Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Caped Crusader

I never thought we would do something like this, but last night, we braved the Carmageddoned freeways to drive to the Staples Center for a show. But not just any show. We caught one of the few performances of Batman Live. Neither of us was exactly sure what to expect, but the performance turned out to be more fun than we'd anticipated. The long stage filled most of the floor -- normally the basketball court for the Lakers -- with a large LED screen showing a graphic novel version of Gotham City. Replicas of buildings dotted the stage with some being pushed from the stage by cast and crew while others held jewel-encrusted cats or other special items for the show.

As for the show itself, they used acrobatics, dance, stilt walkers, magic, and graphic novel sequences (displayed on the LED screen) to tell the Robin origin story. And we enjoyed it, from the acting to the comedy, to everyone applauding when a character was introduced (even Alfred). The props were amazing: a Batmobile that sped onto the stage and spun into a semi-circle; a gigantic Joker's head whose teeth and eyes turned out to be members of the ensemble in disguise; even a Joker blimp that Harley Quinn destroyed with a bazooka in front of the wide-eyed audience. The creative team kept the humor, the graphic novel feel, and even the romance between Batman and Catwoman, intact so that it fit nicely into the Batman world.

The only problem we encountered had to do with finding a place for dinner beforehand. Most of the restaurants at L.A. Live offered a minimum 1 hour 30 minute wait. So we opted for the original El Cholo with a wait time of 20 minutes -- though we still ordered only appetizers in order to make it to our seats before showtime.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Inspired

Ideas for blog posts don't always come to me, which is why I tend to post YouTube videos and book reviews. A lot. I don't seem to have that problem when it comes to writing fiction. Hundreds of ideas constantly surf across the confines of my brain. Some of them are old ideas, that I first noted way back in college. But most stem from little things, like a dilapidated and run down car my college roommate and I spotted in the woods near the Mad River (I still have the photograph I took of it for when the full story presents itself), or the small hatch in our hallway that leads into the crawlspace above our apartment, or even a car alarm waking me at 3 a.m. I would like to say that the ideas run rampant until I set them down in words, but that would definitely be a lie.

One such story began during my freshman year in college, after watching Alien. The creature that burst from Kane's chest set me to thinking, and I wrote a few paragraphs in my journal which turned into a full-fledged project for a writing class I took after graduation. I finished that story, never submitting it thanks to the negative feedback from my "teacher" whose only gripe was that I injured a cat. "A writer never injures a cat in his writing," she wrote in red across that paragraph. So I set it aside, and it nagged at me for a long time. And by nagging, I mean that visual snippets of the story would flash into my head all the time like my brain had been wired to YouTube, and I was watching the story play out. So earlier last year, I pulled the story from my accordion file, tweaked it by changing characters and setting, and submitted it. The fourth published liked it enough and agreed to publish it.

Since then, the story stopped insinuating itself into my thoughts. I've discovered that once I think of an idea, I don't only need to write it down somewhere, but I need to get the correct story written otherwise it will keep gnawing at me until it feels I've done it justice.

Many ideas are floating around my head right now, and I'm finally getting two of them into a workable form. And one of them involves cats -- lots of cats. And the hatch in our apartment. I wrote a brief flash fiction piece with it, and the idea is gaining more momentum now.

Will it be any good? I don't know, but I need to write it.

Image from photosteve11's flickr photolog and attributed to planofsucces.com.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quickie Book Review: The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket

by John Weir

Eddie Socket, before his inevitable decline, is a hopeless romantic, relating everything that happens in his small world to some Golden-Age-of-Hollywood mold. He believes that one day, he will find a certain someone who fits into that ideal. When it finally does happen, he meets an older man named Merrit Mathers, though Merrit is the lover of Eddie's boss, Saul. They're affair is more like a one night stand, but that serves as enough for Eddie who falls head over heels; Merrit, on the other hand, loses interest in Eddie all too quickly.

That doesn't stop Eddie from trying everything he can to get Merrit to at least talk to him, and while waiting for that moment when he can discover what's going through Merrit's mind, Eddie commiserates with his roommate Polly Plug. Polly, though, has struggles of her own: trying to keep up with the rent while struggling as an actress. She also finds what she at first believes to be love. That romance soon turns cold, just like Eddie's.

During his struggle to find some common ground with Merrit, Eddie gets the news that he's has AIDS. He tries to tell those close to him -- his mother, Polly, even Merrit -- but winds up holding back, instead deciding a trip from New York to California to learn about his mother and his family. During the trip he meets Eulene, a drag queen from Staten Island, who helps him to realize that he can't run away from Merrit, from Polly, from his life and returns to New York.

Eddie's health quickly begins to decline, forcing Polly and Saul to re-examine their own lives and to finally take control.

For me, The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket offers a different take on someone with AIDS. Eddie doesn't seem to think of it as a death sentence; rather, for him it seems to be just one more obstacle to his potential (and self-delusional) happiness with Merrit. When his death happens (not a spoiler, judging by the book's title), it's almost poetic and reaching Eddie's romantic views of Hollywood. I actually cried while reading it, not solely because he passed, but because it was also well written and beautiful. His death becomes the spark to get Polly and Saul moving so it becomes almost a positive event.

It's a wonderful read, peopled with funny and very human characters. Take a chance like I did and read this great book.

The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket
by John Wier
Alyson Classics Library
trade paperback, 276 pgs.

purchased book

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Silence!

We're all about finding unusual offerings when it comes to theatre, and last night was no exception. To thank our friend Clark for cat-sitting while we vacationed in Portland, we treated him to a unique piece of theatre: Silence! the Musical, an unauthorized musical parody of The Silence of the Lambs. Because when you think of musical comedy, the story of an imprisoned serial killer aiding a young F.B.I. agent with finding the identity of another serial killer just screams musical comedy.

But you know what? The show was hysterical. Two non-stop hours of silliness mixed with music that would make my mother blush before she joined in the laughter. Davis Gaines portrayed Hannibal Lecter; Christine Lakin played the rookie F.B.I. agent Clarice Starling and nailed Jodi Foster's accent; the choreography -- from Tony winner Christopher Gattelli -- was amazing (the Bob Fosse moves during the autopsy was genius); Jeff Hiller, who played many roles, practically stole the show. (Watching his portrayal of a young Clarice channeling Nell was truly an hysterical experience.) The entire cast was truly amazing, and I'm impressed they performed for two-hours without an intermission. (And, Buffalo Bill did tuck on stage.)

Definitely a show not to be missed, so if you're in LA and are looking for something different, go see Silence!.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kibble

I've been so tired after getting home from work this week that blogging has taken a back seat to almost everything. Not that my life is riveting and full of non-stop excitement that I know you're dying to hear about, but a boy can dream, can't he? Anyway, I feel as though all I have time for bloggingwise at the moment is a quick list of what's going on....

  • Tomorrow, we're going to see Silence! The Musical, based on The Silence of the Lambs. Davis Gaines, John Kassir, and Christine Lakin are in the cast so this should be interesting....
  • I'm playing too many video games at once. Meaning, I get to a certain point in once game when frustration takes over because I can't get past that point. So I try another game, running into the same vicious gaming cycle. Games are currently in play for the following: Alice: Madness Returns, Epic Mickey, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 3, Cursed Mountain, Rhem 4, and Tomb Raider.
  • My 14-year anniversary at my company passed last week without incident.
  • I really need to put away my copy of The Book of Mormon cast album before something flies down from Kobol and sends me into a spooky Mormon Hell dream.
  • Kibitzing is a no-no.
  • The first draft of my novel is done. Now comes the editing, re-writing, pulling out hair, cursing the day I decided to try my hand at writing, and putting together the second draft.
Other than that, life goes on as usual.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello!

Sunday night, we finally saw it...THE show of the season...The Book of Mormon. Thank goodness, I talked Caesar into season tickets if only to guarantee seats to the Pantages. Wonderful music, incredible singing, the best choreography, and non-stop laughter filled those few hours Sunday night. And as Caesar wrote, "Intermission at The Book Of Mormon, and we have already laughed at jokes and clever songs about AIDS, genital mutilation, gay mormons and poverty in africa... I am so going to Hell!"

It's vulgar, crass, irreverent, and one of the best theater experiences I've had. I wish they had a video of the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream because neither of us expected it, and it's one of the best segments of the show. I almost...almost...felt guilty about laughing, but then -- it's the creators of South Park! Nothing is off-limits. And they really did create an old-school musical, with hints of other shows mixed in.

If you get a chance to see it in Los Angeles, or anywhere else on the tour, go!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pictures from Portland

Instead of writing paragraphs and paragraphs about our extended weekend trip to Portland, I decided to simply post a link to the photo gallery: Welcome to Portland!

And give a very brief rundown of what we did, hitting the main places and sights -- all while trying to fit that description to the pictures. Ah, multi-tasking at its finest....

The flight from Long Beach to Portland lasted almost two hours so we had half a day to spend wandering around once we settled into our hotel at the southern end of the waterfront. Our leisurely stroll took us by the Portlandia statue, my company's Portland office, the 24 Hour Church of Elvis (which is an art installation that has almost nothing to do with Elvis), and the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Of course, we also made our first of three stops at Voodoo Doughnuts.

The next day began with a round-trip ride to the Oregon Health and Science University via the Portland Aerial Tram. Fantastic views encompassing all of Portland, the Willamette River, and we even saw Mt. Hood, Mt. Tabor and Mt. St. Helens from the observation deck at the hospital. We then hopped in the car and headed to Washington Park for what we thought would be a quick tour of the Portland Japanese Garden. We stayed for almost two hours, sitting on benches to enjoy the serenity of the Zen garden and the Heavenly Falls, all tucked away in the beautiful forest within the park. Without having to return to the car, we walked from there to the International Rose Test Garden where it's very easy to OD on every type of rose you can imagine. We also stopped by the Pittock Mansion before returning to the hotel to clean up for a riverfront dinner at Three Degrees -- a restaurant directly across Naito Pkwy from the hotel.

Saturday, we watched some of the Portland Dragon Boat Races before walking along the waterfront to the Portland Saturday Market where Caesar bought a bag of cinnamon-roasted almonds, and I found the perfect zombie shirt that says "Eat Locals" and features a zombie chasing a man on a tractor. We wandered around Chinatown before another stop at Voodoo Doughnuts where we ran into Andrew Zimmerman from The Travel Channel. We had time to kill before our only planned event so we headed across the Willamette to visit the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry which turned out to be much more fun than we anticipated. We watched an OmniMax movie about tornadoes and watched the tech change the gigantic reels of film. Returning to the hotel, we were unfortunately caught at a train crossing, waiting 20 minutes for a freight train to pass by. I was worried that we were going to be late, but we made it in time for a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels and dinner afterwards at Hobo's.

Sunday, we hopped in the car and drove West, not stopping until we reached the Tillamook Cheese Factory. And yes, we sampled many, many different types of cheddar and gorged ourselves on Tillamook cheeseburgers. Since we were so close to the coast, we drove the extra 15-20 minutes to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. This was the only day that we encountered rain and cold; the rest of the trip hovered in the 80˚-90˚ range.

Phew! We actually managed to cram quite a bit in and eat way too much. But it was definitely worth it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Music I'm Digging Right Now

While in Portland, we checked out an indie record label called Tender Loving Empire, browsing through the t-shirts and knickknacks available and admiring the cityscape of Portland -- constructed entirely of cardboard -- that hung upside down from the ceiling. The record label itself focuses on local bands from Portland, and I found myself standing before one of their listening stations with the indie sounds of Radiation City flowing through the headphones. To my untrained ears, they're a mix of 60s martini lounge with alternative rock, and I walked out of the store with two of their EPs.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Safe and Sound

We're back, safe and sound, from our extended weekend trip to Portland, OR. We managed to cram so much into four days -- the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland Aerial Tram, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Shanghai Tunnels, and even a jaunt to Tillamook for some cheese -- that I'm surprised either of us isn't passed out on the couch or bed from exhaustion. I'm still in the unwinding stage so I plan on writing more about the trip and sharing a few pictures as well.

And let me say right now that it is perfectly acceptable to overdose on Voodoo Doughnuts. I tried the Grape Ape, the Tangfastic, the Butterfingering, the Lemon Kesey, and part of Caesar's Diablos Rex. Ugh....

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Putting the Pen Down

I haven't felt too inclined to do writing of any kind the past few days. I think it's because I made the mistake of breaking a promise that I made to myself: to not read reviews of anything I've written. Over the weekend, I glanced at one such review -- a very mean-spirited and nasty review, a single sentence in length -- and my heart sank. So the impetus to write has flagged a bit. I wonder if all the months of writing, the struggle to get the words onto the page, is worth it.

Perhaps this extended weekend trip will allow my mind to push aside the negativity and get excited about writing again. I think a Gay Bar from Voodoo Doughnuts may be in order....

In the meantime, I started playing a video game to keep myself occupied: Alice - Madness Returns. A very twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. Here's a sampling of gameplay:

So far, I'm a mere 4% through the game though I've played for hours. I love the graphics, the weapons, and how Alice interacts with Wonderland gone mad. I hope that I can make it all the way to the end.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Quickie Book Review: The White People and Other Weird Stories

by Arthur Machen

Being sick gives me plenty of opportunity to diminish my stack of books waiting to be read. And this most recent bout of acute bronchitis was no exception, though I only managed to finish 3 books. (I must be slipping in my old age!)

One of the books is a collection of short stories from a favorite author: Arthur Machen. A Welshman, he wrote tales of the supernatural beginning in the late 1890s through the 1930s, and focused much of the underlying horror on Celtic and pagan beliefs mixed with a touch of Christianity. The stories in The White People and Other Weird Stories all provide a little chill running up and down the spine as the main characters try to figure out who is leaving the crude and strange red hand drawings above his victims or wonder at the mysterious deaths of townsfolk during the early stages of WWII, believing it to be Germans lying in wait through Great Britain -- but the truth is far more strange and difficult to comprehend. Most of the stories seem to deal with modern man inadvertently colliding with gods of old or with creature thought to have disappeared many centuries ago. With a few stories -- such as The Bowmen and The Soldier's Rest -- Machen tints the the battles of WWI with shades of the supernatural, ghostly soldiers coming to the aid of those in need.

It's a fantastic collection of stories and a great introduction to the work of Arthur Machen. Highly recommended.

The White People and Other Weird Stories
by Arthur Machen
Penguin Books
trade paperback, 377 pgs.

purchased book

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] View of Llanfihangel cemetery   © Copyright John Firth and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.