8.31.2009

Smoke



From high points in Hermosa we can see the smoke, but our view is nowhere near as incredible as what's captured in this time lapse video. (The Station Fire is about 50 miles away.) We had a brief scare with fire in nearby Palos Verdes on Friday, but that was fortunately quickly contained.

Friends who don't live in LA always ask when there's a fire that makes national news--"Is the smoke bad?"  While it's never as bad as it can be in the valley where the ash gets trapped, we've had the snowing ash and thick air with other fires when the strong Santa Ana winds are blowing out to sea from the desert.  This time, the breezes are flowing from the ocean so the air is quite clear here even though the smoke can be seen in the distance.

There was an incredible sight driving to meet friends for dinner on Friday night...through the darkness, the edges of mountains far off in the distance were covered in streaks of bright orange--appearing almost exactly the same as the flowing lava I photographed in Hawaii three years ago. But I was only 2 miles away from the lava. It's awe inspiring how a nearly 50 mile difference in perspective can make two very different reigns of fire appear almost exactly the same.

8.28.2009

Our great trash nightmare has come to a close

28 days later and the saga comes to a close.  Yesterday, I stopped home for lunch and things weren't looking good.

It was about 2PM and there was an angry dude in an official-looking white pickup having a nextel argument with someone about the task being 'too big to handle'. (I'm not exactly sure what that meant).   He sat there for about 30 minutes and then abruptly took off with our piled up garbage left behind.   As big as the recycle crap in the pix looked, the heaps of non-recycle trash was twice as large.

I was worried that this would require yet another end-of-day call to the landlord which only leads to me being on the receiving end of ranting about how incapable the government is at doing anything. As true as that may be when things come to trash collection in Hermosa Beach, it had been a long day and I just didn't want to hear it again.  Turns out the people at the city and garbage company probably didn't want to hear it either. (Our landlord was bugging everyone who would listen on a daily basis--and I'm very thankful for his being so relentless about it.) When I returned from work, amazingly all the garbage was gone.  And thank god because it's supposed to hit a hundred degrees today and that shit was starting to stink....bad.

So the clock is now reset.  We'll see what happens on next week's collection day.  We'll see...

8.27.2009

Reason #286 why LA is better than NYC

You really can't go wrong with a sunset bike ride along the beach right after work. It's the perfect stress reliever and as an added bonus it's exercise too!  Plus, you get views like this. Every. Single. Day.

With fires raging in the mountains about 80 miles away, the smoke in the air added a little extra glow to make an already gorgeous sight all the more spectacular.

With visitors and busy days and this and that, over two weeks had passed since my last week night ride. Too long. Although to be honest, it's good not to overdo it.  Don't want to start taking it all for granted, after all.

Didn't expect to get much work done last night after the late night on Tuesday.  But after reaching a place of complete calm, I ended up writing a bit and completed an After Effects lesson chapter.  Not bad.

8.26.2009

Green Day

Last night after work I trekked up to Inglewood to meet Darrin for the big Green Day show at The Forum.

A poor choice of route caused the journey to take longer than expected, but I weaved through the arrivals line made it on time to meet up and head in for opening act Franz Ferdinand.  Unfortunately, my slick driving skills didn't end up mattering. Turned out a few other people we were waiting for ended up arriving quite a bit later. Almost exactly when Franz Ferdinand was done. So we missed them. And that was disappointing.

After hurrying inside our annoyances were calmed with drinks provided by the late crew and we got over it. We staked out a spot on the floor of the sold out venue just close enough that we could see well, yet far away enough that we weren't packed in with all the kids up front. (we're way too old for that!)

Green Day took the stage a little after 9 and we were off.  I've always liked the band from day one, although moreso with their last two albums, but I'd never seen them live.  What we got was a nearly 3 hour set packed with more sustained energy than I've experienced from a band in a very long time.  Beyond that, they seemed to have more fun on stage than any band at their tier of popularity and size than I think I've ever seen.  And that just made the whole thing a great party and fantastic to watch.

I don't know how lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong does it.  Drugs, alcohol, insanity or a combination of all three?  Who knows?  Who cares?    A friend joked that he was exhausted watching 45 minutes in--when we were only 25% through the show.

All in all a great time. And it was capped off when I ran into the Hollywood Park casino for the first time in my life to take a piss after sitting in 45 minutes of traffic.  Wow, that place is sketchy at 1AM on Weds morning!
Setlist:

1. 21st Century Breakdown
2. Know Your Enemy
3. East Jesus Nowhere
4. Holiday
5. Static Age
6. Before the Lobotomy
7. Are We the Waiting
8. St. Jimmy
9. Boulevard of Broken Dreams
10. 2000 Light Years Away
11. Hitchin' a Ride
12. Welcome to Parad...ise
13. Disappearing Boy
14. Tight Wad Hill
15. When I Come Around
16. Brain Stew
17. Jaded
18. Longview
19. Basket Case
20. She
21. King for a Day
22. Shout
23. 21 Guns
24. American Eulogy
~break~
25. American Idiot
26. Jesus of Suburbia
27. Minority
28. Macy's Day Parade
29. Last Night On Earth
30. Good Riddance

Random covers in songs/inbetween songs:
Free Falling
Surrender
Satisfaction
Sweet Child Of Mine
Ain't Talkin Bout Love
Sweet Home California
Break on Through to the Other Side
I Don't Know
"We're Coming Home" part from Homecoming

8.25.2009

Ads

In my great effort to bring this little escape-for-my-mind up to date after a lengthy and bumpy hiatus, I decided to explore the blogger control panel (much improved since I was last regularly updating.) and saw a new button called "monetize."

Monetize?  Hmmm. Dreams of vacations aboard golden cruise ships and mansions built with platinum legos filled my head. This sounds great!  I clicked, filled out a couple things and--just like magic--there are ads on the right side of this page now.  And boy do those dollars flow in fast!

To be honest it's a curiosity more than anything else and I don't expect to keep them there for very long. The software includes some tracking ability so I'm more interested in discovering if anyone ends up stumbling here from the vast land of Interwebs. I know there are other ways to do it but I like my tracking just as I like my...well...um...weeknight dinners--easy and effortless.

I'm feeling pretty good about keeping up the nearly daily updates.  Yeah...promises I've made before, I know. But it's been a good way to break through the clutter of my head and find some focus for a few minutes each day and I have a decent routine going now. So that's worth something right?

After I get a bit more content (we're up to ten days now!) and plug myself on facebook...I may earn a whole shiny nickel from those fabulous ads to the right. Oh, happy day!

8.24.2009

Trash dayz II: still trashin

26 days now...

Feel free to play "spot the changes" with the original Trash Dayz image.

Substitute turkey please

What can I say? I'm simply not a very big fan of corned beef. But I love the other components of the reuben sandwich--rye bread, thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut--grilled or broiled to sweet perfection. I don't remember when I had my first turkey reuben. I'm sure it was at some sort of deli years ago. But ever since then, anyone I dine with often can attest to the fact that it's become a staple go-to sandwich order.

There's one core problem. Most restaurants that have a reuben on the menu only list the traditional corned beef version. Well...that's a lie. It's never really a problem. Any restaurant that has a reuben also has some sort of turkey sandwich so it's a simple substitution--one that I've always found common enough that you can request a turkey reuben without extra explanation. Usually.

Last night Darrin, Ochs and I stopped by Kitchen 24 in Hollywood for a bite after viewing the disappointing Inglourious Basterds. I've been a few times before. It's a style over substance diner that tries a little too hard, but it's less expensive than the other nearby options and things were decent enough on prior visits.

Point of the story is when I requested a turkey reuben, the concept was so completely foreign to our waitress that I might as well tried ordering fried grasshoppers with a side car of plum sauce.
"Turkey reuben, please"
"Turkeyburger, next."
"No, I'm sorry, a turkey reuben please. Not a turkey burger."
"Turkey...reuben? Huh."
"A reuben with turkey..."
"I don't think we..."
"...instead of the corned beef"
"Oh. Turkey REUBEN?"
"Yes, please"
A moment of silence as the idea of a reuben constructed with turkey blew her mind.
"OK. Turkey ... reuben."

Wow that was hard. Clearly the kitchen had made these before as it came out correct. Certainly not the best turkey reuben I've ever eaten, but not terrible either.

8.22.2009

Obligatory thoughts on the Avatar footage

It's late so today it will only be a repost of something I wrote elsewhere about the James Cameron Avatar preview footage screened last night. This was written after hearing a lot of people complain and moan about a teaser released online a few days earlier.

Oh and if you don't know what Avatar is...click here











It was a massive mistake for them to release that teaser online first. FOX should have even waited for a few weeks to release the 2D trailer in theaters.

The footage looks insanely cool in 3D. And I think if that's what was out there first the whole tone of comments would be very different. There's a sequence with a chase through the forest that was unlike anything I'd ever seen in 3D before. It just sucks you right in. Also this isn't horror movie 3D where shit's randomly popping out at you as a gimmick. It's more about an infinite depth of dimension beyond the foreground.

That said, the 16 minute reel was a weird experience only because any time it seems like people were getting into it, the screen faded to black and we were thrown into another scene with no perspective. I think a series of clips like that works well for an industry screening, but for this whole big event thing there should been a bit more effort into editing an overall sequence that flowed together.

When I watched the teaser online I thought some of it did look kind of shitty. On the IMAX screen I wasn't thinking that way and worries of Jar Jar Binks faded away. Is it the second coming perfect like the hype set it up to be? Absolutely not. But as you begin to become immersed in the world with the 3D it doesn't feel remotely as cartoony as it appears to be in the fast cut teaser. Because I watched the teaser and because I was thinking way too much about how realistic it looked, I found myself focusing on it way too much. That looks fake. That looks cool. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Hopefully when you're sitting in the theater and the story is unfolding, it's possible to let go.

I still don't love the character design, but the animation is not shitty. It's quite good. And it seems like they've finally figured out that hollow eyes thing that makes CG characters feel very off. Do they look real and alive not CG? Not really. But again, I was over thinking the entire thing and while I did get sucked in for a moment or two, the clip edits never allowed me to become fully immersed.

Cameron has said this is his Dances With Wolves...and seeing the longer clips it's VERY clear how that's the case. It may even end up being so similar thematically that it's not a good thing. We'll have to see in December. Either way after some concern with the online teaser, I'm still very much looking forward to it. It'll be nice if over the next four months the hype and expectations normalize to the point where it's actually possible to enjoy. And even if it completely sucks as a standalone movie in 2D, it's going to be one helluva ride in an IMAX 3D theatre.

8.21.2009

Trash dayz

The great trash-out continues.

Our recycling hasn't been picked up for 22 days.

That's it over there to the left. A nearly month long artifact of drinking, eating and shopping for the three units in our building.

There's so much crap there now that the old Asian dude who shows up on trash day morning to rummage for deposit bottles doesn't even try any more.

The trash company doesn't like to drive the big truck down our dead end very steep street and they're too lazy to pull the barrels up the hill. (everything still fit through day 14 or so). The houses at the top of our street aren't too keen on us leaving our crap on the street in front of their houses, so that's not an option either.

I've called the trash company twice. ("We'll send someone tomorrow"--they don't.) Our landlord has called and escalated to managers a few times. ("They'll send someone tomorrow"--they didn't.) And apparently now there's someone at city hall involved. I dunno.

Eventually they'll send a rover to pick it up. (Yes, the garbage company has a little scout truck for where the monster truck doesn't fit). And then we'll all be happy for 7 days until another trash day passes with the blue barrels left behind.

And the cycle of inaction continues...

8.20.2009

Top Chef

This whole reality TV thing is becoming a burden on my ability to focus and those nasty programmers at Bravo know how to take advantage. Did we really need both the finale of Top Chef Masters and the premiere of the original Top Chef last night? Over the course of the two hours of cheftastic television I kept thinking I should watch later only to keep the TV on. I have a problem! And tomorrow marks the return of Tim Gunn and Project Runway. Ugh. How can I Make It Work myself if I'm not actually not being productive!? Sure, this competition reality is better than an addiction to truly terrible fare like Real Housewives or The Hills but there's just way too much of it! (My anomaly summer interest in the admittedly worthless Big Brother is easily turned off.)

And this is just the start. There's The Amazing Race coming soon. Plus shows like Deadliest Catch and Top Gear. And if I'm flipping through channels on a lazy afternoon, I can easily get sucked in to a marathon of Mythbusters.

The funny thing is I don't just sit in front of the TV and watch crap in all of my spare time. I see people, I workout, there's bike rides and hiking. But after a long stress filled day...even though I feel guilty for not being personally productive...I can't help but settle in and watch some mindless tv. Of course with a focus on shows that actually involve people with real talent working to find success (and/or fame)--as I'm just sitting on the couch--I do start to feel a little lazy. But I keep watching anyway. I'll blame it on the DVR. I never watched all this crap when it wasn't so easily available anytime I wanted it.

OH...and by the way glad to see Rick Bayless win Top Chef Masters. If I ever get back to Chicago I'm definitely going to sample Mexican gourmet at his restaurant. As for the mainline Top Chef...it's only week one. Don't know who to root for yet. I have another billion hours of watching to pick a favorite.

8.19.2009

Frustrations

With a return to a life alone at the house came a return to some ongoing frustrations that remain unresolved.

Yes, it's related to the comment I couldn't make last week. And no, I still can't go into detail. Sometimes you get so close to resolving something that's been casting a negative cloud over your life and then *poof* the whole thing falls apart like a jenga tower. I'm starting to think I've earned far more than my fair share of use on the whole "it's all for the best" mentality.

Anyways...

Took a jog after work yesterday to work out some of the stress of this whole thing. It was nice...especially since I hadn't worked out in a week...until I got the worst side cramp ever about 2/3 through my 3 mile run. That's the last time I have a couple pickles before working out. Yes, pickles.

8.18.2009

The final act

The closing act to the mommapalooza adventure ended up being rather uneventful. I spent the day back at the old grind while mom carted around town and discovered a shop that will fix the car. Work seemed to drag far more than usual--hour after hour after hour after hour--then lunch--then hour after hour after hour. Ugh. Finally the whistle blew and with relief I left and took mom for some pub eats by the beach at Hennessys in Hermosa.

It was another gloomy day so a chilly breeze took over as we sipped drinks and ate greasy sandwiches. After dinner I dropped the mother off at her last night hotel near the airport. (630AM flight out deemed that necessary) We said goodbye and that was it. It was a nice visit--dented car aside, less stressful than I had anticipated.

Now I need to deal with the reality that I'm well off the wagon for a host of things in my life including working out (been a week), writing (longer), editing (forever), getting crap done around the house (eons). Planning to take a jog after work to get back into the groove. Looking forward to hiking again this weekend. I need to be back on my game when Liz returns in two weeks!

8.17.2009

Sunday Supper

We got started on Sunday with brunch at Saint Raphael in Redondo Beach. My eggs benedict were very tasty. Mom had some sort of waffle that I think she enjoyed.

From there we did some shopping in Manhattan Beach and I performed the obligatory stand-outside-and-use-my-iPhone role as mom looked for knick knacks, clothing, and gifts.

Back at home a game of Scene It-Box Office Smash followed. Turns out I know more movie trivia than mom. Shocker. It did take mom a few turns to figure out how to use the controller and she'd probably blame her score on that.

With lots of time to kill we took a long drive up the coast, up Robertson ("where's the Ivy-I want to see celebrities"), and into the hills. We ended up at Franklin Canyon park-a place I've never been myself. We both marveled over how a place like that could be so close to so much civilization.

Eventually we ended up at Lucques in West Hollywood for dinner. Every week, chef-owner Suzanne Goin does a 3 course prix fixe created with seasonal ingredients called "Sunday Supper". Mom had actually given me the Sunday Supper cookbook for Christmas last year and wanted to experience it herself. It was a great time and a fantastic meal. Our menu was:

pan a la catalana with cherry tomatoes,

arugula and black olives

***

grilled market fish with white beans,

marinated eggplant and marcona almond pesto

or

braised chicken with potato-tomato gratin,

paprika and roasted pepper rouille

***

"lost angels" peach ice cream with

amaretti and sara's blackberry syrup


We both selected the chicken after two fish meals. No complaints. Can't wait to return again in the fall when the ingredients change over to autumn flavors.

After mom went back to the hotel I watched the season 3 premiere of Mad Men. Love that show.

8.16.2009

Vino and brithdays

We followed up a stressful day of revelations with the next best thing...cupcakes and vino. Day began when I picked up the mother at her hotel and we ventured up to the Sprinkles cupcakes shop in Beverly Hills. Mom has been talking about her desire to give Sprinkles a try since they debuted a few years ago. We arrive and fortunately the line wasn't long. Mostly tourists with cameras. No...all tourists with cameras. Mom asks if we can get a picture. I say no. We get inside and the special of the week is raspberry. Yum. We order two of those and I get the obligatory red velvet. Mom gets a dark chocolate (at least I think that's what it was). Then we leave we leave with our four boxed and bagged treats. As we walk out we see a couple other tourists taking pix in front of the sprinkles window. Mom just hands me her camera. I take her picture.

From Beverly Hills we head towards Malibu. Mom had wanted to see some nice houses so we take the scenic route to the scenic coast via Sunset through the Palisades. For lunch we hit up Dukes. Bar mitzvah in the private room when we arrive. Is 1PM a normal time for a bar mitzvah? Seemed very early to me. I didn't have close Jewish friends until I was all grows up, so I have no idea. (Yea! Sheltered life!) We grab a table in the barefoot bar and enjoy a tasty lunch outside by the waves. The sun is a little hot, but the fish tacos were tasty so all was good. Mom orders a Mahi Mahi sandwich. Yes, that's two consecutive days of Mahi Mahi.

Wine tasting at Rosenthal and Semlar follow. It's silly how much they charge for tastings in Malibu just because the options are limited. Fortunately Liz and I have 2 Rosenthal glasses that knock most of the cost for that one off when you recycle. Despite the cost it's nice to do the easy local tastings and it's gorgeous up in the hills near Semlar. Mom liked it up there.

After all the fun wineventures we did some curvy road driving and toured the Topanga Canyon hippyland before heading back to the abode.

Mom knew I wanted to go to Eve's birthday party that night so she dropped me off in Hollywood after we spent some time at The Grove. (We were going to get dinner at the Farmer's Market but neither of us had an appetite.) Thank God I have a GPS, so mom got back to her hotel safely without traffic or incident.

I met up with Darrin and Steve and we headed over to the Blue Goose for Eve's 32nd birthday extravaganza. Great to see her and a few others I haven't seen as much of this summer as in past years. Drank a bunch of vodka tonic that Darrin declared watered down and ate a VERY tasty korean BBQ taco before Steve taxi drove me home.

8.14.2009

I don't know how it happened

There's a longer post about a very shitty event yesterday in my job search life but I can't let it go live until I'm certain it's settled. (It'll make sense eventually.) So that aside...

Friday has been fairly uneventful. Boring as always day at work. Then I head home and mother is waiting on the balcony as I drive up. This can't be good. I park in the garage and walk when I walk out she's come down the stairs and is waiting for me. This REALLY can't be good.

"Did your car have a scratch before today?" Fuck, this will in no way be good.

A little backstory. Mother is visiting for the already advertised mommapalooza '09. A six day visit that thus far has gone fairly smoothly. With Liz in Boston for the entire summer we have two cars at the house so I offered mother my Altima Hybrid and I'm driving liz's Infinity G35. Makes sense anyway since I drive a fracking mom-mobile and liz drives a fast sport coupe.

So anyway... "I don't think there was a scratch. Let's go look." We walk up to the car. I don't know what the word scratch means in Maryland, but in California is doesn't mean an indented scrape for a quarter length of the car ending at a kickball sized dent with the metal under the paint exposed.

"No, that wasn't there before."

I'm pretty furious. So I do what anyone furious would do to avoid a fight. I go take a crap.

Eventually after some heated followed by calm discussion we come to the conclusion that mom probably backed into a trash can that was lodged next to a tree. And shit happens so we'll figure out a way to deal with it on Monday. She felt really bad but it'll get resolved so there's no reason for anyone to keep feeling bad. Mom hasn't been having a great time with the car this trip...she got a parking ticket while in the spot that probably led to the big scrape/dent.

Anyway...while that part sucked, mom often surprises me in great ways. Last night we picked some recipes that I could make for dinner tonight and she was going to pick up ingredients while I was at work. I just assumed she'd go to the local supermarket (it's what I'd do) but I mentioned a fresh fish market in the next town that I heard was great. I didn't even know the name as I've never been there myself. Well mom tracked it down and picked up some super cheap but very fresh and tasty mahi mahi.

The menu was: Ginger crusted Mahi Mahi, Garlic and Miso Green Beans, and Wild Rice It was fantastic. One of the best meals I think I've cooked in quite a while. And we both loved it. So it was almost the reverse of yesterday (which you haven't read yet because I can't post it yet!) Shitty news that turned out to end on a very nice note.

Plans for tomorrow involve: cupcakes, a mission, malibu, topanga canyon, and local wine tasting. I have two birthday parties (fortunately close to each other in Hollywood) that I may attend tomorrow night. So any report may not come until Sunday if I end up venturing out.

8.13.2009

mommapalooza

And so it began last night with a post-dinner trek to LAX to pick up my mother who's visiting me...and just me...for the next six days. There was a fear in her voice that the bag she checked wouldn't be in the baggage claim--lost back in Baltimore due to some tragic TSA mishap. Fortunately the concern was unwarranted and we were soon on our way.

It had been a long day of travel so she crashed on my bed after some brief conversation and I slept on the couch. I can't get any days off work these days, (a tragic byproduct of a job I [lies]dearly love [/lies],) so she's scooting around town in my car and I'm driving Liz's G35. No reason to make mom rent a little ford focus with Liz still in Boston.

Fifteen minutes after I get to work my phone rings. "I'm driving and I can't move the seat in your car. My feet hardly reach the pedals now." Probably a problem best resolved before driving. Logic never rules the day in mommapalooza.