Always Look Around

Even if you’ve done the same commute thousands of times, it always pays to look around, and especially up.

;o)

Advertisements

Magic: Andrew Goldenhersh

Also known as Goldenhands, Andrew is my favorite magician. It helps that he’s married to one of my favorite musicians–more on her in an upcoming blog–but he’s won plenty of awards and done numerous big shows to prove he’s one of the best prestidigitators out there.
And even though I’ve seen him do this trick before, this is the first time I was able to photograph it, which made it all the more fun for me. Hi Elmo!

;o)

Travel Thursday: After Arlington Garden

After the visit to Arlington Garden that I blogged about last week I decided to go further north to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, and for the first time go behind Huntington Hospital rather than the usual Fair Oaks route. I was amazed that in the span of three blocks there was so much gawking to be had.

The famous fork in the road. Read about it, seen photos. Life complete.

Considering my preferences for what is commonly known as weak tea, I’d better not go in there.

How libraries start out.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Arlington Garden

Shots of a small garden in a residential part of Pasadena. . . California, not Texas or Florida or any others. Just the thing to walk off a huge cortisone shot in the left hip; smart of my pain management doctor to set up his office so close.

;o)

Book Reviews: LA, Paris, West Virginia, and Fantasyland

Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?
A woman who has lived and worked in both Los Angeles and Paris talks about their differences, but more importantly their similarities, in a work full of visual comparisons.
After a long intro chapter, the book moves into diverse sections, the first of which is monuments. There are drawings, so it moves much faster. It took a while to get into this, but after the slow start I grew to love it. Really enjoyed all the comparisons between the cities, like the Arch de Triumph with the Paramount Pictures front gate. My surprising favorite was the Palais Garnier, which is the building featured in the intro of the Miraculous TV show, and reminds me of Royce Hall at UCLA, even though I know that one’s based on a church in Milan.
Two of my local faves—In-N-Out Burger and Baskin-Robbins—made it into this book! Okay, BR31 isn’t local anymore—it’s mentioned it’s the largest ice cream chain in the world—but it started in El Lay, and that’s what counts. That angle of Olvera Street is unusual, never looked at it that way.
I suppose it should be expected, considering the author’s background, that there’s a lot of fashion stuff in here, but it’s still the most boring part.
Two mistakes in the Olympics section: St. Louis was the first American city to host, and nobody calls the Coliseum the Olympic stadium.
In a thoroughly modern move, instead of street directions this book gives you GPS coordinates.
The drawings are watercolor, childish but lively. Despite the abstract nature, the subjects are surprisingly recognizable. The Colorado Street Bridge is so well drawn. Another beauty that’s done so lovingly is the Huntington. The Norton Simon is painted in such a lovely Impressionistic style that it could be hanging there.
You have to be in the mood for it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork, surprising myself. I think the best word I can use to describe this is playful.
3.5/5

The Unquiet Grave
My love for Sharyn McCrumb—or at least her early works—battles with my dislike for historical fiction, or in this case a necessarily fictionalized version of a true legend, the story of the Greenbrier Ghost.
There’s very little here about the actual murder trial. Of course it would be pretty dry if it was just an account of the case, but this story blossoms into over 350 pages of background on the family of the murder victim as well as one of the defense attorneys, with him telling the story many years later as he’s sitting in a psychiatric facility, encouraged by his doctor to talk about what it was like being the first black lawyer in West Virginia. The two distinct storylines made it hard for me to remember one while reading the other; the book goes to exactly the halfway mark before the two threads tie together.
At one point I thought, “So many hints about how bad Zona’s husband is; wish she’d get on with it.” So yes, I’m a jinx.
This is the kind of brilliance she can bring: “The time between their first setting eyes on one another and their wedding day was both too long and too short, depending on how you looked at it.” But the dazzling nuggets of prose are too few amongst long dull descriptions. Yes, I fully admit I’m looking at this through the kaleidoscope that was her early humorous work, but even when compared to her Appalachian series this was still a more difficult read than it needed to be.
3/5

The Spellsinger Adventures Volume One
This collection consists of the first three books in Alan Dean Foster’s long-running series that features a human from our Earth falling into a fantasy world of giant talking animals. In this place he’s a musician/magician, but his spells hardly ever turn out as he’d intended; just about the only song he got right was Sloop John B, and that didn’t end well for him either. His diverse comrades—that word used to appease the dragon—include a wise old turtle, a Cockney-accented dirty-minded otter, a dapper rabbit, an angry bat, and two gorgeous but deadly human ladies. This is more than anything a comedy road adventure, with the group fighting evil and sometimes each other on their way to a face-off with the most dangerous foe any world has even seen.
The writing doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the reader shouldn’t either; just read and enjoy and don’t try too hard to make sense of it. . .
4/5

Moribund
A supposedly ordinary teen, who previously had an encounter with magical forces that left her injured, has to find her hidden power in order to defeat a bad guy from the dark side, with either the help or hindrance of a dark princess she’s falling in love with. (Wow, I can’t believe I managed to encapsulate that, because it’s a lot more complicated.)
What drew me to this book was the violin-playing lady on the cover, but in the end the instrument had very little to do with anything. Right into it there’s a lot of exposition, but it’s well done. It’s strange: I found myself enjoying this without really knowing why. There’s so much introspection going on, all talk and no action, which would usually have bored me, but the two main characters are incredibly fascinating.
There are some genuinely hilarious lines in here. My fave: What was their weakness? Kryptonite? The color yellow? A fluffy kitten? Gah!
Can I still call it over-the-top Emo when the author mentions it. . . again and again? Hell, there’s even a Kylo Ren reference.
So this is one of those stories that’s more about the writing than the plot, but in the end I found it worthwhile.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday: Lindsey Stirling on Jimmy Kimmel

I always give myself 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop for the ride downtown, even though it takes less than ten. (If you’ve followed this blog for a while—yeah right, welcome—you’ll know my fave Shakespeare quote is “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”) But thanks to my favorite app, I see that the bus that runs on my street and takes me to the light-rail station is coming in 5, so I do that instead, and thankfully there was enough of a break in the traffic to let me run across while it was about a block away. I do so love living on the edge. . .
The great thing about the light-rail, besides everything, is that it has a perfectly moderated air conditioning setting, whereas most buses will put it on freezing in the mistaken impression this is the way to go when it’s searing outside. And no matter how many times I’ve told them they don’t need to do that, some people are just allergic to logic.
Since I took the rules spelled out on the Jimmy Kimmel ticket email a lot more seriously than most people, as I saw when I got there later, I took as little as possible with me: no backpack, no water bottle, and definitely no headphones, so no music on the long rides on the train and subway. And they said no shorts! In this 95-degree heat my legs were very confused. (And there were a lot of people in shorts that were allowed in, dammit!) Stopped off at Olvera Street for my usual bean and cheese burrito, followed by a softie vanilla; after that I was ready for anything, including the boring non-musical subway ride that left me at Hollywood and Highland.
The irony did not elude me that I was in the place where I first saw Lindsey Stirling—The Dolby Theater—and I’m about to watch her again right across the street. I hope she plays her Christmas show somewhere else, though not too far away.

Finally I find the right line on the sidewalk and stand between an older couple from Texas and a younger couple from North Carolina; kinda felt weird being the local. It was at this point that one of the employees came by and said we might not get in if enough of the “special” people in the other line came and filled up all the seats. My back was already hurting and I truly felt like giving up, but stuck through another half hour until they moved us up and in; many people after me made it, so thanks a lot for the drama, dude! I regret giving you that fist bump.
You don’t get to put your phone on silent or airplane mode; nope, if you don’t turn it completely off you don’t get in. Then we waited on the stairs leading into the studio, moving another step every time the people in front were slowly told where to sit, off in pairs like we were heading into Noah’s Ark. Turns out the only other person there not in a couple was a girl from China standing next to me, so after a cheery “Hello!” to me—I shoulda remembered to say “Ni Hao!”—she led the way as we were escorted to the very back row. I didn’t mind, though my knees would have preferred not to do all the stairs. The guy doing the talking, a rugged lumberjack type named Linc, then came to the front to run the rules by us, and did a pretty good job with the humor, enough that I thought he might be the warmup. When he said, “Don’t do the El Lay thing, where nothing impresses you,” I realized I’d have to act excited after all, dammit. After he was done everyone rushed to the restroom, which is downstairs—great, more stairs—and are right next to the green rooms. I looked for Kit or Drew for a quick hello, but the glaring security guards kept me from lingering.
Once I climbed the damned stairs back up to the studio, the actual warmup guy was there, a balding big guy who thought he was Rickles, and was almost as good. Being from Michigan, he couldn’t stop heckling the guy from Ohio, and was all gaga for the girl from Virginia who was in the clip about finding North Korea on a map; he named her Queen of the Day and gave her a crown, in fact.
On to the show. Since I don’t watch the series he’s in, had no idea who Milo Ventimiglia was. Have to disagree about his name winning Scrabble, as it has too many vowels. And I didn’t know he was a fellow Bruin until I just now looked up how to spell his name. BTW, after Kimmel’s monologue, while the crew was setting up the desk and chairs behind him, he talked to one guy in the audience who just moved here from Massachusetts to attend UCLA, so it was a beautiful non-Trojan day.
After him was another celeb stranger to me, Jenny Slate, who turned out to be a pretty funny comedian, in that offbeat-sorta-weird coocoo cloudlander kinda way; she’s like a wannabe Zoe Deschanel. Her love for chicken fingers and beer ruins any potential romance with this guy, though.
Okay, on to the important part. Because I was in the last row, I had to wait for everyone else to stream out back toward where we entered, because on the west side of the old lobby was the stage where Lindsey would play. Those in front got to stand right in front of the stage, whereas by the time I got there I was in the very back, behind a pillar, plus there was a camera rig in front of me. I got occasional glimpses of Lindsey and Rooty, could see Kit most of the time, but didn’t glimpse the drum set at all. I did spot Adina once, if that makes up for it.
So there goes “Love’s Just A Feeling,” with all the musicians playing extraordinarily well; they brought it, for sure. Unfortunately the audience didn’t seem to know what to make of it; they were faking it as well as they could, but seemed confused as to whether they liked it or not, or were possibly stunned to see a violinist dancing. Because the crowd energy wasn’t at the level needed, the stage manager informed everyone that the song would be done again, which was fine with me. And then we got the bonus of the full version of “The Arena,” with the same video stuff as the concert playing behind her, and that seemed to be a bigger crowd pleaser. For once I forgot to notice which violin she was using, though I was too far away to tell if it was Excalibur or Bushwhacker anyway.
There were two guys standing in front of me, and during the first try they just stood there like they’d rather be anywhere else, even though everyone around them was at least faking the enjoyment. But when “Love’s” played again they were feeling it, clapping along, tapping their feet. By the time “The Arena” came along they were fully into it, as was most of the crowd around me; whereas before they might have faked the woo-hoos for the camera, this time it was totally genuine. And with Kimmel’s close-to-two-million-viewers nightly average, it’ll be interesting to see if Lindsey gets an uptick in sales and social media follows.
I got to say hi to Drew after, but he was too busy breaking down the skins to hang out.
Looking back, I was surprised at how quickly and smoothly the show went, especially in comparison to other shows. Sitcoms that film in front of a live studio audience take at least four hours for 20 minutes of screen time, while dramas sometimes need eight days! We were done in less than two hours—no idea as to exact times, as my phone was off—almost real time, and it’s a testament that only a few hours later it was airing on the East Coast; they must have been editing as they went along. I know there’s a ton of work that needs to be done beforehand, but they made it look so easy, so kudos to everyone. It felt like we spent more time in line than in the actual show, which for all I know is entirely possible.
With all that done, I debated where to eat. The McD’s fries are always there, and In-N-Out isn’t far away, though always full. I haven’t eaten at Mel’s in a long time, mostly because the price doesn’t equal the flavor, but then I remembered how much I love the Orange Freeze there and set out eagerly. As is my wont in this place, I sat at the counter, ignoring the mini juke boxes while I caught up on the world via my phone. It took longer to be served than for them to make my delicious treat, and they added more whipped cream than I remember, but no complaints here. As usual I took the cherry off and placed it on the napkin, this time leaving it there, not daring to ask anyone if they wanted it, not since the infamous “taking my cherry” debacle of 2009.
Uneventful ride home, the best kind.
And now as I write this I’m watching the show on TV, and now I understand why they put me in the back row (on the other hand, the guy sitting next to me was much better looking). It’s pretty intriguing to see the differences. I remember everything that was shown, but there were also some parts that were edited out. The concert was actually better on TV; as I mentioned, I was stuck in the back behind a pillar. (I promised Drew I’d yell out his name, but he couldn’t hear me from back there.) So while it was nowhere near as good as a full concert, especially one where I sat in the fifth row, it was a pretty interesting experience to see Lindsey with my eyes instead of a TV or computer monitor. It was my day off, and nothing is sore or achy the next day, so no downsides at all.
Now point me to where I can get tickets for the Christmas show, Lindsey. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshot: La Plaza Mexican-American Museum

Today’s travel only took me an hour from home, but since I went after visiting my mother at the nursing home, it felt like a lot longer.
This museum is located across the street from the Plaza in downtown Los Angeles—itself across the street from Union Station—which is most famous for containing Olvera Street. If any of you bothered to read my one and only food review, you’d know that place was Juanita’s, right here on Olvera Street, so that had to be the first stop. It’s easy to tell when you’ve been to a restaurant a lot when the moment they see you they yell to the kitchen, “Bean and cheese burrito!” I had to straighten them out: “That’s just my nickname, not my real name.”
After some talk with the owner about missing Comic-Con, I set off for my usual after-burrito soft serve, then on to the museum, which is across the street from the gazebo, almost next to the church, if you count the open area between them. The first thing I found out was that it’s free, though there is a donation box. The young lady behind the desk smiled and told me what I could expect and to make sure not to use a flash if I took photos. Sounded a little rehearsed, but I wasn’t going to hold that against her.
So on to the many displays on the first floor, reminiscent of the museum style of the Autry Museum of the West in Griffith Park. The first part deals with social issues, like racism in the 40s and school segregation.

After that it’s more about the history of the area, including videos and sound bites. Also on the ground floor is a space for art exhibits, the current one concerning art works from those who refer to themselves as Latinx artists, which is a term I’m unfamiliar with but apparently stands as either gender-neutral form of “Latin” or LGBT for Hispanics. . . or possibly both. There were a couple of particularly intriguing works, as well as quotes; the one that really made me laugh was the guy calling Frieda Kahlo the original Queen of Selfies.


On the second floor is a space, again reminiscent of the Autry, made up of store fronts, the most popular for me of course being the photo studio; now I know what my professional life would have been like 100 years ago. The other favorite was the book store—remember, kiddies, in Spanish Liberia does not mean Library; that’s Biblioteca—which also sold music. The grocery store was fun too, as I looked for things I might like and had to settle for vanilla—spelled differently here—chamomile, and cinnamon.


So, overall not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, especially in the heat of summer. I might have to cross the street and get another soft serve from the lady that’s always reading. . .

;o)