Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Predators": Partly Reviewed With Partial Spoilers

It's commonly the case that I watch a movie and see nothing but the fundamental problems that, if addressed, would have made the movie good or better. This is all just my opinion, naturally, and I can certainly be wrong. As capable as I am of admitting fallibility, I am none too capable of keeping my opinions to myself, and so I feel I must address the shortcomings which I saw in the 2010 film "Predators".

There are really only two severe problems I had with the movie, so this shouldn't take so very long. The first thing I felt was annoyance with the initial premise. In the film, a gaggle of soldiers, mercenaries and such are kidnapped and airdropped into a place where the predator aliens hunt them. It feels like an old, hoary freshman film student's idea to have a bunch of strangers wake up together with no idea of where they are, or what's going on.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Memories Of Shiftless Adolescence

When I was in middle school, I had to take a home economics class. It was a very good thing for me to do, although the habits they sought to instill in us didn't stick for me. That doesn't mean that I was then or am now deliberately resistant to cooking, cleaning or the mending of clothes. It means more that I have lacked the discipline and the general wherewithal to apply what they taught, much as I have wanted to.

I have some fond memories and keepsakes.Our class time coincided with the daily broadcast of Sheri Lewis' show "Lamb Chop's Sing-A-Long", and we enthusiastically (if a bit ironically) watched that every day as we labored, barring the days that we were in the kitchen. As we watched the aforementioned show, we sewed, and I was really bad at that. I spent the entire semester just trying to thread the machine, and our diligent teacher never noticed (or never intervened). I eventually made a little pillow, which I still have.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ordered, Not Delivered

The other day, I said to a friend that we had to watch "Chinese Hercules". To explain, that's a martial arts film featuring Bolo Yeung, who is a kung fu artist of some regard. Here's how it came up: There was a movie-watching group I was a part of, and the rule was that each movie had to connect to its predecessor by one of the people involved in its production, be it an actor, a crew member or even a caterer.

One of the films we watched was "Shootfighter", a rather risible film which happened to feature Bolo Yeung. I think we may have watched another of his films to get to that one, but I'm not sure. At any rate, I attempted either before "Shootfighter" or after to get "Chinese Hercules" in there, but it was not to be. The voting members of the group decided on something else, and so I would have to hold out hopes of seeing it some other time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fast Pass

I was shopping for groceries last night, and managed to gather together the essential to actually produce a few meals, rather than just something I could eat as a late dinner that very night. The latter is what I had done several times, and I was determined to do more this time out, as the trip over to the store is not one I relish making every single day. Well, I got my food, so I'll be all right for at least a couple days, I think.

I noticed while shopping that I had so successfully gotten out of the habit of buying the old, bad foods that I hadn't even thought about it since I could remember. I really tried to recall the last time I had entertained the idea of buying canned pasta, chili or the like, and I couldn't. I used to buy them almost exclusively, struggling to get through the week with fewer than ten cans. I had begun to regard myself as a connoisseur with a good sense of what brand was what.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dark Alleys Of Cinema

If I haven't said so already, I love old and obscure movies. There are those, including friends of mine, who out-do me in this regard, but I fall pretty well outside of the mainstream. I have lately been watching the Sylvester Stallone/Kurt Russell buddy cop film "Tango & Cash" over and over again- while doing other things mainly, but it's still an extreme act. One would have to wonder why it is that I'd do such a thing.

I have grown more social over the years, but I remain a solitary, introspective creature. I can hardly stand to do things in the kitchen when other people are around, not because I don't want them to know I'm doing it, but just because I am more at ease alone and with no obligation to share. That last part must not sound too endearing, really. Anyway, solitude is a precious and necessary condition for me at least part of the time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Listener

A thing happened the other day. A friend of mine and I were heading home from an improv show on the subway, and we were talking plenty. It's a given that with me involved, the conversation was loud and potentially objectionable. If you haven't gleaned this yet, let me say that I have been criticised by strangers multiple times for talking too loud on a city bus, where the standards are pretty generous. Anyway, this wasn't like that exactly.

This was not a case of someone being sorry that I spoke. It's more that I was sorry someone was glad that I spoke. It went like this: At some point, my friend told me he'd bought some Groupon voucher for a restaurant we'd been to. He explained that he paid ten dollars for a twenty dollar voucher, and my brain had a problem with that. "Why," I asked him, "didn't they just give you a ten dollar voucher for free?"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Das Boots

Boating is a pleasant diversion. I have relatively seldom partaken of the pastime, but have managed at times to canoe, pilot a houseboat, and pilot a yacht as well. There are some interesting similarities and differences. A canoe requires perhaps the most labor, and I am not especially eager to expend that effort. They are the simplest and cheapest of the bunch though, and that is something not to be disregarded.

Houseboats are fun. You can't be too eager to get somewhere, or eager at all to get someplace far away. When I did it, we were in a lake with a lot of narrow canyons to it, and I learned a lesson about how slowly a boat answers its helmsman. Certainly you don't get your turns as fast as you might like on a houseboat, which runs slow and turns slow. We easily might have hit something with me at the wheel, but got lucky.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Trip Up

As I think I mentioned the other day, I had cause to be in Sylmar, which Wikipedia reports is a district of Los Angeles located within the San Fernando Valley. It is not too far from where I am, and yet it is worlds away. This is a very common thing in Los Angeles, where things change wildly over distances as short as a block or two. The area where I live is regarded as a vibrant haven of artists, for example. The area just south is populated by major celebrities. The area that far north is the source of regular gang violence.

It's interesting to see how things change over the course of an hour-long bus ride north. You start off in my neighborhood, and things get gritty fast from there. In a matter of minutes, it's one dusty block of run-down industrial enterprises after another, and each seems less promising commercially than the last. An awareness that these are the streets from which gunshots I heard when I lived nearer to them does not fade from my mind.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Last night I saw something that made me angry. Let me paint the scene. I had just been to a cool variety show at a nearby lounge. I was wearing a proper suit, which is a real sight to see, but not the salient one here. Upon reaching my apartment with my friends, I declared that I was going to the grocery store and we parted ways. I walked on, and after I'd gotten a little way, some high winds kicked up. I started getting hit with sand, and struggled to keep it out of my eyes.

I kept going, resolving to go home another way so as to avoid the sand and the unbroken winds. When I crossed the street and was nearly at the grocery store, I saw the thing I've been building up to. There was a man on the other side of that street, on the grounds of the drugstore. Of all things, he was operating a leaf-blower! You can't imagine the confusion and anger that seized my mind at that time, threatening the exceptionally good mood I'd built up.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Road And Otis

It's funny the things you see when you are watching. I am at greater liberty to do so than others perhaps, because they are driving and I and riding or walking all the time. I don't have to concern myself with the road, and I am often traveling slowly enough that I can watch things play out instead of zipping by them. That happened the other day, when I would just as soon have been in a car, but found myself walking up a hill.

I was on my way to a gig, and found that the bus did not go up the hill. Rather, it stopped at the bottom and turned. That's sensible enough I suppose. I started walking, and found I was making better time than I guessed. Maybe it felt that way because I had company. There was some guy walking up the hill for reasons of his own. He wasn't there for the reason I was. Maybe he was there for one of the industrial-looking businesses around. He walked on one side of the road and I the other.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Couple Places Down

I am proud of myself, not because of advances I've made professionally and personally, but because I have managed to knock a couple neighborhood restaurants off my list of places I still have to go. There are so many neat-looking places around here, and I'm reluctant to eat out, so it's been slow going, and just think of all the turnover that adds to the list! In the last couple days, I have rewarded myself for aforementioned professional victories by letting myself eat out.

It's not all going to be good, of course, but that's why you try places. On an especially good day a couple days ago, I capped things off by going to the cheese steak place nearby. It looked authentic as hell, and though I'd heard mixed reviews, I thought I'd like to go. It was not only on my list, it represented about the most convenient option given that I was traveling from one place to another and had little time to deviate from a straight line. The place was all right, but far too expensive for the money.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Act Together

Part of what is easy about auditioning for acting roles is that everything which follows the audition process is academic. Whatever it is that you do during the auditions, the odds are against your ever doing them on a set. The relaxation that comes from that actually makes it more likely that you will get to play the role on a set, but mostly you don't. When I do get the gig, I feel like Robert Redford at the end of "The Candidate", when he asks "Now what?"

The sorts of things I have gotten so far happen fast. You audition for a thing and forget about it. It occupies your attention for a matter of hours, and maybe as much as a day. It's remarkable how quickly it's out of your mind once it's over. You beat yourself up for a few minutes, then you purge it from your system. You get the callback and audition again a week or so later. You go through that same process again, except a little more anxious because more people are watching.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Knowledge Is Good

I am angry afresh over the predilection that so many people seem to have for disseminating quotes. It is a terrible plague on the internet, and I wish I could do something to put a stop to it. At least as bad (and seemingly new as a presence online) is the proliferation of allegedly fun facts. Just as with quotes, certain friends seem awfully fond of posting "fun facts", apparently convinced that they are what they purport to be.

One friend incessantly posts fun film facts, all of which are either very old news to me or which are not fun in the least bit. I concede that fun is a subjective quality, but then isn't that a very compelling reason to call them something else? I would not like them any better if they were neutrally described as just facts, but I would be forced to admit that they are what they claim to be, and how can you get mad at anything that is what it says it is?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bathroom Humors

Today is the end of an era here at my apartment, as the management came and took away our toilet. In its place (as they were good enough to not leave us bereft of the means to evacuate filth) is a new low-flow toilet. I am ordinarily excited to receive new, more functional things, but in this case it is difficult to be enthused. The salient improvement that this toilet represents over the old one is that it uses less water, and our water is provided free of charge by the management. I suspect they are very excited about these toilets.

I still do like new things, particularly when they are so pristine. I examined the toilet thoroughly enough, examining the lid's range of motion, the interior of the bowl and the contents of the water tank. It all looks to be in fine shape, but there is nothing in it that is very new conceptually. I have seen toilets of more bewilderingly sophisticated modernity. The toilet does, I'll say, seem to occupy less space, if that's a good thing.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All Day Today

Today I'll content myself with a simple recap of events. As I write this, I am coming down from the third of three major events which composed my Saturday. The first was improv practice. It was good, but different on account of having a substitute coach. That was an uncomfortable experience, but discomfort is often a good sign of growth. It isn't always, but it felt so this time. The coach was going my way after, and so we talked all the way back on the subway.

Shortly after that, there was a standup comedy show held at a nearby hot dog restaurant. This was the second such show, and it was as good as the first. I had a nice Polish sausage, soda and fries. They went decently with the show. I often got preoccupied by my friend, who I repeatedly tried to pickpocket, and also by a cute woman who works at the restaurant. One never knows how to perceive signs from someone who has a professional interest in making you like them.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Write Awful

I frustrate myself sometimes. I do things that I know will hinder my ambitions, but I can't help myself. When I am trying to be productive in my writing, what I ought to do is to operate in silence- to not take in any stimuli. Some of that is necessary, but I really should shut down the input when it's time for output. I just have a hell of a time for that, but I'm still relatively young. It's quite possible that I'll get there someday.

It's really not so bad when I have music on. I can manage to not get caught up in the lyrics of a song, and the music can influence my mood in helpful ways. If I'm really feeling the impact of an uptempo song, that seems to put me in the right frame of mind to get some things done. I'm singing along, I'm slapping the surface of my desk in time with the music, I'm walking around with a sort of musical step, and I'm writing when things come to me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

One Potato Two

When there is no one to eat any of the food you buy except for you, it can get problematic. If I buy a jug of milk, I have to drink it consistently. It will spoil if I lose interest for a few days. The same is true for bananas, if I buy very many. I've gotten turned off of bananas lately for that very reason, and I haven't been in the habit of buying milk for a long time. They say that adults don't need it anyway, which I'm happy to believe.

Even foods that should last a while can be a problem. I have been eating a lot of baked potatoes, and buy them in sacks of ten pounds. I should buy the five pound sacks, but the miniscule price difference always dissuades me. I get down to those last six or seven potatoes, and they're sprouting roots. They look pretty rough, but looks can be deceiving, so I only rid myself of the ones where I'm sure they must be rotten.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some Chips I Bought

I tend to pride myself on my critical thinking, and on my ability to override the same impulses that most people yield to. Sure, I'm tempted by commercials for things, but I am generally good about recognizing what they are doing and why I should resist, no matter how good a product looks or a sales pitch sounds. It's true enough that I faltered as a boy when I saw the commercial for a backpack modeled after school lockers, but who wouldn't love a backpack made to look like the place you keep your books in the place you don't want to go?

I've gotten stronger since then, but I do still fail sometimes. I'm only a man, and a man sometimes is mastered by something shiny, slick and full of attitude. Sometimes I hear the critical thinker within warn me and I say, this one time I will not heed the wet blanket which insists I have fun only in ways that are meritorious. I think that's reasonable, and if it isn't, well I'm not such a reasonable person really. I have fits of whimsy, and aren't I entitled to that?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Scene Of Setup

When I was a boy, my friend and I tried to see "Timecop" at the local mall's theater. As the film was rated R, we were perhaps eleven or twelve years old and the box office employee was inexplicably diligent about his job, we were denied. Because we were dumb, we bought tickets to see "Little Giants" and we saw "Little Giants". Not until years later did it occur to me that we probably could have seen what we wanted anyway, and not until years later did I see "Timecop".

It's a fine film if one is naturally disposed favorably towards films featuring the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ron Silver and Mia Sara. Silver, playing a villainous senator, plans to enrich himself by using time travel unethically. Van Damme, the titular timecop, must stop him. Now, a film like this necessarily has a lot of exposition to get out, and "Timecop" does it largely in one single scene. It's the second one in the film.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More About Myself

I get unreasonable in my dealings with other people. I am, on the whole, more sociable than I ever have been, setting aside the stretches where I hole up to recover from one physical ailment or another. That is not to say that I am so very good with people, because really I am terrible by any sensible standard. There are a whole host of issues I have, and I deal with them more successfully sometimes than others. You'l pardon me if I've said all this before, but it hasn't gone way yet.

I am momentarily seized by a fit of rage any time someone indicates that they could not hear me the first time, and I must overcome that in order to repeat myself. I just say to forget about it any time that feels possible, because I'd rather sacrifice something I thought was worth saying than to say it again. Often enough what I have to say proves unworthy anyway, so why fight to get something out there? When I think that the person will insist on hearing my words again, then I bother.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Smelling The Past

They say that smell is the most powerful trigger for memories, or at least one of the most powerful. I often flash back to the first house I can remember growing up, because manure was periodically applied to the lawn, and I smell manure often enough even now. The transit to memory is about instantaneous. I had another memory of that kind the other day. I walked into the kitchen and was suddenly struck with memories of shepherd's pie from dinners growing up.

Nobody in my apartment was making shepherd's pie, I can assure you. I think that a critical spice from the dish must have been used in something or just more in evidence around the kitchen than usual somehow. My memories of shepherd's pie are very fond, of course. It was a terribly filling and flavorful dish, and it puts the lie to the notion that the British do not have any good food to their name. What I've ever had of theirs I liked.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

More On Books

I have been getting a reasonable amount of reading done lately. I have recently finished "Johnny Got His Gun" and am reading the more upbeat "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", which relates the ups and downs of musician Warren Zevon's life. Many chapters of his life are rather ugly, but they remain more pleasant than the story of the former book. I'm getting through it rather quickly, and am eager enough to lug it around with me in spite of its unwieldy size and weight.

I expect I won't be long in finishing it, which leads me to entertain ideas of what I may read next. There's always a flourish of great excitement when that time comes along. Any book is possible from some recent work to a classic to some slender tome of pulp. I could attempt to work down the pile of unread books in my possession  as I was doing when I read Dalton Trumbo's book, but it is tough to get enthused about something old. We'll see about that. If I rid myself of all the books I don't want to have around, the survivors make appear to be more appealing reads.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sweet Relief

All this week, I've been working on memorizing nine and a half pages of nearly uninterrupted dialoge for a web series I was set to act in. As if that wasn't enough, I had to deliver these lines in a German accent, which I had never really attempted seriously. I found at an early stage that my efforts to approximate Siegfried from "Get Smart" was not adequate, and I was directed to learn a grounded, realistic accent. Thus was incited a long process of working and waiting.

A good amount of the months which transpired before the big shoot day was not spent actually working on either the lines or the accent. I've had plenty on my plate, and so it often seemed like something that could wait. Every now and then I'd spend a little time on it, but not so much that I could really gain momentum. The anxiety of knowing that I was running out of time to properly prepare for the inevitable mounted.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I mainly try to do the right thing. I don't always even try, but I do try most of the time. Trying to do the right thing includes doing it when no one will notice whether you do or don't, because you're not doing it to stay out of trouble or to get some reward. You're doing it because it is the right thing. Most of the time, I think I manage to do the right thing in that way, but it's not always the case. I still rely on incentives sometimes.

It's hard to say how it is with public transit sometimes. You are going to have to pay in order to ride the bus, because the driver sees to that. It's considerably easier to get by without paying to ride the train in Los Angeles, but I pay anyway. That's partly because of how lousy it is to be a chronic scofflaw like that, but it also just doesn't pay to be one if you ask me. People do get cited for not riding, although God only knows how.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't Show Your Work

There are a lot of important things to know about auditions. Some of them are things I know already, and some of them are things that I have yet to learn. One thing that was useful is to put each one behind you- to not think about what you did wrong and to not beat yourself up for blowing it. This is awfully important because the outcomes of these auditions are so unpredictable. They are to me, anyway. You can think you were terrible and get it anyway.

That makes something that I already knew very important. As long as the people who matter are around, you have to hide any negative feelings about what you're doing. You have to bury them deep inside and display nothing but feelings of confidence and positivity. This way, it's truly your performance that will doom you if anything does- not the way you feel about your performance. I'm certain that's paid off for me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Glue Of North Hollywood

I was walking through my neighborhood the other day, which has been a more infrequent occurrence in recent weeks, and I passed by the gateway that marks the southern entrance to North Hollywood. It's a rather large one straddling the main thoroughfare of Lankershim Boulevard. It's painted a very garish shade of green, with highlights of equally unsavory colors. The entire effect makes it look as if it was stolen from a college dormitory complex- one designed by en elderly school president with no real idea of youthful fashions.

Needless to say, it's deeply unpopular around the neighborhood, and it only becomes less liked when people learn of its steep price tag. I believe it costed something in the area of $700,000. It's generally considered to not be worth the price, and it probably isn't, but putting a value on art is a difficult proposition. It's easier to say that the cost exceeds the level of appreciation by those who ultimately can be said to have bought it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Current Thoughts On Fried Potatoes

It's curious to me how French fries work. It's not so interesting to me anymore that they are actually Belgian in origin. There are other things that have my attention. One is the heated battle to have the best fast fries in fast food. This was an issue at one time, but I can't remember the last time it came up, really.  It used to be held that McDonald's had the best fries, and Burger King made some herculean effort to best them, but these things don't seem so relevant anymore.

Fries can be cut in an awful lot of ways. The most common seems to be shoestring fries, which you'll see at the fastfood places mainly. I guess that's what I favor, if not curly fries. I see them as being the most reliable for flavor, maybe because of where I get them. The others need some sauce or another too much, although I'm content with that as well. You just have to have a favorite, although I guess I'd be better off if I didn't like any.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jar Jar

I have been eating a lot of pasta lately. Specifically, I've been eating spaghetti. I was turned off it for a long time on account of the stains that it put on more than one shirt, but I've since reformed. I feel a little bit better about getting stains out of shirts, and sometimes I just eat shirtless. No, there's no problem with that anymore, but there is a problem with the jars. They pile up at the rate of two a week, and it's a problem.

Here's how I deal with it. The first few plates of spaghetti go fine, and then the sauce gets harder to extract. Typically I'll put the jar back in the refrigerator and open another, leaving two open jars at once. Sooner or later I'll realize I'm short of sauce, and become willing to make the effort to get the last sauce out of the prior jar. Often enough I must combine clashing sauces at this point, making for an interesting plate of spaghetti.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ideas To Give Wing

I have lately had a couple of ideas for songs. As I may have said before, I cannot play an instrument, so maybe they're just remain songs. I hope to learn an instrument, like the ukulele, but for now I am more a poet than a songwriter. Either title is a stretch, but I think that the words I write are decent enough that the former could be true.That's why I'll keep going with these ideas of mine. I think they're pretty good ideas.

The first one is a parody. I have gotten fond of Adele, whose "Rolling In The Deep" I heard at a pole dancing performance before I heard her sing the title song for "Skyfall". I also like "Someone Like You". It's a powerful message, what she says about moving on and coming to terms with the person you're leaving in your past. I hope to adapt it in order to pay tribute to one of my favorite scenes in film history: Rambo's escape from the POW camp in "First Blood Part 2".

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Still Here

Still hanging around the apartment is something that I thought I would have dealt with by now. An awfully long time ago, a fellow member of my Toastmasters club entrusted me with his tickets for a raffle. I submitted them for a variety of prizes, taking care to balance desirability with winability. One thing that I won on his behalf was a jigsaw puzzle: "Forbidden Planet". Believe it or not, he didn't want it, so he gave it to me.

I wouldn't have necessarily been eager for it myself, but I am generally glad to get free things, as most people are. I figured that I would put it together at some point, and I would have by now, but I've been hoping for someone to put it together with. Some time ago, a friend expressed interest, and we made plans for her to come around and help do the puzzle, but somehow those plans fell through and never were renewed.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Game To Play Before You Play

It is a really interesting thing to go through the audition process. There are some unpleasant aspects to it, but mostly things go in a way that minimizes pain and stress. That's what I find to be the case. I provide the anxiety. If you can get past the issue of putting yourself on the line or having anything at stake, there's some really fascinating stuff going on. I find that focusing on that puts you in a better state of mind than focusing on the audition.

As I have said before,  you see different types at these auditions. Often you don't really know what the commercial (or whatever it is) will be like, and so you see distinct categories of people that partly clue you in to the cast of characters. You find out soon enough what's what, but in that waiting period (which isn't as long as you'd think), it's a stimulating exercise to guess. I don't know how close I've come to guessing right.