Friday, April 18, 2014

The Wildlife of Irvine

I'm always surprised when I happen across nature in an urban area. I must clarify that I don't mean in a park or beach or greenbelt or some city-designated wildlife area. I'm talking about a skunk shambling across 7th Street or a cormorant lounging by Snow White's Wishing Well in Disneyland.

The beauiful bird in the picture -- an egret, I think -- perched on one of the pine trees in my office building's courtyard. Luckily, my office is on the 2nd floor, so the bird was mere feet from me (with a window separating us). We crowded around the window warching it for about 10 minutes before heading back to our desks. A nice little treat for Good Friday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

More Weekend Culture

Sunday, the culture continued, this time with me taking my Sister-in-Law to the Museum of Latin American Art. The museum's less than a mile from my apartment -- and provides free access every Sunday -- so I convinced her to join me for the Frida Kahlo exhibit, featuring roughly 200 photographs from her personal collection at La Casa Azul. The images were of people and places that inspired her or showed her in various stages of her life: as a child; in traction at the hospital after one of her many surgeries; dressed in traditional Mexican clothing; with Diego Rivera. Some were from her own camera, others from her photographer father Guillermo. We wandered through the rooms for two hours, admiring the glimpses into both her personal and creative lives, stepping back into Mexico of the early 20th Century.

Afterwards, the museum staged a portion of their private collection featuring images of fantasy from Latin America ranging from dark political images to lighthearted flights of fancy. We had a wonderful time, and it dawned on me during lunch a short time later that this was the first time that just the two of us had done anything together. Usually, she and my Brother would drive up for dinner with Caesar and myself, or we met at family functions. This was a nice opportunity to talk and laugh.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Exploring Caves...Musically

We drove to a bit theater Saturday night, but not for a big show. The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts normally seats about 1250 people, but for Saturday night's performance, the builders blocked off the auditorium from the auditorium view, creating a three-sided square with about 180 chairs on the main stage. The more intimate setting felt right for the production of Floyd Collins. The musical centers on a Kentucky cave explorer, Floyd Collins, who was exploring Sand Cave (which later became part of the Mammoth Caves). After squeezing his way through tight tunnels, he leg becomes trapped after a small cave in. The musical follows the media circus that ensued with his family doing whatever they could to free him from the cave, as well as recounts Floyd's experiences as told to a reporter "Skeet" Miller who was covering his first major story.

Definitely not your typical fodder for a musical, but this turned out to be a fantastic experience. The score from Adam Guettel felt folksy and haunting, with some bluegrass thrown in for good measure, and all the voices -- especially Mark Whitten as the title character -- brought it to miraculous life. Tina Landau's book intertwined the family heartache with the news frenzy surrounding the rescue attempt, making for a compelling tale. And the smaller stage added to the claustrophobic quality of Floyd being trapped and allowed for some clever staging that would have been lost on a much larger audience.

We both enjoyed the intimacy of being on the stage, in the thick of the action. It felt more as though the show was being performed just for us and was such a refreshing change from sitting with a thousand other people in a big cavernous auditorium.

Image from Cast Album Review.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

iTunes Saturday - Commercial

Many advertisers rely on using music with which the public is already familiar and aligning it with a product, like when Nike used Revolution from the Beatles to sell shoes. Music connects us to a feeling that we somehow transfer to the product, whether good or bad. On the opposite end, sometimes the music goes beyond the advertising, finding life outside of the product it was meant to push. Such is the case with my iTunes selection this week. I remember the commercial started with a few lone bass beats as a car drove through city streets at night. And a woman in the passenger seat sticking her arm out the window to do a little robotic movement. Sadly, I forget what car brand this was for, so I am unable to find the commercial. But I still love the song. Days Go By by Dirty Vegas:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quickie Book Review: Dead City

by Joe McKinney

The gulf coast of Texas suffers five hurricanes in three weeks, leaving thousands dead and displacing even more. San Antonio was thankfully spared much of the devastation, but even so, Office Eddie Hudson and the rest of the police force face a busy night with the influx of survivors...and something else. During a routine call about a possibly burglary, Eddie and his partner Chris spot a lone woman, disoriented, moving slowly, with something spilled across the front of her shirt. As they watch, a few more people stumble out of a nearby building, with the same slow movements, but they don't notice the officers. Then, Eddie and Chris call out to them, and the group shambles toward them, paying no attention to the officers' calls to stop. They fire bean bags rounds at the advancing group without so much as slowing them down and soon find themselves surrounded.

The situation goes from bad to worse when Chris is knocked to the ground by a woman who begins clawing and biting him. With some effort, Eddie frees his partner and they manage to escape for a time. All the while, Chris begins to show signs of sickness and quickly deteriorates. It's only when he dies then comes back to life that Eddie realizes how truly horrific the situation is.

Racing against time -- and a horde of the waling dead -- Eddie's only thought as he fights his way across San Antonio is for his wife and newborn son's safety.

Dead City is full of a relentless (and gruesome) zombie goodness. Just when you hope Eddie's safe, more of those slow-moving terrors somehow rat him out of his hiding hole, and you wonder right along with him where the hell they keep coming from. The story moves at an incredibly fast pace, keeping me riveted at this one night in the life of Eddie Hudson trying to reach his family. And I wouldn't want to run into Eddie -- any survivors he found wound up as zombie food.

If you're in the mood for a quick zombie fix, this is a great book to satisfy your cravings.

Dead City
by Joe McKinney
Pinnacle Books
mass market paperback, 288 pgs.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Pics from Last Night

The fundraiser turned out well, last night, with probably 200 people in attendance. We bid on a few items, such as dinner for four with Dodger legend Manny Mota, and were quickly outbid by people with much, much, much more mo ey than I will ever see. At least the food was decent, and the hotel beautiful.

Beautiful carved ceilings. Original chandeliers. The grandeur of the 1920s all around. But the modt interesting iyem on display turned out to be a gown created and worn by a socialite on the opening of the hotel.

Hand painted to resemble the ceiling ofone of  the ballrooms. It draped a mannequin behind glass in the lobby hallway, along with an old-time photograph of it being worn by the same socialite. 

It was a fun evening.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

iTunes Saturday - Porter

Tonight, we're headed to the Biltmore Hotel for a fundraiser, some type of swanky event held every two years by Caesar's company. The theme this year is The Great Gatsby, and since neither of us has anything closely related to that period of American history in our wardrobes, we forced ourselves to a little shopping this afternoon. I must say that I love the Perry Ellis Outlet Store -- I am the proud owner of a stylish black vest (normally $69.50, purchased for $29.99) and a purple and black checkered tie (normally $50.00, purchased for $14.99). Put that together with my long-sleeved white shirt and charcoal gray slacks, and I actually look presentable. Almost Gatsby-ish.

What does all this have to do with iTunes? Well, my choice for this week is a song from Cole Porter that thought it fit into the Jazz Age feel for tonight's festivities. It's from his hit 1934 musical set aboard the S.S. "American" headed for London. The song: Anything Goes performed by Sutton Foster from the 2011 Broadway revival.