Friday, December 10, 2010

Who knew a water bottle could hold so much power?

The story started almost a month ago. I follow the Star Wars Twitter feed, and a story came through about Katie. She's a little six-year-old who had taken her Star Wars water bottle to school, and the boys were teasing her about it because they said Star Wars was for boys. There were already a few things that made her different from all the other kids, and she was willing to hide her love of Star Wars so there wouldn't be one more thing that was different about her.

Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.

She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle. They say it's only for boys. Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it. I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."

I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink. Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.

I cried when I first read the story, and I start to tear up every time I re-read it.

Katie's mother writes a blog for a Chicago outlet and wrote about what happened to Katie, hoping to get some responses and support for her daughter. I suspect she had no idea what was about to happen.

Her blog story was picked up by another website. And from there, it went viral. It quickly spread throughout Twitter and Facebook and other outlets as people found out about Katie's story. Girls and women everyone who shared Katie's love and who had been through what Katie went through shared their stories as well. And some people associated with Star Wars also found out about Katie, and she received support and offers from many of them. One interesting part is that there's another female named Katie who loves Star Wars. She's written a couple of episodes for "The Clone Wars", the Star Wars animated series. And she's also adopted. Her dad happens to be George Lucas.

Katie's story was posted on the official Star Wars blog. And other websites picked up on the story as well.

And while there was an outpouring of support for Katie from the Star Wars community in particular and the geek community at large, it wasn't just about Katie or Star Wars. It was about an experience shared by many, singled out for being different, for going against the norm, being picked on just for being who you are. There's been a lot of discussion about bullying in schools and elsewhere lately, and I think this was just a situation that resonated in that same vein. We've all been there, just like Katie, and not just when we were kids. Even as adults, there may be interests we have that others don't share and therefore decide to make fun of.

Katie's mom wrote an update about the situation.
I particularly love the story about Katie talking to the little boy who likes My Little Pony. Yeah, tears again.

CNN even picked up on the story. This article is about the misperceived balance of males and females in geekdom.

"It's always been very gender-balanced. It has this misconception that it's about the guys living in their basements. Our audience has been about 50-50," said Dave Howe, president of the newly rebranded Syfy network (formerly SciFi). "I think it's one of those urban myths that's existed for a very long time: They are the stereotypical sci-fi fan, and people ignore women and families ... dating back to when we were all at school."

And this CNN article has a good summary of Katie's story, with some extra tidbits as well.

Today, December 10, Katie's school is having Proud To Be Me Day. A movement arose to support Katie and others like her by wearing Star Wars paraphernalia today. So today, I will be wearing a t-shirt that someone gave me for my birthday multiple years ago. Yes, I was well into adulthood, and the person who gave me the t-shirt was actually my boss at the time, who has since become a friend, because he knew how much I like Star Wars.

Be proud to be you. #MayTheForceBeWithKatie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mr. Stox Restaurant - restaurant review

Our first dining experience at Mr. Stox Restaurant was around this time last year. We'd been meaning to go back but just hadn't gotten around to it, but for a special occasion, we made a return trip to the restaurant on Saturday night.

We checked in for our reservation and were promptly taken to our table. Our server came by to introduce herself, give us menus and to take our drink order.

There were a few things on the appetizer menu that sounded really good, but I remembered how good the "lobster latte" (aka lobster bisque) was from last time, so I had to have it again. The husband started with the same thing. For an entree, I chose the venison while the husband chose the veal tenderloin special.

We also each ordered a martini. They bring the glass and the full shaker to the table and serve the martini at the table. That was cool.

The bread basket was brought out, and one of the bread choices was red, which I had some of, but I never got around to asking what kind of bread it was.

The lobster latte was brought out, and the first thing I did was smell it. Mmmmm, it had the same wonderful aroma that I remembered from last time. And it tasted just as good. It's hard to really describe the bisque without making it sound weird, so I'm just going to go ahead and sound weird. The bisque is so good because you can almost taste the lobster shell and sea in it. I like lobster but I'm not a crazy fan - I actually prefer crab generally rather than lobster. I've had lobster bisque before, and I like it, but it's usually fairly light on the lobster flavor - it usually tastes much more refined. I actually like the taste of seafood, and I prefer crab and clams to be steamed rather than cooked in any kind of overpowering sauce because then I can't taste the seafood. I decline butter when it comes to snow crab or lobster because again, it masks the flavor. But with this lobster bisque, you really get the flavor of the lobster itself. It's very robust, not just a faint lobster flavoring. And there are plenty of lobster bits in the bisque itself to add even more flavor.

Lobster latte - "warm and silky lobster bisque topped with glazed cream".

Next up were our entrees. The husband had the special, which was veal tenderloin on black truffle risotto with chanterelle mushrooms. He loved it. I had decided on the venison (cooked medium rare) with broccoli rabe and purple mashed potatoes. The venison was delicious - it was hard for me to pass up having it because not many places serve venison. The broccoli was nicely cooked, still flavorful and slightly crunchy. I really appreciate perfectly cooked vegetables because so often, vegetables tend to be so overcooked so that there's no flavor or texture left in them. Maybe more people would like vegetables if they had them properly cooked. The purple mashed potatoes were fun to look at and they were tasty too, a bit firmer than normal mashed potatoes, which I liked.

Venison with purple mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe.

For dessert, the restaurant offers a complimentary Baked Alaska for those celebrating an anniversary (the dessert is not otherwise available on the regular dessert menu), and since the husband had indicated what we were celebrating when he made the reservation, the restaurant was already aware when we arrived.

Baked Alaska.

I'd never had Baked Alaska before. I liked the meringue on the outside and the chocolate ice cream inside. I couldn't really tell what the base of the dessert consisted of, but it was firm. The dessert was sweeter than I had anticipated, especially with the fruity sauce surrounding the dessert. I think the dessert would have been really good paired with coffee or tea, to cut the sweetness. Unfortunately, I had ordered a chocolate martini to go with dessert, so it ended up being sweeter than I normally prefer with the two combined. (The chocolate martini was different than I'd had in other places. There were swirls of white chocolate at the bottom and sides of the glass, and then milk chocolate around the rim, as well as a rolled-up bit of milk chocolate inside the glass. The contents, which were clear, were then poured in - I'm used to the contents being kind of muddied with chocolate. It was much more alcoholic than I'd had before, but it was still a nice martini.)

They had earlier brought a mylar balloon to put on our table (I noticed several "happy birthday" balloons on other tables, so I expect those were provided by the restaurant as well.), and at the end of the meal, they also took our picture and then came back with a paper picture frame with the picture in it. That was a nice touch.

The outside of the picture frame.

The inside front of the picture frame.

At the front desk and on the table, there's a copy of the restaurant's quarterly newsletter, so the husband and I had been reading parts of it during the course of dinner. They have a lot of special dinners and events/outings through the restaurant. They also have a special Thanksgiving meal, and one of the choices for dessert was mincemeat pie. I've heard of mincemeat, both in the context of the pie and in the expression "I'll make mincemeat out of you", but I've never known what mincemeat was. I never assumed that it was something that necessarily involved meat - I mean, I know what sweetbreads are, and I even really like sweetbreads, but if anyone is expecting actual bread when they order it, they're in for a bad surprise.

After we'd finished our dessert, our server came back to check on us to see if we needed anything else. So, I asked her what mincemeat was, since it was in the pie. She didn't seem particularly enamoured of it. I asked her if it really did contain meat, and she said that the version served by the restaurant did, though some do serve mincemeat that has no actual meat in it. She said that they used filet of beef in their mincemeat. I said that I had heard that mincemeat was highly spiced - not necessarily spicy as far as hot like Tabasco sauce, but rather, just containing a lot of pungent spices. She agreed. She then stopped another passing server to better explain mincemeat to us. The second server also expressed an extreme dislike for mincemeat, though neither of them had actually had any, but they weren't interested based on the description. The second server asked if we liked fruitcake, and we said no, so she said we wouldn't like mincemeat either, as it was bits of meat combined with things like candied fruit. A manager who was walking by also ended up taking part in the conversation. She also had never actually had mincemeat but also didn't think it sounded particularly appetizing.

The assistant server/runner that had also been helping us during our meal walked by at one point, and since we'd chatted with him a bit earlier, I also asked him if he had ever tried mincemeat. He said no, and that it also didn't sound appealing to him. We were then amused when he returned a few minutes later, with a small gravy boat on a plate, with some mincemeat inside for us to try. He had gone to the kitchen to ask about the mincemeat, and since they had some already, he brought some out to us.

I couldn't so much *taste* the meat per se, but you could definitely tell from the texture that it was little cubes of beef. And yes, it was very sweet from the fruit, and while I couldn't necessarily identify the spices, there was a very robust flavor overall. The manager and our server and the other server all came by, and I tried to convince them to try it as well, but none of them would. I didn't think it was horrible, and it probably wasn't quite as weird because it was just in the gravy boat. It would have been a lot weirder having a whole slice of pie with that as the contents.

I'm glad I was able to try it, though, as I can now say that I know what mincemeat is. And we ended up having a good time talking to the various staff members about it.

We had a lovely dinner with wonderful food and friendly and helpful staff. They were diligent about checking with us to see if we needed refills or anything else, but they were never obtrusive. I also like that there's a live pianist providing music - you don't often see that in restaurants anymore. The restaurant is very elegant, and the service is impeccable, and most people are dressed appropriately so, but from our last visit, we had been told that they do have many people who come to the restaurant in casual attire, which they expect given the restaurant's proximity to the Disneyland Resort and Angels Stadium. We were told that during baseball season, it's not uncommon to see many people at the restaurant dressed in Angels gear having dinner before or after the game.

The lobby area was nicely decorated for the fall season with many pumpkins, including several fairly large ones. We were told last year that they go all out with decorations for Christmas, and they have carolers as well. The manager we spoke to mentioned that the Christmas decorations go up right after Thanksgiving and confirmed that they still have carolers, so we're hoping to make a return visit during the holidays this year.

The restaurant offers valet parking for a fee.

Mr. Stox Restaurant
1105 East Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92805
(714) 634-2994

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween costumes

It's one week until Halloween, and some people might still be trying to figure out what costume they want to wear next weekend, whether it's little kids going trick-or-treating or adults going to parties.

Some costumes are very popular, so you just end up being one in a crowd of them, which must be very unsatisfying. So how do you find a costume that's funny and entertaining and eye-catching, but at the same time, not be seeing duplicates of your same costume everywhere?

Let me suggest this one.

It's probably not a costume that PETA would approve of, but otherwise, it seems to draw a lot of positive attention and comments. ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm a dumb wife

I don't know when it happened. I don't think it happened all at once. I think it was more gradual. And I've known about it for a while now. But, I think it's time to admit it publicly.

I have become a dumb wife.

There are the simplest things that I don't know how to do because I haven't had to, because the husband takes care of it.

Now, I haven't always been this way. For many, many years, I did things myself. Sure, I'd need the occasional help, but otherwise, I'm perfectly capable of planning and booking trips. I did it many times. But that particular muscle has APPARENTLY atrophied.

Today, I looked at planning a very short solo trip. OK, I figured out when my departing and returning flights could be. That wasn't so hard. But then, I came to the hard part - transportation. And I realized that I've never had a rental car before, at least not while on vacation. Sure, I've had to get rental cars on occasion when my car has been in the shop or otherwise unavailable. Not a problem, never been an issue. But when I've been on vacation, I realized that I've never gotten a rental car before. I've been to places where having a car was actually more of a burden since parking was an issue and there was public transportation aplenty so getting around was pretty easy. I've been to places where I could have used a rental car, but it wasn't completely necessary or vital, so I chose not to splurge on the rental and found other means to get around instead. I've been to places where the husband or someone else was driving a car. And I've been to places where I had my own car since I drove there instead of flying. There was one occasion when I would have had to get a rental car, when I had planned to go to Pennsylvania - Hershey, to be exact - but those plans had to be changed because of circumstances, and I ended up going to New York instead.

I know it's not hard to have a rental car. I've seen the husband do it. Like I said, I've had a rental at home. So I'm not sure why I feel some anxiety at the thought of having a rental car on my own out of town. It can't be that hard. I speak English. I'm a reasonably intelligent person. I have a phone that gives me access to pretty much everything, so even if something happened, like the car broke down, it's not like I'd be stranded somewhere with no means to obtain help.

Maybe it's the actual driving around that worries me. Having a rental car at home is one thing because I'm still driving to places that are familiar to me. When I've driven somewhere else in my own car, at least there's the familiarity of being in my own car, and I'm usually prepared with maps and such. The thought of being in an unfamiliar location in an unfamiliar car and being responsible for getting myself wherever I need to go seems to make me nervous. Usually, it's the husband who's driving in that circumstance, and while I might lend some assistance in looking at the GPS or whatever, it's not just me trying to figure out how to get where I need to go. But even then, again, it can't be that hard. I'm a reasonably intelligent person. This should not be that daunting a task.

There's a tiny part of me that feels a little bit of anxiety about the flights themselves. I have flown solo several times in the last few years, but usually, the husband and I are going somewhere together. But again, I know how the whole flying thing works. Just because I'm not flying with someone shouldn't make a difference.

Except that I have to now fight NOT to be a dumb wife.

I'm not entirely sure yet whether I'll actually be making the trip. It really depends on circumstances and whether timing and scheduling work out. But, even though I feel some trepidation, I'm pushing through them. "Dumb wife" syndrome should not stop me from visiting friends.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Halloween from Disneyland!

OK, I know, Halloween itself won't be here until the end of the month, but the Halloween event at the Disneyland Resort known as Mickey's Halloween Party started on Friday, and this year, the event has moved from Disney's California Adventure to Disneyland. The husband and I went to the event. Want a peek at our adventure?

The event wristband. I've somehow developed a fixation on wristbands.
I blame Celebration V.

Ghost Mickey with the Lilly Belle parked behind it.

The Evil Queen at the villains photo op seems none too happy to be taking a picture with the costumed guests.

OK, technically, this wasn't part of the event. There's a pumpkin carving area where they make the most amazing characters, and it's open throughout Halloweentime. Isn't this Yoda awesome?

OK, if you want to read the full write-up, which includes information about entry procedures, decor for the party, trick-or-treat stations, photo ops, list of open and closed attractions and dining locations, the treats available at the treat stations, event merchandise, the new event-exclusive cavalcade, suggestions for making the most of your evening, and the inevitable question of "Is it worth it?", as well as extensive photos, including the event park map, click on this link.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

we still remember

For everyone whose lives were irrevocably changed nine years ago today. We remember.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eat Drink Fun - the Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food and Wine

The Los Angeles Times held their first Celebration of Food and Wine this past Sunday, September 5. I'd seen the ads on Facebook, and it sounded fun, but I was hesitant to attend. I'd heard about other events involving food trucks, and most of what I'd heard made me shy away from them. The operative word seemed to be "overcrowded". People either couldn't get in at all or, once they were in, spent two or three hours in line just to purchase food, and it was hot with very little room to move. That wasn't my idea of a good time.

The husband mentioned this event to me a couple weeks ago, and then another friend mentioned wanting to go, so I figured, OK, I'll give it a try. If nothing else, I'd be in good company.

The event was held at Paramount Pictures studios in Hollywood, with the celebration running from noon to 8pm. We arrived at about 1pm and parked at Paramount's Gower parking structure. The parking fee was $7, and the website had instructed that cars would not be allowed to turn left to enter the parking structures, so we'd made sure to be traveling southbound to enter the structure. It made sense not to allow left turns so as not to add to the traffic congestion of everyone trying to get to the event, but they must have changed their minds, because as we were entering the structure, northbound traffic was being allowed to turn left into the structure as well. We parked on the third floor and then walked down. We thought we would have to walk to Paramount's main gate, so we were pleased to discover that a side gate into Paramount was open. We walked through part of the lot and then got to the designated entrance to the event. We had printed out and brought our admission tickets, which they scanned. The ticket had said that once it was scanned, we would be receiving wristbands, so I was a little confused when the volunteers just sent us on our way and told us to have a good time. I asked them about the wristbands and discovered that you only got wristbands at the front if you had paid for the VIP entrance. There were tents shortly inside the entrance (and elsewhere on the lot) where you got a wristband after showing your ID to prove that you were over 21 and could therefore partake in alcohol. There seemed to be other people confused about this as well, so it would have helped for the ticket to have proper instructions printed on it, and signs or verbal instructions specifically directing you to the tents would have been nice too.

We went to the ID tent and got our wristbands.

We all got a wristband and an "X" (red or black) on our hand - we never did figure out what the "X" was for.

We browsed the little booklet a bit but decided to just dive into the event. And in the first groupings of trucks that I saw was the Dim Sum Truck! I've eaten there once and *loved* it, and I was eager to introduce the husband and friend to them, so we headed there first.

We knew that we had a long day of eating and drinking ahead, so we had to remember to pace ourselves. I could have had a full lunch at the Dim Sum Truck, but instead, the husband and I shared an order of the crab and scallop dumplings (2 per order), and we each had a duck taco. They were both as good as I remembered from last time. The husband really enjoyed the duck taco, but unfortunately, I hadn't noticed that the crab and scallop dumpling had cilantro in it (lots of it), and he HATES cilantro. He tried to eat some of it but couldn't pick out the cilantro, so he quickly gave up, which I benefited from since I finished his dumpling. Our friend had the dumplings as well (she doesn't have an aversion to cilantro) and enjoyed them.

First stop - the Dim Sum Truck.

The line for the Dim Sum Truck at 1:20pm.

We sat on a nearby curb to enjoy our snack, and we had a chance to glance around a bit. The B-tank of the studio (with the "blue sky" behind it, which this day was painted to be a bit cloudy and overcast) was the location for the main stage as well as a number of other food trucks. There were a couple that we would return to visit later in the day.

The main stage, with the blue sky backdrop.

Now that we'd had a little to eat, it was time to go check out more of the event. The husband had looked at the brochure and seen that the tastings were all in the New York Street area, so we headed back there.

Backtracking a little - when we had gotten our wristbands, we were handed a plastic glass and 8 tickets. We were told that the tickets could be exchanged for wine tastings, and if people wanted more, they could purchase more, though I don't know what the price was. I knew there was going to be wine sampling at the event, but I figured there would be maybe a dozen or so, somewhere in that neighborhood. I'm not a big wine drinker (there are a couple of dessert wines that I like), so I figured I'd probably end up giving my tickets to the husband and our friend, since they're very into wine, and I figured they'd want the extra tastings. Well, we were very surprised to get to the New York Street area and discover that there were booths bordering the entire area. Some were for wineries, some were for food vendors/restaurants, some were for other alcohols and some were for various other interests. I hadn't really expected it to be quite as elaborate and involved as it turned out to be. We were wondering how we were going to ration our 8 tickets, but as we started making our way through the various tents, we discovered that many of the vendors weren't even taking tickets. They were either pouring samplings into your glass (and they all had jugs of water so you could rinse out your glass from whatever was in it previously, and there were trashcans aplenty as well, to dump out any liquids you didn't want), or they had little glasses themselves that they poured for you. Of the various wineries that the husband and friend tried, I think only one asked for a ticket. I spent a few of my tickets on some of the hard liquor vendors, but some didn't ask for anything at all. By the end of the day, even though we'd had plenty to sample, we each still had about 4 tickets each.

We made our way around to the various booths. At some wineries, the husband and/or our friend would want to try the wine. Sometimes, they'd see that the offerings weren't to their liking or it was too crowded and they couldn't even see what was being offered at all, so they'd pass that booth altogether. We didn't mind waiting for something we wanted, but we didn't want to wait in a line, not even knowing if we were going to want to try what they had.

We stopped in at Voskos Greek Yogurt, and they had samples of some of their flavors. I opted for the strawberry, which was very tasty. I liked that the yogurt was a thicker consistency than normal as well. I was interested in the honey vanilla as well but didn't want to ask for a second tasting. I figured I'd just go buy some at some point. Their website lists a number of stores near me, both at home and at work, that carry their yogurt, so I'm looking forward to trying more of them.

We also stopped at a booth marked Melissa's, which we didn't really know what it was. Turns out the company has a line of produce, and they were letting people sample yellow potatoes cooked in some kind of sauce which I don't recall but was very tasty, and they had a side of tiny grapes as well.

There was a very small stage that we'd passed to get to New York Street which only had room for about 3 chairs on the stage. There was another stage set up in the square of the Times Square section of New York street. That stage was bigger and was more like a demo stage. There wasn't much shade to be had, though, so it would have been pretty hot to sit and watch a demo. Some people did have umbrellas with them.

We then made our way to Blackmarket Bakery / Marche Noir Foods. The husband and friend were quite enamoured of the wine flour pasta (I think it was a cabernet pasta), but I was more entranced with the cabernet brownie. The husband had a taste of the sample, but I finished the rest. To be honest, I couldn't taste the cabernet all that much, but the husband and friend said they could. I just knew it was pretty yummy, and I'm not even a fan of cabernet.

We then wandered around some more and saw a sign for Starr African Rum and decided to try that. It was a little crowded, so we waited a bit, and as I began to hear bits and pieces as I got closer, I was a little confused about what I was hearing. The guy was talking about ice and how it worked, and I was thinking that maybe their brand of rum made ice different or something. It turns out that the Starr African Rum people were paired up with another company that made some kind of special ice that didn't melt as fast and so wouldn't dilute your drink as much. When we got to the front, the demo guy showed us two containers that he'd poured of the rum over ice. He gave all of us a taste of the rum from one container, that contained regular ice. He actually gave quite a bit more than a "taste", in my opinion. I sipped the rum, and WOW, it was strong. And then I noticed that he was talking about the other container and he was explaining how the second container had the ice that they make, and he wanted us to try how the rum tasted with that. And he started pouring for people. And I quickly realized that it wouldn't make any sense to combine the two tastes because that would defeat the purpose of the taste test. And I looked around, and everyone else had finished their rum. I still had quite a bit in mine. So, not wanting to waste the rum or be disrespectful by throwing it out, I did the only reasonable thing - I downed what was in my glass, probably about a shot full. Oh boy. So when he got to me, my glass was empty, and he poured me some more rum. And yeah, I could tell that the second taste was a lot colder, but I'm not a liquor expert - I mostly just have them in mixed drinks. The husband said he could definitely tell a marked difference in the two tastes, with the second being much better. I ended up finishing off what was in my glass again, so my first intro to the "wine" portion of the celebration was basically downing two shots of rum. Cheers!

It was a bit warm out, and the sun was shining down, though it wasn't scorching, and we were all wanting some water. It turned out that water was hard to find. We figured the food trucks would have water to sell, but all the lines were pretty long. We'd seen one location that had alcohol for sale by the glass and water as well, but that was back in the front of the event. We ended up giving up on the water quest for the moment.

There was much more alcohol to be had. We ended up at one section of the tents where there were several liquor vendors side by side. The first was Lunazul 100% Agave Tequila, who had little shot glasses that they were pouring their tequila into. We all had some of that. Then there was the Evan Williams Honey Reserve Bourbon, which I didn't partake in, but the husband and our friend greatly enjoyed that. They too had little shot glasses that they served the drink in. Third in the row was Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum. When I got to the front, the guy asked if a wanted just the rum straight up or a rum and Coke. I thought a rum and Coke sounded good. So he took my glass, poured in a good bit of the rum and then added about half a can of Coke to it. When he handed me back my glass, it was about 2/3rd full. It was pretty tasty, but it was definitely more than I expected to get.

Towards the latter part of this adventure, the husband went off in search of water. He ended up making his way to the back, to the Sweets Truck, who had large bottles of SmartWater, so he got some from there. I've never had the chance to try the Sweets Truck, but thanks for the hydration help.

At this point, we decided that it was time for some actual food. The snack we'd had earlier was good, but with the alcohol we'd just consumed, food was definitely in order. We had seen a truck in the B-tank earlier that the husband wanted to eat at, so we made our way in that direction. Along, the way, I noticed some people had bags from various vendors, and I was thinking that a bag would come in handy, with the various glasses and such that we'd collected. I hadn't thought about bringing a bag with me since I didn't think I'd need it. I saw some people with one of those nice recyclable bags from Don Francisco's Coffee, so we stopped in to try some of their coffee (the Hawaiian Hazelnut was delicious, even though it was hot coffee on a warm day) and to get a bag as well. The bag came in very handy for carrying around our things for the rest of the afternoon.

Along the way, we stopped and looked at the menu for Campanile Restaurant, and the husband and I also stopped for a sample at Tantalum Restaurant, which was calamari. Our friend passed on it since she's not a fan of calamari. The husband really liked it, and I liked the texture of the calamari, but the sauce was a bit more than I normally prefer. Still, it was tasty.

Sample of calamari from Tantalum Restaurant.

As we got near the Nom Nom Truck, the line was still really long, so the friend and I gave up any thought of eating there.

The line for Nom Nom Truck at 3:20pm.

The husband had decided he wanted to try the Ragin Cajun Truck, so we all ate there instead. I was telling the husband that I wanted to try the gumbolaya (gumbo and jambalaya mixed together), and he said that the containers looked pretty big, so we should share one. When I looked at the containers he was pointing at, I was surprised to see they were the large styrofoam containers that you'd get for a large soup, so I agreed we should share one. After we got our food, we decided to take a seat on the ground in the B-tank in the shade to enjoy our lunch.

The serving size of the gumbolaya was indeed quite large, and it was very tasty. There was a lot of rice, and also good servings of sausage, with a spicy kick to it all. It was a terrific lunch and easily shared by the two of us. And it only cost $6. That was the most surprising of all. They have a restaurant in Hermosa Beach, and we're definitely planning on trying them at some point.

Gumbolaya from Ragin Cajun - a lot of good food for not a lot of money.

There was some kind of cooking demo going on the main stage at that point, and I'll admit we were only vaguely paying attention. We were just enjoying our food and the gorgeous day out and the wonderful atmosphere and just having a good time.

In Paramount's B-tank, eatin' and chillin'.

After a bit of a respite, it was time to head back to New York Street to check out a few more things. I'd wanted to try the sparkling sake from Gekkeikan, but they were out by the time we got there, so I had their plum wine instead. Mmmm, that was really tasty. I'll have to pick up some of that. While the husband and I were waiting in that line, our friend got in line for the Fiji water Cafe. We'd seen it earlier but didn't really know what it was, and it had a very long line, so we'd skipped it. When she got in it, it wasn't very long, and it turns out they were giving away little bottles of Fiji water, and they had bacon-wrapped matzo balls as well. After we were done, we got in that line, but they ran out of the matzo balls, so we just got water, which we appreciated. I did think it was funny though. I wouldn't have expected Fiji water to be giving away food, just water, and of all the things you could possibly wrap in bacon, they chose matzo balls? Someone was definitely having fun with that. Our friend said it was pretty tasty though. And they did hand out recipes so you can make it yourself.

We wandered around to another street and stopped by this little place called Delicious Wishes of Beverly Hills. With that kind of name, how could it not get our attention? And then we saw what they had, and we got in line. They are basically cake balls truffles - bite-sized cake balls dipped in chocolate. Oh my goodness. They had several different flavors to choose from, so it was a very hard decision. I opted for the red velvet cake. And yes, it was as yummy as you could imagine. The husband had a bite of it. Our friend chose the peanut butter ball and was in heaven. I see on the website that they also have an "almond joyous". That one is so screaming my name. And yes, I'll admit it, as I was talking to the women there, I did ask them where their business was located. OK, in my defense, I was focussed on the product itself, and after initially seeing the business name, I wasn't really thinking about their name. Also, at other businesses before and after this, I usually asked where a business was located if I was interested in them, to see how easy they might be to get to. The woman very nicely told me they were located in Beverly Hills. Do I get credit at least that once she said it, I totally admitted that I was an idiot for not remembering the name of their company and for asking where they were? No? OK, fine, I'm an idiot. I'll accept that. But, the fact that they're in Beverly Hills means they're not all that far from where I work, so I could totally stop by there without too much of a hassle. However, I noticed that their website doesn't list an address (unless I'm being an idiot again and am totally missing it), so I'm not sure what the deal is with that. I may have to investigate further.

We also stopped by a booth jointly occupied by La Brea Bakery and Kerrygold, and we had a little piece of baguette with some cheese, and as the woman was explaining the cheese, I realized that I'd purchased that cheese before from Whole Foods and really enjoyed it.

The husband sampled some Russian Standard Vodka, and he enjoyed that.

Earlier in the day, we'd seen KOOKSOONDANG-BEKSEJU USA, INC., and they had a Korean rice wine. I tried some of that, but it wasn't really to my liking. I did, however, enjoy watching their dancing bottle mascot, who was posing for pictures with everyone.

Dancing Korean rice wine bottle, ready for a photo op.

We ended up going to the back of the New York Street area, and the husband had found the little inside area where Don Cardona Tequila was located. He'd already tried the tequila there, so our friend had the tequila and cranberry juice and seemed to enjoy that a lot.

We sat outside that area for a bit as our friend was enjoying her drink. There was a small stage set up nearby, and it looked like a demo had just finished up, so I went to check it out. The husband and our friend were a bit surprised when I came back with, not food, but a drink. I said that I'd had a Spanish olive while I was waiting, but they said that didn't really count as food either. They asked what the drink was that I had. I said I didn't know. The guy doing the demo was just pouring a bunch of stuff together and mixing it up, and people seemed to really like it. I had to wait through him making three batches before I could get a tasting cup, so I figured, what the heck, I'd try it. The husband and our friend both laughed at me. It was pretty tasty, though, and the husband tried some. He said he thought it was basically a margarita of some sort. I mentioned that the guy doing the demo had other alcohol he was letting people try. I said he had a Jamaican rum that sounded good. The husband thought that sounded good too, so he went back with me. We both got a little cup. I took one whif of it and WHOOOAAAAA. I was getting a contact high just from the sniff. I decided that with all the alcohol I'd already had, it probably wasn't in my best interest to even taste that, if I was getting that effect from just smelling it. Our friend had a taste of it, and then I gave the rest to the husband.

We wandered around a little more and looked at a few things. Then the husband noticed that the Thai place we'd seen earlier had re-opened so he and I got in line for some curry. Our friend passed, not being a curry fan.

SedThee Thai Eatery had yellow curry with rice and potatoes and carrots. They had a vegetarian version and one with chicken. We both got the chicken. I love curry, but oftentimes, it can be very bland. That was definitely not the case here. It had a very nice flavor, and a good mix of ingredients, and it had a definite spicy kick to it, kind of lingering, building as you had more of it. I really enjoyed it. We saw that the restaurant is located in Glendale (yes, I asked them where they were located), and we're definitely planning to visit.

Yellow curry with chicken from SedThee Thai Eatery.

A little more wandering around, and then it was time for dinner. Yeah, I know, we'd been munching bits and pieces all day, but we'd also been drinking, and we knew that just tastes here and there wasn't enough - we needed some more actual food.

We headed back to B-tank, and our friend noticed that the line for the Nom Nom Truck wasn't that bad, so she and I decided to split a combo from there - 6 inch banh mi and 2 tacos. We were going to get pork banh mi and lemongrass chicken tacos, but they were all out of chicken, so we got pork in both. The husband was going to get food from Wahoo's Tacos, but he came back shortly after and said they were out of fish tacos. We went back to sit where we'd sat to have our lunch, and the husband went in search of other food.

I'd never been to the Nom Nom Truck before. I'd only heard about them for the first time maybe a month or so ago. I was at Volcano Tea one day and saw that they had a co-promotion with the Nom Nom Truck. I looked them up and started following them on Twitter, but I hadn't had chance to try them yet. I was glad to see they'd be at this event. I'd never had banh mi before so this was my first time, and I really enjoyed the sandwich as well as the taco. (Don't know what banh mi is? I didn't either until I read this.) I loved the mix of flavors, and the seasoning on the pork was very tasty. I'm looking forward to trying the lemongrass chicken next time.

6 inch pork banh mi and pork tacos from Nom Nom Truck.

The husband came back from Uncle Lau's Island BBQ with a pulled pork slider and Korean kalbi beef sliders. He seemed to enjoy those.

We enjoyed our meals, more conversation, reminiscing about the day's events and just generally having a good time. At about the end of our meal, She & Him took the stage, so we listened to them for a little while. I wasn't familiar with them but recognized the "She" of the duo - Zooey Deschanel, who played Trillian in the film of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Their music seemed nice enough, ok to listen to, but it wasn't something that grabbed me or made me want to find out more about them. I liked Zooey's voice, but the sound mixing wasn't very good, so she was drowned out a lot by the instruments, so it was hard to really hear her very well most of the time.

It was getting late in the day, about 7pm at this point, and the sun had gone down past the buildings, so the friend and I were getting a little cold, so we decided to head out.

I reminded the husband that he'd wanted to try dessert from Nana Queen’s Puddin' & Wings Truck - yes, I do think they have a weird name for their business. He had the Coffee Toffee Nana Fingers - lady fingers with coffee toffee-flavored pudding and banana slices. He really enjoyed that.

I was kinda looking for a little something for dessert as well - and then I remembered that the Dim Sum Truck was on our way out. I checked to see if they had any more egg tarts, which they did, so I got one for me and one for our friend. Yum.

Ending our day with egg tarts from the Dim Sum Truck.

We could have exited through the side gate, the same way we came in, but we decided to leave via the main gate so our friend could get a picture of the famous gates.

Picture of Paramount's gates from event website.

It was about 7:30pm by the time we left the parking lot, headed for the freeway. We had a wonderful day. We'd purchased the general admission tickets in advance for $55. General admission at the door was $65. There was also a VIP package available for $125 with some added perqs, and we'd thought about that but they were sold out by the time we considered buying them. In hindsight, I'm glad we didn't end up going VIP. They did seem to have some extra vendors and events and a seating area with tables and chairs, but I was pretty happy with what we got. We went through quite a number of vendors but didn't have time to get to every single one that we would have wanted to. And I'm pretty used to sitting on the floor from having attended numerous other kinds of events, so I didn't really need a table and chair. We had a great time, without spending the extra money. There were still a lot of things we didn't have time to do - attending seminars and going into the "wine chat" area - all we saw was the sign outside, and we never got the chance to go inside to see what it was all about.

With the few issues that I mentioned when we first arrived, everything else seemed to go pretty well. I liked that there were trashcans readily available everywhere. They also had port-a-potties available as well. The only thing I would like to be different next time is that water be more readily available. I appreciated that Fiji was giving little bottles of water away, but I would have been happy if there was easy access to bottles for purchase. Two tents in the entire location (and we never did find the second tent - it wasn't where the map said it was supposed to be) isn't really enough, given that the food trucks would have lines. You can definitely count on warm weather during Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles, so with the heat and the drinking people are expected to be doing, having water more readily available is probably a good idea.

Speaking of the food trucks, I knew from experience that most of them don't accept credit cards and only accept cash, so we were prepared for that. It seemed that many others weren't, so in the future, if you're planning on visiting a food truck, be sure to have cash ready. They did also have third-party ATMs available on site.

The other thing to keep in mind about the food trucks is that they do run out of food. Usually, they're only out for a couple of hours at a time, and they're probably not quite as busy for so long as they were at this event. I'm sure they were well-stocked but if you want something, it's probably a good idea to get it earlier rather than later, and if they run out, don't be upset at them - there's only so much they can carry in their trucks.

We had a wonderful time at this event. It was generally very well run, and the attendance level was busy but comfortable, not overcrowded at all. Paramount Studios was a terrific venue to hold this event - spacious so everything wasn't all crammed together, and it was an added bonus to have the New York Street surroundings in the tastings area. If this becomes an annual event, I can definitely see this becoming part of our Labor Day weekend tradition.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

dim sum from a truck

There is no reasonable explanation for why I've been a little obsessed with the Dim Sum Truck. I love dim sum, but I don't live in a dim sum wasteland. There's a place not too far from where I live that I can get pretty good dim sum (and I go on a periodic basis), and within about a 10 minute drive, I can get to dozens of places where I can get good dim sum and even places that have really great specialty dim sum dishes. I am not dim sum deprived.

Several months ago, I learned of the Dim Sum Truck from their Twitter feed, and I started following them. I looked at their website and saw pictures of the things they served, and it mostly looked like good, normal dim sum, with a few new things as well. But they were never near where I was. In the past few weeks, they've been parked for lunch at various times at places by where I work - but I lamented that they were there on Saturdays, so not so much convenient for me. Because, you know, there's nowhere for me to go on a Saturday to get dim sum. Right.

And then, at the beginning of this week, I saw their new schedule. And I saw that one day this week, they were going to be THISCLOSE to work. I had to go right? Because, while there are plenty of places for me to get dim sum by home, there's really nowhere for me to get dim sum by work. So if dim sum is going to make itself available to me just a short drive away, then I'm obliged to go check it out, right? (Come on, go with me on this.)

OK, so lunchtime rolled around, and I got in my car to drive to where they said they'd be. And I didn't see them. I drove past, turned around, and drove back the same way I came. Ahhh, and then I spied them - they were on a side street. I made my way to them but had a bit of trouble finding parking because they were on a residential neighborhood with restricted parking. I get why that's good for the people who live there but it's a pain in the ass for anyone trying to go to any place nearby. I finally found a little space not too far away, parked the car, and then made my way to the truck.

Found the Dim Sum Truck!

They offer more items than are listed on their website. Either they just haven't gotten around to updating their website with all of their offerings or they do a lot more specialty/available-when-we-can items so they can't keep their website current. I'll admit that when I went to look at the website, I was a bit disappointed at how sparse their offerings were. Not so much the case when you actually get to the truck though. They had a small listed menu and then a bunch of other items individually displayed with a picture of the item. It took me a while to look everything over and figure out what I wanted. In the end, I decided to try the lotus leaf sticky rice, chicken bun, the specialty dumpling of scallop and crab and the duck taco.

They asked if I wanted it for here or to go, and I said to go would be easier, so my order was given to me in a covered to go container. They had disposable wooden chopsticks and napkins and sauces that you could get as well. I just got the chopsticks and napkins since I was going to eat in my car.

Clockwise from top left - chicken buns, scallop and crab dumplings, lotus leaf sticky rice and duck taco. (Please excuse the bluish coloring - that's a function of my camera phone and not the food itself.)

The chicken buns were pretty good, with chicken, mushrooms and ginger inside.

The scallop and crab dumplings were de-licious. They were made with real crab, not that k-rab stuff. Seriously yummy. I'd definitely recommend it, and I'm sure to have it again.

Inside the scallop and crab dumpling.

I unwrapped the lotus leaf and used the chopsticks to separate the insides since the rice was mostly on top. It had a good mixture of ingredients, usually chicken and Chinese sausage and stuff. The flavor was really good and nice texture too. Very tasty - *almost* as good as my mom makes. :)

Inside lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice.

Here's a link to the picture on the site that shows the contents better.

The best discovery, though, was the duck taco. I had seen their tweets about it, and it had seemed a bit odd to me. I mean, come on, it's a dim sum truck, and they have tacos? Ummm, ok. I hadn't really planned on ordering it, but when I got there and saw the picture, I figured why not. Totally unconventional, but this thing was seriously tasty. It had some shredded vegetables (can't remember what exactly they were) and bits of roasted duck meat inside, topped with duck skin. There was already a sauce in it, but there's extra sauce that comes with it. I can't really describe it to you, but if you like Chinese roasted duck, I seriously recommend that you try this.

The total for my lunch came to around $12. It was a bit more expensive than regular dim sum, but most of the truck food is pretty much like that, given operating charges for them and convenience to their customers, so that's ok. It was really worth it though.

The most unfortunate aspect of my finally trying the Dim Sum Truck is that it's really just expanded my obsession with them, me being all dim sum deprived and all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

more "Glee" casting news

Late last night, I happened upon a blurb about someone having been cast in "Glee" next season. And she seemed familiar somehow, but it took me a while to figure it out.

Ohhhhhhhhh, I recognize her because I wrote about her about a year and a half ago!

There was APPARENTLY some kind of snafu regarding a premature announcement, but this is the blurb that I saw officially confirming her hiring.

Here's another article about her joining "Glee", and here's a third article.

It's interesting that she has kind of a different look in each of the pictures used in the different articles. I'm not sure which one is most recent, but I'm looking forward to seeing her work in "Glee".

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"The Karate Kid" - spoiler movie review

For a lot of people around my age, "The Karate Kid" was definitely a common reference point. "Wax on, wax off" entered the general everyday lexicon. Pat Morita, who'd previously been known as eccentric owner Arnold in "Happy Days", then became revered as the venerable Mr. Miyagi. Ralph Macchio is probably best known for playing the title role.

It was a heartwarming story with a lot of humour, and while the outcome was expectedly predictable, it was an uplifting story nonetheless that you couldn't help getting caught up in. I saw "The Karate Kid, Part II", which I loved, but I didn't have any interest in the third or fourth installments of the series.

Fast forward to 25 years after the original film, which I think is when I first heard that they were doing a remake. Ummm, ok, not really all that interested, especially when I heard that Jackie Chan was going to play Pat Morita's role. I have very mixed opinions about Jackie Chan, because I've really liked him in some films, but mostly some recent Chinese ones, like "The Forbidden Kingdom" where he usually has a little more serious role. I have not seen and am not a fan of his buddy comedies. Based on the information I had, I wasn't interested in seeing the new version of the film.

And then, a couple of months ago while I was at the movies, I saw the trailer for the new film of "The Karate Kid". And damn if it didn't look good. I'm not a fan of Will Smith, and I've seen very few of his films, so I'd not seen his son Jaden Smith in a movie before either, but Jaden actually looked pretty good as the new kid. And Jackie Chan wasn't in a buddy movie, and I liked what I saw of his scenes. And I was surprised that I wanted to see this film after all.

Overall, I will say that I enjoyed the film. Even without having seen the original, for these kinds of films, you pretty much know where it's going to end up. The story is really about how you get there.

Dre lives in Detroit with his widowed mom Sherry, but they move to China when her company transfers her. Sherry tries to get Dre to learn Chinese, but he's completely unreceptive. He is not happy about the move to a totally foreign country where he doesn't even speak the language. On his first day, he takes a shine to a local Chinese girl, which runs him afoul of Cheng, the leader of a local gang of bullies. Bad turns to worse as he suffers a few beatings at their hand, but he is saved from an even worse beating by the building handyman, Mr. Han. Dre convinces Mr. Han to accompany him to Cheng's kung fu school to try to get the bullies to leave him alone, but Mr. Han is incensed at the motto of "no weakness, no pain, no mercy" taught by the instructor. Mr. Han gets the instructor to get the kids to agree to leave Dre alone because they will meet at an open kung fu competition instead. Mr. Han has the difficult task of teaching Dre kung fu to be able to compete, but ultimately, Dre does get the lesson that kung fu is not just about fighting, but it's about a way of life and about how you treat others.

Now, I will admit that it's been years since I've seen the original film. I remember the basic gist of it and some details here and there, but that's about it. The husband confirmed that most of the story of this version parallels the story of the original, with minor changes here and there.

In this story, it did take me a bit to warm up to Dre. In many ways, he was a whiny, punk-ass kid. Yes, it's extremely difficult to move to a completely different place, one where a totally different language is spoken, a language you don't know, and the culture is totally different as well. And getting picked on by a gang of bullies is no icing on the cake. But, he then makes this stupid move to get this barrelful of gross water thrown on them, and he's identified as the person doing it. OK, I can maybe see him wanting to do it to get back at them, but then have the good sense not to get caught! He's already afraid of them, hiding so as not to be seen by them on the same street, and he does something that he knows is going to entirely piss them off? He does a valiant job of trying to run away from them, which he fails at, but even if he'd succeeded, it wouldn't have mattered. They knew he'd done it. If they didn't catch him then, they'd have come after him the next day in school or after school. He'd be screwed one way or the other. After that, it took a while for me to muster up sympathy for him, other than that they made the bad guys so one-dimensionally mean, so in comparison, yeah, he's the better choice to root for. (The husband assures me that Daniel did a similar punk-ass move in the original movie as well.)

In the original film, Mr. Miyagi had Daniel do tasks around the house (like painting his fence and washing his car) to teach him the motions that he would be using in karate. In the new version of the film, Mr. Han has Dre drop his jacket, pick it up, put on his jacket, take off his jacket, and hang it up, with the motions repeated ad nauseum, and these are the motions that he ends up using in kung fu. When Dre doesn't understand why he's been made to do this for so long instead of being "trained" and expresses frustration at that, and Mr. Han finally shows him what all the repetition is for, the moment of wonder and amazement from Dre that his body is responding on its own by using these movements is as inspirational as when Daniel had the same realization in the original.

Ultimately, you get to the competition, and as expected, the finals are between Dre and his nemesis Cheng, with Dre prevailing in the end. Dre uses a move he'd seen earlier by a woman at the place where Mr. Han learned kung fu, but to me, it really just looked like Dre used a Jedi mind trick on Cheng. One difference from the original is that after Dre wins the competition, Cheng asks to be the one who gives him the trophy and does so graciously. He also leads the rest of his teammates in a show of respect to Mr. Han, a move that shocks and infuriates their instructor.

There is one change made from the original story that to me greatly detracted from the new film. In the original, I can't remember how old Daniel was supposed to be, but he was in high school. In this film, Dre is 12, a few years away from high school at the least. Jaden himself is just shy of 12 now so was 11 when the film was shot, but he looks a lot younger, like he could be 9 or 10, so Dre's younger age also dictates the young ages of his peers. The side story of the blossoming romance between Dre and the local girl is a bit uncomfortable to watch, given their young ages. Additionally, the beatings that occur, whether the several times where Dre is the recipient or many times during the competition, are difficult enough to watch in and of themselves, but to know that they're being administered by and received by kids of that age makes the beatings even more brutal. Watching teenagers beat up on each other is bad. Watching kids do it is borderline horrifying, especially when it comes to Cheng's teammates, who administer punishing blows to their opponents, and their instructor, who has no qualms about instructing one of his students to purposely try to break young Dre's legs. I am presuming that the younger age was dictated by the fact that two of the producers on the project were Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, father and mother to Jaden Smith, so with Jaden playing the title role, high school age wasn't really possible. As I said, I did still like the film, but the younger age of the characters made some of the plot points much more problematic for me.

I did appreciate some of the subtle nods to the original film. At one point during Dre's practices, he strikes the pose of a crane, Daniel's winning move in the original. There's also another scene, when Dre first meets Mr. Han, where a fly is buzzing around Mr. Han while he's having lunch, and he's tracking the fly with his chopsticks. But then, from out of nowhere comes the flyswatter for the kill. And then he uses his chopsticks to pick the dead fly off the flyswatter and throw it away, wipes the chopsticks off on his pants, and resumes his lunch. Kinda gross, but funny anyway.

Most of the fight sequences involve a lot of quick editing, which I'm presuming is because the actors aren't actually well versed in kung fu. Mr. Han's fight scene with the kids is done with more medium shots so you can see what's actually happening in longer scenes, but then, Jackie Chan would have had no problem with his part and coordinating the others' parts. I still like films when I can see all of the martial arts action, but I know, that's not really the intention of this film.

One of the complaints I have heard brought up is that while the film is called "The Karate Kid", Dre actually learns kung fu in the movie. I get that the filmmakers wanted to tap into the recognition value of the original movie title - "The Kung Fu Kid" really doesn't have the same ring to it. The title usage doesn't really bother me, but there are two instances in the film where it's kind of addressed. In one sequence, Dre is watching and practicing with an instructional video on karate, and later in the film, his mother makes some comment about "karate, kung fu, whatever". I don't think most people make a distinction among the martial arts, and I think that's what the filmmakers were counting on, with a nod via Dre's mom's line. I was just really happy that while they kept the familiar title, they also stayed mostly faithful to the original, if not to the letter, at least in spirit. I've been pretty unhappy with the recent slate of movies that purport to be film versions of old television shows but have characters that are nothing like those that we were familiar with, and yes, I'm squarely pointing the finger at "S.W.A.T." and "Miami Vice" as the worst examples I've seen.

Jaden does a good job, but I really thought Jackie Chan was terrific. He had some moments of humour, but I do like him in more serious roles. He pulls them off very well, and there's a riveting scene when it's revealed that his wife and son were killed in a car accident, with him at the wheel, when he lost control because he and his wife were having an argument.

I think the film is enjoyable enough, for those who have seen the original and those who haven't.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

don't stop believin'

I remember hearing something in passing about some new show. I didn't remember the name of the show. I vaguely had an idea of what it was about. I didn't catch my attention, so I didn't watch it when the pilot was aired.

But then, my friends started talking about it. And they really seemed to like it. And they said the pilot was available online. And they said I'd like it. So I gave it a try.

And that's how I was introduced to "Glee".

I've loved the show since I saw the pilot streaming online. And the weird part about me liking the show is that I normally don't like covers of songs. If it's not the original, I don't want to hear it. But for the most part, they've been very faithful in their covers of their songs, and on the occasions when they haven't been, I've liked the new arrangements. Of course, it helps that they're always so passionate when they sing the songs. It's also introducing me to new songs I didn't know and reintroducing me to songs I haven't heard or thought about in a long time, sometimes, in decades.

I like the various storylines that are going on, but really, the hook for me is the songs themselves.

Tonight was the finale of the first season. And wow, did they do an amazing job. I've liked some of the episodes more than others, but the finale was spectacular. I'd read a news blurb earlier in the day about Jonathan Groff having gotten hurt during a number, so whereas I hadn't gone to look at the CD to see what songs would be sung tonight, I did end up finding out one song they did.

And I'll admit I was a bit shocked. They were really going to take on something as iconic and classic as "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Lots of people attempt that, but trying to do justice to Freddie Mercury is no easy feat. I was curious to see what they did. And wow, it was more spectacular than I had expected. I thought Jonathan was good at singing the song. He didn't try to imitate Freddie, so I liked what he did with the vocals. The choreography was cool. But to intercut the performance with Quinn being taken to the hospital and be in the throes of labor was genius. Her motions and sounds and screaming fit right in with the song, and the cadence and rhythm of the song matched the frenzy of her struggling through labor and then finally giving birth. Much as I hate to use the word, it was the ultimate mash-up.

I loved that the series went full circle by starting with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and ending with a medley of Journey songs, including one of my favorites, "Faithfully". And what was even funnier was that I totally recognized the venue where the regionals were being held - it was the Saban Theatre, the new home of Paley Fest, where "Glee" had a panel this year!

Here's the "Faithfully" segment.

It was sweet that Shelby was the one to adopt Quinn and Puck's baby, appropriately named Beth. (How cute was Puck tearing up when his daughter was born?) And the last song was a truly great ensemble piece, and yes, it made me cry.

Here's a compilation video with some of the cast members about their journey (pun intended) through the first season of the show.

The show has already been picked up for a second and third (yep, you heard that right) seasons, so I'm looking forward to more "Glee"!

Friday, June 4, 2010

make it "Sir"

First, there was the rumour.

Then, there was the confirmation.

And now, it has actually happened. Patrick Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace earlier this week.

It's too bad that Xavier was killed off in the "X-Men" series because that means that Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen won't be in another movie together again as Xavier and Magneto. (Yes, there's supposed to be a prequel movie featuring those two characters, but there's no way they can be played by the two of them again.)

But to see the two of them on stage together? Now that would be a dream. I'm not a huge fan of "Waiting for Godot", so I'd prefer to see them in something else, though I'd pretty much settle for anything. I'm trying to figure out which Shakespeare play would best accommodate both of them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

goodbye Jack

It started on November 6, 2001. Just shy of two months past the horrible events of September 11, 2001, a new show premiered, and it had the unfortunate luck of having the first 15 minutes of the first episode involve the hijacking of a plane which was then blown up. There was enough concern that there was a warning and disclaimer before the episode aired. Not a very good omen for a new show, one would think.

That's how "24" started. And I've been screaming at the TV on a regular basis through 8 seasons of the show, as twists and turns became commonplace, and I was riveted to the TV throughout. It was frustrating to get a couple new episodes at a time and then nothing, but because of the format of the show, 24 episodes depicting one consecutive hour at a time, in real time, more or less, they couldn't really show reruns. So it worked out really well when they decided to start the show late into the season, in January, and then just run the show continuously to the end. "24" was the first to do it, and that programming decision was then adopted by other shows, like "Lost" and "Heroes". I liked getting it all continuously, but it was also weird to only have "24" from January to May, and at the end of the season in May, it was a bit startling to realize that there would be no more new shows until the following January, a long 8 months away.

The show ran over the course of 9 years but only had 8 seasons because a strike by the Writers Guild of America resulted in the postponement of season 7 for a year.

And tonight, the final two hours of season 8, the final two hours of the show, aired. And it was an amazing ending. Everything that needed to happen, did happen, and not all of it good. The writing was incredible, and the performances even more amazing. Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor and Necar Zadegan as Dalia Hassan were really incredible in the last two hours, though they've been good throughout the season. Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O'Brian didn't join the show until the third season, but she's been a lifeline for Jack, and we've rooted for her. And then, of course, there's Kiefer Sutherland. There would be no Jack Bauer without him, and without Jack Bauer, there would be no "24".

But, those aren't the only people who've been memorable in "24". Anil Kapoor was fantastic as President Omar Hassan in the early parts of this season. Gregory Itzin was terrific in reprising the role of President Charles Logan. But there were many that came in seasons before: Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida and Reiko Aylesworth as Michelle Dessler; Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer and James Morrison as Bill Buchanan; Sarah Clarke as Nina Myers; Paul Schulze as Ryan Chappelle; Jean Smart as Martha Logan and Glenn Morshower as Aaron Pierce; Shohreh Aghdashloo as Dina Araz; Kim Raver as Audrey Raines; and who could forget Louis Lombardi as Edgar Stiles.

I've cried during episodes of prior seasons, and I cried a couple of times during the last two hours, and the show ended where it needed to be. There's no happy ending for Jack. That's not how it works for him. He's been stabbed, he's been shot, he was THISCLOSE to being killed, and now, he's on the run from 2 countries coming after him, with no resources. Yeah, those are generally the cards that are dealt to him.

Hit the road, Jack. Don't you come back no more.

Cast photo from the first season of "24".

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer from the final episode of "24".

Friday, May 21, 2010

we'll always have Paris - as long as there's a DVD player around

My niece's job involves regular periodic travel to Paris. Sounds exotic and glamorous, doesn't it? Lots of people would be thrilled to be required to visit Paris on a regular basis, all paid for by work, no less. Well, unfortunately, it's not quite that "dream come true" for her. Her visits to Paris are strictly work only, with no time to play before or after or even while she's there.

She told the story not too long ago about one particular trip to Paris. She was in her hotel room relaxing for a bit before going to bed, and she had brought her portable DVD player with her. She was watching "Sex and the City". And she said there's a scene where one of the characters is in Paris, by the Eiffel Tower, which is brilliantly lit up at night. And my niece recognized the irony of her being in the same city as the Eiffel Tower, but instead of being able to see it for herself, she was watching it on a little DVD player in her hotel room.

My brother has told similar stories about his business travels. He's been to England and Germany and France (not Paris, but Toulouse, where coincidentally, another friend had previously spent a lot of time for business as well), but he's never had the opportunity to sightsee in any of those places. He's there for work, and about the most local flavor he gets is dinner and maybe drinks in a nearby restaurant.

I would think it would be hard to be at all these places and not be able to have any time to just explore.

But then, the only "business trip" I've been on is driving to San Bernardino for a convention. Ooooo, yeah, glamorous indeed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

record Cal - ifornia roll

OK, so I found out about this article from November 2009 where a record-setting California roll was made by Cal students. OK, that seems funny, and had this happened when I was back in school, I'm pretty sure I would have gone to see it just because it would be funny. Hmmm, but thinking back some more, I didn't eat sushi back then, so I might not have cared after all. Who knows.

Anyway, as I was reading the article, odd thoughts popped in my head. Yeah, I can hear the comments that the peanut gallery is making in response to that.

First off, the article says they made a sushi roll. But then it says they made a California roll. The sushi snob in me doesn't consider California rolls (which I will eat on very rare occasions under very particular circumstances) to be actual sushi since there's no fish or other seafood in them. But, ok, I know that's just a personal quirk of mine.

The article then goes on to say that the students "got their hands fishy". Ummm, and how would they do that making a California roll? The article then continues with a list of the ingredients that were used to make the roll, which include 180 pounds of fish. OK, so they used fish. But that no longer makes it a California roll. A California roll is avocado, cucumber and Krab. There are a lot of variations of this, and in some places, they use actual crab rather than Krab, but then that's specified, and the roll is then given a different name. If actual fish is being used in the roll, then it's just a roll of whatever fish is being used (like a tuna roll, salmon roll, yellowtail roll, etc.). It's not even a California roll with , because I've had that before, and that's a California roll with pieces of fish layered on top. The article doesn't say what kind of fish was used, which I find a bit annoying because I want to know.

So, I don't understand why they called it a California roll. I wondered if it was because the roll was made at Cal, but when they mentioned the previous record-setting attempt in Hawaii, they also called that a California roll. I wonder what ingredients were used in that. Since it was in Hawaii, I wonder if they used Spam instead of Krab.

All these thoughts popping into my head from such a short article.

And yes, many of the comments on the article annoy me. So many people have complete misconceptions about what goes on/went on at Cal because of its history. And even when stuff happens/happened on campus, it's not like every single student participated. But that's a rant for another time. And I also object to the snarky comments about the students APPARENTLY not having anything better to do with their time. Because, you know, a couple hours on a SATURDAY afternoon are going to ruin their lives. Puh-leeze.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"The Complete Metropolis"

A few months ago, I read some headline about a restored version of "Metropolis" being in the works, and I was confused because several years ago, I'd already seen a restored version of the film. I had somehow missed the prior news that about 25 minutes of the original film had been discovered, and that footage was being inserted into the restored version that I'd previously seen.

The film student/film geek in me is so excited about this. I've loved "Metropolis" since the first time I saw it in college, but it's definitely not a film that everyone is going to be interested in, mostly because of the film style. (And no, I've never seen nor ever care to see the version they did some time ago with modern rock songs added over the original footage. PASS.) The new footage was shown in Berlin at a film festival back in February, and I'd heard that they were planning a limited theatrical screening schedule as well as a DVD release. I'm pretty hopeful that the theatrical screening would include something in the Los Angeles area, so I'll be able to see it on the big screen before getting it on DVD.

Here's an article about the newly restored film.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

that takes the cake

I saw this link about "20 party cakes gone horribly wrong", and yeah, some of the cakes are just incredible. On the one hand, if a friend is making you a cake, it seems a little mean to make fun of them, since they were nice enough to make you a cake. On the other hand, in some of those cases, it would be hard not to at least react. And in the case of a purchased cake, well, then all bets are off since they should be professional!

Cake #2 actually made me say "oh my god" out loud. I cannot imagine showing up at a baby shower and seeing that.

For anyone who knows me, cakes #5 and #7 are particularly near to my heart, but cake #5 makes me smile more.

Maybe it's just me, but when I saw cake #12, my first thought was that it looked like a camera with a long lens, not, a ... you know.

The picture for cake #16, though, just makes me giggle.

I find the story of cake #20 amusing, but my favorite is actually cake #1. Maybe that's not the writing on the cake that they intended, but the wannabe-geek in me thinks it would be cool to have a cake with code on top!