Saturday, July 30, 2011

Long Beach Museum of Art

I wandered over to the Long Beach Museum of Art late this morning. No particular reason, other than after moving to Long Beach six years ago, I still hadn't taken the time out for a visit.

The first floor featured the current exhibition called Ray Turner: Population. The first room of Ray Turner's show consisted mainly of portraits -- oil on glass -- of the people within his community as well as all of Southern California. Each portrait wasn't an exact picture, but more of a mixture of colors and textures so that seen at a distance, the faces have shape and form, shadows and contours; up close, you saw how the paint colors mixed, the hills and valleys created by the paint, how the nose was simply an elongated brush stroke. As a counterpoint, the gallery beside this contained a second turner collection called Good Man/Bad Man. As with the Population series, each of these faces was painted on glass. But the faces here were indistinct, the features melting into one another.

The upstairs galleries displayed artworks from the permanent collection, including one room of paintings and photography related to the 100th anniversary of the Port of Long Beach as well as rooms containing pieces from the Wilma and Roland Duquette Collection (patrons of the museum) . A smaller room off the main upstairs gallery held dozens of Staffordshire figurines. I enjoyed the upstairs the most, coming across works by Andy Warhol (After the Party, pictured), a woodprint and a ceramic tile by Pablo Picasso, and many pieces by Mexican and South American artists, like Carlos Mérida.

A great little museum and it's within walking distance of the apartment -- why did I wait so long?

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Did It All for the Nook-y
I gave in last night and bought myself a Nook. And yes, so far two people have branded me a traitor for daring to hold such a device in my hot little hands. Don't worry; I'm not giving up physical books entirely. It's just that some newer books I would like to read are available solely in the e-format so the purchase of an eReader seemed inevitable.
So I did some research, checked out reviews on CNET of all the devices, asked for help from my Facebook friends, tested actual units at Barnes & Noble, Target and Best Buy. Granted, it doesn't have the storage capacity of a Kindle, but what sold me on taking the plunge was the ability to checkout library books -- something the Kindle can't do.
I like how the small screen has the look of a massmarket paperback page so as not to hurt the eyes. The touchscreen makes it feel as though I'm turning a page rather than pressing a button to have it turned for me.
I purchased my first book today -- for a whopping 99¢! -- to add to the free, already-installed versions of Dracula from Bram Stoker, Little Women from Louis May Alcott, and Pride and Prejudice from Jane Austen. Quite a few eBooks are half the price of physical books.
Which could be dangerous for someone like me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A "Short" Post

Saw Shrek the Musical on Sunday after wandering the floor at Amoeba Music. Very funny, filled with good music, many homages to Broadway shows, and lots of fart-related material. But by far, Lord Farquaad was the best. Clever costume design, and funny as heck.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little Sparrow

Saturday night found us once again on a chartered bus heading from Lakewood to Hollywood for what seems like a once-in-a-lifetime performance: Dolly Parton at the Hollywood Bowl. We were surprised to learn she'd never sung on that magnificent stage before so when the tickets became available, we snatched up two. Good thing we did -- I doubt there was an empty seat in the entire place. As you can see from the picture, we were seated near the top, and yet two more huge sections climbed the hillside behind us.

A few minutes after dusk, all the lights dimmed, then Dolly walked on stage jumping right into Walking on Sunshine from Katrina & the Waves mixed with Shine Like the Sun from the musical 9 to 5. The first set covered songs from her new album Better Days; coversongs like Help! from the Beatles, Stairway to Heaven from Led Zepplin and a bluegrass take on Shine from Collective Soul; and early classics from her career including Jolene and Coat of Many Colors. It was like a musical trip through her family life and music career, telling stories about growing up in Tennessee and the inspiration for much of her music. Caesar and I both loved how personable and genuine she was, as if she were singing not for a huge crowd of strangers but for a group of friends.

She opened the second act with a haunting, a cappella version of Little Sparrow -- one of the few times the entire 17,000+ audience was completely silent. The rest of the show was filled with her popular songs, like Here You Come Again, I Will Always Love You, and of course, 9 to 5.

One thing that surprised both of us was the number of musical instruments she played: banjo, piano, fiddle, harmonica, dulcimer, autoharp, recorder, saxophone. To top it, she has an amazing, strong voice. I count this as one of the best concerts I've seen, and if you have the opportunity to catch her during this tour, do it!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moving Pictures

Woo hoo! A side project/blog I've been working with posted another of my movie reviews. Check out what I had to say about Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

While we're at it, we watched Let Me In, the English-language remake of the Swedish vampire film Låt den rätte komma in. Sad to say, it was a bit boring. It felt as though the folks at Hammer remade it just to make it bloodier and potentially scarier. And it was bloodier, I'll give them that. The CGI work was obvious and not very subtle, and they managed to remove and re-work key scenes from both the novel and the original movie, such as glossing over the relationship between Abby and "The Father". Even in the originals, this character has a name: Håkan. If I wasn't already familiar with the material, this would have been an okay film, but instead, it turns generic.

Makes me fear for what's going to be done to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Setting Writing Goals

Sometimes, I think having my short story published was a fluke.

Take a look around at all the other writers, and they have file drawers overstuffed with pages of stories, or Flash drives breaching capacity with the amount of creative pieces pouring from their heads. Me? I've got a few stories completed, but too many running around the inside of my head waiting me to eventually get them onto paper. "Eventually" being the operative word because I hesitate when it comes to setting ink to paper. I'm always thinking, What if no one will read it? What if they thinks it's not good? What if this? What if that? Over and over and over. I stop myself from writing, find other things to do online or on TV or in another's book.

What I need to do is to set some goals and hope that I can convince myself to stick with them, to finish them.

First: expand the short story from First Time Dead 2. That seems to be the general consensus from those few I've spoken with who have read the story. I've been thinking along this path as it is.

Second: try a note taking site like Evernote to get the ideas down somewhere because they aren't doing any good stuck in my head.

Third: re-examine some of my older stories to see if tweaking a bit here and there will make them publishable.

Four: send stories out. Use duotrope to find magazines, anthologies, etc. that are actively seeking submissions.

Five: edit that novel from NaNoWriMo. I think it has potential.

Six: just do it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Message from the Folks

My parents enjoy forwarding emails they receive from their friends. Fortunately, they only include me when they feel it would be something I might find interesting, such as the following regarding Maryland State Senator Jamin Raskin:

"On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.

"At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"

"Raskin replied: 'Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.'

"The room erupted into applause."

Just to be on the safe side, I checked online to make sure this was accurate and located this posting from Snopes.com.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmageddon-It

Thursday night, I purchased advance tickets for a Saturday matinee showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, thinking that 1) the theaters would be packed and that 2) traffic would be tied up so bad thanks to the Carmageddon, we wouldn't have enough time to drive to the theater and buy tickets there. Oh, how wrong I was on both counts.

I think that was the most barren freeway I've seen in Southern California on a Saturday morning. Few cars to create any kind of backup or hassle so we made the theater in record time. An hour and a half, to be precise - early enough to realize that no huge line awaited us either circling around the outside of the building or inside. We had plenty of time to visit the concession stand and find just the right seats.

As for the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great special effects, perfect pacing, and the story tidied everything up without being schmaltzy. So far, it's one of my favorites of the year.

Later that evening, we ventured along the freeways once again, this time headed to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. Our favorite comedy troupe - the Troubadour Theater Company - were performing their latest Shakespearean mashup, Fleetwood Macbeth, and we snatched up tickets months ago. As always, the Troubies crafted a great spin on the Scottish play, transforming it into a circus/musical/improv/serious theater production, mixing Shakespeare's words with the classic rock tunes of Fleetwood Mac. I loved the eight or nine witches, considered the T&A of the show - except for Hecate, who dressed more like Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf and tried to be über-sexy. Oh, and not to forget the improvisation when "Mick Jagger" appears onstage, Macbeth says - "Is this a Jagger I see before me?" They riffed on that for a good 15-20 minutes. The show was rude, crass, and entirely entertaining - the way all theater should be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Traveling

Every so often, I have the opportunity to work from our office in Los Angeles. I like the location, right along the Miracle Mile with the LACMA, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits just across the street. It provides a chance to work with people I'm normally IM'ing or emailing. Not to mention all the food trucks lining the Miracle Mile. (I gorged myself on Chicken Tikka Masala.)

Last night, our two offices held an "open house", filled with lots of people, food, t-shirts, buttons, etc. And right across the street, roughly eye-level with us, a band was either holding a mini-concert for a small group of people, or they were in the midst of shooting a video atop the Petersen Automotive Museum. You can barely see them in the picture. No one recognized them, and we couldn't hear their music, but they were out there for a good 3 hours until the Sun went down.

I'll have to check out the MTVU to see if we appear in the distant background on some video.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rambling Post: The Non-Mingler
Being social has never been one of my strong points. I never learned how to mingle well. Never mastered the art of approaching groups at dinner parties or networking functions to partake in "small talk". As for the bars, well, let's just say that I can't regale anyone with tawdry tales from my twenties.

I hate mingling -- or rather, trying to mingle. Especially at networking events or dinner parties. I loathe walking up to a group of people, breaking into their little circle with my introduction. It feels like my dating years all over again, and I don't want to relive that.

I've always played the part of the wallflower which I felt fit my personality. I would much rather watch and observe, listen to the different conversations. Plus, every time someone would ask my line of work, I watched their eyes cloud over, their faces slacken. The conversations quickly died, and any questions I asked were given curt responses or ignored altogether. So I learned to just sit back and blend into the scenery.

Being social just isn't easy for me, and I prefer my books or tinkering around the computer or sitting at home watching TV with my boyfriend.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random Bits about the Weekend

  • Spent Saturday night at Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood to celebrate a friend's birthday. We spent well over $400 for the 14 people in attendance AND saw a fun mixed burlesque/drag show hosted by Calpernia Addams.
  • After the show, Caesar and I enjoyed hot fudge sundaes at Canters Deli. Nothing tastes better than vanilla chocolate smothered in hot fudge topped with whipped cream at 12:30 in the morning.
  • I spent Sunday morning with my folks, driving around the Niguel Regional Park surveying the fire damage from the 4th of July fireworks and gazing in wonder at the dozens of Canadian geese with their offspring lining the edge of the lake.
  • Finished reading my first Christopher Rice novel and not too sure that I want to read another. Review to follow at a later date . . . .
  • Finally getting into the swing of submitting short stories for potential publication -- sent the one that was rejected to an online division of Tor, and tweaking a ghost/romance tale for submission. Not to mention quite a few good ideas for stories popping through my head.
  • Bought Alpocalypse from "Weird Al" Yankovic. Some great parodies of songs -- like "Another Tattoo" which is a parody of a B.o.B. and Bruno Mars song -- and song styles, and his signature polka medley.
  • Which leads me to this video for a song he released last year but is included on Alpocalypse:


Friday, July 08, 2011

Book Review: Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury
In Green Town, Illinois, signs appear that summer is almost officially over. A change in the air. A blooming of a particular flower. A last, final grip of the summer heat slowly giving way to cooler winds. Doug feels the pull of autumn, but unlike the other boys in town, he senses something else. Something trying to control him and the other boys. Something the old folks in town, lead by the head of the school board Calvin C. Quartermain. In a final effort to keep autumn at bay, he gathers together his friends for a final battle against the Quartermain and his cronies.
Farewell Summer is a fantastic tale of youth fighting against growing up. The one thing I love about Bradbury and why I can't seem to get enough of his books is the language he uses. The phrases seem alive, full of movement, and have a way of recalling the excitement and wonder of childhood adventures. For example, after the boys set off fireworks to destroy the town bell...

"They bolted through the third-floor window and almost fell down the fire escape and as they reached the bottom great explosions burst from the courthouse tower; a great metal racketing clangor. The clock struck again and again, over and over as it fought for its life. Pigeons blew like torn papers tossed from the roof. Bong! The clock voice chopped concussions to split the heavens. Ricochets, grindings, a last desperate twitch of hands. Then ...
"Silence." - pg. 100

The clock feels like a creature in its final throes. The book is chock full of passages like this, breathing life into the lifeless, leading the boys on a grand adventure.
And yet, the last two chapters threw me for a loop, mostly due to the imagery -- the idea of Quartermain bidding his sexual drive goodbye and passing it on, in a bizarre way, to Doug. The idea fits with the story of young vs. old, but its presentation was a bit abrupt and odd.
That, however, doesn't detract from me recommending the book as a great look into the eternal struggle to keep from growing older.
Farewell Summer
by Ray Bradbury
Harper/HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-113155-4
mass market paperback, 222 pgs.


purchased book

Thursday, July 07, 2011

She's So Unusual

One of the first cassette tapes I ever bought was Cyndi Lauper's amazing She's So Unusual album. Remember cassette tapes? That was my music format of choice, walking to class with the headphones of my Walkman squeezed against my ears.

She's So Unusual has always been one of my favorites. And it's still an amazing album, sounding even better on CD and with bonus tracks! Here's one of my favorite songs, She Bop.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Book Review: Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
The last day of school means quite a few things for the small Illinois town of Elm Haven. For most kids, it's the beginning of a well-deserved summer vacation, free from books, tests, and teachers. For the town, it brings the end of an era as the Old Central school will close its doors for the last time. But for a few twelve-year-old boys, it brings an adventure none of them could have ever imagined.

It all begins when Tubby Cooke goes missing on the last day of school. None of the other children sees him leave, though the principal and a few teachers insist that he ran off before the last bell finished echoing through the halls. Duane McBride feels differently. He's always felt that something was odd about the school, and he convinces his friends Mike O'Rourke, Jim Harlen, Dale and Lawrence Stewart, and Kevin Grumbacher, that Tubby didn't run away, and that the answer lies somewhere inside Old Central. While the rest of the gang spies around town, Duane tracks the history of the school and finds disturbing information about its past and a mysterious bell. But the trouble has already started: a ghostly soldier with a melting face tries to get at Mike's grandmother; the town's rendering trunk comes to life and seems Hell bent on running the boys down; the darkness beneath beds or in closets or in the far corners of basements appears almost alive; and long muddy furrows begin to appear throughout the town, emanating from Old Central and heading to each of the boys' houses.

Under cover of night, the boys must find a way to stop the darkness that's been set in motion before it consumes them and the town.

Summer of Night is the grand adventure we all wanted to take during summer breaks, biking and exploring with friends, but author Dan Simmons twists it into a nightmare that no one could have imagined. It's part mystery, trying to uncover the dark secrets of Old Central and the bell that hangs hidden in the boarded up belfry, and part horror, not only creating a unique monster that seems to be everywhere at once, but it touches on childhood fears of the dark. Lawrence Stewart has a terrible fear of what might be lurking beneath his bed; his brother Dale never did like the dark space behind the boiler in the basement. Simmons' nightmarish creation uses those fears against the boys with some terrifying results.

Imaginative and horrific, just the kind of tale that I enjoy, and once I started, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading, not wanting to put the book down. In the words of Dr. Spo, a "thumping good read".


Summer of Night
by Dan Simmons
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 978-0-312-55067-7
softcover, 498 pgs.


received book from publisher

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Socially Challenged

I'm trying to understand what's so social about location-based games such as Gowalla and foursquare. Yes, ME. I don't hide the fact that I'm addicted to both, as any of my friends on both platforms can attest. But something happened that made me start to question why these are considered "social networking" games.

Thursday evening, I met my friend Clark at Disneyland after work. As we stood in lines for attractions or for one of the parades, we chatted, but I spent most of the time with my head bent toward my phone, fingers typing in my login info and clicking the checkin buttons. There I was, at the "Happiest Place on Earth" with one of my best friends, and I was hardly being social. But I had to get that Gowalla stamp and post it to Facebook so everyone would know that I was a Disneyland or on the Finding Nemo Submarines. As if it were really that important to them.

The scarier part was looking up and noticing how many people -- kids and teens, mostly -- hunkered down with the bluish smartphone glow paling their faces, not paying any attention to the sights and sounds around them, to their friends or family. Some had headphones connecting their ears to their iPods or phones. Some tapped away frantically, perhaps texting, perhaps playing a game.

It convinced me to pocket my phone for the rest of the night. But I wonder . . . .

Is the smartphone becoming more important than real-life, face-to-face interaction?