Ridding one's self of a troublesome year of personal struggles, economic hard times, and worries about the future is not an easy task.
But, the promise of a New Year breaking at Midnight has inspired the hopeful to shrug off the blues (wash that grey right out of their hair!) and face 2012 with optimism.
With that in mind, revellers will be tossing on a festive hat and streaming into the streets in droves tonight to kick up their heels, rattle quite a few noise-makers, and toast their best buds (and anyone who staggers their way!) with a glass or two of chilled bubbly.
In San Francisco, thousands are expected to turn up full of glee - and at-the-ready to party-hearty at the harbour, where a spectacular fireworks display will be waiting to dazzle 'em when the big "ball" falls and the clock strikes midnight at the "bewitching" hour!
In fact, over the past twenty-four hours, city workers have been preparing for the onslaught of tipsy guests!
There will be many road-blocks, and a lot of restricted parking areas, so the worldly-wise may want to take advantage of free transportation being offered up by both Muni and Bart into the wee hours of the early morn!
Around town, the tony elite will be swarming in to trendy nightclubs to toast the town, too.
For those with an exotic flair for the dramatic, the annual Masquerade Ball at the San Francisco Symphony, is a sure bet!
Meanwhile, a posse of nature lovers are expected to take the trek out on the "N" train to catch the celebrations at Ocean Beach.
The truly hearty may pitch a tent, and spend the night, so they can jump up at the crack-of-dawn and participate in the Polar Bear swim!
In that event, a few hot toddies may be in tall order so they don't catch their death of cold!
Yesterday afternoon, ING - the bank with the ubiquitous presence on the Internet - splashed downtown San Francisco with a dollop of brilliant "orange" at their spanking-new ING Direct Cafe launch - which got underway at about 2 p.m. in the middle of the afternoon just off Union Square.
While solemn bankers waited on bored customers shifting their feet back-and-forth at Chase and Citibank branches just a hop-and-a-skip away down the street - account-holders and potential new clients at ING lounged about high-tech environs (the orange and silver color scheme complemented the slate-black straight-back chairs, eclectic hardwood tables, and pricey bleached floors underfoot) as they tossed back imported ales, devoured delectable pastries (courtesy of "Wholesome Bakery" and "Sweet Constructions") and chatted up a stream of well-wishers there to tout the banking innovator's expansion in the Bay area.
At the sparkling new 17,000-square-foot facility (housed in the former Diesel apparel store) staff members have been skillfully trained to whip up lattes, answer questions about checking accounts and mortgages, and work the call center on the top floor.
Teller windows have gone by the way of the dinosaur, too.
Although there is an ATM on site, employees are barred from dispensing cash for banking purposes, go figure.
The "suits" behind the visionary attempt to transform the banking system are counting on account-holders (and potentially-new clients) to pop in and take advantage of their informal social hub for personal and professional reasons.
To facilitate that end, meeting spaces have been set up, which are equipped with iPad-controlled audiovisual equipment so that small businesses and nonprofits can hold gatherings for up to 40 or 50 people (at no charge).
San Francisco is the eighth city to be given the nod by ING Direct.
Due to poor planning (and a bad location) an ING Direct Cafe (near the 405 Freeway) hasn't fared too well, but ING's top honchos in San Francisco are optimistic about the prospects.
As I sipped my wine, and glanced around at the guests, it was evident to me that ING just may be able to pull off the coup of the year here!
Somehow I got the distinct impression that the cozy banking outlet may appeal to the almighty 99%, too!
"Even though 90 percent of our business is on the phone and Internet, people still want to connect and hang out," he explains.
"People want to know you are real and part of their community. People want to have conversations about money," one Exec piped up at press time.
"The cafe raises awareness of the ING brand - best known for its bright orange signage - and helps reassure people "who kind of trust the Internet but don't," a gentleman who identified himself as Mr. Kuhlmann says.
He underscored that opening a cafe usually leads to a 10 percent increase in interest locally in the opening of accounts.
According to ING Direct's enthusiastic reps - gushing with pride over the venture - the foreign-based banking institution boasts 7.5 million customers and $83 billion in deposits.
ING has developed a loyal following among customers who like its simple customer-friendly approach to banking apparently.
Kuhlmann says the backlash against traditional banks is working in its favor.
"We're a bit like Southwest Airlines. We don't take this banking thing too serious," he says.
ING Direct is the U.S. subsidiary of ING Group, a Dutch banking and insurance giant, that received a bailout in 2009.
As part of the bailout, the European Union required the parent company to sell its U.S. bank holdings and other subsidiaries.
This summer, Capital One Financial agreed to pay $9 billion in cash and stock for ING Direct USA.
The deal is awaiting regulatory approval.
ING Direct signed a 10-year lease on the Union Square property, so if you read between the lines - well - it looks like the deal may be a sure-thing.
The nifty eye-catching cafe was designed by Pompei A.D., which also has done work for retailers such as Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.
Half-asleep, I sauntered into the local Starbucks outlet in the financial district in downtown San Francisco bright-and-early the other morning, as I geared up to face a busy day ahead in the bustling metropolis.
As usual, I snatched up the morning Chronicle, paid for an "order" of Oatmeal with all the toppings, then slipped down at a table with a window on-the-world and proceeded to chow down on my breakfast and peruse the daily news.
Suddenly, without warning, I felt a jolt of pain in my jaw as a foreign object of some sorts got lodged inside my gum shortly after I embarked on my first bite of food.
What was the cracking sound?
Something was terribly amiss.
Shortly after I thrust my thumb and forefinger inside my cheek - and poked around for a second-or-two - I located the culprit alright (and quickly ejected it from the inner confines of my mouth).
A twig (or was it a stubby little stick?) was staring back at me in the face.
At this juncture - my stomach went heave-ho (I felt sick, after all) - as the image of the fair Maiden in the Starbucks logo began to spin before my very eyes.
Hold on, Julian, I found myself muttering to myself as a handful of startled guests stared in my direction clueless.
Of course, the unexpected turn of events begged a question.
Was the nasty little intruder laying-in-wait in the container of oatmeal all along, or was it a stray offering that came part 'n parcel inside the topping's packaging?
Until I receive word back from the execs at Starbucks in Seattle (after all, they've got some 'splainin' to do) I highly recommend that the lovers of Quaker-oaks be breakie cautious in the future at Starbucks.
Though the plot for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is pretty implausible - wildly far-fetched, in fact - once the obvious is dismissed there is a lot to be entertained by (though you wouldn't know it by the ill-conceived promos being broadcast on TV in recent days).
In fact, the off-beat intriguing potboiler - set in a picturesque European backdrop (where a demented serial killer lays in wait for the unsuspecting) - succeeds in stirring up quite a few spine-tingling chills and thrills for audiences packing the theatres in recent days.
For starters, it's in large part due to the lead actress - Rooney Mara (and her formidable acting talents) - who mesmerizes with every nuanced move on screen as she tracks down a vicious killer in the frozen north.
Rooney's high-profile role to date was that of Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend in last year’s hit feature “The Social Network" by the way.
Understandably, Daniel Craig (Bond. James Bond!) - though believable in his role as a journalist out to salvage his name and reputation after being slammed in the media - is upstaged here.
In fact, Ms. Mara seamlessly conjures up some of the most memorable onscreen celluloid moments - though ghastly squeamish and not for the faint-of-heart - in recent years.
In a nutshell?
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (a remake of a flick by Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev based on the Larsson bestseller) is a tall yarn about a father (Christopher Plummer) who hires on a crack investigator (Craig) to solve the decades-old disappearance (murder?) of his young daughter (in spite of the fact the clues are few and the trail stone cold).
It is not until Craig's character enlists the services of an unconventional tattooed researcher (Mara) - with a lot of baggage of her own (which threatens to topple the drama along the way in a sub-plot that is highly preposterous) that there is some headway.
At this juncture, filmgoers are swept up into a fast-paced suspense thriller - a real adrenalin rush - that is certainly worth the price of admission (from a visual and sexual standpoint at least).
The door is left wide-open for a sequel, of course, though Craig's studly star appearance won't be necessary to make sense of it all if the project is ever green lighted.
On occasion, Steven Spielberg takes the helm behind the camera - at which point - it becomes evident that the project is close to his heart.
When it comes to "War Horse" (a blah title for a film, by the way) the studio maverick has revealed his underlying passion for old-style traditional filmmaking replete with capable ensemble cast, exquisite period sets and costumes (with attention to lush precise details), and majestic panoramas bolstered up by flawless cinematography.
So, right out-of-the-gate, filmgoers can't help but be emotionally overwhelmed as they're nurtured along the "magic" storytelling trail - and eventually swept up - into the welcoming arms of the film's final climatic moments before the curtain rings down.
Unfortunately, for film buffs - and fans of the celebrated auteur - the Oscar-winning director chose to take a predictable route (formula filmmaking in true Hollywood style) to his detriment in this instant scenario.
Though, visually stunning and vastly entertaining - well crafted, too - "War Horse" ends up missing its cinematic mark in spite of Spielberg's deliberate attempt to seduce the audience into a romantic bygone era where unsung heroes populate a well-travelled terrain.
The tale starts off well, but quickly, gets bogged down in tired old film cliches and a heap load of sentimentality.
There's a thin line between being schmaltzy and heartwarming - and few are capable - of walking that tightrope with ease.
Sadly, this is the case with Mr. Spielberg this time out.
Though, the uncanny ability of God's creatures to survive long-suffering ordeals against all odds may be worthy of note - even ripe on occasion for the subject matter of a top-notch film - the script in this instant case fell short.
"Sea Biscuit" is a far better example of what may be accomplished when the the director (and filmmakers) are properly focused and the intentions are pure.
Julian first sauntered onto the stage in a production of "The Marriage Proposal" in 1968 (Chekhov).
First-time out, Ayrs won an "Award of Merit" from the Simpson's Drama Festival for his portrayal of the nervous suitor "Lomov".
Essentially, though, he started his career as a painter.
Ayrs was part of a group show of West Coast artists at the Galerie Allen (Gastown) in 1970.
On the heels of that exhibition, he was commissioned by the City of Vancouver to create kiosks for the downtown core (1972).
One-man Exhibitions followed at the Contemporary Royale Gallery (Vancouver) and Open Space Gallery (Victoria).
In 1973, Ayrs made an entrance onto the International Art scene when he was invited to exhibit his abstract-expressionistic paintings at the San Francisco Arts Festival.
During a brief visit to New York in 1974, Ayrs appeared off-off Broadway in a "Hot Peaches" spoof on the Andy Warhol stars.
The production was titled "The Magic Hype".
After his short stint on stage in that successful musical comedy, Warhol Star Jackie Curtis
invited Ayrs to appear in a special New Year's Show at the Fortune Theatre in the East Village.
Ayrs was first published in IS8 - a Coach House Press publication edited by Victor Coleman (Toronto).
In addition, a short story - Cottage Cheese - was broadcast on CBC Radio (Robert Chesterman / Producer).
Julian modelled in the early eighties.
His face has graced the pages of National ads for American Express, the Bay, Eatons, Big Steel, and Sears (to name a few).
Ayrs' fashion column - Dressing Right - appeared in the morning newspaper "The Province" (Southam News) for approximately two years after he gave up the fashion runway.
An acting bug catapulted the struggling actor into the exciting Film & TV industry full throttle when he moved to California.
Ayrs has appeared in parts on the popular soap "General Hospital"(Reporter), "Victims for Victims" (Doctor), "Murphy Brown" (Doorman), and Fox Studio's big-budget comedy "How I Got into College" (Harvard Recruiter).
Drawing on his background in writing, Ayrs pursued a career as a Literary Agent for the next two years at Wallack & Associates and the Camille Sorice Agency respectively.
An opportunity to pen a blog for a Fox Network Show "On the Lot" - not only opened up a new well of creativity - but the opportunity for Ayrs to flex his visionary skills in several areas of the arts such as writing, film & video, web design, etc.
Then, Ayrs sequed into film reviewing.
Currently, he is a well-known film critic in the Los Angeles Area.