Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Su-Su-Sudoku

When I attended high school, I subscribed to a magazine very much opposed to what a normal teen-aged boy would be reading: GAMES Magazine. I spent hours solving "The World's Most Ornery Crossword Puzzle," anacrostics, word searches and various other eyeball-bending, mind-teasing puzzles. I LOVED every minute of it and recently discovered a new puzzle that has been overtaking the planet: the sudoku.

>I flipped through the LA Times over the Thanksgiving holiday and found this little puzzle hidden away in the comics section. A simple 9x9 grid with a few numbers scattered about and also sectioned into smaller 3x3 squares. The object: fill in the grid so that each row, column and 3x3 square contains the numbers 1 through 9 without repeating. Sounds simple enough so I grabbed an pen and started to work. A few hours later, I searched on-line to find out how to solve one of the damned things (which I eventually did -- very much later).

But I was hooked. This little logic-based puzzle, first introduced to the world in 1979 by retired architect and puzzle creator Howard Garns and subsequently improved upon in Japan until finding its way to newspapers and puzzle books today, dropped into my consciousness like heroin, and now I can't get enough. I even managed to snare one of my co-workers with the sudoku phenomenon.

Image from Sudoku On-line. Link in sidebar, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Long Weekend Comes To A Close

And what a weekend it was!! Thursday's Thanksgiving feast was held at my parents' house in Laguna. My brother and I drove down together and gorged ourselves on the appetizers: deviled eggs, a port wine-cheese ball with butter crackers, and a brick of cream cheese smothered in chili sauce and served with wheat thins. (I must have eaten at least 5 of the deviled eggs.) I helped Mom with the candied sweet potatoes, spooning the butter and the brown sugar over the potato chunks, savoring that warm sugary smell as the concoction bubbled and boiled. After dinner, we all sat around the TV set not exactly watching the Denver-Dallas game; more like enjoying the noise as we fell asleep.

Friday, my boyfriend and I drove to Lake Elsinore for another Thanksgiving dinner at the home of RG and SK. Roughly 20-25 people showed, and once again, I gorged myself before the meal with a few slices of pizza topped with carmelized onions and bleu cheese, chunks of smoked Gouda (yummy!), spread some goat cheese and pomegranate seeds on crackers, nibbled on the cheese crackers and downed two cans of iced tea. And then, we all sat down to enjoy a fabulous meal of turkey, vegetarian lasagna, three different types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and the most delicious yams ever (diced and marinated in butter, brown sugar, orange slices and Grand Marnier). Not to mention the eight different pies served for dessert!!!

Before dessert, though, we piled into two cars and drove to Tom's Farm to ride the Christmas Train. A little cheesy, as if someone had purchased every single Christmas light-up lawn ornament from Costco. Kind of a neat way to get in the spirit of the season, though, and we all started to sing carols as the train chugged along its little track. We debated about riding the Ferris wheel which seemed to be spinning at roughly 5 miles per hour. A little too fast for a Ferris wheel; I kept expecting one of the cars to fly off and onto the 15 Freeway at any moment.

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I caught the film Rent at the Mann Pierside not to far from my house. I enjoyed it, found myself getting teary-eyed when Angel dies, listened to the elderly women behind us crying and blowing their noses. Some bits from the stage show were missing -- such as the entr'acts by the homeless of New York and the voice messages from the parents -- and much of the spoken dialogue was sung in the stage version. Perhaps a bit disconcerting, but I didn't mind. A few interpretations of various songs really worked well, such as the Tango Maureen and the Take Me or Leave Me songs.

So much more can be said about this holiday -- like receiving yet another jury summons on Friday, this time for the U.S. District Court (I just served in July!!) -- but I fear that my fingers are almost permanently frozen in clawlike positions after completing the NaNoWriMo contest. I typed 51,136 words and plan on soaking my fingers for a few hours in Palmolive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

BB, and I Don't Mean King

While at The Gay and Lesbian Center last night, sitting up front near the receptionist's desk discussing cars and whatnot, one of the other volunteers runs up to us and says that we just missed all the excitement. We hurry behind him toward the main hall -- a large, cavernous room with a pool table, a piano, a few desks, some tables and chairs -- where two of The Center's employees are kneeling in front of a glass door. Or rather, the semi-shattered remains of one. Apparently, someone drove by and fired a bb into the door, breaking the glass which was fortunately stuck between two thick sheets of clear plastic. To keep it from spraying all over the place in just such an event. I walk over to it, listening to the bits of glass inside clinking and settling. No one is injured, and the bb appears to be stuck in the glass. One employee phones the police while another contacts the Executive Director and then an emergency glass repair shop to come and to board up the door.

An hour before, the room teemed with tables and delicious Mexican food and dozens of people enjoying a Thanksgiving with "family" and friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Accidental Meeting

Earlier on Sunday, he drove down PCH to meet at my place, take in a movie and then some dinner. We walked along Main St. to the Mann Theatre by the highway to catch the 3 PM show of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (I know what you're going to say: opening weekend is probably the worst time to see that particular film, but what can I say? We're rebels.) We reveled in the magic and the story for the next 2-1/2 hours, putting up with the constant narration from the girl behind us (her friend even told her to stop talking about the movie, but to no avail). It is a good movie, fitting nicely into Harry Potter cannon of films; however, I didn't feel that it could stand on its own. Much of the story takes for granted that the audience already knows some of the background of Harry, Ron and Hermione and their dealings with Valdemort and Hogwarts Academy so a person unfamiliar with Harry Potter may feel a bit left out or scratching his/her head at some scenes. I still enjoyed it, though. Afterwards, we strolled to the end of the Pier and dined at Ruby's.

Then, we walked back to my house. I flipped on the light, and the phone immediately rang. My parents. And they were at my brother's house! Could they stop over for a minute? I hesitated for a moment, and he looked at me questioningly. I told him that my parents were at the front house and planned on stopping by for a moment to say hello. (I still can't believe that they waited to ambush me like that! Who knew that my parents could be so devious!!) Wonderful man that he is, my boyfriend said that would be fine. I had wanted to introduce them a bit later in the relationship, like after Christmas or New Years, but nothing ever goes as planned so my boyfriend met my folks on Sunday evening.

And it seemed to go well. They all liked each other, if I can judge anything by the pleasant chatter. My Mom invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner if he didn't have any other plans which I thought was nice. And of course, they had to tell embarrassing stories about me. They seem to delight in it and tell the stories whenever they get the chance.

He listened and laughed and enjoyed meeting them. Phew!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Heavens Are Raining Down!

So last night, after his return flight from South Dakota (via Phoenix, AZ), I met CS at Downtown Disney to see their newest animated film Chicken Little. Even though CS spent much of the day on airplanes and he left LAX around 6:30 PM, he still wanted to catch the movie and maybe a bite to eat. He made surprisingly good time, arriving at the Parks almost an hour later. (If you've ever visited or lived in Southern California, you will definitely understand how a mere hour from LAX to anywhere else is miraculous.) We walked around the grounds, trying to find someplace to eat: the first restaurant had a 35-minute wait; at the next one, we found a table easily, but after 20 minutes and no sign of a waiter or waitress, we left; the third offered a 45-minute wait. We eventually marched through the turnstiles into California Adventure and dined at the Taste Pilot (burgers, salads, shakes, beer).

By the time we finished eating, the closing announcements were being broadcast throughout California Adventure so we high-tailed it to the theater and collapsed into our seats 5 minutes before the previews. Sad to say but it looks as though quite a few crappy family films are coming our way next year (a remake of Yours, Mine and Ours, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Shaggy Dog - a Disney remake of one of its own films). We suffered through those, then relaxed into our seats as the movie started. I won't go into details about the movie, as I'm sure everyone knows the story of Chicken Little, but throw in an alien invasion, a gigantic pig called Runt of the Litter who owns an extensive Barbra Streisand collection and loves karaoke, a little chicken who's just trying to get the approval of is father Buck Cluck, the voice talents of Don Knotts, Gary Marshall, Zach Braff, Amy Sedaris, Joan Cusack and Fred Willard, some clever CGI work, and you'll have a fun time at the movies. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, especially watching the entire cast's version of Don't Go Breaking My Heart. It's definitely not Finding Nemo, which had me alternately laughing and crying throughout the story, but I think Disney proved that they can make a good computer-animated film without Pixar.

NaNoWriMo word count: 33,610


Image from Chicken Little

Friday, November 18, 2005

Movie Night!

Last night, we checked out the latest film from writer/actor/former Disneyland employee Steve Martin: Shopgirl. The film stars Steve Martin as Ray Porter, a wealthy logician in his fifties; Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy, a young stencil artist; and Claire Danes as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a young woman who moved to Los Angeles from Vermont in order to start an amazing new life as an artist. Instead, she finds herself selling gloves in Saks Fifth Avenue and caught in a romantic triangle between Ray and Jeremy. This is a wonderfully simple movie about trying to find love and has almost a fairytale-like quality with how it is presented. Great acting from all three leads, a fine adaptation of his own novella by Steve Martin, and effective direction from Anand Tucker create almost the perfect movie. We laughed at the right times, almost cried at the end, and left the theater feeling good and chatting about the movie all the way home. It's just a nice, quiet little film in the midst of all the Oscar noise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just Tell Me Why

If you're driving your Ultimate Behemoth Ford Spacehogger up and down the rows of cars, looking for just the right spot in which to squeeze your vehicle's big ass, why do you always insist on occupying the compact spots? Because you won't fit. That's why the word "COMPACT" was painted in front of the spot, dumbass. You wind up double parking so that NO ONE ELSE can get close to the building.

I hate parking in BFE.

NaNoWriMo word count: 25,853

Monday, November 14, 2005

Silent Wings

He and I drove to Los Feliz on Saturday night for the 40th birthday party of one of his colleagues. We were told to expect fingerfoods and cake; not knowing if this would be enough to sustain us for the rest of the evening, he picked a little restaurant on Hillhurst Ave. called Home, a neat little place serving burgers, soups, salads and sandwiches. We sat in an outdoor booth, clearing falling leaves from the table every few moments, and enjoyed a cozy meal together under the stars and the warmth of an outdoor heater.

Never having visited his friend's house, we pulled into what should be his neighborhood, according to the Thomas Guide: two and three story homes, many set upon sloping hillsides, and all with a fantastic view of the nighttime lights in the L.A. Basin -- not a cheap neighborhood by any means. We checked the Guide once more, found the necessary street and started driving, eventually passing the house but because of the narrowness of the street and the lack of parking, we had to find an alternate spot at the bottom of a hill. Then, we traipsed up that hill to the door of his friend's house and up the 30 to 40 steps to the front door.

The Spanish-style house boasted two stories and looked gigantic from the outside; once inside, we realized how narrow the house actually was, being about the width of a large family room for the entire length of the house. Nicely decorated with original artwork, tasteful books on cooking and art, hardwood floors, large mirrors, and two gigantic bedrooms upstairs. What sold me on the house, though, was the magnificent view of the hills and the valley from their living room window. I could imagine sitting on the sofa, watching the droop lower behind the hills as the lights twinkled on one by one. We stayed for a few hours, meeting quite a few interesting people and some of his and his friend's co-workers. At 10 PM, we finally left with bags of leftovers (chicken skewers along, squares of filo dough layered with provolone and jack cheeses, stuffed olives and mushrooms) that our hosts forced upon us; I don't think they realized until the end of the party just how much food they made. Jokingly, our host told us to watch out for coyotes.

As we strolled down the hill toward the car, sure enough, we spotted two small coyotes. They must have spotted us as well because they quickly dashed to the left, disappearing into the bushes. I stomped my feet loudly as we continued down the hill, believing this would keep them away. As we turned the corner to head for the car, I saw one of the coyotes watching us from the cover of the bushes and hurried my pace to get to the car. During the drive back, we laughed about the coyotes and listened to the second disc of Kate Bush's new album many times over.

Sunday afternoon, we made our way to Fullerton to meet with my friend RG for a unique concert. The Orange County Theatre Organ Society presented a special screening of the 1927 silent movie classic Wings starring Clara Bow, Richard Arlen and Charles "Buddy" Rogers. The story revolves around two young me who fall in love with the same woman. The United States is dragged into World War I, and both young men enlist to become pilots. At first bitter rivals, they soon come to value each other's friendship in the face of the harsh realities of war. A great movie with a cameo appearance by the quite young Gary Cooper. What made this showing unique, at least by today's standards, was the live accompaniment, provided on a 1930's Wurlitzer Organ.

We sat back into our seats as the lights dimmed and this amazing sound, almost like a full orchestra, filled the theater. From near the front of the stage, the large Wurlitzer along with organist Bob Salisbury emerged on a small elevated platform, playing the song Avalon. After the standing ovation, Bob gave a little history of that particular organ and then of the movie itself, pointing out that the great-grandchildren of Lucien Hubbard -- who produced Wings -- were in the audience to see the film for the first time with a live accompaniment, as originally screened back in the silent film days. Bob told the audience that the score he was to play was written by Gaylord Carter then placed a single sheet of paper on the Wurlitzer's music stand -- he called the paper his "cue sheet" -- and began the overture. The platform lowered below the stage, and the movie began. For 2-1/2 hours, we sat entranced with the movie, and while we noted the score, as the movie continued we forgot that someone was playing live. The music fit perfect and was impeccably timed to the action on the screen.

Bob received another standing ovation once the movie ended, and that's when I remembered that he didn't have any sheet music in front of him. He played the entire score from memory! Simply amazing!! After the show I even met with fellow blogger Laura from google-fu.

I'm definitely hooked on live music accompaniment, I realized, because they mentioned another silent film showing in January 2006 at The Orpheum in Los Angeles; this time, Fritz Lang's sci-fi classic Metropolis will be screened. And I am so there!


Image from World Art Sales

Friday, November 11, 2005

Loss for Words

At least as far as my blog is concerned. I've been typing my little fingers to the bone every night in a mad attempt to complete my NaNoWriMo novel. (I reached 15K words last night!) Thank goodness it's Friday! Maybe I'll have something more interesting to write this weekend. Maybe I should skip the writing for tonight and watch a movie. Maybe I should get back to work before the boss catches me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Brief

- Much of the past few days has been spent typing away fro NaNoWriMo. To date, I managed 10,030 words so I'm 1/5 of the way toward the 50,000-word goal. My original story remains intact, for the most part, but the main character has most definitely become a stereotype. Not at all what I intended, but at least, it's getting some new ideas out there.

- I purchased the new Kate Bush CD: Aerial. Having been a Kate Bush fan since high school, I must say that this quiet album is a wonderful addition to her music. The discs -- it is a two-disc set -- are in constant rotation in my stereo.

- This weekend, we found a showing of the silent film Wings, starring Clara Bow and featuring Gary Cooper, in Fullerton. For anyone not familiar with Wings, it was the very first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and is the only silent film to ever garner that naked little gold man statuette. The screening is being presented by The Orange County Theatre Organ Society so we will be treated to musical accompaniment on a Wurlitzer Organ, just as the movie was originally intended back in 1927.

- Roofers have been repairing the old roofs of both mine and my brother's homes since Thursday. My Grandfather purchased the homes back in the 1940's, and instead of repairing or replacing the roofs when he noticed the rot and termite damage, he merely laid down sheets of plywood and new roofing material. My house alone had four roofs on top of it. No wonder the car port ceiling bowed!! The roofers have been working diligently since last Thursday and were to be done on Monday. They're not. And it's starting to rain.

- Tonight is a new episode of Lost!! Need I say more?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Seven Marys

....Most people know of Orange County, CA, as the bastion of conservatism. Living here, I can tell you that there are many days when even I believe that to be true. But occasionally, something manages to sneak through the cracks to shake up the right wingers and to force the rest of us into their smarmy faces....

Taking a break from the flurry of writing, he and I checked out the John Waters photography exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art. Having seen many of his films, neither of us was exactly sure what to expect from this collection. The spiel I found on the internet mentioned that Waters had taken his camera and photographed the TV screen then organized many of the shots into sequences that tell mini-stories. Not much to go on so we entered the exhibit hall with open minds.

The first piece, titled "Manson Copies Divine's Hairdo," displayed photos of both Charles Manson and Divine, one on top of the other, and both sporting large foreheads devoid of hair. A bit strange. The next featured a series of shots of the actress Dorothy Malone from various movies on TV, titled "Dorothy Malone's Collar." In each shot, the actress's collar is upturned and overly starched, almost to the point that if she turned her head in either direction, she would be sure to scratch and scar her cheeks. Other pieces compiled a movie into a mere set of photos, or traced the genealogy of a film and its sequels, such as "Peyton Place." Another large exhibit was a pop-up library: Waters photographed his own library then mounted the life-sized images in large shadow boxes with books and photographs and furniture literally popping from the canvases. It was like glimpsing into his mind seeing all the books on Jayne Mansfield, true crime, pulp novels, novelty jokes, an electric chair, and dozens of photographs the either inspired or featured in his films. I think the exhibit finally fit into place for me when we came upon the photo series titled "Seven Marys." From one image to the next, Waters showed how Hollywood and pop culture portrayed the Virgin Mary, until the last image -- the seventh -- slapped you in the face with Paul Lynde. We both burst out with loud peals of laughter, frightening many of the patrons who sneered at us as if we had just blasphemed in some shrine. From the pieces in the exhibit to his movies (including the three early films screened in the museum - Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Eat Your Make-Up, and Mink Stole and Divine in Roman Candles), we realized that he was poking fun at the Hollywood image and how much it is a part of and has shaped popular culture. How we dress. How we perceive others. What we consider art. I'm not sure if that was Waters's desired effect, but whatever his intentions, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

For an interview with Waters and details of the "Seven Marys" piece, check out The Brooklyn Rail.

Friday, November 04, 2005

NaNoHoMo

In two days I've typed 4,233 words. Not too bad, I guess. That first day of typing almost convinced me to quit: struggling just to get those first words on the page, then agonizing over what to write after that. I worried over how realistic the characters would appear, does this sequence of events follow logically, why isn't the damned spell check working properly? I paced. I drank too much Arizona Green Tea (diet, with ginseng). I stared blankly at the white screen.

Yesterday, I discussed my progress with Joel and realized that I was taking things far too seriously. With NaNoWriMo, the quality of writing does not matter in the long run; it's all about the output. The number of words you spread across a page. He told me to just write, to not worry about spelling or punctuation or proper grammar. I listened.

And, d'you know what? I enjoyed writing last night. Sure, my story has taken more of a comedic turn rather than the tragic/dramatic I had originally intended, but I'm having fun! I laughed aloud as I re-read some of my work. I loved how catty the main character became. His whole attitude did a complete 180, and he voiced the things I never bothered or felt comfortable speaking.

Who knew writing could be so therapeutic?!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2-4-6-8, Everyone Procrastinate!!

Day 1 of the NaNoWriMo event is over, and how many words have I typed? None. Nada. Not a single grouping of letters has graced an electronic page. I could blame it on the volunteering last night, which kept me out until 11 PM. Or that I'm really getting into my second reading of Wicked for my book group at the end of the month. Excuses, excuses. Tonight, I will sit down to let the story flow from my fingertips.

After I return from the gym.

And eat dinner.

I think the bathroom grout needs some cleaning....