huntington as Josh and Meaghan Rath as Sally) do a nice job with -for the most part- well crafted dialogue.   Sam Witwer was the standout of the cast, giving a subtle edge to Aidan the vampire, showing a thoughtful personality battling a violent addiction.    And I think Sam Huntington took the right approach in toning down the nerdy, neurotic aspects of the original character; he doesn't need the comparasion with the remarkable performance of Russell Tovey as George.  He will have to watch the selfish, whining tone of the character, lest Josh become annoying.  However, the character of Sally was a bit uneven; she came off better when Meaghan Rath wasn't playing her needy or giddy.

I think the new version of Being Human may turn out to be a good show, but whether it will live up to the original remains to be proven.

Being Human on Space:
Being Human on SyFy:

The Original Series on Amazon:

Monday, January 10, 2011

A review of "The Cape"

My Review of the new TV show The Cape:

-Attention, for anyone who did not watch the show last night, the review contains minor spoilers-

When I first heard about The Cape I reserved judgement.  The premise, a man framed for a crime who turns to fighting the bad guys as a superhero, sounded like it might be brilliant or fall flat.
So, I wasn’t certain what to expect from this show, but the two hour premiere of The Cape was a delightful surprise. It splendidly captured the tone and feel of a comic book and grounded it nicely with some honest characters and touching pathos. It also had a quirky sense of humour that poked a little fun at the superhero genre.
It wasn’t perfect though. It was a bit shaky around the edges, leaving a few loose ends dangling at the end of the first hour (what happened to all the explosives for instance?) and occasionally lost focus. Also the villain was somewhat under-developed, character wise, coming across as a cardboard cut-out at times.
For the most part however, it was entertaining and engaging, with flashes of radiance. I especially liked the circus segment, where our hero learns his tricks of the superhero trade; the style and the dialogue really clicked. The character of Orwell showed some intriguing promise and fact the hero makes mistakes is refreshing.
I liked the show considerably and will be returning for more of the adventures of The Cape.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Book Spotlight: Ebocloud

The Spotlight Is On:

Ebocloud by Rick Moss

To what length will we go to avoid loneliness? Facebook may once have been the one-word answer to that question, but for the hundreds of millions flocking to engage in, "friending" seems frivolous by comparison. In the "great belonging" of the cloud, few stop to consider what sacrifices are being made as they work together with their "ebo cousins" to build a more loving society, under the leadership of ebocloud's idealistic architect, Radu Cajal.

For New York artist Ellison Luber, however, the losses are not abstract -- they are immediate and personal. While nearly oblivious to the ebocloud humanitarian movement, Ellie's insular life in Chelsea is violently upended by an attack that takes the life of his neighbor and sends his girlfriend in flight from the police. And most astoundingly, this and other crimes he experiences are traceable to ebocloud, the same organization dedicated to the new humanitarian enlightenment of the world.


Author Bio:

Rick Moss studied painting, photography and printmaking in his youth and has worked as a designer and producer of video, print, interactive media and web content. He is co-founder and president of the online business community, Ebocloud is his first novel.

Mr. Moss was born on an Air Force base in post-War Japan. He grew up in rural Maryland and suburban Baltimore. He met his wife Catherine at art college in Oakland, California in 1977 and moved to her native Northern New Jersey where they reside to this day. They have two adult daughters, Alison and Genna, both also involved in the creative arts.

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