Monday, September 30, 2019

September Words of Wisdom

Ayn Rand taught me what I desperately needed to know: That I can trust my own mind. --Diana Amsden

The reason I'm happy is that I choose to look at my blessings more than my burdens. --Sara Frankl

When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination. --Thomas Sowell

The flag represents something very powerful to the men and women who serve our country. So out of respect for those who fight to protect that flag and what that flag represents, I stand up and put my hand over my heart. --Gary Sinise

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. --Marcus Aurelius

If you want to, you can find a million reasons to hate life and be angry at the world. Or, if you want to, you could find a million reasons to love life and be happy. Choose wisely. --Cari Welsh

If it were possible to enforce a ban on lying, a ghostly silence would fall over the city of Washington. --Thomas Sowell

We are continually chasing mirages, only to be disappointed when they do not give us the satisfaction for which we had hoped. --Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

You can't get rich in politics unless you're a crook. --President Harry Truman

Friday, September 27, 2019

Behind the waterfall

Behind the waterfall in the Chinese Garden at The Huntington in San Marino:

They have an ongoing Wednesday program of Music in the Chinese Garden. It's very soothing. The Huntington is also greatly expanding the Chinese Garden. The expansion is well underway and the new buildings (built in the Chinese style) are gorgeous.

If you have not been to The Huntington, you really need to go. In addition to the amazing library and art galleries, the grounds are beautiful and peaceful. And their gift shop is to die for.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Customer Service Fail: The Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre

I've been waiting for months to get tickets to The Book of Mormon, which is coming back to L.A. at the Ahmanson Theatre early next year. They finally made tickets available and I dove in. Seats were already picked over so I decided to just bite the bullet and spring for the best seat I could find.

The Brother and I were just having a discussion yesterday about tacked on "handling fees" after I ordered tickets for us to see A Christmas Carol at A Noise Within in Pasadena, and I was griping about them tacking on an $8.50 "handling fee", especially since we're already paying over $70 per ticket, plus I printed the tickets at home. They don't have to do any "handling". In fact, maybe they should provide a small discount since they don't have to create our tickets since I'm saving them the cost using paper and ink that I've paid for on top of the cost of seeing the show.

As a consumer I find this annoying as hell. If the ticket is $80.50, just put $80.50 on the website. Don't tell me it's $72 then tack on a "handling fee", especially when you don't have to do any handling.

But A Noise Within's "handling fee" turned out to be small time compared to my BOM purchase:

Click to biggify if you can't see what I'm talking about. It has to be seen to be believed.


Again, look, if you want $260+ for the seat, just say so. All this does is piss me off as a consumer. In fact, I was so pissed that I chose the option of making them mail the ticket to me. I could have easily opted for email/print at home, but for an extra $35 they can print it themselves and spring for a first class stamp. Suck it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Recent reading: "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle"

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The 8th Countess of Carnarvon

I've had this on the Kindle for a while and I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to it. What finally triggered it, strangely enough, wasn't the recent Downton Abbey movie but seeing the book when I went to the Huntington gift shop recently and realizing I needed to get to it.

The 8th and current Countess of Carnarvon tells the dazzling story of Almina Wombwell, the illegitimate daughter of wealthy banker Alfred de Rothschild, who married into life at Highclere Castle thanks to a combination of beauty, charm, and her father's money. She - like her TV counterpart - turned her gorgeous home into a hospital during World War I. I had no idea that her husband, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was part of the team that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. He was an amateur Egyptologist who also provided a lot of the financing for the archeological dig. The book is also an informative and fascinating look at Edwardian society and a lifestyle that no longer exists.

PBS has a special featuring the 8th (and current) Earl and Countess and despite their titles and lifestyle, they seem pretty low-key and down-to-earth, and very much appreciative of both the luxury and responsibility of living in a beloved castle. Based on this book, the Countess has made herself a scholar of her husband's family history and the magnificent property they live on. She has also written a book about Almina's successor Lady Catherine, who - like Downton's Cora Crawley - was an American who married into English nobility.

Perhaps it was in the field of medicine that Almina left the greatest legacy. She realised that post-operative and trauma care were as much a part of the healing process as the best surgical techniques and the latest equipment. Almina's understanding of the word 'care' was sincere. She realised that the nursing and physical environment at her Highclere hospital was going to make all the difference to the lives of the patients arriving from the horrors of the Western Front. Almina treated them as if they were country-house guests; nothing but the best food was served, with pastimes and recreation in the Castle State Rooms and park for those that were fit enough.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Recent reading: "Laguna Heat" by T. Jefferson Parker

Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker

Laguna Heat was the debut novel of now three-time Edgar Award winner Parker. As dumb as it may sound, I downloaded it on Kindle after going to a play in Laguna Beach and driving up the coast through Laguna, Corona del Mar, and Newport Beach on the way home. Gorgeous drive. Plus, I've seen Parker a few times at the L.A. Times Festival of Books so I was overdue to check out his novels.

Laguna Beach native and homicide detective Tom Shephard is back on his home turf after a stint with LAPD that ended badly. He's faced with the burned corpse of a longtime resident that leads to secrets and crimes tracing back decades in the beach community and threatens to implicate a lot of prominent locals including Shephard's father, a former Laguna cop turned mega-church pastor. And that's after it's already become personal when Shephard's apartment is ransacked by someone who doesn't want him on the trail of the killer.

The plot is a bit complicated but Parker keeps it moving smoothly and I never felt bogged down by it. Terrific book and I'm looking forward to reading more of Parker's novels.

Later that night, as he studied the face of Azul Mercante in the pale light of his living room, Shephard could feel something foreign inside himself, a barely recognizable emotion, like an unwatered seed only now beginning to grow. He considered Mercante's haughty smile, the way he had forced himself into Shelphard's own home and tried to drag his mother down. Images flickered through his mind. Looking at the sketch, Shephard saw in the man everything he had learned to despise: arrogance, violence, recklessness, and a belief - most difficult of all for Shephard to understand - that everything is legitimized by one's own passion. He recognized the crude emotion growing inside him. It was rage.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Recent reading: "Thank You For My Service"

Thank You For My Service by Mat Best with Ross Patterson & Nils Parker

Former Army Ranger Mat Best is one of the co-founders of Black Rifle Coffee Company, a veteran owned company that happens to make great coffee as well as YouTube videos that are hilarious (unless you have a problem with rugged men with a fondness for high powered guns, gorgeous women in American flag bikinis, patriotism, booze, dogs, guitars, and of course coffee).

At the age of seventeen Best decided to follow his father and older brothers into the military. Unlike the senior Bests, who were Marines, Mat aspired to be an Army Ranger. What follows is a rollicking, insane story of five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, plus five years working for a private military contractor. And he enjoyed every minute of it.

It's also an opportunity for civilians to get a behind the scenes glimpse into the reality of war that we don't get from Hollywood and the media. The dedication, patriotism and unimaginable courage tinged with the trademark humor that helped keep Best sane in the face of daunting evil and violence is a view of warfare most of us will never see or imagine.

During one of his private contractor deployments Best was surfing social media and found himself irked by what he describes as "this pathetic chorus of first-world whining" by people who would have withered in the face of what Best and his military brothers faced on a daily basis. This prompted Best to grab his guitar and and vent in song. The result was "Champagne Facebook Problems", the video of which would eventually garner a following mainly among his fellow military types. This led to a journey that would produce more videos, a larger following, and eventually the formation of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

My only complaint is that he didn't include stories behind the BRCC videos. When I first saw one, I was so intrigued by the videos (and the idea of supporting a company made up of veterans) that I ordered a bag, then another. When I ran out for some reason I picked up a bag of Starbucks at the grocery store...which eventually got thrown out. It tasted like crap compared to BRCC. Now I order two bags at a time (I'm partial to the AK-47 Espresso Blend).

But the book wasn't written for BRCC fans or even for civilians. Best makes it clear that he wrote the book for guys like him: soldiers who loved to fight for their country, loved to kill evil bastards, and didn't return absolutely wrecked by the experience and who might have felt alone due to the constant portrayals of veterans as consistently damaged and traumatized. He wanted them to know that there were others like him and that they are thriving as civilians.

And while some veterans do suffer from those issues, if Law & Order did an episode where a soldier killed someone, it was never because he was an evil prick who happened to be in the military (the Marines, obviously) it was because he'd done a tour in Iraq and he saw his best friend die in an IED attack and it broke his brain and then he came home and everything was different and he couldn't sleep and it made it hard for him to hold down a job and then he got evicted from his apartment and then his girlfriend fucked his best friend and took his dog. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Every veteran story was just this endless parade of horribles. What they failed to show, time and again, was my experience, which was the same as the experience of the hundreds of veterans I've known and served with who loved their time in the military and to this day view is as one of the most important, meaningful, enjoyable periods of their lives. No matter where you looked, there was no appetite for our stories anywhere.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Rock & Roll Heaven welcomes Ric Ocasek

Just hopped online and saw the terrible news that Ric Ocasek of The Cars passed away today. He was 75.

The Cars were one of my favorite bands through the late 70's and 80's. If I had a personal soundtrack it would be littered with their songs, plus two of the songs off Ocasek's solo album Beatitude are also among my favorites.

In addition to their great music The Cars were known for their popular videos at a time when MTV and music videos were still a thing, as well as their stylized, iconic album covers.

I remember a while back, maybe earlier this year, realizing that I live in a world that no longer includes David Bowie, Tom Petty and Prince, and thinking how sad that was. That list now includes Ric Ocasek.

RIP sir, and thank you for all the wonderful songs.

Updated 9/16/19: Ocasek died in his sleep while recuperating from surgery.

Your feel-good story of the week, courtesy of the awesome University of Tennessee

A Florida teacher encouraged her fourth grade students to show support for their favorite college by wearing the school's gear and colors. One of her students was a University of Tennessee fan who didn't have any gear, so he stuck a hand-drawn UT logo to an orange t-shirt. Unfortunately not all of his classmates were impressed with his spirit or his handiwork. In fact, some of them made fun of his DIY show of support.

His teacher then took to Facebook in the hopes that someone could help the poor kid out. And that's when the University of Tennessee itself got into the act. Grab a Kleenex.

First they sent him a care package with UT swag.

Then they created an official t-shirt with his design, with proceeds going to an anti-bullying organization. The shirts were so popular that the UT shop's website crashed due to the demand.

And because apparently that wasn't enough for them, the university has now done this:

No joke. They're giving him admission to the school and a four-year scholarship. I can see why he's a fan. Sounds like the University of Tennessee is a first class organization. They could have just sent him the swag and it would have been a feel-good story. Now it's a life-changing story.

I hope the kid sells the movie and book rights for a bundle. Not that he'll need the money to pay for college, but his family has got to be inundated right now by producers and publishers.

I'm not going to bag on the kids who mocked him and I hope they aren't taking too much crap for their part in this story. Fourth graders are nine years old and not terribly mature or sophisticated. But I do hope that if they learn anything from this experience it's that even in a world that can be cynical and cruel, if you approach things in a way that is pure and humble, good things will happen.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Am I the only one who saw this and added cotton candy to their shopping list?

Totally trying this next time I get my hands on some cotton candy.

Also, how freaking brilliant is this? Bet that place does a booming business.

H/T to Weird World on Instagram.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

From the Department of You Can't Make This Stuff Up: Walter White lookalike wanted on meth charges

How cool would it be if this turned out to be a publicity stunt for the upcoming Breaking Bad movie?

An Illinois police department is looking for this guy:

Look familiar? He does if you've ever seen Breaking Bad.

Can you imagine being a drug dealer and this guy approaches you wanting meth? You'd start looking around for the hidden cameras.

On the other hand, the guy is only fifty years old and he looks like this. Faces of meth indeed. Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A sad anniversary

There are so many tributes and remembrances all over the internet today, so I don't need to repeat all the heart-wrenching images. I'm pretty sure I've posted them before, and they're all over the place on this 18th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001. So this year I'm going with this:

Word is that Budweiser only aired the ad once because they didn't want to profit from the tragedy of 9/11. But it lives on - and probably will eternally - online.

Prayers and thoughts for the victims and their families. I know I'll never forget them and watching the towers come down. Truly evil and tragic.

Updated 12:36pm: The New York Times on the other hand, took the low road commemorating the occasion, reporting that: 18 years have passed since airplanes took aim and brought down the World Trade Center. Yeah. "Airplanes" took aim. Luckily, the internet rode to the rescue, tearing the Times a new one so effectively that they deleted the original wording and at least mentioned that the planes were actually commandeered by terrorists and flown into the buildings in the update. Fuckers. Makes me wish I had a subscription to the NYT so I could call and cancel, and tell them why. Seriously, if you don't want to report the news, why report at all? Just fold the damn thing. Fuckers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Apparently I am 100% peripheral characters

Ever wonder which South Park characters comprise your makeup? Well, now you can find out at SPandMe!

South Park makes its glorious return to the airwaves September 25!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Mindless fun is still fun

So this morning I discovered the joy of a new Twitter account. It's call Military Giant Cats. It's basically cats photoshopped - giantly - into military-related pictures. And it's hilarious.

Here's a few to get you started:

Do check them out here. Because, like me, you need to waste more time on the internet.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Rod Serling: The biopic

Word is that the director of Donnie Darko will write and direct a biopic of Rod Serling.

H/T to Christian Toto on Twitter for the link to the Screen Rant story.

The first thought that popped into my mind was casting. Who would you cast? A commenter on Christian Toto's tweet suggested Joaquin Phoenix, who would probably do a bang-up job. Plus, I think it's high time Serling got the biopic treatment.

Pic snicked from the internets.

Homesick. So homesick.

I about had a stroke when I saw this. This is a map of vacancies of my floorplan, and where the red dot is, that's the exact location of my old apartment:

And I thought, here we go again. Except that it turns out it's Apartment 133 - not 233 - that's available. The one right below me.

I can't believe it's been over a year. What a waste of time I don't have to waste at my age.

I have a hair appointment in the Marina next weekend and I'm thinking about driving by. I haven't been able to bring myself to do it, not since I left. Too hard not to turn into my driveway, and go to my parking space, and up to my home. But I may have to do it this weekend. I need to see it again. Until I can get back. I'm guessing my New Year's resolution is pretty easy to guess. I want to go home.

I should never have left. I lived there, in that beautiful place. It's almost like a dream now. Otherwise, why can't I wake up there?

Also, I've hardly been writing since I moved. The story that's getting published next year is years old. It just happened to fit the theme. I just can't worry about that stuff now. I just can't.

I just want to go home. I can write later. Everything can wait until later.

Miss you, beautiful