Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Diversity in Reading Meme

I borrowed this meme from Matt over at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook because...well..because I'm too tired to think of a blog post on my own, and the questions seemed very interesting.

Name the last book by a female author that you’ve read.

The Charioteer by Mary Renault.

Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you’ve read.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Name one from a Latino/a author.

Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Argentina)

How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai (Sri Lanka)

What about a GLBT writer?

Metes and Bounds by Jay Quinn

Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you’re feeling lucky?

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (Iran)

Any other “marginalized” authors you’ve read lately?

That's hard to say. I think many of the gay/lesbian writers I've read or will read have been marginalized at one point: Radclyffe Hall, Reinaldo Arenas, to name a few.

Do you read non-fiction regularly? Do you read it in a different way or place than you read fiction?

I don't read non-fiction too often, though lately, I've read quite a few Web-related books for work. The most recent of those was Web Design for ROI by Loveday and Niehaus. I usually try to throw one or two non-fiction works into the mix of books I read.

Would you consider magazines non-fiction?

That depends upon the magazine. Time is definitely non-fiction, but I also enjoy reading Isaac Asimov's Tales of Science Fiction which for the most part contains more fiction with smaller articles of fact.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too Many Cooks


Before you ask, no, I didn't bake these scrumptious peanut buttery chocolaty delights that you see in the pic. Caesar made them all by himself for a bake sale at his office tomorrow.

And all this time, I bet you thought only one of us cooked. Look out, world! The Gay Cooking Duo is coming for you!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday of the Dead

When I arrived at the apartment the night before, an orange slip sat on the coffee table to let me know that a large brown envelope would be waiting for me because of its too-large size. Saturday morning, Caesar dropped me off at the Post Office downtown while on his way to help MM with the twins at Gymboree for their morning exhaustion session. I didn't have to wait long and was soon quickstepping the 20 or so blocks back to the apartment with an envelope from Broadway Books in my hands. Perhaps this was the latest zombie novel I'd won from LibraryThing.com, and sure enough, as I tore through the wrapping while opening the apartment's front door, S.G. Browne's novel Breathers: A Zombie's Lament fell to the floor. A note from the publisher also floated down, congratulating me for winning a copy of their book and hoping that I enjoy it enough to write a review.

After reading the first chapter, I hope it gets better....

Later that afternoon, after running a few errands at Target, we decided to see a 4:30PM showing of Sunshine Cleaning. However, after browsing through Best Buy and Barnes & Noble, we couldn't think of anything better to do so we headed to the movie theater about an hour early. Good thing, because the movie I thought started at 4:30PM (thanks to Yahoo! Movies) was already running previews as the actual showtime was 3:40PM. We rushed inside with our tickets, finding two seats at the back of the darkened theater.
Rose Lorkowski, once the captain of the cheerleading squad, finds herself years later working for a maid service, cleaning the homes of the wealthy of Albuquerque. Raising a son by herself and feeling like her life is going nowhere -- and after running into a former classmate whose house she was cleaning -- Rose decides to take hold of her future and convinces her sister Norah to try a new venture: crime scene clean-up. After a rough start, their new business -- Sunshine Cleaning -- begins to take off and the two sisters find themselves finally growing closer to one another, able to work out their differences and to come together about the suicide of their mother while they were still young.

A quirky movie from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, it felt more like a drama with elements of comedy rather than an out-and-out comedy. That's not a bad thing; Megan Holley's script allows the humor to flow naturally from what's happening in the scenes, never forced. Amy Adams is wonderful as Rose Lorkowski, and I enjoyed seeing her character grow and change from the woman who feels trapped in a dead-end life to someone empowered, who finally understands and respects herself as a person. Emily Blunt also gives a fine performance as Rose's sister Norah, a woman who can't seem to keep a job, but through the cleaning service with her sister, begins to understand relationships. (And turns out to be lesbian!) Alan Arkin, Jason Spevack, Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr. are equally good and help add to the quirky goodness of the film.

We left the movie with smiles on our faces, and that, to me, is a sign of a good movie.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Too Much Social Media-ing?

Let's see....

I have a blog at which I try to update on life events, observations, books, randomness, etc. Though I don't use any stats checkers to see who visits, I think the amount who do -- just from comments -- is a nice, respectable number, a mini-network of people across the country (and a few outside the States) whom I've met and would like to meet, who enjoy a leisurely glimpse into what's happening.

Thanks to work, I also have a Facebook Page. Which I hemmed and hawed against, wondering why on Earth I would need yet another place to inundate people with the events of my life. And yet, Facebook's has enshrouded me in its web, and I am enjoying all the quizzes and games, the connections with current friends, bloggers and the folks from high school. Highly addictive, too; I managed to talk Caesar into starting his own page.

And now, like one of Odysseus' men on the island of the Lotus-Eaters, I am slowly falling under the spell of Twitter. Though, to be honest, I think to really make it work, you need a gimmick or some kind of celebrity. But it is voyeuristic fun reading about the goings on behind the scenes of Robot Chicken or the latest Disneyland news/gossip.

With all this "putting myself out there", I wonder if it's actually too much?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bowling

Caesar and I bowled last night, thanks to a free 8-person bowling party won by our friend MM. I used to bowl in a league many years ago, but hadn't hefted one of those urethane balls in quite a while so let's just say my game was off. The first three frames, I managed three spares in a row, but failed to pick up remaining pins in the next few. At least I eked over the 100 mark by the game's end. The second game was much worse with more gutter balls than I'd care to admit. Caesar enjoyed himself, and we all devoured the appetizers: chicken nuggets, nachos, onion rings, mac & cheese nuggets, focaccia bread with two garlicy cheeses, broiled chicken skewers.

Maybe my overstuffed stomach was why my game suffered. It's not easy to bowl when you're belly feels as big around as the ball.

Ostensibly, we were invited to bowl and to celebrate MM's birthday (with an incredibly rich chocolate mousse cake). But, of course, she had ulterior motives: introducing her new beau to her gay best friend and his partner to gauge his reaction. He passed the test as far as I was concerned. A nice lawyer who really seemed attached to MM in a very positive way. They kissed and hugged and cheered each other on after every roll of the bowling ball. They looked good together.

--

In other news, I decided to try Twitter. Because everyone else seems to be doing it. If you would like to follow me, I'm @mrgregoc.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Happiest Hottest Place in California

Yesterday, Caesar (formerly known as CM) and I finally used the second half of his 2Fer ticket to visit Disney's California Adventure with our friend RG. Even thought we both lathered on the sunscreen and did our best to dress comfortably, the day turned into a scorcher. I think we spent roughly $40 on ice-cold bottled water alone. We spent much of the first few hours simply walking around because attractions were closed either to reconstruction -- Disney plans on re-imaging California Adventure into a more Pixar/animated film park -- or to maintenance issues. I wondered aloud why the park even opened that day if so much was to be closed. Most attractions that were open boasted wait times from 30 to 90 minutes -- in the sun without any shade or means to cool off. We did manage to try a few things in air-conditioned buildings and even caught a glimpse of the new developments for the re-themed park: a Little Mermaid attraction where guests ride in sea shells through scenes from the movie; a new land based on the movie Cars; adding Mickey's face to the Sun Wheel (ferris wheel); and what should be a fantastic light and water show called the "World of Color". (The image behind Caesar and RG in the picture is an artists rendering of what the show may look like.)

We stayed from 10AM until just after 8PM. And even after the showers at home to wash off the heat and layer upon layer of sunscreen, my neck and hands are lobster red. My knees creak whenever I stand or sit. And my feet continue to dare me to take another step. I think next time we visit the parks, we're going to hire someone to either fan us or to shade us from the sun with a huge parasol.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Non-Descript

While trying to describe to the mechanic the scratchy, metal-on-metal, tearing-my-engine-apart noises my car decided to make yesterday, I realized that I become very tongue tied. My hands flew into the air to help image my paltry descriptions as my face reddened, but the description made itself understandable somehow. Now, if he had asked me to write a brief description, I more than likely would have handed him one of those blue, college essay exam books, each page filled with the squeaking, the ripping, the ear piercing sounds coming from my car.

And people wonder why I'm so shy in public....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review: The Kingdom Keepers

In case you didn't know, I happen to like Disney. Perhaps it's from growing up a mere 10 minutes for the resort, or watching such gems as Donald in Mathmagic Land in elementary school. Whatever the cause, I sometimes go out of my way to find Disney items, and the book I recently discovered turned out to be quite a bit of fun.
Finn Whitman and four other teenagers have been specially selected to take part in a new Disney venture: Disney Host Interactive. What this means is that holographic images of the five teens will act as hosts in The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, welcoming guests, spouting details about the park and the attractions, and acting as guides. In return, the kids and their families receive lifetime passes, with the condition that they need pre-approval to enter the parks and must be disguised. Sounds like a sweet deal, until Finn wakes up one night to find himself standing in Main Street in his pajamas, his skin lightly glowing. An old man named Wayne tells him that he and the others were chosen to help the Disney Imagineers with some unusual events occurring in the parks. Walt himself understood that the power of peoples' belief in all the fictional characters -- both good and bad -- might one day allow certain dark forces to attempt to break into the real world. Strange events in and around the parks -- rides breaking down inexplicably, break-ins, mysterious noises throughout the parks at night -- lead Wayne to believe that something's brewing, and it's up to Finn and the other four DHIs to figure out a riddle left by Walt that could thwart the impending trouble.

The Kingdom Keepers is the perfect fantasy/adventure for kids, whether or not they enjoy Disney. I mean, what kid wouldn't be interested in wandering around one of the parks after hours, fighting with the pirates or trying to escape the evil clutches of the "it's a small world" dolls. The writing style is definitely geared toward the early teen readers, but even I enjoyed got caught up in the adventure of it all. A fun book that any Disney fan will certainly enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

In our continuing struggle to not eat out as often as we do, CM and I baked pizza tonight. Not quite from scratch -- neither of us is that confident to attempt making dough. At the grocery store, we found a ready-made pizza crust from Pillsbury so all we needed to do was to press it into shape, smother it with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese, top it generously with turkey pepperoni, and bake. The result turned out incredibly delicious, and yes, the crust did taste like the biscuits my Mom makes for Thanksgiving. We devoured most of it while watching Dancing with the Stars. All told, I think we spent $5 on the ingredients including the dough; the last pizza we ordered from a restaurant cost about $15. Next time, we're going to try chicken and maybe a little barbecue sauce....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Love Bug
As I merged onto the 405 South, heading for my folks' in Laguna to enjoy an Easter lunch, I spotted an oddly colored VW Beetle zooming along the fast lane. Beige with solid blue and red stripes from the middle of the back bumper all the way across the top and down the hood to the fender. The number 53 painted black and floating in a white circle open the trunk. Now, either a studio was filming something (and I scrutinized as best I could the van in front of the car for hidden cameras), or someone is a certified Herbie the Love Bug fanatic. Then again, this is LA and anything's possible.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Review: The Charioteer

Okay, so I need to catch up on my reviewing before my stack of finished books grows almost as large as my stack of "To Be Read" titles.
Laurie Odell convalesces in a Dunkirk hospital after survivor a terrible leg injury during WWII. While spending his days recuperating and chatting up war events and the families back home with the other injured soldiers in his ward, he meets Andrew Raynes, a young conscientious objector who works as an orderly at the hospital. They strike up a friendship, meeting sometimes late at night in the hospital kitchen to chitchat or spending an hour or two on walks in the surrounding countryside.

But just as Laurie begins to find the intimations of a relationship forming, from out of his past steps Ralph Lanyon. They attended school together, but as Laurie soon finds out, it was Lanyon who pulled him to safety after his leg was injured during combat. Through Lanyon's friends, Laurie finds himself drawn into the gay life around Dunkirk, a somewhat darker and grittier version than what he's been imagining with Andrew, and soon Laurie finds himself faced with deciding between the two men.

Mary Renault's The Charioteer provides an interesting glimpse into gay life in England during WWII, and, for once, the noel doesn't end with one of the gay characters committing suicide or dying because of his gayness. All the characters are well-drawn and give voice to the differing aspects of gay life at the time: the quiet, confused man just learning about his sexuality; the jaded, bitter individuals who don't want anyone to be happy if they can't be, also; the regular guy, who no one would even know to be gay, but who lives his life like everyone else. I enjoyed the interactions of all the characters because they came across as normal, every day actions rather than "oh, look what the gay people are dong!"

The novel is a great read and doesn't make any apologies for its straightforward portrayal of the lives of gay men during WWII. Highly recommended.

(Okay, so it's not one of my better reviews, but it's late. I'm tired, and my brain is shutting off so I can sleep.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

To My Parents
A very Happy 44th Wedding Anniversary!!!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Guess What...?

I've been tinkering around with Facebook quite a bit recently and decided to try one of the many, many, many quizzes that other users create for our fun and enjoyment (and ridicule, in some extreme cases.... apologies to RG for finding out the he secretly lusts after Zac Efron.)

Anyway....

The following is the result of one such quiz. Take a guess at what it the quiz was for.

"If you were around way back then, you would have been an E-Ticket Ride. You’re a big thrill for those 40” or taller. You will get everyone wet…in fact, you will get everyone soaked! You start out light and fun and then out of nowhere you’ll turn dark and scary. You’re the type of ride that takes a picture of someone just as you throw them down 5 stories..then you’ll laugh and sing about it. Even though the movie about you can not be shown anymore, you’re a type of ride that people will love. Everyone needs to be in good health to take you from the backwoods bayou to the briar patch. Oh yeah, did I mention that you make people wet?"

And no, it really isn't what the innuendo implies. The quiz: "What Disneyland Attraction are You?"

The answer: Splash Mountain.

But I really like that last line....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Weekend Updates!!

Saturday

In the afternoon, we caught the matinée of Avenue Q at the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. We laughed our way through the show a few years ago in LA, and I admit to being completely surprised when the tour decided to pass through the OC. Just like in LA, the theater was packed, everyone laughed until they cried, and only one or two couples left before intermission. (Some people can't tolerate puppet doing the nasty. Those damned Puppetphobes!!)

We overate after the show at The Claim Jumper by treating ourselves to a chocolate chip calzone after our stuffed baked potatoes.

Back at the apartment, while CM rested on the couch playing with his Nintendo DS, I finally finished my latest computer mania, Rhem 2. The puzzles seemed more difficult than the Myst series, with lots of math and running back and forth from room to room. The only bad thing I can say about the game concerns the dubbing of the characters. Rhem 2 comes form Germany, but the terrible English dubbing sounds as though it was recorded in a bathroom by a high school theater troupe.

Sunday

I drove to Laguna to visit the folks. My Mom looked much better, more color to her face, brighter eyes, moving about the house more easily. Her only complaint: she'd gained quite a bit of weight since the operation though she'd only eaten tapioca pudding, jello, soup, mashed bananas and applesauce. And her legs had swollen to rock hard consistency during the night. She couldn't move her toes or her feet, and the E/R doctor told her over the phone to increase her diuretic pills and to keep her feet raised above her heart. That apparently did the trick somewhat as her legs weren't as puffy by the time I arrived in the early afternoon. I stayed for a few hours, treating my Dad to lunch while Mom slept.

(She visited the doctor this morning, who ran an ultrasound on her semi-swollen legs in search of any blood clots that may have formed. Luckily, she was given the all clear, though the doctor increased her intake of diuretic pills from two to three, believing that both the weight gain and the swollen legs were due to water weight.)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Book Review: In Her Day

With all that's been happening regarding my Mom, the economy, the cat and everything else, I've still managed to find the time to finish a book or two. In fact, I even managed to read one about...wait for it...lesbians. (I still have no idea why I get such a strange reaction from other gay men when I tell them I'm reading a lesbian novel. A book is a book is a book, and if it happens to be written by a female member of the gay community, so what?)
Carole Hanratty teaches art history at a State University in New York in the early days of the women's movement of the 1970s. Her close friends wonder if someone who keeps holing onto the belief that brains and intelligence win out over lust in relationship will ever find someone. Then, she runs into -- literally -- a young woman at a feminist restaurant called Mother Courage. Ilse Jones is almost 20 years her junior, feisty and very plugged into the revolutionary aspects of the women's movement. But something about the older Carole takes hold, and she finds that she can't stop thinking about her.

The same goes for Carole, and the two find themselves throwing caution to the wind and flinging themselves head on into a volatile relationship. Much of that volatility is due to their differences concerning the women's movement. Ilse believes that change can only come with action, thinking about what the future will hold, while Carole steadfastly tries to teach Ilse that you can't ignore the past, that the same arguments Ilse and her young group are fighting for are the same ideals from 50, 100 200 years ago. Carole and Ilse continue to butt heads over the movement, finally bringing them to a difficult decision.

Rita Mae Brown's In Her Day is a good book when it comes to dealing with the relationship of Carole and Ilse in terms of the age discrepancy. The two handle any disparaging attitudes very easily, though not many appear in the novel. And they do have great sex. My only issue stems from their arguments about the women's movement which don't come across as arguments but rather as long expository statements without much feeling behind them. I felt that even as characters in a novel, they were simply regurgitating from a script so I never felt that their arguments were as bad as they were meant to appear. But they do offer quite a bit of information on the differing views regarding the treatment of women in the early 1970s.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Book Review: Naked Lunch
In response to a question that Matt over at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook asked, I have to say the one of the worst "Best" books that I've read is William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch. I know that probably ticks off some die-hard fans of the novel, but I couldn't get into the "story" at all. Mostly because even now, mulling over it for about a week, I still have no idea what was going on. (And, no, the movie version offered no help whatsoever.)

From what I (barely) understood, the characters are all drug addicts of one type or another, living either in New York or Turkey or some bizarre locale known as Interzone where people liquify into one another and giant insect-like creatures stick their long black tongues at people. Sex of all forms abounds, usually very violently, and most of the men are homosexual.

That's about it. The dialogue seesawed from coherency to noirish gibberish, making the reading difficult for me. I tried so hard to find a thread of story to follow, but the lines kept fraying and going nowhere. Plus, I found it a homophobic read. Violence against homosexuals -- usually verbal, tough talk, but occasionally physical -- featured quite often. CM was surprised that I didn't stop reading immediately because I told him every few pages how much I hated the damned thing.

I convinced myself to finish it, though, because I'm making it a point to read every book on the 100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels list. Otherwise, that book would have found a new home at the Goodwill.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Recovery

I stopped by the hospital last night to check in, and she looked much better than on Monday. Her eyes seemed more alert, she was eating her liquid diet, she'd walked a few doors down the hall and back, and they removed the catheter without any problems. As we watched Jeopardy! on the hospital set, she slipped in and out of sleep; the doctor told her that would happen for a few days as the anesthetics disappeared from her system.

The hospital should release my Mom around 2PM today. My Brother called and is on his way down to help with the transportation, and I'll be heading that way after work.

---

Diesel the Cat, on the other hand, turned hesitant and almost spooked on Sunday night. He would semi-jump onto the bed, snagging his claws into the comforter to help carry the rest of him up. He didn't budge like normal when we brought food into the apartment. He stopped meowing into our faces to tell us he was hungry. Worst of all, he hadn't taken a dump in almost two days.

CM drove him to the vet yesterday and learned that Diesel has arthritis in his lower back, just above the tailbone. Jumping up or down from a bed, even squatting to use the litter, irritated the joints which in turn caused his hesitancy with almost everything. The vet injected a pain killer into the area and prescribed a powdery painkiller to be sprinkled over his food.

And requested that Diesel lose about 4 pounds. Feed him twice daily, no more than a third of a cup of dried food. No wet food. (I suggested carting him to the gym with us to use the treadmill.) So far, Diesel hasn't been as vocal as we thought about less food.

So far.