Monday, June 30, 2008

Disneyland Fourth of July fireworks - update

Further to this post, just a correction as I had thought that the special fireworks show was going to be in addition to the regular fireworks show, but according to this article, the 20-minute special show is replacing the regular fireworks show instead of being in addition to the regular fireworks show. I'm not quite as excited, but I'm still looking forward to seeing it.

Catal Restaurant - restaurant review

Catal Restaurant is one of my very favorite restaurants. It's located in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, adjacent to the Disney parks, and we've been going regularly since the restaurant opened in 2001. We've seen multiple General Managers come and go (though, thankfully, the current one has been there for a while, and he's quite good, so we hope he stays for a long, long time), and we've seen executive chefs and other staff come and go as well. As a matter of fact, Catal's very first executive chef was Bret Thompson, who now owns and runs MILK, another place we like very much.

It had been a little while since my last visit, and I was wanting to try out more items on the new menu that debuted in mid-May. Our favorite server wasn't working that night, and one of the other servers we know and like was working a private party, so we ended up with someone we didn't know, which is a rarity there. As we perused the menu, I noticed that there had been some changes to the menu since my last visit, notably the absence of the grilled artichoke appetizer I'd had last time and the addition of a few different dishes.

I decided to start with the seared Dungeness crab cake with Andalusian gazpacho, avocado and cilantro leaves. The husband chose to start with the tataki of togarashi crusted tuna with daikon sprouts, cucumber and miso bruleed sushi rice, and our friend started with the compressed salad of Manchego cheese, arugula, red apples, dates, walnuts and pistachio vinaigrette, which happens to be a favorite with us and many of our friends.

I first tried gazpacho several years ago, and with my love of tomatoes generally, gazpacho immediately became a favorite of mine. This dish had the crab cake in the middle and a good portion of the soup around it, a little more creamy as opposed to more watery like normal. All around, it was very delicious.

It took a little longer than normal for our entrees to come out, and we figured it was because they had five private parties in the restaurant that evening.

My entree was the boneless braised short ribs with seared yellow corn polenta, piperade of peppers and horseradish cream.

I am a fan of both short ribs and polenta, so the combination of the two was not something I could pass up, even given the many other good things on the menu. The short ribs were delicious as usual - moist and tender and very flavorful. The polenta cake was also good as well, good flavor and texture.

The husband had ordered the slow roasted Colorado lamb rack persillade, sweet corn flan, sugar snap peas and shemiji mushrooms, which he really enjoyed.

Our friend ordered the rotisserie roasted half chicken with sweet garlic jus and garlic French fries, which he seemed to enjoy. I've never actually had it myself, but it looks really good, and I've heard that it's quite good, so I'm going to have to try it sometime.

For dessert, I had the peach soup with vanilla-cinnamon scented brioche beignets and frozen yogurt sorbet.

I love peaches, and this was just a delicious dessert. The soup at the bottom was very tasty and flavorful, and then you had the added flavor of the peach slices. The beignets were also very tasty and crunchy, and the sorbet gave a nice mix to the other flavors. Definitely a dessert I'd recommend and especially wonderful on a warm day.

The husband had the warm chocolate-cherry bread pudding with port wine ganache and peppered creme fraiche sorbet.

He said it was almost more like a souffle because it wasn't completely solid inside. He was quite happy with his dessert.

Our friend ordered the trio of sorbets. Catal always offers a trio of gelatos or sorbets with flavors that change nightly.

As usual, the food was terrific, and there are a number of other things on the menu that I'd like to try. Other than the kitchen being slightly slower than normal, service was otherwise good. Our server was pleasant and attentive. We were sorry we didn't get a chance to say hello to a few other people, but it was a very busy evening in the restaurant.

The menu on the Catal page of the Patina Group website is generally behind a season or two or twelve, so here's the current menu.

Parking is available at the Downtown Disney parking lot. You can park for 3 hours for free, and Catal can provide a validation that gives you an extra 2 hours for free. Reservations aren't required but recommended because they can get busy. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant directly or through

Catal Restaurant
1580 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92803
(714) 774-4442

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"WarGames" - 25th anniversary screenings - July 24, 2008

While we were at the movies today, we saw an ad for a special one-night-only theatrical screening of "WarGames" on July 24, 2008, in celebration of the film's 25th anniversary. Wow, I can't believe it's been that long. I actually did a paper on the film's editing in one of my college classes. I *love* that movie. OK, I'll admit, I had a huge crush on Matthew Broderick at the time, but I loved the movie anyway.

I heard something else when they made the announcement, but I wasn't quite sure I'd heard what I thought I'd heard. I'm sure I must have misheard it. But no, I didn't.

I really *did* hear them say "sequel". Here's the page for more information about the screenings. I hadn't heard anything about a sequel (which is apparently called "WarGames: The Dead Code"), and I have no idea what kind of sequel they could possibly be making after all this time. Heck, are Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in it? Or their kids? (OK, not Matthew's and Ally's kids because they don't have any, but the kids of their characters, I mean.)

They seem to be having the screening in a number of theatres across the States. Here's a listing of all the theatres that will be having the screenings. I just bought our tickets to the AMC Century City theatre. If you have a MovieWatcher card, the $1 per ticket service fee is waived.

"What kind of an asshole grows up in Seattle and doesn't even know how to swim?"

entertain me - a vent

My friends really need to post to their blogs more often so I have new stuff to read all the time.

I'm finding all kinds of stuff to do rather than do the stuff I should be doing anyway, so it might as well be stuff my friends write. Besides, I really like how some of my friends write, and I love to read their stuff. They have great story-telling abilities, and it entertains me - that's the key, after all, I need to be entertained! ;)

And, while I do enjoy reading some random people's writings as well, I find that I have more of a connection to the writing with someone that I know, or at least know well enough from their writings.

But, some of the people that I read who I want to post more don't read my blog, so they'll never know that I'm complaining about them. Hmmm, that might be a good thing.

Anyway, if you're looking for more stuff to read yourself, and you haven't already noticed on your own, there's a column on the right side of this blog with links to other blogs and websites and such that I like. Yeah, you have to scroll down a little bit to find it - just go a little past the "bury your face in spaghetti" guy that amuses me so much.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Wall-E" - spoiler movie review (also includes review of "Presto" short)

I wasn't on board with Wall-E from the first second I saw him like I know happened with some other people. And I'm not one of those who necessarily loves everything Pixar does - I wasn't that enamoured of "Cars" and "The Incredibles". But after seeing the first real trailer, I was hooked. He was funny and cute and lovable. And I couldn't wait to see the movie. But true to form, when I become seriously invested in a film, I'm usually wanting toys. And boy were there toys galore. And great toys at that. Toys that I wanted bad enough to go hunting for them at multiple stores.

And then I worried about being over-saturated. There were longer trailers of the movie being shown on TV, but I avoided them. I didn't want to know any more about the movie - I knew enough. I just wanted to see it. And I wondered if I was setting myself up for a let-down because I was so excited to see this movie.

I was not let down in the least. Some of the cute bits (like the bra over his eyes and the fire extinguisher blowing him backgrounds on the ground and Eve trying to blast the heck out of him as he hid behind a rock) were ho-hum now that I'd seen that footage so many times in trailers, but there was so much more to enjoy.

The movie is the story of Wall-E (waste allocation load lifter - earth class), who is alone (mostly) on planet Earth. Consumerism has run totally amok (I wonder if they reached the shoe event horizon as well), making the planet uninhabitable, so the humans have left for a luxurious life in space, leaving behind a planetful of trash. Wall-E's job is to process the trash, scooping it into his little body, compacting it into a cube, and then stacking all the cubes into giant high-rises. Wall-E's only companion is a pet cockaroach, and an old VHS tape of "Hello Dolly", until the mysterious appearance of a ship that leaves robot Eve (extraterrestrial vegetation evaluator), who Wall-E immediately falls in love with. Eve is much less receptive to a friendship, but she thaws when Wall-E saves her from a storm and takes her back to his trailer shelter, where he shows her all his treasures. One particular treasure, a plant that Wall-E had discovered, scooped up and deposited into an old boot, triggers a programmed reaction in Eve, which eventually leads to her being picked up again by the ship, with Wall-E as the stowaway on the hull. The ship goes back to the Axiom, mega-company Buy N Large's luxurious space yacht, but life aboard the yacht is not as idyllic as the promotional films had shown. Wall-E and Eve find an unlikely ally in the ship's captain to accomplish the mission of getting the ship and its inhabitants to return home to Earth.

Since Wall-E is obviously the one the audience is supposed to connect to and identify with, the movie does a good job of spending the early part of the film establishing his character. While he does talk a bit later, mostly saying his own name and Eve's, most of his verbal communication is done with tones and beeps and intonation, which coupled with his eye and body movements gets his point across. We see that Wall-E is not your ordinary programmed bot. He has apparently managed to train the cockaroach, and even though his job is to process the trash that has resulted from the runaway consumerism, he rescues bits and pieces that he collects and keeps back in his trailer. There doesn't necessarily seem to be a pattern of what catches his fancy that prompts him to collect it. He has a sort of ferris wheel contraption with compartments that hold the items he has decided to keep, and there's a funny bit where he has brought back a spork and he can't decide whether it should go in the cup of spoons or the cup of forks, so he ends up laying the spork in between the two.

Eve's arrival seems to be the answer to Wall-E's problem of being lonely, and he watches her for a while before their actual meeting takes place - brokered by the cockaroach no less. Eve's interaction with the cockaroach is the first glimpse into her non-business personality, and it's the cockaroach's familiarity with Wall-E that seems to get Eve to at least accept him. Wall-E's attempt to show Eve what he does (compacting trash followed by an especially funny and triumphant "ta-da" by Wall-E) didn't do much to impress her. It was also funny to see his continued fixation on holding her hand.

I didn't really understand the storms that seem to sweep over the land, but I loved the scene when Wall-E has taken Eve back to his trailer, and he's showing her all of the things he's collected, including a Rubik's Cube. And I was laughing hysterically when Wall-E pops in the video tape of "Hello Dolly" and shows Eve that he can sing and dance along with the video.

When they got to Axiom, the contrast in color and style was so amazing, but we see that nothing has changed. Consumerism and technology have continued to run out of control so that no one even walks anymore, and they even have machines that play sports for them. Everyone has become obese and disconnected and do nothing but watch their screens all day, whether with programming or in talking to others, but even to the point where they're talking to someone on a screen who's actually right next to them. When Wall-E inadvertently causes a couple of accidents resulting in two different people becoming disconnected from their screens, the man and woman seem to come out of a trance and for the first time take note of their surroundings. That reminded me of "THX-1138" when he had stopped taking his meds and was no longer letting the drugs control him.

We meet the current captain of the Axiom, who's really just a figurehead with nothing to do since the ship is run by the autopilot. But Eve's arrival with the plant causes an upheaval since that shows that Earth is now ready to sustain life again, but the bots in control of the ship have been programmed to not allow that to happen. And I'll admit that I didn't even get the "2001" connection until the theme from the film played as the captain stood on his wobbly legs for the first time. However, I loved it later when the captain turns off the autopilot and his light goes out just like Hal's.

When they get back to Earth, Eve rushes Wall-E to his trailer, where there are spare pieces that she uses to replace all his damaged parts. The last thing to replace is his damaged chip - which she then replaces and Wall-E reboots. And then he just stares blankly at Eve, with no hint of recognition. It was really interesting to see how animated and full of personality he was before, but with the same design, he was not really just a programmed bot. It was especially heartbreaking to watch him compact the treasures he had previously brought into his trailer, but now, he was back to just being a trash bot. The only complaint I really had with the entire film was how they brought Wall-E back to being himself. It took me a second to realize that his personality had changed because he now had a different chip, which effectively meant he was a different bot. Changing out an eye like he had earlier wasn't going to matter, but changing the chip was basically changing out his brain - of course he wasn't going to remember anything, including Eve. Obviously, you can't end the movie that way, but his transformation back into the Wall-E we knew didn't really work for me. There was no explanation for that, and even Eve holding his hand wasn't enough. I would have liked some kind of throwaway indication that he had some kind of internal memory chip where most of his personality had been stored, and it just took a few minutes for that to be copied over onto the normal chip. Otherwise, the sudden return of his memory seemed forced and unexplainable.

I did find it interesting that Pixar, a company who has been at the forefront of technology and innovation when it comes to computer-animated movies, created a movie that actually warned about the dangers of technology and automation. However, in the end, it is the combined efforts of humans and bots that ends up activating the program that brings them all back to Earth as well as that enables them to re-colonize the Earth. It's also a bit ironic that the film seems to warn against the detrimental effects of ultraconsumerism, but the film itself has led to the release of quite a bit of movie-related merchandise.

I thought the environmental message of the film was ok and not too overbearing, but mostly, I really enjoyed the humour and heart of the film. I found myself laughing through much of the film, and sometimes, they were at bigger, more obvious moments, and other times, it was just little things, and there were a lot of little things. It was funny to see Wall-E hang up his treads after a hard day at work, and he's really groggy in the morning when he wakes up, until he has his burst of energy, which in his case is not caffeine, but rather, sunlight to recharge his battery.

When Wall-E was making his way back to his trailer the first time, it was pretty creepy to watch him roll by all the other Wall-E bots that have since broken down and lay in bits. It was funny, though, when he saw them, saw that one of them at least had better treads than him, and he even stuck his "foot" up to make sure it was the right size!

I think it's difficult to make a cockaroach cute, especially one that actually looks like a cockaroach, but they did as good a job as I think possible. It was also funny and fitting that of course it would be a cockaroach who is the only living thing on the planet (at least that we know of), and it survives what both Wall-E and Eve do to it. The cockaroach was also a good way of showing the difference between the Wall-E we knew and the Wall-E with the new chip because of the difference in reactions between the two when the cockaroach is run over. However, I'm not sure I can ever, *ever*, EVER eat another Twinkie again for the rest of my life. Ewwwwww.

Because there's not much dialogue in the film, there aren't too many vocal performances, but those that were there were all around terrific. Jeff Garlin does the voice of the captain, and he's not someone I've ever heard of, but he did a good job. Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger plays the man who gets released from his trance first, and Kathy Najimy plays the woman who is similiarly liberated by Wall-E. Sigourney Weaver provides the voice of the ship's computer, which we hear mostly as the ship's captain is learning more and more about Earth, including about the pizza trees. And Fred Willard is the only live-action character, doing a hilarious turn as the CEO of Buy N Large. But the star of the show, the god of sound, is Ben Burtt, the "voice" of Wall-E (as well as M.O.) Ben Burtt is the genius sound designer (I'm wondering if that title was originally created especially because of him) that most notably created the "voice" of R2-D2, even though he was pretty much responsible for much of the sound that we now associate with "Star Wars". The body movements of Wall-E did a lot to show his character, but it's also in the sounds and tones that he emits, just as was the case with R2.

I loved the scenes of Wall-E and Eve flying around in space, but I did wonder exactly how much was in the fire extinguisher cannister to let him fly for that long.

I didn't see any of the normal in-jokes that you find in Pixar films, but the film is so visually stunning and full that it's hard to see everything. I'm thinking there might be a lot of hidden things to see in all the sequences where the residents of Axiom are zipping around, not to mention all the things that Wall-E has collected. I'm one who normally watches the credits, but there was so much going on during the credits that I barely really paid attention to the credits. Oh, and as cute as Wall-E was, those Wall-A machines were kinda creepy, but that's probably having mostly to do with their imposing size.

I loved the character of M.O. (microbe obliterator), whose job is to detect "foreign contaminants" and clean up after them, and who finds Wall-E to be a great challenge indeed, chasing him around the ship and cleaning up his tread marks. It's a great scene when the M.O. first encounters Wall-E, cleaning up the dirt he left as Wall-E watches. When all is clean, Wall-E sticks out his treads to make a new mark, which M.O. cleans up. And then, showing a mischievious streak to Wall-E, he runs over the M.O., leaving a dirty tread mark on his head. A friend that we saw the movie with said she thought of me during that part. I'm not sure how to take that! But, I do apparently share Wall-E's penchant for collecting "junk", so I guess she might not be too far off the mark.

There is also a great new song by Peter Gabriel that plays over the end credits of the film.

The film is off to a good start at the box office. Variety is reporting that the film earned $23 million on Friday, which is Pixar's best opening day ever.

In the list of Pixar releases, I would put "Wall-E" as my second favorite, tied with "Ratatouille". Both are incredible films, but with totally different styles and stories that I can't really decide which I like better. It's probably not surprising that I like "Wall-E" so much since it's written (and directed) by Andrew Stanton, who also wrote "Monsters, Inc.", my favorite Pixar film, and who wrote the story for and directed "Finding Nemo", probably third on my list of Pixar films.

Since everyone does this, here's my list of the Pixar films in order of preference:

Monsters, Inc.
Finding Nemo
Toy Story 2
Toy Story
The Incredibles
A Bug's Life

Preceding the film was the new Pixar short "Presto", about a magician who has a magic hat from which he pulls the perennial rabbit, but in this case, the rabbit is completely distracted by being hungry, and his hunger makes him a bit testy. "Don't make me hungry. You won't like me when I'm hungry." Hmmm, maybe that line was more appropriate for the rabbit in the short instead! As with the previous short "Lifted", this one is full of humour and clever bits (like poking the magician's eyes with his own fingers!).

I am impressed that in 2008, a movie (and an animated one at that) is so heavily influenced by "2001" and "THX-1138" and uses "Hello Dolly" as an integral part of the storyline, and it even manages to touch on the very popular subject of global conservation, and all the while injecting a ton of humour and heart. "Wall-E" is definitely a film that I want to see again while it's still in theatres, and it's also a DVD that I will be excited to add to my collection.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Wall-E", "Iron Man" and the Fourth of July

For some reason, "Wall-E" is on my mind today.

A friend sent me the link to this article about an origami Wall-E - made from one uncut sheet of paper. Origami has always fascinated me. I couldn't do it to save my life, but I have a friend who's pretty good at it, and when I was in college, she would periodically mail some to me for my amusement, but not in a Gaff/unicorn kind of way.

But Wall-E wasn't this artist's first amazing creation.

This article shows the origami Iron Man he'd made - the picture above is just of the mask.

And yes, the comments on both articles are funny to read too.

On a separate note, most people have probably made plans on how to spend their Fourth of July next week. For multiple years now, we've spent it at the same place - Disneyland. Yeah, I know, it's crowded - a billion people are there - especially when the Fourth falls on a weekend or at least weekend-adjacent. But we don't actually go on rides or anything - don't be silly! Our main reason for going is to see the fireworks. Disneyland always has an amazing display. They've been particularly good for the last several years, when they've had two new regular fireworks shows that incorporated some pretty nifty new techniques, and on the Fourth of July, in addition to their regular show, they have an added bonus at the end. Disneyland's recent fireworks shows are not your run-of-the-mill kind where shells are just thrown up in the air. Yeah, those are nice too, but Disneyland's current and previous fireworks show are synced with music, so it's really a complete show in the sky. Regular fireworks shows might have music they play during the show, but it's really just background music - in Disneyland's case, the music is an integral part of the show. Well, according to this blog entry, this year's Fourth of July show is going to be even more spectacular. We would have been at Disneyland anyway, but now, I'm looking forward to it even more!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


When you choose to engage in a particular course of action, I don't understand how you can turn around and say that you don't understand why you have to pay the consequences that resulted from that course of action. One of my biggest irritants is when people take no responsibility for their actions - yeah, I did that but look at what they did! They made me do it! Ummm, yeah, what, are we back in second grade?

One thing that I figure most people would know - you cannot physically assault your boss. A couple of days ago, Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon had a confrontation with general manager Ed Wade wherein Chacon ended up shoving Wade, effectively his boss, to the ground. Twice. He was suspended, and then today, he was released from the team for breach of contract. OK, there are technicalities involved wherein another team could pick him up, but that's extraneous. There is about $1 million in regular compensation owing on his contract as well as potential bonuses that could have been earned, none of which the Astros would have to pay him.

Counsel for the players' union said, "Based on the information we have to date, we believe the Astros' response violates the Basic Agreement. If Shawn Chacon clears waivers and is released, we will pursue appropriate relief on his behalf." OK, I have no idea what the union agreement says, but I would be incredibly surprised if there's a provision in there that says a player physically assaulting another member of the team, much less his BOSS isn't sufficient grounds to terminate the agreement for cause. Heck, Chacon is lucky that Wade isn't pressing criminal charges for assault.

Chacon's agent further says, "As the process unfolds there will be more facts revealed which will shed more light on the situation. By no means does that mean the physical confrontation was appropriate, and Shawn knows that." Really? What kind of facts are going to come to light that makes the assault ok? Did Wade insult Chacon's wife? His mother? His clothes? Wade says that he didn't yell at Chacon, didn't swear at him or make any insulting remarks to him. There were many witnesses to this confrontation, so I expect there are lots of people who know whether that's true or not. However, even if Wade *had* done all of those things, that's still not enough to justify Chacon's physical attack.

The article goes on to detail numerous incidents where Chacon was insubordinate and ignored the instructions of his manager and pitching coach, all of this before Chacon apparently became more upset because he had been pulled from the starting rotation for poor performance.

OK, so Chacon is having a bad year, so he's probably frustrated and angry and might have some issues with controlling those feelings and not letting them manifest in his actions. His manager asks to speak to him. He ignores him. His general manager comes down to the team dining room to ask him to go back to his office so they can talk. He refuses. All of those are actions he chose to take. And then he lost his temper and assaulted the general manager. But now, he's surprised that he's been cut, and it's not fair? Dude, step up. Admit that you made a mistake, that you lost your temper, and you're really sorry for it, and you understand there are consequences to your actions. You know that the physical confrontation wasn't appropriate. So what do you expect them to do? Just ignore it? Slap you on the wrist? Wag their finger at you? You've shown a history of ignoring your bosses, and they didn't pull you from the rotation because you're wearing the wrong color hat - they did it because your poor performance is hurting the team. You probably can't help but take it personally, but in the light of day, you cannot see that your actions were so wrong that they are entirely within their rights to terminate you for cause? And you are not entitled to whine that it's not fair?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"cheeseburger, no cheese"

Quite some time ago, we used to enjoy having lunch at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland. They had decent burgers, there was a lot of seating so that was convenient for our usually large group that would meet for lunch on Sundays, and it had a nice view of the Rivers of America for when we'd just hang out afterwards and chat. We stopped going there some time ago, pretty much when Disney seemed to become completely incapable of serving a decent burger inside either of the two parks (side note - but the burgers are great at Whitewater Snacks). On one of our last visits to Hungry Bear, a few of us had put in our orders and were waiting for our food when we overheard a random stranger ordering their food in what we thought was an odd fashion. The person ordered a cheeseburger, with no cheese. Ummm, ok, isn't that just a hamburger? Why not order a hamburger? And then we looked at the menu more closely. Since all of us would routinely order the cheeseburger, none of us had noticed that they had completely taken the hamburger off the menu. So, you *couldn't* order a hamburger. You had to order a cheeseburger and ask them to hold the cheese, but whereas you would previously have had to pay extra for the cheese, you now were paying more anyway, even if you didn't want the cheese or perhaps couldn't even eat the cheese, for those who are lactose-intolerant. That's pretty much a subtle price increase.

Bearing that occurrence in mind, a friend sent me this article about a similar quest to order a hamburger extra value meal at McDonald's. What my friend probably doesn't realize, though, is that the story doesn't just remind me of our Hungry Bear adventure, but it also reminds me of a trip that the husband and I and a friend of ours took to San Antonio to visit the Sea World park there some years ago, the trip that gave birth to the catch phrase "but I pushed the button". Maybe I'll remember to tell that story on here sometime.

Anyway, I did find the article to be interesting, but what I was actually more fascinated with were the multiple comments in response to the article. I am particularly amused by the haughty people who proclaim a supposedly obvious solution, completely oblivious to the fact that the suggested solution had been brought up multiple comments ago and a reasonable explanation of why that solution doesn't work has already been given. But these are probably the same people who bulldoze their way into topics on newsgroups and discussions boards with the hated phrase "I haven't read what everyone else has said, but here's what I think".

Now, admittedly, I only read the first page of comments, but that means I read 100 of the 158 posted comments, so that's not bad. I laughed pretty hard through many of the comments and rolled my eyes a few times as well.

I hope we don't get to the point where I'm going to have to order "lemonade, no lemons and no sugar".

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

color blind

Sometimes, I feel like a dinosaur. Back in my day, we had nice normal colors - red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, black, white, brown, pink. And we had that light black color, but the only controversy was whether it was spelled "gray" or "grey". (I think I tend to use "gray" unless I'm using a word where it's predisposed to using the other version, like "greyhound".)

But as time has gone by, more and more names for slightly different colors seem to be popping up. Oh, I'm sure the colors and shades themselves have existed forever, and people like painters (the building and car, etc. kind) and artists knew all about them, but lay folk like me just knew the "regular" colors.

People have seemed to feel a need to make up different names. I've heard people refer to metallic as a color. Isn't that what we used to call silver?

I understand a bit more when shades are distinguished by real live things to give a better understanding of a color. For instance, my car is cherry red. Well, ok, that's the color it's supposed to be. At the moment, because my car is in serious need of a wash, it's more like a dull dusty red. But in any case, I understand what cherry red is because I love cherries and I know the deeper, darker red that good cherries should look like. And that's not to be confused with fire engine red, which is much more bold and bright. I even understand eggshell to some degree, because eggshell has a real-life depiction. But exactly what is the difference between eggshell and off-white and beige?

And who the hell came up with ecru? I have no idea what base color that is even supposed to be. Apparently, it's light brown. OK, so it was too hard to say "light brown", so a whole new word had to be invented? And then there's this definition of ecru: "A grayish to pale yellow or light grayish-yellowish brown." HUH!?!??!?!?!? I have no clue what that means since it's a blend of several colors. And then there's mauve. (Anyone else have a 70s sitcom theme song running through their head right now? No? Just me, huh? *sigh* Yep, dinosaur.) Again, no clue what family of colors it's in. Apparently, it's purple. So we don't like the word "purple" anymore? "Mauve Rain" would have been an awfully weird movie and song title.

Benjamin Moore has a whole range of paint colors. They have colors like sanctuary, elemental, barrista, interlude, metropolitan, vapor, and subtle. Are you getting a good idea of what all those colors are? No? Neither am I.

Here's a palette of some of the colors they offer.

Now, maybe it's just me, but there are a lot of those colors that I can't really tell the difference between. And there sure are plenty that if I was just looking at the "color" name, I'd have no clue even vaguely what color it would be.

Speaking of having no clue even vaguely what color something would be, I remember some time ago shopping for a bridesmaid dress. A few of us were in a store, and they had the racks of dresses. Attached to each dress was a card that had the color of the dress and all the other colors it came in. I happened to look at one dress that I thought was cute, so I looked at the list of available colors - and I stopped at military. Ummm, ok, what the heck color is that? Do they mean like khaki? Fatigues? What? I asked one of the employees in the store what color military was, and she told me that it was basically Navy dress blue. Ummm, ok, I think that's a little odd too, but at least it's much more descriptive and image-provoking - why not use that as a "color" name?

I remember learning colors in schools using color wheels and the like. I wonder what kinds of colors they're teaching nowadays and how big the wheels are.

And to further show how confusing I apparently find colors nowadays, some time ago, I was talking to someone on the phone at work. They asked for a copy of a particular document, and I said that I would email them a pdf rather than sending a photocopy through interoffice mail. The person said, "Oh, you're so green." And I thought to myself, "Ummm, no, I'm not a newbie with the company. I've been here a long time, and this person should know that because they've been talking to me for years, and even if I was new, what does that have to do with..." And then it occurred to me. "Green" apparently no longer means "inexperienced". It's now used to refer to this whole "save the planet" eco push conservation-run-amok movement, which prompted the comment because I was going to email an image rather than use a piece of paper. Conservation had nothing to do with it - it was in fact the easiest (for me) and fastest (for the person) way to get the document to them.

Color me cyan.

Monday, June 23, 2008

drinking and driving - how far is too far when it comes to prevention?

I heard about this story on the radio last week. School administrators at a high school in the San Diego area decided that in order to get the point across to students about the real effects of drunk driving, they would have highway patrol officers show up at the school and announce to the students that a number of their fellow classmates had been killed in car accidents over the weekend. Students were understandably devasted to hear the news, but the grief turned into anger when they eventually found out that it was simply a hoax to teach them a lesson about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving.

Administrators are defending their actions by saying that they wanted the students to be shocked, that they wanted the students to know what it felt like, that it was a sort of "Scared Straight" tactic.

Their plan was a take-off of a program called Every 15 Minutes, which is designed to illustrate the devastating and fatal effects of drinking and driving. But that program is conducted quite differently.

There's a part of me that understands that just telling kids not to drink and drive isn't really going to work. The kids probably need more concrete examples than that. And I might not have objected to this particular tactic except for one thing - none of the kids' parents was told that this was going to happen, so none of them had the ability to consent to, or veto, this particular way of teaching the lesson.

If I had kids, I don't think I would be too happy if my child came home and told me that this had happened to them that day. Obviously, we're not talking about little kids here - we're talking about high school students. But as such, most of them are still minors, and as I recall, when I was in junior high school and high school, parental permission was still required for a lot of things, even including sex education. Outside of the normal curriculum, parents had a right to say what their kids could be exposed to by the school. Does that mean that kids won't learn anything their parents don't want them to? Of course not, because obviously, kids learn a lot, if not more, from friends and other means than they do through the school when it comes to non-academic subjects. But if the system is put in place where the parents *do* need to give their permission for certain things, I would think that something like purposely traumatizing their child would be one of those. I don't think I would have approved of this hoax being perpetrated on my own child - I personally think there are better ways of getting the point across. But if someone else thought this would work on their own child, that's for them to make the decision.

Obviously, some kids participated in the hoax - not just the kids that supposedly died but also some family members and friends as well. I can excuse their behaviour because they're young and don't know any better. But I cannot and do not excuse the behaviour of the administrators and the highway patrol officers. They are adults, and while they may have had the kids' eventual welfare as their main concern, I think they seriously missed the mark on how to achieve that.

There has been a comparison made between this action and the "Scared Straight" approach. The main difference? "Scared Straight" was a program only for kids who were already in trouble, who already had a history that pointed to them getting in more and more trouble, and whose participation in the program was agreed to by their parents. None of those criteria was in play here. This hoax wasn't enacted on just those students who showed a high risk or had actually participated in drinking and driving. This hoax was perpetrated on all the students, and again, without any parental consent. The argument could be made that even those who don't currently or haven't had a drink and then driven could have the potential to do so in the future, or they might at least be present when someone else is doing it, so they could be a voice of reason for those people, but I just don't think the means justify the ends in this case.

Some of the kids have expressed that they feel betrayed, and it makes me think that the program may actually backfire. I could see this turned into one big joke, and it could completely detract from the actual reality of what drinking and driving can cause. Hey, people didn't really die last time, they're not going to this time either. I'm not sure that a lie, especially of this magnitude, was the best way to go about spreading the message. There have been many other ways that the very real tragedies of drinking and driving have been passed along, where actual people in actual accidents have made the rounds telling their stories, whether it's a victim who might be in a wheelchair; or the person who was drinking and driving who might also be in a wheelchair but who at the very least has to face living the rest of their life knowing they caused the death of someone, perhaps even a relative or friend, because of their behaviour; or whether it's a survivor who tells about losing a family member or friend.

I understand that the goal was to save lives and heartaches, and there are many ways to try to do that, but I just can't see that what they did was one of the right ways to go about it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

going back to West Beverly Hills High

I used to love watching "Beverly Hills, 90210".

It was basically a prime-time soap opera set on a high school campus, so it was definitely my thing at the time. The Brenda/Dylan/Kelly triangle actually worked quite well and never seemed too rehashed. I also discovered a fantastic site that contained a weekly wrapup/summary by Daniel Drennan. I loved his writing style, especially since he would comment on so much more than just the show itself, throwing in references from left and right. Even if the show wasn't very good, Danny's writeups were hysterical. He used to have a "New York Diaries" section that was a blog of sorts, but that seems to have been taken down and changed. He was able to publish a lot of stories in a book entitled "The New York Diaries". I didn't think they were quite as good as the original stories because he had to edit and take into consideration publication standards as opposed to just writing whatever he wanted on his site, but it's still a great read, and I highly recommend it.

OK, so back to the show. I think I lost interest in later years after they got out of high school and such. And by then, I was moving on to "Melrose Place".

Well, classes are starting again at West Beverly when 90210 hits the television screens this fall.

The focus will again be on a family with two teenaged kids who move from some podunk town (ok, so it's Kansas City) to swanky Beverly Hills, where they'll have to try to fit in with all the "in" kids there. Lori Loughlin (who I'll always remember from "Full House") plays mom to the kids - and it looks like she's not going to be playing the midwestern mom like in the original show, at least based on the publicity picture. And speaking of "Melrose Place", Rob Estes will be playing the dad on the show. Jessica Walter is also on the show as the dad's mother who is the reason for the family's move. I love her, so it'll be fun to see her again.

There will also be a couple of familiar faces, at least to begin with. Jennie Garth is returning to play Kelly Taylor who is ... wait for it ... a guidance counselor at West Beverly. OK, wow, I sure hope they come up with one doozy of a backstory to explain that miraculous transformation. Another BH90210 alum who will be returning is Tori Spelling as Donna, who is now running a trendy boutique. She's also apparently still married to David as her name is credited as "Donna Martin Silver", or at least if they got divorced, she kept his last name. But there's also a character credited as "Daphne Silver", who I'm going to presume is David and Donna's daughter. The IMDB listing for the show doesn't indicate if Jennie and Tori are only going to be in the first show or if they'll be making regular appearances. No clue if David himself is ever going to turn up. He's a little busy these days, though. I mean, he's gotta tear himself away from bonding with his newly-discovered nephew, fighting metal-alloy foes and basically helping to save mankind as we know it. He's swamped!

While the focus of the show will be about the new kids fitting in, the new kids are going to have a lot more to deal with than Brenda and Brandon. Unlike their predecessors, they're not twins - the brother was adopted. Oh, and did I mention, he's also black? Ooooo, West Beverly High is getting a black student! However will they cope? Actually, I have no idea whether that's going to be part of the storyline, but one would presume that with the backstory, there's going to be a lot more going on here than just dates and clothes and hair.

Here's a video that includes information about the phenomenon of the original series as well as the new cast and characters.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the show, which is apparently going to be airing on Tuesdays at 8pm on the CW network, which would be channel 5 in Los Angeles, though I haven't been able to find an official first air date.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"The Incredible Hulk" - movie review (full spoilers)

I'm not a huge comic book fan. I mean, I've been known to read the occasional comic book here and there, but it's not my preferred form of entertainment. I have become acquainted with many comic book characters pretty much through their depictions in television shows and movies. I remember that I watched "The Incredible Hulk" when it was a TV show, and I enjoyed it a lot. Bill Bixby was really good, but when he got mad, he turned into a very green Lou Ferrigno. When the movie version "Hulk" came out a couple years ago, I saw the trailer, and it did nothing for me, so I had no interest in seeing the film, though I think by that time, I'd seen a number of other movie properties based on comic book characters. To me, it's not the source material that matters necessarily - it's how the story is translated on film.

I hadn't even known until very recently that a new Hulk movie was being made. While in the theatre to see something else, the trailer for "The Incredible Hulk" came on, and my first thought was, "They're making that movie again?" And then I saw that Edward Norton (I could swear he used to go by "Edward Norton, Jr." but I can't seem to find a reference to that. IMDB does mention that his father's name is Edward and also refers to his father as Edward Norton, Sr.) was going to be playing Bruce Banner. Well, that's certainly a good pedigree start. I first saw him in "Primal Fear", and while I thought the film itself was just ok, he was incredible in it, and he ended up getting a lot of attention for his performance in that film as well. And then I saw that William Hurt was in the movie as well. Wow, ok, totally adding to the credibility factor there. I love William Hurt and have ever since I saw him in "Body Heat" (incredible movie, btw). The movie footage looked good too, so ok, put the movie on the list of things to see.

Overall, I liked the film. The story was interesting, they gave Bruce Banner a good enemy (a couple of them, actually), and they also gave him a good relationship. The action sequences were awesome as you'd imagine (though for some reason, I kept flashing back to "Cloverfield" during some of the fight sequences in New York), and while there were some imperfections in the CGI when it came to the Hulk, it wasn't bad and generally not distracting enough as a whole.

The performances all around were stellar. Edward Norton does a terrific job in all the different emotions and situations that Bruce Banner finds himself in. It was heartbreaking to watch him as he was secretly trailing Betty at her college, and for a second, he thinks she's seen him, but it turns out that she's greeting her boyfriend, and his expression just crumbles.

Liv Tyler plays love interest Betty, and she does a really good job as well. She has a very powerful scene and a terrific change in disposition when she's in the restaurant chatting with her boyfriend, and she gets a quick glimpse of Bruce coming out of the kitchen, but when she pursues, he's gone (hiding behind a dumpster), and she tearfully begs the restauranteur to tell her the truth. And then she catches up to him in her car as he's walking in the rain, and when he realizes it's her, there's the often-used running-into-other's-arms scene, but damn, that worked so well. I can't have been the only one who swooned at that scene. Later, when they're on her school campus, and the government is after Bruce, she marches over and plants herself in front of one of the tanks and screams for them to stop and come talk to her. Her poignant yell of "Daddy" really got to me - ok, so I didn't know that the general (William Hurt) was her father.

William Hurt (not to be confused with Jeff Bridges or Jeff Daniels or Bill Pullman) was also terrific in the movie. Tim Roth was a spectacular nemesis in the film. He isn't someone I know, though he's apparently quite well known. I looked up his credits, and it turns out I have seen him before in this movie - really bizarre movie, btw. And, I did see him in "Planet of the Apes", but of course, I wouldn't have recognized him from that. I did get ripped out of the movie once - when it was revealed that Betty's new boyfriend was played by Ty Burrell. I had seen him previously in a sitcom called "Out of Practice" as well as the recently-cancelled Kelsey Grammer/Patricia Heaton sitcom "Back To You", where he played an ambitious but somewhat bumbling and put-upon news reporter. He did have a great scene, though, in his response to the general, who was trying to get him to reveal where Betty and Bruce might have run away to. Stan Lee has an awesome part in this film, much more screen time and story relevance, I think, than with his usual cameo appearances. And of course, there was Robert Downey, Jr., who I recognized just from his silhouette in the doorway, before he even said a word. Yeah, OK, so I knew he was going to be in the movie, but still! Loved his little appearance. I also loved that they put in nods to the television show. As Bruce is in Brazil (I think), he's flipping through television channels, and one of the things that comes across the TV screen is a clip of Bill Bixby from "The Courtship of Eddie's Father". Later, Bruce Banner has to get past a building security guard, who is played by Lou Ferrigno, by bribing him with pizza. Ferrigno is also credited as the voice of Hulk. And I didn't notice it, but the husband did - in one segment (I can't remember which), they used the theme song from the original television show as the musical overlay.

The major thing that I didn't care for in the film was the opening. I hadn't known that they weren't going to really include the circumstances under which Bruce Banner (BTW, why is he Bruce Banner here whereas he was David Bruce Banner in the TV show, and then in "Hulk", the lead character was Bruce Banner, but there are also characters credited as "Young David Banner" and "Teenage Bruce Banner"? No wonder he has an alternate personality - he has two names that he goes by at various times!) became the Incredible Hulk, and that by the time the film starts, he's already on the run with this monster bubbling inside that he can't control. The backstory is told in distorted clips of scenes and flashes of newspaper headlines. You get a vague idea of what happened, but it goes by so fast and is almost done in a dream-like state (probably kind of what Bruce would have remembered) that you don't really get a good idea of everything that happened. Also, this all takes place during the opening credits, so if you actually read opening credits, like me, you're trying to read the credits and look at the action on screen at the same time, and there's not really enough time for both. It's almost as if they assumed everyone knew the backstory, so this was just a bone to throw, but if you don't know the backstory, I'm not sure the prior events are clear. And even if you know the general backstory, I think it's important to know how this particular story played out because it gives history to the interactions among Bruce, Betty and the general later. At one point, I saw a flash of something that had Nick Fury's name on it. I only know his name because of "Iron Man", but I have no idea what it said about Nick Fury. I talked to someone who IS a comic book fan who saw this movie, and he missed that part completely. I expect we'll get this when it comes out on DVD, so at that point, I can go through the opening slowly to see everything, but that shouldn't be what's required.

I liked the stuff with Mr. Blue/Samuel Sterns. He was kind of a freaky character, but a lot of fun, though you know he had to be a little off his rocker when he's threatened by this guy ("Why do you have to keep hitting people?" - yeah, I know, that's not the exact quote, but I can't find it, even though I love the line.) and still voluntarily agrees to make him even stronger, thinking he could convince him to do what he wants, when he was witness to Hulk being subdued only by Betty's coaxing. (BTW, I kind of like the King Kong/Beauty and the Beast aspect of Bruce and Betty's relationship. Heck, Hulk saved Betty's life when she could have died because of her own father's actions.) But they had that scene where some of the super-serum was dripped onto his head with an open wound, and his head gets all wonky with bubbling and motion and stuff, and then they never mentioned it again. I'm told that's a set-up for when he becomes a villain, though I don't know who he is the nemesis for.

I loved the inclusion of the love scene between Bruce and Betty. Their longing for each other has been very evident, and finally, when they have a moment of quiet alone, and Betty shows her affection and compassion for Bruce by touching his face and hugging him, you can see that Bruce is overwhelmed by being alone all this time and finally having human contact, with a woman he's loved no less, so it's natural for the two to start making love. But, Bruce has a pulse indicator watch to help him know when he has to calm himself down to stave off the monster inside, and as things get hot and heavy, the watch's alarm goes off. Bruce has to explain to Betty what it's for and why he has to stop, and it's really funny as the watch's alarm is an obvious aural indicator of Bruce's disposition, which is even funnier when the alarm finally stops at the end of Bruce's explanation.

I was also laughing when Bruce Banner was trying to speak and ends up butchering Portuguese - apparently, he's pretty cranky when he gets hungry!

It was nice to see that the magic pants were back. I always thought it was weird that when Banner turned into Hulk, his shirts were shredded beyond recognition, but his pants just got shorter. Yeah, I get that they can't have Hulk wandering around butt-naked, but it was still weird. They at least tried to address the situation in this case in that the pants were at least torn in places, and he is shown trying to buy pants in a larger size and with elasticity ("mas stretchy"), but Edward Norton to Hulk is a much bigger size difference than Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno. When you see Betty with Hulk on the mountainside near the cave, you can see the size comparison, and for those to be the same pants, Bruce would have had to be wearing pants that were drawn up over his head.

I noticed that in the trailer, there's a scene with Bruce and Betty's new boyfriend where Bruce is hinting at the monster inside him. I don't remember that being in the movie, so I'm wondering if it's a scene that was shot that ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. If so, I hope they include that in the DVD.

OK, and the whole big stink raised about the general and his cigars? Can I just say that even knowing about the stink, I totally wasn't paying attention to what he might have had hanging from his mouth? I was much too involved in the story otherwise.

I'm including this quote from the Variety review by Todd McCarthy just because I find it really funny. :)

"Bruce Banner hides out anonymously in a Brazilian favela while desperately trying to decontaminate his blood, eliminating the cells that can make him, if sufficiently incensed, turn into a raging, bemuscled, 9-foot screamer with disagreeably antisocial habits."

As I said, in general, I liked the movie, moreso as I wrote this review and remembered all that I liked about it. I didn't like it quite as much as "Iron Man", but it was still a really good movie. Hmmm, maybe it's time for a double-feature to see both again.

Oh, and yeah, I have no idea why I happened to include so many outside links in this review.

Friday, June 20, 2008

all the movie spoilers, none of the pain of seeing the movie

No, no not-so-jolly-Green-Giant review today. Probably tomorrow.

But on a movie-related note, have you seen a movie that you don't really remember all the details of? Are you a parent who's trying to decide whether to let your kids see a particular movie without having to screen the movie first yourself? Is there a movie that you're too scared to see, but you do want to know what happens? Is there a movie you're vaguely interested in, but not enough to actually pay money for it, but you still want to know what it's about? Well, then you want the movie spoilers website.

The most useful thing I've found about the site so far is that I can look up what M. Night's latest stupid "twist" is in "The Happening" without actually having to sit through the movie!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is it January 6 by any chance?

It's been a really odd day today. But a glance at my calendar indicates that it's not in fact Topsy Turvy Day.

I saw "The Incredible Hulk" on Saturday night, and I had planned on posting a review of it on Monday. But Monday came, and I hadn't had time to write it yet, and other stuff happened that I apparently felt the overwhelming need to blog about that day. OK, Tuesday it is. Then Tuesday came, and I've been super-swamped at work, and I didn't have time to write it again.

I knew I couldn't write it on Wednesday, because I had plans. The husband and I spent the entire day at Disneyland. Yeah, I know, we're there all the time, but seriously, we were there the ENTIRE DAY, and by "entire day", I mean that we got there just after park opening at 8am (it was maybe 8:10 or so when we got to the turnstiles), and we didn't leave Main Street until 12:30am that night. And we weren't just *there* the whole time, we were tourists, hard-core tourists, running back and forth in the park and doing all kinds of rides (and yes, taking as much medicine as I could to allow myself to go all day). I think the last time I was in the park for that long and doing rides the whole time was when I got my first AP back in 1997. For reasons too complicated to go into here, we took one of my nephews and one of the nephew's friends (who happened to be a girl - really, just friends) - both of whom are 14 - to Disneyland for the day. The friend is pretty familar with Disneyland, but the nephew hasn't been since he was fairly little. During the course of the day, here are the attractions we went on/to, in vague order of when we did them:

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (nephew hadn't been on before)
Space Mountain (using Fastpass)
Jungle Cruise
Indiana Jones show (kids hadn't seen before)
Haunted Mansion
Pirates of the Caribbean
Winnie the Pooh
Alice in Wonderland
Main Street Opera House (exhibit side and 50th film) (kids hadn't seen before)
Indiana Jones ride (using Fastpass)
Splash Mountain (using Fastpass)
Autopia (kids only)
Matterhorn (husband and kids only)
Roger Rabbit
Gadget's Go Coaster (kids and me only)
Star Tours
Buzz Lightyear (using Fastpass)
fireworks from Main Street (nephew hadn't seen before)
Fantasmic (nephew hadn't seen before)
Haunted Mansion (do-over since our first ride sucked due to mechanical problems and stupid irritating guests screaming their guts out for no reason)
Big Thunder (using Fastpass)
Mr. Toad
Snow White

Keep in mind that for all the attractions for which we used Fastpass, it also meant we had to go to the attraction earlier in the day to get the Fastpass and then return later to actually use the Fastpass, so that added to the walking. I got the Buzz fastpasses while the husband and kids were on Matterhorn, and I made a trip back to the lockers while the kids were on Autopia, and then we all made a trip to the lockers before the fireworks.

We also had the following meals:

breakfast at River Belle
lunch at Pizza Port
dinner at Rancho Del Zocalo

There was also about half an hour of shopping at the Emporium at the end of the day. As you can see, it was a *very* full day.

All in all, it was a really good day, even though it was extremely tiring, and it was quite hot out. I'm hobbling a bit today because my feet hurt so much, but everyone had a lot of fun yesterday. The nephew loved both the fireworks and Fantasmic - I could totally see him turning into a Fantasmic groupie. Both kids also seemed interested in the Opera House when we were looking at the model of Disneyland on opening day, as well as the model of the track of Space Mountain. We also looked at the ticket books exhibit for a while, and we were explaining how that all worked to them. During the course of the day, they seemed interested in that sort of thing, how Disneyland has grown and changed, and they would ask about why various things were done a certain way. We also showed them some of the hidden stuff, like the Evil Queen in Fantasyland and told them various stories of experiences that have happened to us and to friends. (Yes, I told them the "patch of honey near the Pooh ride that a kid licked" story.)

By the time we were done and had dropped off both kids at their respective homes and got home ourselves, it was close to 2am before we went to bed.

I knew today would be hard, both because I had so much fun yesterday, and all the walking around and then the lack of sleep, and then being thrown back into work and the craziness and swampiness that it currently entails. That was going to be enough to deal with. And then I got to work and found out about something that happened that really stunned me. And I can't even really figure out why exactly it stuns me so much, nor can I really talk about it on this public a forum for various reasons, but it served to really distract me all day and make it difficult for me to concentrate. So even though I was going to try to write the movie review today, that didn't happen. Today has just been so completely unlike yesterday that it's almost throwing me off-balance in a non-physical way.

So, maybe tomorrow, I'll be able to write about the Big Green Guy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Green Field Churrascaria - restaurant review

The husband had read about Brazilian barbeques in the paper one day, and he said it sounded really good, and we realized that there was one not too far from us, so we had decided to try it. We really enjoyed our experience and have been back several times, even going with a group of friends one time, who all seemed to enjoy it as well.

This kind of Brazilian barbeque is a buffet-style restaurant. They have a bar with hot foods like spaghetti or asian noodles, different kinds of potato (mashed, seasoned wedges), fried plantains, fried yucca and other items. They also have a cold bar with an assortment of salads (caesar, potato, etc.), tabouleh, cherry tomatoes with olives and cheese cubes, green beans, different sliced luncheon meats and different kinds of sliced cheeses, sliced tomatoes, and on occasion, shiitake mushrooms, which I love. They have also periodically had hearts of palm, which are pretty tasty too. Their cold bar selection is pretty much an upscale salad bar. They also have a few other hot dish platters, including some kind of fish and pork barbeque ribs, as well as two kinds of soup.

The signature aspect of the Brazilian barbeque, though, is that they bring around an assortment of just-cooked meats on a big sword directly to your table. The meat runners (I love that title) will usually carry two swords of different meats, though on our last visit, one of the meat runners came around carrying four swords. I was amazed that he could handle that many! The assortment of meats includes lamb, sausage, tri-tip, beef short ribs, chicken, skirt steak, tenderloin, sirloin, bacon-wrapped turkey, duck, pork loin, beef shish kabob and garlic roast beef. On our last trip, they even had pork chops, which we'd never seen before. I also like the chicken hearts, but they don't usually have that wandering around since not many people seem to eat them. You generally have to request that, and then they'll make a skewer. In the past, we've also seen them have prime rib on the bone wheeled around on a cart. They also used to have rabbit, but they've since taken that off the menu.

On the table, there's a wooden cylinder that's painted green on one end and red on the other, with it being yellow in the middle. If you want the meat runners to stop at your table, you put the green side up. If you don't want the meat runners coming to your table, you put the red side up. I have no idea why there's yellow in the middle. Maybe if you put the cylinder down sideways, they're supposed to walk by slowly. I'll have to ask about the yellow sometime. If it's an item that's pre-portioned, like the duck or turkey or chicken or sausage or short ribs or something like that, you generally tell them how many of each piece you'd like. If it's something that's still a slab of meat, like the skirt steak or the tenderloin, they will usually cut off a slice, but you can always ask for more than one slice.

On our earlier visits, we would generally get a plate and put some things from the bar and then go back to our table, making sure there was still room on the plate for the meats. When we visited with friends, we noticed one person was getting an empty plate onto which the meats could be placed, and we thought that was a great idea, so we've adopted that method since.

On our most recent trip, the lamb was particularly tasty, as was the short rib. Chicken and turkey are entirely too boring to have in a place like this, so I don't even bother. The husband likes the duck there, but it's not cooked in a manner I like, so I'm going to have to remember to pass next time. There are many different kinds of beef, so I generally wait for the ones I really want, though sometimes, it's tempting to just try what they come around with. I love that the meat is so hot and fresh, but the only downside is that the meat tends to be cooked a little more than I would normally prefer it, but it's still very tasty.

One thing we noticed and liked about the meat runners is that at some point, when you've turned them down enough times, they'll ask you if you're waiting for something in particular (this time, one of the meat runners even went through the list of things they had), and if you tell them, they'll bring it out on their next run. There have also been other occasions when we've had the cylinder turned to red, but we've noticed a nearby meat runner with something we hadn't seen or looks interesting, and they'll notice us and come over to show us what they have anyway. I love that they pay that much attention.

The area where they cook all the meats is clearly visible, so I've stood there on occasion just watching them. Pretty amazing.

They do have a dessert cart that they push around, but we rarely have dessert because we're already so full from dinner itself. I did try a fried plantain this time, and it was pretty tasty, so I think I'm going to have one of those as dessert from now on.

There's a waterfall down the front window that faces the street, and if you sit at one of the adjacent tables, the water can be very loud. It's a fairly large place, and they can generally accommodate very large parties. We've regularly seen tables of 12 or more together. When we were there with our party of 10, we ended up at two adjacent tables because it happened to be during a very busy time.

The meat runners are always very nice and helpful, and the wait staff is usually very good, though we have on occasion had trouble getting timely drink refills.

The dinner price is $26 per person, with children 4 to 12 at half-price and children 3 and under free. The price is inclusive of the hot and cold bar and the meats, but beverages and desserts are extra.

With the combination of the great meats and the terrific cold bar, not to mention the attentive meat runners, this is a place I'd definitely recommend.

Here's their website. If you go to the menu link, there are pictures rotating through where you can see some of the meat skewers as well as the cold and hot bar.

Green Field Churrascaria
381 N. Azusa Avenue
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 966-2300
(888) 295-1306

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


A favorite server at one of our favorite restaurants mentioned some trunk monkey commercials to us recently, and his description intrigued me enough to go looking.

There are apparently a series of commercials for Suburban Auto Group in Oregon, popular enough that you can even buy trunk monkey merchandise from their store.

This is apparently the first video, where you can see how a trunk monkey can be very helpful when you're confronted by an irate driver.

What about kids who throw things at your car? Trunk monkey can take care of them too.

Some women flirt with police officers to get out of a ticket. Other women cry. Men try to appeal to common interests. Well, now the trunk monkey can help too.

Don't you hate when people try to steal your car? Well, trunk monkey has a solution for them.

What's scarier than giving birth in a car? Having trunk monkey be your attendant!

Daddy's Little Girl can still be protected on a date if Daddy buys the chaperone edition of the trunk monkey.

This one's just weird.

When it's time for me to get a new car, I wonder what would happen if I asked the salesperson whether they have trunk monkey as an option?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stan Winston - cancer claims another talent

And now for something completely different (from the previous post for today, that is)...

It's being reported today that Stan Winston has died of cancer at the age of 62 after a seven-year battle with the disease.

I haven't loved every single thing he's done, but I've loved quite a lot of it, and there's no denying his giant stature in the world of special effects. Who didn't gasp upon seeing the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park" or the terminators? I would imagine that there are a lot of people in the special effects industry working now and in the years to come who owe their careers and inspiration to Stan Winston.

The industry has definitely lost one of its giants today.

give me a frickin' break

Today was going to be movie review day, but I hadn't had a chance to write the review yet. So I was going to write the review later and post an entry later in the day than I normally do.

And then I was browsing around the news and found this story about Elian Gonzalez.

You might remember Elian. When he was about 6 years old, his mother took him with her on a boat from Cuba to the States, and she was killed on the journey over. He survived, and his relatives living in Miami wanted custody of him. But his still-living father wanted him returned to Cuba, where the father lived. A U.S. Federal Court decided that the father was the one entitled to proper custody of him, and when the relatives refused to hand him over, he was forcibly removed by immigration agents and returned to his father in Cuba.

Sad story. Mom died, frightened child has no clue what's going on and probably had no idea of the political firestorm that surrounded him. Mom and Dad wanted him to live in different places. Who gets to choose? Well, if both were alive, I'm not sure how that would have worked. But with his mother unfortunately killed, there is no question left - Dad has custody. And add to that factor that at the time of Elian's arrival on U.S. soil, he was not a legal resident, so we're not even talking about the child of two parents who have citizenship in two different countries.

I know that conditions in Cuba are bad for a lot of people. I don't recall that Elian's family was particularly in danger, any more than anyone else in Cuba would have been. So does that mean that all cute six-year-old boys should have been allowed to come to the States from Cuba? What if they're seven? Can they still come? What if they're not quite as cute as Elian? Do they still get to come?

There are a lot of people in a lot of countries that are in imminent danger of being killed, and every day that we don't bus them all into the States, hundreds and maybe thousands of them die. Should we be importing them all onto U.S. soil? I know, I sound heartless, but there are realities that have to be faced as well. The United States cannot possibly save everyone. So how are we supposed to decide who to save? Why does one person get asylum but another doesn't? And that's in cases having to do with adults who can decide for themselves where they want to be. How can the United States government possibly have put themselves in the position of stripping custody from a father who has citizenship in another country simply because the U.S. doesn't agree with how things are going in that country?

I get that the mother thought she was doing what was best for her son, though I'm not sure I agree that taking a six-year-old on an unsafe boat in unsafe waters illegally trying to get to another country was the best bet to go, unless he was physically in danger of being imminently harmed in that country. But I don't see her as the saint that most people have painted her to be. "Oh, the poor woman gave up her own life to give her child a better life, and that was ripped away from him." Yeah, sorry, not quite how I see it.

So, 8 years later, why do we care about one of the 18,000 people who recently joined Cuba's Young Communist Union? Is anyone going to dare say out loud that if only this poor little happy boy had been allowed to stay with his loving relatives in Miami, he would not now be joining a communist organization pledging allegiance to country leaders that so many despise? The United States had the ability to save this little boy, and how, he's lost to the brainwashing of communism.

Maybe I'll be able to calm down enough by tomorrow to write a movie review.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Comrades Marathon

While most people might be enjoying a nice leisurely Sunday, a co-worker of mine is, probably as I write/you read, in South Africa running this particular mega-marathon today. He's run and completed the race twice before, in 1999 and 2000. It's a fairly hilly run, and each year, they alternate between the "up" route and the "down" route. This year, it's the "up" route. While it might sound like the "down" route should be easier, you have to keep in mind that the runners then have to make sure they're controlling their downhill speeds constantly, and that's no easy task either. My co-worker said that the "down" route is very tough on the knees and legs and joints and that experienced runners of the course much prefer the "up" route. Here's a link to the 2008 route.

In 1999, when he ran the "down" route, it took him just under 8 hours. In 2000, when he ran the "up" route, it took him about 8 1/2 hours.

Me, I'll be making an unscheduled visit to the tire store, but I'm mostly just going to be a slug.

4pm update - The results have been posted, and he finished the race in about 9 hours and 20 minutes. I don't know what kinds of medals they give out or how that's determined, but the site indicates that he got 3 medals. Yay, RM!!!!!! Here's to rest, relaxation and fun for the next week before he has to come back to work.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

more "24" casting news

It was recently announced that Jon Voight would be joining the next season of "24" as a bad guy. OK, since the next season was supposed to have been what was shown this past season but for the writers' strike, which means they would have been done with the season by now, I'm not sure how he's being put in the next season, but that probably means they weren't entirely done and maybe hadn't fleshed everything out and done all the casting yet. In any case, he's supposed to be in the "prequel" this fall too.

I mostly remember Jon Voight from "Coming Home" and "The Champ", both of which came out eons ago. I'm interested to see what kind of challenge he'll be for Jack and if he'll have a connection to Jack's nemesis that we're all too familiar with and that I've been dying to see.

no news Emmy for this guy

Someone told me about the following video, and I have to say, I feel kinda bad for the guy, but his tirade just made me bust out laughing hysterically.

Warning for those to whom this might be a concern: the reporter's language is bluer than Papa Smurf, so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing, don't watch the video. Everyone else - ENJOY!

Bug in Mouth Brings Out the Street in Reporter
During a broadcast a bug flies into this reporter's mouth and really brings out his street side.

Bug in Mouth Brings Out the Street in Reporter - Watch more free videos

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Postcards from the Edge" and "Cracked" - book reviews

"Postcards from the Edge" by Carrie Fisher

I had of course known that Carrie Fisher had fiction books that she'd written, very popular and successful ones at that. But I didn't go see the movie that was made out of one of them, and I never really had the inclination to read any of her books.

That is, until I saw Carrie during the Saturday night of Celebration IV, when she held a special event called "A Conversation with Carrie Fisher", in which she basically talked about various things and told various stories. After that, I thought I'd try out one of her books sometime, and I picked "Postcards from the Edge", her almost-biographical first novel. The book started slowly for me, when the lead character, Suzanne Vale, is having her stomach pumped after an accidental overdose and then goes into rehab. You learned a little about what brought her there and what she's had to deal with and what her quirks are. Then, inexplicably, you're thrown into the life of some guy who's obviously a hard-core and seriously-in-denial drug addict, and the action shifts between the two of them, culminating not surprisingly in their meeting when he enters the same rehab she's already in. I didn't care too much for his scenes and story, and frankly, I lost interest in the book and actually put it down for a little while. I *rarely* ever just stop reading a book. Eventually, I went back to it, and after Suzanne got out of rehab, she tried to get back into acting and there was various other drama that entered her life, and I found all of that to be much more interesting, and I ended up getting through the rest of the book much easier than during the beginning.

Generally, I liked the book, and Carrie has a bit of a quirky style, though of course, this was her first novel, and I'm not sure how much of her style was affected by it being mostly autobiographical. People may or may not know that she's been regarded as one of the best script doctors in the movie business for some time now. Somewhere down the line, I may decide to try one of her other novels, but her first one didn't speak to me enough to jump out and buy more of her novels right now.

"Cracked" by Dr. Drew Pinsky

I've been listening to Loveline on occasion over the past couple years, and I've really enjoyed listening to Dr. Drew Pinsky giving frank advice to people who call about every subject under the sun, but many relating to sex and addiction and abuse. He had talked about a book he'd written a while ago about his experiences working in a rehab hospital and how the book wasn't just about the patients, but it was about him as well. That intrigued me, so I picked up a copy of "Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again - A Doctor's Story".

And it was merely coincidence that I read these two books one right after the other. It was kind of interesting to read the patient view of a particular type of rehab compared to the doctor's view of a slightly different kind of rehab.

You get a very clear idea of the different types of people who come into the Department of Chemical Dependency Services at Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena, California. They're all medically addicted to a varying array of drugs, but what's most troubling about them isn't the medical addiction itself - it's often the trauma or circumstances which led them to the addiction in the first place. He introduces the patients and their background as well as the process of their detox and treatment, and he also tells you what he, the other doctors and the staff think of different patients. You see that sometimes, as much as the patient's family says they want the patient to get better, they're not willing to do the hard work to help make the patient better, which includes looking at themselves and how they've aided, abetted and sometimes, even encouraged the patient's continued addiction. There are a number of instances where so-called "well-meaning" family members actually hinder or sabotage the recovery process.

And because of everything Dr. Drew tells you about how he's feeling in various situations, you get exactly how difficult it is to be in a job like that. It's said that medical doctors and staff in a hospital/emergency environment have to maintain some kind of distance from their patients and remain stoic to some degree because there's no other way for them to survive the day-to-day traumas that they see and the patients that they're not able to save and the anguish and pain suffered by the surviving families. A similar sentiment can be made about doctors and staff who work in rehab facilities because of the failure rates that naturally occur, but they can't pull back to the same degree because part of the process involves dealing with the patients on a personal level. Dr. Drew talks about a few different cases where a patient was taught early on that he/she could never trust anyone, and with that reinforced during their years growing up, they were completely unable to connect with anyone, and many times, Dr. Drew had to try to be the first person that the patient could trust, could believe in, could connect with. If he could make that happen, the patient could possibly be on his/her way to forming more connections and moving along in recovery.

But Dr. Drew also experiences first-hand the pitfalls between trying to make that connection and becoming too personally involved, which could prove detrimental to both the patient and himself. He almost cares too much, and the stories that he hears from every patient who enters the hospital tear him to pieces when he hears about what the people have been subjected to, sometimes at very early ages, sometimes by the very people who were supposed to have been caring for and nurturing the patients. As much as we learn about the various patients, Dr. Drew lays his own feelings bare as well. One of the things I most liked about this book was that he was free to say what he wanted and how he wanted, without the constraints of what he can do on Loveline and because of the FCC.

This book was definitely a compelling read, and I breezed through it fairly quickly.

Dr. Drew has another book called "When Painkillers Become Dangerous" that I'm interested in reading for various reasons. First, I like his writing style (though I do know that "Cracked" was co-written by Todd Gold), so that's an incentive to read more by him. Second, I'm interested in learning about exactly how the addictions work on a medical and physiological level as well as the effects of various drugs on people. Lastly, since I'm currently wresting with whether or not I'm going to go back to a doctor to try to get a stronger pain medication that will actually work (since the ibuprofen appears to have lost its effectiveness with me again), I'm interested in knowing what other medications might be out there and the effects that all of them have. I'm getting the impression that my particular body chemistry wouldn't allow me to develop an addiction, so I'm not concerned about that, but I also have a feeling that my body won't let me take anything stronger than vicodin, which I've had before. I haven't yet been able to find the book on the shelf, mostly because it's been very confusing trying to figure out where Borders would shelf it even if they had it, so I may end up just ordering it.

If I wasn't cably-challenged, I would have definitely watched "Celebrity Rehab". I'm hoping that they'll release the series on DVD so that I can watch them, but I may have to settle for just the episodic downloads if they don't do a DVD. Dr. Drew has just started filming the second season of "Celebrity Rehab", which is scheduled to start airing in October.