Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ashes and Snow in Santa Monica

First thing Saturday morning, I took my car in for a bit of rubber repair. For the past few weeks, I refilled the air in my right front tire more times than reasonable; the last time, I finally checked the treads and found a nail that must have been in for such a long time that the head had worn away. So 40 minutes and $20 later, I sped up Pacific Coast Highway to my boyfriend's apartment.

Our plan for the day centered around an art exhibit in Santa Monica, something that we had caught a glimpse of on the local PBS station a few weeks ago. We cruised up the 405 North, listening to Madonna's latest album, holding hands, chatting away, and just enjoying the chance to get away from Long Beach. The weather turned out to be perfect. The "Pineapple Express," as weathermen called the impending deluge of rain and cold -- never appeared, and only a slight breeze blew as we parked near the pier in Santa Monica. We parked a short distance from the pier and enjoyed strolling on the path past the original Muscle Beach where five or six young men swung back and forth on metal rings (see pic), old men sitting at tables specially made for chess matches, bikers, joggers, walkers and their pets. Music and the sounds of excited children screaming and laughing swelled from the pier as we walked closer, and I asked my boyfriend if we could check out the roller coaster after the art exhibit.

The art exhibit -- a traveling show titled Ashes and Snow -- featured three films and dozens of stills from photographer Gregory Colbert. The first thing we noticed as we left the shadows of the pier was the design of the building. Designed by architect Shigeru Ban, the building is called "The Nomadic Museum." The walls consist of 152 steel cargo containers, the kind used on trains and ships, which are stacked to resemble a checkerboard pattern roughly 34-feet high. Large paper mailing tubes used as arches and pillars and tarps stretched over the tops of the containers fill in any gaps to complete the structure which will be taken down, used as transport for the exhibit, and then re-assembled at the next location. The museum appeared intimidating as we approached but once inside -- it's difficult to explain why -- we felt as though we were someplace intimate. Subdued lighting, atmospheric music, planks for walkways with the prints hung above smooth river rocks. The prints themselves -- humans and animals almost as dancers or praying together -- exuded a calmness and a respect for their surroundings, and this translated to the people slowly filing by. Hardly a word was spoken, and when it was, the voices never rose above a whisper. My favorite image was of a young boy in the desert, kneeling with a prayer book or novel, seeming to read to an elephant which is stretched on its belly, trunk folded across its front legs.

After an hour and a half, we stepped back into the harsh light and sounds of the pier, slowly walking across the parking lot and the sand to the steps which would take us up to the midway. Dozens of screaming kids ran around with sticks of cotton candy. Musicians played keyboards or sang, offering their hats for a few spare coins. We walked through them, stopping for a moment at the mini-mini-golf, then peeking over the side to gaze at the starfish attached to the pylons. I snapped a few pictures of the roller coaster just to try my hand at something a bit more artistic than my usual shots.

We took our time returning to the car by taking a small detour to the 3rd Street Promenade. Not much to see there but hundreds of people pushing and shoving, chatting away on their cell phones as they dragged their dogs into Anthropologie or Z Gallerie, a dozen or so standing around a "Psychic Cat" who probably wanted to be anywhere else but standing on that chair in a dress. (I kid you not about the dress.) We didn't stay too long, eventually reaching the car and heading to West Hollywood for dinner.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bookwhore Chronicles: LibraryThing

I file my DVDs alphabetically in their tall cabinet. My CDs are also alphabetized -- and if I own more than one album by a particular artist, I've arranged them chronologically. I like order when it comes to my entertainment.

While reading one of Matt's posts over at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook, he mentioned a Web site called LibraryThing that allows visitors to input books from their personal libraries and create an on-line database of books. Upload pictures, sort by author or by book title, export a catalog of your books -- for me, it's like electronic crack to fuel my anal-retentive side. I immediately opened my own account and typed in ISBN after ISBN, rating the books, reviewing some, uploading pictures of book covers, inputting dates when I started and/or finished a book, even creating a widget for my blog that randomly displays one of my many books. I had to drag myself away from the computer just so I could go to bed. The sad part is that I've only input two shelves of books; I still have two more to go, each shelf holding two rows of books, one behind the other.

Now if I could find a similar site for my CD collection....

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bookwhore Chronicles: Patience and Sarah

"You're reading quite a bit of lesbian literature," the man behind the counter said as I handed over my credit card. My boyfriend and I stopped by Equal Writes on Saturday with the sole intention of browsing. Yeah. That's why I stood at the counter with another three books to add to my stack at home.

The last few reviews that I submitted to the bookstore's Website were all lesbian novels, and here I fidgeted at the counter with another such novel. A shudder of panic flashed through my body, face turning red, a light film of sweat forming beneath my moustache. I felt the cashier's eyes boring into me, daring me to comment on his observation. A gay man reading lesbian novels! Can you imagine?! I glanced at my boyfriend who browsed through his impending purchase. My embarrassment made me nervously blurt out that I was only reading them because other GLBT authors had listed them on the Top 100 Best Gay & Lesbian Novels list.

The cashier returned my card and bagged the three books. I waited outside with the bag tucked away beneath my jacket as my boyfriend finished his purchase.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Long, Lazy Weekend

I miss the old school days when we were able to take not only one day off for a President's birthday, but two consecutive Mondays (for Lincoln and for Washington). Being older and no longer in any kind of schooling and not holding some kind of government or bank-related position, I must suffer working most holidays while everyone else enjoys staying in bed or going to the movies or doing absolutely nothing. To make up for it, though, my boyfriend and I lazed around the entire weekend.

Well, except for Friday after work. We met my friend CS for dinner at Acapulco followed by a screening of Nanny McPhee. Now, before everyone starts wondering aloud why on Earth three adult males would opt for a kids movie instead of Final Destination 3 or Big Momma's House 2 or even The Pink Panther...um...well...no excuse, really, except for maybe Colin Firth. The movies focuses on the Brown family. Colin Firth plays the recently-widowed Mr. Brown who, while trying to balance a job and 7 unruly children, must also obey the wishes of his Aunt Adelaide (wonderfully played by Angela Lansbury) -- either marry by the end of the month or his money line will be cut off. The children have managed to scare off 17 nannies and crafted such a reputation that the nanny agency refuses any more assistance to the Brown family. One night, a mysterious woman dressed in black and with a face covered in warts and moles arrives at their house. She claims to be Nanny McPhee (Played by Emma Thompson) and says that she is there to teach five lessons to the children. What follows after Nanny McPhee taps her magical staff on the ground is a wondrous fairytale about a family learning and growing together, filled with much magic and humor. Emma Thompson's script is witty, intelligent and never condescending. Her Nanny McPhee never talks down to the children but treats them as adults, making them aware that all their actions have consequences and that they need to take responsibility for them. Great performances all around: Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Angela Lansbury, Kelly MacDonald, Celia Imrie and Thomas Sangster. (Just for the gay set, throw in Derek Jacobi and Patrick Barlow as the two wonderfully flamboyant assistants at Mr. Brown's office.) A fun film overall, and I think we were all surprised at how much we truly enjoyed the experience.

The next morning, my boyfriend and I lounged in bed until 11 AM when he finally decided that he needed to see a doctor. A few days prior, he may have torn part of a contact lens which was still swimming around in his eye, making it scratchy and red. He'd tried flushing the eye, but nothing came out. At the clinic, the doctor found part of the lens balled up beneath the upper eyelid and removed it with a swab. The rest of the eye looked clear so he prescribed an antibiotic eye drop, and we were out of there in two hours. We grabbed a quick bite to eat then headed for Equal Writes, the gay bookstore in Long Beach. I promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more books, and yet, I still walked away from the store with three more books to add to my stack. He drove back to his apartment where we dozed, watched TV, dozed some more and ordered pizza before falling asleep for the night. This "activity" followed us into Sunday morning, lounging around until noon.

Unfortunately, we both had to work today or else we'd still be lounging around. I miss holidays!!!

Friday, February 17, 2006

What the Hell Did I Eat Last Night?

I've been having some very vivid dreams of late, but last night....

I dreamt of a long banquet table at some sort of formal occasion. I didn't know anyone there except for Robbie Williams, who happened to be seated next to me. No one noticed that he was completely naked, and no one noticed when he dropped something under the table then reached down to get it and slowly bent his head over my lap, his lips covering my erection, giving me one of the finest blowjobs imaginable....


Then, the damned alarm clock screamed to life, and the images grew hazy and disappeared altogether. Maybe I shouldn't have eaten the left over Sweet and Sour Pork from Tuesday night before going to bed....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This Is Not A Valentine's Post

I originally started a post describing in detail everything about what we did last night to celebrate Valentine's Day, but even I thought that a bit too much. No one really wants to read about us gorging ourselves on far too much Chinese food from Chen's (so much that we took 3 containers worth of food home from the restaurant). I'm sure no one wants to hear about us seeing Mamma Mia at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. And all the kissing and hugging and et cetera afterwards would just be nauseating.

So I won't go into it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More Movies Than You Can Shake a Stick At

After the announcement of the Oscar Nominees, my boyfriend and I have made an attempt to see as many of the nominated films as possible before the awards are handed out in a few weeks. We can chalk another two off the list: Mrs. Henderson Presents and Good Night, And Good Luck. I know, I know; you really want to read about us going to even more movies. These two films, however, are very worthy of your time and deserve the nominations which they received.

Mrs. Henderson Presents stars Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Laura Henderson, a widow who, instead of sitting by on a charity board and learning how to embroider, uses her monies to buy a rundown theater in the West End during the early years of World War II. She hires showman Vivian Van Dam (played by an irreverent Bob Hoskins) to produce and manage the show. The "Revue-deville" becomes a smashing success for a time until the need to add something new to attract patrons thanks to copycat theaters. She convinces the stuffy Lord Chamberlain (Christopher Guest) to allow her to use nude women during performances. What begins as a gimmick soon turns into a relief as the bombs begin to fall on London.

Dame Judi seems to delight in this role and allows that to permeate her entire performance. Hoskins' Van Dam is the perfect foil for Mrs. Henderson, always acting as the straight man to her attempts to run the show. The story, which is based upon true events, is witty and intelligent, and the film superbly directed by Stephen Frears. A definite "must see." Oh, and it does have an openly gay character, portrayed by singer Will Young.

The other film -- Good Night, And Good Luck -- is also based on real events: the conflict between broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy along with the House Un-American Activities Committee. During the 1950's, McCarthy helped to stir up the Red Scare in the United States, creating a "witch hunt" for suspected Communists within our borders. Murrow, along with his fellow newsmen at CBS, wanted to report the facts behind McCarthy's actions and in doing so, create a very public feud which results in McCarthy being brought before the Senate to account for his lies and tactics. (Hmmm....seems a bit familiar, doesn't it?)

David Strathairn earns a deserved Oscar nod for his portrayal of Edward R. Murrow. He has the speech, the mannerisms and the look perfect. George Clooney's direction makes you feel as though you are sitting in the room with the characters, instead of inside a theater. The rest of the cast is just as remarkable as Strathairn: Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella, Ray Wise and the rest. And not to forget, the incomparable Diane Reeves who not only sings the perfectly chosen jazz songs but appears in the film as well.

I hate to say it, but I'm getting movied out. I don't know that I'll make it to Munich or Walk the Line. But, the Oscars are only a few weeks away so there's still time....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Moving Pictures in a Still Life

Movies have always held a special place in my memories: skipping a day of school with my brother and Dad to see the premier of Return of the Jedi; hunkering in front of the TV on Sunday afternoons with my Dad to watch a Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone and followed by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; flirting with the cute guy sitting next to me at a screening of The Blair Witch Project while trying to contain the motion sickness caused by the jerky camera movements. So when Glen over at Glen Mitchell suggested that I list my favorite movies of all time, I thought it would be a great idea. Until I actually started to think about all the films I've seen, which ones I liked, which ones made the most impact on me. I created a few lists, eidted, added, erased, crumpled those papers and started over again; so many movies over the years, but I finally pared the list down to ten:

10. The Celluloid Closet I saw this with a friend, about two days after coming out to her. We were the only two in the theater, and I remember staring in wide-eyed amazement, seeing other people like me up on the screen, learning so much about how gay men and women have worked and survived in such a visual industry. I started crying during the film, finally realizing that I wasn't alone.

9. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring I consider this the best of the trilogy. It sets the story incredibly well, and as a viewer, it drew me in, making me care about Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and the rest and wanting to follow them through to the end of their journey. And, it convinced me to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

8. The General (1927) A classic silent comedy that showcases the incredible talents of Buster Keaton. In this tale of the Civil War, Keaton fills the screen with sight gags and his own amazing stunt work, yet never detracs from the story of a young man trying to save both of his loves -- his girl and his train -- from the war.

7. Rashomon My favorite of all Kurosawa's films, this tale of murder is a classic. The story of the murder is told from four different points of view, but the truth is never revealed. Or is it? The film questions the idea of what is truth and who determines what is and is not the truth.

6. Rear Window I love this tale from Alfred Hitchcock. Not just beacuse of Grace Kelly and James Stewart who make a perfect team in this film. I like the idea that the film is told from Stewart's point of view: stuck in his apartment looking out over the courtyard. I see only what he sees, hear only what hears. A surprisingly interactive film

5. The Haunting (1963) For a horror film without special effects, this one still freaks the heck out of me. Moodily filmed in black and white, this is a very psychological film, delving into what is it that really scares a person. Plus, it boasts a clandestinely lesbian character. Gotta love that.

4. Young Frankenstein One of the most hilarious film parodies ever created. And incredibly quotable, too. Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks showcase their talents with this one.

3. Metropolis (1927) Full of wonderous imagery and storytelling, this movie sets the standard for all the science fiction films to follow. And all without the high-tech, computer-genreated stuff of modern times. A true classic.

2. The Last of Sheila I bet almost no one has heard of this twisted tale of murder from the minds of Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. Very '70s with its cast, including Racquel Welch, James Coburn, James Mason, Dyan Cannon and Richard Benjamin, which adds to the charm of it. I remember watching it for the first time, gathering all the clues and trying to figure out whodunit, then realizing that if I'd paid attention, the answer stared me in the face within the first thirty minutes of the film.

1. Finding Nemo Yes, my inner Disney geek had to include at least one film from them, but this is one of their best. And they definitely have Pixar to thank for it. A heartwarming story that alternately has me laughing and crying. Great voice work from Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneres. It's a universal film, something I can watch with my friends or my folks or by myself.

Things will change as I get older, I'm sure. New movies pop up all the time, and the classics never disappear, waiting to be re-discovered. What are some of your favorite all-time films?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Something's Wrong With This Picture

It's February, folks; FEBRUARY! The temperature hovers around 88˚F. Ash and smoke gently blow through the air as wildfires burn in Malibu and the Cleveland National Forest as if it were the middle of July or August. We should be drenched with non-stop rain! We should be wrapping ourselves in sweaters and heavy coats because of the cold winds blowing off the ocean. We should be huddled around a fireplace, drinking mug after mug of hot chocolate with those tiny marshmallows bobbing along the surface because it's too cold to do anything else.

What gives?!

Climate change information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Another Excerpt from The Book of Meme

I guess you could say that I was tagged by Jef from Cult of Jef. Sort of. His post says that anyone reading his response to the meme is officially tagged. So I will follow along....

Four jobs I've had:
- Living Group Advisor at Humboldt State University
- Customer Service Rep. at Blockbuster Video
- Workers' Compensation Claims Adjuster
- Interim Director for the Lifeguard Program at The Center OC

Four movies I can watch over and over:
- The Emperor's New Groove
- I'm the One That I Want
- Amélie
- Chicago

Four places I've lived:
- Fountain Valley, CA
- Arcata, CA
- Laguna Niguel, CA
- Huntington Beach, CA

Four TV shows I love:
- Lost
- Family Guy
- Project Runway
- Grey's Anatomy

Four places I've vacationed:
- Maui, HI
- Madrid, Spain
- Disneyworld
- Moscow, Russia

Four of my favorite dishes:
- crispy caramel chicken salad from Hamburger Mary's
- beef tacos
- chicken pad thai
- roasted turkey with stuffing

Four sites I visit daily:
- Sudoku Online
- The Literacy Site
- Amazon
- News on Yahoo!

Four places I would rather be right now:
- on a beach in Maui
- Disney's California Adventure
- wandering the streets of Segovia, Spain
- browsing through the books at any Barnes and Noble

Four people to tag:
Anyone who wishes to participate may do so at his or her own discression.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Covering

I read an article in the Feb. 14th issue of The Advocate that made me take a look at how I've been acting in public when I'm with my boyfriend. Regina Marler interviewed Kenji Yoshino, an out Yale law professor, about his book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Covering is hiding in plain sight, toning down who we are in order to be accepted with mainstream society -- not kissing your boyfriend (or girlfriend) at the airport, not holding hands in public, not correcting someone when they assume that you have a partner of the opposite sex. To quote the article, "Yoshino points out that while may basic civil rights have been extended to gays, the courts still punish those who 'act' gay." So being discreet about one's sexuality is often rewarded by the world whereas sporting a rainbow sticker on your car or any overt sign of being out and proud is met with a backlash of prejudice and scorn.

I'm out at the office and am glad to work for a company that embraces everyone's differences, whether it be race, sexual orientation, age, gender, etc. I talk about my boyfriend with my co-workers just as they talk about their dates or their children. And yet, when it comes to kissing him in public, it almost feels as if we are breaking the law. Our first kiss outside of our homes was in the parking lot at the Disneyland Hotel, hidden amongst other cars far from the roads. As our relationship has progressed, we kiss more often when walking each other to our cars, we touch hands or bump into each other when walking down the street or perusing the aisles of a bookstore. Slowly, we seem to be working our way toward public openness, and it's a wonderful feeling. But in the back of my mind, I still imagine the woman driving down MacArthur as we kiss in the parking lot of Hamburger Mary's stopping, rolling down her window and shouting how disgusting it is for two grown men to be kissing.

And it makes want to go on kissing him as long as I can.

Marler, Regina. "Closeted in plain sight." The Advocate. 14 February 2006. p. 58.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bookwhore Chronicles: The Zombie Survival Guide

I recall one evening, stepping out the door to empty my kitchen trash can. I popped off the lid and had just started to dump the remains of the past few fast food dinners when a tabby darted between my legs, surprising the crap out of me. I followed it around the corner, ready to give it a piece of my mind, but stopped and stared at what appeared to be a mass exodus of animals. Dozens of cats dashing along the alley, heedless of the rats and possums that scurried with them. Night birds darted above them, passing by their favorite trees, and a myriad of insects crawled or flew as fast as their little bodies could go, all heading in the same direction -- away from the beach. The high-pitched whine of the dogs began. My neighbor's Labrador hysterically scratched and grunted at the brick wall, and I could just make out the sound of him trying to dig his way underneath as furiously as possible.

The wind blew inland, carrying the noises of cars and planes, the waves crashing onto the sand, and the smell of sea water and salt and...something rotten and sickly. Then, the screaming started. Having recently finished Max Brooks' book The Zombie Survival Guide, I quickly understood what was happening, why the animals and insects were so determined to get as far away from the beach as possible. I ran into my house, grabbed my pack filled with the necessary items, and dragged from under my bed the case containing my new hand bow. I packed the bolts into my pack and rushed toward the screaming with bow in hand. Stupid, I know, but someone had to make sure this didn't get any farther, and I seriously doubted that anyone else knew what was happening or how to deal with it.

Young punks and their girlfriends, surfer dudes, bikers -- they ran in all directions away from Main St. and the Pier. A few dashed up the stairs of the nearby apartment buildings, pounding on door after door to be let in. Others hopped into their cars and sped away, not paying much attention to the road and whoever else might be on it. I pushed my way through the rush of people, struggling against the urge to vomit as the rotten stench grew stronger. Just passed the crowd, I saw him -- it -- tearing a small dog to shreds, the poor creature still lashed to the tree when its owners fled. It's attention focused on the dog, I carefully drew a bolt from my pack and loaded it into the bow. The problem with the hand bow as a weapon is, even though it can penetrate the skull of one of the undead, you have to be fairly close because of the poor range. And the only way to truly kill the undead is by destroying the brain. I quietly approached then, when I felt close enough, made noise to draw the creature's attention. It slowly turned, dropped the dog and hobbled toward me. I raised the hand bow, my arm shaking terribly since this was the first -- and hopefully the ONLY -- time that I had dealt with one of these things. Its mouth opened and that unearthly moan started. God, how I wanted to turn and run! but this thing needed to be stopped. I steadied myself, raised the bow and when it was within 15 feet, fired a bolt. The bolt sailed into the left eye of the creature and dropped him to the ground. I stood there for what seemed like minutes; I actually downed one of them! Holy shit!! I loaded another bolt and cautiously approached the creature. One movement of an arm or leg and I would drive another piece of metal into its brain.

It didn't move so I relaxed a bit and found the can of hairspray and a lighter in my pack. The poor guy must have been a surfer, judging by the wetsuit. The right foot was gouged with bite marks, the exposed skin on the face, hands and feet a mottled grey with pieces of flesh rotted away. The suit seemed fairly torn so he must have put up a good struggle with the zombie who bit him. I uncapped the hairspray and aimed it at him. One flick of the lighter, one press of the spray nozzle, and he was in flames.

***This is a work of fiction. No zombies -- either living dead or otherwise -- were harmed during the creation of this vignette.***