I finally left the apartment this morning for a nice breakfast at The Pantry. Being cooped up for three to four days was finally getting to me, and I really needed some fresh air. So while Caesar spent the previous night on a sleepover, babysitting our friends twins, I grabbed a book, stepped into a beautiful sunshiny day, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.
A little later, I even found the time to finally finish an entry for NPRs Three-Minute Fiction contest. I managed 320 words (give or take a few) and emailed the entry with plenty of time to spare. The winning entry will be read on the air, and the winner will receive some neat gifts/prizes. Now, I'm just waiting until May to find out the winner....
I ventured out of the apartment yet again, this time for dinner with Caesar at Ruby's and a little book shopping at Barnes & Noble. I'd promised myself at the beginning of the year not to buy more books, but the fact that I finished three books within the past few days deserved some kind of reward. The latest addition to my growing bookpile is Ghosts from Argentinian author César Aira. Yes, another ghostly tale to be read....
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sick! The Musical
Well, not really a musical. With the way my voice almost disappeared completely this week, you really wouldn't want to hear my sad attempt at singing.
I stayed home from work the past two days, recuperating, hoping my voice returns before I need to return on Monday. (It's back fro the most part; still sounds a bit congested though.) I've caught up on my reading by finishing two books, watched some TV, slept, puttered about the apartment cleaning, and wrote a blog post on my company's blog about ...calling in sick. So it's been a restful and productive two days off.
I should be back to what passes for normal by Monday.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Book Review: Closer by Dennis Cooper
I'm slowly working my way through Publishing Triangle's 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Novels. Though not in any particular order. Sometimes, it's more entertaining to randomly pick and choose from the list rather than start at the top (or bottom). Well.... Truth be told, finding some of the titles has turned into quite a task. Big chains tend to stay away from the Gay & Lesbian sections, and unless you know the author's name, you're out of luck. I'll carry the list with me to bookstores and the library, scour the shelves for any title from the list, and am almost ecstatic if I happen to find one. Like #89 on the list, Closer by Dennis Cooper.
Eye-opening and sometimes disturbing, Closer presents a vivid and dark glimpse into the life of a teenager trying to find his way in a harsh world. George Miles is a young and beautiful man, trying to maneuver his way through high school. He befriends those whom he also finds attractive: a punk artist, a self-involved singer, a teacher. They all use him -- either as a subject for art, a partner to get high with or to have sex with. Their perceived promise of relieving his frustration doesn't go as planned, leaving him more confused and empty of all feelings except for death. Then George meets Philippe, a man with unusual tastes, and he's finally given the opportunity to make a decision for himself.
The world in which Philippe and his "friend" Tom live is a dark, perverted space, and at times, I felt uncomfortable reading as George allowed himself to experience it. But I think that's what Closer was about: we yearn so much to experience everything -- good and bad -- just to make us feel like we're truly alive. George was looking for that to make him feel something other than the boredom and dullness of his daily life.
Not an easy story to get through at times, this is still tells a good story and is definitely worth a read.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Cooking: Chicken with Shallots and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
A very easy recipe this evening. We wanted something quick and tasty so I found this one for Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Shallots. the chicken browned wonderfully. The shallots caramelized their little oniony hearts out. The sweet potatoes.... Well, I need to work on that. They were definitely tasty, but I left a little too much water in them so they didn't turn out as light and as fluffy as I wanted. That didn't matter too much; we thickened them with a bit of cheese -- because cheese can fix anything. All in all, a delicious meal.
I won't mention the red velvet cake we ate for dessert....
Monday, February 22, 2010
At the Ballet
Way back in December, I received an email from the Carpenter Center about tickets for a dance troupe and immediately knew I had to buy a pair of tickets as a birthday treat for my friend Rob. Normally, I'm not a big dance person: other than TV version of The Nutcracker every Christmas, the only dance-specific shows I'd ever purposely attended were choreographed by Matthew Bourne. But I'd hear glowing reviews of this particular troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, that I threw caution to the wind and bought the tickets.
And last night was the show!
For those who've never hears of "the Trocks", they aren't your typical ballerinas. In fact, we were in stitches the moment we sat down and read through the bios in the program, including Katarina Bychkova, "voted the girl most likely to"; Nina Enimenimynimova, "likened to a lemon soufflé poised delicately on the brink of total collapse"; Helen Highwaters, "The Prune Danish of Russian Ballet"; and the Legupski Brothers, Dmitri, Ivan, Marat and Vladimir...who aren't actually brothers. In fact, none of the ballerinas are of the female persuasion. Which just adds to the hilarity as Lariska Dumbcheko dances onto stage as Odette the Queen of the Swans from Swan Lake, turns to face the audience and WHAM! all you can see is the hairy chest peeking above the corset.
The Trocks take the dance very seriously, and they pay homage to rather than parody the different dances and choreographers. From Swan Lake choreographed in the style of Lev Ivanovich Ivanov to Paquita in the style of Marius Pepita to a more modern dance called Patterns in Space in the style of Merce Cunningham, all the dancers display the stamina and skills expected of all ballet performers. And better yet, they prove that men are just as important to the dance as the prima ballerina, spinning and flitting across the stage en pointe and displaying legs lifts higher than I ever thought a man could reach.
They simply add some slight comedic touches to the routines. A ballerina losing balance and toppling over during a too-high leg lift. A beautiful ballerina dancing onto the stage wearing thick coke bottle glasses. Another ballerina adding some Broadway kicks and flourishes to the line of Swans. Prima Ballerina Ida Nevsayneva as the Dying Swan, molting across the stage, trying to shove the feathers back into her tutu. Or my favorite, an Amazonian Katarina Bychkova being anchored by her diminutive partner Ketevan Iosifidi, at times blocking him entirely from the view of the audience.
What a treat, spending two hours watching the magic (and humor) of the dance. We enjoyed the show, joining the two enthusiastic standing ovations.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Mini Comic Con!
Caesar and I returned...maybe 30 minutes ago from the Comic Con. Lots of people, many in costumes. Dozens of illustrators and comic book creators, including Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame and Steve Niles the writer of 30 Days of Night. And thousands upon thousands of comic books -- old, new, TV and movie tie-ins. (I think we were both impressed by the I Love Lucy selection.)
Surprisingly, neither of us spent too much money. I found a series called The Age of Insects after speaking with the illustrator Louis Pieper -- he even signed my copy of Book 1 -- and The Satan Factory, a novel based on a character from the Hellboy comics. Caesar found some issues of much-desired comic books and 13 More Tragic Tales for Ugly Children. which the author, Angus Oblong, illustrated with his signature in front of our eyes.
Something I enjoyed most was watching many of the illustrators at work, creating mini-masterpieces on the fly, giving tips and advice to up-and-coming illustrators and comic book creators. And the accessibility of the artists -- right there, just across a thin table, chatting away happily with on-lookers. I loved it!
I can only imagine what the larger Comic Con in San Diego must be like....
Just A Quick Post
We're trying something a little different today. For us, at least. The Long Beach Comic Con is holding a mini-Comic Con today. So we're going just to kinda check things out, see if we want to attend the larger Comic Con in October. I'm actually excited! Maybe they'll have some some new issues of Locke and Key and North 40.
Well, off to prepare!!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Book Review: The Séance by John Harwood
Constance Langton always felt like an outsider in her own family, even moreso when her younger sister Alma dies. Her Mother shuts down, lamenting on and on about Alma so Constance takes her to see a séance. When things go too well and her Mother sinks deeper into her depression, shutting herself off completely from her family, Father decides to leave home because he doesn't want to deal with his wife. Left to fend for herself, an Uncle takes her in as a housekeeper.
While in his employ, she receives a strange letter that she has inherited an old estate known as Wraxford Hall. But she's warned by the Hall's attorney, John Montague, to sell the place...as soon as she can. He gives her a handful of letters from the last known owner of the Hall, but won't say much more about the place. Even her Uncle can only offer little information. Through those letters, however, she learns of the dark history of the Hall, of the mystery surrounding the disappearances of two of its previous owners and of a young woman and her child. Intrigued, Constance sets out to discover just what happened at the Hall and what exactly her ties are to the mysterious Wraxford family.
If you're a fan of gothic mystery/thrillers, John Harwood's The Séance is the perfect tale for you. It contains all the elements: a dark, crumbling manse with a mysterious past, a surrounding forest haunted by an ethereal monk who is rumored to cause death to anyone who sees him, people disappearing, a mesmerist, séances and mediums -- all set in Victorian England. The intertwining tales of Constance and of the happenings at Wraxford Hall kept me enthralled as I read on and on, and the way Harwood presented the tale allowed me as a reader to play along as detective, piecing the story together along with Constance rather than remain outside the story. I also enjoyed the characters, especially that of Dr. Magnus Wraxford, the mesmerist. He contains a very quiet evil which at first happily draws you in, but as time goes on, you can tell something isn't quite right by a facial expression or the measuring of his words. Very creepy, and just what a gothic story needs.
An excellent read from beginning to end.
Monday, February 15, 2010
"This marks a new stage in our relationship." What, I wondered aloud. "We're walking into a grocery store, and you're clutching a coupon organizer." So I like to have those little pieces of paper in an easy-to-find place rather than stuck in a drawer, getting caught behind it or on the shelves below.
He thought I was slightly crazy when I purchased the bright blue, translucent plastic organizer. I knew it would help immensely because I remembered the paper one my mother had, decorated with a kitschy flower patter, pockets filled to overflowing with coupons of every shape and size offering 10¢ to $1 discounts on everything from dish soap to canned corn to trash bags. And even a few items I thought she'd never buy in a million years. But that little organizer helped save the family a bundle when it came time to shop.
So I let Caesar think me a little off. When we walked out of the grocery store 30 minutes later with three recyclable bags filled with free bread, discounted drinks and yogurt, he said in awe, "Wow! We saved $33."
I rest my case.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Happy Valentine's Day
We turned our Valentine's Day Weekend into a live theater weekend. Because we're gay, and that's how we roll.
Saturday evening, we braved a trek into the Orange Curtain to catch a performance from comedian Jo Koy at the Irvine Improv. He has to be the funniest man on the planet! He had us almost in tears with his tales of his snoring problems, his Mother, orange chicken and so much more. Plus, his opening act -- Thai Rivera -- got things off to a hilarious start. IF either of them ever perform in your neck of the woods, go see them. You'll enjoy it!
This afternoon, we caught the closing performance of Sweeney Todd from Musical Theatre West. Fantastic! Just as good as when I saw it two weeks ago. the singing, the acting, the blood. And we made it back in time for our take out from Lucille's and the season premiere of The Amazing Race. Mmmm.... BBQ pork and couples dangling in the air above Valparaiso. What better way to spend the Valentine's Weekend....
Image of Jo Koy from
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I've been somewhat chronicling my weight loss efforts ever since my little incident early last year. When the incident happened, I weighed in at 217 lbs. (ab out 98 kg), and my cardiologist ordered me to lose at least 15 lbs. before my next visit with him. I lost 9 lbs., which I thought fantastic, and the doctor was pleased. But not as ecstatic as me. He urged me to do more to lose more, which I've tried my best to do. Struggling through the plateaus of non-weight loss, giving into temptation and trying that chocolate peanut butter cupcake from Bristol Farms, walking for 30 minutes during lunch break. Slowly, I've seen the results with pants almost sliding down my waist, tightening my belt to almost the last hole (and I have bought new clothes including belts), stepping on the scale to watch the numbers slowly dwindle.
Imagine my delight (shock, surprise) when I stepped upon the scale this morning: 197.8 lbs. (89/72 kg). And this after eating a plateful of fries last night. Holy. Cow. I looked at myself in the mirror and didn't notice any difference. But the scale couldn't be lying. Stepping on three more times proved that.
I'm still in shock.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I attended a lecture last night that I discovered via Twitter. Great speaker, and my post about the lecture itself appears here on my company's blog.
The venue changed locations from when I first confirmed my reservation back in January. Then, it was to be in Irvine, not to far from my office. Yesterday in the reminder I received, I noticed the change to Dana Point which is roughly 15 miles South of here. The good news: this gave me the opportunity to stop by my folks, see how they're doing in the fight against their colds, and grab a little dinner with them.
After that, the drive lasted about 10 minutes. Cruising along Crown Valley I spotted the silhouette of a coyote darting across the lanes, somehow managing to keep away from the headlights and the streetlights, disappearing into the brush along the hillside.
The people at the event -- more than 300, I would guess -- all seemed to fit into the corporate shmoozer: men with slicked back hair or mini-faux hawks for the men; women layered with makeup and tightly grasping filled wineglasses; chatter in the air about how he managed to snag that multi-million account or how much money she made from that sale of such and such company. I felt very out of place and spent the 20 minutes after registering on the outer deck, chatting with Caesar and enjoying the croaking of dozens of frogs.
Usually at these types of lectures, I take notes. My pad and pen were at the ready, but once the talk began, I didn't feel note taking would be of any use. And I think I learned and absorbed more because I paid attention to the talk rather than trying to focus on what I could jot down.
I'm not a networker. Once the talk ended, I followed the crowd into the lobby then headed up the stairs to find the elevator to the parking structure. Most people stayed to take pictures, talk shop, nibble at whatever food was offered. I couldn't wait to get on the road and head for home.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Book Review: Such Times by Christopher Coe
While Timothy spends the evening with his closest friend Dominic, preparing for what should be an uneventful dinner, he starts to reminisce about the only great love of his life: Jasper. He discusses how they met, their little quirks, their house in Paris, their strange twenty-year relationship, and their dealings with HIV and AIDS.
I had a like/dislike relationship with this novel.
What I liked was the history it provided concerning the early days of the AIDS crisis, what life was like and how the disease changed everything. What I loved was how TImothy changed once he learned his own status. He went from interests in cooking and in music, with which he would begin with gusto only to taper off once his enthusiasm waned, to finally finding something to hold his interest, something to fight against and to keep him active rather than sitting on the sidelines. Timothy questions everything about HIV and AIDS, wants to learn all there is about it, to be up-to-date so that maybe, he will be able to save himself and his friends.
What I disliked was the characters themselves. I never believed in Timothy's love for Jasper, a man who seemed to fake an interest in Timothy though he had another, longer-term relationship all the while he and Timothy were together. I wanted Timothy to stop being a wuss, to show as much passion for his own happiness as he was giving to HIV/AIDS research, to give Jasper an ultimatum -- "it's him or me", if you will -- rather than remaining constantly indifferent to where the relationship was really going. At one point early on in the story, after a few hours of passionate lovemaking, Timothy catches Jasper walking around the streets of Paris with a young hustler in his arm -- and he doesn't really do anything other than show a slight distaste, perhaps a little anger, but nothing close to how I felt he should react.
So I give this a mixed review. For a chronicle of early life with HIV and AIDS, Such Times is a great read. I just had something else in mind regarding the characters themselves.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Needles don't seem to bother me much anymore.
When the dentist poked the syringe into my gumline, I felt the slightest of pricks, a little pressure, some movement to another spot of the gums, and that was that. The only real pain came from forcing my mouth to open wider than normal to fit a drill, some fingers, an ultraviolet light (to harden the filling material), and that suction tube. Within the first 5 minutes after my lower lip became thick, the first minor cavity had been drilled and filled.
The second cavity offered more of a problem because of its location on my last remaining wisdom tooth. The one that we decided not to pull because it sat directly on top of the nerve. The dentist stepped away before sticking the drill in my mouth a second time and emailed the x-rays of that area to an oral surgeon to get his opinion. "While we wait for a response, let's get to work on that old crown." She focused a light on the tooth. "Wow! You've really done a number on that one!" I had been grinding my teeth and managed to bore a hole through the porcelain, through the metal, down to the tooth. She ground the drill into the old crown, and at one point, my head jerked as I felt the crown break in two. Like an electric jolt without the electricity. She then brought in the forceps, grabbed hold of the crown and yanked left, right, left, right, up and...POP! The crown loosened but then dropped into my mouth. I would have swallowed it if her assistant hadn't been quick with that suction tube.
The next 30 minutes we spent cleaning the area, biting down on a cool gel to make an impression, and forming a temporary crown as a placeholder. The dentist checked her emails while the assistant worked on the temporary. When she returned, "It looks like we're going to pull the tooth." Ugh! "I'm going to recommend coming in on one of two dates, when the oral surgeon will be here. I'm worried because the root of your tooth has a small hook to it, and I don't want it to snag the nerve."
I return at the end of the month to have that last wisdom tooth pulled and to receive the new crown. I wondered why the wait would be so long for the crown. "The wisdom tooth and the crown are right next to each other. I don't want to set the crown in, then have it come off while we're pulling the tooth. Better to do it all at the same time."
Friday, February 05, 2010
5 on the 5th
I thought it might be fun to take part in this month's 5 on the 5th, an idea from State of the Nation UK. The theme this time around was City Life, but the rain put a damper on that one for me. Not to be thwarted, I decided to take 5 pics around the office since I'm inside for most of the day.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Book Review: The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist
Set in Renaissance Italy, The Dwarf introduces a most unique literary character -- that of a man no more than twenty-six inches in height, but with an ego far grander and far more devious than any regular-sized person. The dwarf recounts the tale of his master, The Prince, working on a scheme to seize the stronghold of Montanza from his enemy, Il Toro, and at the same time grumbles on about the Princess and other member of the court. As a dwarf, people of the court look at him patronizingly and sometimes forget that he's even present so he goes about his business without bother. Through his subjective vision, the world of Renaissance Italy springs to life, with the wealthy living the high life, the fantastic art and weaponry of the age created by Maestro Bernardo (who strongly resembles Leonardo Da Vinci), the weariness of war and the terror of plague.
The dwarf sets himself above humans, declaring many times that he is not like them and comes from a much older race of beings. At the same time, he calls his fellow dwarves buffoons and can't stand being around them because "they have to make jokes and play tricks to make their masters and the guests laugh." Only he can make real sense of what is going on around the palace, and only he knows what truly lies in the hearts of those at court -- especially that of the Prince. In that respect, I think the author makes him more human than he would like to believe. We all sometimes think we know more than we actually will let on, getting us into trouble. When he takes his "intuition" of the Prince's needs a step too far, though, he holds onto that sense of being above everyone like a liferaft, keeping him safe from the world around him.
With The Dwarf, author Pär Lagerkvist has created a truly ugly character, filling him with all the evils within the human heart -- he lusts for war and battle, feels no remorse for killing another human (or dwarf), and has a superiority complex like no other. This makes for an interesting character study and is definitely worth a read.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Potatoes and Leeks and Lost, Oh My!
What better way to watch the Lost two-hour season premiere last night than with some homemade Potato and Leek Flat Bread? Okay, so the dough's the refrigerated kind from Pillsbury, but it still tasted delicious. And we weren't scrambling at some restaurant trying to scarf the food so we'd be home in time to check for any more scenes of Jack Shepherd stepping from a shower stall clad only in a towel. Not that that happened this time (spoiler).
Monday, February 01, 2010
Shave and a Haircut
I caught a matinée performance yesterday of Sweeney Todd over at the Carpenter Center. Recently, the national tour made its way to the Ahmanson, but Caesar and I were both reluctant to see it. Mostly due to the staging, with the actors playing their own instruments. I'd always wanted to see the show, and I'm sure the touring production was wonderful, but I wanted to see the show as it was originally created, what I remember from the PBS special with George Hearn as Sweeney Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. So we passed on the tour.
When Musical Theatre West added Sweeney Todd to their 2009-2010 schedule, I emailed and asked which version they would be producing. When the theatre wrote back that it was to be the original, I bought myself a ticket. (I know, I know...just one ticket. Caesar had plans to visit his folks, and mine had a two-week cruise to Hawai'i booked, so I needed to do something besides sit in the apartment, watching another episode of some cake baking competition.) And I'm so glad I did.
This production was much more than I bargained for, very Broadway-quality with creative set design reminiscent of the PBS special, fantastic acting all across the board, great storytelling, and, of course, blood-spurting razor blades. The sets kept to a bare minimum -- from the single, rotating block that served as Todd's barbershop on top and all aspects of Mrs. Lovett's Pie Shop (dining room, back parlor, and the oven/meat grinding room) to the bridges and stairs that floated down from the ceiling and in from the sides to create the walkways of London to the diabolical barber chair. It seemed almost difficult to believe that this was a regional theater production. All the actors did a wonderful job, working their way through tricky and fast-paced lyrics without the slightest hesitation. Norman Large as Sweeney Todd and Debbie Prutsman as Mrs. Lovett, worked well together, bringing a both a human and a monstrous quality to each of their characters. Dan Callaway as the sailor Anthony Hope, Sarah Bermudez as Todd's estranged daughter Johanna, and Michelle Duffy as the Beggar Woman also stood out and gave wonderful performances. Then, of course, the bloody razors. I don't think the audience expected that the first time as loud gasps filled the theater when Todd dragged his razor across Pirelli's throat, and the red stuff almost flew into the audience.
A magnificent production from start to finish. Musical Theatre West certainly knows how to put on a bloody, fantastic show.