Friday, March 30, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's, correctly guessed by commenter Clark (a.k.a. the infamous CS throughout many of my posts):


A Spoonful of Sugar performed by Julie Andrews in the movie Mary Poppins; music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman


>Released in 1964, Mary Poppins was Julie Andrews' first movie as she was passed up for the role of Eliza Doolittle -- which she originated on Broadway -- in My Fair Lady. That role went to Audrey Hepburn, but Julie Andrews went on to win the oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance of Mary. Two of the other 5 Oscars went to the Sherman brothers for their original score and for the song Chim Chim Cher-ee.

And since I'm on the topic of movies, I saw one of the best creature horror films in quite a while last night, the South Korean film The Host.



An American military officer orders a Korean doctor to empty bottles of formaldehyde and other chemicals down a sink drain that leads to the Han River. A few years later, two fisherman happen to spot a tiny, wormlike creature swimming by and capture it in a cup only to drop it when one of them is bitten. A few more years pass.... Many people are enjoying the sunny day along the banks of the Han. They spot a weird object dangling from the bottom of a bridge and figure it to be some sort of construction equipment -- until it slowly moves, drops into the water. As it nears the bank and the crowd gathers to watch it, Park Gang-du tosses a can of beer into the water and watches in amazement as a tail slowly wraps around the can, pulling it under the water. Soon, the rest of the crowd are pelting the creature with garbage, but when nothing happens, they begin to walk away. Only to flee in terror as an unspeakable creature leaps from the water, crushing and devouring people in its path. In the confusion, Gang-du grabs the hand of his daughter Hyun-seo and runs, noticing moments later that the hand does not belong to Hyun-seo. He watches in horror as a few feet away, the creature's tail wraps around his daughter and pulls her into the water. Later, at a government hospital treating anyone who was present at the time the creature appeared for an unknown "virus," Gang-du receives a call from his daughter. She's alive, and now he and his family -- college activist brother, champion archer sister, and their father -- must find her before the creature kills her.

The creature in this film had some of the best CGI effects I've seen. It seemed almost real, as if they actually found some kind of monster living in the Han River. Wonderful acting from all the leads, especially Ko A-seong as Hyun-seo and Song Kang-ho as Gang-du. Like any great B-movie, it didn't take itself too seriously, adding bits of humor and family drama in with the genuine scares. If you want a fun scare, then this is perfect for you.

This started me thinking about monster-related songs for this week's First Line:

When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake
Spooks come out for a swinging wake
Happy haunts materialize
And begin to vocalize


Another Disney-related song -- but not from a movie. And Clark, I'm exempting you from this one!!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bookwhore Favorites: Sea of Tranquility
In the early 1970s, Astronaut Allen Cloud returns to his Houston, TX, home from a mission in Florida to find his wife Joan sitting on their bed, drunk and toying with a pistol. He calmly takes the gun from her, which she swears isn't loaded. She lays back on the bed and, before passing out, says, "You should know, your son is a homosexual."

"Sea of Tranquility" relates the story of the Cloud family in the aftermath of that singular statement. Allen Cloud, astronaut and father who tries to cope with his mixed feelings about the son he never really knew. Not that he ever really knew anyone or would allow anyone to get close to him. Joan Cloud, finally feeling free of the loneliness of being an astronaut's wife, moves with her son to her hometown of Minerva, TN. Continuously drinking, her life centers around her son whom she loves but feels more of an equal to than a mother. Jonathan Cloud, her son who wears tie-dye shirts and eyeliner to enhance his dark eyes. Very much a free spirit with a vivid imagination and who doesn't care much for what others think about him. Stayton Voegli, the son of a Baptist preacher and missionary, who falls for Jonathan after sneaking out to a club, watching him dance, and is then partnered with him in a high school science class.

Each chapter is told from one of their points of view, all in the first person, allowing us access their true feelings. Stayton's hesitation at this new relationship he's forming and trying to reconcile it with his strong religious upbringing. Jonathan's vivid world, filled with the names of all the stars and planets and galaxies. But, Allen's chapters are told in the third person, revealing much more about his character's feelings of being cut off and closed to those around him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dinseyland, Chorus Boys and Lots of Shopping, II

Before the concert, The Boyfriend and I met with CS, our friend Dwayne, and their mutual friend Leslie, at the Steelhead Brewery just across the street from the theater. Despite the poor service (the waitress brought the wrong food for The Boyfriend but disappeared before we could tell her, neglected to come back at all to ask how our meal was or to replenish our drinks), the food was decent. The restaurant was packed not only with clusters of gay men grabbing a bite before the show, but also some choristers dressed in their tuxes, probably meeting with family and friends. By the time the waitress re-appeared, we had barely 10 minutes to make it to the theater so we all chipped in money and dashed for the theater.

The audience was filled with gay men, lesbians, and various straight folk peppered throughout the seats. We sat near the back of the orchestra, allowing us to watch the many groups kissing, shaking hands, re-uniting with what seemed like long lost acquaintances. The lights signaling to those loitering in the aisles to quickly take their seats, and soon the dueling piansts from both the OC Gay Men's Chorus and the Portland Gay Men's Chorus took the stage, treating the audience to the concert's theme of The Piano Man with various piano music from the classics to today and ending with the curtain rising on the combined choruses singing Billy Joel's Piano Man. They performed a few more numbers together then the Portland Chorus left the stage, giving the spotlight to OC. They gave a solid performance highlighted by a soul-filled, diva-inspired version of Respect. After intermission, the Portland Chorus treated us to some unusual songs, including Real Slow Drag from Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha. For the finale, both choruses combined for a few more songs, such as Stomp from Aaron Copland, Barry Manilow's Copacabana complete with a very tall Lola twirling around in high heels, ABBA's Dancing Queen, and my favorite of the night Drama about growing up as a drama queen. A very enjoyable evening, though The Boyfriend and I somehow became separated after the show from CS and friends. We hung around the lobby for about 15 minutes then stepped outside to wait for another 10 wihtout any luck in spotting them. So we headed home.

Sunday we spent a good four hours at The Block at Orange, beginning with The Boyfriend's first-ever dining experience at Dave & Buster's. Good food followed by the two of us going crazy playing trivia games, firing fake guns at the shooting gallery, rolling skeeballs, and earning tickets for prizes. From there, we strolled around the shops, stopping at Vans so I could buy a pair of gray, Old Skool sneakers, and at the Virgin Megastore to take advantage of the $10 CD deals. By the time we made it back to my place, our feet hurt from all the walking and standing, and we collapsed on the couch to watch some TV and relax.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Disneyland, Chorus Boys and Lots of Shopping

What a nice change of pace to sleep in a bit on a Friday morning. Not having to rush through breakfast before showering and heading for the office. I woke up leisurely, tinkered a bit on the computer, took a nice, long shower and finally made my way toward Disneyland. CS and I arranged to meet in front of City Hall at 11am, head directly to Space Mountain and then wander aimlessly around the park. Space Mountain was a "must do" attraction as a few weeks ago, the Disney folk temporarily changed the usual soundtrack to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was slated to revert back to normal sometime in April so we had to check it out. We stood in line for 45 minutes then spent less than 3 zooming through semi-darkness, twisting and turning into blinking red and blue lights, Higher Ground thumping into our ears, adrenaline pumping through our veins. We giddily climbed the exit stairs as a ride operator's voice broke through the loading area noise to announce that the ride had temporarily shut down.

The sunlight blinded us, but we somehow managed to walk our way across the park to eat lunch at the Hungry Bear while tossing French fries to the ducks. From then on, we leisurely enjoyed the day, walking through the shops and occasionally queuing for an attraction. Later in the evening, a new friend joined us for another ride on Space Mountain. SS (as the new friend shall be known since those are his initials) had yet to experience the new soundtrack and was equally thrilled with the 10-minute wait which CS finagled for us through some skillfull acting. We headed from there to the Storyteller Café for dinner then a few more attractions in California Adventure before calling it a day.

Saturday morning found me waking much earlier than usual thanks to some creature with claws tearing away at the inside of the walls. At least, that's what I thought it was. I pounded my fist against the wall without any effect, then followed the scratching to my window. I yanked open the blinds and was blinded by the dust and sunlight. And the fact that I wasn't wearing my glasses. Whatever it was had hopefully been frightened away so I cleaned up, ran a few errands and started a bit of housework. On my way back from the shed, I noticed my bedroom window screen was missing the lower third of the mesh. I guessed that was the ripping and scratching I heard, something tearing away at the screen, leaving a gaping hole directly into the bedroom. So I locked the house and dashed to OSH with the hope of finding a ready-made screen.

I searched each aisle, trying to find the screens or someone to point me in the right direction. Screen doors, metal window bars, blinds, Windex, even plastic insulation for glass, but no screens. However, I did find the materials for making a screen. I freely admit that I am not the most butch person when it comes to home repair, but the screen needed fixing so I picked a roll of fiberglass mesh, some spline (a long, narrow strip of material to keep the mesh in the screen frame, not the function that has specified values at a finite number of points and consists of segments of polynomial functions joined smoothly at these points, enabling it to be used for approximation and interpolation of functions), and the wood tool used to push the spline into the frame. 15 minutes later, and I had a nifty newish screen.

Just in time, too, because The Boyfriend was to arrive shortly so we could join CS and friends for the OC Gay Men's Chorus concert.

...to be continued...


Definition of spline from Dictionary.com.

Friday, March 23, 2007

First Line Friday

Congratulations to Garry for being the first to correctly name last week's tune:



Dream a Little Dream of Me performed by Mama Cass Elliott; music by Milton Adolphus, lyrics by Gus Kahn

Originally written in 1931, Mama Cass' 1968 recording is probably the mostly widely recognized version having sold 7 million copies worldwide.

Thanks to everyone who participates in the First Line Fridays. It certainly hasn't been easy thinking of a song to choose each week, something to fit with the mood I'm in or with a TV or movie or even a play recently seen. In fact, I just selected this week's song not more than 5 minutes ago, as I was typing this post.

In honor of my Personal Day (today -- woo hoo!), I'm meeting my friend CS at Disneyland so this week's First Line comes from a Disney film. I won't say much more than that because it would make things too easy for you if I did.

In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game


I will mention that the film won 5 of its 13 nominations at the Academy Awards, one of which was for Best Original Song -- though not this song in particular.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lunchtime

Monday through Friday I enjoy getting out of the office, spending my lunch hour with my taco salad or chicken teriyaki bowl and my current book in our building's courtyard. Old pine trees scattered about an island of man-made boulders and surrounded by a small stream with a lone koi swimming complacently. Trails meander on and around that little mound of land, and office workers needing a break from the cubicle farms often find themselves standing at the top of the island or sitting at a white plastic table provided by the management to enjoy a smoke, a chat or a sandwich. I take my lunch early enough that I am usually the sole person seated out there, no sounds but the rushing water, the buzzing insects, bird calls and a few planes from the airport.

I sit at one of those tables, trying to make more headway in Forbidden Colors as a small insect lands on the page. Tiny black body, no larger than a pebble, sprouting smoky grey wings almost triple its size. I wave it away, reach for my drink, find another one resting on my straw, wings gently moving up and down. I flick this one from the end of my straw and watch if fly into the air, joining a cloud made of dozens of tiny termites buzzing up toward the clouds. My eyes follow to the beginning of the cloud and lock onto a dead tree stump jutting from between two man-made boulders. The end is barely visible beneath the pulsing shining mass of the tiny creatures crawling toward the tip and jumping into the air like so many lemmings. Most find their way up and over the building with ease; some land on one of the beige table umbrellas looking more like bits of dirt than insects; others circle back on the group and manage to head my direction to annoy me.

I cut my lunch short and head back to the office, leaving the termites to find someone else to bother.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Beautiful Weekend

Friday after work, I drove through the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, en route to The Boyfriend's, when I turned a corner and immediately had to stop. Many police cars lined the street on both sides, but the odd thing about them was the emblem on the doors: they were for Miami Dade PD. Men and women with clipboards or walkie talkies, wove through the stopped cars, while the police stood in groups, arms folded, laughing joking. Another person maneuvered a large set of lights on a crane and that's when I finally noticed the writing on his shirt: CSI: Miami. I happened upon a film shoot for the TV show without realizing it. Later that night, during dinner with our friends M&L, M told us that quite a bit of the show was filmed in Long Beach. In fact, most of the interior shots were filmed on sound stages within the Spruce Goose Dome. We followed dinner with a rousing game of Scrabble®.

I love playing board games. However, I don't participate too frequently because I tend to turn into the Board Game Warden. No variation from the rules. Violators will need to have game piece surgically removed. Not a pleasant experience for those involved. But, we played anyway, and the Warden side appeared much to the surprise of The Boyfriend. When someone comes up with a word like "larson" and tried to convince me that it meant "theft," well, I cross over to the Dark Side, challenge, pull out the dictionary, etc. Long story short, board games and I do not mix.

We spent some time in retail therapy mode on Saturday at the Westminster Mall, buying bits of clothing at Old Navy, a pair of nifty blue and white shoes from Vans, a dozen nibblers from Mrs. Field's. I attempted to get some sweet and sour candies from a vending machine, but instead of landing in my hand as I turned the dial, they shot like machine gun bullets from a hole underneath the dial and scattered across the floor. An older Asian woman pushing a stroller smiled and laughed as the hard candies skid across the tiles dropped over the edge to the first floor. Luckily, The Boyfriend was ogling baby clothes at another store. (Not for us!!!! Our friend M is pregnant with twins.) With time quickly speeding by, we headed home on the freeway. Traffic was slower than usual for a Saturday afternoon, and soon we passed the reason: a CHP officer was assisting two cars that suffered a minor collision. They stood along the shoulder, exchanging information, and as we passed, we both did a doubletake. Because a woman dressed in the red and blue puffy sleeves, long shiny yellow dress, satiny blue cape and bodice, bobbed black hair with a red ribbon, and Ray-Bans was handing her insurance information to the other driver. Snow White caused an accident. Of all the time not to have a camera!!

After a brief rest, we changed clothes and headed for Los Angeles. And because we arrived much earlier than expected, The Boyfriend took a turn down Hollywood Blvd. Which probably wasn't such a good idea as traffic was at a standstill. We sat at one light, in the same spot, for almost 15 minutes before swerving down a sidestreet and racing as far from Hollywood as the car could go. We ended up in West Hollywood at our usual restaurant, the French Quarter, then sped from there to the Celebration Theatre to see the play Beautiful Thing.

40 - 50 people crammed into the small lobby of the Celebration, drinks in hand chatting it up while the stage hands took care of some "technical issues." We didn't mind the wait as we didn't think we'd make it to the theater at all. One traffic light malfunctioned, blinking a continuous red that forced cars to line up for their turn as crossing the intersection. We tried sidestreets to circumvent the massive amounts of backed up traffic, but no matter which way we went, an unscheduled wait was in our way. With 5 minutes until the curtain was to rise, we parked and ran for the theater. The doors finally opened, and the crowd poured into the boxy theater, taking every available seat and the few extra chairs that management provided. A few lines from a Mamas and Papas song filtered through the theater as the lights dimmed.
Beautiful Thing tells the story of Jamie, a 16-year-old being bullied at school -- though he won't admit to it; his neighbor Ste, the athletic boy with problems at home; and Leah, expelled from school and who likes to send her days listening to Mama Cass and earning a reputation as a bit of a slag. When Ste's brother beats him, Jamie's mother Sandra offers a safe refuge at their flat, and Jamie realizes that he is in love with Ste. Ste, in turn, finds comfort from Jamie, and soon they're spending a lot of time together. When Jamie's mother finds out about the two going to a gay bar in Gloucester, she finally understands about the bullying at school and tries to accept Jamie and Ste. (Okay, so it's not the best description of the show, but I think quite a few of you have seen the movie and know the story enough to get the gist of the play.) Fantastic performances by all the actors: Nathan Frizzell as Jamie; Michael Tauzin as Ste; Kelly Schumann as Leah (superb); Sarah Taylor as Sandra (amazing); and Nate Clark as Sandra's boyfriend Tony. It felt like the perfect cast for the show. They seemed to relish the parts and didn't act them so much as be them. Schumann's comedic abilites were amazing as she drunkenly acted like Mama Cass or tried to seduce both Ste and tony. Taylor delivered a heartfelt performance as Sandra. Clark nailed the slightly unsure, young boyfriend of an older woman with a child. And Frizzell and Tauzin worked perfectly together as the young boys discovering love and how it can change people. They received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd. We left the theater in a good mood, so good, in fact, that we couldn't stop talking about the show during the drive home.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

First Line Fri...er, Sunday

Honest, I didn't forget about answering last week's First Line. I could go into a long, drawn-out explanation, but what good would that do? I'm sure you would prefer that I just post the answer. So I will.


Together in Electric Dreams by Phil Oakey, music/lyrics by Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey

Last night, The Boyfriend and I caught a staging of Jonathan Harvey's play Beautiful Thing at the Celebration Theatre in West Hollywood. (I'll delve a bit more into it tomorrow, but if you're in the Los Angeles area, GO SEE IT!!) One of the characters thinks of Mama Cass of The Mamas and the Papas as her mentor so taking a tip from that, I've selected the next First Line....

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"
Birds singin' in the sycamore tree


Originally written in 1931, Mama Cass sang the song at a Mamas and Papas concert in 1968. The recording reached the #12 spot in the US and was considered to be the launch of her solo career.

That's it for this, er last, week.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ulisi

I stood in the doorway, watching her asleep in her chair. She stopped coloring her hair, allowing the grey and white to take their rightful places. A more natural look, almost regal and unforced. Her head leaned to one side, eyeglasses still perched atop her nose. The shawl given as a Christmas gift by my cousin acting as a makeshift pillow. Her hands clutched the TV remote, and I was surprised she could sleep through the NBA screming from the speakers.

My Mother told me months ago to go ahead and wake her if necessary so I gently grudgingly shook her shoulder, whispering her name as if my voice would scare her over the din from the TV. After a few moments, she opened one eye, having some difficulty with the other but finally managing. She stared blankly at my face, not sure who I was where I came from what I was doing standing beside her chair. I repeated my name two, three times. Her eyes lit up. "Goodness! Pull up a chair!"

"Your folks are on a trip, and I heard you're Dad's already had an accident." I nodded my head, smiling. He called the day before to tell me that they'd made it safely to Palm Springs but as he was getting something from the motorhome, the railing he was grasping collapsed, causing him to tumble out the door landing on his hands and knees. Just a slight scrape, a sore hand, no blood. "I'll tell you, he needs one of those," pointing to her trusty walker. "The best thing that was ever given to me. I don't go anywhere without it." She turned to me, one eyebrow arched in expectation. "Do you know where I got it?" A shake of the head. "When I first moved down here, years ago, I went to a hosiptal near California and...and...." Her brow wrinkled while she fought to remember. "Arizona, I think it was. Somewhere on the border of California and Arizona, at a hospital near the Gulf...Gulf of Mexico, I think. The nurse and I were walking down the hall when this old man came walking fast right toward us. He was dragging this thing behind him, and he walked up to me, handed it to me and said 'Don't ever let them take this' then ran out the door. I asked the nurse if he was joking, and she said no, she thought he really meant it. And I've had it ever since." I glanced down, knowing where the walker actually came from but not wanting to spoil her memory of it. And I heartily agreed with her that my Dad needed one.

I told her about the pow-wow from last weekend, describing the smell of the fry bread, the drumming, the ornate costumes. Her entire face changed, smiled as if she saw herself admiring the fancy dancers as they circled the drum. "When I lived with Grandma in that place with...all the...the lumber, she used to be friends with a Native American woman. She would ride out every week on her pony, bareback, to the house in Eatonville. She was from Nisqually so it must have taken her at least a day to get there. She would tie the pony to the fence, than talk and sign with Grandma. They'd go in the house for a while, and Grandma would give her food, clothing, things they didn't have and then she'd ride all that way back. It must have taken about a day to get there." Her eyes drifted away for a moment. "You know, she kept coming to the house until I was in high school, then she just stopped all of a sudden. We never did find out what happened to her."

We talked a bit more about basketball, how much money those kids were making. She yawned so I decided to take my leave. She walked me to the door, reminding me to come back soon. "And tell your brother to stop by some time, too." I promised.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bookwhore Favorites: The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Trudy the Bag Lady has made a life for herself on the streets, offering her own bits of wit and wisdom to the passers-by. Before she wound up on the streets, she was in and out of hospitals, receiving so much electro-shock therapy that she believes her nervous system has been re-wired and now tunes into the bio-rhythms of people around her. Trudy takes us, along with her two alien companions, on a discovery trip to find out what it means to be human and imparting her own impressions on life. She tunes in a wide array of people, ranging from Agnus Angst, a 15-year-old punk performance artist; Agnus' grandparents Lud and Marie; Chrissy, a recently unemployed workout enthusiast; Lily, an actress currently performing a one-woman show; and many others, both men and women, gay and straight.

This play is full of marvelous insight into the human condition and life in the 1980's. This is very apparent in the incredible second act, in which we follow Lyn from the consciousness-raising times of the 1970's through her rise and fall in the business ranks of the 1980's and her turbulent family life. Also, all the characters, in one form or another, have some influence on the life of the other characters in the play, whether or not they actually meet: Lyn has an affair with Agnus's mother; Kate, a rich trendsetter, finds a suicide note left by Chrissy lying in the street; Trudy takes the aliens to see Lily's play in order to show them goosebumps. Full of wit, insight and tenderness, this play stands as a perfect glimpse into understanding society.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Randomness
Yes, we were part of the throng of moviegoers to see 300 over the weekend. We eagerly anticipated seeing this one after the trailers late last year, promises of heavy battles, wondrous special effects and an intriguing storyline based upon the graphic novel (which we read each time we found it in Barnes and Noble). And not just because of Gerard Butler -- although watching him stand, glistening and naked in the moonlight, didn't hurt our decision -- and the other men with rippling abs, thickly muscled arms, thighs and torsos, wearing scarcely any clothes. The movie definitely exceeded our expectations with a great story, incredible special effects filled with blood and body parts flying left and right, highly stylized combat scenes, and good acting. The only aspect I didn't like was the music which seemed too loud and pompous, overpowering many scenes to the point that I couldn't hear the actors.

- Once again, we bet each other how many previews before the movie actually started. I won with 6 trailers, and it only took us half an hour to remember them all during dinner after 300.

- Spotted on the back windshield of a Ford F150 - "66,000 miles/three transmissions/thank you, Ford"

- Attended another Pow-wow on Sunday, this one to kick off the season. A circle of tents surrounded the main quad and the gigantic ceremonial drum at its center. I recognized many dancers from the previous pow-wow, and despite the pounding heat, they danced and twirled for hours on end. We gorged on fry bread and spent some time poring over the jewelry and dream catchers. I even met Irene Bedard, the speaking voice of Disney's Pocahantas.

- Why do landlords use the small space on "For Rent" signs to write every single detail about a vacant apartment (size, bedrooms, bathrooms, amenities, former resident's marital status, pets or not, smoking or not, shoe size, washer/dryer, rent, and phone numbers) in print so small that no one can actually read it from the sidewalk?

- I bought two more books that I really didn't need. My stack now overflows the bookshelf. Is there a self-help group for bookaholics?

Friday, March 09, 2007

First Line Friday

Yep, it's that time of the week again. And I bet you're just dying to know the answer to last week's, right? Well, congratulations to Matt for being the first to correctly name it:

I Can't Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar (lyrics/music)




Probably his biggest solo hit, Hagar included this song on his last solo effort, VOA (Voice Of America), before becoming the lead singer of Van Halen. And, in 2001, he updatd the song, changing the title to I Can't Drive 65.

Last night, I purchased a rush ticket to see a new play at South Coast Repertory. The blurb about Life Is a Dream sounding intriguing and the playwrite, Nilo Cruz, earned a Pulitzer in 2003 for Anna in the Tropics so I decided to take a chance. The play is an adaptation of a 17th century piece by Spanish writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca, telling the tale of Segismundo, imprisoned by his father the King because of bad omens and visions on the day of his birth, foretelling that he would be a tyrannical ruler. During Segismundo's 20th year, the King decides to release him for a single day, to test his nobility and to see if he can change his fate. Should he fail, Segismudo would be drugged and returned to prison, lead to believe that that one day was nothing but a dream. As I said, I took a chance. Some of the acting was wonderful: Daniel Breaker as Segismundo, John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek: TNG) as Basilio the King, and Matt D'Amico as the servant Clarín. They embodied their characters, brought them to life with anger, madness, fear, and resignation. The two main ladies of the show, Lucia Brawley as Rosaura and Jennifer Chu as Princess Estrella, seemed to be reading directly from the script, overemphasizing body movements and gestures, and coming across generally wooden and forced. As for the main story, too many plots occurring at once and the stilted, bizarre choreography made it difficult to follow. At times, I felt the director was trying to pull of a Julie Taymor-type show but misfired somewhere. One woman concernedly asked the bartender during intermission if the second act would be better, and I noticed that a third of the people did not return after intermission.

But the idea of the story got me thinking, and I remembered a movie from the '80s about a computer wanting to have a real life and started insinuating itself into the lives of its owner and his family and friends. The machine dreamed about life just as Segismundo dreamed of a world beyond the confines of his prison cell. And so we come to this week's First Line:

I only knew you for a while
I never saw your smile
'Til it was time to go
Time to go away (time to go away)


Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey performed this song for the movie Electric Dreams so I thought it might be appropriate. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

For Pua

Sunday afternoon, I decided to spend a little time at Disneyland as The Boyfriend wanted to visit his folks. I arrived at the parking structure around 3pm and stared in awe at the number of cars that were parked along two of the lanes heading toward the ticket booths. Cars also sat in bunches against the farthest wall of the structure, where I normally turn right to reach the upper floors of the cement behemoth. The two parking attendants waved for me to make a left, and I found myself parked in a large spot between a school bus and a Southwind. Odd enough for a Sunday at Disney, but the worst was yet to come. Hundreds upon hundreds of people crowded the walkways of Downtown Disney, and I forced my way through like a salmon swimming upstream. The lines to enter each of the parks were surprisingly short, which only hid the terrible menace of thousands of bodies cramming every inch of space between the entrance gate and the Matterhorn. I managed to reach the small display board with wait times posted for each of the attractions and was dismayed to see not one shorter than an hour. Back to the exit and across the way to California Adventure -- because hardly anyone goes to that park. Lo and behold, almost as many people stood around the main plaza, enjoying a performance of High School Musical: Live!. Parents with their tiny children bopping in time to the music. Young girls in cheerleader outfits trying to outdo the performers with their choreography. A few tourists looking dazed, not understanding at all what was happening right before their eyes. I made a bee-line for The Tower of Terror, dodging Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and the throng leaving the Aladdin show. But it was not to be: the wait time was 90 minutes. Dejectedly, I walked back to the parking structure and headed home.

So fellow "Passtard" Pua, I would originally have answered your question about the best day to go as being Sunday. I have since learned that in an attempt to increase business during the off-season, Disney has planned numerous events for Sundays so the parks may become overflowing with people and strollers.

Then, what is the best day to go?

Wednesday. During the school year. When it's raining.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Meme in Time Saves....100?

Matt over at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook posted this interesting book meme. And, well, who am I to pass up a book meme?

  • Bold the books you've read
  • Italicize the books you want to read
  • Slash the books that don't interest you
  • Turn green the books you've never heard of (I changed this one to make the list easier to read)

  1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  4. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
  21. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
  28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. 1984 (George Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paul Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. The Bible
  46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
  53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
  64. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  69. Les Misérables (Victor Hugo)
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
  71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
  81. Not Wanted on the Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  82. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMarier)
  84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (José Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. In the Skin of a Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
  92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Astrological

We started Saturday morning with a brisk walk through the neighborhoods of Long Beach, jotting down phone numbers and addresses for apartment buildings with "For Rent" signs staked along the sidewalk. Now before you, my avid readers, jump to any conclusions, we have discussed moving in together, but that's for another post sometime in the distant future. This search had more to do with his new landlord deciding to increase the rent so his one bedroom unit would cost almost $1,000 per month. So we walked up and down the streets around his current neighborhood, finding a few gems -- such as the two-story grey building that looked like a small hotel, with wooden bannisters, carpeting and an art-deco look -- to downright nasty. All a bit pricey. And very few allowing pets. He called a few for more information and scheduled a looksee for Sunday. Then, we drove to Polly's on the other end of Long Beach for a late breakfast and to browse the neighborhood over there. We managed to walk through one apartment, just shy of the maximum price range: a nice, secluded ground floor unit, tons of shade, a great breeze with the windows open, a covered garage, new paint, freshly shampooed carpets and the stench of 48 packs of wet, used cigarettes. It didn't help, either, that the closet doors as well as the special exit door from the bedroom into the courtyard were painted shut. We sat in the car and he said he'd had enough apartment hunting for one day so we decided to take in a showing of Zodiac.
As the lights dimmed, we bet each other how many previews before the movie actually started: The Boyfriend guessed 5 whereas I thought 7. Final tally was 6. (During dinner, we remembered 5 of the films, only two by name, and spent the better part of half an hour trying to recall anything about the sixth.) The movie started eventually, and we sat back to enjoy a very well-planned crime thriller. Beginning with the 1968 attack on a young man and woman in a parked car, the movie slowly and methodically moves through the long investigation into the Zodiac murders, both by the police, led by a quirky Mark Ruffalo and a wooden, out-of-place Anthony Edwards and by the San Francisco Chronicle by a very fey and likable Robert Downey, Jr. and a nerdy cartoonist with a knack for codes played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The film's creators captured the time period of San Francisco during the late '60s through the '70s incredibly well. However, like the mass amounts of politics and red tape that stymied the police investigation, the film was mired with too much information, clocking in at two and a half hours. A few scenes, while they looked great, really didn't advance the story. Also -- and this was something I harped on during dinner -- Gyllenhaal's character didn't seem to age. The film spanned 10+ years, the police officers got a little thicker around the middle, lost a bit more hair or had it greying at the temples while Gyllenhaal grew a bit of scruff and that was that. But I think I can safely say that we both enjoyed the film.

Back at his apartment, we popped a DVD into the player and watched both the musical Reefer Madness! and the original 1936 film upon which it was based. Cute film, with some good performances by Alan Cumming, John Kassir and Stephen Weber, and an incredible stint by Ana Gasteyer. But just a cute film. It probably worked better on stage.

Sunday, we checked a few more apartments walked through two supposed one bedrooms which turned out to be studios. Very small studios. We drove along 2nd St., hoping to find something nice among the swankier homes and surprisingly found quite a few, though trying to get the numbers was difficult as many other apartment hunters had the same idea and parking/stopping space was definitely at a premium. We passed on many places, not because of the rent, but those two little words: No Pets. And I always thought Long Beach was such an animal-friendly place.

One of us needs to win the Mega-Lottery and buy a house. Maybe something in Naples....

Friday, March 02, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's:

Connection by Elastica; music and lyrics by Justine Frischmann and Elastica




No cutesie little comments about this song. I just happen to like it and thought it "connected" with my mentioning of LinkedIn. As for this week's first line, inspiration (almost) struck me while driving to work this morning. Some older gentleman started tailgating me as I made a left turn and immediately swerved to the right in order to pass me. While we were still in mid-turn. Numbnuts then floored it to almost 65 mph, darted up the street and slammed on his brakes before nearly colliding with a school bus. So in honor of this doofus with his maroon Taurus complete with gold package, I present to you this week's First Line:

One foot on the brake and one on the gas, hey!
Well, there's too much traffic, I can't pass, no!
So I tried my best illegal move
Well, baby, black and white come and touched my groove again!


This Sammy Hagar classic reached #26 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1984. Peace out!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: Mémoires d'Hadrien
1994. One year out of college, and I was slowly getting an idea of just how far my degree in French could take me: almost nowhere. I'd done some background work in a film but wound up registering with a clerical temp agency so I could actually earn money. Coming from a family of teachers, the logical progression would have been to get a credential and start teaching. But my fear of public speaking quickly nixed that idea. My original plan consisted of taking business courses along with the French, perhaps work my way into international finance. Yeah, that idea lasted for three semesters, when I dropped the business classes in favor of theater and writing classes, the wacky idea of becoming a writer somehow oozing into my brain. Long story short, I graduated with a degree in French Literature and learned just how unmarketable that was.

My cousin, on the other hand, thrived with foreign languages, taking both French and Spanish. His junior or senior year at UCLA, he enrolled in an educational exchange with the University of Madrid and never looked back, earning many degrees and securing tons of work as a translator. He and I would always speak to each other in French, send letters, etc. And his skills improved while mine simmered on the backburner, not getting cold but not exactly reaching a desirable temperature. That Christmas, I think he knew just how unhappy I was after spending 9 years learning a language for which I'd have little use so he gave me a book with the following inscription:

Cher cousin,

J'espère que tu n'as pas lu ce livre merveilleux, et que tu as envie de pratiquer un peu ton français cet hiver '95.

Joyeux Noël


I did want to practice my French. I wanted so much to be at his level and the next day started my ordeal. I didn't get very far, circling every other word because I didn't know what it meant, frantically searching through my little French dictionary. By the time I finished the first three pages, I'd had it. I closed the book, threw it on the stack of my old French novels from school, and forgot about it.

When I moved a few years ago, I found the book, dusted it off and set it alongside the others in my vast stack of "must reads." And last week, I finally picked it up to make another attempt at it. This time around, I decided to simply read it, to see how much I could understand without relying on the Micro Robert dictionary. So far, I've surprised myself, not that I know all the words but I get the gist of what's being said. Makes me want to enroll in another French class at a local J.C.

Almost.