Thursday, April 28, 2011

Return of the Book Meme!

I figured it was time to resurrect this old meme again since I'm feeling a bit bookish. Feel free to participate!

Step One – pull out a book on the book shelf.
Step Two – go to page 123.
Step Three – locate the fifth sentence and post the next three sentences on your blog.

"I feel like an asshole right now." He was almost mumbling, rocking a little, speaking as much to himself as to me. I wanted to gather my own wits together and escape before the same devil of confession possessed me.

Pryor Rendering by Gary Reed

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tidbits

  • I didn't sleep at all Monday night/Tuesday morning. Abdominal pain refused to allow me any rest so around 7:30 I dragged myself to the urgent care. After palpating my stomach and a quickie prostate exam, the doctor said that my diverticulosis flared into a bout of diverticulitis. I'm currently taking two different antibiotics, and thankfully, the pain and swelling have decreased dramatically.

  • I figure after last night, I can talk about it. The creator of the website The G.O.R.E. Score is developing a movie review site called The G.A.S.P. Factor. Yours truly will be one of the reviewers on the site. Horror movies, science fiction films, maybe even Glitter! One of my co-authors from First Time Dead 2 will be reviewing as well. I feel remotely famous now.

  • Las Vegas this weekend for a female friend's birthday. We will be attending Holly Madison's Peep Show. Should I be worried?
  • Monday, April 25, 2011

    The State of the Art

    We're not what you would call art aficionados: I own a few Disney figurines and some framed sheet music -- such as the Theme for The Blob written by Burt Bacharach -- leaning on a small ledge above the kitchen entrance, and Caesar owns a few originals from Joe Monroe. It's not that we don't like art, but much of what we see doesn't really interest us.

    But that changed a few weeks ago when we walked down Retro Row en route for dinner. We passed by the windows of The Vintage Collection and stopped in our tracks - something neither of us normally does. The windows were filled with colorful prints of cats, birds, and landscapes in a very 70s style -- the main focus of each print was a black outline atop chunky blocks of blues or oranges or greens of varying shades. We commented on how nice they were then continued on toward the restaurant.
    Fast forward a week, and we made a point of walking into the shop this time and browsing through the prints. After an hour of pulling prints, showing them to one another, refiling them, finding others, we discovered two prints involving cats that we both liked. Only one had a sticker price -- the one of a young boy carrying a hefty kitty -- so we toted them to the counter to ask about them and learned that the prints were from David Weidman, an illustrator best known for his work on the Mr. Magoo and Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons. He created the silk screens for the serigraphs (as the clerk called them0, then destroyed the originals leaving only the prints in their shop and at a few other galleries around LA.

    We talked some more about the prints while the clerk checked the inventory list . . . but couldn't locate the price for the print. He needed to check with the owner of the shop who would be in the next day. I left my number, and we headed home.

    A week later, and still no call, I finally walked to the shop. The clerk said he hadn't forgotten about me, but he hadn't been able to reach the shop's owner. He called a manager over, who in turn called the woman who brought the prints in, and I walked out of there with the print carefully wrapped in brown paper.

    I feel so adult buying real art! Next step is to get it framed. Then, I'll post a pic of it.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Saturday Outing

    A few months ago, Caesar and I unwittingly participated in a fundraising event for The Serra Project, a group of HIV/AIDS homes around LA county that provide 24-hour care to those in need. I say "unwittingly" because we didn't know the fundraiser was happening when we decided to grab a bite at the local Italian place. As it turned out, a portion of the monies made from our meals went directly to The Serra Project, and we could make an extra donation if we felt so inclined. I added an extra $20 to the donation envelope, filled out a little form for tax purposes and that was that.

    Or so I thought.

    I received an email from one of those involved with setting up the event, telling me that I had won a $25 gift certificate to Parker's Lighthouse and two 1-hour passes for harbor cruises. The prizes arrived about two weeks ago, and today for lunch, we took advantage of the gift certificate to eat at one of Long Beach's finest restaurants.
    >Parker's Lighthouse sits at the tip of the Shoreline Village and the entrance to Rainbow Harbor. The view is wonderful: the Aquarium, the Long Beach Lighthouse and the Queen Mary -- not to mention all the sea gulls and pelicans flitting about the harbor. The inside has been recently renovated, allowing for a large, two-story wine cabinet at the center of the restaurant. The bar area is both open and cozy, with tall tables and chairs on the main floor surrounded by comfy booths with sloping high backs, and a few curtained areas with a small couches and padded chairs next to the windows. The upper floors offer more room for dining and a banquet room on the top. The dining area stems from the bar, pointing toward the open Pacific.

    We started lunch with a small bowl of edamame followed by a Crunchy Sushi Roll for Caesar and Black Peppercorn & Maple Crusted Salmon for me. (Served with green waxbeans almondine and mashed sweet potatoes -- can't for get those.) And yes, they were as delicious as they sound. The salmon was tender inside and crunchy outside, tasting almost like candy thanks to the maple. I didn't sample the Crunchy Roll, but the tempura shrimp with bits of avocado looked amazing. To end the meal, we shared a generous scoop of fresh raspberry sorbet.

    As a side note: former California Governor George Dukemejian arrived halfway during our lunch at sat with his family and friends at the table directly behind me. So it was almost like hobnobbing with the well-to-do.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Quickie Music Post

    We stopped at Best Buy last night, and while browsing through the music, I discovered a "Greatest Hits" CD from Styx -- for only $9.99. I had to buy it. I HAD to. So now this song is stuck in my head:


    What can I say? I'm a child of the 70s.

    Fortunately, I don't need to pull a Cartman and stop whatever I'm doing to sing it through to the end.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Monster of a Story
    For the past two months, I've been working on a second draft of a story I started in college. With the hope of submitting it for publication. I want to finish the second draft before we head to Las Vegas next week. So my posting may be sporadic. You see, I'm trying to prove to myself that the first time wasn't a fluke, but at the rate this story's stalling, who knows what will happen. Keep your fingers crossed!

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    I'm No Fashionista
    The gay fashion gene somehow slipped by me. Somewhat. I mean, you won't see me wearing a polo shirt with the collar upturned. No pants sagging low enough to allow my tightie whities air space.

    But I loathe clothes shopping. The shirts are either too hideous for words, with color combinations that no self-respecting designer should have ever put together, or the size marked on the label doesn't represent the actual fit. "L" on a men's shirt should fit like a large. After trying on seven different shirts at three stores on Saturday, having difficulty sliding the button through the hole across my chest -- and sometimes even stretching the fabric to come within a half inch of the buttonhole . . . it's not as though by working out, I know have the chest of a Lou Ferrigno. For someone like me who's gone through the process of losing 20 pounds, going down in size from XL to L, it's disappointing. All that work for nothing, and I walk away from the fitting rooms feeling more and more like a failure.

    Taking a closer look at the labels, I notice that not one of them was manufactured in the U.S., but in either China, Indonesia, India, Mauritius or Vietnam. Judging by those shirts, it seems that one country's "large", is another country's "medium". Americans tend to be a bit larger, a bit taller than the denizens of the countries manufacturing our clothes. Sure it's probably cheaper and more cost effective to mass produce a product outside the U.S., but I almost get the impression that quality control is a moot point. As long as the clothing makes it to market, and it's the hottest trend, people will buy it. Sorry, but I won't force my frame into a trendy shirt only to look like a stuffed sausage about to burst from its casing.

    At least the Calvin Klein large fit like a large so I made at least one good purchase.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    The Post with a Video

    Not feeling in the mood to blog today so how about a video? This is an older song from one of my favorite groups, Honor By August.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Book Review: Threshold by Jeremy Robinson
    Thanks to the quick action of Jack Sigler and the other members of a highly specialized group of soldiers known as the Chess Team, Fiona Lane manages to escape a ruthless terrorist attack on her family's reservation in Oregon, leaving her as the last speaker of her tribe's ancestral language. The team moves her to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and, to better protect her, Jack becomes her foster parent. When the Chess Team learns of similar attacks wiping out the last speakers of ancient languages across the globe, they set off trying to piece together why someone would want to destroy the last traces of the old languages, leaving Fiona in good hands. Yet even the base isn't safe from the mysterious threat as strange, gigantic creatures of living stone reduce much of the base to rubble, and the team discovers that Fiona has disappeared. Jack and his team begin the frantic search to uncover the truth behind the mass killings and mysterious creatures before Fiona winds up like the rest of her tribe.

    The action in Threshold comes at you like a machine gun, almost non-stop, not allowing the reader any chance for a breather which works great for the story, adding to the sense of urgency both to find Fiona and to stop whatever is happening to the last speakers of the languages. I found myself staying up well past midnight to get through just one more chapter before grudgingly turning in for the night. I also enjoyed the story's take on the Tower of Babel, what happened when the one language changed to many, and the potential for what could happen if the languages were reunited.

    As for the characters, I found Fiona, Jack and the Chess Team very likable. They were no nonsense when it came to work and getting the job done, but also allowed themselves a chance to act like a family, joking and talking with the ease of people who had been through so much together that they are comfortable with one another. I liked the "friend" of the team Alexander Diotrephes and the villain Richard Ridley, but felt that something was lacking. They are both incredible and very original characters, but with constant references to a battle or conflict in what may be an earlier book, I sensed that I was missing important parts of both their histories with regards to Jack and the Chess Team.

    Not to worry, though, as I plan to read the earlier Jack Sigler stories. If the fast-paced action of Threshold is any indication, those early books should be just as good.

    Threshold
    by Jeremy Robinson
    Thomas Dunne Books
    ISBN: 978-0-312-54030-2
    hardcover, 336 pgs.


    book received from publisher

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Checking In



    My foursquare badge tally now rests at 35. The above are the latest additions as of April, and I plan on adding a few more before the month's out. Yes, I am officially a "badge whore" in desperate need of an intervention.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    A New Restaurant

    In an effort to try new restaurants around Long Beach, we met with our friend Clark at the recently-opened Tilted Kilton Pacific Coast Highway. Up until last summer, the spot used to house a Lonestar Steak House, which we were shocked to see leave. One day, the restaurant was there, then I noticed the sign down and a construction crew clearing out the building not even two days later. After a few months, a green sign for the Tilted Kilt appeared on the building though we never saw any construction. The restaurant opened with very little fanfare. All of a sudden the parking lot was jammed with cars, and we decided that one day, we would check the place out.

    We walked into the restaurant last night, and the first thing we noticed was the scantily clad hostess: a red plaid mini-kilt barely covering the upper thigh, white knee-high socks, a tight-fitting, white button-down midriff with red plaid push up bra beneath. Looking around the restaurant, every single waitress dressed exactly the same. And all on the thin side with long hair. Very much what I would imagine a "schoolgirl fantasy" would be like. Yet not one male waiter. The male workers we did see were apparently relegated to bus boy duties and all wore black knee-length kilts.

    The walls were mostly painted greened and crammed with all manner of pub memorabilia, leaving no space unfilled. Mirrors, drink posters, reproductions of paintings and woodprints. A sword and scabbard mounted in a display case high above the patrons. No booths, either; everyone sat at closely-crowded tables. Large screen TVs blasted every kind of sporting event imaginable; in our smaller dining room, one TV broadcast a NASCAR race while another showed a basketball game.

    As for the crowd: decidedly male college student, with über testosterone levels and beer wafting through the air. (The owners picked the perfect location, being only a mile or two from Cal State Long Beach.) A few women also sat at the tables, but the entire restaurant seemed targeted for males, kind of a Scottish Hooters. But what can you expect on a Saturday night?

    The food was decent enough, with lots of pub fare (Irish Stew, Shepherd's Pie, fish and chips) and more mainstream American (wraps, cheesesteak, club sandwich). The prices fell into the moderate range, but they charged for everything -- even an extra plastic cup of ranch dressing was 59¢; the sweet potato fries were $1.50 extra (though it wasn't mentioned in the menu that it was an additional charge); Clark was going to sub his fries with a cup of chili, but the extra charge would have been $4.

    Would I eat there again? Maybe for lunch. But I'm in no rush to get back anytime soon.

    Thursday, April 07, 2011

    Sunday in the Great Park

    Sunday after lunch with my parents, I decided to check out the Orange County Great Park. At one time the entire space was an Air Force Base, and after much hassle, the county decided to use the space for a park.

    My visit didn't begin well. The main entrance was blocked by police who instructed me to turn around and head almost a mile to another entrance. It wasn't too difficult to find, but once inside the confines of the park, I couldn't locate a sign to tell me which road to take. The only thing I could do was head in the direction of the big orange balloon and pray for the best. I passed many fenced off places with either construction equipment resting idly or derelict hangars and military housing but no people or anything resembling park space. After slowly following the curving road, I stopped at one of the few directional signs I did see and turned left into the parking lot for the big orange balloon.

    The parking lot was practically empty. Spaces for perhaps 50 cars but only ten or so evenly spaced on what was probably once a landing strip -- I took one of the many free ones near all the activities. And by "activities", I mean a tiny park area with a set of fake rocks for kids to crawl on and through, a sad little merry-go-round spinning silently near the parked cars, a small visitors center and a large round mound with the orange balloon at its center. I walked around, snapping a few pictures here and there -- mostly of the balloon because there was almost nothing else around. And I don't need any pictures of empty picnic tables. Walking up to the fences surrounding the small picnicking area, the former based stretched a long way into the distance with Saddleback framing the empty hangars in the distance. All that space, and the Great Park only used about 1/8th of it.

    Such a shame, but I'm sure, given more time, the Great Park will live up to its name. But Sunday, I drove away a little disappointed.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    Sebaceous Is As Sebaceous Does

    Third time's a charm, right?

    That's what I kept telling myself as the doctor pricked my left shoulder blae with the needle. He said the area looked inflamed so draining it would be the best. "And since you've been through this before . . ." I knew what to expect. I sat on the exam table chatting away about the weather, going up to Hollywood, while the doctor squeezed and pressed and pinched the cyst, draining as much of the gunk out as he could. Eventually, I asked about the cyst, and he mentioned that is was about 4 centimeters. To get it taken care of permanently, I should consider surgery. Otherwise the membrane will simply fill again, become infected again, and I'd be back on the table again. The downside to all this," he said and squeezed, "is that the surgeon won't be able to do anything unless he can see it so the membrane would need to fill up a bit." Yes, very gross, but it's already happened twice before. And I think that I would prefer having it removed entirely to repeated visits that temporarily relieve the symptoms.

    Down the road a few months, when my shoulder blade's had time to heal, the cyst is going to be history.

    Monday, April 04, 2011

    Book Review: First Time Dead 2 edited by TW Brown

    The second volume in May December Publications series of first-time zombie writers is filled from the first to the last with twelve strong stories of zombie madness. What I liked about this collection -- and another reviewer mentioned it, as well -- none of the stories focuses attention on where the zombies came from, who to blame or how to stop their spreading around the world. Instead, we are presented with tales of survival: in the form of a personal blog giving an account of events in Puerto Rico (Zombies in Puerto Rico: Island of the Dead by Alexandro Rios), a group of survivors who took to the sewers as a means of escape (The Mission by Eric Pollarine), or even a family believing that locking themselves behind the doors of their own home will protect them (Rude Awakening by David Maynard), among others. Even with the more traditional zombie tales, First Time Dead 2 throws a few curve balls to make the reader look at the undead in a new light: comic relief from a hungry zombie who lost his dentures shortly before dying and re-animating (The Hungriest Zombie by Jason Thacker), a detective who uncovers the secret of what happens when the living eat the flesh of the undead (Zombie By Night by Aaron Phillips), and a band that will stop at nothing to make sure their golden voice makes it to the next show (Once More Without Feelings by Joe Blevins).

    First Time Dead 2 presents a great showcase of up-and-coming zombie writers. Get it now so you can say that you read them "before they were stars".

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    A Trip To Tinseltown

    I talked Caesar into taking a trip to Hollywood yesterday to see a movie at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Though I've visited that particular area many times -- to see movies at the El Capitan or the Arclight, or even dinners and shopping at Hollywood and Highland -- I had yet to see a film at the mecca of movie premieres. So we hopped in the car and made fairly decent time to LA, stopping for a quick bite to eat at Tender Greens on Sunset before venturing into the throng of tourists milling about around the theater.

    While we milled about with the crowd, waiting for the time to head up and into the theater, I pulled an I Love Lucy moment, and just had to snap a picture of John Wayne's footprints. Luckily, no cracks appeared from Lucy and Ethel's attempt to steal a bit of movie history. I doubt that the green straw had figured into their plot, either. I almost hate to admit it, but it was fun acting all touristy and stepping into other people's foot prints.

    When movie time rolled around, we made our way to the escalators (because apparently the front entrance that everyone recognizes is either just for show or only used for premieres). We entered from the third floor of the theater, then once we showed our tickets, were direct up another, smaller set of steps into the theater. I almost checked for nosebleed once we sat down.

    The movie for today: Insidious. The trailer I'd seen on TV looked rather intriguing: a young couple -- Josh and Renai -- and their three children move into an old home. At first, the place seems inviting, though small, incidental things happen, like a box of sheet music somehow making its way into the attic, or one of their sons wanting to move his room because it doesn't feel right. Josh and Renai dismiss the things, believing it to be cause by moving into a new place. But when their middle child Dalton falls after trying to climb a ladder in the attic and winds up in a coma, their happy family life slowly begins to disintegrate. The doctors can't explain the coma or find anything physically wrong with Dalton. To make matters worse, Renai begins seeing things -- the appearance of a small boy running through the house, and hearing voices coming through the baby monitor. At the advice of her mother-in-law, she convinces Josh that they need a specialist to find out what's behind Dalton's mysterious illness.
    For the first half of the film, the story works. Good acting from both Patrick Wilson (Josh) and Rose Byrne (Renai) as the young couple trying to deal with an unknown illness and how it affects their relationship. The scares were what I call "decent" -- I jumped from my seat a few times, crouched in my seat when I felt something bad was about to happen on the screen, but was proud that I didn't lace my fingers over my eyes once during the entire movie. I applaud the special effects, too, because they didn't rely too much on CGI but played with the use of shadows and sounds top help generate the creeps.

    But then the two leftovers from the Best Buy Geek Squad appeared on screen with their odd assortment of homemade gadgets and odd banter. They were sent ahead to scout the house, making sure Josh and Renai weren't trying to pull a fast one. Then, the older woman makes her appearance -- Elise, the no-nonsense paranormal expert. That's when it dawned on me -- we were watching a remake of Poltergeist. In each, a child is held captive in the realm of the dead by an evil force. In each, a female psychic "reads" the house and determines that it's a dark entity of some kind keeping the child away. In each, one of the parents must travel to that dark realm to fetch the child and bring him/her back to safety.

    To make matters worse, Elsie dons a freakish mask à la Doctor Who bordering on the ridiculous, and the film went downhill for me from that point. Not to mention the predictable ending. I won't give it away, but I silently prayed during the last 20 minutes of the film that the story wouldn't veer in that direction, but it did.

    So what started as a decent, scary film turned into something re-hashed and predictable. Go see it in the theater if you must, but save yourself a few bucks and wait for the DVD.

    Saturday, April 02, 2011

    Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)

    Arcade Fire

    I hadn't really listened to much of Arcade Fire's music until after the Grammy's. Now, I'm a fan, listening to their first album over and over while in the car or spinning through my laptop at work. This is the video for my favorite song -- Rebellion (Lies) -- from that album: