Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Call for Brentwood/Westside Bloggers, Reporters, Videographers, Columnists and More!

As you probably already know, I'll be joining AOL's next week to build, run and grow Los Angeles' new, which I plan to launch before the end of the year.

This means I need Brentwood-located and Brentwood-conversant bloggers/freelancers/columnists/critics/reporters to write about sports, arts, food, schools, health, business, government, roads, politics, culture, films, real estate, local business, restaurants, playgrounds, parking and more. Everything you'd want in a "hyperlocal" news source, we're gonna have it. Videos! Photos! Cartoons! What do you have to add to the community conversation?

This may not be for you but it may be for yours. pays fast and fairly and a bird in the hand, etc. Recent grads? Bloggers? Opinionated person? Prep sports freak? We want you!

If you're in Brentwood, or have friends in Brentwood, please forward them this blog post and ask them to email me, with a brief bio and pitch.

Here are my recent contributions to local sites: -- check 'em out and you'll see the kind of stuff we're looking for. Videos, too!

As you can see, we are an Equal Opportunity Employer and do not discriminate on the basis of home planet.

Ping our people and we'll ping yours!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

VIDEO: L.A. Youth Orchestra Opens Season at Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra (LAYO) opened their first season at the Saban Theatre Sunday with Beethoven, Mozart, Berlioz and international star Theodore Bikel.

The Oscar-nominated actor and musician joined Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist Mitchell Newman in a new orchestral piece commissioned by the Daniel Pearl Foundation. "Stories From My Favorite Planet," written by LAYO maestro Russell Steinberg, highlights the words of the Encino journalist (and youthful violinist) who was killed by terrorists.

The Concert Orchestra played works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin and Tschaikovsky, the LAYO Chamber Orchestra offered up Mozart and Mendelsohn. Members of the LAYO Brass Quintet entertained during intermission.

Video by Dennis Wilen for

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Not Hogwarts, But Short Avenue Elementary is Full of Enchantment

The French Club meets in the new Wonder of Reading Library, funded by the Annenberg Foundation.

  • Parents, teachers and community join forces and neighborhood school magically rises to head of the class

A magic triangle of committed teachers, involved parents and knowledge-hungry students has moved Del Rey's Short Avenue Elementary School close to the top in California's Academic Performance Index (API) ratings.

Story continued @

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I made an emotional video with Jennifer Aniston

Short Life Affirming Film starring a laughing Jennifer Aniston, Ricki Lake, Corbin Bernsen, Amanda Pays, Rocki Gardener, Larry Law, Beach Dickerson, Daniel McDonald, Dukie Flyswatter, and see how many more celebrities you can find.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Theodore Bikel and Dr. Judea Pearl in Beverly Hills

Theodore Bikel (l) and  Judea Pearl
‎Judea Pearl (right) and Oscar-nominated Theodore Bikel posed together at the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra Concert (LAYO) Sunday at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.

LAYO played conductor Russell Steinberg's "Stories From My Favorite Planet," based on articles written by Daniel Pearl, Judea's son.

Bikel narrated and the LAPhil's Mitchell Newman guest-soloed on violin.

My video of the event will be online soon @

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another one bites the Patch

I'm pleased to announce I'll be joining the local operation next month.

If it all works out as planned, I'll be building, running and growing, here on Los Angeles' West Side.

The Brentwood neighborhood stretches from the Bel Air on the east, the San Fernando Valley on the north, Pacific Palisades to the west and Santa Monica and West Los Angeles to the south and is home to families and horses, small homes and huge estates, small business and big corporations, struggling college students and megamillionaires.

My aim -- as I detailed a year ago in this blog -- is to use the Web to give all my neighbors a voice online and that's exactly the business plan.  It's a perfect fit as far as I'm concerned!

I'm especially enthusiastic because is what's known as a "pure Internet play." The online presence is all there is; unlike my previous gigs as the Web guy for,,,,  there is no associated museum, newspaper, band/movie or art project underlying the site. We're electric, in the air, in the cloud 24/7.  No atoms, just electrons.

I don't know how much time I'll have for this blog, or hanging out on Facebook, but you know where to reach me. Until then, I hope your Thanksgiving will be as joyous as mine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Drunken status update embarrassment? There's an app for that!

Friends don't let friends drive drunk, and this new browser add-on will give you a Social Media Sobriety Test before you  post something online you might later  regret:

The Social Media Sobriety Test is a simple extension for Google Chrome and Firefox that administers a set of sobriety tests to keep you from drunkenly leaving a post on your boss's wall or sharing your margarita-fuelled musings via Twitter.
Similar to the "Mail Google" feature in Google Labs — which require you to solve math problems to deter late night drunken emails — Social Media Sobriety Test locks down your social networks, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Tumblr.
When you visit those sites between the hours specified in your settings, you'll have to take a "field" sobriety test, such as following a finger drifting around the screen with your mouse or indicating which side of the screen is blinking in a "Simon Says"-like puzzle.
Fail to pass the test and you can't log in to the social network. The Social Media Sobriety Test extension is half ingenious and half extremely clever marketing on behalf of its parent company Webroot which specializes in computer security suites.
This could have saved me a lot of trouble back in the day!

'Tis the season to be sadly

Are people more likely to get depressed in the cold, dark depths of Winter?

Conventional wisdom says yes, especially when it comes to residents of darker northern climes.

A group of Taiwan researchers data-mined several years of search queries to see if there was a link between season, location and depression.

Here's a description of their research from an abstract of their paper:
Seasonal depression has generated considerable clinical interest in recent years. Despite a common belief that people in higher latitudes are more vulnerable to low mood during the winter, it has never been demonstrated that human's moods are subject to seasonal change on a global scale. The aim of this study was to investigate large-scale seasonal patterns of depression using Internet search query data as a signature and proxy of human affect. 
And what did they find?  It's true!
Our study was based on a publicly available search engine database, Google Insights for Search, which provides time series data of weekly search trends from January 1, 2004 to June 30, 2009. We applied an empirical mode decomposition method to isolate seasonal components of health-related search trends of depression in 54 geographic areas worldwide. We identified a seasonal trend of depression that was opposite between the northern and southern hemispheres; this trend was significantly correlated with seasonal oscillations of temperature (USA: r = −0.872, p<0.001; Australia: r = −0.656, p<0.001). Based on analyses of search trends over 54 geological locations worldwide, we found that the degree of correlation between searching for depression and temperature was latitude-dependent (northern hemisphere: r = −0.686; p<0.001; southern hemisphere: r = 0.871; p<0.0001).
Our findings indicate that Internet searches for depression from people in higher latitudes are more vulnerable to seasonal change, whereas this phenomenon is obscured in tropical areas. This phenomenon exists universally across countries, regardless of language. This study provides novel, Internet-based evidence for the epidemiology of seasonal depression.
Good use of data mining to find news.

And there's more here: Journalism in the age of data 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beverly Hills School Board Fights Plans for Subway Under BHHS

[Originally published 10/27/2010] -- With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set to move closer to choosing a route for the Westside Subway Extension on Thursday, the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board voted Tuesday night to request $100,000 from the City Council to fight any MTA decision that calls for tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School.

"We need to hire lobbyists, attorneys and PR people," said Board of Education President Steven Fenton. He suggested a joint task force with two City Council members, the city manager, two BHUSD board members and Superintendent Richard Douglas.

"This keeps me up at night," Board Vice President Lisa Korbatov said. A subway under BHHS "is a juicy target for terror and a seismic event waiting to happen."

Click here to read more of my story at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nevadan Sharron Angle's media blackout campaign hits screenshot @ 5:29 p.m. today

Click on the photo for a bigger version

Speaking of lorem ipsum:
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Thank you Gangsta Lorem Ipsum page! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Horror Swarm at Beverly Hills Park

Eerily-clad denizens of the Beverly Hills Active Adult Club swarmed Roxbury Park Saturday afternoon -- and were video'd talking, laughing and cavorting to "big band music" from the last century.
A good time was had by all.
"Great outfits, great dancers," Senior Recreation Supervisor Jane Winston-Doman said. "We look forward to doing this every year."

Read the whole story @ PatchBeverlyHills!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prince explains his royal secrets

Published in The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Weekend, March 27, 1981

By Dennis Wilen

Sometimes even the most arcane mysteries have a simple explanation. The story behind the music of Prince is a good example. First of all, his name is not a monstrous conceit. Unlike Count Basie, the Duke of Earl and Screaming Lord Sutch, Prince is actually his given name. "It's really on his birth certificate," swears his publicist. "Only his last name is a secret."

OK. Then why, on his three albums, does Prince insist on writing the songs, playing virtually all the instruments singing 99 percent of the vocals and producing most of the tracks?

Prince himself revealed the truth in a recent interview. "It's simple," he said. "When I did the first record, I didn't have a band, so I had to do it myself out of necessity.

...To be continued as I type it all in by hand . . .

Friday, April 16, 2010

Root root root for the home team -- not!

Dear CBS News:

Traditions (or aspirations) of journalistic objectivity have long been held in abeyance for local sports scribes, who are expected to root root root for the home team.

Localites are similarly mesmerized by spectacle into thinking of the teams' fortunes as their own ("we got killed last night") even though they have neither management nor ownership stakes in the local profit-making sports entertainment troupe. They become "fanatics," often shortened to "fans."

OK, it's all a game and WTF is the fun if you can't choose sides? If you don't win it's a shame!

Which leads me to a network business reporter I heard on the local CBS News AM station, who, in reporting today's stock market losses (said by mindreaders to have occurred in response to the Goldman Sachs accusations), told his interlocutor back at the studio that "we were down over 100 points today blah blah blah."

WTF you mean "we?" Are you a Wall Street stooge?

You mean they. Them. Those *&^%$# people. The ones many folks think stole our 401Ks and IRAs and pensions and nest eggs and homes and jobs. You're WITH THEM? You and them are US?

Fuck you, asshole, I don't want another lying cheerleader. This isn't a game. If you don't win you could die.

You're not us. WE are not with you. Give us some objective reporting.


Dennis Wilen

P.S.: I turned the station off when the local anchor asked the San Diego reporter on the phone why a serial killer defendant decided to plead guilty. "I guess," started our long distance correspondent . . . "

CLICK. You guess? You (*&^%$ GUESS? On what was once The Tiffany Network? On the same radio frequencies as Edward R. Murrow? Fuck you!

O.K. I confess. I was a CBS Radio employee and always thought the network was a class act.

As a matter of fact, as part of Standards and Practices, I was assigned a particular network responsibility at WCAU-FM in Philadelphia (then known as Disco98) that required I go to Manhattan and train for a day or two and file reports back to HQ. I was mostly Production Director (I produced/dubbed/scheduled the commercials and other taped assets) but at the same time was the NY-designated "Manager of Continuity Acceptance."

This meant I was tasked with getting commercials on the air and at the same time SCREENING THEM for bullshit, adherence to CBS standards and the National Association of Broadcasters Code. Typically this meant sending back stuff with fake teletype news sounds or bogus alerts, fake going out of business sales, etc. or too much SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY with cheap reverb. The rule was you couldn't repeat the phone number or address more than three times.

Other commercials required special scrutiny.

If a spot came in for hair plugs, or weaves or hair replacements (Disco98's "Fascinatin' Rhythm" attracted both this kind of male listener and advertiser for whatever reason), I would send it back to the agency if it said the shit was undetectable. I made them add 'virtually' or some weasel word. Same with bogus scientific claims. This was a constant war I couldn't win, the local ad salesman pestering the boss and me, the powerless conflicted advocate of network policy and NAB codes.

Ah, CBS. They had gorgeous thick stationery in their Selectrics, and the official ink color was dark gray.

Not black ink on white, mind you. Dark gray. Classy

I shudder at what I hear on the air now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another relic: My Good God LP on Atlantic, 1972

This is the back cover, and there I am in the credits as producer.

I don't remember why I thanked Michael Cuscuna -- did he help hook me up at Atlantic?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finally -- a copy of one of my Rolling Stone articles!

Finally, one of my RS articles has appeared online!

I wrote for Rolling Stone so long ago (1970!) that the stories have never been archived digitally, and I surely never had enough forethought to save hard copies.

But thanks to a new Facebook friend, one of old pieces has hit the Intert00bZ.

Hard to read, I know, but aren't we all!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kiss me, I'm Jewish -- and Irish!

Tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day, is Dad’s birthday.

As long as I remember, our family has had fun with the coincidence of these two auspicious days, as we subtly mutate into Irish Jews, mostly at Dad’s expense.

We have given him presents like shamrock cufflinks and shamrock ties, green shirts and sweaters and endless dinners of corned beef and cabbage.

Dad, bless his heart, pretends like he likes it, and used to proudly point out that three times in recent history a Jew held the post of Lord Mayor of Dublin.

I hadn’t thought to look it up until today, but it’s all true, and the first Lord Mayor in question was The Honorable Bobbie Briscoe (photo above), a Sinn-Fein man elected for a one-year term in 1956 and again in 1961.  His son Ben also served as Lord Mayor.

After hearing that there was a Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, Yogi Berra allegedly said “Only in America!”
I say: Happy Birthday, Daddy!  grin

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bandwidth expands to fit the waste available meets Twitter

My long-time net.friend Joe Loong (who I met as [joelogon] on a text-based BBS and with  whom I spent many hours on IRC) just wrote about how sometimes less is more online.  You don't always need a GUI and avatars to chat.  Sometimes less is better.

My Web405 mailing list, in that sense, as a text list, embodies the Wikipedia definition of the McLuhan medium is the message meme with a to-the-point, no chrome format, and just may be the perfect way to simplify and focus conversations. Joe also discusses Twitter's directness as a communications boon

Here's [joelogon]'s blog post, which mentions, by the way, VOIDMSTR's LAW:

Communication Bandwidth: When Less Is More
by JOE LOONG on FEBRUARY 12, 2010
Tags : chat, irc, messaging, sms, text, twitter, voidmstr's law...
Categories : Being Social, Social Media, Twitter

Buzz up!

Way back in 1992, a friend of mine came up with the following supposition: “Bandwidth expands to fit the waste available.” It turns around the idea that content producers see unused capacity and come up with new ways to fill it up, and instead says that all this… stuff is
already out there, and that the means to deliver it forever lags behind, trying to catch up.

more @

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dear Dean Singleton: Make money online fast!

My colleague Steve Greenberg cartooned (above) and blogged about Dean Singleton's media merger plans. This was especially interesting to me because I almost was a Singleton employee.

In the waning weeks of 2009, I applied for an open position at, the online operation of the Los Angeles Daily News, formerly the Valley News. I was interested in the Online Editor position, a job I loved when I was at

The same day I applied, the Daily News editor called me back and asked if I would still be interested in the job if it only paid $70K annually. I told her I was indeed interested and we set up an interview for a few days later.

The interview went pretty well, I thought, and she asked me to prepare an email summing up what I would do as Online Editor, specifically how I would deal with Singleton’s plan to put some online content behind a pay wall.

Like Steve Greenberg, I’m not all that sure about Singleton, but you have to respect a guy who is so optimistic about the future both on and offline he bet big bucks on it. OK, leverage, other people’s money, BK, etc., but still he’s out there, trying.

I didn’t get the job (someone was promoted internally) but I thought you might like to see the little plan that ALMOST defined the next version of

Here's what I proposed: Opportunities ahead!

The shrinking print news hole is not a problem for -- it is an opportunity.

Paid online news thrives to the extent it adds value to wire copy and delivers vital local content available nowhere else.

Our team of talented reporters, photographers and editors is uniquely positioned to generate that content, and -- as I envision it -- is prepared to deliver it to web browsers and smartphones round the globe.

I believe we can offer content so useful it can command a price -- content you can only get at -- content so indispensable you don't want to leave the house without it.

Think about it: A local story limited to a 300-word news brief in the paper because of space can run *two or three pages* online, with videos, photos, sidebars, graphs, bullet points, pull-quotes, links to past stories about this subject, etc -- information you'll only find at

For example, if the brief is about another water main that blew down the hill,'s version features links to the DWP page, your councilman's page, audio of the call to 911, the mayor's complaint page, a Google map showing the road closures in your neighborhood, and a place for your comments.

I bet our photo staff could come up with giant-sized photos and users will happily upload their own snapshots and videos, too.

Deep local multimedia content. Interactive. Curated links and context (we're editors and that's what we do!) User-generated content. Community involvement.

However, if we build it, they will *not come* automatically.

The opportunity for the incoming Online Editor at also includes growing the audience, not only in quantity but also in the depth and quality of site visitors' engagement.

We don't want just lots of visitors; we want them exploring our online resources; we want them interacting with the site by clicking on audio and video links; we want them rating or commenting on blog posts, sending in news tips and letters to the editor and uploading pictures or videos. In essence, we want them to be a partner in creating what makes an exciting, must-read part of their day.

The target audience, and the source of The Daily News' credibility, is our loyal readership from the paper's near-century-long history in the San Fernando Valley; although the editorial scope of the paper has widened, The Daily News is still the Valley's hometown newspaper.

There are other sources for national and international focus. There is no other longstanding resource for local Valley news.

Maintaining and growing this home-town affiliation is a key element of my online editorial strategy.

Any local visitor to the site (or purchaser of the newspaper) is likely to share several broad sets of concerns with other Valley residents: the quality of our air and water, deteriorating roads, declining schools, rising prices, problems in the local economy, etc.

But local issues are only part of the content mix. Our wire-sourced and chain-sourced stories must feel local too. The more we cover these non-local issues (world, national, state) with a local angle, the more our content will involve readers. This means adding local interest to national and world stories.

Wire story: Web videos reveal Iran election protest violence. Sidebar: Iranian-Americans in Chatsworth smuggled 10,000 pen-shaped digital 'spy cams' to dissidents.

The more web news searchers see a unique angle on a routine story, the more they are likely to click to see the content. The 'localness' and uniqueness of these stories must be emphasized with keywords in the headlines and body copy -- a key to growth is editorial cooperation with sound SEO strategy.

Just a note: I'd like to see stories datelined with the appropriate neighborhood: Canoga Park, Arleta, North Hollywood, etc.

As we emphasize the broad horizontal coverage, we need to take a complementary approach to vertically-affiliated groups that might come for news about, say, the Armenian Catholic Church picnic or honor students at CSUN; we want them to stay to read up on water main breaks in Panorama City and how that might affect their drive to work or whether there will be construction going on in their neighborhood.

The site should lure our users to click from story to story, section to section, so that they are exposed to both our content and our advertisers as long as possible.

I'll reach out to ethnic and cultural groups, the PTAs, neighborhood councils, merchants, houses of worship and fraternal organizations. We'll empower them with their own blog, where they can announce the next club social and the open-mic night with the zoning board.

People like to see their names and pictures in the paper; we'll be reinventing the society page -- as online user-generated content. There would be no direct costs to us (except training of bloggers), much goodwill, and a way for our audience to generate their own stake in our online content.

We might also reach out to provide blogs to city council people, local congressional representatives and state legislators.

As we bring in these newcomers with vertical and horizontally-tailored content, we need to entice them to stay on the site. The means the new CMS should auto-generate links to related stories, other stories by this reporter and other stories in the section (i.e, Local, Breaking, World, etc.)

A redesigned home page would have a cleaner design, better navigation and fewer but more impactful items. It would also feature the best reader comments, the best/most popular blog posts, along with the most emailed and most viewed. I'd also feature interactive items higher on the page. It's important to get site visitors to click to play a video, click to vote, etc. I would also feature larger photos and make more use of photo slideshows.

When we met, I recommended more audio and video and the day-parting of some features. We already have the morning crowd; let's think about lunch-time chats for folks eating at their desks, and more traffic news from 4 to 7 p.m.

I'd also like to pick up the late night crowd (the people that aren't visiting us during office hours) with an all-night section -- available online say from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. ONLY.

Using the reverse psychology of the trendy disco club -- people want to get into the club they can't get into -- the exclusivity angle would make us an instant destination.

What's our Los Angeles Late Shift content?

Only on YouTube videos about the Valley, reader videos, people working the late shift, bloggers, students, re-Tweeted police blotter reports, re-Tweeted fire radio, re-Tweeted earthquake reports, off-beat news from AP and message boards. Late night talk radio for the WWW. Signup required. Email verification. EULA re 18 or over. Nothing X rated. This has the potential to generate traffic and revenue from otherwise idle fixed investments -- a concept popularized by fast food franchises serving breakfast and late night customers, not just lunch and dinner.

Finally, our efforts on the social net must be more human, more consistent and more useful. The automated Twitter feed needs to have a more informal voice, for example.

Summing up:

  • Build and grow identity as the Valley's local news source
  • Add value to world, national and state stories with local angle
  • Reach out to vertical markets (ethnic, neighborhood, church, school, etc.)
  • Increase visitors time on site with links to similar stories, other stories 'you may like'
  • Increase opportunities for actual physical interaction with more clickable items -- videos, audio, polls, comments, ratings. etc.
  • Deliver special day-parted content to day-time users (bigger traffic news plus maps from 4-8 p.m.?) and special all-night content
  • Encourage social networking (Web 2.0) with rating, commenting, sharing, etc. and Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I hope this is what you are looking for, Carolina, and look forward to discussing this mini-manifesto with you in more detail soon.

I think the day-parting of content with the no-accesss allowed proviso is especially promising.

Any of you media moguls out there want to take me up on the vision?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Java? I just meta!

Click on the image for a big version!