Over the Fence: Look, up in the sky, it’s a drone in Land Park!

Some drone videos showcase remote Alaskan ice caves, cascading waterfalls in Costa Rica, even earthquake damage in Napa. Sacramento resident Tim Pantle showcases the beauty of the Sacramento area with his aerial photos and drone videos on his blog “Love Where You Live”.

I hung out with Tim while he was getting aerial views of the Urban Cow Half Marathon that was held in William Land Park recently. He also filmed some nice shots of the golf course, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.

We spoke about the good, the bad, and the ugly of quadcopters. Drone videos have been somewhat controversial but Tim is the “Mister Rogers of drone video operators.” He does nothing nefarious — just good, wholesome, fun videos of the Sacramento area.

What spurred Tim’s quadcopter hobby is he wanted to start a blog of some kind. One day, he saw a picturesque drone video of the old Fair Oaks Bridge and he was hooked. “I’ve always been that tech-geek and used to be really into photography,” Tim said. He loves the challenge of “getting the good shot.”

He was getting plenty of good shots of the Urban Cow Half Marathon and William Land Park the day we got together.

At the start of the half marathon, the announcer told runners to “wave to teh drone,” as Tim’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter was filming over head.

When Tim was filming on the fifth hole at Land Park Golf Course, a golfer took a practice swing from the fairway then turned around to smile and wave. The drone makes a loud buzzing, swarm-of-bees sound, so I was surprised the golfer let the quadcopter bother him. Most golfers demand complete silence before hitting a fairway wood on a par 4 hole.

The Phantom 2 Vision reminds me of the Starship Enterprise from the old Star Trek series. It has a similar look. If you can operate a joystick, you can certainly operate a quadcopter. Tim syncs it up with GPS. It’s the ultimate in tech gadgetry for a photographer. If the battery goes dead, or it loses connection with his remote it’ll fly back to where it started and land. It has a brain! The controller has a WiFi extender that allows the drone to send a signal to his phone so he can see what the camera sees.

The Phantom 2 Vison has quite a few different names, including an aerial drone, quadcopter, UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The term drone came about because the vehicles sounded like worker bees known as “drones.”

Tim’s a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and he thought the quadcopter or drone would be a great aspect of selling real estate. “Unfortunately I can’t use it for real estate because of FAA rules of no commercial, at the time that I bought it that rule wasn’t in place.”

There are a few rules when it comes to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The laws are still trying to catch up with the technology.

You cannot use it for commercial purposes. You can’t go above 400 feet. It’s also a big “no no” in national parks. Yosemite National Park has banned drones after they became a nuisance to vistors of the park. Another rule is you can’t fly within three miles of an airport.

Whereas Tim uses his drone for good, clean, wholesome fun, other drone operators aren’t as level headed and responsible as Tim.

There have been many publicized incidents of aerial drones causing problems. One drone operator flew over a nude beach in Hawaii that created an online stir.

Technically, there’s nothing illegal about being a “creepy pest” because it was a public beach. When the operator was confronted by one of the sunbathers he accused him of breaking the law by being nude in public, which is technically illegal in Hawaii.

Got that? Being nude illegal, filming people nude, legal.

One man actually shot down a New Jersey man’s drone after it hovered near his home. He blew it out of the sky with his shotgun. Kaboom! The guy who shot down the drone was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Criminal Mischief. Oops.

Then there is the case of a 17-year-old teen who was innocently filming the shoreline of a beach in Florida. A woman became enraged and assaulted him because she thought he was filming bikini-baring beach goers. The video of the confrontation is quite disturbing. The woman called the police; but, after they viewed the I-Phone video from the teen’s camera, she was arrested for assault.

Tim told me he thinks “some of the news coverage is overblown.”

I spoke with Rob Watkins at RC Country Hobby on Folsom Boulevard and he said, “I’m more concerned in the type of person and how they’re flying them than the quadcopters themselves.”

Rob mentioned an incident where a guy was flying his drone over the Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the grounding firefighting aircraft.

“We sell a lot of them here and they’re fun to fly. It just concerns me what people are doing with them,” Rob said.

What Tim is doing with his drone videos is making people feel good. The feedback Tim gets is all positive. His most popular drone video is the Del Campo High School campus. He’s actually from the graduating class of ’86. His quadcopter gives an aerial documentation of the campus as it slowly glides over the mighty oak tree that is at the center of the campus. The aerial video ends on the newly build Cougar football stadium. He also has an ethereal soundtrack that plays during the video. It elicited quite a few emotional responses on a Del Campo High School reunion page. Gregory Hansel, a class of 1984 alumni said, “Am I the only one who got a bit emotional seeing that? School hasn’t changed much. A lot of memories.”

Tim also has an enchanting drone video of the Sacramento River at the Tower Bridge. The quadcopter glides right over the golden bridge to reveal an aerial shot not many people have seen — the tip top of the Tower Bridge. It’s accompanied by some Joe Satriani-style guitar riffs. He also filmed a video of the American River near the Fair Oaks bluffs and bridge, another picturesque drone video of the area Tim calls home.

If you search You Tube, there are numerous beautiful, edgy, and just plain magical videos of nature’s beauty. These drone videos, by far, outnumber the irresponsible and innocuous ones that tend to get headlines. Waterfalls, cliff diving, and amazing Alaskan glacier views are just some of the subjects drone videos have beautifully captured.

Drone videos are also publicizing social justice like the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. There is an aerial drone video of hundreds of thousands of people in the street peacefully protesting.

There’s also aerial drone videos by The Swandiri Institute, an organization focusing its research on the political-ecology and social-ecological analysis of environmental change happening in Indonesia.

Drones are even helping to save the whales. The Ocean Alliance is a group that uses aerial drones to collect a broad spectrum of data from the whales without disturbing them. From the data, they advise scientists and policy makers on pollution and how to prevent the collapse of marine mammals and other sea life.

See? Aerial Drones are being used for good.

Which brings me back to Sacramento’s drone video photographer, Tim Pantle. He takes great pleasure in making drone videos that people have an emotional connection to. Tim also uses his common sense. “I don’t fly over people’s houses and if somebody shows any inkling they’re upset, I just leave. I’m not looking for any trouble.”

Tim is very careful and cautious with his quadcopter. When we were together, his plan was to fly over the Sacramento Zoo, but he was also a bit hesitant. Tim said, “I don’t know if I could fly over the zoo because it might disturb the animals. Common sense says, don’t bug the animals.”

He did manage to get some aerial footage of the zoo and no animals were disturbed.

Whether it’s Sacramento parks, historic bridges or our beautiful waterways Tim only uses his quadcopter for good. He also takes pride in giving Sacramento a bird’s eye view of the city he loves.

To check out all of Tim’s videos go to www.LoveSacramento.Blogspot.com

Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

“Kill the Messenger”
The MPAA has rated this R
In what is the second fantastic performance this year from Jeremy Renner, the first having been in the almost unseen “The Immigrant”, Focus Features brings us the true story of San Jose Mercury-News journalist Gary Webb (Renner) who exposed the CIA’s role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.
Sacramento is one featured location in this movie, although it was not filmed here.
As Webb uncovers more dirt, the CIA and government try to discredit him in an attempt not to be exposed. His publisher, played perfectly by Oliver Platt, at first embraces the breaking news, then later caves to pressure from many places, as a smear campaign begins to weigh heavily on Webb.
Andy Garcia and Ray Liotta have some small but memorable scenes in the story, but it is Renner’s performance as a journalist obsessed with uncovering the truth and working with integrity that really stands out in this narrative based on real historical events.
I’ve never been good at predicting the Oscar races, but feel that this performance will likely get at least a nod.
True to the era depicted, director Michael Cuesta photographed the entire movie on 35mm motion picture film negative made by Kodak, showing the image grain that one used to see at the movies, but not so much now in this new digital age of movie making. This is a fantastic performance and engaging movie. Another one not to miss.

(Opens this Friday)
“The Judge”
The MPAA has rated this R
Warner Bros. bring us seasoned veteran Robert Duvall as a small town judge and Robert Downey, Jr. as his hot-shot lawyer son.
On a return home, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) finds that his father is suspected of murder. His relationship with his father is estranged at best, and only slightly better with his two brothers. Glen, the older brother, is played by noted actor Vincent D’Onofrio.
Much of his past comes back in the short visit – his old girlfriend, played marvelously by Vera Farmiga, still holds a little flame for him. He starts to mend his relations with his brothers, but his father, the judge, is immovable in his disappointment of his lawyer son, stemming from a car accident Hank had as a teen with his older brother Glen.
Glen showed promise as a great baseball player, but the accident had left his wrist damaged, ending his ball playing dreams.
Hank accepts the case, and some great courtroom drama ensues, given more dash by a great performance by Billy Bob Thorton as the rival council. Duvall is consistently good in this, but not memorable, as the crotchety type comes easy for him. There are excellent scenes with him and Robert Downy, Jr. who is such a fine actor, especially with meatier roles like this one. Sure, he may deliver fast dialogue, but his best performance here may be seen in his eyes and expression. With an agreeable score by Thomas Newman and great photography by Janusz Kaminski, “The Judge” is one to see.

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

‘This is Where I Leave You’
The MPAA has rated this R
Warner Brothers’ “This is Where I Leave You” is based on a book written by Jonathan Tropper, who adapted the screenplay himself, offering a playground for the talents of Jane Fonda, Jason Batemen, and Tina Fey.
This snarky comedy is set in the childhood home of a large family whose patriarch has died. His widow, played by Fonda, wants all the siblings under one roof for seven days in keeping with her late husband’s wishes.
This movie features several of today’s bright quick wits, including Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn and, playing someone not so quick, Timothy Olyphant.
The expected childhood rivalries resurface, and lost loves are reinvestigated. The majority of the story follows Jason Bateman’s character, Judd Altman, who is trying to conceal from his family a recent personal loss, which is forced out of him at an inappropriate moment by Tina Fey.
This is a fun comedy that will please most people and likely will resonate with movie patrons that came from large families. I was delighted to see Jane Fonda on the big screen again, and enjoyed her “revealing” performance.
Tina Fey, who is a quick and brilliant comedienne, has never been one of my favorites in spite of her enormous and clever talent. However, in this picture, she has some very fine screen moments near the end, which I found most effective. The photography by Terry Stacey is excellent. It is directed by Shawn Levy.

‘The Boxtrolls’
The MPAA has given this a PG rating.
Focus Features offers something for kids and adults with “Boxtrolls”, a movie I dreaded to see after having seen the preview, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the actual feature was quite good and lovingly made in the classic style of a George Pal Puppetoon. In this age of CGI and computer animation, to see figures molded in stop motion, not unlike the classic “King Kong” is a rare treat of human craftsmanship.
The story, based on Alan Snow’s book “Here Be Monsters” follows a young boy that is raised by Boxtrolls, odd little trolls that use a box as a clothing cover that live in the sewers of an old town that is obsessed with fine cheese.
An evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher, who looks like Dame Edna Everage, and voiced by screen legend Ben Kingsley, is out to kill them all. He wishes to become accepted by high society and to possess the mark of distinction of that class, a tall white top hat. Our young boy hero, “Eggs”, named after the markings on the box that he wears, finds the courage to save the day.
Actor Jared Harris voices the leader of the land, “Lord Portley-Rinde” who looks just like the classic British actor C. Aubrey Smith.
Simon Pegg voices “Eggs” natural father, and Tracy Morgan is Mr. Gristle, one of Archibald’s hench men. The sets are cleverly and painstakingly designed with many retro and almost “steampunk” elements. This works well for kids and adults alike, with a positive message for all. Stay through the very end for some neat footage!

Over the Fence: Slow down for wildlife in Land Park

John and Christina Maradik-Symkowick stand where they hope a new Hollywood Park sign will be constructed along Freeport Boulevard.

John and Christina Maradik-Symkowick stand where they hope a new Hollywood Park sign will be constructed along Freeport Boulevard.

Feathers flew everywhere in Land Park when a driver hit a goose slowly waddling across Land Park Drive between the baseball fields and the pond area. Details of the fowl fatality are sketchy. Perhaps the driver was speeding, texting, or just not paying attention. No clue on the make and model of the car.
A witness said the goose was suffering and in obvious pain. Suzanne Vice of Land Park told me via e-mail “It was very difficult for me to see.” She went on to say, she was tearful and what got to her the most was the gaggle of geese standing next to the dying goose. The geese gathered around their fatally injured friend and made loud, frantic noises.
It was a chaotic scene.
The City of Sacramento Parks and Recreation website mentions “do not feed the wildlife” They should add, “and don’t hit them with your Ford Focus either.”
Suzanne mentioned to me that “maybe better signage for drivers to be aware of wildlife crossing the street as well as many pedestrians, children, and joggers that cross the street as well.” She just thinks people should slow down.
Maybe a wildlife crossing sign could get drivers to slow down on that stretch of Land Park Drive. Maybe a goose crossing guard…hey, they have one for DMV workers on 24th!
I see a sign
Hollywood Park deserves a sign. Plenty of other established Sacramento neighborhoods have signs marking their territory. Why not Hollywood Park? Hollywood Park resident John Maradik-Symkowick is sprearheading an effort along with his wife Christina to get a Hollywood Park sign placed along Freeport Boulevard to “put the neighborhood on the map,” as John put it.
They found a perfect spot too. A small rectangular piece of city-owned property next to the Regional Transit bus stop. The little strip of land is located between the King of Curls and the Freeport Dental office. There’s a beautiful large pine tree and even some small palm trees growing on the “perfect place for a sign” spot. John joked about making the sign look like the Hollywood sign in the hills of Hollywood.
It obviously wouldn’t be that large and extravagant but John hopes it would make a similar impact. Maybe a 1950s era type sign.
A lot of Sacramento residents don’t even know where Hollywood Park is. When people ask “Where is Hollywood Park?,” the replies are usually, “Across from Raley’s” or “Do you know where Hollywood Hardware is?”
If there’s a sign, residents can say, “Look for the Hollywood Park sign.”
At least that’s the plan. John, who is also on the HPNA Board, has met with Sacramento City Council member Jay Schenirer’s office to discuss the possibility of a Hollywood Park sign. The proposed site is on city owned property. There’s even electrical that can be used to shine a light on the sign and surrounding area at night.
John and his wife came up with the idea together. Then John brought it to the attention of the HPNA.
When we were standing at the proposed spot for the sign, his wife Christina told me, “This is the fun phase. The dreams and aspirations as well as engaging with the community. Then comes the nitty gritty stuff”.
The nitty gritty stuff… like funding for the sign and implementation.
Where will the dough come from? The HPNA could pitch in some funds. The City of Sacramento might be able to contribute as well. There has been discussions about fundraisers too.
Local volunteers are also welcome. John put out a call for local artists, craftspeople, or “anyone with a creative itch that needs scratching”. He’s also been in talks with City Signs on Freeport with design ideas.
If the project moves forward, the HPNA board plans to pick a set of final designs to be voted on at a future Neighborhood Association General Meeting. A neighborhood sign that would reflect the neighborhood. Nothing too flashy….but something that would complement all the 1950s-era homes in the quaint little neighborhood that wants to burst out of the shadows of the more popular local neighborhoods.

Pho comes to Freeport Boulevard
Fatty Cow Hot Pot along Freeport Boulevard is the restaurant that never opened. They never served one hot pot. A lot of remodeling was done inside the former Futami Japanese Restaurant earlier this year but Fatty Cow never actually opened its doors for business.
People who like Hot Pot will have to set their sights elsewhere. I noticed a new sign had replaced the old sign of the fat cow licking his spoon.
The new restaurant will now be called Pho Garden, only this time the restaurant will actually open. The doors were not open when I dropped by but Sherry the psychic next door looked into her crystal ball and told me they would open Oct. 6.
Never doubt a psychic.
There are new neon signs in the window and some giant palm tree like plants ready to be placed around the restaurant.
I spoke over the phone with Jonathon Lam, who’s in charge of hiring the restaurant employees, and he told me they are “very excited about opening in the neighborhood.” He couldn’t give me any information on why Fatty Cow Hot Pot never actually opened. They never served one hot pot. So forget the hot pot and get ready for some pho on Freeport.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

The Pocket Watch: Pocket Martial Arts school lifts students to national prominence

Matthew Pimentel, a Pocket resident, won first place in his division for sparring at the USA Taekwondo 2014 National Championship at the San Jose Convention Center earlier this year. Photo courtesy

Matthew Pimentel, a Pocket resident, won first place in his division for sparring at the USA Taekwondo 2014 National Championship at the San Jose Convention Center earlier this year. Photo courtesy

Ever watch the rain hit a window, and the individual drops weave their paths as they drip down the glass? Sometimes, those droplets can be inches apart, and, yet, they manage to find each other, join forces, and pick up speed and strength as a single unit. I know there’s some sort of scientific explanation for this attraction, although I can’t explain it, and I don’t even know what it’s called.

I’ve come to believe that the same principle exists with humans. I’ve seen it occur time and again, generally in the stories told to me of people doing great things here in the Greenhaven/Pocket area. Good people traveling their independent paths somehow find each other and help one another to become great or to do great things. At the confluence is usually a pretty compelling story, the best vantage point for which is the view from the satellite, where you can best see the paths come together.

I was afforded this view, as I learned about the remarkable achievements of Matthew Pimentel in the world of martial arts, Taekwondo, specifically. A recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School, where he was a standout as a runner in Cross Country and Track, Matthew became exposed to Taekwondo through his little brother, whom he began to watch take lessons at the newly opened school, “iYa Taekwondo”, here in the Pocket. To be completely accurate, “iYa” wasn’t exactly newly opened. The school had existed in limited exposure for a couple of years prior, due to its original location, in a classroom at the former Lisbon Elementary School, and, later, as its enrollment grew, in the school’s cafeteria. When the school was compelled to find more expansive digs, Xai Lor, its co-founder, was able to secure a more commercially prominent home for the school in a small mall on Greenhaven Drive.

So, on one hand, we had Matthew, already a fairly accomplished athlete in his own right, being a good big brother, accompanying his younger sibling to Taekwondo lessons in the absence of their father, who was now permanently living hundreds of miles away in Southern California. “I felt that I should be there to support my little brother,” explains Matthew. “The things they do in class are challenging. He needed me to be there with him.”

On the other hand, we have Xai Lor, “Miss Xai”, as she is known as the school’s co-founder and instructor, and to whom Matthew’s caring and consistent presence had not gone unnoticed. Xai had taken her first Taekwondo class as an elective during her freshman year in college at Sacramento State and was immediately hooked. Although the ensuing few years found her completing her education, getting married, giving birth to three children, and enjoying a successful career as a paralegal, she only stopped taking Taekwondo intermittently, to accommodate the births and care of her children.

When the decision was made for Xai to leave her career in law in favor of becoming a stay-at-home mom, the opportunity to teach Taekwondo at her daughter’s school soon presented itself. “We started in a 900-square-foot classroom,” she recalls. The popularity of her instruction soon gained predictable momentum, and her school within a school was soon transferred to the 3000-square-foot multipurpose room on campus. “It began to occur to me that this could become a viable career for me,” she says, and, last year, she moved her Taekwondo school, now known as iYa Taekwondo—named for the phonetic kiai, the short yell emitted by practitioners of the art that expresses the energy involved in a movement—to its present location on Greenhaven Drive.

Xai took notice of Matthew, who seemed always to be in attendance at his brother’s classes, and something compelled her to approach Matthew to suggest that he join the school as well. “I was a little surprised,” Matthew remembers, “I went home and thought about it. I knew that Taekwondo is really big around the world. People use it to defend themselves, but it also teaches discipline, and that’s a good thing for people my age and younger. I’ve always watched martial arts movies. I’ve always loved those movies, and I’ve always been interested in all of the martial arts. The more I thought about it, I decided that, yes, I want to try Taekwondo.” And so, Miss Xai and iYa found itself with a new student.

After a single lesson, Matthew was convinced he’d made a great decision. Like his instructor when she was back in college, he was instantly hooked. I thought, “Whoa! It feels so good! It made me feel better, free! And, another thing, I met a lot of new people, younger students and older students, and they felt like a family really quick.” That feeling of family seems to be a recurring theme with everyone who is involved in classes at iYa. “We go through a lot together,” explains Miss Xai. “We kick and punch each other, yes, but we encourage and love each other, too—you can’t get any closer than that! There is a feeling of mutual respect and support among the students that’s a little difficult to explain.”

When the opportunity came up for Matthew to compete in the State Championships at the Fresno Convention Center in April, Miss Xai encouraged Matthew, now a Green Belt, to participate. “I was a little hesitant” says Matthew, “but my fellow students were really supportive. They pulled me through and gave me the confidence to do it.” Despite Matthew’s reluctance, he emerged from the competition with a 1st Place in Sparring, and a 2nd Place in Poomsae, or “Forms”. Nationals were slated for May. “I was a little shocked by my success in Fresno,” he beams, “But I said, ‘I’ve got to do this!’ and I signed up.”

Nearly 5,000 athletes registered to compete for gold medals in the USA Taekwondo 2014 National Championship at the San Jose Convention Center, Sunday morning, July 6, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. And Matthew was one of them. When he left that day, he had earned the official National Championship in Sparring in his division, and he also came in 3rd in Forms. “Please mention this in whatever you write,” he asks. “I would not have made it this far without my teammates from iYa. We push each other and support each other. It means everything to me. And Miss Xai gave me the confidence and motivation that I needed to carry me through this. I couldn’t have done this without these people.”

You get the feeling that’s it’s a little more than the great instruction at iYa that propels students like Matthew Pimentel to do great things out in the world. There’s more to it than that. Gaps are being filled in the lives of the students, and Xai Lor has clearly received as much as she’s given, as well. iYa has become the confluence where all these individual streams have come together to form one great river. It’s carrying all of these valuable principles that are taught at the school—things like courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit, and victory—and headed out into society. Here’s hoping that it can bring some kind of balance in a world gone crazy.

“The Pocket Watch” appears in every issue of the Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at jeff.dominguez@yahoo.com

Janey Way Memories #129: Torremolinos

I discharged from the U.S. Army in Europe during April of 1971. After that, I travelled through Austria, Yugoslavia and Italy with my friend Jeff Lucas. Then we had to return to West Germany in July so Jeff could go back to the Pennsylvania to interview for a teaching position.

After arriving back in Germany, we sold our car and I bought a train ticket for Barcelona, Spain. I left Germany the next day, and when I arrived in Barcelona, I went straight to a camp ground called the Laughing Whale. It sat right on a beautiful section of Mediterranean beach and teamed with European travelers.

Once there, I pitched my tent and went right down to the beach. There, nestled on the sand, were three Australian guys I had met in Venice, Italy. They were very happy to recognize a fellow traveler so I sat down next to them and struck up a conversation.

They had been in Barcelona for about a week and were planning to travel up to Pamplona in the north of Spain for famous “running of the bulls.” They asked me if I wanted to come along. I said yes, and two days later, off we went.

We went to Pamplona, ran with the bulls, and partied for about three straight days before heading off for Torremolinos on the southwestern coast of Spain in an area called Costa del Sol (the sun coast).

We arrived there three days later, and took up residence in a camp ground located next to a resort with a high rise hotel, restaurant, bar and massive swimming pool.

We went right down to the hotel to check out the scene. It was crawling with European travelers, mostly young women, there on summer holiday. We had discovered paradise.

We took up a strategic location in the bar, ordered beer, and checked out the action by the pool. I noticed immediately that a group of guys were sitting near the pool, playing guitars and attracting a crowd. So I pulled my harmonicas out of my pocket and went down to join them.

Once there, I blew a few notes and figured out they were playing traditional blues songs in the key of A. Then, I started accompanying them with my harmonica. After finishing an instrumental song, they asked me if I would sing a song. I said yes, and told them to play “Little Red Rooster” in the key of A. It went great. They liked my singing and my harmonica playing, and I hung out with them the rest of the day. I already loved Torremolinos.

I ended the day with an attractive young French girl named Lucianne. Life was good.

I spent several weeks with the Australians in Torremolinos. We went to a bull fight, featuring the famous matador, El Cordoba. We travelled up the coast to Malaga, where we spent an afternoon in a Bodega drinking fortified wine and eating tapas, mostly fresh sea food.

I had a fabulous time there. It was the perfect time and place for a young American man to be in that wonderful sea coast city. Now it’s just another incredible Janey Way memory.

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

Óscar Jaenada is "Cantinflas"  Image: Lionsgate
The MPAA has rated this PG

Loinsgate’s Pantelion Films’ “Cantinflas” is a dramatic biography of Latin America’s comic of the people, Mario Moreno Cantinflas. Director Sebastian del Amo offers us a view of the famous icon’s life from his first break in show business in 1931 Vera Cruz, where he started by sweeping up in tent auditorium shows. He had his first break there, and then garnered fame in Mexico, the world, and even in the United States with the release of Michael Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days” in 1956.

The movie is in Spanish and English. Framing the great moments of Cantinflas’ life, told in flashbacks, is the second story of “Around the World in 80 Days” produced by Mike Todd (Michael Imperioli) who tries to get the movie off the ground but has trouble finding established actors to play the famous cameo roles in that film classic for free in 1955. He’s banking on Cantinflas’ participation at a press conference to secure the investors and keep the ones he has.

Óscar Jaenada has masterfully captured the essence of the real legend that he’s playing. Not only in movements, but in the timber and vocal delivery, which is brilliantly close to the performer known by millions worldwide, even today. The original theater program from “Around the World in 80 Days” notes that his stage name of Cantinflas, which had no meaning when he conceived it, has become, because of his overwhelming popularity, a part of the Mexican language. As a verb, “Cantinflear” means talk much, say little and indulge in frenetic non sequiturs similar to his patter.

I enjoyed this movie very much, and although there were some art direction elements that were slightly incorrect, the overall effect and performances show you intimately the gifted and fabulous man that won the hearts of the world.

The title sequence is fun, featuring a Mexican “Hedda Hopper” style female voice over in Spanish that was worded so accurately and phrased so perfectly in the movie publicity parlance of 1956, it almost brought me to tears. This female voice sets up the era and Mike Todd frame story of this film.

Also represented by actors in this movie are some of the truly greatest artists of Mexican cinema, music, photography and art, such as cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, musician and pianist Augustin Lara, Dolores Del Rio, Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, Gloria Marin, Lupita Tovar, Diego Rivera, and countless others. The production is quite good.

According to Charlie Chaplin in 1956, “Cantiflas is the world’s greatest comedian.” You’ll see that here, and how respectfully and beautifully this production is mounted. Scenes from Cantinflas’ movies are recreated in perfect detail. You’ll want to stay through the credits at the end, too, as the left side of the frame features a recreation of Cantinflas’ legendary dance to Ravel’s Bolero. This is a wonderful time at the movies and I encourage you not to miss it.

Janey Way Memories: The Downtown Dealer’s Association

After finishing my two-year tour of duty in the U. S Army, I returned home to Janey Way in October 1971. The old neighborhood seemed really different. Almost all of my friends had moved away. However, my friend Randy Puccetti, who still lived at home, soon came by. He told me that the Janey Way boys had formed a slow-pitch softball team and encouraged me to join.

So, despite the fact I had not played baseball since Little League, I showed up, mitt in hand and prepared to play in the next game. My good friend, Jim Ducray, who coached the team, said I can only play you three innings Mart, we have too many players tonight.

Then he handed me the team jersey, a T-shirt emblazoned front and back with the following: “Downtown Dealer’s Association.” I laughed. This was a veiled reference to the plethora of pot dealers now living in the downtown area. Then, out I ran to my new position: Right field (where the weakest player on the team goes). No problem. I would soon rectify that assignment.

I got off to a bad start though. In the third inning a guy hit a towering pop fly at me. In my rush to catch the ball, I overran it, and the ball trickled off the end of my glove, allowing a run to score. After that, I ran to the dugout where I remained for the rest of the game. So much for good starts. Fortunately, we won the game.

The next game turned out better for me. Our team fielded just enough players that evening, so I got to play the whole game. It proved a tight game with the lead seesawing back and forth. But, by the fifth inning we led 8 to 6, as we ran out to the field.

Randy, our pitcher, fielded a weak grounder for the first out. But then, he got into trouble. He walked one batter, then another, putting men on first and second base. The next hitter popped out. With two outs, Randy walked the next batter. The bases were loaded. A hit would likely empty the bases, erasing our lead. The situation grew tense.

With a right handed batter up, I edged over toward Bill Jones, our center fielder. In high school, he had played on the varsity team at Sacramento High School. Randy threw the next pitch, a ball. Then he proceeded to fill the count at 3 and 2. The next pitch was critical. We were on the tips of our feet. Randy hurled the pitch: a strike. The batter swung, cracking a hard line drive to center field. I broke toward the ball. Bill Jones held his ground preparing to field the ball on one bounce. I kept running. As the ball hurtled toward the ground, I bent down, arm extended, and the ball popped into my mitt. I immediately stood straight up extending my arm to show the ump I had caught the ball, and he yelled, “You’re out.”

I looked back and Jones. His eyes were as big as silver dollars. Then I ran in toward the dugout past the flabbergasted Puccetti. As I passed him, I said, “Come on bud, it’s time for us to hit.”

We won the game, 12 to 4.

Needless to say, I started every game from that day forward at my new position, left field. The team had a good season, finishing in second place. One of the teams with sponsorship and full baseball uniforms won the league.

The Downtown Dealer’s Association never played again after that year; I went on to play soccer, a sport I truly loved. Now my days of playing on that storied team are just another hard hitting Janey Way memory.


Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

“If I Stay”

The MPAA has given this a PG-13 rating.

Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line all got together to bring you “If I Stay”, based on Gayle Forman’s book which relates the experience of a young lady in a terrible car crash who has an out-of-body experience. Whilst in a coma, following the accident, she recalls the joys and pains in her life. She must come to terms with herself: should she choose to live or die.

Miss Chloe Grace Moretz is Mia, an applicant to the Julliard School waiting to find out if she has been accepted for advanced cello studies. Her parents are played by Mireille Enos who you might have seen in “World War Z”, and Joshua Leonard of “The Blair Witch Project”.

As Mia goes over the key points in her life, good and bad, much time is spent on the love of her life, a rocker played by Jamie Blackley. They come from diametrically opposite musical passions, yet share an attraction that blossoms as we experience Mia’s memories.

John de Borman’s composition, lighting, and photography are exquisite. The shots are held for maximum effectiveness, without unsettling quick cutting. I liked very much that this movie took its time to tell its story, and that the shots were held for long, lingering lengths allowing for you to fully comprehend the content of the images. There was one plot flaw that haunted me throughout, but it did not take away my overall appreciation for this good movie.

“The Expendables 3”

The MPAA has given this a PG-13 rating

Loinsgate brings us more major film stars in one movie than it is easy to count with “The Expendables 3,” another story of macho daring-do penned by the lead in the movie, Sylvester Stallone. In this new installment, Barney Ross (Stallone) recruits a young, fresh, new team to go into a special operation after putting the old guard out to pasture. He’s up against Conrad Stonebanks, played by Mel Gibson, the co-founder of the Expendables who apparently did not die previously, and now is an arms dealer ready to take out Barney and his crew, old or new.

The rest of the cast is impressive: Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, Randy Couture, Antonio Banderas, and Dolph Lundgren!

I was brought back to a fun time in my childhood when I played with green army men, and knocking over 40 at once, which did not kill anyone in real life. This movie has this feel; you just check reality at the door and latch on for the ride. Mel Gibson is fantastic in his cool hatred. You may even actually understand Stallone when he speaks.

The photography of Peter Menzies, Jr, (No relation to famous production designer William Cameron Menzies) is quite good with some nice compositions for the wide screen. Happy this was not in 3-D. So nice to see the aging A-list action heroes have fun laughing with themselves and kudos to them for still working.

They write the songs in Land Park

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

An artist can’t record a song without the words and music of a songwriter, but a catchy ditty with a good hook line can catapult an artist to the top.

The recording artist is always on the lookout for THAT BIG HIT.

That’s where the Nashville Songwriters Association International comes into play. NSAI is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and pro members spans the United States and six other countries. NSAI is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all musical genres.

The Northern California chapter is located right here in Sacramento and has more than 450 members.

The Northern California Chapter of the NSAI gathers at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on the second Wednesday night of each month. They get together to discuss and share their songs, bouncing ideas off of one another in a supportive and collaborative way. It’s a great way for them to inspire each other and have fun too.

I spoke with Gabrielle Kennedy, who is the Northern California coordinator for the NSAI and she told me, “We have pros, people that make their living being songwriters and musicians, come to Sacramento from Nashville quite often.”

A wide range of music industry professionals travel from Nashville several times a year to visit the local chapter of the NSAI. Last month, Rick Beresford, best known as the writer of the George Jones hit “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will,” hosted an all day workshop and gave feedback to folks attending. In September, Dan Hodges, a prominent music publisher, will be looking for songs to pitch to today’s country stars in a special event being held at Sidedoor Studios in Fair Oaks.

Another special event that will be held in late September is a workshop called “Arranging The Hits,” where writers can find out how to write and record their songs to sound like commercial hits. Larry Beaird from Nashville-based Beaird Music Group will be hosting the workshop. He’s one of Nashville’s top musicians who has played on the recordings of stars like Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Trace Adkins.

Members of the NSAI get feedback based on what their goals are. “Not everybody’s goal is to be on the radio, but if your goal is to be on the radio, then there is a certain type of structure that’s more common. You want it to be catchy and have a good hook,” Gabrielle said.

Most country music artists do not write their own songs, but there’s actually a greater opportunity in country versus pop to be a songwriter because your chances of getting something commercially cut are greater. “But it’s really tough,” Gabrielle told me.

If you are a member of the NSAI, you can send a song in once a month and they’ll have a pro critique it for you and send it back. You get professional guidance.

Members are also supporting one of the only organizations that go to Congress and lobby for the rights of songwriters. “That’s what NSAI’s primary purpose is,” Gabrielle said.

You’re paying a yearly due to fight legislation and to make sure your rights as a songwriter are protected. Right now they’re trying to get the royalty rate for songwriters increased for digital music. Currently the songwriters get 9 cents, and if they collaborate, they have to divvy that up.

NSAI is more important than ever due to the digital world like streaming music through Pandora. Pandora is a little “loosey goosey” when it comes to reporting which songs and artists are being listened to. It’s very difficult to keep track.

Gabrielle, who worked for CBS/Sacramento radio 10 years ago, set her radio career aside and decided to pursue her music dreams. She initially started a band with her sister called Gabscourt. Her sister got married and had two children and that left Gabrielle to continue to pursue her singer-songwriting career alone.

Gabrielle excitedly told me it looks as though she may get her first label cut soon. An artist named Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Records and he’s going to be coming out with his first album after the first of the year. They wrote a song five years ago with “some guy from Bermuda named Richard” as they like to refer to him.

Richard Bassett and Gabrielle actually met at an NSAI event in Lake Tahoe and began to collaborate. A Nashville publisher came to Sacramento at an NSAI event and she pitched the song to him and he loved it! He thought they both had a lot of talent so he invited them to come to Nashville to write with some seasoned Nashville writers.

“That was my first introduction about how Nashville does its songwriting. From that initial trip, I met Caanan and we all started writing songs together. One of those songs we wrote with him is looking like it’s gonna be a part of his first album,” Gabrielle said.

I mentioned to her “I bet that’s exciting,” and she told me, “Until it’s at Target or I can go to iTunes to buy it, I’m not gonna believe it til I see it.”

The song titled, “This Cigarette,” is about how a love, or person you’re in a relationship with, can treat you like their cigarette. “It’s kind of gritty country,” Gabrielle told me.

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

In a matter of time

You’re gonna burn me again
Light me up just long enough
For me to feel like it’s something
You’ll give me what I want
Pressing me to your lips
But you’ll put me out again
Like the end of this cigarette

She sent me the demo and I have a feeling the song will be headed to iTunes and the Target on Broadway next year!

You also may run into Gabrielle in the aisles at Target too, since she’s a Land Park resident.

Another member of the local chapter of the NSAI is Ted Bazarnik. He also lives in Land Park. He’s 72 years old and he’s not satisfied sitting around watching Matlock reruns, although he did quip, “I sometimes do that too.”

“When I was young, I was a musician,” Ted said. He started making music when he was about 16 years old in Auburn, New York. Mainly rock and roll and R&B. They performed on the college circuit: Syracuse University, Cornell, Colgate, and all those places back in the 1950s into the 1960s.

His band was called “Chuck Rubberlegs Shady and the Esquires,” which is quite a mouthful.

He decided to get out of the music business and go into law enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice and worked for the University of California Police Department for 20 years. When he retired, he went to Utah and worked for the State Department Of Public Safety for 17 years and while he was in Utah he became interested in country music.

Ted went from fighting crime to writing country songs.

“I dated a cowgirl for awhile and she loved country music.” It kind of rubbed off on Ted. “She loved to sing along to all the country songs in the car.” He thought the music had great storytelling.

Ted was inspired to write her a song and everybody loved it. It was called “A Girl Named Tracey.” They still keep in touch to this day.

He got serious about song-writing once he moved back to California. Ted thought to himself, “I need something to do. I’m too old to get out on the road and play clubs and stuff…I’m 72 and have bad knees. But my brain still works!”

He started surfing the web and found NSAI. He went down to Nashville to visit a friend and he “fell in love with the place. I absolutely went crazy. I stopped by the NSAI office and told them, ‘sign me up.’”

When he got back to Sacramento, he contacted Gabrielle Kennedy, who headed up the Sacramento chapter, and that’s how it all started.

Ted isn’t afraid of technology either. He uses Facebook regularly and even pitched his first demo via Skype. He pitched it to Curb Records and they loved so much they added it to their catalog. He also pitched the demo at a local NSAI workshop. Steve Bloch, who has a publishing company in Nashville, liked it and took it with him back to Nashville. It’s a big deal having a music publisher put a song in their catalog. The song is called, “Wish I May.” The idea came to Ted while he was sitting on his deck and he had the TV going at the same time. As Ted tells it, “I heard the Disney ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ that comes on before the movie…and I thought I’ll write a song about wishes.”

“Wish I May” is about a guy who’s been searching for somebody special and he knows that somebody special is out there for him.

Ted regularly collaborates with the other members of the NSAI including Chris Burrows of Sacramento and singer-songwriter Andrea Stray who lives in San Francisco. He appreciates the collaborations and thinks it makes the songs much better when there are different voices and talents contributing. He’s definitely not a one-man band.

Ted stays really active and gets out and goes to local concerts. He went to the Palms Playhouse in Winters to see singer-songwiter Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. He also recently saw Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Ted attended the Kiss concert with one of his sons when they came to town. It was on his bucket list.

Ted really doesn’t date, he says, because he’s “having too much fun.” He told me his wife passed away from cancer back in 1997 and he would do anything to have her back. “I’ll never find anybody like her. When you find a jewel, it’s pretty difficult to find another one.”

After his wife passed, he did meet a couple of women, like the cowgirl in Utah, but he pretty much focuses on his songwriting, friends, and family these days.

“I fell in love with this songwriting thing and we have a great group of people. This group has brought me more happiness than you’ll ever know.”

Ted loves the songwriting process, heading to Nashville, going to the meetings, and the studio, and meeting all the artists. Ted said, “For me, it’s a brand new world.”

Ted’s ultimate goal is to get one of his songs recorded by an artist, which is very difficult because in Nashville alone there’s over 45, 000 writers. “The thing is if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen. I’m having a hell of a good time trying,” Ted said.

To learn more about the Sacramento chapter of the NSAI call 476-5073 or e-mail Gabrielle Kennedy at Gabrielle@Gabscourt.com They’re also on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/NSAISacramentoChapter