Monday, April 20, 2015

Black-crowned Night Heron

I spotted this Saturday morning while walking along the Veterans Memorial Pier.  Quite a magnificent bird, don't you think?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Quickie Book Review: The Holy Terrors

Bby Jean Cocteau

My book collection fills one shaky, IKEA-made book shelf, a smaller antique shelf next to my bed, and two shelves in a curio cabinet in the living room. Oh, and three stacks atop my dresser. The divide is about 50% "to read" and 50% "read but want to keep". The Holy Terrors (Les Enfants terribles) happens to fall into the latter group, and I decided to re-read it because...well, I don't remember exactly why I wanted to keep it. Other titles are a no-brainer for me: horror, ghosts, zombies, classic LGBT, classic world lit, plus I enjoyed reading them the first time.

The Holy Terrors begins with a group of boys having a snowball fight. Paul is hit by s snowball with a rock hidden inside, and for some reason, this act makes him an invalid. His friend Gerard manages to drag him home, where Paul's sister Elizabeth begins taking care of him. The two siblings are a strange pair, creating a world sll their own in shich they try to gain control over one another in The Game ( though I never understood what the Game actually entailed). In fact, after rereading, I'm not sure why I liked the story in the first place. Paul and Elisabeth seemed petty, spoiled and manipulative, and I didn't care for either of them. And their two compatriots -- Gerard and Agatha -- blindly follow them no matter what. 

I finished reading but without the enthusiasm I think that I once had for it. Opinions can change after a time, I guess.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bird Crazy

Bird watching has turned into something exciting for me. I look forward to my lunch breaks, being able to take a 30-minute walk around the Upper Newport Bay to catch a glimpse of the myriad birds. Or waking up early on rhe weekends to head for the Colorado Lagoon or the pier to catch a glimpse of sea birds.

That's a double-crested cormorant that I watched weaving through the water around some rocks today. And I was excited about it! But...I get the idea that I'm not supposed to be excited. A 44-year-old man should not be almost jumping for joy after spotting a bird. It's weird, and I notice others being "nice" to me about it. So do I keep my enthusiasm to myself?

I think so. Everyone is allowed to be enthused about something. Why not birds for me?

Thursday, April 09, 2015


Me, at the top of Haleakala on Maui, circa 1997.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Different Easter

I purchased tickets last October for a show without paying more attention to the performance date other than it was early April. This came back to haunt me a few weeks ago when I realized the tickets were for Easter Sunday. Not that my family follows religious traditions, but Easter has always served as a family day, getting together for lunch and falling asleep in front of the TV while a tennis match lingers on the TV.

But not this year. So instead, we treated my parents to lunch the day before, stemming some of my least in part. That left Sunday afternoon free to catch one of the two final performances of Carrie: The Musical.

A Stephen King tale of terror most likely is not what people would think of as material for a musical. But if you take a closer look at the story—a young girl being bullied both by her peers at school and her religiously fanatical mother at home—it actually sounds more like high opera, come to think of it.... With the bullying appearing in the news lately, the subject also seems a bit timely, though the story was originally published in the 1970s.

With music and lyrics from Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford (who both wrote the music for Fame), the stage musical version was originally created in 1988 and staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company before its fateful five-performance run on Broadway. (If you run a search on YouTube, you may even find a few videos of that original production.) The creative team got together again a few years ago and reworked the music and staging, crafting a smaller-scaled production that proved successful. Fast forward a few more years to the production we saw on Sunday, with an even more scaled-down production, and what seemed like a preposterous idea for a musical turned into one of my favorite productions in the past few years.

As the audience, we were made to feel like a part of the show, which started before we even made our way to the seats. The hallway to the stage was decorated like the aftermath of Carrie's prom night, with desks covered in lipstick scrawls, bloody hand prints on the walls, signs of destruction increasing as we reach the stage. The audience sat onstage in improvised high school bleachers. But not just any bleachers: the first four rows were subdivided into four sections that the actors moved about the stage during the show, reconfiguring the stage at any given moment.

For anyone who's read the book or seen the movie, you know that Carrie discovers she has telekinesis. In the intimate atmosphere of the production we saw, those small effects—figurines moving across a dresser, filing cards flying from a box, books moving across a table—were just enough to heighten the tension. And when Carrie uses her powers to throw Chris tumbling through the air over our seats...everyone in the audience cheered.

The performances, though, made the show—especially Emily Lopez as Carrie and Misty Cotton as her mother. When the two of them performed together on stage...that's what acting it all about. Even by themselves, they wowed the audience. The rest of the cast was equally up to the task and helped to bring the story to life. The score is quite good, too, and I've been listening to the cast recording from 2012 (with Marin Mazzie) on repeat for the past two days.

Carrie turned out to be an amazing show, and I'm glad we were able to be a part of it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


I don't discuss my opinions too often on this blog. My original goal when I began writing this way...way...way back was to do just that, to write down my opinions and views, making this a kind of journal. But with all the snark and nasty comments I see around the internet, I've held back. I don't want to face the potential negativity, like when I read a review of one of my stories from an anthology. It was harsh and nasty and has kept me from writing further.

(Yes, I'm not procrastinating. I just need to get a thicker skin.)

So when I saw this online today, the need to post about it just would not go away.

And if you've made it this far, you have been rickrolled. April Fools!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Long Sunday

Sunday started out fine. I managed to sneak in an early-morning walk to the Colorado Lagoon, one of my favorite nature spots in Long Beach. Two men were hip deep in the water to fly fish while the many coots scoured the sand and the grass for food. I quietly made my way to a wooden bridge that crosses the lagoon and watched a few jellyfish floating through the green water. At the opposite shore, I rested a moment to watch a few sandpipers along the shoreline and spotted a skate skimming along the bottom of the lagoon, fairly close to the shore. Then, I spied a new bird (to me) disappearing beneath the waterline:

A Pied-billed Grebe

Another bird added to my Life List. And then it was home for a few hours of Thief before heading to our friends' wedding. While I played the game, Caesar took his car for a cleaning and returned with a dented driver-side door after being hit by a van. Good times.

After calming down, we cleaned and dressed for the wedding. Our friends decided to do a follow a few traditional Jewish rites, so we needed to be there early for Caesar to sign the ketubah as a witness. And it was such a stunning document, with the multicolored hamseh and Hebrew script:

The ceremony itself was just a beautiful, and I'm glad we were invited. Plus, we gorged ourselves on the BBQ from the Naples Rib Company. I think that's the perfect food for a wedding....