Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bookwhore Chronicles: My Favorite Reads of 2005

I wasn't sure how I should go about this particular list. To be honest, I haven't read many of the books that were published in 2005 -- maybe three or four, and they were so-so. My copies of Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, Lost: Secret Identity by Cathy Hapka and The Colorado Kid by Stephen King remain lost among my stacks of books to be read. And don't even get me started on the latest Harry Potter book -- that I don't have yet. However, I have read quite a few books this year so I decided to choose my 10 favorites from what I've read.

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
2. e by Matthew Beaumont
3. Rushes by John Rechy
4. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
5. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
6. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
7. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
8. Why We Never Danced the Charleston by Harlan Greene
9. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
10. A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys

Quite an odd mixture of reading material, ranging from the 1930's to just a few years ago, and all but 3 of the titles have GLBTQ characters in them.

I wish everyone a safe and a very Happy New Year's celebration! See you in 2006!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Monkey Business

My boyfriend and I exchanged our gifts on Monday, then hooked up with my cousin, who is visiting from Spain, to see King Kong. We picked him up and scurried to the Mann Pierside on Pacific Coast Highway, took the stairs two at a time as the movie was about to begin, and then came to an abrupt and puzzling standstill. A few patrons milled around the ticket booth, confusion on their faces, while others hesitantly poked their heads inside the open theater doors. Taped to the window of the booth was a small piece of blue paper with the words "Come on in," but not a soul inside the booth. The three of us milled about with the rest, then braved the open doors. A long line formed at the concession stand so I thought we needed to pay for our tickets at the counter. Watching the patrons before us, none were buying tickets, just tubs of popcorn and dozens of sodas. My cousin suggested we just walk into the theater and see what happened. So we did.

No one asked for a ticket or shouted after us that we needed to buy one as we rounded the corner and burst through the doors. After trying to allow our eyes to adjust to the dark, we found three seats and sat down to enjoy the free movie. I'm glad we did not pay because the movie was good, but not great like all the critics were saying. It ran far too long, with many extraneous scenes of dinosaurs and man-eating insects that could have been removed without harming the story. To me, the natives and their village resembled the Orcs from Lord of the Rings (how the characters looked, how it was filmed), and that was all I could imagine during that whole sequence. Jack Black impressed me as Carl Denham, the sleazy film director whose only goal is to bring himself fame. Naomi Watts performed admirably as Ann Darrow, and I did believe her connection with King Kong. Also impressive was the depiction of New York in the 1920's; Jackson managed to create the right look for the era, down to the last detail of buildings, clothing, cars, etc. But, the ordeals that the crew went through in order to rescue Ann were just too much! Just one hazard to another to another. I started to lose interest because too much was happening.

I did not hate the movie, but I was bored with quite a bit of it. Thank goodness we saw it for free!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in SoCal

I realize that I write quite a bit about Disneyland in my blog postings. Having grown up around the park, Disneyland has always played a part in my life. During my childhood, our house was 10 minutes away, and my brother and I used to sneak into our parents' bedroom during the summers to watch the fireworks from one of their windows. I celebrated numerous birthdays with Mickey and Minnie, survived a Grad Night, and watched the times change from disco Mickey of the '70s to Videopolis in the '80s to advent of Unofficial Gay Days (and the Baptist Boycott which really didn't do much). I experienced the resort grow from the original Magic Kingdom with its never-ending parking lot into two theme parks, a grand new hotel, a huge shopping district, and a parking structure which can hold 10,000 cars. Attractions have come and gone (like the Michael Jackson 3-D movie) or been re-vamped and updated. Through all these changes, one thing remains constant -- Christmas in the parks.

I turn into a giggling little schoolgirl each year around this time, thinking of the 70-foot tree in the middle of the town square on Main Street. All the myriad lights covering the buildings and the attractions. The garlands and wreaths scattered everywhere you look. The holiday music playing through the speakers, filling the air with holiday songs no matter if you're cruising through the jungle or screaming as you fall in the Tower of Terror. I make it a point to visit Disneyland as often as I can during December. This year, however, pneumonia put a damper on those plans. To atone for that, I invited CS to join me in the parks on Christmas Day. I didn't want CS to spend Christmas Day by himself; I told my boyfriend this, and he thought it a good idea so CS and I agreed to meet about 1 PM in California Adventure. Things never go quite as planned, though, and I showed up a bit early thinking that it might be a bit crowded.

It took 30 minutes to move from just outside the parking structure to the ticket booths at the opposite end. And, when I finally made it that far, bright red signs flashed that Disneyland was full. At only 12:30 PM!! Many drivers opted to leave and turned left past the booths, toward the exit. I continued up the ramp and parked, calling CS to advise him of the situation, then leisurely took my time getting to California Adventure. I snapped a few pictures of the holiday decorations once inside, which can be seen here. The decorations were decidedly Californian, with surfboards for all the reindeer, snowmen made out of sand, and holiday songs à la the Beach Boys. CS called as I wandered through the decorations: he made it into the structure, got his parking stub, and was then directed to the exit so he had to drive around again to the entrance of the structure and wait to get through the long line again. To pass the time, I wandered through the Hollywood Backlot, listening to Judy Garland pine through Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas while kids posed for picture with Sully from Monsters, Inc., then I entered the Muppetvision 3-D buidling to watch the film. CS phoned just as the movie ended, and I told him to hurry to the Backlot for a surprise. He arrived in minutes, and we walked over for a sneak preview of the new Monsters, Inc. attraction which isn't scheduled to open for another few weeks. After that little Christmas gift from Disney, we rode a few more rides, tried our hands at drawing characters in the Animation Academy room, and watched the lighting of the Christmas tree along the waterfront. A strand of orangeyellow lights circled up from the bottom of the tree, illuminating Tinkerbell who waved her little wand to light the star along with the rest of the holiday lights in the area.

From there, we decided on dinner at the Napa Rose -- a five-star restaurant in one of the hotels serving a four-course meal for $75 per person. It was Christmas so what the heck! We found a small table next to a window in the lounge and spent about 20 minutes perusing the menu. Our friend Dwayne called just after we ordered, and CS told him to head for the restaurant. By the time he arrived, our appetizers were placed before us -- grilled diver sea scallops for me; pheasant and dumplings for CS. The three of us talked and laughed throughout the meal, not even stopping when the remaining three courses were served -- warm apple chestnut soup, cider roasted Christmas goose and an egg nog crème brûlée tart on a bed of raspberries and cranberries. CS ordered the double chocolate bûche de Noël, and Dwayne suffered through the most delicious hot chocolate I ever tasted: two kinds of estate chocolate melted together and topped with a hazelnut whipped cream. We waddled from the restaurant at 8 PM and headed for the Monorail to see if we could make it into Disneyland to watch the fireworks, complete with falling snow at the end.

As the snow fell -- actually, it was soap suds; I've never seen so many people get excited over soap suds -- we wormed our way against traffic, heading for "it's a small world." Normally, we stay as far away from those annoying, singing dolls as possible, but Disney revamped this ride for the holidays, adding colored lights outside, changing the music and adding fesitve decorations to the interior so we had to experience the magic. Once that was over, and while Dwayne was still singing Jingle Shells, we dashed in and out of the shops on Main Street, took a few pics of the tall Chrsitmas tree and made our escape.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Holiday Wishes

Tonight is when my family celebrates the Christmas holiday, with all of us gathering at my Aunt and Uncle's house, a big dinner, and the unwrapping of what we've spent the past few days in a frenzy wrapping. I wish all of you the very best this holiday season. Enjoy this time with your families, whoever they may be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Five, Ready or Not, Here I Come

It's that time of the year again. Time for magazines and cable TV shows and critics to spew forth their Top Whatever Lists for the year 2005. So I'm going to jump right in a with a small list of my own. Not that it will be as exciting as the top 10 celebrity break-ups or the top 20 celebrity mugshots. Instead of something that attention-grabbing, I present to you, my 5 favorite new CDs of the year. Now, granted, I have not purchased (or received as gifts) many of the new albums that were released during the year so I can only create my list from what I actually own. And they aren't in any particular order, either. Just my 5 favorite new CDs of 2005.

Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap A haunting solo album from the lead singer of Frou-Frou. Her music is a mixture of pop and soft electronica, featuring intelligent lyrics and quirky music. Her soft, husky voice makes such tracks as Hide and Seek, which is only her voice mixed through a computer, easy to listen to and easy to enjoy.

Aerial by Kate Bush The eagerly-awaited album from one of the most beautiful voices in music. Okay, so we had to wait 12 years between albums, but this is definitely worth the wait. Disc one offers a great collection of songs about love and life; disc two gives the impression of one single day in the life, with music ranging from the almost flamenco style of Sunset to the soft, middle-eastern feel of Somewhere in Between.

Plans by Death Cab for Cutie I admit that the name of the group threw me. It conjured images of men wearing dark eye makeup and with death-white faces playing hard-core punk. But the song Marching Bands of Manhattan kept playing on K-CRW, and I broke down and purchased the album. And fell in love with it.

Life in Slow Motion by David Gray Even though he had to cancel his concert due to illness, I still like the album. Great melodies, strong lyrics and that voice make for an enjoyable listening experience. And one of these days, I will see him in concert!!!
X&Y by Coldplay Hey! I like Coldplay. Deal with it!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rainbow Santas and Hula Boys

My boyfriend treated us both to a holiday concert Saturday night in Glendale at the Alex Theater starring the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. We arrived early in order to grab a bit to eat at the California Pizza kitchen just down the street from the theater. All I will say about the walk from the theater to the restaurant and back is that it was cold. I wrapped myself in my coat, shoved my hands into my pockets and watched the clouds of my warm breath drift skyward.

At the theater, we navigated our way through the crowds of people checking out the items in the silent auction. A gift basket of Margaret Cho goodies (including a book that she kissed), jeweled brooches, spa packages, passes to Universal Studios, and much more. I presented the tickets and the usher informed us that the seats were down the stairs to the right. So off we headed in that direction, making our way to our row only to realize that our seats were actually on the other side of the theater. We wove through the aisles and finally settled into our seats. The lights dimmed, and 200 men started singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas. The entire first act of their concert featured more traditional songs and many in Spanish in honor of their upcoming tour of South America. During the Rudolph Mambo, six Santas decked out in rainbow duds danced across the stage while Rudolph pranced among them. The highlight of the first act, for me, was the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl. Very haunting and sent chills down my arms. For the second act, the chorus showed their fun-loving side with hula boys, some island-themed holiday songs, and a blacklight puppet interpretation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

>We enjoyed the show immensely, and I even went so far as to purchase one of their calendars, featuring members of the chorus skewering classic Hollywood films, like Patton, Psycho, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, and Star Wars. (More pictures can be found on their Website. I recommend the picture for The Graduate.) And, before I forget, we ran into a friend and his husband from the Men's Reading Group that we attend. The only downside was trying to leave the theater. As we headed for the main gates to the theater, members of the chorus made their way toward us, and people just stopped right in the middle of the walkway; a gay traffic jam, if you will. It took us a good 20 minutes to reach the sidewalk in front of the theater. Even so, we still had a fun evening.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cowboy Up

Last night, all of gay Orange County must have decided to see Brokeback Mountain. All screenings at the only theater showing the film in the county were sold out, and the lines to get in: I've never seen so many gay people outside of a Pride Festival! And a nice mix of people, too: gay, lesbian, straight, in couples or with larger groups. I recognized many faces from The Gay and Lesbian Center and even ran into a friend with whom I'd lost touch about five or six years ago.

RG purchased tickets in advance for our group of eight so we enjoyed a nice dinner beforehand at Red Robin then ambled over to wait in one of the two lines for the film. And the film definitely was worth the wait. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal impressed me with their acting skills, with Heath as Ennis Del Mar and Jake as Jack Twist, starting as 19 year-olds and aging subtly over the 20-year period. Heath surprised me the most, with his voice, mannerisms and how he handled his character's coming to terms with his love for Jack worked together to show how good an actor he is. Michelle Williams as Ennis' wife Alma and Anne Hathaway as Jack's wife Lureen gave fantastic performances. The adapted screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana followed Annie Proulx's short story incredibly well, taking dialogue and scenes almost word for word from the story. And, of course, Ang Lee's direction seemed effortless and filled with some of the best cinematography (the scenes during the first half of the film, in the mountains, are stunning). He brings across the relationship and the love between Ennis and Jack without focusing on the lovemaking, making the two seem more like real human beings after a connection with another person instead of simply two guys looking for sex. Gustavo Santaolalla's score with its plaintive acoustic guitar delicately weaves into the storyline without being obtrusive.

We left the theater chatting about the movie, the amount of people and the fact that the air conditioning turned off about halfway through the film. I felt as though we had been sitting in a sauna for the past hour. When the film moves out to more theaters, I definitely recommend seeing it!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Goin' Shopping

I've almost finished most of my holiday shopping. I admit that I am a very boring shopper, going into a store with the specific item in mind, finding it, paying for it and leaving as soon as possible. Window shopping and browsing have yet to find a place in my purchasing vocabulary. So instead of boring you with my credit card exploits, I decided to post a picture of someone that I consider to be quite the hottie. I flipped through the channels last night -- mostly during the commercial breaks for Project Runway -- and spied Carmine Giovinazzo on CSI:NY. His character became trapped in a panic room, and as the air became hotter, he removed articles of clothing until he stood in dress pants, a white wife-beater t-shirt and eye glasses. Damn! What a fine man he is!! (Not as fine as my boyfriend, though.)

Okay, so it doesn't have anything to do with holiday shopping, per se. But wouldn't you like to find that wrapped up beneath your tree??

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Nonsense Post

Having convalesced at home the past week, I have nothing to report: no movies seen at the local theater, no dinners spent with the boyfriend (though he did drop by a few times to check on me), no madcap driving adventures across Orange County and Los Angeles. Instead, all I have to offer are pretty flowers, some of which have been waiting patiently inside my digital camera for the day when they would finally make it to my computer. Click here to view my flower power pics from the past year or so, dating from my trip to Las Vegas in 2004 to my backyard to Disneyland and its environs. Flowers do have that "Get Well" appeal, don't they?

Thank you again for all the "Get Well" sentiments. They really do mean a lot.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Wastin' Time

After three consecutive days of waking every morning feeling as though my face sat directly in front of a space heater blowing full blast, my fever broke. And just in time! I think during my feverish state, I may have watched a full season of America's Next Top Model. Possibly some Oprah or Maury. Maybe even The People's Court. The things we do when delusional.

I did manage to drive myself to my regular doctor yesterday for a follow up. I went over everything that happened with my visit to the E/R, and he said that I definitely showed the trademarks of pneumonia. He even went so far as to describe it as the same kind that kids in those Westerns, traveling across the prairies in covered wagons, contracted. After a day or two with high fevers, they usually fell into a coma and either died or, in a few days, their eyes fluttered open dramatically, without remembering what had happened to them. Very Little House on the Prairie. He agreed with the E/R doctor's treatment and told me to continue with the antibiotics. I should come back in a week if I felt the need.

Now, I'm sitting at home, reading, drinking bottle after bottle of Gatorade, eating soup that my boyfriend brought (he's so sweet!), and resting. If it weren't for the being sick part, I could get used to staying at home.

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Breathe In, Breathe Out

For the past few days, I've dealt with a fever of 102˚, coughing up dark green phlegm, shortness of breath, and a general feeling of tiredness. I called my doctor yesterday to make an appointment; the earliest he could see me would be in three weeks. I tried an Urgent Care facility and was told that the average wait for a walk-in was 5 hours due to the heavy cold and flu season. Against my better judgment, I decided to stick things out for one more day before doing anything drastic.

This morning, I checked my temperature which was still at 102˚; then walked to the liquor store not 100 feet from my house to buy some Gatorade, foodstuffs, and Tylenol. That short walk caused my head to spin, and when I reached my house I called both my brother and my folks to see if one of them could take me to the E/R because I didn't think I could drive myself. Fortunately, my brother's girlfriend was home and didn't think twice about helping me. I think I scared her when I opened the door, seeing how pale I was and noting that I could barely talk.

She sat in the waiting room while I had blood drawn, stood through chest x-rays, had IV fluids filtered through my body, and waited for my heart rate to come down. The x-rays showed a small cloudy part to one lung lobe. According to the E/R doctor, I have possible pneumonia. (I'm not sure what the "possible" has to do with it; I figure you either have it or you don't.) He prescribed a strong antibiotic called Levaquin, bed rest and lots of fluid.

I'll see how things go the next few days. Hopefully, I won't have to return to the hospital.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Just Another Manic Weekend

Four people work in my office so instead of a holiday gathering at someone's house, exchanging gifts, enjoying a quiet meal followed by an attempt at not talking shop, I came up with a wonderful idea. Last night, we met at The Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel to enjoy their buffet: prime rib, pan roasted salmon, macaroni and cheese, Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, caesar salad, bread pudding with cranberries, chocolate and caramel cheesecakes, etc. We stuffed ourselves with this fine food, barraged my boyfriend with questions (that's him on the far right), and enjoyed getting together outside of the office. After dinner, we stopped at the Hearthstone Lounge for a glass of wine and a picture in front of the hotel's 40-foot tree, then headed toward our main event of the holiday gathering.

That's right, we decided to spend our office holiday party with The Bangles. The all-girl group performed a sold-out show last night at The House of Blues, and we were there!! The four of us followed the line into the security check, where I was told that I could not bring my camera inside. I had to run around to the front of the theater and check it in for $3. (This pissed me off much later when, during the concert, everyone pulled out their camera phones to snap pictures with no one from security stopping them.) Running back to the security check, the guards let me in without any further hassle, and I quickly found our little group scoping out places to stand. My watch read 8 PM so the concert was just about to start. We wove our way through the crowd to the main floor and sang along with and danced to the '80s music blaring through the speakers. At 8:30, the music changed from The Human League to Jefferson Airplane and other hits of the '60s (a Tom Jones song was even thrown into the mix!). I shifted back and forth as my legs were starting to hurt from all the standing. Finally, at 9 o'clock -- one hour after the scheduled start -- we heard a bass thumping, and the curtains parted. The Bangles kicked things off with A Hazy Shade of Winter, and the show rocked from that point on. Everyone in the crowd sang or shouted along with the music, danced, threw back drink after drink, and totally got into the show. And damn, those women can still rock! They played all their hits, a few songs from the album Doll Revolution, and even mixed in a few classics like Mrs. Robinson into some of their songs. They performed two encores, the first one ending with Walk Like an Egyptian and the second a solely acoustic performance of Eternal Flame that had the entire audience singing along. After an hour and a half, we poured from the theater, our ears ringing, our voices hoarse, and agreeing that the concert turned into one of the best office holiday parties ever.

Today, my boyfriend and I lazed about until 11:30, got some breakfast and then hurried to the Edwards University at UC Irvine to catch Jesus Is Magic, a comedy concert by Sarah Silverman. Un-PC. Raunchy. Outrageous. We were in tears from laughing so hard! During the drive back, we quoted lines from the movie, making each other laugh even harder, and I remarked that I could never do stand up because I would crack up. Silverman remained straight-faced throughout, whether she talked about licking jell-o of her boyfriend's penis or singing her rendition of Amazing Grace -- which must be seen to be believed. My boyfriend mentioned something about going to Hell because of what he laughed at. All I know is that this was one hysterical movie.

A fun ending to an incredible weekend. I think I need another two days just to recuperate.