Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuck in a Rut
I would love to have the body/physique of a muscle mant. Try as I might, that goal has never come to fruition, and I'm at the point in my life where I don't think it ever will. Not that I thought I would ever really achieve a body like that.

At my heaviest, I weighed 217 lbs., and that was less than two years ago. In the time between then and now, I managed to scale down to 195 lbs. which was awesome. According to the fitness and health guidelines I'd read, though, my goal for someone my height/age should be 175. I've tried to drop more weight, perhaps not to what I consider a dangerous level of what's recommended but somewhere between 185-190.
I've actually gained a few pounds back since then, hovering between 201 and 205. I've mixed up what I do at the gym to try tricking my body into shedding the pounds. I walk every day during lunch for 30 minutes. I changed my eating habits, consuming less fries and sodas and candy. But nothing seems to work, nothing pushes me below the 201 lbs., and I can feel the heft of my belly, mocking me no matter what I do.

I feel as though everyone stares and secretly comments about my weight. I feel like I'm letting myself down because I can't lose the pounds and have no inkling as to how to turn things around.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Universal Birthday

To celebrate Caesar's birthday, I bought tickets a few weeks ago to see one of our favorite comedian's at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Universal City. With the show being on a Saturday evening, that gave us most of the daylight hours to do whatever he wanted for his birthday. So while he lounged in bed, I dutifully walked to the local greasy spoon and returned with two gigantic breakfast burritos which we gleefully devoured. Then, I vacuumed the apartment while he washed a load of laundry, we both read little, watched a little TV, then cleaned up for our drive north to Universal City.

In spite of traffic, we reached the Curious George parking structure in about an hour, though we had to spiral almost to the very top of the structure to find an empty spot. (And yes, it really is the Curious George parking structure. This one and the others are named for Universal Studios characters/themes: Curious George, Jurassic, Woody Woodpecker, Frankenstein.) Since we had plenty of time before the show, we wandered along the many shops of City Walk, stopping in comic book/sci-fi/manga store as well as a candy shop, at some red velvet cupcake yogurt, and I even managed to earn a foursquare badge from Fast Company magazine. We also had time to catch a movie -- Green Lantern -- before heading up to the comedy club.

The movie was so-so, and I'm glad we didn't pay to watch it in 3D. Still, $12.50 each was a bit much, too. I can still remember when we used to be able to see a double feature for about $4. (For those of you too young to know what a double feature is, that's when you saw two movies for the price of one, and you didn't have to sneak into another theater to watch the second film.)

At the comedy club, we met the headliner Brad Williams while waiting outside to enter the club. Incredibly funny, he even managed a quick riff about Caesar being his #1 gay fan AND about his birthday while we were in line!!! His one-hour show was just as much fun, and we ended up walking out of the club with an autographed CD and a picture.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: The Insane City by Kenneth Bulmer
In a not-too-distant future, robexes (or robots) are beginning to appear in every aspect of life -- from cooking our food to driving our vehicles to taking over the security and safety. It's become such a big business that companies are fighting for a monopoly of the technology, especially between Severn, a large creator of robexes who has managed to absorb most of the smaller competition, and DESS, a small robex developer that snuck in to snatch a large city reformation project from Severn.

When DESS' computer system begins to act strange, changing the original plans for the displacing the city's inhabitants into something more humane, refusing to allow small functions that it deems harmful to people, the bigwigs at DESS struggle to find out what's affecting the computer processes. But Severn seizes the opportunity, spreading rumors about DESS and finally jumping in to take over the company. Too late do they discover that a scientist had been experimenting with feeding human emotions into the programming, and when those human emotions meet with the cold calculating Severn system, no one is safe.

I liked the premise of adding human emotions to computer technology. The fact that DESS began making more humane choices was an interesting path to take considering how movies and books nowadays tend to imagine a more destructive combination of the two. In fact, while I was reading, bits of the story -- especially when Severn intermingles with the affected DESS system -- reminded me of what may have happened before Skynet took over in the Terminator movies. But in this book, the remnants of DESS that weren't destroyed during the takeover fight back against the newly monstrous Severn system, pitting humans and the DESS robexes against the technological behemoth.

I enjoyed this little speculative sci-fi book, and plan on reading more from author Kenneth Bulmer.

The Insane City
by Kenneth Bulmer
Curtis Books (1971)
paperback, 175 pgs.


purchased book

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Musique

I'm in the process of re-discovering music that I used to love and found a nice, used copy of Milla's The Divine Comedy from way back in 1994. Kinda of a folksy pop mix that I was really into during the last years of college and beyond. This is my favorite track from that album: Gentleman Who Fell (possibly NSFW).


Yes, that is Milla Jovovich from the Resident Evil films and The Fifth Element. This video turns out to be the second version, and I actually like the homage to the avant garde, silent horror films.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Randomness
  • On Father's Day, while my Dad and Brother made a quick trip to Costco for a new giant umbrella for the backyard, my Mom and I talked and watched the birds attacking the new feeder. About half a dozen House Finches surrounded the plate, with the colorful males scaring the females away until they'd eaten their fill. Another, larger bird swooped in, landed on the plate, shooing the male finches to the safer heights of the wrought iron fence behind the feeder. Neither of us could figure out what it was: reddish orange just beneath the wings and bleeding into white along the breast, a black head with the color traveling down the back and onto the wings where large white spots managed to peek through. I grabbed Mom's bird book, and after about 10 minutes, we matched it to the Rufous-sided Towhee.

  • After Sunday breakfast with the family, I wandered around Disneyland, checking into Gowalla like crazy. One thing that makes Gowalla fun is randomly picking up objects from the places into which you check. The picture shows the 3 most recent acquisitions from a day at the park: a Hitchhiking Ghost from a checkin at Downtown Disney, a Gowallaby Balloon Animal from the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, and the Mickey Hat from The Disney Gallery. I have the option of archiving them to keep in my permanent collection, or of dropping/swapping them so others can find them.

  • Still getting used to the new specs I picked up yesterday. The frames are rectangular, and I'm so accustomed to the rounded ones. More of my face can be seen now - which the jury's still out if that's a good thing. But I like how they look. I just hope my eyes adjust soon to the new prescription. I hate feeling as though I'm looking through magnifying lenses.

  • Huzza! Another monster anthology accepted a flash fiction story!
  • And so no one thinks that I'd forgotten, the winner of the signed copy of First time Dead 2 is Erik from The Electronic Replicant. Congratulations, Erik! Send me an email with your address, and I will get that into the mail ASAP. And thank you to everyone who participated.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father with a Garmin

My brother's reaction was uncomfortable silence when I told him a week ago what our Dad wanted for Father's Day.

A little over a year since the accident, and he's still not too steady on his feet, falls asleep easily and quickly after eating. But he loathes being trapped at home when Mom's out running errands or at a book group or playing bridge.

Neither of us is too happy that his doctor gave him the thumbs up to drive, and he's taken full advantage of it. I told my brother that he's only going to use the Garmin when he's the passenger, never when he's behind the wheel. My brother sighed harder then gave in.

We presented the GPS to my Dad, and he was thrilled. I still have to help him set up it, go over the controls, his account, and everything that goes with it. My Mom's hiding the mounting unit for inside the car so that Dad won't be tempted to testdrive it without her.

We shall see . . . .

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: On Strike Against God by Joanna Russ
I must confess that I don't read much lesbian-themed literature. And that's a shame because of the great writer's out there: Jeanette Winterson, Radclyffe Hall, and Patricia Highsmith to name just a few. Fortunately I found an LGBT reading list a few years ago that has introduced me to those writers as well as many more -- both gay and lesbian -- whom I probably would never have discovered otherwise.

One book on the list is On Strike Against God from author Joanna Russ. I've read another science fiction book written by her -- The Female Man -- and enjoyed the intermingling of feminism and time travel. So I looked forward to reading another of her works.

In On Strike Against God, Esther begins to accept her feelings towards other women, focusing on the ups and downs of taking those first steps into a new realm of dating. When she meets Jean, Esther can barely contain herself, quietly explaining to Jean her barely contained feelings, and they begin a hesitant relationship, relying on the safety provided behind closed doors away from the rest of the world. But Jean abruptly calls it off and disappears. Her family and friends are of little help, leaving Esther to struggle with the aftermath.

Up to this point, I was enjoying Esther's story, in spite of the constant parenthetical asides. Then it took an odd twist involving Jean teaching Esther how to shoot a gun so she can kill men. Because real lesbians want to kill men.

Huh?

Yeah, that just kinda popped up out of nowhere. I re-read that transition two or three times and flipped back through the preceding pages to make sure I hadn't missed some vital information. the abrupt twist change the entire tone of the story and made it feel more like outdated propaganda.

So I'm a little disappointed with the how the story turned out. Then again, I'm not sure that I was the target audience, but I am glad to check this book of the list.

On Strike Against God
by Joanna Russ
Out & Out Books
ISBN: 0-918314-13-5
trade paperback, 107 pgs.


purchased book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gowhatta?

Somewhere deep in my psyche, the Disney Gremlins finally overpowered my reason and logic centers, and I joined Gowalla, another checkin game for my Blackberry. I'm encountering some login issues, but once I'm in, the checkin runs smooth.

What does this have to do with Disney, you may ask?


Why, the stylin' Disney stamps, of course! Each attraction/ride in both Disneyland and California Adventure (not to mention the Walt Disney World parks) has its own unique stamp. The little gremlin inside kept repeating, "Must have . . . must have the precious . . ." so I gave in and set up my account.

Fret not, for I haven't given up on foursquare in spite of the inferior customer support I've experienced over the past 10+ days.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Few Things I've Learned from Horror Films


  1. If you hear odd sounds coming from the basement/attic, don't investigate. Basements and attics are rife with tales of ghosts hiding within mirrors or restless creatures crawling across the ceiling like spiders or sprouting from the ground like dead twigs or lurking in the shadows with a large pitchfork at the ready. And they can stay in those places, locked behind the doors while I run outside with the cell phone pressed to my ear calling 9-1-1.
  2. If the creepiest person for miles around turns up out of nowhere and tells you to stay away from the castle or the abandoned house or the ancient graveyard, do as he/she says. My feet will be flying back to the car before he/she even finishes a sentence.
  3. Aim for the head. You can shoot it in the chest, whack off its arms and legs, rip out its heart, but if the head's still attached, you're in for trouble. And we really don't need a zombie apocalypse right now.
  4. Don't cautiously approach something that you've knocked out. Because it's playing possum, waiting for you to gently probe it with your foot or, worse, reach out with your hand to give it a quick shake. If it falls to the ground, bash in its head or chop it off completely. Just ask the kids at Camp Crystal Lake.
  5. The pretty ones die first. Who are always the first to be killed in horror films? The pretty kids: women who could be fashion models and young studs with muscles who like to take their shirts off and act like tools. So I thank the stars for those extra 20 pounds.
  6. Never explore by yourself. If your friend suggests that the you split up to find the source of the strange sound/glow/whatever, whack him over the head for the suggestion. You stand a better chance with a group than you do alone.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton
I've always enjoyed a good mystery and still remember the first one I'd ever read from Agatha Christie: Murder at the Vicarage, the first book-length story featuring the inimitable Miss Marple. I devoured most of those tales and her Belgian counterpart Hercule Poirot, the Sherlock Holmes tales from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Commissaire Maigret stories from Georges Simenon. And now, I'm adding another mystery series to the ranks of my favorite -- the Aunt Dimity series from author Nancy Atherton.

Aunt Dimity and the Duke begins with a young boy running away from Penford Hall in tears after learning that his father, the current Duke of Penford, has somehow managed to bring the Hall almost to the brink of ruin. He's selling off valuable family items and possibly the Hall itself, and young Grayson can no longer stand by and watch it happen. Trying to hide in the Chapel Garden, he runs into his Aunt Dimity, who comforts him by re-telling the story of the lady in the stained glass window overseeing the Chapel Garden. He remembers the tale of love overcoming the impossible and the magical light from the lantern she carried to light her lover's way home. The lantern has someone gone missing, which infuriates the current Duke to no end considering how valuable it was.

Fast forward 20 years, and Bostonian Emma Porter is taking a vacation to travel the magnificent gardens in England. And it couldn't have happened at a better time: her boyfriend of 15 years finally decided to tie the knot -- with another, much younger woman. With too much work getting on her nerves and now the added pressure of listening to her family go on and on about how bad her former boyfriend is, spending the summer among flowers and plants, far from Boston, is a dream come true. And she begins to relax and enjoy herself, especially when she goes out of her way to find a seldom-visited garden and stumbles across the 90-year-old Prym twins enjoying tea. After a long and wonderful discussion of gardens, they suggest she visit the manor house at Penford Hall, and she gladly accepts their card of introduction.

But once she reaches the manor house, things take a strange turn. Thanks to the Prym sister's card, Grayson -- now the Duke -- believes she's been sent to set the crumbling Chapel Garden to rights and after much coaxing and assurances from the Duke, she reluctantly accepts the task and soon finds herself entangled in a search for the mystical lamp as well as the truth behind a violent attack on the Duke's cousin and what connection that has to the death of a rockstar aboard the Duke's yacht a few years prior.

Aunt Dimity and the Duke was a good page-turner, and I found that once I started reading, I couldn't put it down until I finished. Some fine twists and sleuthing skills mixed with a touch of the magical/mystical made this a fun read, and I certainly enjoyed following Emma around, as perplexed as she was about the garden, as caught up in the mystery as she was. I did wonder, though, about Aunt Dimity as she appears during the prologue and then in name only through the remainder of the book so I don't know that calling the book Aunt Dimity and the Duke is apt. But that's a very minor point as I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Aunt Dimity and the Duke
by Nancy Atherton
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-017841-4
mass market paperback, 290 pgs.


purchased book

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Rejection

So the short story wasn't accepted.

After lamenting about it and berating myself, I drove home and did the only thing I could think of: work out my frustrations with a video game.


I sat for an hour, working my way through the deserted Himalayan village of Cursed Mountain, breaking clay pots with a nifty ice pick, finding keys, burning incense sticks, and ripping the souls out of evil ghosts bent on my demise. Just the thing to lift my spirits. And, after a nice dinner, I searched duotrope for other places to submit stories, then we watched the entire two hours of The Voice. Christina definitely has the stronger team of the two that performed, but what was up with those comments about Adam and Blake?!

Don't forget: Write a comment for my June 1st post for a chance to win an autographed copy of First Time Dead 2.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Bloody Musical

I mean that in a good way.

Caesar happened upon discount tickets for a musical stage version of the 1985 horror film Re-Animator. The concept alone won my approval, but what cinched our decision to go were the viewer reviews recommending that theatergoers arrive early or else be forced to sit in the "splash zone". Our Saturday evening entertainment was set!

We arrived at the Steve Allen Theater a few hours earlier than expected -- the traffic was surprisingly light on all the freeways. We bummed around Los Feliz, buying more books to add to my stack from Skylight Books and browsing the knick-knacks, books and tikis over at Wacko. That killed plenty of time, and we arrived back at the theater just as the doors were being opened.

Heeding the warnings, we quickly selected seats in the back row but with full view of the stage. As the clock neared 8 PM, the last few audience members arrived and looked horrified that they were forced to sit in one of the rows within the "splash zone". Fortunately, they each received a stylish garbage bag with slits for the arms and head to server as protective gear.

Re-Animator the Musical turned out to be one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. The songs are funny and clever, the acting is spot on, and how they re-create the movie in such a small space is amazing. Great performances from Chris McKenna as Dan Cain, Harry S. Murphy as Dean Halsey, Rachel Avery as Megan Halsey, Jesse Merlin as Dr. Hill (the one who gets decapitated) and Graham Skipper as Herbert West. I'm impressed they managed straight faces during the entire show, which made the performance all the funnier. Yes, it's very bloody -- just take a look at the video on the show's website for a small sampling. And it was hysterical! From poor, dead Rufus the cat lilting along to the music or the headless body running around the stage, we laughed almost non-stop. And those last 10-15 minutes -- the poor people in the front row . . . .

My sides still hurt from laughing so hard!!!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Puzzling

When it comes to computer games, I gravitate toward the non-violent, brain-melting games -- such as Myst and its sequels (minus part 6 which isn't Mac compatible). These particular games involve puzzle solving -- to open a door, reveal a secret panel, or power an elevator or train car. What makes them intriguing is that you're not provided with instructions. With Myst, your character wakes up on a strange island and must figure out what to do. Explore, press buttons, use your eyes and ears, and soon you're caught up in a story of how two sons betrayed their father and are set to destroy the island and the worlds to which it connects. No hand-to-hand combat or shooting of aliens or the undead before they can suck the life from you.

I can sit in front of my computer with such a game and not realize that two hours have passed.

A few years ago, I happened across another such puzzle game called Rhem and became so engrossed, that I bought the first three games and spent hours and hours in front of my computer, writing copious notes -- I actually have old notebooks filled with words, sketches and numbers that I used to work out puzzle solutions. And last night, I dove into the next chapter: Rhem 4: The Golden Fragments.


So far, the puzzles offer more of a challenge than the last three. I've made what I think is good progress, but for every door that I've managed to open, another two doors appear with more confounding locks. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Don't forget: Write a comment for my June 1st post for a chance to win an autographed copy of First Time Dead 2.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Princely
The price on the sticker said $9.99 so I bought Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands to try out on the Wii. The game had been sitting beside the TV, in a basket holding our amassed games, for a few days when Caesar decided to check it out. I stepped away from my writing for a few moments . . . which turned into about fifteen minutes. The graphics looked great, and the game provided quite a challenge. But, is it wrong that Caesar and I both think the Prince is kinda hot?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

In a Giving Mood


I finished and submitted another story last night, re-working a tale that I originally threw together after college for a correspondence writing course. To celebrate the completion of the story, I want to give away a copy of First Time Dead 2, and I'll even autograph it! You never know -- it might increase the sale value by a few bucks someday. All you need to do is to post a comment to this particular post and tell me what your favorite zombie-related thing is: book, TV show, movie, video game, remote controlled device, joke, whatever. Post those comments by midnight Pacific time on June 17th, and I will trick Caesar into randomly selecting the winner from all the comments.
Don't forget, you can also purchase your very own copy of First Time Dead 2 as well. Not that I'm trying to boost sales or anything . . . .