Wednesday, April 30, 2008


As an update to this entry from last month, my submission to The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks is one of the items in today's entry on that blog.

upcoming movies

Since I've been spending quite a bit of time at the movies lately, that also means I've been seeing lots of trailers. When we're not seeing a lot of movies, I miss seeing all the stuff that's coming up, although sometimes that can be a blessing as well. I can't tell you how tired I got of seeing numerous trailers for "The Eye" and "The Ruins".

But with the summer movie season about to kick in, there are quite a number of movies coming up in the next multiple months that I'm interested in seeing. Here's a rundown of them.

I first saw the theatre standee for "Made of Honor", which is being released May 2, and it didn't do anything for me, but as I've been seeing the trailers, it looks funny. Yeah, it looks to be pretty predictable with standard romantic comedy overtones, but I like the physical comedy I've seen in the previews. Here's the link to the trailer.

When I first saw the trailer for "Iron Man", which is being released May 2, I was very surprised to see Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role. I guess everyone is doing these kinds of films nowadays. It looks like it'll be interesting, though. Here's the link to the trailer.

I remember watching and loving "Speed Racer" as a child, and even though I really can't tell you much about what I watched (other than that whenever I've been stuck at a train crossing, I've always wished I had his car so that I could jump over everything and be on my way), I'm interested in seeing the live-action feature film version, which is being released May 9. I'm not crazy about the Matrix-like funky special effects, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Here's the link to the trailer.

I enjoyed "The Chronicles of Narnia", so I'm interested in seeing "Prince Caspian", which is being released May 16. I've never read the books and haven't yet decided whether I want to attempt them. I've got too much stuff in the queue as it is, so it's not like I'm looking for things to read, but it's something I might consider in the future. I might have to watch the first film again to orient myself before seeing this one. Here's the link to the trailer.

You would pretty much have to be living under a rock to not know that the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series is being released May 22. I'll be spending the majority of May trying really hard to avoid spoilers, especially once the film premieres at Cannes. I'm looking forward to seeing the film - the trailer looks great, I'm excited that Marion (Karen Allen) is back, and I'm interested in seeing how Shia LeBeouf does in the film. Here's the link to the trailer.

I hadn't heard until recently that they were making yet another version of "The Incredible Hulk", which is being released June 13. The last version didn't interest me enough to actually see it, especially with the horrid special effects, so I was pretty ho-hum about this version - until I saw the trailer. It looks pretty good, and I find it interesting that Edward Norton is playing Bruce Banner. With the cast also including Liv Tyler, William Hurt and Robert Downey, Jr., I'm looking forward to seeing how this version pans out. Here's the link to the trailer.

I've already talked about being excited to see "Wall-E", which is being released June 27. We're planning on getting tickets for opening night at the El Capitan as soon as they go on sale. (You don't really need me to link to the trailers, do you?)

It'll be a two-movie weekend since I'm also interested in seeing "Wanted", which is also being released June 27. I'm not a particular fan of Angelina Jolie, but the trailer looks awesome, and Morgan Freeman is in it, so how could you go wrong? Here's the link to the trailer.

I recently saw the trailer for "Hellboy II", which is being released July 11, and it looks kind of interesting. I've never seen the first film, and watching this trailer made me think about a city full of the inhabitants of Tatooine's cantina. The husband wants to see the film, and he's recommending that I watch the first film so that I can understand this one better. Here's the link to the trailer.

The second installment of the new Batman series, "The Dark Knight", is being released July 18. I was looking forward to seeing the film anyway as I love this particular incarnation of the story (I was not a fan of Batman being played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer or George Clooney though admittedly, I didn't see the last couple movies in the series.), but it'll be sad to see Heath Ledger's last role, in which he supposedly does an amazing job. Here's the link to the trailer.

The movie I'm most excited to see, "Mamma Mia", is also being released July 18. It's going to be a bit of a schizophrenic weekend at the movies. (You don't need me to link to this trailer either, do you?)

I had heard nothing about "Tropic Thunder", which is being released August 15, and as I watched the trailer, it wasn't really the kind of movie I'd normally be interested in - except for one element. The apparently-very-busy Robert Downey, Jr. is in this film, playing a critically-acclaimed Australian actor who undergoes a controversial medical procedure so that he can play an African-American character in the movie-within-a-movie. The trailer footage of him looks incredible, so I think I'm going to have to see this movie just for him alone. Here's the link to the trailer.

Another movie that I'd known nothing about is "Hamlet 2", which is being released August 22. But we saw the trailer recently, and we were laughing so hard that it's one of the movies I'm looking forward to seeing the most. It's just completely irreverent, and the show-within-the-movie just looks outrageous. Here's the link to the trailer.

I'd heard that they were doing a remake of "The Women", which is being released October 10. I'd seen the original film as well as read the original play and enjoyed them both. The casting of this new version is pretty interesting, so I'm interested to see how it comes out. There's apparently no trailer available yet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reprise Theatre Company

I'd never heard of this theatre company before, but an announcement they made last week certainly caught my attention. Jason Alexander (who I *have* heard of - OK, I actually saw him in "The Producers" too) is Reprise's new artistic director, and he recently announced the lineup of the 2008-09 season. The show that got my attention was "Once On This Island". A friend had given me the CD of the original Broadway cast recording of the show a number of years ago after I had mentioned how much I liked "Anastasia" and the songs in the movie - Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens wrote the songs for the movie as well as the Broadway versions of both "Once On This Island" and "Ragtime". Well, once I heard the CD, I was in love with the show - but what chance would I get to see it?

A couple of years ago, I found out that International City Theatre in Long Beach was putting on a production of the show, so we decided to go, and the friend who gave me the CD ended up being able to go as well. It was a very minimalist production, no big sets or fancy scenery, even given the setting of the story, but it was really about the performers, and it was a terrific show.

So you can imagine how happy I am that Reprise will also be putting on the show. I'm not sure how elaborate the production would be (I'd love to see a full-scale production of the show with amazing sets and all. It's the kind of show I can definitely see Disney putting on, though they might prefer to change the ending of the story.), but I don't really care. Even if it's like the ICT production, I'll be glad to see it.

The other show on Reprise's 2008-09 season that interests me is "Chess". I'm intrigued because it was a collaboration between the two men from ABBA (responsible for "Mamma Mia", one of my favorite shows) and Tim Rice which actually pre-dates "Mamma Mia". I'm going to have to track down the original Broadway cast CD to have a listen. I'm amused at the hit song that apparently came out of that show.

Monday, April 28, 2008

We're related to the head of catering on the Death Star!

A friend alerted me to this link about the cafeteria on the Death Star and a certain Dark Lord who is looking for some sustenance. I totally approve of his choice of entree - it's one of my favorite dishes.

I don't know who the comedian is that you hear though.

A certain someone should show this link to their mother, but I'm not sure if the R-rated language would be an issue.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

programming your own radio station

When I'm at work, I like to have something on in the background. I'm not always paying attention to it because I have people coming into my office or calling me on the phone, or I might be working on something where I'm either concentrating enough that I don't hear anything else or I might even need to concentrate enough that I have to turn off all distractions. But generally, having something on that I can enjoy makes the work and day go by better and faster.

During the early part of the day, I listen to Frosty, Heidi and Frank, an FM talk show that also streams on the web. That usually takes me through lunch, but then after lunch, I'm not sure what to listen to. I used to listen to KFI, but most of their topics used to get me upset, so I gave that up. I have of late resorted to listening to ESPN streaming online, but since it's not football season, it's not nearly as interesting as I'd like it to be, though I do enjoy getting news and bits of information and opinion about sports topics that I don't follow as closely.

But sometimes, I just want to listen to music. I haven't been able to find an online streaming radio station that I like, and I do have an iPod, but then I have to remember to bring it and carry it around and plug it in at work.

And then a friend told me about, where you can basically program your own personal radio stations online. The idea is that songs can be grouped into categories not based on genre per se, but rather, based on structure and components. The presumption is that if you like a particular song that has specific structure and components, you might enjoy other songs that have the same qualities. They refer to this as the Music Genome Project.

It's pretty easy to start. The main screen asks you to type in an artist or song, and then it takes it from there.

Of course, I typed in "Phil Collins".

It came back with an analysis something like that I liked music with a strong solo voice and strong defined notes, so that was going to be the basis of the music that it was going to offer to me. It randomly picks songs that it thinks fits the criteria, and you can click on the song to tell it whether you like it or not. If you tell it you like it, then it adds it to your playlist. If you tell it you don't like it, then it immediately stops playing and gives you another song. If you don't give an opinion at all, then it seems to keep it on the playlist, though not playing as often. You can also do other things to manipulate the playlist.

It's a free service, but it only lets you listen to a certain number of songs before it requires that you register to continue listening.

So for my "Phil Collins radio station", it has given me songs from the following artists:

Peter Gabriel
Mike and the Mechanics
Fleetwood Mac
The Cars
Johnny Hates Jazz ("Shattered Dreams")
Bryan Adams
Cyndi Lauper
Don Henley
The Police
Elton John
Paul Simon
Steve Perry
John Waite ("Missing You")
Peter Cetera
Don Henley
Hall and Oates

Some of the artists, like Genesis and Peter Gabriel, are probably not surprising choices to offer me, but I was amazed at how much of the other stuff it offered me was stuff that I really like, even stuff that I haven't listened to in a while. And it's not offering me every song in Phil Collins' catalog, but only particular ones that fit the set of criteria it initially came up with. I expect that if I put in a particular Phil Collins song that doesn't conform to the criteria of the Phil Collins songs it is already giving me, it might generate a whole different list of songs, though perhaps from the same artists.

It has given me some songs that I've rejected from the playlist. It gave me one Pink Floyd song that I listened to a couple of times, but it's not one of their songs that I know and to me, it didn't fit the criteria, so I eventually took it off the playlist. It has also given me some specific country songs and other genres and artists that I'm not fond of that I've said no to.

I'm a little surprised that it hasn't given me anything of Dire Straits, since I also really like them, and some of their songs would seem to fit the criteria. I figure at some point, I'll start other radio stations with Dire Straits as the lead-in and with Pink Floyd and other artists and songs that I like to see what comes out of those.

Here's a little more information about the background of, and at least it seems they do understand the significance of the name they've chosen for their website, though they've conveniently ignored one fact. Yes, Pandora was curious, but that curiosity led to her releasing all the evils onto the world - that was one thing that made me hesitate to even try the website. Things are going to be fine for a while, and then what evil nefarious thing is it going to do to me or my computer? So far, so good. But I really wish they'd picked a different name.

Someone I know told me a story about a company that was comparing themselves to the wizard in "The Wizard of Oz". Yeah, well, you might not want to use that as an analogy unless you know what the wizard does at the end of the story.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Asia Kitchen - restaurant review

We'd gotten a flyer a couple of times at home for a new restaurant called Asia Kitchen which advertised serving Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine. It was a pretty elaborate flyer, fairly nicely done. The flyer had a tri-fold menu that listed a fairly extensive and impressive array of dishes, all the dishes (customary and specialty) that you'd expect from a good sit-down Chinese restaurant. I'm not necessarily into trying every restaurant that sends us a flyer, but we decided to give it a try.

Instead of the nice sit-down restaurant that I was expecting, the restaurant turned out to be a tiny little place with about eight small mis-matched tables. It was located in what looked like a new, or at least newly-redone, strip mall, with about half the business spaces occupied. I was a little unsure just seeing the restaurant, but it didn't scream "STAY AWAY", so we decided to give it a try.

We sat at one of the tables and were given the same tri-fold menu flyer that had been sent to our home. Since they had a list of lunch specials, we decided to just try those. Each entree came with soup of the day, egg roll, fried wonton and rice. I chose the three flavored (chicken, beef and shrimp) kung pao, and the husband picked the Szechuan beef. We also asked for water and hot tea.

The restaurant is pretty sparsely decorated with drawings/paintings of glass fruit on the walls. There were a couple lit pictures of various dishes and two paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. I was a little surprised that regular salt and pepper were sitting on the table - Chinese restaurants usually have white pepper rather than black pepper.

We sat for a little while, and eventually, our soup was brought to us, in small styrofoam bowls with plastic spoons. I was disappointed, though not particularly surprised, that the soup of the day was egg drop soup. Boring, safe. I put some hot sauce in it to spice it up a little. It wasn't bad.

Our water had been brought to us, but it was some time before we had tea, which kind of surprised me. Eventually, we were brought a pot of tea and two styrofoam cups.

And then we sat and waited. And waited. And waited. We watched a few of the people in the restaurant put together a metal shelf and move things in and out of the restroom/storage room. We watched as they put together two to-go orders and people came to pick them up. We watched as another man came in, sat down, perused his menu, put in his order, and got his food - while we still sat there waiting for ours. Shortly thereafter, the woman who had taken our order came by to tell us our food was coming soon. Ummm, today?

Finally, she came with our food, two egg rolls and two fried wontons on a paper plate and two styrofoam containers with each of our orders.

The flavoring on the kung pao wasn't bad, but it wasn't very spicy. It had a good mix of chicken, beef and shrimp and had good vegetables and water chestnuts. The entrees were supposed to come with either steamed or fried rice, but we weren't asked for a preference, so I figured we'd just see. It turned out to be a sort of lightly fried rice, with just a tiny bit of egg and mostly soy sauce.

The husband and I had figured on sharing our dishes, so I had some of the Szechuan beef. The flavoring on that was pretty good, nice mix of sweet and tangy and spicy.

Both portions were pretty generous, but my one major complaint is that both dishes were oversauced. There were pools of liquid at the bottom of each container, and while I like some moisture in my dish, I'm not a fan of the entrees being entirely coated and swimming in sauce.

The egg rolls were shorter but fatter than I'm used to, but they looked pretty good. I was disappointed, though, that instead of the nice mix of vegetables you might normally get, it was pretty much just packed with cabbage and nothing else. The fried wonton was very non-descript.

Other than being too sauced, the entrees themselves weren't bad, but otherwise, I was not impressed with any of the other food, and there was really no excuse for us having to sit and wait that long, especially since we were served our food significantly after someone else who came in some time after we had ordered. I don't know if they forgot our order or lost it or what happened, but since it wasn't exactly crowded, I can't begin to see an explanation for that. I think I had probably set myself up for disappointment anyway because I expected a certain kind of place based on their menu, and it was so completely not even close.

It wasn't the worst Chinese food I've had or the worst place I've been to, but it's not that hard to find decent fast-food Chinese, so the combination of the food being not all that great and the serious service problem, this is definitely somewhere I'd recommend staying away from. I was hesitant to even do this review and include their information, but I figure it's a good way to warn people away, and for anyone who really wants to try it, well, you're on your own.

Asia Kitchen
1626 Puente Avenue
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(626) 960-0292

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" - movie review (spoilers)

This is not the kind of movie that generally interests me, but like with "Dodgeball", the trailer somehow caught my attention enough to make me want to see the movie.

Generally, I thought the film was very good, with lots of very funny parts. The film is raunchier and much more sex-filled than the trailer might lead you to believe, though I suppose if you're familiar with other films in the genre, that might not come as too much of a surprise.

Peter Bretter is devasted when longtime love Sarah Marshall unceremoniously breaks up with him. Nursing his broken heart proves difficult because he sees her wherever he goes since she is the female lead in the "CSI"-like television show for which he composes the music, and she is a high-profile star, so she's a paparrazi darling. He decides to get away from it all and takes a trip to Hawaii - where he finds that he has chosen the exact hotel where Sarah is vacationing with new boyfriend Aldous Snow, bad-boy lead singer of a hot rock band. Fate continues to throw the two together, but Peter ends up making friends with Rachel, one of the employees at the hotel who takes a liking to him. Meanwhile, Sarah is finding out that her relationship with Snow isn't all she thought, and she's going through "grass is always greener" syndrome. The awkward foursome must work out how all the various relationships will play out.

Jason Segel is quite good as Peter, playing the different beats of depression over Sarah and getting back on his feet. One of the reasons that the film is rated "R" is for full frontal male nudity - there are almost half a dozen shots of Segel au naturel. One supposes that Segel didn't have a problem with that when he accepted the role since he also wrote the screenplay for the film. The full frontal shots work for shock value, but it's also not overly used, and the timing of the shots works really well in eliciting laughter every time.

Kristen Bell is terrific as the starlet who turns out to be more than just a pretty face and body. She has two particularly nice scenes, both with Segel. In one, Sarah has just found out that her show has been cancelled, and when Peter pushes for her real feelings, she reveals her insecurity at finding another role or becoming a has-been. In the other scene, she reveals that her break-up with Peter wasn't as unexpected as we were earlier led to believe, and you see her heartbreak when she explains to a clueless Peter that she had tried desperately to keep their relationship afloat without much help from him.

Mila Kunis as Rachel was the biggest surprise for me. I loved her as the very pretty and very polite and demure and nice woman we see at first who turns into a foul-mouthed fiery and independent sexpot as she gets to know Peter better. Imagine my surprise when I realized that she also voices Meg Griffin, the daughter in "Family Guy". Meg only wishes she looked like Mila!

Russell Brand was hilarious as Aldous Snow, and he walks a fine line between being a great comic character and a caricature of the famous rock-star type.

I particularly loved the scene where Peter, Rachel, Sarah and Snow ended up having dinner together, and Rachel's oneupmanship of Sarah was just hysterical.

At the hotel, Peter meets a newlywed couple, and he ends up talking quite a bit to the husband, who is having trouble sexually satisfying his nubile bride, who wants to be much more experimental than he's comfortable with. There's a hilarious scene later in the film where Snow ends up giving the husband tips, and the two of them are humping the giant-sized chess pieces used in an outdoor chess set.

There are a lot of good supporting players in the cast, and Steve Landesberg has a great cameo as a foul-mouthed pediatrician.

Since a film's trailer is cut way before the film itself is finished, it can often happen that a scene in the trailer doesn't make it to the finished film, but it was interesting to note that two major scenes from the trailer (the waiter emphasizing that Peter was by himself so they could take away everything else from the table since he was all alone, and the line where Peter is asking Sarah what kind of clothes she wants him to be wearing when she breaks up with him) were missing from the film itself.

This film is not for the faint of heart - there's quite a bit of swearing in this film, and there's not just graphic sexual discussion but also numerous very graphic simulated sex scenes. But if you can make it through that, there's a very good funny and sweet story that goes along with it. The on-screen chemistry between the four leads is just terrific.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'll be your best friend

Are you looking to expand your circle of friends? Do you find your existing friends to be missing a certain je-ne-sais-quoi? Are you feeling that your friends don't nearly have enough money or paparazzi following them around? Well, now you have your chance! You can apply to be Paris Hilton's new best friend!

AP: Do you think you can find a real, lasting friendship this way? Do you have a preference of male or female?

Hilton: I just want to see the contestants and see how they are. I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, just as long as its someone I can trust, someone I can have fun with and just someone who's going to be able to like handle all the other things that are going to come with being my best friend.

Yes, having on open audition online and a reality television show is the best way to find someone you can trust. I'm wondering what "handle all the other things that are going to come with being my best friend" means/entails?

Wonder if Kim Kardashian or Mischa Barton will be applying?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Obi Kenobi

A friend alerted me to this video of a cute three-year-old girl who tells the story of Star Wars as she knows it.

It's also interesting to read the comments from her father on the right side. I wish he'd been able to get on tape the longer versions of her re-telling the story.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and "Knight Rider"

Daily Variety has a story today that "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" has been picked up for a second season, 13 new episodes. That doesn't seem like a lot, so it looks like they're still being tentative, only picking up a certain number of episodes first rather than a full season up front. A new show's first season is usually shorter, but subsequent seasons are usually the normal length. Or maybe things are changing/have changed. I seem to recall hearing that shows on HBO and other cable channels no longer have the traditional 20 to 24 episodes per season.

The pickup isn't regarded as a surprise since the show did fairly well during its first season run. There's some talk about there being in the works "potential companion series" to the show, but I can't even begin to unravel what that might mean. I guess we'll see if they actually materialize.

And on a related new-show note, when NBC unveiled their new fall schedule recently, they did have "Knight Rider" included on it, so it looks like that show has been formally picked up based on the recent television movie. I haven't read how many episodes they might have ordered though.

Monday, April 21, 2008


It's late. It's dark. It's raining. Visibility isn't great. And you're tired. You're trying to stay awake, so you're not giving your full attention to driving. And then suddenly, you're jolted awake because you just hit someone with your car. You didn't see the person - you didn't even see the sidewalk the person stepped off. And all you can do is drive. You don't stop. The further you drive, the more you can convince yourself that nothing happened, that you hit a rock, that you hit a branch, that you fell asleep for a second and it was all just a dream.

But then you hear the reports on the radio and you see the news story on the television. The woman is in a coma, and the police have no idea who hit her because the driver left the scene, and there were no witnesses.

You know you should have stopped. It was an accident. But so much time has passed now. And you left. It'll be even worse if you speak up now. No one else knows. No one saw anything. You're the only one who knows what happened. You pray that she'll wake up, that she'll get better, and she may not even be able to tell that it's you, and the nightmare will be over.

But your conscience eats away at you. You can't stop thinking about her. You can't stop thinking about what you did. You can't stop thinking about what you didn't do. This isn't you. This isn't the kind of thing you do. It was one horrible mistake, one terrible decision, one split-second moment in time that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

What do you do? How do you live with yourself?

Genesis, We Can't Dance, "Dreaming While You Sleep"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"The Forbidden Kingdom" - movie review (spoilers)

I'm not a particular fan of Jackie Chan, but I love Jet Li, so when I first heard about "The Forbidden Kingdom", I knew it was a film I wanted to see. I didn't discover until a few days ago, though, that the film was in English, not Chinese as I had expected. I found that to be a little disappointing as I'm not a fan of watching them struggle with their English and me having a hard time understanding them. I'd much prefer subtitles, and I have no problem with them. I'm thinking this film wasn't aimed at me in that respect. It looked like they were trying to draw in the audience that wouldn't necessarily go if it was entirely subtitled.

We ended up going to an evening show at the AMC theatres at Universal CityWalk. We arrived about 10 minutes before showtime, and that screening was almost sold out. We did manage to find three seats together, though it was in the bottom section and to the far right, which is not where I generally prefer to sit, but at least we were all able to sit together and not be in the front row.

I was a little surprised at the trailers that were shown before the film, which were all fairly broad comedies, except for "Hellboy 2". I think I expected more action movies considering the film we were seeing, but our friend posited that they were going for the male crowd, and the husband's theory was that they were appealing to the crowd who were drawn in by Jackie Chan's comedies.

Generally, I loved the film. I didn't completely love the story - I could have done without the bracket story (it was a sort of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" situation), but I understand that was the draw into the film being English, and there was a story/lesson that needed to be taught in the bracket story as well. Otherwise, I loved the story that was told in Ancient China itself (I'm really wanting to call it Medieval China, but I'm not sure that term exists.), and I think they did a good job of telling you the backstory you needed. They also did a good job of integrating the different characters as they showed up so you got a good sense of who everyone was instead of the jumble of "ok, now who's this person again?" that can sometimes happen with ensemble pieces.

There were bits of the story that also reminded me of "The Fellowship of the Ring", with a disparate group of people thrown together to aid an unwitting and reluctant novice on a mission to return an artifact to save the world.

The fellowship of the stick.

As you'd expect, the action sequences were outstanding. The choreography was brilliant, and given the pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, you'd expect an epic battle between them - and the film did not disappoint. The geek part of me wondered what the contract negotiations must have been like with the two of them, making it a fair and balanced representation of both of them, kind of like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" But the extensive fight between the two of them was not the showpiece - that happened later when all of the main characters were engaged in battle, and there were a few other impressive sequences in the middle as well.

Michael Angarano played Jason, the Boston kid who was inexplicably thrown into the world that he was obsessed with. I loved the sequence where Jason was caught between his two teachers as they were battling each other in the techniques they were supposedly trying to teach him but what really happened was that he got a beatdown in the process. I thought he was very good, though I also found him very distracting because he looked so familiar and I kept trying to remember where I knew him from. It turns out he was in a few episodes of "24" last season, and refreshing my memory as to who he was, I remember liking him, but I'm not sure that his four-episode appearance on that show was what I was remembering him from. Then I figured out that it was because he reminded me so much of Shia LaBeouf in "Transformers".

Michael Angarano in "The Forbidden Kingdom".

Shia LaBeouf in "Transformers".

I don't think I've ever seen a Jackie Chan film before, but I really liked him in this. It wasn't the broad humour that I've seen in trailers of his films, but he definitely brought a nice comedic turn to the film. He played Lu, Jason's teacher/mentor, and he reminded me at various times of Yoda, Rafiki and Mr. Miyagi. One of my favorite lines from him was in the "wax on/wax off"-type sequence when Jason was complaining that he had just been chopping grass for a couple days and was not actually being taught kung fu. Lu went up to him and hit him with the stick weapon and said that the next day, he would teach him to block. For some reason, that scene reminded me of when Rafiki hit Simba in "The Lion King" and told him to forget about it because it was in the past.

I thought Jet Li was spectacular in this film, and I loved his flowing white robe costume as the Silent Monk. I'm glad I was right in figuring he was also playing the Monkey King, but even given that, I completely didn't see coming the revelation that the Silent Monk was just a hair even though it had occurred to me that the Monk was somehow some kind of reincarnation or alternate reality version of the Monkey King. My favorite line of his was after the big fight sequence between Lu and the Silent Monk, when the Silent Monk realized who Jason is, and he said to Lu, "But he's not even Chinese." That line had me cracking up. Of course, Jet Li's fight sequences at the end, both as the Silent Monk and as the Monkey King, were awesome.

Collin Chou played the Darth Vader-like Jade Overlord, and I thought he was very good, both in his acting and in his fight sequences.

Yifei Liu played Golden Sparrow, the orphan child seeking revenge against the Jade Overlord for killing her family. I never got why she would often refer to herself in the third person, and I wondered for a while whether Sparrow was supposed to have been possessed or something. I also wondered how she knew that it was the Jade Overlord who killed her mother. Supposedly, no one else was left alive after that massacre, and she would have been able to find her dead mother and see the arrow in her back, but since she was at the bottom of the well, I don't know how she would known that it was the Overlord himself who had shot the fatal arrow. I really liked the actress though and look forward to seeing her in more films.

Bingbing Li played the white-haired witch who had been sent after Jason and his group by the Jade Overlord. I really liked her, and I thought she had great expressions. I did laugh, though, when her character called Sparrow an "orphan bitch" during their fight sequence, and her serious men issues reminded me of Anya during her Vengeance Demon days on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

I loved the music in this film and may have to pick up the soundtrack. The cinematography was spectacular, as you'd probably expect from a period-piece kung fu movie.

One of my few complaints about the film is that they never explained how Jason was either all-of-a-sudden able to understand Mandarin or alternatively, how everyone in Medieval China was all-of-a-sudden able to speak English. (They also didn't really bat an eyelash at the white kid wandering around Medieval China, but that didn't annoy me ... quite as much.) When he was first transported there, he couldn't understand a word, and the Mandarin lines were not subtitled, so I have no idea what the farmer said to him or what Lu was saying to the guards prior to beating the crap out of them or even what Lu was initially saying to Jason. And while Lu's "you're not listening" line was funny, there was no explanation of why that magically made Jason be able to understand them all or made everyone in Medieval China be able to speak English. The rest of the film was mostly in English, except for some sequences with the Overlord that were subtitled. I'm having trouble remembering now if the Overlord ever spoke English, whether he spoke English or if it was subtitled when he proposed the duel to the death between the witch and Jason over the immortality elixir. The oddest language sequence to me was during the "But he's not even Chinese" line. Lu and Silent Monk both turned away from Jason and spoke softly, all as if to prevent Jason from hearing them, but that exchange of lines was in Mandarin and subtitled. If they're speaking a language he doesn't understand, why do they need to turn away and lower their voices? But then that means Jason doesn't really understand Mandarin and everyone is inexplicably able to speak English to him. I think it would have been really easy to address the issue, without even having to explain it or coming up with a plausible reason. All kinds of mystical things were happening, but a simple acknowledgement of the language problem would have been nice. When it comes to language issues in films, I am one of those who likes the disparity explained. The best example I can recall of this being done perfectly was in "The Hunt For Red October".

My only other major complaint is that even though Jason turned out to be a hero all around, I could never quite forgive him completely for betraying Old Hop. OK, he got beat up a little by the thugs, but rather than take any more punishment from them or trying to get away from them, he immediate caved and agreed to be the one to facilitate their robbery of Old Hop, a man who he seemed to like and respect and who had been so good to him? At least the situation was redeemed somewhat when it was revealed that Old Hop wasn't seriously hurt, gunshot wound notwithstanding, since his death would have made Jason completely unforgivable. I would still have liked some bigger threat of consequence to convince Jason to turn on Old Hop.

However, some minor issues aside, I really did enjoy this film. It had a good story, terrific action sequences, lots of humour, and they skirted the unnecessary romance angle that I was afraid they were seemingly heading towards. I'm looking forward to the DVD to see what additional sequences and behind-the-scenes footage will be included.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

definitely not candidates for mother of the year

If you're looking for happy things today, this is not the blog entry to read. Move along, move along.

I believe it's every parent's responsibility to protect their children. Obviously, they can't always succeed because sometimes, things are beyond their control, and sometimes, things can happen in the flick of an instant. I find it hard to fathom that anyone can purposely hurt children. But I find it even more difficult to comprehend how a parent can knowingly and repeatedly allow their child to be hurt in the worst way possible.

A man in Atlanta was convicted of molesting two children, and he was sentenced to life in prison. I have absolutely no sympathy for him or understanding of how he could do that. But the only benefit I could possibly give him is that the children were not his. However, this man was the on-again, off-again boyfriend of the children's mother, and she knew that she was putting her children at risk with him, and yet, she continued to do it. How did she know? Because he viciously raped her. And for that, she not only forgave him but then proceeded to let him move into her house, with her children, and she let him watch her kids while she went out partying and drinking. Perfect babysitter, don't you think? But then there was also word that this was not the first time she had put her kids in the situation of being molested. How does one sit by and allow this to happen? How does one's instinct not kick in to protect their own children? How does one choose partying and drinking over the physical safety of their children?

In the video that follows, the judge in the case sentences the molester and then turns his attentions to the mother and basically rips into her for what she's done to her children. Just a warning that the news story includes some graphic description of what the man did to the children, so if you'd rather not be subjected to that, don't watch the video.

Many parents at some point in time suffer through the "empty nest" syndrome, when their child/ren has/have grown up and gone off into the world. They might be sad not to have the kids around any more, but they can be satisfied knowing that they have raised an independent and well-adjusted child who has made a place for him/herself in society.

And then there are the parents who don't know how to let go, who continue to treat their children like "children", no matter how old those children are. And then, someone takes that much too far. This is a story about a mother who so didn't want her child to ever leave her that she told him he was disabled when he was not, keeping him in a wheelchair when he didn't need it. I hope that her parental rights were stripped and that he never has to see her again and that there is some kind of counseling that can help him through this.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday will go by in a haze

In honor of 420 this coming Sunday, the Arclight Cinema in Sherman Oaks will be having special screenings of a newly-restored print of "Up In Smoke". You have to be at least 21 to attend since they're allowing alcohol at the screening, but supposedly, no other mind-altering drugs will be allowed. Yeah, right, that's gonna happen.

Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin will be on hand for a Q&A session after the 7:30pm screening (one wonders how coherent the questions, or the answers for that matter, will be), which appears to be sold out, but tickets are still available for the 10:15pm screening.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

it's not quite swimming with the dolphins

OK, first off, let me just say that I have no idea what the hell this is supposed to be or where it's from. Someone posted the link, and I just thought it was entirely too cool not to talk about. The term "piranha sanctuary" just makes my brain do somersaults trying to get the mental picture to work right. And yes, the sign has a spelling error.

I'd pay for spectator seats, but I'd pass on the attraction itself for two reasons: 1) waterslides aren't my thing anyway and 2) I'm terrified of piranha (that is, the voraciously carnivorous bitey fish, not the really funny movie [I had no idea that Joe Dante directed that!] or the really awful sequel [I *did* know that James Cameron directed that.]).

I have no idea what the site is actually for. I've browsed through and found some funny stuff, but it's a mishmash of actual pictures, stories, one-liners, faked pictures, copies of comics and a whole bunch of other stuff, so I have no idea what the deal is with the first link I posted. I love this sign. I'm curious as to what kind of shop it is. And I *LOVE* this cat carrier. The wholesome picture of the family as dad carries the cat in the carrier is just too frickin' funny. Oh, yeah, and there's a spelling error on that ad as well.

I thought posting the first link was apropos since we were at a restaurant in the last week where the host told us that the establishment was a "restaurant and petting zoo". We thought that was pretty funny.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, part 4

Situation 1

I was having lunch at the food court in a shopping mall a couple weeks ago. I was sitting at a table enjoying my lunch and engrossed in my book. All of a sudden, I heard a voice saying, "What kind of soup is that?" From the volume and proximity of the voice, I got the feeling the person was talking to me, so I looked up and in the direction of where the voice was coming from. Sure enough, a guy was looking at me, presumably expecting an answer. OK, I get if you see someone having something that interests you, and you'd like to know what it is and where they got it. I've had that happen before. However, I would think it would generally be customary and polite to get the person's attention with "Excuse me" or "I'm sorry to bother you" before launching into your question instead of simply barking out the question. Lots of responses came to my mind, but I managed to squelch them all down and respond simply with "noodles". The guy repeated my word, nodded knowingly and left.

Situation 2

As probably happens in a lot of other work places, our department periodically collects money for various people for various reasons - wedding shower, baby shower, going-away present, that sort of thing. Generally, an email goes out with what the collection is for and who to give money to if you want to contribute and what the deadline is. There's no pressure to give or repercussions if you don't. No announcements are made about who gives and who doesn't - if you want to give, fine, and if not, that's fine too. The only person who would really know is the person collecting. If it's been someone I know well, I've generally given a little more. If it's someone I know and have any kind of relationship with, I usually give a small amount. On the occasions when the collection has been for someone I didn't know or didn't like, I haven't contributed. No big deal regardless.

There is a person in my department who for whatever reason feels the need to contribute to these things in spare change. And I don't mean like a roll of quarters or dimes or anything, which I would still find odd. No, this person basically brings handfuls of random change that don't even add up to a round dollar amount. When this kind of thing happens with a small child, it's cute because the child just wants to be able to contribute. But when it comes to an adult in a work environment? Ummm, ok. If it's a question of being short on funds, it's fine not to contribute. Or maybe you want to just contribute a little - so just give a $5 bill or a couple of $1 bills. But handfuls of loose change? Now, I could see someone doing this as a joke, to be funny, whatever. In this case, the general consensus is that it's not meant as a deliberate joke or to elicit humour.

Situation 3

I was at a Subway (the sandwich shop, not the underground transportation thing) a week or so ago, and I was the only customer in the shop, and there was only one person making sandwiches. And no, it wasn't Arthur Dent. I had given her my order, and she was in the process of putting the meat and cheese on the bread when another customer walked in. The other customer proceeded to immediately give his order to the girl who was helping me. I kind of stared at him. The girl had moved to the vegetables and asked me if I wanted lettuce. The guy, who hadn't been looking at her, answered her instead and said yes, but then he apparently looked up and told her that the sandwich she had in front of her wasn't his. I turned to him and said, yeah, that's mine, I'm standing right here. He muttered something about just telling the girl ahead of time what he wanted but really didn't have much of an explanation otherwise and proceeded to ignore both of us and just walked around the shop. She continued to help me, and then someone in the back came out to help him, so he gave the other girl his order. Was he thinking that the girl helping me was just going to drop my order and start helping him? Or that she was supposed to remember everything he was telling her so that once she was done with me, she could just make his sandwich right away without him having to say a word? Am I invisible?

Situation 4

Someone was telling me about something they'd read on the net the other day and started to discuss with me what had been written. I just stared at the person. And then I pointed out that where the person had read it was ON THIS BLOG.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

we may not be invited to stimulate

So, today is Tax Day, and you have to file taxes this year if you want to receive the so-called Economic Stimulus rebate, said to be about $600 per person, $1200 per couple.

But I heard on the radio the other day that there are restrictions to who will be getting the rebate. I had not heard that previously, and to be honest, where I heard it from isn't necessarily something I trust 100%, but supposedly, you only get the rebate if you earn less than a certain amount a year. Well, since the husband and I both earn decent salaries, there's a chance we won't be eligible, depending on what the salary cut-off is.

You could have the argument that Bill Gates isn't going to need a $1200 rebate for him and his wife, but I don't see that "need" figures into it. And, ok, if you want to draw the line at Bill Gates or anyone making several million dollars a year, I can see that. But because the husband and I aren't struggling, that means we might not get the rebate? Supposedly, the point of handing out this free money that the U.S. really can't afford anyway is so that people will spend it and that will help the economy. Lots of people are apparently saying that they're going to use the money to pay bills, and the government doesn't want them to do that - they want them to actually spend it. OK, so, I'm responsible about having my bills already covered, so if you give me an extra $600, I could actually just spend it. Isn't that what you want? Wouldn't it then make sense to also give the money to the people who don't necessarily "need" it, because they're the ones who will be likely to spend it like you want them to?

Do you know how many little boxes of miniature food I could buy with that? Or dinners at Napa Rose? Cube people? I've got all kinds of things I could spend that money on. But, I guess I won't know whether or not I'll have that opportunity for a while.

Oh, and for those of you who are still needing to file your taxes tonight - you have 59 minutes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

weather is relative

Thanks to global warming, it's sunny, clear, and 140 billion degrees in Los Angeles today (it was slightly hotter than that earlier in my office because the air conditioning wasn't working on our floor this morning but thank goodness it was fixed around lunchtime), but I'm really feeling more like this today.

Along those lines and for another reason, I've added another entry to "favorite movie lines".

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Red Lobster - restaurant review

It had been probably 15 years or so since I'd last been to Red Lobster. I remember not having been very impressed with the quality of the food, so it was not somewhere I chose to visit again, and no one in the interim had suggested a visit. However, I got together with a couple friends last night to celebrate a friend's birthday, and the birthday person had picked Red Lobster as the place to go, so I guess it was time to give it another try.

We arrived shortly after 7pm, and the parking lot was extremely crowded, but we were lucky to find one open space. There were quite a number of people waiting for a table, but when we checked in, we were told the wait was about 15 minutes, so that didn't seem too long. There was quite a bit of seating in the lobby, and there was also a tank of lobsters on display, so we chatted and watched the lobsters scrabble around their tank until our pager was activated.

One of our friends mentioned later that there was some weird policy where the next table of diners is called up before their table is actually ready. The plates would already have been cleared, but the previous party would still be at the table, perhaps still paying the check. The next party would be called and asked to stand in the small area between the lobby and the dining room, and then once the previous party actually got up from the table and left and the table was re-set, the next party would then be seated. We all thought that seemed to be a strange policy.

In any case, we were shortly seated and given menus to peruse, and then our server came to take our drink orders.

As you'd expect, the menu is heavy on seafood items, though they do have a couple of chicken and steak entrees as well. They also have an extensive daily fresh fish menu, prepared one of four ways to your choosing. I was especially impressed that they had the fresh fish information for the specific location posted on the website when I had looked earlier in the day.

While there were a number of things on the menu that looked good to me, I ultimately decided on one of the two fresh fish offerings. I couldn't decide between the mahi mahi and the pacific snapper, so when the server came around to take our order, I asked him which he preferred, and he was very enthusiastic about the mahi mahi, so I chose that, broiled and lightly seasoned, which is my preferred preparation. The fresh fish entree comes with a side of broccoli and an additional side as well as a choice of garden salad or caesar salad. (Most of the entrees come with the choice of side and choice of salad.) I decided on the rice pilaf and garden salad. Others in the group ordered the seafood-stuffed sole, a shrimp dish and a make-your-own-combination dish. We also ordered the lobster, crab and seafood-stuffed mushrooms (fresh mushrooms stuffed with seafood, smothered in Monterey Jack cheese and baked until golden brown) for the table to share. The table bread was freshly-baked Cheddar Bay biscuits, which were really delicious. I also ordered a Bahama Mama, which was very tasty but didn't seem particularly alcoholic.

The mushrooms appetizer was brought piping hot from the oven, and they were very tasty with a nice dollop of the seafood stuffing on top, and we also enjoyed our salads. Our entrees were brought out shortly after that.

I was particularly pleased with my fish. The mahi mahi was indeed only lightly seasoned, so the taste of the fish itself was not overpowered, and the fish was very tender and juicy. The rice pilaf was good, and I found the broccoli to be cooked more than I generally like, but to their credit, it was not boiled do within an inch of its life, so it still had some texture and flavor. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well, and each of the dishes looked very good.

For dessert, a few people ordered the New York-style cheesecake with strawberries to share (which they all seemed to really enjoy), which the server brought with a candle on top, and other servers joined in a round of the "happy birthday" song to our friend.

Our server was very friendly and helpful when we had questions and was also very attentive in generally keeping our beverage glasses full. The decor of the restaurant is also quite nice, and the general ambience set a nice background to the meal. I was very pleased overall with the experience, and I definitely plan to make return trips.

Red Lobster
928 W. Huntington Drive
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 301-9225

Saturday, April 12, 2008

weird news round-up - thawing turkeys, Charleton Heston would have moved to Florida, and adios Simpsons

I'm entirely too tired and sleep-deprived today to write much coherently, so I'm just going to go through a couple of weird news stories that I found.

story 1

This article mentions that law enforcement in Spokane, Washington maintain a tip line where people can call with information about crimes. However, not everyone apparently knows that they're supposed to *leave* tips, not ask for tips on how to do various things. Ummm, if you have a question about thawing turkeys, you should call the Butterball hotline or look at their online help information/FAQ. (OK, I digress here, but this is a story about some of the "extreme calls" that have come into the Butterball hotline. The last story is just hilarious.) I guess these are the same people who call 911 with completely stupid non-emergency issues.

story 2

They have an official day where you can take your sons and daughters to work, so why not have equal time - you should be able to bring your GUNS to work every day! At least that's how Florida legislatures would have it. They've passed a bill that has gone to the governor for signature that would allow employees to keep guns in their cars. Of course, the person has to have a permit to carry a gun, and they would have to keep the gun locked in their car. Because you know, if you actually need the gun for protection, then you can just make a quick trip out to your car to get it. I'm sure whomever is making you feel like you need it will just wait around for you while you do that. Hey, at least it doesn't apply to places like nuclear power plants or prisons or schools, because you know, only in those places would it be a bad idea.

story 3

Venezuela has evicted "The Simpsons". With the reasoning that the show is a bad influence on children, what appears to be Venezuela's equivalent of the FCC has forced the local television station to stop showing episodes of the long-running sitcom after receiving complaints. Apparently, like in the U.S., Venezuela also has people who are too stupid or inept to control their children's viewing habits and who can't do something as simple as turning the channel or turning off the TV. The television station has instead been showing a much more wholesome and child-friendly show - "Baywatch".

Friday, April 11, 2008

return to Wisteria Lane

This Sunday (April 13) marks the return of the first new episode of "Desperate Housewives" after the writers' strike. I'm so looking forward to it, as I really like the show, though I think I've forgotten where we are, but they usually do a recap of the relevant points at the beginning of the episode, so I'm ok. I think Lynette's neighbor now needs somewhere to live, Gabrielle is screwed because the mayor is alive *and* remembers what she and Carlos tried to do to him, and I'm still wanting to know what the big secret is with Katherine and her first husband.

So whether you'll have spent all day Sunday (certain people won't be surprised to hear one bit that the weather forecast in Southern California is for sunny skies with a high in the mid-80s, right?) facilitating a really hard game at Disneyland, playing said really hard game at Disneyland, enjoying a leisurely lunch (like us) of yummy goodies at Disney's Food and Wine Festival and then tracking down your friends to say hi to them, or finding yourself stuck in some other city in some weird time zone, welcome back to Wisteria Lane!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

need to blow off steam?

A friend sent me this link to a comic, which I think is hilarious.

My only comment was that I'd leave off the P.S. - that way, it narrows down the people who would still get the joke.

BTW, I *love* the WARNING near the bottom of the page. I would be in the last category.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

magical memories - that's what friends are for

I spent my college years at the University of California at Berkeley, otherwise known as "Cal". I met a lot of people during my college years. But the relationships I remember the best and most involve four girls.

At the time that I went to Cal, they were terribly short on dorm rooms, and freshman year, I applied for but did not get into the Cal dorms. Not knowing the area, I wasn't too thrilled about having to find an apartment, so I was glad to get a letter saying that a college down the freeway in Oakland had an empty dorm building that Cal was renting, so I applied and got into there. The first year, I took a city bus between the other college and Cal's campus. It was a little weird because I lived with a bunch of Cal students but we weren't living on Cal property, so unless you had a car, you were somewhat isolated from the nightlife on campus. The express bus only ran until about 6:30pm, and if you wanted to catch a bus after that, it went the long way, through downtown Oakland, which wasn't necessarily the best ride.

I ended up discovering that I rather liked living there, and it was easy to get in because most people either wanted to live in on-campus dorms or apartments, so I didn't have to worry about where I was going to live, and I decided to stay at that college for my entire four years at Cal. I either took the bus or hitched a ride with friends until I got a car junior year.

I talked to some of the people who lived in my dorms, but I didn't necessarily have a lot of friends. Yeah, I know, big surprise. I spent a lot of my time hanging out with people in my major. But my junior year in college, I met four girls who I would end up becoming very close to.

K and J were roommates, unknown to each other before they came to Cal. K was from Oregon, and J was from Sacramento, and they just hit it off incredibly well. M(o), who was from Southern California, had a roommate of her own, and M(a) was from the Bay Area and had her own room. I had a roommate the first semester of my freshman year but decided I didn't want to deal with that anymore, so subsequent years, I paid extra to have a single room. I became good friends with the girls, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with them, in groups and individually. There was many a night when one or two would stop by my room to say hi, and we'd end up not doing homework but just chatting. There was a common lounge with a TV, which was controlled either by whomever was in the lounge first or majority rule, whichever was more vocal. Sometimes, we decided we didn't want to deal with that, so they'd come to my room, and we'd watch the little TV that I had.

My strongest memory, though, is of the five of us sitting against the wall in the hallway outside my room, and we sat there for hours one night, laughing, joking, talking. I don't think I'd ever had a group of friends like that before, and in this setting, it wasn't about being kids anymore. We were adults now, on our own to some degree. There were ups and downs, and we were supportive of each other, but mostly, we just really had a good time together.

The following year, when I was a senior, I stayed at the dorm, but the four of them decided to move into a house together, so I would stop by and visit them there.

By the time 1989 rolled around, I was back in Southern California and working. I didn't have a radio on at work, and internet access at work wasn't as prevalent as it is now. Late in the day, I got a phone call from a friend who asked me, "Didn't you used to have friends in the Bay Area?" to which I responded, "What do you mean, 'didn't I used to'?" She then told me about the earthquake that had just occurred, which would come to be called the Loma Prieta earthquake, registering a 7.1 on the Richter Scale, destroying a large portion of the Nimitz Freeway when the double-decker freeway collapsed and even causing one section of the Bay Bridge to fall from the top deck to the bottom deck. I hung up with her and managed to get a hold of my friends, who were still living in the house together. Everyone turned out to be ok, so I was thankful for that. The parents of one of the girls had driven across the Bay Bridge about an hour prior, so it was frightening to think about what could have happened.

We kept in touch over the years, and I saw some of them periodically.

K got married, and I flew out to Washington, D.C. to attend her wedding. She later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and had two kids. I've not met the kids, but she and her husband did graciously come out to L.A. for my wedding.

J graduated from Cal and invited me up, so I went and had a great time. Her parents threw a dinner at a local Korean restaurant, so that was my first introduction to Korean food, which I loved, and her parents and sister were the nicest people. She later got married, and I went up to Berkeley for that and then some time after that, I returned for her baby shower, postponed until after the baby was born due to complications in her pregnancy, so I was actually then able to see the baby. She and her husband later had another daughter. J and her husband also came to my wedding.

M(o) came back to Southern California after she graduated, and I saw her once or twice, but we lost touch, so I didn't invite her to my wedding.

M(a) and I remained in touch for some time. Out of the four girls, she was the one I was closest too. She was two years older than the other girls, so she was closest to my age, and she had dealt with a lot more in her life. We had a lot more in common, even dealing with some of the same problems, so we talked a lot. Her then-boyfriend lived in Los Angeles, so when she would come down to visit him, we'd usually get together for a little while. She eventually married someone else, and I went up to San Francisco for her wedding and paid another visit some time later, when her little boy was about 9 months old. Cutest little thing. Now that I think about it, he looked a lot like a current friend's nephew. She had two other children after that. She was supposed to come to my wedding, but a family emergency prevented that. We have since lost touch.

I don't know what's going on with M(o) and M(a) anymore, and my contact with K and J is solely by way of Christmas cards with catch-up letters. We're all busy with our lives, but I'll never forget the friendships that I shared with each of them during that one short year.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - The Television Edition

Situation 1

On "Star Trek: The Next Generation", when something was wrong but they couldn't quite put their finger on it, they'd run a level one diagnostic. But really, did a level one diagnostic EVER turn up anything? And then every time that the level one diagnostic indicated that everything was hunky dory, all hell would break loose. But did they ever figure out that running a level one diagnostic never told them any useful information and so stopped running it? Nope, same thing next time - lather, rinse, repeat. Is there anything *other* than a level one diagnostic? All it seemed to entail anyway was looking under random pieces of paper or open boxes to see if anything was amiss, and if that all went well, then the level one diagnostic was done. How about a level two diagnostic? Or a level three? Or a level "what the hell kind of alien life form has infiltrated the Enterprise NOW" diagnostic?

Situation 2

On the same aforementioned "Star Trek: The Next Generation", they apparently decided that having Worf as the security chief made sense because he was a big bad Klingon and who better to have as head of security, right? Well, then how are you supposed to show that the villain of the week is bigger and badder? How about having him beat up Worf? That would show how strong the villain is, right? No, really, it doesn't. Having Worf get his ass kicked by everyone in sight really just goes to show that he's in the wrong job. What good is a security chief who can't even defend *himself* against intruders?

Situation 3

Again with the aforementioned Worf in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", what the hell was up with his love interests? They set him up with Jadzia and then Troi? Ummm, yeah, thanks, but no. Why couldn't they give him a strong love interest, one who had a mind of her own and who could stand up to him. Heck, she could even be half-Klingon. Oh, right, they did, in K'Ehleyr, who was a great character and brought out a lot in Worf. But, hey, let's just kill her off after one episode, because it's not like we need any good female characters, right? And Worf doesn't need a suitable mate. Instead, let's just saddle him with Alex P. Keaton's younger brother - that'll make good story.

Situation 4

On the television show "Bonanza", what was the main lesson to be learned? That the Cartwrights are good and decent people? That they're rich and have a helluvalotta land but they didn't let it go to their heads? That family comes first? No, the lesson to be learned is NEVER, EVER marry Ben Cartwright. Oh, sure, he might appear to be a desirable and eligible bachelor. But in reality, he's the male equivalent of a black widow. (Is there a word for that?) Look at the facts - he has three sons from three different wives, ALL OF WHOM ARE DEAD. I don't remember this part, but a friend pointed out to me that Little Joe's wife only lived for two episodes. I tell you, all the money and land and charm are useless - it just doesn't pay to marry a Cartwright.

Situation 5

Who the foxtrot got custody of the baby, Jody or Carol?

Monday, April 7, 2008

my friends hate me

They want me to ignore all my responsibilities, go around like some drug-addicted crack whore, and watch my life go in the proverbial toilet as my obsession spirals out of control. My entire life has now been derailed.

OK, maybe it isn't quite that bad, but I'll start from the beginning. Several weeks ago, a friend gave me, among other things, two little boxes, which I opened when I got home. They were really cool. And I looked on the box, and in what now turns out to be an unfortunate discovery, I saw that there was a website printed on the box.

I now need to quit my job because I'm going to spend the rest of my life looking for all the different sets of stuff and then creating a spiffy environment for them.

This is one of the boxes I got. It's a grab bag of sorts as there are 10 different sets that can potentially be in the box, but you don't know what's actually in the box until you've opened it.

This is the one I actually got.

I love that the cup has tea in it.

This is the other box I got. It's also a grab bag box.

This is the one I actually got in that set.

We can't figure out what the yellow stuff on the plate is. It looks kind of like tamago, but I'm not sure that makes sense.

I love pretty much every one of that set, but I really want this one.

I love the sweet shrimp, though I prefer the heads fried, and I think it's funny that the tea bag is just floating in the cup.

Here's a page that lists their products.

This is a set that I really like.

I love the little lobster.

And I love the little bbq set.

Everything is just so cute - the hot dog and corn and skewer, and even the little compartmentalized plates. Yeah, I know the scale is off compared to the size of the grill, but who cares.

This apple pie set from another collection is really cute.

It even has a corer with an apple in it.

This jello set is cool - it even includes the molds.

I love this table set-up.

And no, I have no idea what any of that stuff says.

I love this cake.

This whole set is incredible.

The turkey one is cool, but the birthday one with the banana split and cake is awesome.

And then there's cabinetry and stuff to stock them with.

I wasn't sure if I should be down on my knees being thankful to my friend or cursing her name! But then the plot thickened.

About a week later, another friend got me a box in this set, which is so incredibly cool.

This is the one I actually got.

I love the cinnamon roll, though in real life, I prefer it without the icing.

I love this one too.

It's even got a cracked egg in a bowl.

And then about a week after that, another friend joined the party and got me a box from this set, which had the following in it.

However, this box led to the discovery that there was ANOTHER WEBSITE full of more products. Whiskey tango foxtrot.

This is the set I'm really wanting, probably for obvious reasons. But come on, how incredibly cute are they?

I love the Mickey-shaped burger buns and the Mickey-shaped plates and the random Mickeys everywhere.

This is a really cool set, and this is another cool set. And if you're going to be making all those goodies, you've gotta have this set to make all the stuff with and to do other household chores.

I can't read much of anything on the website, but I sure didn't have a problem finding the full products page.

At this point, I was still trying to resist the temptation of going in pursuit of little tiny boxes.

And then yet another friend joined in the fray, and last week, I got from her two boxes out of this collection, which is also a grab bag.

Here's one of the ones I got.

The milk carton doghouse is just too funny.

And here's the second.

I think this one is so incredibly cute.

There are so many more products on this site, which is the Japanese one, than there are on the U.S. site that I haven't even gone through them all. And even though I now own "only" 6 boxes of the stuff, I've already developed a snobbery of sorts - some of the collections are meant for U.S. distribution and the box is labeled with a bit more English. But the ones I prefer are the Japanese version that have very little English on the box, and each also comes with a little square gum, which is taken out for the U.S. packaging. I'm not sure if that's for health reasons or whatever. The first one I got with the Japanese packaging was the Bread and Butter one, and when I opened it, I at first thought it was a little pillow because I didn't know what else it could be. Now that I know - I still would rather believe it's a little pillow. Who needs gum? So I'm finding that I prefer the Japanese-packaged ones, but I'm not sure if everything comes in both versions, and I'm not snobbish enough to only want the Japanese ones.

That being said, I found myself completely obsessing over the entire collection. (No, that never happens, right?) I know that Japantown would have a good supply of them, but do I dare go? Do I dare trust myself to venture into a box-filled store with my credit cards in hand? The boxes are about $5 a piece, which isn't too bad - unless I buy a billion of them. This particular collection really captures my interest because it combines two things I've loved and been interested in for a long time - miniatures and plastic food. So miniatures OF plastic food? I'm toast.

I think I've decided that I'm allowed one box a week - that's not too bad. And then immediately after that, I thought about how much I generally spend on lunch a week, and if I cut back on that, I could instead use some of that money to be able to buy an extra box. Nope, not obsessed at all.

I know that there's a store in the Northridge Mall that carries some of this inventory, and at first, I decided that going there was a really bad idea. Well, I'm supposed to be having dinner with a friend this Friday night, and I've decided I do want to go. By the end of the week, I will technically be allowed to buy 3 boxes - 4 if I pre-buy for the following week. I've not seen the store yet, so I have no idea the quantity of stuff they have there. We'll see if my head just explodes from trying to figure out what I want. Do I buy 4 boxes all in the same set so I have a better chance of getting everything in that set? Or do I buy 4 boxes from different sets so I can guarantee I don't get duplicates? But in a lot of cases, having duplicates is fine. What kind of bakery would only have ONE cinnamon roll to sell?

This whole thing started less than four weeks ago, and it has really escalated, literally, week by week. I am so amazed to have friends who not only know my interests so well as to get me completely addicted to something totally new, but who also share my interest and who contribute to the growing addiction.

Everyone should be so lucky to have friends who hate them this much.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"21" - movie review

I hadn't heard that they were making this movie, but when I first saw the trailer, I knew I wanted to see it. I already knew about the story not from news reports of the actual events, but because I had already read the book called "Bringing Down the House" by Ben Mezrich, whose accounts of the events this movie was based on.

A professor at MIT teaches a handful of brilliant students how to count cards and beat the odds in Las Vegas to win enormous amounts of money. It's not illegal, but the casinos are definitely not happy about it. They have their own back-room (or probably more appropriately, underground rooms) methods of dealing with it. I don't know if I would have been more interested in the setup if I hadn't read the book, but when they were explaining the method of counting cards and the code words that were used to mean other things, I wasn't nearly as intrigued by the movie as I had been by the book. There was also much more discussion about using disguises in the book than was depicted in the movie.

Jim Sturgess played the lead student in this film, and I thought he was really good in playing all the different beats, the rise and fall of his character. I completely didn't realize that I'd seen him recently in another film - he played the brother in "The Other Boleyn Girl".

Kevin Spacey played the MIT professor, and he was in fine form, as you'd expect. He plays bad really well.

Kate Bosworth, most recently known for playing Lois Lane in "Superman Returns", was ok. I thought her love interest story with the lead student was kinda boring - I can't remember if that followed the book.

Laurence Fishburne was just awesome in this film as one of the security guys out to catch the card counters. He's calm, cool and calculating, and he doesn't need the police to take care of his problems.

Josh Gad isn't a name I know, but I certainly recognize the actor. He plays Ryan on "Back to You", and he was quite good in this film.

Much of the film was shot in actual Las Vegas casinos - Planet Hollywood, Red Rock and Hard Rock. Their names are displayed and mentioned all over the movie. The film even had its premiere at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino (site of the former Aladdin Hotel and Casino). It surprises me a little that Las Vegas casinos embraced the film this much, but at least they were smaller casinos and not the big-name ones. I would imagine the big casinos don't need the publicity or the hassle that would have been created during shooting. I don't know if card counting is legal or not now, but at least they make it clear that you can't really get away with it nowadays.

The film did take some serious liberties with Las Vegas geography. At one point, some of the people are supposed to be in the penthouse suite at the Hard Rock, which magically has an amazing view of the Bellagio water show directly across the street. Hmmmm.

I do recommend this movie as it has an interesting story told well with very good performances. However, if you enjoyed the movie, I would also recommend the book as well.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Villa Tepeyac - restaurant review

There are a number of Mexican restaurants that we go to and like, but they're generally chain restaurants - Chevy's, Acapulco's, El Torito. Not that there's a problem with chain restaurants since when you find one you like, you can generally (though not always) be assured that you're going to get the same quality at other restaurants in the same chain. However, chain restaurants don't necessarily have the same flair as independent restaurants, and they don't necessarily have the same authenticity when it comes to ethnic food.

The sign for Villa Tepeya can be seen from the 10 freeway, and after driving past it a number of times, we had decided to stop in and try it. It can be a little difficult to find since it's in between two off-ramps, and you have to do a little side driving to get to it. There's a decent-sized parking lot right outside the restaurant, but that can get full since the restaurant has an adjacent party/banquet facility, so there's also another parking lot across the street that we've had to park at on occasion.

The restaurant itself has never been particularly full, but then, it's pretty large, with three main rooms. It means we've never had to wait for more than 5 minutes for a table. The host/hostess staff is very friendly, and the wait staff is friendly and helpful. I can't think of a time when we've had a bad experience there.

There's Mexican music playing in the restaurant, and it's generally not too loud in there, unless there's a large table or something. In one of the rooms, they have television sets up, so it's nice if there's a game on that you want to watch. I love the decor of the restaurant, where the walls are painted to have windows that look "outside" to nice views.

Once you're seated, your drink order is taken and complimentary chips and salsa are brought to the table. While I generally really like the pico-de-gallo quality of most salsas that you get, the salsa here is more just the sauce itself, and I really like that too. It used to be a lot spicier, to the point where I couldn't have very much of it, but in recent years, I've noticed they've toned it down some, so you can taste the great flavor of the salsa but still have some kick.

Most of the entrees come with a side of vegetable soup or salad. I absolutely love the soup there. The vegetable soup comes loaded with chunks of vegetables (carrots, zucchini, potatoes, cabbage, and usually even a small piece of corn on the cob), and the broth is just delicious. I haven't done it yet, but I've figured that if I'm sick, that would be a good place to go to just get a nice big bowl of vegetable soup.

Since we've been going for a while, a few of the servers recognize us, and on one occasion, I wanted to try something different, so I asked our server for her recommendation between two items. She said that she didn't like chicken, so she wouldn't choose the chicken dish, but she explained the two dishes to me. I then chose the steak picado (tender pieces of beef prepared with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes), which was delicious. I've also tried what is basically the chicken version of the dish - arroz con pollo (tender pieces of chicken prepared with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes on rice) - and that was equally good.

They also have various combination plates that are always pretty good, and I've also come to like their chicken flautas plate, which I had last night. The husband is generally quite fond of their chile colorado.

One other thing to note - if you ask for flour tortillas, it comes as one gigantic tortilla, about the size you'd need to make your own burrito. You basically have to rip pieces off, but be careful - it's usually quite hot.

They're generally very good about keeping your glasses filled and taking away dishes once you're done with them. The servers are also generally around a lot, so if you need something, it's easy to get their attention.

They also offer a good selection of cocktails, and while I like margaritas, theirs are quite strong, stronger than I prefer, so I don't get margaritas there anymore.

This restaurant can probably be regarded as one of those hole-in-the-wall great finds, and I highly recommend it.

Villa Tepeyac
2200 East Garvey Avenue, South
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 339-5058
(626) 339-5271

Friday, April 4, 2008

How much is that thong in the window?

There was a lingerie fashion show in Singapore this week, and the jewel of the show was a diamond-studded thong that's estimated to be worth $122,000. Here's the article.

It's funny that they mentioned the thong would be dry cleaned before it went on display. Part of me thinks it's funny that they thought to specifically mention that and part of me is thinking, "That is SOOOOO none of my business."

Here's a picture of the model wearing the thong, as she was carried by two guys.

The Lady Godiva look with her hair over her breasts is interesting, but I'm wondering if they somehow glued them down or something. I mean, even though she's being carried, wouldn't the wind blow her hair aside? And you'd think that a beautiful blonde woman in a diamond-studded thong would be enough to get people's attention, but they had to make her otherwise naked too? So are you supposed to stare at her hooey to look at the diamond-studded thong or are you supposed to try to get a peek at her boobs?