Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random Thoughts, Observations and Considerations for the Week..er..Decade

Being it is the end of the year and the decade I set my mind to all that I have done and learned over the last ten years. On January 1, 2000 I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska where I shared a 3 bedroom house with my roommates Steve and Cathy. Ten years later I live in Los Angeles and share a small, one bedroom apartment with my cats Oreo and Garfield. In between:
  1. I moved from one abode to another only 6 times, but across 5 states.
  2. I bought and sold two houses.
  3. I owned 3 Dodge pickups, a Jeep, a Mazda and a Ford F-150.
  4. In that same Ford F-150 I drove for 3 days across the Rockies with 4 cats in the cab.
  5. I flew in a plane for the first time.
  6. I gambled in Vegas.
  7. I saw both oceans for the first time (once I even saw them on the same day).
  8. I strolled through Times Square.
  9. I toured the monuments of Washington, DC.
  10. I was called "one lucky guy" by a complete stranger while driving down Figueroa.
  11. I went on a few dates, but only "dated" one woman and for a very short time.
  12. I had a stalker (or more politically correct - an aggressive female admirer).
  13. I watched football in the Rose Bowl, baseball at Dodger Stadium, hockey at the Honda Center and a Lakers playoff game at the Staples Center.
  14. I attended roughly a dozen weddings, a few funerals and a number of graduations.
  15. My most dramatic moving vehicle accident was in a golf cart rollover on a Wisconsin golf course.
  16. My most expensive vehicle accident was rear-ending a Ford pickup on a snowy street in Lincoln.
  17. I went to 3 different Six Flags amusement parks (a couple of them more than once).
  18. I attended LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City even though I'm not a member of the church.
  19. I met more people that I can remember - most of them good, some of them great.
  20. I lost family and friends and gained them, gaining more than I lost.
  21. I had some really great conversations almost always while standing in a parking lot, on a front porch or leaning against a car.
  22. I never figured out what I want to be when I grow up but I learned not to worry about it.
  23. I've seen hundreds of movies - only a few really terrible, most good and one or two that whispered of greatness, but more importantly I learned that movies are better with friends.
There was more, of course, but most importantly I learned that a decade isn't as long as it used to be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Ruminations and Observations for the Week

  1. Chili cheese fries - one of God's perfect foods.
  2. Irony on 18 wheels; I saw an Isravi truck (that with the star of David in the logo) sporting a "Real Men Love Jesus" bumper sticker.
  3. I had the shocking revelation that the end of the decade is only days away. It's not something that should sneak up on me, but did.
  4. Is there any better place to have a burger than in a restaurant that was once a rail car?
  5. Why was it only the black guys were in handcuffs along Hollywood Boulevard?
  6. Another birthday - how can that be?
  7. As I think about the passing decade and my birthday I increasingly feel I cannot make it on my own forever.
  8. In related news, I'm considering another stab at eharmony.com not so much to date but to be reminded I don't really want to date as much as I think.
  9. There was a moment - Saturday around 11:30 at night actually - standing on the roof of a parking garage in Hollywood with Joanne and Camille, looking out over a clear view of the LA skyline, when I thought I was living another, far luckier man's life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Minor Inconvenience of the Week

Loving and Caring

This comes about from the Christmas season. It also comes about from the ongoing analysis of why me (and one of my friends) remain single. Loving and Caring is a minor inconvenience. Remembering to call. Buying Christmas gifts. Remembering anniversaries, birthdays and other unimportant (yet consequential) trivia. Going over to their place. Cleaning up so they can come to yours. So many minor inconveniences.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Week's Random Notions

  1. Is it really possible to meet successful women in their 30's that look like the ladies in those Facebook sidebar ads?
  2. I'll miss our little walks together Freedom.
  3. I'm told I have a boring amazon.com wishlist.
  4. DO NOT play with another person's iPhone.
  5. Be mindful of freshly mopped floors while under the influence of alcohol (as relayed to me in story).
  6. From my dvdloc8 database: Favorite Director: Aaron Sorkin (7 discs), Most Common Distributor: Warner Bros. (44 discs) and Favorite Actor: Morgan Freeman (9 discs).
  7. Random Picture:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sharon Barth - A Remembrance

Last weekend we lost the woman I've always thought of as "Steve's Mom". I believe she would have been perfectly happy being nothing more - just Mom. Of course, being Steve's mother, not to mention being mother to Scott, Tammy, Jim and Gary was probably never "just" anything. Indeed, it was everything - to her and to those of us that know any of the family.

What I remember best about Sharon were the phone calls. I'd pick up the phone and hear her voice laced with the prescient knowledge Steve wasn't home (when I answered it usually meant I was the only one in the house). "Is Steve home," she'd ask. I'd tell her that he wasn't and explain that I either wasn't sure where he was or I'd detail what I knew of his busy schedule. Then it would come - the sigh. Deep and heavy, dripping with the disappointment that her little boy wasn't there. "Okay..." followed usually by another big sigh, "this is Steve's mom. Could you tell him to call me when he gets home." I could hear the love in that voice - the love only a mother can transmit in a sigh.

I'll miss you, Steve's Mom.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This Week's Random Thoughts and Ruminations

  1. My unofficial calculation shows that the ratio of Wal-Mart customers in line to Wal-Mart cashiers at the Norwalk store is 35:1.
  2. Is there anything worse than dreaming you're at work? (Aside from actually being there maybe?)
  3. Tiger - I don't care.
  4. A chocolate chip cookie baked from scratch has mysterious and magically transformative properties in my coworkers.
  5. One second is a short span of time but much can change within it.
  6. I like the television show Fringe. I can't say why specifically, but I do.
  7. I take life's shortness and fragility for granted and the reminders of this fact are never pleasant.
  8. The eternal struggle - grappling with the distance between what I need and what I really, really want.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Minor Inconvenience of the Week

The Orange

I like oranges. I like the smell. I like the flavor. I hate the peel. Give me a glass of orange juice (even if the LA Times tells me its worse than a can of Coke). Maybe even give me a wedge of orange where I can gnaw at the good stuff and the leave the peel undisturbed. Just don't give me the whole orange.

Sometimes the peel is thick. Sometimes the peel is thin. Sometimes the peel will come off easily and in a couple pieces. More often the peel sticks and after several agonizing minutes and copious zest under the fingernails you're too tired to bother eating the thing. Someone should hybridize the orange and the banana - then we'd have worthy fruit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Week's Random Thoughts and Questionable Observations

  1. New Moon - what gives?!
  2. Knowing exactly what the little floaties in my water are doesn't make it any easier to drink.
  3. Taiwan cuisine - almond sesame pork jerky trumps dried squid.
  4. A natural gas oven is worthless when the electricity goes out - but the pumpkin pie endures.
  5. I wasn't half bad drawing pictures when I was younger; why did I stop?
  6. I've come to believe that even in a house with wall-to-wall hardwood floors a carpet would materialize just in time for the cat to puke on it.
Thanksgiving this year:
  • It must be nice to have that kind of money.
  • My parents are not embarrassing. I know my parents aren't embarrassing because I also learned that:
  • One reason being stationed in Okinawa over Thanksgiving would be better than spending it at home is in Okinawa your mother cannot question you at length regarding your porn watching habits, specifically, did you watch porn in your mother's room that morning.
  • It's hard to find the right words to stop a discussion about porn without becoming part of the discussion.
  • I'm still not an athlete but I got to drive the Champion Turkey Triathlete around town. Also, Joanne plays a mean game of basketball (and yes, yes...she beat me).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Minor Inconvenience of the Week

Dishes

This is not to say actually washing the dishes by hand. That would be a major inconvenience. No, I have a dishwasher; one that is always full of clean dishes. I'm left with a huge stack of dirty dishes on the counter above the dishwasher. Why? The minor inconvenience of unloading the clean dishes followed by the equally inconvenient need to place the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. It's just oh so much easier to stack them on the counter...or the light stand next to the couch...or in a neat little pile of cereal bowls by the keyboard.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Random Thoughts, Observations and Hardly Worthy Trivia From the Last 7 Days

I'm always trying to come up with something interesting so here's another stab at it. Sometimes I forget to look around and take note of the world outside. This is a little exercise to keep me in the habit. These are the random, trivial and unnecessary thoughts and observations for the week gone by.
  1. My apartment is small enough that I can vacuum the entire floorspace without unplugging the vacuum.
  2. There is a Kmart just across the way in Bellflower - you heard me - a KMART!
  3. Though I never assumed they were, my small plates are definitely not unbreakable.
  4. I bought my first pair of carpenter jeans and have been pleasantly surprised though I still cannot conceive of when I'll use the hammer loop.
  5. Apparently I'm a natural public speaker (I neglect to mention to those saying this that it took a few years to be that natural).
  6. From Saturday night's party:
  • I'm still not good with parties involving loud, thumping music.
  • I'm still not much good with the ladies either.
  • Dancing might help.
  • The evidence suggests that the Vietnamese words for 'I'm going to puke' sound amazingly like the actual act of vomiting.
  • Who knew there was so much entertainment value in watching someone vomit (and their loving man cleaning up, oh, and people taking pictures and video of all of it).
Do not adjust your screen - that's party haze you're looking through.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Minor Inconvenience

I've been listening to and watching a great deal of stand-up comedy lately. This started about a year ago when I was in New York visiting a couple friends. One of these friends, someone I'd always noted as one of the funniest people I'd known, was talking about standup she'd seen and SNL skits she loved and comedies she adored. I realized I had no clue what she was talking about and wondered if I wasn't missing something. What had I become? Was I a lifeless dullard? Where was the funny (other than the nonsense that is my work)? Here my friend was talking about doing a stand-up routine on open mike night and I hadn't even watched an HBO comedy special in years.

Later, I bought a vehicle with Sirius radio and its collection of comedy channels. Now, hardly a day goes by when I don't flip over to the Blue Collar Comedy channel at some point in my commute. I think my life is better for it. Thank you, Jill.

Anyway, the point of all this is that having listened to so many acts I realize the key is to have a gimmick, a theme, a catchphrase or what have you. Jeff Foxworthy has his redneck jokes. Bill Engvall has his sign. John Pinnette has his food. I'm not a comedian, but I am an itinerant blogger that rambles across the subjects without any mooring. Perhaps I too need a regular piece of material that speaks to me and thus to you, dear reader.

After some thought I realized I had the perfect topic - minor inconveniences. Truth be told, I may have stole this idea, but what good writer or comedian doesn't steal from others here and there. (Thank you, Joanne!).

I hold in high regard what I call the law minor of inconvenience. For those of you around a couple years ago I have nine other laws. The law of minor inconvenience holds that there are any number of things I dread doing, avoid doing and simply won't do because of some minor inconvenience. For instance, I almost didn't write this owing to the minor inconvenience of typing the word 'inconvenience'. I've built up the motivation to overcome that obstacle and here attempt what I hope to become a regular feature - simply, easy and with endless examples:

Minor Inconvenience of the Week:

Opening and closing the copier lid. (Thank you again Joanne.)

It is a disheartening feeling when I realize the copies I need to make can't be run through the automatic feeder on the copier. I'm left with lifting the cover, placing my original, shutting the lid, pressing the green button, lifting again, removing the original.......just thinking about it makes me die a little inside. If my original has random staples, binding or is of an unnatural size it'll sit there on the desk all day only to be copied at the last possible moment - or never if the problem requiring the copying somehow takes care of itself (but when I'm ever that lucky?).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Truth


I am an unrepentant fan of Terry Pratchett. I'll tear threw his books almost as fast as I can move my eyes across the page. I do so because somewhere in each one I'll find some little gem that makes me laugh myself silly or touches on some bit of truth or both. For anyone that's read Small Gods the phrase "Oh, my god!" takes on a delightful new meaning.

Last night I cruised through several dozen pages of Pratchett's latest book, Unseen Academicals. I found one of those little gems.
Truth is female, since truth is beauty rather than handsomeness; this, Ridcully reflected as the Council grumbled in, would certainly explain the saying that a lie could run around the world before Truth has got its, correction, her boots on, since she would have to choose which pair - the idea that any woman in a position to choose would have just one pair of boots being beyond rational belief. Indeed, as a goddess she would have lots of shoes, and thus many choices: comfy shoes for home truths, hobnail boots for unpleasant truths, simple clogs for universal truths and possibly some kind of slipper for self-evident truth. More important right now was what kind of truth he was going to have to impart to his colleagues, and he decided not on the whole truth, but instead on nothing but the truth, which dispensed with the need for honesty.
Later, Truth selects a pair of black leather stillettos - the topic: the quality of Anhk-Morpork pies (if your scratching your head, I'll lend you a book or two to get you started).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Crazy Lady

Shouldn't have been on the street.

Shouldn't have made eye contact.

Shouldn't have responded when she said hello.

My coworkers say it's a symptom of Midwestern blood - my particular disease. All these shouldn't have dones led me to a few painful moments with the crazy lady on the corner.

She had a bad knee (and I got to see it).

She had a bag full of cards from mental health professionals (and I saw those too).

She had a room that wasn't ready, no clue where she was or where she was going and a diagnosis of suicidal tendencies that she dismissed because should hadn't yet walked into to traffic to be killed by passing cars.

Me...I had no exit strategy.

I lied - I'll call someone when I get inside.

I didn't.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Whirlpool Dishwasher

Apparently Whirlpool has trouble hiring good help these days...

My new apartment has a new dishwasher. My happiness over this ended when I opened it after the first load to discover that my glasses weren't very clean. There was also a big clump of soap in the bottom of the machine. After a few loads and some happenstance I came to discover that the soap dispenser door wouldn't open because the rack was in the way.

I sent the following email to the people at Whirlpool:

model: DU810SWPU3
serial: FY1842524

product: Dishwasher,Built-in

The soap dispenser door does not open on my dishwasher. After some investigation, it appears that the rack blocks the door. No matter which direction the rack is placed into the dishwasher the rack would still block the door.

Is there some solution to this problem?
I received the following response:

We are sorry to learn about the concern you have experienced with your dishwasher.

As we are also consumers, we can certainly understand your frustration and disappointment regarding this matter. For your convenience, we have provided a few troubleshooting suggestions for you to check.

Was the dispenser cup wet when you added detergent?
Make sure the dispenser cup is dry before adding powdered detergent. If dispenser cup is wet, the detergent can clump.

Is the cycle incomplete?
If the previous cycle did not complete, the detergent can become caked in the dispenser cup if it is left sitting in the dishwasher.

Is the detergent old?
Older detergent exposed to air will clump and not dissolve well, which will cause the dispenser door to stick to the detergent. Replace detergent if necessary.

Is the water temperature too low?
For best washing and drying results, water should be 120F (49C) as it enters the dishwasher.

Were items blocking the dispenser that kept it from opening?
Items blocking the detergent dispenser will keep it from opening. Make sure water action can reach the dispenser.

Detergent guidelines
- Use automatic dishwashing detergent only.
- Other detergents can produce excessive suds that can overflow out of the dishwasher and reduce washing performance.
- Store tightly closed detergent in a cool, dry place.
- Fresh automatic dishwasher detergent results in better cleaning.
- Add detergents just before starting the cycle.

If you have checked these suggestions and are still experiencing your concern, we would advise contacting an authorized service provider for the most satisfactory addressing of any issues you may be experiencing.
My response:
The dispenser cup was dry. It was, in fact, the first time I had used this machine ever.

The cycle was complete and had been for several hours.

The detergent was new to me, but may not have been new to store. I cannot speak to its age, but it flows freely from the box.

The water temperature is a balmy 135 F.

There was an item blocking the dispenser from opening. As I pointed out in my question, the rack blocks the dispenser from opening. I suggested this in the email in a less than assertive way to be kind. I have attached a picture demonstrating my point. As can be seen in the picture, with the main dishwasher door opened slightly the door can clearly be seen against the rack. With the main door completely closed, the soap dispenser door does not open at all.


Following your response, I realized that the matter was best handled with a hacksaw. I have attached a picture of my solution. The door opens perfectly.

If you would be so kind, please share this solution with your design engineers. It may serve as a useful guideline as they draw up the next model.



Sunday, October 4, 2009

Güero at the Market


I am the "güero". The gringo, if you prefer. The white guy...that's me. The one that sweats at the thought of jalapeño. This made my first trip to Northgate Market an experience in disorientation.

When I arrived in Los Angeles I settled in little corner of the city between the largely black community of Inglewood and largely white community of Culver City. My new community is neither of those and there isn't a Ralphs or a Vons within walking distance. Northgate Market is across the street. It is not for the güero.

Fortunately I can read Spanish well enough.

There were frijoles negro, pico de gallo, chiccarones, tubs of lard, tortillas stacked to the ceiling, an unrecognizable array of meats including chicken seasoned and with peppers to make fajitas, limes and avacodas in every corner. There was a tortilla making operation in the back. The bakery sold pan caliento. A women sat in a booth where you could send money to Mexico.

I stood out like a gringo thumb in a sea of ladies yelling in Spanish as they bumped and bruised their ways to the front of the butcher line. I nearly tripped on a lime that had tumbled out of the massive bins. I couldn't find a frozen pizza or a Pace Picante in jar (not that I would have bought it for fear of insulting those making fresh salsa at the other end of the store).

In the end, I quickly bought a bag of tortilla chips and a pint of pico de galle and zipped back across the street where I belonged.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Four Years

I stood in my old apartment one last time last week as I returned the keys.

The carpet was worn and torn. The walls marked by nails, scrapes and a few cobwebs up high in the loft space. The late evening sun poured in through the windows. Four years earlier it smelled of fresh paint and new carpet and the view of the Santa Monica mountains seemed breathtaking. As I stood in the renewed emptiness of that worn space I marveled at how quickly it had all gone.

Four years was a long time but passed like a thought. I felt that I should be doing something other than standing there in the silence.

Of course, in the end it was just a few walls and windows. It was the place I slept, watched TV and movies, played my computer games and occasionally entertained guests. I'll keep doing the same as I have done within so many other sets of walls and windows. On the flip side I've only lived in one other set of rooms for longer. Were I also leaving behind my job and my friends perhaps it would have meant more but as the door closed behind me it was relief I felt. Moving had been, as always before, a grueling ordeal. No wonder I had waited four years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"World Famous" San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is world famous. I was told this a number of times while I was there so it must be true. It is nice. It is big. Neither of these things do they really advertise, but they are busy reminding us that they are world famous so they might not have the time.

They also like their California condors. They mentioned those quite often too. In fact, this was just one of the many birds we saw after watching essentially the same bird show twice. We also watched two different girls fall in the same pool of water accompanied by the same jokes (word for word) but with much different levels of acting ability.

Anyway, a few pictures. First we have the view from our lunch restaurant.

The view made up for the disproportionate sizes of my lunch compared to Joanne's lunch. She was sitting there with a heaping bowl of jambalaya and I had exactly 7 ravioli and 5 shrimp. There was also some disappointment with Kyle who was apparently in charge of refilling drinks but indifferent to actually completing the task.

Our next picture is the feeding of giraffes. My annoyance had been the empty tea glass at lunch. Joanne's aggravation came with the $5 price of 3 giraffe biscuits. There was also some muttering about how there were fewer shows and all the cool things had been shuffled off into some backstage pass that set you back $40. Still, feeding the giraffes was fun.

Finally, we have Joanne and me sitting near the panda exhibit close to the end of our day. Somewhere north of us, Camille was probably in bed having abandoned us to the wilds of San Diego by ourselves.

We did see most of the animals, listened to some interesting zookeepers, admired the new digs for the elephants, got buzzed by birds (intentionally) and by bugs (not so intentionally). We also set a record for the length of an outing. Most remarkably, we didn't kill each other.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Dumpster Exchange

As children, one of my cousins and I were avid dumpster divers. We had rooms filled with other people's junk we'd collected with the frequent comment, "How could they have thrown this away?"

At some point the lure of good garbage was surpassed by pride and I could no longer dive into anyone else's dumpster. This is not to say that I haven't thought about, because I have; I'm just too good (in my own mind) to lower myself into a dumpster (or even snag some perfectly acceptable piece of rubble from the top of the pile).

This morning, however, I once again contributed to that great past time by donating my own junk to the heap. I rolled out my office chair and placed it next to the dumpster this morning as I headed out for an oil change. The chair had seen better days. The leather was marked by a thousand cat claws. The seat was formed down to the shape of my butt. Alas, I would have kept it but at some point it started to cause me a great deal of back pain to sit in it.

Two hours after I'd deposited the chair next to the dumpster it had be replaced with someone else's chair. This one was smaller, cloth covered and with less sturdy casters and arms. Someone had traded up at the dumpster exchange. Only a few hours later, that chair too was gone. It was claimed, I'm sure, with an exclamation, "How could someone throw this away?"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Remembering John Hughes

IN MEMORIUM CELEBRATE THE FILMS OF JOHN HUGHES 1950-2009

I'd like to take a moment to remember John Hughes. I haven't seen his best remembered films - Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club - that is, other than the tidbits as I troll through the television channels. So for me, the short article from Lawrence Downes - John & John - was the most fitting remembrance.

The New York Times did a nice job appreciating all things John Hughes. Here's a few:

The John Hughes Touch by A.O. Scott

The Neverland Club by Molly Ringwald

Remembering John Hughes

As a child of the 80's, albeit mostly of the late 80's, the passing of John Hughes is another reason to remember the way things were, and of course, to plug in my copies of Uncle Buck or Planes, Trains and Automobiles for one more viewing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

(500) Days of Summer - An Appreciation


Movies have long been as close to a passion as I might have. For me, movies are meant to accomplish a couple things.

First, they entertain by allowing us to escape for a moment into a place we might not otherwise find ourselves. In the midst of this feat a truly great movie will also shed light into our world by revealing to us the lives, the dreams, the conflicts and the hopes of others. If a movie manages these two things - to entertain and to enlighten - it is both rare and wonderful.

Given the infrequency of a truly great movie, entertainment is often enough. The whiz and the bang, the explosion, the impossible love, the daydream - all the while it flits across the screen we sip our sodas and munch our treats with contentment. If movies offered nothing more than this I would still shell out my cash, sit in the darkness and await the first flashing lights of the projector.

On the other hand, if movies were nothing more than art, I would be less enthralled. The art movie, meant as a work of influence and meaning and imbued with passion and importance, can enlighten and inform but just as likely bore us. When I choose to see these movies I often come away with some new insight or an appreciation for the work itself but much more rarely do I leave the theater entertained.

My lack of enthusiasm for movies that critics might deem important for me to see leads me to consider the sadder development of my long history with movies. As I have grown older, movies have continued to lose their magic. There's no obvious place to put the blame - cynicism, understanding of the process, actually knowing actors, poor movie-making - but this does nothing to alleviate my longing for that singular sense of complete immersion in a movie like when I was child.

The great movies of my youth - or so I think of them - I saw almost exclusively on commercial television or grainy VHS from the gas station movie rental rack. Yet no matter the size of the screen or the quality of the picture and sound those movies were as real and wonderful to me as anything I've seen since.

Often it is the technical that supplants the magical. We can watch a film and know that it is technically superior. We appreciate the insightful story, original and intimate. We marvel at the actors communicating an array of emotion with a single shift of posture. The lighting may be brilliantly cast, the camera angles novel and expertly arranged or the editing might add to the effect of the story but the movie may fail to sweep us away, lift us above the process and deposit us squarely into the heart of the story.

In the end, it takes a perfect balance of many things to make a movie great, but for me there is a silver bullet. It is the same for movies as it is for books, television and even stand-up comedians. It is the connection. If while sitting in a darkened room I can look up to a lighted screen and upon it see a life or a character or a place not unlike one I have known myself then most everything else that makes the movie a movie simply melts away.

In those long ago days when I watched Goonies I wanted to be one of those kids. I wanted those friends and that sort of adventure. When I watched Stand By Me I had had those conversations, told those kinds of stories and lived that type of life. I wanted to meet aliens with the Explorers, fight in my spaceship with The Last Starfighter and I longed for just one Reese's Pieces eating alien in my closet.

Sadly, this connection does not always hold up to the test of time. A connection can be a fleeting thing whereupon the first viewing of a movie is powerful and magical, but when watching it the second time it becomes obvious there was something in that particular moment that captivated me and could not be duplicated. As such, the rarest of all movies must be those that are technically sound, truly entertaining and bridge a connection that stands the test of time.

It remains too early to say whether (500) Day of Summer is such a film. I do know that it entertained me and I enjoyed it. I know that for a time the rest of the world, the real world, dissolved into the mists unseen and unheard. I know that as I walked out the doors I felt I had seen something that may have connected with me more than it might have others, or even my own movie companion. In Tom, the main character, I had seen much that I see in myself. Perhaps I am not so handsome. Maybe I am not so assertive. I do not contend that it was as if looking in a mirror but there was much material on which to draw out the resemblance.

The movie was technically sound if somewhat risky at times with the narration - always dangerous - the shifting back and forth through time, the use of little numbered screens for temporal clarity and one brilliant but difficult split screen showing the differences between Tom's expectations and his reality. In the end, none of that matters because this way my movie. This was a story about a man not unlike me, living in the city in which I live, under circumstances similar to my own and with a perspective frequently indistinguishable from my own. In other words, for this viewer at least, it was movie gold.

My appreciation for (500) Day of Summer resides in the strange recirculation of my thoughts about it. The movie became a reflection of a reflection like two mirrors facing one another. Whenever I stopped to consider the movie and ask myself the questions it posed about the nature of love I was reminded that this act of consideration and analysis was in fact reflected by the parts of the movie I was considering. Thinking about the themes of the movie was also my connection to the movie.

Later, I sat with my movie companion and quizzed her on her thoughts about the film only to realize that within our conversation of Tom and Summer we were becoming more like them. As I thought more about the movie, indeed, as I sat down to compose this appreciation, I was analyzing life and the nature of love (of movies? of people?) just as Tom would have done.

After chasing this idea around for awhile I realized that whatever anyone else may think, whether my companion gave it 3 and a half stars or hated it, none of that mattered. Love doesn't make sense. Love is coincidence and timing. Love may only reside in one heart - (500) Day of Summer shows us that. It is as truthful for people as it is for movies.

So for now, I love this movie and though time may slowly cause us to drift apart, like Tom and Summer, I have the joy of the first time I saw it and the happiness of this 1 day of my summer.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

e-Revelation

I have long been a computer gaming nerd, but I like to think I don't take it to extremes. I used to sit up through the night playing Age of Empires over a dial-up 56K modem, but that was college. Now I'm more casual. My brother calls me up on random weekends and we kill things on Civilization 4.

Recently, though, has come massive online multiplayer games courtesy of social networking sites like Facebook.

So I maintain my little farm with its chickens, sheep, fruit trees and countless plots of corn or rice (high profit, large cash flow).

I also kill things, rob things, blow things up and buy countless properties that I must maintain and protect from other roving bands of made men.

For awhile I had a castle and village in a place called Evony, but I couldn't seem to dedicate the time and effort necessary to compete on a global scale. I'd check in for a few minutes each day only to discover that neighboring players had spent far more time building and arming their little simulated worlds. Soon, they'd attack and I'd die. I repeated this process three times. Now I just tend my farm back on Facebook.

Then, by chance, I stumbled across Erepublik. I should love this game. The basic premise is that you are a simulated person in a virtual reality version of the actual planet. Each person has a job, trains in the military, takes part in politics and so forth. One can create a business, run for president or write a newspaper keeping track of the myriad intricacies of the game. Also a bit of a perk is that I can literally play for a few minutes each morning and accomplish the basics.

Sadly, Erepublik took gaming too far for me. The realities of the game too closely approximate real life - buying food, going to work, etc. Huge swaths of humanity are at this moment living inside this fantasy world working very hard to become the next president of a fictional United States. I was generally okay with this scenario allowing that others could write newspapers about things that weren't real and I could just accumulate some points and mess about a little. This did not last.

California was invaded and conquered by Indonesia. My US dollars were worthless and I couldn't buy food. I traded some cash on the open market and bought tickets allowing me to move to Peru and then back to the US, this time to Kansas. Within a few days Kansas had been conquered by Russia. I traded the last of my dollars to buy some food so that my simulated me wouldn't expire. Now I'm being asked to send messages to complete strangers to get tickets to move to New Jersey and keep fighting the good fight.

I have decided to die.

This really is too much. I have reached my limit of technological tomfoolery. I have embraced Facebook and the blog, but I will not tweet and I'm done with my cyberspace Kansas existence. I'll spend some time in reality for awhile and catch my breath. Meanwhile, in Erepublik, a man named Atticus will slowly succumb to starvation.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old Fort MacArthur Days

On the weekend following Independence Day an interesting cast of characters descend on Old Fort MacArthur Museum each year. First and sixth century Romans, medieval warriors, pirates, Minutemen, Redcoats, Hussars, Union and Confederate soldiers, WWI infantry, WWII including Japanese Imperial soldiers, Marines from the Vietnam War and even a couple actual, active military men set up camp overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Pedro.

The gathered hoard have encampments and reenactments. Small scale wars rage on the battlefield. Cooks prepare meals from their respective times and places. Vendors sell vintage military wares and reproductions. Fraternal organizations and historical societies disseminate information and shill for new members.

These are people that not only love history, but live it.

The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War Encampment


Confederate Soldiers
preparing for the 1 o'clock battle


Roman legions preparing lunch


Revolutionary American Camp


Revolutionary British Camp


The armaments of the medieval warriors


Roman blacksmith


Sixth Century Roman Camp


video

Confederate Soldiers receiving instruction

Old Fort MacArthur Days is about three things - history, camaraderie and fund raising. It sometimes appears that the participants outnumber the public roaming around the grounds and I'd guess most participants would be okay if everyone there was dressed in some period outfit pretending that there's nothing strange about a pirate raid of a Native American camp.

Last year I was only at the event for a short while and missed most of the exhibits down the hill toward the ocean. This year I rambled around from our encampment to the other areas for most the day. The best way to experience the event is to just stop for awhile, pull up a chair and let the people pass you on their way to do other things.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth

The weekend girls were back with activities for the long Fourth of July weekend. The highlights:

The Getty Villa
Along the Malibu coast J. Paul Getty commissioned the construction of a Roman villa to house his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. After a harrowing (and exceedingly long) journey up the Pacific Coast Highway with a million of a our closest friends we arrived.

We were greeted by an array of statues with beguiling eyes (or were they just on drugs).

At some point, bored with our tour guides and a little punchy from hunger, we started pretending that we too were Roman statues.

BBQ and the Woman in the Red Top

Following our cultural outing we desired a meal that was more down to Earth. Again, we worked our way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Venice and Baby Blues Bar-B-Q.

We knew it was a perfect BBQ place the second we arrived. It was small, it was tight and it had a sort of greasy, lived in quality. Serving a more or less Carolina style barbecue the food was wonderful. Ah, but it was really about the wait staff, especially our waitress, heretofore known as the woman in the red top. I expect my share of grief at work on Monday.

The Best Fireworks West of the Mississippi

Saturday, we were off again on another outing. We headed to Pasadena for fireworks at the Rose Bowl (described repeatedly as the biggest in Southern California).

Camille served up a picnic of pulled pork sandwiches, beans, coleslaw, corn on the cob and apple pie. We sipped on ice tea and broke a city ordinance (unwittingly) by drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade (and from a glass bottle!).

Fireworks were preceded by two hours of drum corps which while reasonably entertaining did involve far more interpretive dance than I was expecting or ever cared to see. We were also reminded that these were the biggest fireworks not only in Southern California, but in the western states and then later they were even the biggest west of the Mississippi River.

Amazingly enough, all the hype did not disappoint. Oddly, as I've gotten older the fireworks aren't as much the source of delight they once were. Instead, I revel in the people around me - from the preppy high school boys behind us to the slightly ridiculous couple with their star shaped hats to the weekend girls flanking me, each in turn oohing and giggling their approval. It was not lost on me as I looked at our little trio lit by the sparkling lights above and listening to the soaring music, quiet gasps and delighted laughs that we are what makes this place special. Only here, I thought, in this place could this be.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another Weekend

The weekend girls have left me alone to entertain myself for the second weekend in a row. Though they tell me this is because they have other plans in other states, I think it has more to do with sore feet.

The weekend girls would like you to know a few things.

First, I get lost. I remind them often that you aren't lost until you run out of gas, but they have yet to buy this argument. They are especially not persuaded when we are lost on foot. This leads us to the second point, always wear comfortable shoes because I like to walk. And finally, I'm inconsiderate. I haven't worn high heels since a brief dalliance with cross dressing as a small boy. Wait, wait...before you judge let me explain that I was hanging out with my cousins Heather and Kim and grandma had a shed full of old clothes and this is how we kept entertained in the TV-less realm of grandma's home. I particularly liked the wicker purse with the black wig. Yeah, yeah...I know you are judging and that's fine - we all have our moments. Anyway, I sometimes neglect to observe that Joanne is in heels as I take wrong turns all over Hollywood looking for a movie theater that isn't even playing the movie we want to see. So sue me!

As retribution for this act, the following weekend I was forced to pick up two hookers. Judging again, aren't you?! Okay, here's the story.

Following the Sunday matinee performance of Dirty Dancing at the Pantages, we decided to eat at Pig and Whistle (an iconic eating establishment, so I'm told). My memory was that Pig and Whistle was a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard. The girls were skeptical. Before heading down the street we negotiated a deal in which I would return and get the vehicle to pick them up if it was more than 4 blocks to the restaurant.

I figured that in 4 blocks we'd at least be able to see the place and, in fact, I could. It was only the neon stripe under the word Whistle, but I could see it - two more blocks! This did not matter. I sulked my way back to the truck with repetitive consideration of just leaving the weekend girls behind. Instead I cruised back down Hollywood Boulevard with the windows down.

I am told that Joanne conceived of the plan, but it took Camille to carry it out. The girls were sitting on the bus stop bench as I pulled up to the curb. Camille leaned into the window and offered me a two for one deal on her "services". I scanned for cops in the vicinity in case I had to explain myself and caught a glimpse of too old men at the bus stop who did not think this was a joke. It may have had something to do with the girls talking about "Two Hoes Pimping" while awaiting their ride.

"Two Hoes Pimping" is the outgrowth of Camille's backup retirement plan of being an old hooker. I'm working on the logo design.

Anyway, I think the point here is that we have all suffered enough and could use a few weekends apart.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making Music Together for 62 Years

Here's a great little video of a married couple, both 90, playing piano at the Mayo Clinic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day


I can remember a couple times when our family would load into the car and work our way around the small cemeteries of Nebraska and Kansas. We'd stop at the plots of our family members and leave some flowers then move to the next on our list.

As a child, this was a bit boring. As I got older I regretted that I did not do it more.

Last year, long after being recruited I finally joined the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. My 3rd Great Grandfather was in the 171st Pennsylvania in 1862 & 63. This genealogical fact helped me win a scholarship back in high school and 13 years later I decided I'd waited long enough to join the order.

This was my first Memorial Day with the Sons and I was happy for it. They weren't my own family, but they were veterans of wars that allowed me to have the life I have. For a couple hours I strolled around the Mountain View Cemetery placing flags and flowers at the graves of the Union veterans. This was followed by a short ceremony, a tradition handed down through the years.

We were told stories about the cemetery and the souls resting there. Thaddeus Lowe, his wife Leontine and Eliza Johnston came to life through dedicated storytellers and impersonators. The Confederate sons did a three volley salute.

It felt right. It wasn't just about a day off or grilling in the park. It was about the men and women that bequeathed this country to us.

I shouldn't have waited so long.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For the Nerds...

For the record - missed one on the short quiz, missed three on the long quiz.

California Strawberry Festival


Strawberry Shortcake - Good.


Strawberry Beer - Not so good.


Strawberry Pizza - Good excepting the crust.


Strawberry Mango Pineapple Salsa - Not bad, but not good either.

Strawberry (lonely, by itself, with the green leaves still there) - Great.

There were more strawberry things about. There was strawberry wine and champagne. There were strawberry smoothies and strawberry cream lemonade. Ladies wore strawberry decorated clothes and hats, kids wore strawberry stained smiles and by the end I was wearing strawberries on both hands and one leg of my pants.

The adventure began at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles where we caught the 14 train to Oxnard. This was a first for me. I had ridden a train in North Platte once for about a half mile. I had ridden the dinner train in Branson. I had ridden the subways in Washington, D.C. and New York. I had even ridden Thomas the Tank Engine somewhere in Kansas, but Amtrak had somehow elluded me. To Oxnard was nice - we sat in the upper section in spacious, reclining seats. If you're not in a hurry this would be a good way to see the country. The return to Los Angeles was less accomodating. There was a mad rush to more confined cabins as we needed to stuff 200 people into 198 seats (possibly the largest game of music chairs I'd ever played). There was also Roger.

Roger was an asshole. We presume that he may have been a racist asshole. He snapped at Camille that there was only one line. There were two windows and people were standing in two lines so I was mystified at the one line policy, a policy that quickly disintegrated once we had left. His first words to Joanne were, "Do you speak English?" (Probably better than he does.) He then told her that she'd have to get her boarding pass from the guy standing outside even though Camille and I had just gotten our boarding passes from the other guy inside. Later, our dear Roger was an asshole to another young man, was repeatedly seen being an asshole to other passengers and then drove a golf car down the train ramp in a rather condescending way (or so we thought).

All of this traveling was really just so we could eat. We rode on the train for two hours so that we could walk around for four hours trying every strawberry flavored dish imaginable. We interweaved rounds of eating with rounds of looking at "crap". A friend of mine once argued that the arts and crafts normally seen at fairs and festivals had a finite quantity. There was, he argued, no more kitsch creation. The ugly and hideous and goofy stuff just moved from place to place through fairs, festivals and garage sales. I had thought this might be true. I no longer do. The stuff is created in the vicinity of Oxnard, California and begins its life at the Strawberry Festival. I believe this same "crap" meets its ultimate demise in estate auctions where old men looking for a well used hammer buy entire boxes of this stuff for the single quarter inch, extra deep Craftsmen socket rolling around the bottom.

Once back in Los Angeles we ate again, this time at Phillipe for a french dipped sandwich (and a half hour of some chubby guys butt crack).

Throughout the day, we made of fun of Joanne, we made fun of Camille and they made fun of me. This is how we show our affection for one another. Our favorite riffs: Joanne sniffs her food before she eats it. Camille has a purse with the same properties as Santa's sack allowing her to reach inside and pull out whatever it is any of us needs. I was carrying around my water pouch backpack and sucking on a little blue hose all day (it was gift from Thaddeus that I hadn't used before and yes I looked like an idiot, but I would have killed for that thing in Washington, D.C. last year). Somehow all of this works for us - 12 hours together, 5000 calories of sugary strawberry goo, 2 insults from the Amtrak guy and a few tense moments lost in the parking garage (with the endless series of closed exits), we still managed not to kill one another and next weekend we'll be out for some other adventure.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Birthdays and the Zoo

The weather was cold. Not bone chilling, wish I were dead cold. This was just under the tolerable mark and slowly accumulated with time. My Los Angeles friends would recognize the Omaha weather as the worst they had ever seen, in other words, it was upper 40's with sporadic rain and a gusty north wind which has become pretty much miserable for me too. Yep, I've become wussificated.

The occasion was Lilly's second birthday. The venue was the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. Fortunately most of the zoo's attractions are inside and once Lilly blew out the candles we packed up the decoration and headed for the desert dome. We looked at the animals. The animals looked at us. A chimp licked a glass window. A gorilla tossed around what may have been a hard boiled egg. There was a lot of spotting Nemo(s) in the aquarium. One of the nieces was afraid of the desert dome and every time she saw it from the outside she told us we were not to go back inside.

Now for a few zoo sightings:

Lilly - Age 2

Tiger spotted in the Gift Shop

The rare Chadron State giraffe

The nieces - now both 2

Afterward, it was an early dinner at Spaghetti works in the Old Market (and some ice cream at Maggie Moo's on the way out of town).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Porn...Yeah, I said porn.

So...not long ago the weekend girls talked me into attending Adultcon, a twice yearly adult entertainment convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We just called it the porn convention (usually in a whispered voice when no one was around).

It turns out that in this case, anticipation is the highlight of the event. We had foregone prior attendance because of the $35 price tag, but over 6 months curiosity got the best of us. Waiting in line for the half hour or so before the show we were transformed into giggly teenagers. There were repeated questions about whether we should just forget the whole thing. Still, curiosity.

At the end of the very long line of mostly twenty-something men (one of them positively giddy and trembling and dancing around) there was a security checkpoint. I've become accustomed to the metal detectors, wands, bag checks and occasional pat-down at the entry to sporting events, but I was not fully prepared for the Adultcon full body search. I had to remove everything from my pockets (and I mean everything). As one guy went through my stuff on the table another man did the body search. He ran he hands under my belt and patted me down from shoulders to feet. I hadn't even gotten into the porn convention and yet still I felt violated and used. The weekend girls loved it (and photographed it).

Once inside, we were a little disappointed. It wasn't very big (which seems ironic...if your mind is in the gutter and we're talking p0rn here so I know it is). The girls were perplexed by the swarms of men angling for pictures of the backsides of porn stars and even taking pictures of complete strangers getting massaged by three young women in their underwear. I kept saying, "They're men, they can't help it." This did not satisfy them.

It took us about an hour to make two laps of the convention. The highlights - penis lollipops, 3D High Definition porn (God help us all), a woman trying to sell the weekend girls some oral sex lube (of which she was most expressive in her delight and frequent use especially for the mint flavored), free rubber boobs and numerous television monitors of images we'd just as soon forget including an inexplicable scene of a young, Asian woman dressing and undressing that literally had men standing six inches in front of the screen. Also, porns stars - not always so great to see in person - ooooh!

The weekend girls were good enough to use their $5 tokens to buy me a little souvenir. They got me some bling. I'm now the proud owner of a "Big Daddy" necklace (refer to prior post "Big Daddy and the Fair" for the genesis of this little joke). Though I wore it all through the convention I haven't really used it since, but I carry it in my computer bag for emergency use.

At the end of it all, we quietly left the convention hall feeling dirty and shamed and strolled over to ESPN Zone for a stiff drink and tried to forget.

Net Worth

Some social commentary courtesy of WrongWayComics.com.