Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chicas in Chains

Sunday night, we treated Caesar's sister and our friend Clark to a showing of Chico's Angels 3: Chicas in Chains at a small theater located in the basement of the Casita del Campo in Silverlake. It was a re-imagining of Charlie's Angels as three Latinas who flunked out of the police academy but are gathered together by the mysterious Chico to solve crimes. In this episode, the Angels -- Freida Lay, Kay Sedia, and Chita Parol -- go undercover at a high school to unmask a serial murderer. So many one-liners, sight gags, the hunky and popular BMOC with a temper Peter Rison (with many shirtless scenes), and great musical numbers -- we laughed our asses off!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Red Pen of Doom

While waiting for my car to be serviced, I spent some time in the lobby of the auto shop poring over a short story manuscript with a red pen. A friend on Facebook forwarded me some information about a publishing house looking for short stories for a horror anthology, and I've been working on this one that I think would fit in nicely. The problem is, said friend forwarded the link last week, and the deadline for submissions is July 31. Hence the red pen to mark up where the story needs re-working and changes and deletions, etc. Keep your fingers crossed that I can finish the edits and create something legible!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quickie Book Review: Ghosts

by César Aira

It's a hot New Year's Eve day, and the workers at the construction site of a new condominium in a large, unnamed Argentinian city are ready to call it a day in preparation for the festivities of the evening. For Raúl Viñas, the site's watchman, and his family, this means buying food and drinks for the feast, gathering up the children who love to wander around the empty floors of the building, and paying no heed to the ghosts. All the workers and the children have seen them, all males who lounge about naked in the huge satellite dish on the roof or glide between floors, but no one paid much attention to them.

Until young Patri, Raúl's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, notices the ghosts becoming more active than usual as the New Year approaches. She curiously follows them from floor to floor while her family sleeps, surprised that they actually speak to her, watch her as she asks why they are in such a hurry. They tell her of a grand feast planned for midnight and invite her to join them...on one condition.

Author César Aira uses that pivotal moment to examine Patri's place as a young woman of an age ready to flirt with boys and to find a husband but still young enough to be treated like a child. From my own interpretation of events in the book, Patri sees the ghosts as an ideal sort of man -- muscular, handsome -- and contrasts them to the men she knows in real life, who spend their off time being lazy or getting drunk. Does she see herself in the role of wife and mother? Does she want to see herself that way? That's the driving force behind the ghostly invitation to join their feast -- making Patri examine her life and her future. Also, the ghosts never come across as physically menacing, but that menace is there, subtly flowing through the atmosphere and adding tension until Patri ultimately makes her decision.

While the author does a fine job of painting the picture of the Viñas family and their life on the construction site, I struggled a bit with the section describing and analyzing architecture. Though it presents interesting information and ideas about architecture and its purpose, the section read too much like sitting through a college lecture and disrupted the flow of the story.

As a fan of tales involving ghosts and the supernatural, Aira's Ghosts provides a more mystical, more thought-provoking approach to them, and is an enjoyable read.

Ghosts
by César Aira
New Directions Books
paperback, 139 pgs.

purchased book

"Ghost Guardians", © 2005 Tommy Ironic, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License CC BY-NC 2.0.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Weekend, All Wrapped Up

I'd like to think it was a quiet weekend. We really didn't do much, thanks to the heat, but I did manage to keep to my weekend walking -- with the hope of losing some poundage. (But that hope is stalling at the moment.)

The walks allow me to explore a bit of Long Beach that I don't normally get to see. Like the island in this picture. Quiet and unassuming, right? Four such islands make their home in the bay, and they provide a neat little glimpse into the oil-rich history of the Long Beach area. These islands were built in 1964 to tap into the Wilmington Oil field which lay underneath the water and the surrounding area, and were originally known as the THUMS Islands -- named for the original Field contractors of Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union, Mobil, and Shell.1 Years later, they were renamed after four Astronauts. The island in the picture is called Grissom Island, named for Gus Grissom who was the second American to fly in space as part of the Mercury Project.2 The islands actually hide oil drilling operations and were designed to reduce noise pollution -- and to make the bay look inviting. I mean, who wants to see an oil platform that close to shore?

Later in the evening, I talked Caesar into taking in the Chivas USA vs. LA Galaxy game. Which was awesome! A 3-1 victory by the Galaxy!!

Sunday, we decided to see The Dark Knight Rises. With the events in Aurora, CO, we hesitated before deciding to go; my mind raced to what if someone wants to be a copycat? But I'm glad we went. And I'm glad we weren't the only ones: the theatre ended up about 3/4 full.

It's a decent movie. Good special effects, great acting, and a decent story that ties up the character of Batman, but leaves something open for the possibility of a different story arc. And we talked about it throughout a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

1 Information on the THUMS Islands from City of Long Beach. 2 Information about Gus Grissom from Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fútbol

My second Major League Soccer game ever. The LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA. Galaxy wins 3-1, with two goals scored by Landon Donovan. I think I'm slowly turning into a fan....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Everybody Wants to Rule the Weekend

I've been listening to quite a bit of 80s music this week, especially Culture Club and Tears for Fears. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that many of these albums are 25+ years old!!! Nonetheless, I was inspired to post this video from YouTube to kickstart the weekend.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World from Tears for Fears:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Comédie

To beat the heat on Saturday, we decided to spent some quality air-conditioned time in a movie theatre. Our movie of choice: Ted. And it was just what we needed. We laughed loud and often during the film, though the humor was a bit hit and miss. The story is surprisingly touching, and the acting great. Most of the regulars from Family Guy made appearances, and I was surprised by Mark Wahlberg, never expecting him to act in this kind of comedy. But he was spot on and funny. He just needed more shirtless scenes....

(Okay, just had to get that out of my system.)

The effects around Ted impressed both of us. You know it's all CGI, but the character doesn't look fake. Nice work!

But the comedy didn't stop there. Sunday we trekked to the Brea Improv for a show from one of our favorite comedians, Brad Williams. He is one of the funniest men on the planet, and this marked our third time seeing him in concert. And he didn't disappoint. We sat a table abutting the stage, were made fun of by the host, and laughed non-stop for the entire show as Brad shared his views on the world and his place in it. Plus, he had some fantastic and funny opening acts, like Michael Malone. I highly recommend checking out his show if he visits your area.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fats Waller Friday

One of my favorite Broadway cast albums is from a show I've never seen: Ain't Misbehavin'. I love Fats Waller's music and have always felt this was one of the best revues of his (or anyone's) music to hit the stage. Plus, it featured an amazing cast: Ken Page, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Charlaine Woodard, and the amazing Nell Carter. When Nell sings Mean To Me, you can feel and hear her heartbreak and longing. Take a listen for yourselves....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Break in the Blog

Sorry for the break in blog posting, but we must finish our respective games of Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes. If you've played any of the earlier Lego video games, the graphics on this one are even better as is the gameplay. It does come with a few glitches, like the Wonder Woman character freezing for about 15 minutes, but you can work around it. Lots of time-wasting fun. Now, back to the hunt for the Aquaman character....

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Green-ish Thumb

I don't profess to be much of a gardener, but since we moved into the apartment many, many moons ago, I've wanted to add a bit of plant life to our space. Sadly, we don't have much free space within the walls of the apartment, but out the back doors, we have a long bit of painted green balcony that stretches from the kitchen door to the master bedroom. Wide enough for one person to walk along comfortably, we never use the section that stretches to the bedroom, instead veering towards the stairs to do laundry or to hop in the car.

The greenery bug finally overtook my senses this morning, and I stopped by an Armstrong Garden Center hoping to find some Gerbera daisies. Unfortunately, they'd sold out of them weeks ago so I wandered around the roses, shrubs, orchids, hanging plants, and fruit trees trying to think of something that might do well on our balcony, something that wouldn't mind lots of direct sunlight. I opted for the purple zinnias. I finished transplanting them about 30 minutes ago, watered them, and am leaving them be for now.

I consider these test plants, and if they do well under my care, I may stop by the garden center for more plants. But only time will tell.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Quickie Book Review: The Last Policeman

by Ben Winters

The suicide in the McDonald's bathroom should be routine, just one of the many that have occurred around Concord, New Hampshire, since the announcement that asteroid 2011GV1 was going to strike the Earth. In fact, Concord has so many such suicides that locals renamed the city Hanger Town. With the announcement of the asteroid, many people have changed their priorities. Some have quit their jobs to spend the rest of their time with their families. Others have viewed it as a chance to work on their bucket lists, doing the things they've always wanted.

For Detective Hank Palace, the death seems anything but routine: where is the man's phone? Why is he wearing a belt when he hung himself with a brand new one? Something isn't right, and Palace is determined to find out, though he seems to be the only policeman who cares.

On the surface, The Last Policeman could be your standard crime/mystery tale, but setting it in a pre-apocalyptic world changes the whole dynamic. All the technological advances slowly disappear one by one; transportation is very limited thanks to the dwindling gas supply; peoples' attitudes have changed, mostly to a why should I care stance, making Palace's investigation that much harder. So why does Detective Palace care? I think that's at the heart of this novel: if you knew the world was going to end, what would you do? Would you continue on as normal? Would you spend your final days with those you love? Or would you simply give up -- would you commit suicide? Palace faces all those questions, and as I was reading along, I could put myself in his shoes. I asked myself the same questions.

Thought-provoking and a good read: you can't get much better than that. I highly recommend The Last Policeman and look forward to the next book in the planned trilogy.

The Last Policeman
by Ben Winters
Quirk Books
trade paperback, 316 pgs.

Received book from the publisher

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Moon Also Rises

Wes Anderson's films have a distinct look and feel to them, like 70s Polaroids come to life. And I, for one, am an admirer of them. So it shouldn't come as too much of a shock that we saw Moonrise Kingdom on Saturday. It's a quirky tale of first love between teenagers Sam and Suzy. They both run away -- Sam from the scouts at Camp Ivanhoe; Suzy from her counselor parents -- and secretly trek across New Penzance Island in New England while a search party of police and scouts scours the island. A great story; a superb cast -- including Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and the excellent Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy; and of course, Anderson's unique visuals make for a charming and funny film. Plus, I love the music -- Alexandre Desplat and Mark Mothersbaugh -- how can you go wrong?