Selfishly Helping

I don’t do this often, but this is one of those exceedingly rare times when I feel the need for it. A couple of weeks ago something happened that’s been nagging me, and I feel that if I write about it, maybe I’ll get some closure.
I’d just gotten out of physical therapy and was heading for the bus stop when I came across an old Asian man in a seersucker suit, using a blind man’s cane as though he’s not familiar with it; I mention he was Asian because the language barrier was insurmountable. He hands me a card that says Lanai Motel, which I assume is the one I just passed, though I’ve never seen its name. I really wanted to make the next bus, but knew there’d be another one soon, so I gather his elbow in my hand and lead him toward the hotel as he talks about who knows what.
I had some trouble navigating him; I didn’t want to pull on him too hard, but he kept going in all directions. Eventually I got him on the handicap ramp of the hotel and let him walk up it alone—with cement borders on both sides, he couldn’t get lost—and go up to ring the bell and get the desk clerk. When the guy looks out the window and nods, I go back down the ramp and, sure enough, the poor guy can’t navigate the slight turn. Luckily the desk clerk, who thankfully spoke Chinese, shows up and takes over the navigation, and I leave before either can say anything.
In her book Lindsey Stirling talks about being selflessly selfless, as opposed to selfishly selfless, which she defines as doing something nice for someone for your own selfish reasons, even if it’s something as simple as wanting to feel good about yourself. So was I being selflessly selfless? Not sure. I do know that if something had happened to him—from falling down to being hit by a car—and I hadn’t helped, I’d feel horrible. Does that make me selfish? Probably. What I can’t get over is why this philosophical conundrum is getting to me so much. You’d think after a few days my brain would just let it go. . . oh crap, that song just exploded in my head again. . .
Yeah, that pretty much explains how confusing the whole thing has been. . .



Whatever Shall I Wear?

This is not a question I ever imagined asking, but tomorrow is the Jump, Jive, and Thrive fundraising event and there are numerous options as far as my chest billboard goes. Just in case anyone feels like voting, here’s the options, keeping in mind that the night features
1. Breast cancer awareness.
2. Takes place at UCLA.
3. The UCLA gymnastics team is hosting.
4. My girl Lindsey Stirling will be playing.

Can’t believe I’ve been following the team this long.

My fave of 5 Lindsey shirts. It’s actually more beige than seen here.

The favorite going in, considering both the place and the cause. The script is more pepto than the kinda grapefruit color seen here.

It’s been getting a little chilly at night, so I put in a hoodie option.


INsiders: Tale of Two Cities

The start of my third year with this prestigious group turned out to be one of the best meetings yet, much more fun than one would expect in a lecture about a famous and often-discussed book/play/story.
First, a little background: The INsiders is a discussion group that meets during the run of each play at A Noise Within (not counting the annual A Christmas Carol). Some people liken it to an old-fashioned salon—a term invented in 16th Century Italy, but that’s another story—where people gathered to banter about the art of the day, usually literature and poetry. For those who don’t know, A Noise Within is a relatively famous theater company in Pasadena, known for being a tiny powerhouse amongst the giants of the stage world. The theater is easily accessible, as it is right off the 210 freeway, as well as being directly at a stop of the Metro Gold Line light-rail train.
Every INsiders gathering has two guests, one a distinguished scholar who usually teaches the work being discussed, the other an actor involved in the production. At this past Tuesday’s meeting the acting guest was Emily Goss, who portrays Lucie. She’s one of the few actors at A Noise Within whom I was familiar with before seeing her on the stage here. In this episode of the You Tube series Princess Rap Battle, she played Goldilocks (behind Cinderella, not the one in red), but with her newly brown/red hair she no longer fits that role.
The scholarly guest was Dr. Lana L. Dalley, a professor of English Lit at Cal State Fullerton. Far from the stereotype of a stodgy academic in tweed, she was instantly notable for her short blonde hair and script tattoo on her right arm; when asked about it later, she admitted it read “Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress,” which is the first line from Middlemarch, by George Eliot. She’s also an X-Files fan, as we’ll see later.

Armed with computer slides that were both amusing and educational, Dr. Dalley regaled us for the next two hours with little-known tidbits on the life of Charles Dickens, as well as placing his life and works into context. The first note that struck me was the reveal of Dickens World! Yes, an amusement park was built around his novels, with such features as a water ride, haunted house, and animatronic show. Even though I would have never thought to go, I’m disappointed I won’t have the chance, as it has since closed down.
Unlike most famous authors, Dickens never wanted to be a writer. Like Shakespeare, he was more interested in acting, but missed his first audition due to sickness. He did eventually work on the stage, but ended up writing to make money, eventually becoming so famous that at the height of his popularity he did tours around England as well as America, and was reportedly quite the diva about it. He even had a rider that would put most rock stars to shame.
One of the most intriguing tidbits for me was his friendship and collaboration with Wilkie Collins, a vastly underrated author whose most famous works were The Woman in White and The Moonstone, some of the best early British mysteries.
At one point Dr. Dalley showed movie posters of some of Dickens’ works, the first being a recent Bleak House production starring Gillian Anderson. . . except she called her “Scully.” Anyone who can reference The X-Files during a English Lit lecture is more than okay in my book.
The lecture ended on a fun note about Tale of Two Cities having the first ever mention of potato chips:
“Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.”
I don’t know how oil can be reluctant, but it sounds awesome. I might argue, though, that since fries are called chips in England, this isn’t so much about potato chips as French fries, which I love a thousand times more, but I digress.
It felt like there wasn’t as much time for questions as usual, but since Dr. Dalley let us interrupt her whenever we wanted, there wasn’t much left to ask. The lecture was so entertaining that poor Emily spent most of the time as a fellow listener, but did get to bring some insights into her portrayal of Lucie.

If I’ve piqued your interest in attending, here are the remaining dates for the 2017/18 season:
The Madwoman of Chaillot | Oct. 24, 2017
Mrs. Warren’s Profession | Nov. 21, 2017
Henry V | Feb. 27, 2018
A Raisin in the Sun | March 27, 2018
Noises Off | Apr. 24, 2018

In addition to the guests and discussion, you get refreshments—cookies and strawberries are the favorites—and if you arrive early you can join a lot of the attendees for dinner beforehand, usually Chinese food (I go to the burger joint).
Fair warning: it does cost, though it counts as a tax-deductible donation. For more info, contact Alicia Green, the Director of Education & Community Outreach, at or call 626-356-3104. (Don’t be scared, she’s a sweetie.)


Two Photos Today

Sometimes I’m surprised by how little I notice of my surroundings. I think part of it is age/experience, as my weary body feels like I’ve seen it all. Or maybe I got tired of being called Sherlock Holmes all the time.

But today was different. Maybe it was the weather, as it was a relatively balmy 85 degrees compared to the high 90s of the past couple of months. On the way to the physical therapist I saw this:

Have no idea who she is, but looks cute in a fairy with horns kinda way. When I left a couple of hours later to visit my mom at the nursing home, she was still there. (And I was totally shocked that my mother got into learning basic Italian with me.)

Then, leaving the grocery store to grab lunch at my second favorite Mexican place, I caught this at a nearby bus stop:

When your favorite actress gets top (or only) billing, as a fan you should share it with the world. (And yes, I’m sure there are ads with the names of the other actors, but I got the one with my favorite, so it counts.)


So. . . What A Lovely Weekend It Turned Out To Be

Here’s hoping you had more fun.

1:00 P.M.
About a week ago I got a notice popping up on my computer that Window/Microsoft/whatever needed to make a download that would take a while, so did I want to do it then, or hit the snooze? (Yes, it had a snooze button.) Since I was in the middle of a hot writing session, I postponed, but when I was ready I looked for the program that had popped up—assuming it was right there on the task bar, or maybe in settings—but couldn’t find it. Oh well, no big deal, I figured, I’ll do it myself.
But that rebooting didn’t do it after all, as today at around one o’clock it popped up again. This time I set it to do its job at 2, but I finished quicker than expected and this time the settings program stayed open, so I clicked on “Start now.”
They weren’t kidding when they said it was a big one. I have pretty fast internet and at the very least ok computer RAM, but that sucker took FOUR HOURS!
5:30 P.M.
Finally done, I tried to get back to work. . . except my writing program wouldn’t open, or at least it opened a little and then asked me to log in, only to report an error. It told me to fix it by going to my Office program, except it deleted it instead. So on to downloading it again, only that didn’t fix the problem. So, not able to do any writing, which is at least half my work, and the other half—working on photos—wasn’t available because at the moment I had no photos to work on, I read a lot, even more than usual, and watched two hours of Katherine Heigl on TV before going to bed early. . . on a Saturday night.

11:30 A.M.
Things got off to a late start, so I wasn’t able to get onto Microsoft’s chat help until 11:30. Wasn’t sure if this was a smart thing to do, as I had to shower and get ready to go to the monthly Sisters in Crime meeting soon. But I did it anyway. First I got Rajesh—I remember because it’s the same name as the guy on Big Bang Theory—who did his best to get Word up and running, only to fail after about an hour.
1:00 P.M.
Once he ran out of options I was transferred to main support, in the body of a pleasant young lady named Adrianne. She told me there’d been a number of people with such trouble after the big download yesterday, and knew just how to fix it. By now I figured I’d be arriving late for the meeting, and possibly with only a whore’s bath instead of a shower. . .
2:00 P.M.
Not exactly a plot twist, is it? Not when you’re expecting it. That solution didn’t work, and she went away for a while to try to figure something out. When she came back a few minutes later, it was to completely remove Windows 10 and then redownload it. As you can guess, there was no Sisters in Crime meeting for me today; was gonna go to In-N-Out, too.
4:45 P.M.
By the time the download finished I’d lost touch with Adrianne, who probably went off to help other people. Luckily when I tried Word it worked. Relief is too small a word. The best I can say is that it was a cooler day than most in the past month, so not too bad spending it in the apartment. On the other hand, would have been a great day to go out, since tomorrow it’s supposed to be hot again and I have to go to physical therapy. . .


Make Someone Happy

Yesterday, in the middle of a hot muggy afternoon of running around Los Angeles—first bout of physical therapy, visiting my mother at the nursing home, groceries, etc.—I had to go to Union Station to reload my bus pass. There were three people ahead of me in line. One of them left, as though they’d waited long enough and had to catch a train or something. The guy right in front of me asked something of the woman before him, but when she couldn’t answer he turned to me, inquiring as to where he might buy an Amtrak ticket to Oceanside. Simple enough to give him directions, and he looked a lot less stressed out as he headed off.
A couple of minutes later I arrived at the empty middle window, where through the security glass I could see the lady sitting there, looking a bit harried and in need of a break. Starting out businesslike, I placed my TAP card and credit card in the tiny slot while asking for $50 of stored credit. After taking them and placing them on their spots, she turned back to ask me for ID. . . which I was already holding up with a smile as well as my hand. “I’ve done this before,” I chuckled, making her laugh and say, “I love it when everyone’s prepared!”
By the time I left she was sporting a huge smile and thanked me with a brighter tone than I expected. That made me smile too as I made my way up the escalator and out into the bus bay. . . until I felt the humidity trying to suffocate me like a boa constrictor.


Book Reviews: Foxes, Dogwoods, Spitfires, and Heartstrings

This is the second book I’ve read about the female grad student who went from Montana to Northwestern and supposedly solves crimes, but to my surprise there was another book in between the one I read and this one. Oh well, on to part three.
In this one Jessica wakes up freezing behind a dumpster, thinking she was raped. . . but that plot would be too easy, of course it’s something much more sinister. But all I could think of was here we go again! How many times was she roofied or drunk in the first book? Right at the start it’s happened again, and it’s not the only time it happens in this story. Everyone in this story, especially Jessie but even Lolita, the usually badass Russian superheroine, should be dead from stupidity a long time ago. Especially strange for a protagonist to be the victim over and over and over. At some point there has to be growth, learning. Or perhaps the author wanted to show philosophy students don’t have a grasp on the real world. For me, these issues with the main character, as well as others, overshadows the story, and particularly the issues raised, which would be important if the high-tech stuff going on is actually a reality now.
Just like in the first, the Russian subplot slowed the whole story. And I can’t help but wonder if I missed something early on where it was stated, but is Jack British? He talks like it.
There’s a line where Jessie is called the dumbest smart person ever, and it is right on the money. This book was better than the first, but I still don’t like Jessie, which is saying a lot, because she should be very likeable. And why is she listed as a detective? In the two books I’ve read, she’s never solved anything.

Dogwood Sprocket
A woman in the 23rd century has a quick visit from a time traveler. When he comes back she’s sucked into the vortex and goes back with him to 1887 Saint Louis, though a steampunk version that’s not the exact past of her world.
So, I don’t often get to write “Time travel romance with a steampunk twist.” Despite being a bit of a pushover, I liked Grace, the main character. Her best moment was likely being starstruck at meeting H.G. Wells, though you could see that twist coming. Most of all, I’m pleased the author didn’t feel then need to expand this, it’s completely Goldilocks at this length. The “horse” race was completely unnecessary but quite enjoyable. I do wish I could picture the hummingbird, though. But did I miss something or does the title not relate at all?

Suzy Spitfire
From the “trendy metropolis of Diego Tijuana” to outer space, Suzy tries to stay one step ahead of the corrupt “good guys,” the leader of which wants to either hire her or kill her, depending on his mood. Everyone is looking for the AI her father invented and stashed before being killed by the guy just mentioned.
Suzy’s an incredibly intriguing character, someone who would have been the happy person in any story had it not been for a family trauma that forced her to kill someone, which is the other reason everyone’s out to get her. Instead she’s one of those hotheaded idiots who can’t control her rage. Other than that she’s a fascinating young lady with an overabundance of snark, and plenty of guys after her even when they find out she’s on the run.
The most interesting character might be the by-the-book second in command who knows better than to trust his boss. But the best moment had to be Ricardo’s fakeout to save his ship from the not-so-infamous Captain Crush. Saw it coming, but still well done.
So, all in all an enjoyable romp through the solar system. The plot isn’t all that important, just a McGuffin getting her from one situation to the next. The fun is in the journey.

Classical Murder
A famous opera diva is killed and her tenor boyfriend suspected. The Opera journalist who is the protagonist sat next to her when she was incognito at a show the night she was killed and is now investigating at the behest of the suspect.
The action—though that’s not really the word for what happens—moves from London to France often, sometimes with her supposed boyfriend but not always. I like the witty repartee between the two leads, as well as some of the main characters. . . but despite—or maybe because—of that, some voices sound alike. Her boyfriend and her boss, for instance. And so many characters! Especially the French ladies; I had to go back to remember who Sophie was. On the other side of it, so many guys are fighting for Imogen’s attention—a little bit of Mary Sue there, I think—but she’s always jealous of the French girls. But the worst part is there’s a lot—and I mean a LOT—of description about what she chooses to wear, every single time she gets dressed. It didn’t take long for me to learn to skip those paragraphs. There’s also one point where she’s looking through the newspaper in what is leading up to a big reveal, only it was so obvious who it was going to be.
For the record, no one solved the crime; she stumbled into it as stupidly as possible by almost becoming the next victim.

Strings: a Love Story
A long-lost Stradivarius reappears after being missing for centuries, but rather than the story of how that happened it is merely a frame for the history of the violin examiner, all the way back to private school. This is where he first me the “one,” the girl he was destined to be with, but due to decades of misunderstandings and meddlesome parents, it was not happily ever after. His life and other loves are told, mostly his long career as a soloist, with occasional run-ins and a lot of thoughts of her.
I did not expect this story to sustain itself for an entire book, but it was surprisingly riveting; had this been a movie there would have been a lot of yelling at the screen, soundtracked by tears. The most unexpected thing was how nicely it all wrapped up. The violin’s history, despite it being fiction, is exactly the kind of thing I like to read in these sorts of books. And for once I felt like the couple deserved their ending.