Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The End(odontist)

I met with an endodontist yesterday morning. Early. Like, 7:00 AM. On a Tuesday. Call me crazy....

He ran the same gamut of tests as my regular dentist and her fill-in did: x-rays, tapping the teeth with the blunt-end of the dental mirror, biting on a hard pyramidal piece of plastic, holding an ice chip against them. And, like the others, he could find nothing at all wrong with my teeth. In fact, he called them "healthy". So he asked me to talk about the pain, where I felt it, was it throbbing or sharp, did I have any recent work done. I filled him in on the tooth extraction and the crown almost a week after that. I could almost see the light bulb exploding to life above his head.

With no signs of cavities or inflammation and with very recent stress on the jaws, teeth and gums, the pain in that tooth area was most likely a byproduct of the extraction and the crown. He said that the bundle of nerves for the teeth and jaw meld into one big knot near the ear, and the pain center has a difficult time pinpointing pain from such procedures, deciding instead to spread the wealth. And in fact, the pain had been lessening since Sunday which he assured me to be a good sign of healing.

So no root canal.

That's all I really needed to hear.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Getting Even by Woody Allen

A few years ago, I found a copy of Woody Allen's Getting Even at a used bookstore, and thought it would be something funny to read. After all, the movies The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask), and many others are considered classic movie comedies. His forays into short stories would be just as much fun.

You'd think that, wouldn't you?
I know that I'm not very good at telling a joke, but the ideas and the telling of these tales quite often fell flat. A study of someone's laundry lists? The memoirs of Hitler's barber? A class schedule for adult education classes? Most came across as a rambling series of sentences that threw ideas onto the page hoping to make something worthwhile and funny. For example, taken from the story "A Little Louder, Please":

"Also, laddies, as one whose spate of insights first placed Godot in proper perspective for the many confused playgoers who milled sluggishly in the lobby during intermission, miffed at ponying up scalper's money for argle-bargle bereft of one up-tune or a single spangled bimbo, I would have to say my rapport with the seven livelies is pretty solid. Add to this the fact that eight radios conducted simultaneously at Town Hall killed me, and that I still occasionally sit in with my own Philco, after hours, in a Harlem basement where we blow some late weather and news, and where once a laconic field hand named Jess, who had never studied in his life, played the closing Dow-Jones averages with great feeling."

I re-read that (and the entire paragraph containing it) two or three more times, without understanding what it had to do with the story. And not really getting story, either. Most felt like that to me, that no matter how many times I may read them, they left me scratching my head. And I wasn't sure if Allen were trying too hard to be funny or not trying at all.

There were a few tales in the book, however, that made this one to skim through: "Death Knocks", a one-act concerning a game of gin between Death and his next victim; "Count Dracula", a clever tale about Dracula during an eclipse; and possibly the best of the collection, "The Gossage-Vardebedian Papers", a series of scathing chess-by-mail letters between two players.

If you're a Woody Allen fan, you may enjoy this selection of tales. As for me, not so much.

Getting Even
by Woody Allen
Vintage Books
ISBN: 0-394-72640-5
softcover, 112p

Purchased book

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Power and Musical Theater

At just about 6PM last night, as we watched the last scene of Lars and the Real Girl fade to black on the TV, a loud buzzing like a chain saw trying to slice through a steel girder echoed through the apartment followed by an intense bang. The TV and cable box immediately clicked off. The rattling from the refrigerator quieted. The usual sounds from TVs and radios and power tools down the alley stopped completely. We stepped onto the back porch looking for any signs of smoke, and only saw our fellow neighbors slowly drifting onto their balconies or into the alley, all looking around and wondering what happened.

I tried calling the City using my cell but received a busy signal. Then, the sirens sounded, and we figured stop lights must have also darkened, catching drivers by surprise. We went around the apartment, unplugging everything, including the surge protectors for our TVs and computer -- thank goodness those were in place; I'd hate to think of what might have happened without them -- and got ready for our trip to Hollywood.

Fortunately, I'd bought tickets online earlier in the morning for a musical called The Story of My Life, something to occupy our evening rather than a movie or a dinner out. And now, with the power out for who knew how long, it was the perfect excuse to get away for a few hours. Caesar cleaned up while I checked for anything else that needed to be unplugged, then we were on our way.

We found the Lillian Theatre right after we passed it. The building stood on a corner of Santa Monica Blvd. with two marquees, one for the Lillian and one for another show at a second theater in the same building. Caesar happened to spot it as we passed so we managed to make our way back and to find street parking not too far away. Inside the theater, we found two empty seats set almost at an angle to the stage so I had to sit somewhat turned to the right in my seat, but I did have a clear view of the stage. The small set had two white-painted bookcases with a small bridge between them. The small band played behind a scrim on the other side of the bridge. The audience's seats formed a flat-bottomed "U" around the stage, making the show very intimate.
The Story of My Life focused on award-winning author Thomas Weaver as he tries to write a eulogy for his childhood friend Alvin Kelby. Though his writing may have earned him high praise and many awards, Thomas finds it difficult to set the right words to paper for Alvin. As he struggles to find something to write, the ghost of Alvin arrives to help him wade through their past, finding the stories that drew them together and the events that ultimately drew them apart.

We both enjoyed Havok Theatre's production of The Story of My Life. Neil Bartram's score was nice, but many of the songs reminded me of something Stephen Sondheim had already written -- the way a phrase was repeated or the quick delivery of rhyming phrases. Chad Borden's performance as the ghostly Alvin Kelby was good, and he took the character from the first grade through adulthood with ease. His singing was a bit soft for me, and at times, I couldn't quite make out the lyrics before they faded. Robert J. Townsend gave a fine performance as Thomas, with great acting as the writer trying to work his way through writer's block and to understand Alvin's death. It didn't hurt that his singing seemed almost effortless.

By the time we reached the apartment, the power still hadn't been returned. The McDonald's on 4th St. was pitch black as were many of the buildings, stores and bars on the West side of the street.

The lights didn't come back on until roughly 6 this morning, when Caesar heard the rumble of the refrigerator while filling Diesel's food bowl. A downstairs neighbor told me that she saw a generator about two blocks away, plugged into the transformer that blew. So the lights, TV and computer may only be temporary. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

By the Roots

I sat in the dentist's chair yesterday, headphones softly murmuring what displayed on the TV while I waited for the dentist to finish with her previous patient. I tried to keep my mind away from thoughts of the up-and-coming root canal, but that didn't last long. I could almost feel the needles and the pressure of the drill on my teeth, and my fingers tightly clamped around the chair arms in anticipation. Once it's done, the pain will be gone. Once it's done, the pain will be gone.

The dentist said hello and introduced herself. My regular dentist had told me that one of the other dentists in the practice would be filling in while she was at her other office so I wasn't too surprised. "Okay, I want to take another set of x-rays and try a few more tests on the tooth. I checked and checked the other set, but could not see anything wrong with the tooth, and I don't want to do a root canal if it isn't necessary." She didn't need to tell me twice. I had been considering a second opinion already so a fresh set of eyes wouldn't hurt. And after a few slight gags with the piece of the x-ray equipment that was forced between my teeth, the new set showed exactly the same thing: no cavity or dark mass or signs of infection in the tooth. "Okay, I still don't see anything wrong so I want to try three things: pressure when you bite, and hot and cold sensations."

She first used the blunt end of the dental mirror to gently tap a few teeth. Nothing. She asked the assistant for a few ice cubes which she crushed, then pressed the chips against my teeth. I felt some quick, slight pain, but it vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. She then heated a small, flat metal bar and pressed it against my teeth. The same sensation as with the ice. "Those are normal. A healthy tooth will feel a quick sensation of hot or cold, and then it will disappear." Lately, when I'd swish some ice cold drink on that side of my mouth, that tooth would throb and continue throbbing well after the icy drink was gone. "Hmm. Okay, then if it's alright with you, I'd like to try the hot and cold on a few other teeth in the same area. Sometimes the pain might radiate from a different tooth, and I want to make sure to find the right tooth before doing anything. I'd hate to just do the root canal, but the pain doesn't stop after that." I agreed with that thinking and told her to go ahead. She used more crushed ice, this time starting with the top left incisor and worked back toward the molars. Normal, normal, and then....the cold struck and lingered. It felt as though she'd stuck one of those sharp metal probes into the tooth from the bottom and was jabbing it into the nerve. She pressed the ice against it two more times to make sure, then checked the next two teeth, which were within the normal range.

The heat test was much worse. When she reached that same canine tooth, I almost jumped from the seat. She had the assistant take an x-ray and noticed a small, dark spot near the root. The tooth looked healthy, but that spot gave her a bit of concern. "This looks like it might be causing the problem: a dead tooth." Dead?! "Cold or heat sensitivity lasts longer on those teeth. But, I want to be sure before we do anything so I would like for you to have a consultation. They have more precise equipment and will be able to pinpoint which tooth is causing the problem." And since it would be a consultation, it shouldn't cost anything.

So that's where things stand at the moment. I have an appointment on Monday with an endodontist. But somewhere in my future, the root canal calls.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One by One
On my friend Rob's recommendation, I rented the first disc of the TV show Harper's Island a few weeks ago, knowing only that it was some kind of murder mystery and that a cast member was killed off each week. I vaguely remembered the commercials on CBS, but for some reason gave it a pass.

When I removed the disc from the sleeve, I chuckled at the episode titles printed on it: "Whap", "Crackle", "Ka-Blam" and "Bang". With names like that, I thought this show would make me laugh. How wrong I was....

In "Whap", the first episode, a wedding party for Henry Dunn and his fiancée Trish Wellington is getting ready to leave port from Seattle, heading for Harper's Island for the big event. As the last remaining guests arrive, Henry's best friend, Abby Mills, from his time growing up on the island finally arrives, though she dreads returning there. After all, her mother was the victim of a serial killer on the island, and her father, the island's sheriff, sent her away immediately after the murdered was killed. She hadn't visited her childhood home since then, and feelings about her mother's death still haunt her.

As the boat prepares to leave, Trish keeps wondering where the last member of the wedding party -- her Uncle Ben -- is; no one has seen him, and he's not returning phone calls. But unable to wait any longer, the boat finally departs...and we discover what exactly happened to Ben.

Once on the island, members of the wedding party start getting picked off one by one, reviving the island's dark past and turning the guests against one another.

As the episodes continued, I found myself getting hooked. Everyone in the cast gave fine performances, but what really sold me on the show was the story. The writers did a great job leading me in different directions, making me think this person had to be the killer only to discover something that pointed in another direction completely. I was constantly on my toes, trying to figure out whodunnit with each new twist. It takes a good storyteller to take all those red herrings and form them into a logical storyline, and this one worked incredibly well. Also, the timeline was consistent so when the next episode began, it was as if little or no time had passed since the previous one.

The fact that some of the deaths were more violent and bloody also surprised me; prime time TV isn't known for taking too many risks, and I loved that the show's creators were willing to show the grittier side of events. One character receives a harpoon through the chest; another is sliced through by a falling headspade.

And the episode titles? Those come from the sounds made when a main character is killed during the episode.

I enjoyed that first disc enough that bought the DVD set in order to watch the remaining episodes without waiting for the next disc to arrive in the mail. Fans of slasher movies and fans of mysteries will definitely get a rush from this show.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dental Hijinks

My last few posts have consisted mainly of reviews and very little about what's been happening in my life. To date, other than watching Lost and The Amazing Race, catching up on my pile of to-be-read books, and the day-to-day office tasks, teeth have been the focus of the past few weeks. A month or so ago, the dentist removed a crown through which I'd bored a hole. 4 weeks later, she removed the last wisdom tooth in my mouth because of a deep cavity. The removal lasted roughly 5 minutes, but the recovery time was pure Hell. My jaw hurt, bits of bone found their way through the new opening, I chewed everything on the opposite of my mouth, and the tooth pain!

For a while, I thought the pain was simply a byproduct of the tooth pulling. Funny thing, though, was that the pain was coming from a tooth in my upper jaw rather than the lower. The dentist x-rayed the tooth, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. We tried antibiotics to thwart any sinus problems, but that didn't help. As it turns out, I need a root canal -- the dentist thinks I need one; the second set of x-rays didn't show anything again -- which I'm fortunate to receive on Friday of this week. Go me!

I'm seriously considering a new dentist after this. I probably should have gone for a second opinion regarding the tooth pain because I don't have all that much confidence the root canal will work.

Maybe I should have all my teeth pulled and go for dentures....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Män som hatar kvinnor

Translated from Swedish, that means The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Caesar and I were trying to think of things to do yesterday. Not enough interest in shopping. No plays grabbing our attention. Even TV couldn't hold our interest so while I was searching through a movie ticket site (which shall remain nameless because of the poor service and website functionality), I saw showtimes for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at a small theater in Irvine near my work. Neither of us had known that the book had been turned into a movie. It sounded intriguing -- even in Swedish, with a 2h30m length, and no real knowledge of the story. (Yes, one of the few books I haven't read yet.) Caesar thought it best to buy tickets online since that local theater was the only one within the Orange County/Long Beach area showing the film. And I did, though with much frustration.
40 years ago, Harriet Vanger vanished from her family's island, Hedestad. Her Uncle Henrik has been plagued all these years, believing her to have been murdered. But each year on his birthday, he receives a pressed flower from somewhere in the world, a practice his young niece began all those many years ago. The only person who could be sending the flowers must be his niece's killer. Determined to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance once and for all, Henrik hires magazine Mikael Blomkvist to uncover the truth before he must report to prison for a three-month sentence for libel.

While working on the case, Blomkvist finds that his laptop is being hacked, but rather than stealing files, the mysterious hacker instead helps him figure out one of the few leads he has. With the help of Henrik's lawyer, Blomkvist finds the hacker, a young woman named Lisbeth, and convinces her to help him find out what happened to Harriet. But neither of them is prepared for what happens when they uncover a dark Vanger family secret.

For not having read the book, the movie was very easy to follow. A great storyline with fine acting from everyone involved -- Michael Nyqvist as the amateur sleuth Mikael Blomkvist and Peter Haber as Martin Vanger. But Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander steals the movie, playing her character as a driven and unflappable hacker with a secret past of her own. Some parts of the film were a bit tough to sit through, very violent and bloody, and Caesar commented that he had to suspend belief a bit because everywhere on the island, the characters had fantastic cell phone and wireless reception (even while driving). Something small and nitpicky, but go see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it's in your area!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review: The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

Sometimes, I'm a pseudo-intellectual snob when it comes to the books I select. What I mean by that is while I love horror, zombies, ghosts and the like, I also go out of my way to read at least one book from an award winner, usually a Nobel. For some reason, those authors were chosen above all others for the top prize, and I'm curious to know why. Doris Lessing earned the prize in 2007 so I had to find one of her books, of course....
Harriet and David Lovatt are a happy upper-middle-class couple, living in the house of their dreams during the 1960s. Their world is filled with visiting family who stay for weeks at a time and with their four children, all born in the large, comfy house. When Harriet becomes pregnant all too soon after the birth of Paul -- the fourth child -- something changes. The child seems to rebel against her inside the womb, draining her of energy, making her tired and irritable when dealing with the rest of the family. But after the violent birth of Ben -- the fifth child -- the idyllic life of the Lovatts changes forever.

What I found intriguing about the story was how the Lovatt's family life shows how society as a whole reacts to change, especially when it's a perceived negative change. Most people notice the change and either ignore it or believe someone else will take care of it; others -- a small few -- will try to do something, anything, to work with the change in some beneficial way. From the moment Ben is born, everyone in the Lovatt family turns their backs on him. The other children do their best to avoid him; most of the extended family stops their annual visits; David denies that the child is even his. And then they lay all the blame on someone else. They want to stay stuck in their comfortable routines. But not Harriet. She definitely sees the differences and tries to go along with the rest of the family, but some maternal instinct won't let her abandon him no matter how much she knows it's in the best interest of the rest of her family. She shows him love, tries to teach him right from wrong, does whatever she can to make Ben understand and at the end, still isn't sure she's made a difference.

The Fifth Child tells an interesting tale of a family at a crossroads between the familiar and change. And I can understand why Lessing received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Music for a Thursday Afternoon

I never considered the gym a hotbed of new music until a few weeks ago. While sweating away the pounds on a precor, my attention kept flowing between the four TV screens mounted on the wall above the stationary equipment. Three were playing various news programs, but the fourth showed nothing but music videos with the sound being piped through the gym's speaker system. I usually don't pay attention to it because the music's all generic dance beats with warbling interchangeable skinny women.

When I fell into the mindless groove of music and exercise, a different song sounded through the speakers, and I looked up at the fourth TV to see this video:

When the group's name appeared toward the end, I squinted to make it out -- blame my age and glasses for that. Honor By August was what I managed to decipher and made a mental note for later.

Finally back at home, I checked Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy but couldn't find any trace of the group. On a chance, I scanned my favorite indie music site, CD Baby and found them! The album Found arrived a few days ago, and I've played it almost non-stop since then, one of the few CDs without a bad song on it. (Give it a listen to hear for yourself.)

It scares me that the gym might be my new music source....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser
The last time we sat in a movie theater, the movie happened to be Avatar just a day or two after Christmas. Yes, it's been that long since we've seen a movie, and we decided to break our unintentional cinematic sabbatical with Tim Burton's latest, Alice in Wonderland.

Incorporating well-loved characters from both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Tim Burton's Alice is more action/adventure. Young Alice has suffered nightmare's all her life, and all depicting the same thing: falling down a rabbit hole into a wondrous land filled with talking animals and strange people. but on one particular day -- the day she is supposed to receive a marriage proposal -- she runs from the party, following a white rabbit dressed in a waistcoat into the forest. The rabbit disappears behind a tree and when Alice follows, she finds herself falling into her nightmares made real, where she is fated to battle the ferocious Jabberwocky in order to save Wonderland from the Queen of Hearts.

I admit to being a bit nervous, knowing that this wouldn't be the Alice with which I was familiar. Would it stray too much? Would it make the original story unrecognizable? But, Linda Woolverton's script does great job taking those same characters and fashioning a story that's both old and new. Though the White Rabbit, the Doormouse, the talking flowers, even the Mad Hatter insist that she's been to Wonderland before, Alice sees things as if for the first time, following the original stories to some extent but veering off in a plausible way to make the story interesting and entertaining.

I liked the acting, too, from Johnny Depp's decidedly Mad Hatter to Stephen Fry's "charming" Cheshire Cat to Matt Lucas as both Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. But Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts stole the movie for me. Hathaway's Queen was comically regal and Bonham Carter's Queen (with an enormous head) was the perfect spoiled brat.

For the most part, the special effects were fantastic. The 3D served more to enhance the depth of scenes rather than to wow the audience with spears flying over the audience or cheap tricks. The Queen of Heart's big head on a tiny body, the changing eyes of the Mad Hatter, the myriad beasts and soldiers (chess pieces and playing cards) -- quite a feast for the eyes. The only effect that left me flat was for Crispin Glover's Stayne, the Knave of Hearts. The character stands very tall and thing, but the CGI movements were very stiff and reminded me I was looking at an effect.

Overall, Alice in Wonderland turned out to be a fun film, and even better in 3D.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry
In an undisclosed laboratory, a man adjusts digital clock -- the Extinction Clock -- and starts the timer. Within one week -- the amount of time displayed on the clock -- the world could change forever. Unless Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences can get to them first, that is. But Joe and the DMS have quite a task ahead of them, and their foes -- two teams of genetic researchers, one bent on creating genetically enhanced armies for the highest bidder, and the other resurrecting Josef Mengele's Nazi Master Race program -- will do whatever it takes to stop them.

As with his prior Joe Ledger novel, Patient Zero, the chapters are short and begin with a time signature or the countdown on the Extinction Clock. The short length provides enough to whet the appetite, but the countdown and time signatures add to the anticipation. When the story jumped back in time to show the progress of the genetics teams, I never felt lost or jolted from the continuity of the main action.As a reader, I wanted to know what was going to happen, but the time spurred me on, tossing me into the frenetic frame of mind of Joe and the DMS trying to stop something before the deadline hits and all Hell breaks loose.

The story itself is quite fantastic, filled with a great mixture of adventure and science fiction that takes the end-of-the world scenario to another level: clones, gene manipulation to create targeted diseases, Joe and the DMS battling half-dog/half-scorpion creations know as "Stingers" and Berzerkers (genetically engineered warriors that put the Hulk to shame). Plus, the characters themselves are terrific creations: Joe Ledger, a hard-edged former police officer who questions himself and the ways of the world, even when he falls into an ill-advised romance; the mysterious Mr. Church who runs the DMS and seems unflappable, but still shows a human side -- albeit very brief; Cyrus Jakoby and Otto Wirths, villains through and through, who can see nothing beyond their vision of a perfect world, even when it pertains to Jakoby's offspring; Paris and Hecate Jakoby, or the "Young Gods" as Cyrus refers to them, genetically perfect, almost pure evil and full of schemes at odds with their father.

The Dragon Factory offers a fast-paced story that won't allow you to put it down once you begin. Great stuff here!

Image from Jonathan Maberry's Big, Scary Blog.

The Dragon Factory
by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-0-312-38249-0
Softcover, 486p

Book received from publisher via LibraryThing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Today's Recipe

Yep, we're cooking again. This time, I found a little something with a pork loin, broccoli and garlic....

This tasty little number is Pork Chops with Garlicky Broccoli. I bought two pork loin chops from the butcher, some chopped garlic, fresh broccoli, low-sodium soy sauce, and rice, followed the directions, et voilà. The broccoli turned out so tender and yummy in the garlicky soy sauce, and the chops cooked just right with a little searing on the stove top then 10 minutes in the oven. I'm constantly amazing myself with how these things turn out.

We finished the evening with a nice slab of red velvet which is quickly becoming the cake of choice around here. Granted, my waist line will be screaming at me in the morning, but the dessert made for the perfect ending to this meal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: Catalyst: A Tale of the Barque Cats by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
The Barque Cats are a special breed, trained from birth to serve as companions on spaceships. They keep the crews' spirits up as well as control the mice and rat populations and find any oxygen or other leaks within the ships. Chessie (more formally know as Thomas' Duchess) is one of the finest of her breed, and her soon-to-be-born litter has already brought in a good price. While stopped at the planet Sherwood, Chessie is catnapped from the local vet. As her keeper Janina tries to find Chessie, a supposed epidemic breaks out among the planet's animals, and the government begins impounding and threatening to kill all animals. It's a race against to time to save Chessie and her kittens and to discover the cause behind this outbreak before more animals across the galaxy are captured.

I enjoyed the story, following both the humans as they set about trying to uncover the motives behind the government's need to impound all animals and the cats who discover telepathic connections with humans thanks to a mysterious space cat name Pshaw-Ra. The stories were full of action and kept me turning the pages. I especially liked Pshaw-Ra himself, seeming to come from a long line of Earth cats going all the way back to Egyptian times, a feline mastermind with a plot to take over the galaxy in a very unique way. But I had the impression that the book wasn't intended for an adult audience. As I read, I thought how much the young adult/teen crowd would love the story -- a good sci-fi/action adventure mixed with talking (albeit telepathically) animals.

That's not a bad thing. With the younger crowds being drawn more and more towards bright lights and shot-em-up video games, Catalyst is a book I think even they would enjoy. I know I did.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Nothing To See Here, Folks

That's what life's been like the past few days. Nothing other than the same old same old. Watched a few DVDs, read some books, visited the dentist, and dined with my brother and his lovely wife. We did watch the Academy Awards...well, most of it. At 8PM we had to flip over to The Amazing Race to see what happened when the teams made it to Hamburg, Germany. Sauerkraut, bungee jumping and a boot of beer -- that's all I'm saying. No big surprises at the Academy Awards, though. I think much of the mystique and suspense that used to be associated with those golden statuettes disappears once the award season begins. Golden Globes, SAGs, New York Critics, Los Angeles Critics, Independent Spirit Awards, and on and on. The same people win almost every award during the season that it's no longer a surprise.

Are all those shows really necessary? Really?

They should pep things up, maybe have a cage match next year with the 5 nominated Best Actors. Change the tone of the show, maybe attract viewers who wouldn't normally give it a second thought.

But what do I know?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book Review: Openly Bob by Bob Smith
One of the books I managed to finish during my sick leave was another book from the Publishing Triangle list of the best lesbian/gay books, though this one appears on the site's Visitors Best list in the #23 position. Openly Bob contains a series of humorous essays from comic Bob Smith, talking about living openly as a gay man. From his parents accepting his partner into the family fold to surviving couples therapy to auditioning for plays and TV roles in Los Angeles, Bob shows that his life is just like anyone else's. I laughed and smiled quite a bit while reading. I have to admit that sometimes, though, it felt a little forced, like many paragraphs were set ups for punch lines. I didn't mind that, but my laughs were tempered a bit. Smith's knack for humor really shined, however, when he just wrote without trying to create a joke. In the essay "Ma Nature", for example, he described a group of birdwatchers in Central Park (to which he belongs) and compares them to different species of bird.

"There are gay men who, like some birds, give away their identities as soon as they open their mouths. Everyone can spot the flamingos of our species, but most gay men are more like the confusing sparrows where the differences are more subtle. We have to look for distinguishing field marks. Check for the arched eyebrow. Is that a nipple ring? What ruffles his feathers?" (pp. 82-83)

Openly Bob offers a humorous look into the everyday life of a gay man. Read it, and it will definitely put a smile on your face.

purchased book

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Extraction

The worst part about sitting in the dentist's chair this time wasn't the long needle delivering the novocaine, nor the crunching-grinding sound made by the pliers on my wisdom tooth. Although that sound alone, amplified within the confines of my head, was enough to drive me crazy. Not even the attempt to overstretch my jaws to an almost snake-like width in order to yank out the tooth compared to what really bothered me. For this particular extraction, the constant talk from my dentist on earlier visits about the tooth's placement directly on top of the nerve, the fact that the root had a small hook which appeared to ensnare the root, the potential for permanent nerve damage causing numbness to jaw, cheek and other parts of the face -- that all worried me more than any possible pain from the procedure itself. When the dentist entered the home stretch (pun intended) and my jaw was pushed open farther than it ever had, I clenched shut my eyes, gripped the arm rests and thought of nothing but the oncoming permanent paralysis.

Fortunately, none of that has appeared yet. My cheek, tongue and jaw are slowly emerging from their novocaine-induced sleep.

Before leaving the dentist's office, he showed me the tooth. Much bigger than I thought it would be, and that little hook at the tip of the root -- the part so close to the nerve -- was intact. He'd maneuvered the pliers and the tooth well enough to bypass the root altogether and didn't resort to breaking the tooth, leaving the root tip in my jaw. Thank goodness.

Now the gaping hole is temporarily filled with gauze, and I filled the prescription for 800g Motrin which should send me to La-La Land if necessary.

I could sure use some ice cream....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

College Music

When I was packing my things to move from Huntington Beach to Long Beach, I finally decided to do away with all my music cassettes that I'd owned since my college days. The tape player in my car had given up the ghost a year or so before, and I found it increasingly difficult to find tapes while browsing around music stores so I couldn't convince myself to keep them. But it wasn't until a year or so ago that I started to update my CDs (which will probably be outmoded sometime soon) and re-discovered some of my favorite music, like this song from Tasmin Archer. Sleeping Satellite has always been one of my favorite songs, and I hope you enjoy it, as well.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

30 Days So Far...

My Annual Pass expired January 28 so it's actually been a little over 30 days since my last visit to the Haus of Maus. Surprisingly, I haven't gone into convulsions or given into the DTs (Disney tremens). I've saved money, too -- the $400+ for the pass, too-high food prices, kitschy souvenirs, tanks of gas, parking, etc. My bank account thanks me profusely. And I don't miss it too much, either. My excitement at the attractions and shows seemed to have waned in the past year or so. Visiting the park solo really began to lose its luster, and trying to coordinate with friends was next to impossible thanks to work schedules. Perhaps in the future, I may consider another pass, but for now, I'm doing just fine.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Book Review: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks

What better way to spend some down time while home sick than by reading about zombies?
Max Brooks' Recorded Attacks is a visual appendix to his Zombie Survival Guide. In that book, references are made to previous outbreaks hundreds of years ago, and this collection of illustrated stories details some of those outbreaks, going as far back as 60,000 B.C. in Katanda, Central Africa through an archipelago discovered by the pirate Francis Drake in 1579 where natives took their sick to be given "eternal life" to a more modern account in Joshua Tree National Park in 1992. Brooks' tales are quite intriguing and entertaining, but what makes this graphic collection stand out are the grotesquely detailed creatures from illustrator Ibraim Roberson. His images of rotting, walking corpses with deep bite marks and entrails leaking from stomachs almost drip and ooze off the page. They're wonderfully creepy and make this one of the better zombie graphic collections on the market.

purchased book