Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 31 - The Finale of Blogapalooza 2009

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot (from "The Hollow Men" [1925]): "This is the way my Blog ends, with a Bang and not with a Whimper!"

So my month-long Blogapalooza comes to its exciting conclusion. It's been a long month with varied topics from the serious like "Race and Ethnicity" to lighter fare like Music and Movies, Breakfast Cereal Icons, and Ice Cream Novelties. I reminisced about Broadway Musicals, discussed Food, Ghosts and shared a Poem. I gave you insights and opinions, blogged about nothing, Mused at Midnight, listed the goings on of one of my random days, and poured out my heart over 31 days of writings.

I definitely tapped into the Untrained Mind and allowed it to flow, during which time I hope I entertained, informed and enlightened.

And while I may be suspending my daily blogging activities, I will still blog you from time to time as topics compel my fingertips to share my thoughts with the world. Maybe a thought of the day or an insight or a link at least... daily? We'll see how it goes. The more people who read it, the more I'm likely to say something.

So after a month of Blogs, how did I do? Please let me know what you all think (hello? other than a few of you I know of... is anyone else is out there?). You can sign up for my updates (over to the left of this blog) and even just let me know you've read this occasionally by clicking the Pencil below and leaving me a comment.

Love to all of you who read this.

[btw, tonight I am actually at The Hollywood Bowl watching "Guys & Dolls: In Concert" - would that be musical #36?]

July 30 - Auto Insurance (zzzzz)

Is there a bigger snooze topic than Auto Insurance? Probably not. Why should you read this? You probably don't need to.

My twice-annually renewal is here. Each time for the past few years, I've taken the opportunity to 'shop around' for better rates. Hasn't happened to date. These companies tout how they can save me (and my average Californian neighbors) over $400 a year! Wow. I want that!

So I fill out the online form, I weed through response emails and phone calls, all with my skeptical eye waiting to hear their quotes. They always lose. Of course, they usually blame my current insurer (Mercury) for not providing me with the proper coverage. Their favorite is that Mercury is lower because, "They only cover me and my car if I AM DRIVING and not anyone else if they are driving." (More on this later.)

Fair enough, but I am the only one who drives my car, so I'm OK with that if it saves me money. What else ya got?

Well, one guy came in with a whopping 50% lower rate. WOW! I want that! But wait? What happened to my coverage? Instead of stuff like 100K/300K, they were quoting me 10K/30K. Oh, got it... 50% cheaper, but 90% less coverage. In fairness, he did re-quote it with my current coverage levels, but then only came in $25 cheaper. Not worth switching.

Then came one company and said they could put me into a comparable Mercury Policy for less. About $150 a year less... or $200 less a year if I get Renter's Insurance for $120 a year (so, a total of $80 savings + Renter's Insurance for free!).

I then called my current Mercury Agent (we'll call her CMA) and low and behold, they accused the new Mercury Agent (we'll call him NMA) of misquoting, missing something important, etc. So CMA gave me some other numbers, ratings and bits of info that I should confirm.

I called NMA and told him what CMA said and NMA said 'bullshit, I'll call Mercury and check your current Policy and call you back.

Long(er) story short, he did, they confirmed, I signed and finally (after years of checking) am saving money (and have more coverage for my cds and books and prized treasures from across the globe). Oh, and since it's a Mercury Policy for a Mercury Policy, my 'persistent customer' discount continues!

Moral of the story - go ahead, check your rates. Save yourself some green. Love ya!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29 - Conflicted Memories

Recently, I've begun to encounter some scrambled memories. What are they?

I know for a fact that as a child, I was allergic to Chocolate and Peanuts. I know this because: I could only eat Frankenberry or BooBerry (not Count Chocula); Fruity Pebbles (not Cocoa Ps); Cream Cheese and Jelly Sandwiches were in my lunch box (not PB&J); White Chocolate Easter Bunnies were the norm, Strawberry Quik and Strawberry Shortcake Bars are all my norms. I endured seven years of allergy shots from Dr. Ravetz. The serum lived in our fridge (on the door) and we'd bring it with us to his office - sometimes twice a week for periods of time, sometimes less.

Yet as as I've been blogging and reminiscing in this blog more often, I remember: making chocolate milk with my Cocoa Puffs; eating Peanut Butter on Celery Sticks; trying to eat Peanuts (shell and all - I figured if Elephants could, so could I - blecch! I couldn't); Ice Cream Sandwiches as school. I remember trading my Halloween with Michael and Susan and accumulating as much chocolate as possible, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Nestlé
Crunch Bars were my favorites (that would be a double no-no!).

So what gives? Both sets of memories are just as vivid, just as real - but only one can be right. My Mom denies my allergy, but I remember it... strongly. If I had my to choose, the Allergy Memories are the strongest.... but the I'm now remembering the others and they are growing. Can they possibly live side-by-side? Where is this discrepancy coming from? What's causing this gap in my linear thoughts. It feels as if I lived two different lives during the same time frame. I just don't understand. I am utterly conflicted.

Unfortunately, I have no pithy ending to this tale; no insight into what's going on... just this strange double set of memories, completely 180 degrees of each other.

Highly curious.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28 - I Don't Have a Topic!

Day 28. I vowed to blog for the entire month of July in what I dubbed as "Blogapalooza" and thus far, I think I've done pretty well. I've opined on a variety of topics; given you some insights on who I am and what I think; reminisced about the past and even shared my first (and only) poem to date - the classic "Chalk" (1974). But come today, I find myself at a loss for a topic.

I thought about Reality Television (as I watched "Bite Me w/Dr. Mike", "Hell's Kitchen", "Big Brother 11" and HGTV's "Design Star"). I thought about Overheating as I grazed on baby carrots and then hungered for some cookies and then to counter the sweet, some tortilla chips for the salt. Still nothing.

I thought possibly I'd opine about Politics, perhaps Health Care Reform or Obama's Birth Status. Nope. HCR is boring and I just don't care about O's birth (he's legit, leave him alone).

The topic of 'Songs That Stick in Your Head' popped into my head after a co-worker was telling us about her daughter having just discovered the "Oompa-Loompa Song" from the original (and best) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but after I finally managed to get the song out of my head, I decided not to inflict it on others (but click HERE if you want to hear it!). Still didn't fire off the neurons enough to blog about.

In conclusion, all I have to end with is this: Blogging is Hard!

(P.S. - That's my next tattoo.)

July 27 - Chalk (1974)

I like walk on top of Chalk.
For when I walk on top of Chalk,
I like to talk or even squawk.
And when I squawk, I like to walk.
And when I walk,
I walk on Chalk.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26 - When Good Movie Series Go Bad

Movies. We love them. Ever since those flickering images hit the silver screen near the turn of the 20th Century, we've had an infatuation with the people and stories unfolding in front of us. So much so, that after the story is over, we crave more.

Movies that begat sequel after sequel can either be good or bad. For me, a series is an ongoing thing. We're not talking Trilogies ("Godfather", "Back the Future", real "Star Wars"). We're not talking a group of movies that follow one character/concept (sorry Horror films; no "Nightmare", no numerical "Friday"). I'm talking Series. I know there are many out there, but I'm talking stuff like Bond, Potter, Star Trek, Rocky and potentially some of our superheroes (Batman, Superman, Spidey, etc.) - if those franchises continue.

My early favorite was Planet of the Apes - beginning with first one in 1968 and then continuing annually from Beneath the... in 1970,
Escape from... in 1971, Conquest of... in 1972 and finally Battle for... in 1973. One was a great Sci-Fi film. Two tried too hard and ended up being way too talky. Three had the right balance of fun, sci-fi, humor and story. Four and five got tired and routine... to the point where they could just spin off into a TV series for one season.

Then came Bond... James Bond. I discovered the series during a school beach trip to Atlantic City in the summer on 1977. The Spy Who Love Me was great. I then not only watched them all repeatedly, but got the VHS and then the Laserdiscs and then the DVDs. A true series spanning over 40 years, 22 officially movies and six Bonds. This is a series that - for me - has gone bad.

I like Connery (7 films). Loved Moore (7 films). Get Lazenby (1 film). Really liked Dalton (2 films). Finally thought Brosnan had nailed it for the present day (3 films). The series 'reboot' with GoldenEye in 1995 was one of the best of the Bond films.

For me though, the series is no more. The recent 're-reboot' with Daniel Craig has put the nail in the coffin after 40 years. The fun, gadgets, superhero Bond is dead and gone. The fun of a new Bond theme with that omnipresent Monty Norman theme music is just not there anymore. Today's audiences seem to love this new Bond, but it no longer stands with the canon and is barely distinguishable from similar fare (like Matt Damon's "Bourne" movies - which are much better).

What spurred this blog was Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince. What happened? The first two films were fun if a bit juvenille (sorry, Chris Columbus). The next one stands as one of the best. Director Alfonso Cuarón added just the right amount of darkness to the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004. Then the books got FAT (twice the size) yet the films maintained their length.

Major mistake. Instead of being a movie that can stand on it's own (like a Bond), they are just Chapters of a whole and unless you are fully versed in the books, you will be lost. They no longer are complete films. For my money I would taken each book and made a single four hour movie edited into two pieces released six months apart. The box office would have been double (if the audience who say part one, came back for part two) and the actually expense to make the longer films might have only gone up by an additional 1/3 of the cost of one movie.

David Yates (director of #5, #6 and both parts of #7) just doesn't seem to get it. Way (way) too much is cut out of books - a lot of it could be fixed with a line of dialogue or two. It really is a shame. These are no "Lord of the Rings" like they could have been. Maybe he can fix it for the finale, but I don't have faith that they care. HP makes money regardless.

One day I will get my chance to shepherd a series... and I swear, I'll get it right!

July 25 - Tradition

A wise man once said, "Without our Traditions, our life would be as shaky as... as... as a Fiddler on the Roof!" (that wise man was Tevye the Dairyman as portrayed by Topol in his farewell tour of Fiddler on the Roof - if this tour comes anywhere near you, go see it!

As I am one who questions EVERYTHING, I must counter this statement with my own thoughts; those being, "If we blindly cling to our Traditions, our lives will be as shaky as said Fiddler on the Roof!" I think our Traditions arose out of habit and need, not forethought and understanding.

When we get into the habit of doing something over and over, we call this a Tradition (eating a Turkey on Thanksgiving). These are rites or deeds or thoughts that are handed down from our ancestors. We are taught to respect our elders, so if these are things our elders did, then they should be respected and continued. But does that make them right?

Now turkey on Thanksgiving might be a benign tradition, but if the turkey became an endangered species today and we continued - no, insisted - on eating it every year, would that be right? Should that tradition now be changed or rethought? Turkeys were one time extremely plentiful, now they are not. If the turkeys had been in such limited supply 'back in the day', would this have ever been established as the traditional Thanksgiving Feast bird-of-choice or would our ancestors have chosen another bird? And had they chosen another, that would today be our Tradition.

Many of our traditions fall by the wayside over time and that can be a shame (nightly dinner with the family to discuss every one's day), but some traditions - those established out of fear or ignorance or simply lack of knowledge - are OK if they go away. Inequality is one of those that has (fortunately) been on the decline and should go away completely.

Society's view of women (they should stay at home, cook and clean, not have a vote, walk behind their husband, etc.) have thankfully fallen by the wayside. Society's view of race is (too slowly for me) on the decline. Arranged marriages - while they may have had their place at one time - no longer work or exist in a lot of societies. In the last few decades, Diversity has become a positive thing - interracial or interfaith relationships are no longer something to be shunned - again, not in all societies, but in a lot of them.

The concept of Love has trumped a lot of these traditions. In our society - for the most part - we are free to meet and love whomever we want.

While we still have a long way to go, we are questioning our traditions every day. I for one am OK with that. I actually see it as a good thing. A positive step in our growth as a species.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 24 - Good Morning, My Cereal Friends

Breakfast Cereal. Those two words conjure up memories for many of us.

Which did I discover first? Was it the sugary sweet crunchy morsels or the cartoon icons? Probably the icons. Back in those pre-cable days, Saturday Morning meant one thing. Cartoons and lots of them! They'd start at 6AM on the three networks - ABC, CBS, and NBC - and continue until Noon.

And they were a big deal. The networks would launch their Saturday Morning line-ups with Friday Night Primetime Specials in September, juts before the Fall Season of Saturday Morning (this is NOT a joke, that's what they did). Usually hosted by current sitcom stars, they'd introduce us to their new shows and characters as well as remind us of our returning friends and what changes to expect.

But I digress - that must be a topic for another blog. Interspersed amongst my favorite Saturday Morning TV friends, were other animated friends... sometimes even in their own ongoing adventures.

Capt. Crunch and his Crew were always trying to allude Jean Le Feet the Pirate. It looked and felt like the cartoons I watched (and it should have... being animated by Jay Ward Productions - makers of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and "George of the Jungle").

There was the (again animated by Jay Ward) battle between Quaker's characters Quisp (the alien) and Quake (a miner). A contest over whose cereal was more popular was held (via the commercials, with Quisp eventually winning). Interestingly the only difference between the two cereals was the shape of the product and the character on the box.

Kellogg's had their own group of friends; Toucan Sam (Froot Loops),
the funny trio of elves known as Snap, Crackle and Pop (Rice Krispies), Tusky the Elephant (Cocoa Krispies), the ultra hip and cool sweater-clad Sugar Bear (Super Sugar Crisps) and of course, Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes).

General Mills had Lucky the Leprechaun (Lucky Charms), Sonny the Cuckoo Bird (Cocoa Puffs) and the Trix Rabbit (who got his own contest wherein we voted to see if the admonishment, "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids." should be lifted). I don't recall if he was ever allowed to eat a bowl.

There were others of course, Fred and Barney for Post Pebbles (both Fruity and Cocoa - nearly identical to Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies), the King Vitamin, the Cookie Crisp Thief, the Clown for Kaboom! (the only kids cerael with 100% of all vitamins and minerals - and most chemically sweet taste ever!), The Monster Squad (Frankenberry, Boo-berry, Count Chocula, Fruit Brute [the werewolf] and the Yummy Mummy).

Anyway, cereal used to come with great 'prizes' (as we called them) inside or prizes that you could send away for with box tops. My favorites (natch) were the records that were on the back of the box. There were round areas of vinyl grooves mounted on the back of the box. Once the box was empty, you'd cut out the back of the box along the dotted lines and you'd have a cardboard record.

One funny memory I have has to do with those cereal prizes. For those of you who don't know, these were great free little toys buried deep at the bottom of the box; usually in a plastic pouch coated in cereal dust.

My Mom would allow each of us (my brother Michael, my sister Susan and I) to select one box of cereal to have as our own, meaning our responsibility to finish it and as a reward, we'd keep the prize that came in it. Of course our cereal selection was nearly always prize-based. And being kids, we couldn't wait for the prize - we had to know what it was! Once we were home and Mom wasn't around, we would dig to the bottom of the box with our little grubby paws to retrieve our little plastic treasure (we never thought to dump the cereal out into a big bowl or anything - that would be too messy).

The cereal prizes would then live - unopened - in the top cabinet (over the little counter next to the dishwasher) until we finished eating that box of cereal. Of course, oft times since we chose the cereal based on the prize, the cereal would sit and sit uneaten. We'd eat each other's cereals and being the older brother, I'm sure I conned them into somehow trading their next pick of cereal to me if I hadn't finished mine... but so it goes.

Anyway, those days are gone. The prizes are lame. Most of my cereal now comes from Trader Joe's. Gone is the torn-up roof-of-my-mouth due to Capt. Crunch. The smell of Froot Loops no longer sends my sinuses into convulsive delight. The sweet, slightly hard nuggets of colorful shapely marshmallow bits with the oaty goodness of Lucky Charms no longer sits in a box on my shelf. The crunchy, oh-so cocoa-ey spheres of corn in Cocoa Puffs no longer turn my milk chocolatey.

But I do remember those times.

July 23 - The Musicals, Part III: "And I Know if I'll Only be True, to this Glorious Quest..."

You may ask, "Larry, a Part III on Musicals? Have you not opined enough on this topic?" Well, the answer will become clear in this final chapter of the The Musicals.

To recap, Part I ran through my discovery of Musicals and specifically, the ones that influenced me. Part II revealed my performer side that I tapped into for a a while. In this Part III, I hope to explore the place music has in my heart.

So start with (and to wrap up the Musicals), there came a day when I was watching "The Sound of Music" with my Mom. Julie Andrews was on a bus singing "I Have Confidence" and I see that no one on the bus is looking at her. I asked my Mom why that was and she said it was because, "She is singing in her head to herself." I loved that answer.

Music has always been a HUGE part of life. Singing as a kid - Chorus/Choir/All-County Choir; my music (a 45 collection as a kid that I still have), my LPs (over 1000), my CDs (over 1500), mp3s (over 17,000); I'd sing on the school bus with my friends (ahh, those great 70s tunes); I played in a rock band in High School (bass for one number and then keyboard for the rest); I whistle were ever I go (I remember whistling through a snowy field on the Great Lakes Naval Base); I sing when I'm cycling (during Lifecycle 7, I sang through the entire score of "Jesus Christ Superstar" - if only my Brother and Sister had been there!); I listen to music in the car, at home, in the gym, in my office... you see, I need my music. My answer to the proverbial question, "If you had to choose between Deaf or Blind..." you know my answer.

Music a part of me. I need it.
There's a song for every mood, emotion, season and occasion. It fills my heart with joy. It can soothe me when I'm stressed, fire me up when I'm mad, delight me when I'm glad, comfort me when I'm sad. It's there. It's with me. It never lets me down.

Music. There is nothing like it. Irreplaceable in my life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22 - The Musicals, Part II: "Because I Knew You, I Have Been Changed for Good"

Last night I wrote about my love of theatre from the shows that I first discovered and through the ones I have loved over the years. I thought I was done. Then came memories of 'performances' and my more personal connection with Musicals.

My first performance memories are wonderful for me. I don't believe they were quite as wonderful for my audience. I was probably about 11 or 12 and my audience was about 9 and 5 respectively. I'm referring to my brother Michael and my sister Susan. I would make them sit and watch me as I performed all four sides of the LP for Sir Andrew and Sir Tim's "Jesus Christ Superstar" - the original brown Decca concept album with those gold angels on the cover. I'm pretty sure I lip-synced the entire thing and choreographed and acted it all - every part. I may have sang, but you'd have to check with them. [7/23 Update - My sister weighed in and said, "you did not lip sync... but the singing was fine. It was just so LONG and BORING, over and over and over..."]

Not to be solely theatrical, I do recall performing my Disney's Greatest Hits as well, "The Siamese Cat Song", "Bare Necessities" and my most fun one, Cinderella's "The Work Song". I hope Michael and Susan's nightmares have subsided!

In fourth grade, Missy Herman and I tried to convince Miss Silverman (our music teacher) to put on an adaptation of "Mary Poppins" (I as Bert and she as Mary). We'd practice at the bus stop in the mornings... I remember dancing/balancing along this short wooden fence, singing to her. Miss Silverman said she'd consider it when we were sixth graders, but left the school after our fifth grade, so it never came to be. Interestingly, this would have been decades before Disney ever thought of doing a staged version.

Once old enough, I began auditioning for the school Musicals, but never got a real lead. "The Sound of Music" (party guest, Act II, one line), "The Pajama Game" (ensemble), "Oklahoma" (Cowboy #3), and before moving to NY, "Baker Street" (a Sherlock Holmes musical from the 60s) where I was finally cast in a lead as Professor Moriarty... but is was never to be. I moved suddenly before I ever go to perform it.

When I got to NY (Long Island to be precise), they were doing "Oklahoma". Well, excited that they had a veteran, they cast me in the ensemble and (surprisingly) as the understudy for Jud Fry - the heavy; the villain; a hulking brute of a man. I was 5'4" and 114lbs. They must have never expected me to go on... but I did. I could not pull of the grunting brute as such, so played him as sly and evil. It worked!

Good roles never came again, although after the Navy in the late 80s, I tried for community theatre and got another lead! I was Algernon in a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" - wonderful role, the worst score ever - horrible songs and awkward, silly choreography. I actually had to say the line, "It looks like rain, doesn't it, Lane" - without sounding like Dr. Seuss. I could not, did not say it right. I would not, could not every night.

Anyway, my performance days ended there (save for a run of Karaoke numbers in the past decade). I am definitely more of a writer and producer type. Not leading man, not song and dance man, not a performer.

So that currently leaves me where I am now. But where is that and how does it relate to Musicals. Like it or not, we'll all have to wait until tomorrow as I continue my Musicals saga in Part III: "And I Know if I'll Only be True, to this Glorious Quest..."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21 - The Musicals, Part I: "With a Song in My Heart"

Tonight I just came home from seeing "Monty Python's Spamalot" - a lot of fun. Go see it. But it got me thinking about Musicals and the important part they play in my life.

So I admit it, I love Musicals. Always have. I might be a clich
é of sorts for anyone who knows me, but I grew up on Musicals.

My earliest memories of going through my Mom's records, were of finding Classical after Classical albums... but there were a few with different artwork on the covers that looked interesting. One had this old man in a cloud working this top-hatted man like a marionette who in turn was working this lady (Lerner & Loewe's "My Fair Lady"), or this sketch of a this man with trumpet and a lady... it had that Trombone song on it that I liked (Mered
ith Willson's "The Music Man"), and then the one with the funny man on top of the house with a violin (Bock & Harnick's "Fiddler on the Roof"). I even had one with songs that were really cool and a line drawing on the cover whose art I was mesmerized with (Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate" - if anyone has a copy of this, I NEED it on mp3!):

Then when I was five, my Mom took me to this wonderful movie about an orphan boy and a funny mean man and a really scary mean man (who killed this lady) but I loved the songs (Lionel Bart's "Oliver!"). Of course, I had a collection of 45s that made up all the songs from Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins" - certainly a musical in every way (yes, I have tickets to it this fall when the stage version comes to Los Angeles).

So my love of Musicals was instilled quite early in me. As I came into my own, my choose of Musicals began to change: Lloyd-Webber & Rice's "Jesus Christ Superstar" was the first of 'my' musicals (and my favorite for a very long time), followed by Schwartz's "Godspell" and Rado/Ragni & MacDermot's "Hair".

Others followed as I grew older ("Man of LaMancha", "Evita", "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas") and when the 80s came, my love for this genre exploded ("Phantom", "Saigon", "Les Miz" [a favorite for nearly 20 years], "Joseph" and "Chess"). The 90s slowed for me with pretty much just "Rent" creeping into my soul. This century has seen a resurgence with "Mamma Mia!", "Avenue Q" and "Legally Blonde."

My current favorite? It has changed over the years, but for the past six years, only one has staked its claim (and it may take a miracle to supplant it in years to come), but Stephen Schwartz' "Wicked" is by far my favorite.

I guess this blog is less of a blog than a laundry list of my favorite Musicals. Suffice it to say, to date, I have attended only 45 live performance of 34 different musicals (and a few are in currently in the triple-play club: "Les Miz", "Mamma Mia!", "Phantom" and "Wicked") - gee, that sounds like a lot, doesn't it... and we're not even counting Movie Musicals!

Now, if I could only write my own... (oh yes, the story is in the works and if anyone knows a composer...).

[Tomorrow, Part II: "Because I Knew You, I Have Been Changed for Good"]

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20 - So, I Have a Friend...

So, I have a friend... (no, really, this is truly about a friend, not a veiled attempt to hide me). P.S. - today is my 18 mos anniversary with my love and I could not be happier! (Gouda, babe)

So, I have a friend, who - despite my original intent to blog about the 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing - which, btw, I do NOT think is bullshit. It really happened, so get over it you conspiracy lovers! I then was going to blog about Superstitions [more bullshit that way too many people put way too much stock into] - which could have been fun - omg, wait for the news reports out of Asia/India when the total solar eclipse happens on the 22nd... but no, I have a friend who, invited me out for a drink tonight.

Now we've been best friends for over six years. When he invites me out for a drink, he wants to talk. Lately, I've sensed relationship problems in his life. Tonight, confirmed.

Without getting into details (as much fun as they may be, they are none of your business so do not ask me), it is time for him to break-up. I can tell. I can always tell. Tell tale signs - the ways he talks about both his boyfriend and his relationship. I know when he's ready. The problem? He hates breaking up. It's hard for him (and who doesn't find breaking up hard? I learned early on that "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" - thank you, Neil Sedaka).
He drags it out, he pulls away and ultimately hopes that the other guy will break up with him (it never, NEVER happens that way).

Other signs I won't get into, but he's ready. He needs to. He cannot keep the guy on the hook (and to be honest, I've met the guy and don't think he'll miss my friend when he leaves).

So, I hope he pulls the trigger, puts that nail in the coffin, and moves on to someone who deserves him. I love him and I want to see him happy. He won't read this, but for any of you out there with friends in relationships that are not all they could be, PLEASE help them out of it!

Life is way (way) too short to put up with less than beautious conditions in a relationship (I like the word 'beautious', deal with it, adopt it, use it - thank you, Mr. Zbinden, my 4th Grade Home Room and Science Teacher).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19 - Sweltering is NOT Cool

Anyone who knows me, knows I love hot weather. I love heat. I can get into my car on a hot day and enjoy the lizard heat, not even rolling down the windows right away.

Of course, my love of hot weather does have it's rules (and what doesn't in my life!). Right now, Los Angeles is in the grips of a Heat Wave. As Mark says, "No Bueno". It is Sweltering! It's been upper 90s and now in the 100s for over a week. It is becoming intolerable. Currently at 11PM it is only down to 82 Degrees (my perfect Day temperature, but not good for a Night temperature).

All of this has some people thinking of cooler climates (it is fun to accessorize I'm told). But I don't miss Holiday shopping when you have to take off your big coat and scarf and gloves when you get into the Mall and juggle them with parcels and packages. You can't continue to wear them inside as you'd start sweating. Sometimes it's off and on and on and off (especially when not shopping in a dedicated mall). Check out an East Coast Mall's 'Lost & Found' sometime. We're talking Glove City!

And let's about winter weather. Ah you gaze out or your frosty window one chilly wintery morn and see a pristine blanket of white over your world. It's so beautiful and silent and if you're 5, you can stay home from school and play.

Well I'm not 5 and I can't stay home when it snows. And just what does it do to one's car you might ask (if you've never experienced it, you'd never know to ask)?

You get to wake up 30 minutes early just so you can go out in the snow, de-ice the door lock so you can get the key in, start the engine and turn on the defrosters... all this frigid fun in preparation to start scraping layers of ice off of the windshield so you can drive to work. Oh, and all of that doesn't take into consideration the possiblity that snowplows have piled street dross up against your tires and you might have to shovel them out before driving off... slowly so you don't skid into another vehicle. And don't forget to brake gently, evenly and ahead of time so as not to bump into the car in front of you.

And even if it doesn't snow, I hate Winter. It's cloudy and gray, dreary and sad. And it's sooo cold. My Mom used to bundle me up in so much clothes, I'd sweat and freeze - my woolen mittens would be little blocks of ice on my hands. Very hard to play with fingers that won't bend!

When it's not winter and the temperatures do finally begin to approach happy levels (for me, 65-85), I have to contend with Rain. I hate Rain (which I find strange for a Pisces - but maybe my cuspy Aquarian gets in the way, being a water-bearer and needing to control it). As a matter of fact, I hate Rain so much that I hunch my shoulder and run from it with the fear of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ever hydroplane while driving? Into other cars? Into a tree? (I still miss you black Mercury Zephyr).

My weather positives? I love the Blue of the sky (and Los Angeles "Blue" is nothing like the East Coast "Blue" I grew up with). I love Sunny days, every day (growing up I'd watch the Brady Bunch and they never even owned a coat!).

I love Wind. I love Thunderstorms - the loud booming and blinding flashes of Lightning (until the Rains start, of course). I used to put a lawnchair out on Long Island and sit in the front enjoying the show.

Oh well, it's night now and I can't see the weather. It's just dark and time to turn off the A/C (oooo, it's down to 80 now!) and sleep in my briefs under my ceiling fan. Tomorrow promises to be only 93. Oh goody.

July 18 - "Everything is Beautiful at the Ballet..."

Last night, Mark took me to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see Prokofiev's "Romeo & Juliet" performed by the American Ballet Theatre. While not my first actual ballet, it will be the first one that I remember.

I attended my first (and only) ballet at the tender age of five. A performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" that my Mom took me to (along with my younger cousin, Michelle and my Aunt Rene). My Mom says I loved it so much that it was all she could do to keep me from dancing in the aisles!

I did manage to avoid aisle dancing during "R&J" though and was surprised by the ballet experience. I'd seen a few scenes from ballets in Movies and on TV; mostly sparse sets with
tutu'd snobbish-looking primas leaping across stages. I remember watching 1952's Hans Christian Andersen and loving it all, except for The Red Shoes ballet sequence which as a kid, bored me and I thought bogged down the movie.

Well, last night I was (and how do I choose words that don't sound too gay), delighted and enthralled (drat, too gay)... I loved it. The sets and costumes were wonderful; far more than I expected. When not performing scenes in dance (specifically the scenes with Friar Laurence), I found myself enjoying what felt like watching a live performance of a silent movie (which I love). Overall, the dancing was beautiful and I get it.

Hallberg was a great Romeo (in my very humble and under-informed opinion) and Xiomara Reyes was serviceable as Juliet. The stand-out was scene larcenist Craig Salstein's Mercutio - funny and engaging. Even his death scene was entertaining (oops, spoiler alert - Mercutio dies - deal with it).

Anyway, my point is that I experienced something new last night. Something that always appeared on the outside to be something I'd find boring. I was not only pleasantly surprised that it was not boring, but actually enjoyed dipping my toe into the waters of Ballet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17 - On the Verge of a New Life Chapter?

I've always viewed my life as a series of chapters. Each one containing a different version of me as the lead character. I break it up like this:

1963-1971: Family Years
1971-1979: Single Parent Years (Philadelphia)
1979-1991: Long Island Years
1991-2001: Married Years (Los Angeles-Straight)
2001-present: Gay LA (Single)

Interestingly, my work careers seemed to have followed a similar path:

1979-1991: US Navy and Music Retail
1991-2005: ABC/Kane Productions and DreamWorks (Legal)
2005-present: DreamWorks Animation (Production)

So what am I getting at? Well, over the past couple years, I've become increasingly fascinated and have fallen in love with FOOD. It started when someone showed me that cooking could be as simple as heading for the fridge, grabbing some ingredients and whipping up a meal. My culinary journey had begun.

Then came the exploding popularity of Food Network. Alton Brown's "Good Eats", "Unwrapped", Jamie Oliver's "The Naked Chef"... and then the competitions, Bravo's "Top Chef", Gordon Ramsey's "Hell's Kitchen", "Iron Chef"... and then came BBC America's "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares" and "Last Restaurant Standing" followed by The Travel Channel's "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern."

With all of this, I have become a 'Foodie"! I love it, I wanna taste it, try it, savor it. I am hooked and now find food to be one of life's greatest pleasures. Love Sushi and Thai the most, but cook at home as well (I love you, Crock Pot) and have gotten better pots and a cutting board of wood, and Mark actually gave me a Knife Skills class. This is beginning to feel like the start of something else.

So again, where am I going with this? Well, over the past year or so, thoughts of running a restaurant have permeated my soft grey matter and - I know, it's hard, very hard, most restaurants fail - now I hope that one day I can partner with a Chef to make this dream come true. (Interestingly, I don't desire being a Chef, but then again, I'd prefer being the Producer over the Director - I guess it's the same thing).

So is this a new chapter? Perhaps. The current one does not yet feel fully written, but who knows... after a few more pages, it might be time!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16 - To Be (Selfish) or Not To Be (Selfish)

To be (selfish) or not to be (selfish), that is the question.

So, is it nobler to tell someone what you think they might want to hear or to just simply state what you want? Sometimes, we can be too nice and maybe we should embrace our inner Selfish.

Tonight I did something (verbally) that I thought was nice, unselfish, and giving of me. But shortly after saying it, I pondered how it was taken. Was it seen as I had intended - as a generous act - or was it possibly misconstrued as a brush off?

In actuality, what I had said - what I'd offered... was not at all what I wanted. Why did I do it? Why don't we always say what we mean and tell people what we want? If we do it too much it that 'selfish'? Let's look up selfish...
  1. concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
  2. arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others selfish act
So, which one of these applied? Well, had I not said what I had said, I would have been 'seeking my own pleasure' - BUT it would not have been 'without regard for others' because the pleasure of each others company would have caused mutual pleasure. Therefore I was not 'selfish' by the terms of the first definition.

As for the second, 'concern with one's own advantage' would not apply either as the advantage would have been mutual as well. I must therefore conclude that what I did was not 'selfish' - but what was it?

Stupid, maybe. My supposed unselfish act resulting in my missed out on an evening in the presence of someone I love. So, as I sit here alone, I must concede that while I was not being selfish, my not being honest and saying what I wanted - even if I thought I was being nice - resulted in my not having the best evening possible. It sounds selfish to me, but I guess it is not.

The only thing my action really resulted in was ten minutes of a brain dump in this pondering blog... oh, and an excuse to use a cool picture of a chimp!

And a lesson learned about simply stating what you want.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15 - The Ice Cream Man

A hot summer day. I'm in the house just after dinner and I suddenly hear bells. Kind of a clangly, ching-chinging kind of bell. But I know what it means.

My brother, sister and I grab our money and race out of the front door of our little apartment and run to the turnaround where we see that wonderful square truck and already a of couple kids in line just outside the side window.

What's all the fuss? It's the Ice Cream Man of course. What a fabulous invention - a truck that comes around and sells ice cream! Our truck in the suburbs of Philadelphia was from Good Humor - a company that started in 1919 and began selling from a truck in Ohio very soon after that.

I was allergic to Chocolate (among other things) as a kid, but I soon discovered the joys of Strawberry (my brother and sister could have Chocolate Milk, but I loved my Strawberry Quik from Nestlé). That forced me on a search for non-chocolatey palate bliss, which in turn led me to the Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar - the thought of it now is causing my mouth to water. What a delicious diversion on a hot day.

But, it's the Ice Cream Truck - ingrained in our minds (for those who grew-up with one - er, an ice cream truck, not a mind). This morning I heard the bell and my mind took off in childhood directions. I IM'd Mark with a "Oooo, Ice Cream Man!" and he responded "Go, Run, Be Five" - and with that, shouldn't we all?

July 14 - Bastille Day


Edith Piaf
The Beret
The Accent
The Louvré
Victor Hugo
Onion Soup
Pepe LePew
The Left Bank
Rene Magritte
Les Misérable
Charles Boyer
Auguste Rodin
Sidewalk Cafés
The Eiffel Tower
Marcel Marceau
Maurice Chevalier
The Moulin Rouge
Catherine Deneuve
The Hunchback of Notré Dame
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg

Happy Bastille Day, Mon Amis!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 13 - People Say the Darndest Things (or Why I Thank Hitler)

During one of our many off-topic work discussions (the actual subject of which matters not), someone actually said that it was alright if something was, "equally unfair to everyone." What?!? Really?!?

I responded that if this were so, it would mean that Slavery (oh, yeah - I went there), as long as it treated all slaves equally horribly, was alright then. I proceeded to go on to the topic of Complacency, actually stating that tolerating unfairness, whether 'equally unfair to everyone' or not was wrong. Complacency in the extreme, allows the situation in Darfur and Hitler to exist.

Well, that shut this person up - I found out later that Godwin's Law had come into play. This humorous Internet adage says that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.

Regardless, this got me thinking about the lack of common sense that a lot of people possess. Before you bash me, I know, you might want to give points for well-intentioned folk or maybe the misinformed or the not-well-versed-in-a-topic contingent. If that's you, then don't open your mouth. Stop, think for a minute. Don't say something that is out of your realm of knowledge.

"It is
alright as long as it is equally unfair to everyone." Ponder that. This person is (unfortunately for all of us) probably of average intelligence and in the majority (of some group). I find that those of us in the minority (of any group) tend to have an insight beyond the masses. The sheep. The lemmings. The followers. The complacent.

Who knew that invoking the name of der F
ührer would totally blow a circuit in this well-meaning mortal. How often to you hear anyone say, "thank you, Hitler".

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 12 - Disaster Movies

Disaster Movies. I love them. Tonight I watched three hours of Impact
(2008) a cheesy disaster mini-series - meteor storm promises the most spectacular world-wide views in 10,000 years and one of them, larger than expected, hits the Moon. Well, this causes all sort of havoc with tides and gravitational changes until finally, we much blow up the Moon (essentially) by a team that must land on the Moon (shades of Armageddon (1998).

So why do we watch? As a kid, my brother and I used to sneak to watch
The Poseidon Adventure (1972) on TV (I'm guessing around 1976 or so). My Mom said no, but we wanted to see it. So we covered our 13" Black & White TV with a blanket (so the glow of the tube wouldn't be seen) and we turned the volume down real low and watched it with our eyes about a foot from the screen. It was great!

My very first disaster images was actually old newsreel footage on like 16mm film reels that my school library had. There were of the 1940 Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I remember watching this a few times; fascinated.

In recent years, all sorts of movies from
Independence Day (1996) to The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Deep Impact (1998) and The Core (2003) have excited me.

Why? Why do we like to see NY or DC blown up? Tokyo stomped by monsters? Earthquakes, Twisters, Volcanoes under Wilshire Boulevard? Why are these kinds of movies fun for me and for many?

I would love to come up with an answer to this one, but the more I try, the more I hit a wall (and the bricks in that wall all come tumbling down, destroying a small Lego City... NO, stop it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11 - Writer's Block

So today is July 11 - day 11 of my Blogapooza. To date, I've blogged about firsts, ethnicity, ghosts, insomnia, pizza, blank pages, my day, my moments, my departed cat and a few other topics. Today I find myself with nothing.

Now nothing is never truly nothing. During the day as I contemplated my blog, I thought about truth (because someone I know has been dealing with lying or at least, lies of omission), I thought about fleas (my patio is infested), I thought about working on a Saturday (because I did), I thought about any number of topics... but none feels like a topic I feel like expounding upon right now.

So this must be Writer's Block, although in the traditional sense I feel Writer's Block ("WB" henceforth as I am lazy) in its purist sense is not when you have a blank page and no idea what to put on it, but when you are in the middle of writing something and hit a dead end.

Interestingly, when I was much younger, I began writing a series of books (being a big fan of L. Frank Baum's "OZ" Series, this only seemed a natural for me). It began in 4th Grade with a project to write a story and then bind it into a book. "To Shrink or Not to Shrink" was born and with talented illustrations by my childhood crush, Missy Herman, it earned me an 'A'.

The following year, I wrote "The Green Devil Strikes Again" (years before "The Empire Strikes Back" so don't be hatin'). Once again with illustrations by Missy, this story had Chapters with cute misleading Titles and even ended with an absolute set-up for the next book.

1977 - I am 14 and "The Time Tornado" is born; a wonderful tale of magic and time travel, historical references and cliff hangers. I was very proud of it.

Sometime in the mid-80's (after moving from Philadelphia to New York, changing High Schools, and a stint on submarines in the U.S. Navy), I returned to these tales and decided to do a rewrite. "To Shrink or Not To Shink became a couple of chapters which when combined with "The Green Devil Strikes Again" and paired with "The Time Tornado" into a tome collectively called "The Larry Chronicles" (named for the books' hero and lead character - who was actually me).

During the rewrite, I encounted WB (and you thought I'd forgetten the thread of this blog; tsk-tsk-tsk). I don't mean that I encountered WB in the sense that I could not continue writing... I encountered what I suspect might have been a case of youthful WB. What I mean is - while reading through "The Time Tornado" I became so engrossed in the tale, I had barely any recollection of writing it. I read and was fascinated by the mind of the youth who wrote it... and I read and I read and then I turned the page and it ended - mid-thought, mid-sentence, mid-cliff hanger. I have NO idea where it was going.

I spent hours and days pondering even that final sentence, not knowing how to complete it! What had I been thinking back on that day in 1977? What was so important that had interrupted me and what kept me from going back to my writing for something like eight years! Had I encountered a WB from years ago - from a person I no longer was or recognized?

The sentence and the story were eventually finished - but did they end as originally envisioned or as well as that 14-year old mind could have done? I will never know. Looking back at these stories they have shades of OZ, Alice in Wonderland, pop culture and ideas and devices that if published today, would be considered to be inspired by Harry Potter (yet they pre-date Ms. Rowling's creation by 20 years).

So a case of WB tonight caused me to reflect on a case of WB from my past. I guess tonight I didn't actually have WB, but more like TB (Topic Block).

[BTW - Once I started writing this blog, I continued writing it straight through - what actually did start out as a mindless ramble about how I had Writer's Block and was unable to come up with anything to write about, became something interesting to write about.]

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10 - The Best (Worst) Food in the World

Anyone who knows me, knows me as 'Mr. Healthy' when it comes to food. I don't drink soda (too sweet and the carbonation makes me burp). I don't do much candy (although dark chocolate is a decadent weakness). I don't do white bread (or much bread at all for that matter), I go for brown rice, love grains (quinoa, bulgur), beans in a salad, edamame, salads and chicken. I've reduced carbs (pasta, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - yes, the blue box). I've never liked croutons. I eat desserts rarely.

But one food makes my mouth water just thinking about it. One magical concoction of dough, ooey gooey melty cheese, tangy marinara sauce and little rounds of re-heated dried sausage gets my juices flowing.

I LOVE PIZZA. I'll sing it's praises... but I normally avoid it like the plague.

In my younger days - those days when nutrition was a word from Health Class and had no meaning in the outside world - I would order a full-sized pizza, eat half, fridge the rest and dine on the cold conjealed slices for breakfast.

As a boy growing up in Warminster, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), pizza came from Longhitano's on Countryline Road (they've since moved to the next town over, but they are still around). This is real pizza: thin crust, oil that pools up in the little curled bowls of pepperoni... you fold that little triangle and let the oil drip onto your white paper plate (you know, the one with the scalloped edge) and you indulge.

Now I'm on the Left Coast, and that kind of experience is barely around. Tonight, as a matter of fact, Mark brought me a Pepperoni Pizza from The Hut (oh yeah, they are so cool now). Delicousness in a square cardboard box... and while the crust was a little thick (sorry Chicago, that deep dish thing you make is sooo not pizza) and the box was not lined with oily residue, it still had the smell. That aroma. My mouth was watering from the moment he arrived with those pies.

Within 10 minutes, I had downed four pieces. I was eating them faster than he could count. I tried to stop after 1/2 a pie, but the smell of that other one gnawed at my senses for a full five minutes before I flipped open the top and ate my fifth slice. Within a blink of an eye, number six was gone and I forced myself to stop.

But the joy that my mouth experienced for those 15 minutes, was worth the calories and carbs that I had just downed. I can now go to sleep happy and sated and pizza'd for the first time in about a decade.

Oh... and there are few pieces chilling for breakfast. Life is good.

July 9 - Midnight Musings

12:13 AM and I find myself alone in my apartment and wide awake! Of late, I've found my insomnia a nightly visitor (thanks, Mom). So what do I do? My melatonin has not be much help these past few nights.

Well, other than finally having time for my Thursday Blog, I am watching the premiere of Big Brother 11. But that's not the point. Once it's over, I will turn out the lights, climb into bed and flip on an episode of one of my newly discovered 'ghost shows'; The Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" or "Most Haunted" or SciFi's (btw, I'm NOT calling them Syfy - that's just dumb) "Ghost Hunters International".

I sometimes pause and ask if there are any spirit people with me. I strain to listen for a knock or a rap. So far nothing. I wouldn't mind a ghostly 'meow' from BJ (see my July 3 blog) or to hear my Grandmother Rose's metal bookends get tapped like they did when I first got them (I miss you, Grandmom). Still nothing. Is it a need not to be alone that makes me wish for my own personal haunting (or spirit friend)? Regardless, I un-pause the show and continue watching.

I'm sometimes spooked by them (usually by "Most Haunted" - good job, Yvette Fielding). Sometimes I wish they'd stop cursing, thereby getting bleeped and making the other-worldly sounds hard to hear (thank you "Ghost Adventurer" Zak Bagans). I've just started watching "Ghost Hunters" and I've not quite fallen in love with it - they take themselves too seriously and while Zak plays the EVPs in context (those are Electronic Voice Phenomena for you non-ghosters), the GHI'ers (oh yeah, I abbreviated it) play them after the fact (far less effective).

Anyway, there's a little insight. I'm off to get spooked a bit before I (hopefully) drift off. Ooooooo.... goodnight.....

Oh... FYI, my very first Halloween costume was "Casper, The Friendly Ghost" - coincidence, or eerie foreshadowing...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8 - Blank Canvas (or Five Minutes of Random Thoughts)

Tonight I stare at blank canvas.

I have to work Saturday... I guess I have no excuse not to start putting my Post-Mortem documents together.

Just saw "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story" - and I still do not know why their families stopped speaking to each other for 40 years.

It's 9:29PM and I'm not sure if Mark is coming over to watch "So You Think You Can Dance" - I hope he's OK - he was working late.

I'm converting all four seasons of "The Angry Beavers" cartoons from .avi to .mpg so I can burn them DVD. I loved this show.

Finishing "The Apprentice UK" (I dozed off last night) and not sure what I'll watch next (should Mark not come over). I might go to sleep early (very early).

Hungry, but too late to eat anything. Maybe a big glass of water will help me.

Five minutes up.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7 - A Day in the Life

With no particular topic pressing on my brain (although, I am concerned that when asked my age on forms or surveys, I've been putting 47 - a lot! What's that about? I'm less than five months from just turning 46!)... where was I... oh, yes... with no particular topic pressing on my brain, I just thought I'd run down my day... a true 'Day in the Life'.

7AM - Awake, morning ablutions (including a shave), spritz of Issey Miyake Blue, a maroon Banana Republic crew neck, some small designer jeans, fold the bed, move the rugs (prepping for an Exterminator who is coming for the second time in as many weeks to try to eradicate the fleas on my back, brick patio).

8AM - Off to work, hopping into my 2003 Sonic Blue Mustang Convertible (top down, thank you very much), Howard Stern on the Sirius and a quick 20 minute drive to work down Oxnard to the 170 to the 134 - drat, traffic and I cannot exit at Victory due to it's closure in order to allow the Michael Jackson Funeral Service to proceed unencumbered at Forest Lawn, so - exit on San Fernando, down Flower and into the gates of DreamWorks Animation (how lucky am I?!).

8:30 - Get my coffee and some scrambled eggs in the Commissary (free breakfast is extra yummy).

9AM - I begin streaming the feed of the Michael Jackson Memorial Service at Staples Center. Since it starts at 10AM, I should be able to sort through emails, do Surfacing Rounds and get back in time to listen/watch.

The morning progress as outlined, and surprisingly, I do find myself feeling a part of the Memorial Service. Before it ends, I well up a few times, especially at the end when everyone starts singing "We Are the World" followed by "Heal the World" - but the real moment comes when Michael's daughter, Paris, says how great a father her Daddy was.

12:30 - Service over, I grab some lunch (an Asian-seasoned skinless chicken breast on a small bed of brown rice and a salad).

2PM - 5:30PM - an assortment of meetings regarding Nets and Nadders, Sheep and Ground Planes, Dragons and Ale Arms, Lighting the Cove (if you want to know more, go see "How to Train Your Dragon" in a 3D Theatre near you - coming March 2010), email responses, IT sped up my PC,
Employee Reviews, a cup of Tea and an Apple.

6PM - A rooftop concert atop the new Parking Structure by Composers Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Steve Jablonsky and a group of 18 other musicians and singers (along with Kobe Beef Sliders and a couple of Samuel Adams).

8PM - Driving home, texting Mark (yeh, I know, it's dangerous).

8:30 - Burned "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" to a DVD-R, started converting "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan" read email, watched "The Apprentice UK" and blogged about it all.

(Phew!) 10:30-ish now. I'm sure I will open my Queen-sized Sofabed, get some water, watch some foodie show (do I have a new "Chopped" tonight?) and off to sleep around 11:30.

Tomorrow is another day... goodnight, World.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6 - Phở, Deliciousness in a Bowl

OMG! Where has this wonderful bowl of deliciousness been living?

Pronounced more like 'fah' I recently was turned on to this satisfying bowl of nourishment that evolved in Northern Vietnam only about a 100 years ago. The menus list assorted combinations of meat and animal-part goodness that are added, sometimes in their raw form to a piping hot, well-seasoned beef broth. Spices like star anise and cinnamon and veg including onion are included as well. Rice noodles are also a staple in the bowl.

The real key is the side plate of garnish (that is, even more fun ingredients to add to make your bowl of Phở all yours).

These include green chilies, red chilies, bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai Basil, lime and the condiments; fish sauce, Sriracha (hot red chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar), hoisin

All of this love in one large meal-sized bowl will set you back about $6 or $7. You must try this. Find some in your area... NOW!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5 - Ghosts, Religion, Reincarnation and The Piano

Various religions allow for a Holy Spirit, Zombies, Angels and Satan. Ghosts for some reason are in the same category as Vampires and Werewolves. Supposedly fictional creations. Why?

If religion allows for a Holy Spirit and the idea of a Soul, why is it inconceivable that said Soul, once freed from the earthly bounds of its mortal confines, could remain earthbound as opposed to ascending into the Heavens? Wouldn't the concept of Reincarnation hold some credibility in Christianity? If Jesus was to return, would it not be either a form of Reincarnation (should he take another human form) or if his essence or Holy Spirit descend from the Heavens to walk the earth, would he be a Ghost?

Religion aside, I have a tale to impart. In June 2002, someone at work on my company's intranet, was giving away an 1849 Mahogany Upright Piano. I only need pay moving charges. I was excited. I don't play, but always wanted to since the days of fooling around with my grandparent's piano.

On June 29, after delays in the actual move, the Piano arrives at midnight (at the cost of $100), and after I put it in place, I turn off the lights to go to sleep. Almost immediately, I begin tossing and turning, very restlessly and break out in a sweat. I can actually feel the presence of the Piano looming in front me against the wall (my pullout bed in the same main room as the piano). I sit up, turn on the light, and stop sweating.

The Piano is giving off a weird vibe and it’s creeping me out. I look at the Piano and try thinking good thoughts about it, and how it is a good piano and it brings joy to people through its music. I turn off the light again, lay down and break into a sweat again.

I sit up, clutching my knees and rocking - just looking at the thing knowing deep inside that all I want is the Piano gone. Completely irrational thoughts for me. But I don’t like the Piano, I don’t feel good with the Piano here and I don’t want the Piano under my roof any longer. At 1:00 AM, I push the piano to the curb and put a sign on it that says “Free”. I come back to bed and almost immediately fall asleep peacefully. In the morning, the Piano is gone.

What was it about this Piano? Was it inhabited by some sort of spirit or ghost or evil energy? I'll never know, but for anyone who knows me... this is not me. I'm not a 'believer' in much that cannot be seen or proven. But this incident began to change my opinion of some things.

Ghosts would be one of them. The idea that energy remnants of prior beings can linger after said being is gone, no longer feels far-fetched to me. Certainly no more far-fetched than most 'concepts' that many people have 'faith' in.

July 4 - "When in the course..."

In case you have forgotten 'why':

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton