Saturday, January 28, 2012

So I may have jumped the gun when I counted Little Blue out last week

For a number of reasons I'm too exhausted to go into, I did not go car shopping with The Brother today and Little Blue Corolla has in fact been towed and repaired and gifted with a new alternator and battery recharge.  It will have to hold on for at least a couple more months.

Oh who am I kidding - this car will probably outlive me.  One of the things I've learned about Corollas over the years as an owner: Mechanics love these cars.  They love them.  In fact, when I went to pick the car up and gave my mechanic my tale of woe, he told me to let him know when I was ready to sell it.  He even Blue Booked it for me on the spot.  And the guy from Auto Club who towed it told me his wife had owned a Corolla and they sold it to their mechanic.  2010 Corollas at Carmax are priced in the $13k range, the same price my Dad and I paid for mine in 1994 (it's a '93 and had spent the first year of its life as a rental).  They are truly the best cars for the money.

After a lot of recent nonstop piling on, I've actually had some things work out the past couple of days (in addition to bringing Little Blue back from the dead) and may actually get my late uncle's Orange County apartment cleaned out by the drop dead date.  Then I can concentrate on paperwork for both his and my Dad's estates and maybe someday, even get back to my own life.  I've been needing and wanting to get a new car and new apartment for years now, and it's actually looking like I might be able to do so one of these months or years.

It was a beautiful day in the Southland today and after hitting the post office to pick up a package and mail a couple of estate and family drama related items, I just couldn't bring myself to go home.  I ran Little Blue to the car wash, then headed over to The Grove, where per their automated parking machine I spent 2 hours and 8 minutes blissfully wandering through Barnes & Noble, Farmer's Market, Anthropologie and Cost Plus.  I didn't buy much, but it was just so wonderful to be out and about on such a beautiful day.  Yesterday, after picking up my newly repaired car, I made much-needed runs to Target and Costco, and Little Blue has fired up every time since the latest repair.

Blue skies and my Little Blue Corolla, shining on me...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Well of course it's really a thing...everyone knows that

Apparently it's a slow news day in Toronto, so the NHL on Facebook poses this question: Is the shutout jinx really a thing?

Well of course it is, any hockey fan can tell you that.  For those of you ignorant of the greatest game on earth, it works like this: If your goalie starts the third period having not yet given up a goal and you comment about him working on a shutout, he will promptly give up a goal.  It's a proven scientific fact, and a frequent newbie mistake.

That doesn't mean I didn't learn anything from this clip, even though I've always believed the jinx only applies to fans.  Announcers pretty much have to mention it, but as the saying goes, timing is everything.

No shutout for you!

In Kings news, Jonathan Quick is headed to Ottawa this weekend for a richly deserved appearance in the NHL's All-Star Game.  Quick hoards shutouts like apartment-dwellers hoard quarters for the laundry, but he can probably forget about a shutout Sunday whether anyone mentions it or not.  The All-Star Game is not like other NHL games and the goalies tend to get torched.  The important thing is that he's finally getting league-wide recognition *cough* westcoastbias *cough*.

After not showing up when we did last Saturday, the Kings lit into the Ottawa Senators Monday night at Staples Center, beating the Sens 4-1.  Maybe one day they'll play like that when The Brother and I are actually present at Staples.  Quick lost the shutout in the third because some idiot obviously blurted out the S-word.  The Kings scoring featured a penalty shot goal by Trevor Lewis, but the highlight of the game was Kyle Clifford finally nabbing his first NHL Gordie Howe Hat Trick (he also had one in juniors).  Now maybe the Team LA Store will deign to actually carry his jerseys.  Kings Nation loves Cliffy to death; there's no way there isn't a significant demand for items bearing lucky number 13.

Lastly, we are currently in the midst of a Kings drought that will be sending the royal purple faithful into agonized withdrawal.  After the Ottawa game, they don't play again until next Wednesday, a scorched, Kings-free desert wasteland of over a week resulting from the All-Star break and a scheduling quirk.  Hopefully they'll all be rested and ready to break open the goal scoring floodgates upon their return to action.  GO KINGS!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sophie finally paying her way...sort of

I had to order new checks today and while searching for just the right design I discovered that you can order checks with your own pictures on them.  And by my own pictures, of course I mean pictures of the cat.  Thank you very much Check Gallery!

Most of my stuff is paid electronically these days, but there will still be times when I need to pay by check and when I do, I will pay by a check with Sophie's smiling face on it.  Here are the pictures I used:

It almost makes me want to pay bills.  Almost.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some observances from The Brother and I from last night's Kings game

The Brother and I invaded Staples Center in person for the fourth time this season and for the fourth time this season did not leave with a victory to show for it.

Some observances:
  • Jonathan Quick's birthday sucked.
  • Justin Williams looks like a movie star.
  • The blimp is cool but was better when it was purple and festooned with a Kings logo instead of advertising.
  • We didn't see the first Ghost Rider movie and we aren't seeing the second one.
  • The continued lack of Clifford gear for sale in the arena is a massive disappointment to both of us.  Despite The Brother's totally not gay love of Quick, Cliffy is currently his boy and he wants a number 13 jersey.  Which he will apparently have to go to for as one cannot be found for sale on the Staples Center premises.  What is up with that?  It's not like the guy just arrived in town.
  • We are both sick and tired of seeing Johnson and Doughty pass.  SHOOOOOOOT!!!!!
  • We have found the best seats in the arena and no, I'm not telling you where they are. *seasonseatscoughseasonseats*
  • There is an awesome sports memorabilia exhibit in the arena that has apparently been there for three years but is so not publicized that we just found it last night for the first time.  And it is awesome.  Someone dropped the ball on making sure the world knows about it.  They have Babe Ruth's fur coat for crying out loud.  The Brother and I: "Eddie Shore!!!..."
Some fuzzy crackberry pics from last night:

The Marriott and Ritz Carlton at sundown.

L.A. Live from the Staples Center balcony.

View of warmups from our awesome seats.

Update: Right after I published this post, I found this on Twitter:

Yeah, he's officially losing it.
 Someone get this man some goals!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Farewell, my Little Blue Trooper

My beloved Little Blue Corolla has unfortunately reached the end of the line.  When I turned the key today to go run errands Little Blue just couldn't quite answer the call to arms.  The cute, endlessly dependable car that has dragged my fat ass all over Southern Cal since 1994 gave out today and will soon be replaced by something actually built in this millennium, probably via Carmax, which didn't even exist when Little Blue rolled off its Japanese assembly line all shiny and new and full of promise.

I need to buy a new car, I'm finally in a position to buy a new car and although I planned on putting off buying a new car for a few months, my hand has been forced.  And in all fairness, Little Blue has earned its retirement and blissful oblivion.

I am way too attached to this car.  But even I know this unexpected fail is a sign that it's time to move on.  "The Little Car That Could" as my Mom dubbed it years ago is off to car heaven.  It will be donated to a charitable cause and its final act of service to me will be as a much needed tax writeoff. 

Drive on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On my final day of jury duty...

A couple of shots taken during lunch break of our beautiful and iconic City Hall.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How appropriate for my first day of jury duty

I had to report for jury duty today and have to go back tomorrow to continue with jury selection.  I'm really hoping that will be the end of it, because I'm still hoping to have my late uncle's apartment cleaned out and his car sold by the end of the month.  The trial is expected to last nine days, so if I get picked I can kiss most of the rest of the month goodbye.

Heading out to lunch today, saw this on the corner of the block the courthouse is on (in Downtown L.A., Civic Center area):

Justice will be served!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Open during construction

Looks like the Ripley's dinosaur is getting a facelift.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January's Photo a Day on Twitter - Week 1

Not sure where this originated, but there is a Photo a Day project for the month of January going on over on Twitter.  Here are my first week's pics:

Day 1: You. (They didn't say it had to be a current picture.  
Besides, this is one of my all-time favorites, not to mention it really sums up the past year).

 Day 2: Breakfast.

Day 3: Something You Adore (Sophie being adorable!)

Day 4: Letterbox (or as we call them in the US, mailboxes).
 Here's a USPS droid that briefly popped up in Hollywood a few years ago.

Day 5: Something I wore.  (One of my Kings jerseys. 
I wore it again on Saturday.)

Day 6: Something that makes me smile...Cats that smile!

Day 7: Favorite.  My favorite artist, Edward Hopper 
(Automat, 1927)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Twitter: Bringing celebrities and normal people together since, oh, very recently

The Kings had the day off Tuesday and forward Mike Richards spent at least some of it lazily contemplating whether or not it was time to dismantle his Christmas tree.  So he did what we all do these days - he hopped on to Twitter for advice:

Kings fans were happy to jump in and help out.  At first, the advice was practical and helpful:

(Yes, I know, his avatar...)

Then the inevitable snarky advice started up:

Of course I offered up my two cents worth:

Between being Brushfire Nation and the recent arsons, we 
Angelenos are a tad touchy about the flammables.

That's right, since my previous observations, I've come to the conclusion that my Christmas-obsessed neighbor must have a fake tree.  There no way this apartment building still stands uncharred if it's real.

But the point here is that I just love how much Twitter has decreased the distance and contact between people in the public eye and those who keep them there.  A few Kings fans, myself included, had a quick, informal chat about how long you can safely keep your Christmas tree going before it goes down in flames with Mike Freaking Richards, just like we would amongst our non-celebrity selves.  And that is absolutely awesome.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Peeping Tomcat

Nothing happens until about the 16 second mark, but it's definitely worth the wait.

In related news, Sophie continues to be a massive fail in the internet stardom department.

 You're six now, about time you started pulling your own weight around here.  Sophie?  Hello?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Screening: It's a Wonderful Life at the Egyptian Theatre

The Christmas classic was shown on the big screen at the Egyptian Theatre just a few days before the holiday weekend.

It's a Wonderful Life (Liberty Films, 1946)
Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and Henry Travers 
Directed by Frank Capra
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, with additional scenes by Jo Swerling (based on the short story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern)
Nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording

George Bailey has reached the end of his rope.  Hearing the prayers of the many people who love him and have benefited from his kindness and generosity, the heavens take pity on George.  Clarence (Travers), a guardian angel desperately trying to earn his wings, is assigned the task of saving him.  But first Clarence must learn George's story and how he came to this hopeless point in life.  What unfolds onscreen is the story of a man with dashed big dreams of escaping what he considers to be a meaningless, small-town existence, and how he learns how much of an impact a seemingly small, meaningless existence can have.

George (the fantastic child actor Robert J. Anderson) is a good kid with big dreams and ambitions.  He's also a lifesaver, literally.  He saves his younger brother Harry when the boy crashes through some ice while playing, and saves a couple more lives when he prevents his employer Mr. Gower, the town druggist, from accidentally filling a prescription with poison (the old man was distracted by grief, having just received news that his son had died). 

We then see George as a young man (Stewart) ready to leave Bedford Falls behind and take on the world.  Unfortunately for George things don't always go as planned and he's forced to stay behind to take over his late father's struggling building and loan company, lest it fall into the hands of the town's wealthiest citizen, the slumlord Mr. Potter.  A deal is struck for Harry to head off to college first, with the understanding that when Harry returns, he will take George's place at the savings and loan, freeing him up to head to school and pursue his adventures.  However when Harry returns home four years later, it's with a lovely bride whose father has offered him a great job elsewhere.  To add insult to injury, when World War II starts, George is unable to enlist because his rescue of Harry when they were kids resulted in an illness that left him deaf in one ear, while Harry goes on to become a famous war hero, saving hundreds of his fellow soldiers.

George's life in Bedford Falls becomes increasingly entrenched as the years go by.  He acquires a bride, Mary (Reed) a home and children.  As time passes his dreams of great adventure and success begin to fade into the past.  His building and loan company make life better for numerous denizens of Bedford Falls and keep Mr. Potter from completely taking over the town and trashing it.  His good work doesn't make him rich, but it is a good life, even if it isn't the one he'd originally envisioned for himself.

Things come to a breaking point on Christmas Eve when the absent-minded Uncle Billy (Mitchell) accidentally misplaces $8,000 of the building and loan's cash (with an assist to the evil Potter, who finds the money and keeps it).  With a bank auditor breathing down their necks, they are suddenly faced with the possibility of bankruptcy, prison and ruin.  Distraught, George rips into Uncle Billy, then later bolts from his home, leaving behind a worried family.  He's even reduced to begging Potter for help, only to be mocked for the $500 equity in a $15,000 life insurance policy George tries to offer as collateral.  Potter then cruelly notes with that policy George is worth more dead than alive.

George ends up at a bridge on the outskirts of town.  He makes the horrific decision to end it all by plunging into the icy water below, but then Clarence goes into action, jumping in himself knowing that the honorable George will save him, which he does.

Despite the rescue, George understandably considers the self-described guardian angel as daft, but when he suggests that he would have been better off never having been born, Clarence has a light bulb moment and gives him his wish, showing him exactly what life in Bedford Falls would have been like without him.  It's not a pretty sight.  Bedford Falls has become Pottersville, a sleazy, lawless place overrun by dance halls and pawn shops.  The townspeople whose lives were improved by Bailey's savings and loan are trapped in Potter's slums.  The town, once a decent, peaceful place to live has become a cesspool.

Even worse is the human toll of George's non-existence.  Because George wasn't there to pull him out, his brother Harry drowned after crashing through the ice, and Clarence points out that since Harry didn't grow up to be a war hero, all the soldiers he saved are now dead as well.  The loss of her only son has taken a horrible toll on their mother, who now runs a boarding house and is bitter and ugly, both in manner and appearance.  Mr. Gower is now a doddering, pathetic drunk, a target of mistreatment and derision because George wasn't there to prevent him from accidentally poisoning a sick child when he filled the prescription with poison.  And his beloved Mary never found love without him.  Instead of the beautiful and vibrant wife and mother George knows, she is now a mousey, timid spinster.

George is pushed to the edge again, but this time by his desire to live and have his life back.   He ends up back at the bridge, begging to be restored, and he is.  When he returns to town it has changed back to Bedford Falls, and not even the prospect of prison can dim his newfound joy and appreciation for his existence.

He arrives home to find the bank examiner and law enforcement ready to arrest him, but during his absence Mary put out the call for help and all the townsfolk that George helped over the years descend on the Bailey house, donating their life savings to the man who donated his life to them. Then war hero Harry arrives and toasts his brother with the simple words that always move me to tears, every single damn time, without fail (even right now while typing them): "To my big brother George, the richest man I know."  A bell on the Bailey's Christmas tree chimes, prompting the littlest Bailey, Zuzu, to make the famous announcement, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!"  Clarence has finally made it.  Cue "Auld Lang Syne" and one of the greatest endings in the history of film.

And yes, I had something in my eye as I was leaving the theater.

Some It's a Wonderful Life trivia:
  • The movie was not initially a hit with audiences.  With a budget of $3.7 million (high for the time), It's a Wonderful Life only brought in $3.3 million upon release.  Its status as a holiday classic is owed directly to television after it fell into public domain, making it cheap for stations to show it.  These airings decades after its release exposed it to a new audience that embraced it as a holiday viewing tradition.
  • James Stewart wasn't sure about signing on because it was so soon after his return from serving in World War II and he wasn't sure he was up to it.  He later named George Bailey as his favorite role.  In 2006 Premiere Magazine put his performance at #8 on its list of 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
  • Frank Capra considered it his favorite of all his films, which include the classics It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Can't Take It With You and Arsenic and Old Lace.
  • It's a Wonderful Life was nominated for five Oscars but didn't take home any statuettes.  It was bested in four categories by The Best Years of Our Lives (Best Picture, William Wyler for Best Director, Fredric March for Best Actor and Best Film Editing).  The Jolson Story took home the Oscar for Sound Recording.  Capra did receive the Golden Globe as Best Director.
  • A new method of creating fake snow for filming was created for this picture, earning the RKO Effects Department a Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy.
  • The gymnasium floor that opens up over a swimming pool in the high school dance scene was real and located at Beverly Hills High School.
  • H.B. Warner, who played the druggist Mr. Gower, originally studied medicine before turning to acting.
  • Seneca Falls, New York is widely regarded as the inspiration for Bedford Falls.  The town has embraced this distinction, holding an annual It's a Wonderful Life celebration in December and also has a hotel named for George Bailey's guardian angel.
  • It's a Wonderful Life originated as a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, but he was unable to find a publisher for it.  He sent it out as a Christmas card to family and friends and it eventually came to the attention of an RKO producer.