Always Look Around

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

;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)

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.

;o)

Music Photography: Shannon Hurley

Been a long time since I’ve been able to shoot an outdoor show. The first day of the second half of the year brought Hot Summer Nights to Los Angeles’ Chinatown, where Shannon Hurley, whom I’ve been musically following for over ten years, soft-rocked out with her sweetie Ben Eisen on bass and Fernando Perdomo on drums.

;o)

Could Be Worse, Could Be Better

So last night the microwave conked out.
This morning, really early, a tube behind the toilet burst, so that you don’t have to get into the tub to take a shower.
And for the last few days I’ve had a thumbnail going the wrong way, only to wake with a bump of red and white above the nail.
Gonna be one of those days, huh?
Luckily the apartment handyman turned up early, though it did take a while for the bathroom floor to dry enough for him to replace the tube. Then it turned out the microwave wasn’t to blame, it was the electrical outlet. That got fixed quickly too.
So feeling good about that, I walked for 45 minutes to CVS, only to find a long line at the Minute Clinic, and over two hours of waiting because of the doctor’s lunch break. Should have followed my instincts and taken the bus to Pasadena Community, but eventually did get out there—the JPL bus takes a long detour through the charming old-fashioned downtown of Sierra Madre, then another long walk—and in less than 15 minutes after arriving I’m in a room waiting for a doctor. I won’t tell you about how she sliced my thumb open to remove the bad fluids—mostly because I didn’t watch—but it hurt a lot less than I expected, and then I caught a bus right in front of the clinic that left me two blocks from home. And wow did this clinic look clean and modern, even having free coffee and a futuristic vending machine that had red vines!
So now I’m at the desk hoping the roof doesn’t leak, but feeling a lot better than I did that morning, when I was drenched from having to reach into the spray to shut off the valve. Sure, it’s basically first world problems, but when they come in bunches. . .

;o)

Paramount Plaques

7 of Fine! Jeri Ryan was here!

7 of Fine! Jeri Ryan was here!

Every Star Trek except DS9, plus NCIS: Los Angeles.

Every Star Trek except DS9, plus NCIS: Los Angeles.

I shoulda checked if that anachronism still worked or was just a prop. . .

I shoulda checked if that anachronism still worked or was just a prop. . .

Star Trek movies are Pretty in Pink

Star Trek movies are Pretty in Pink

Katherine Heigl was here! So was Terry Farrell!

Katherine Heigl was here! So was Terry Farrell!

Facebook Memories reminded me that it’s been a year since my visit to the set of NCIS: Los Angeles. Walking around the lot doesn’t make for many great shots, with almost everything inside the stages, so I had to make fun by shooting the historical plaques that mentioned shows I loved, or at least actresses I enjoyed looking at.

 

;o)