Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fires of August

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This is what is dominating the news, the sky, and Angelenos thoughts the last couple of days.

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The top two images were taken by my son as we drove down off of the hills we live upon.

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Near home at the top of the hill looking north toward the two big fires in Big Tujunga and Glendale/Altadena. To our south, the fire in Rancho Palos Verdes is more than 90% contained. This August has been one of the coolest on record, till it decided to go out in a blaze of sorts. Blogger/writer Gay Degani has posted some very dramatic photos from a friend who lives too close by to all of this. The L.A. Times is reporting evacuations for the communities near the fires. Welcome back, summer.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday!


love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
the heat I see in your eyes

love, I don't like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"I'm Serial, You're Parallel"

The following is a public service message for married couples seeking mutual understanding.

The title for this post is what I actually said to my wife (pinky swear) awhile back. Once I got this statement out in the open with my spouse (and explained it), many of our chore and/or conversational conflicts dissipated (for the most part - I'm a good husband, I'm not a saint). After decades of living with women, from childhood to marriage, it finally dawned on me (I know... taking that amount time doesn't really showcase any real analytical prowess), the way we process information is fundamentally different. Okay... I can hear a chorus of female voices say, "Duh", all the way out here. But, please hear me out. There really is some real science behind all of this.

In computing terms:

se•ri•al: involving the transfer of data as a single
sequence of bits

par•al•lel: involving the simultaneous performance of
operations. The opposite of serial (see above).

The key difference here is that the first process performs operations in sequence, one right after

Simplified view of an artificial neural networkImage via Wikipedia

the other; while the second performs its operations side-by-side (or all at once). IMO, neither is better than the other. For some jobs/processes, you need serial - for others, parallel is the ideal. Looking at this another way, the human brain is made up of two types of tissue: gray and white matter. Men have over six times the amount of gray matter compared to women. However, women have ten times the amount of white matter compared to men. What's the difference? Gray matter are the information processing centers of the brain. White matter, on the other hand, is the connective tissue (nerve fiber) inter-connecting the gray matter. Think of it this way:

Gray Matter :: Computer

White Matter :: Network

A UC Irvine study "suggests that human evolution has created two different types of brains for equally intelligent behavior".

[pause] Yes, mam? What is your question?
You mentioned, 'equally intelligent behavior'. Is that right?Well, my husband won't call AAA when he's locked his keys in the car. He will continue to fiddle with a coat hanger long after hypothermia has set in.
Sorry, but that isn't pertinent to what's being covered here today. Ahem. [/pause]

Now... where was I? So, if I can tie this together. She [wife, woman, female] floods her processing centers with simultaneous thoughts, lists, memories, etc., all-at-once. Her

Serial Port: 9-pin maleImage by le0pard13 via Flickr

networking skills far exceed that of her [husband, man, male]. She's tying together facts, schedules, lists (and the like) simultaneously - parallel. Me? I'll have a thought... then another. It's called localized processing - serial. Great for math problems. But no matter (pun) how hard I push those processing centers of mine (even with more gray matter), I won't tie-in the information, conclusions, decisions, opinions, etc. near as fast as the interconnected one [I only call her she-who-must-be-obeyed only when she's not around ;-)].

When I first mentioned this, it did not take her long to realize that giving me a whole bunch to either chew on, process, or tasks to complete (as she'd nor

Parallel Port: 25-pin femaleImage by le0pard13 via Flickr

mally do) wouldn't work in my case. Hence, the couple conflicts. Nevertheless, if she gave them one-at-a-time her spouse would kick them off like they were lined up soccer balls. For example, I'm not much of cook, but give me a recipe and I will march down those steps and deliver something (notice, I didn't say it would be edible). ¡No hay problema! Ignore this and give me three or four recipes to get done by the dinner hour, while changing the oldest's orthodontic appointment over the phone, and solving the daily sibling disputes (something she does with ease), results in the kids having to call the fire department before she gets home!

See, by realizing our processing differences and making certain adjustments, we achieve marital bliss... with the added benefit of our insurance rates not rising. When I relayed this concept to another married man a couple of months ago, my physician boss, he immediately got it. He was so excited, he wanted to call his wife right then and there. Now, how he relayed all of this to his wife and what happened afterward, I take no responsibility whatsoever.

Disclaimers: Your mileage may vary. Avoid alcoholic beverages while using this product. Objects may be closer than they appear (especially if they are being thrown at your head).

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friends From Ohio

It goes without saying that the stuff I don't know far outnumbers those I do. I knew that the Drew Cary Show was set in Ohio - Cleveland to be exact (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, btw), Columbus is its state capital (see, who said junior high school civics class was a waste), famous son John Glenn was the oldest man to venture into outer space, Canton is where the Pro Football Hall of Fame resides, and that it's known as the Buckeye State (college football 101). But, what I didn't know about the 17th state of the union was staggering:
  • 50% of the U.S. population lives within 500 miles of said state capital
  • its state flag is pennant shaped - the only state flag of that design in the whole darn country
  • the Wright Brothers were from Dayton
  • 7 presidents were born there: Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Harding
  • the first state to enact laws for working women
  • and the number one jar dropper for me, and what I most associate with my 9-year old daughter, is that this is its state rock song:


Incredible, huh? I know, I know. But, the real reason I bring all of this up is that within its borders are some of the most genuine, best read, and the very definition for good friend people. Why do I say this?
  • I've recently won the Ohio Lot O Play? I wish... but, no
  • I own stock in Goodyear? Not hardly (and I should have bought some in March)
  • there's a really cute girl at work and she's from OH - Huh... never mind

None of that. However, by luck or good fortune, two of my favorite bloggers on the planet fit that definition. Jen Forbus and Corey Wilde. Gracious and insightful in their posts, generous and keen in their comments. Always. Recently, both managed to catch this old one quite off guard - around the time I clicked off another year (somewhere out is a speed limit with my age on it). And they did this all without knowing that I was born on Friday the 13th.

First, Corey sent me a copy of his favorite (but short-lived) series on DVD, American Gothic, because he knew I never saw it and was very interested in it. Plus, a copy of author Michael Koryta's newest, The Silent Hour (Lincoln Perry series). Not just that, but an autographed one! Then, this weekend, I received something special from Jen - the award winning Envy the Night by the same author, and with this inscription:
To Michael - a friend of Jen's is a friend of mine! Best, Michael Koryta
This, along with a wonderful card, from someone I met via the inter-tubes (and who I actually got to meet in person this spring at the L.A. Times Festival of Books). See, this is why I had to learn more about the people of Ohio. It is the reason I recently uploaded a clip of a favorite scene of mine that best expresses what I think of friends:


And before I go all mushy, I have to share this additional tidbits. You know you're from Ohio if...
  • You don't think of Florida first when someone mentions Miami.
  • You've heard of 3.2% beer.
  • Schools close for the state basketball tournament. Deer season, too.
  • You know all the 4 seasons: Winter, Still Winter, Almost Winter, and Construction.
  • You can spell words like Cuyahoga, Olentangy, Bellefontaine, and Tuscarawas *(Wapakoneta?) and you know which letter is doubled in "Cincinnati."
  • You know what a buckeye really is, and have a recipe for candy ones.

My thanks to Ohio, and both of my friends. If everything works out for all, I hope dearly to see both of these friends at Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis (along with Robert Crais). Say goodnight, Gracie. Goodnight.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Of Movies, Soundtracks, and iPods

iPod Classic [120GB]Image by christyxcore via Flickr

People get exposed to music in all form and manner. From TV, cable programs, entertainment systems (your own or what's blaring from the vehicle bordering next to you while you wait at the traffic signal), to friends/co-workers. Even picking up on new and un-experienced tunes from those who write some very keen blog posts on the subject (I include bloggers Moondancer, Jen, Corey, and Dennis, here), or leave generous and insightful comments in response to such (like internet friend Poncho). My library and I have benefited from these, of late. But since I have a penchant for watching movies, too [wife: "No... really?"], I have to confess that that medium has been another avenue for identifying new music and acquiring tracks that end up on to my iPod. It goes without saying, the endless play of those tunes has given me an untold amount of enjoyment, and has driven the consternation of my immediate family, on occasion. On the other hand, I see that last part as my job as the jumbled spouse, and generationally-challenged parent. That's just par for the course.

CollateralNotwithstanding, the mere fact that a track is in a film (even if it's a good movie or song), doesn't guarantee that I'll acquire it for that sake. But there are times when the music (whether it's a popular tune or not) will match so eloquently to the scene, the action, or the mood of that cinema moment. On these rare occasions, it melds both movie and song into my memory, and that is when I move on it. If I hear that song or melody, I'm right back there in my head. Quite the contrary, a track like the Theme from a Summer Place, while it is on my iPod, didn't get there using the criteria I just described. That old instrumental is memorable to me because, as a child, I was brought up with it, and it's not because of that particular film. Just the same, a song like Huey Lewis and the News' The Power of Love does make it on that basis. And you're probably sick of me alluding to it so many times, but Crowded House's Recurring Dream is stuck in my head (and on my iPod) because of the movie Tequila Sunrise. As well, you might as well throw a filmmaker like Michael Mann into this mix. Especially, for his soundtrack selections (see the use of the infectious salsa tune Arranca by Manzanita in 2006's Miami Vice). The instrumental music he chooses for his closing shots, in particular, are exemplary for their culminating tenor (see Thief, Heat, or Collateral). He really knows how to end a movie (on a high note, so to speak).

Jackie Brown album coverImage via Wikipedia

Additionally, I could have a section of the library dedicated to Quentin Tarantino films all by themselves. His clever use of old, current, and eccentric music in all of his movie soundtracks is almost freakishly dead on. I include the noir lyrical Goodnight Moon (from Kill Bill Vol. 2), to The Delfonics and Bobby Womack cuts of Jackie Brown, to making me wince when I think of (Reservoir Dogs) Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle With You. And then there are the longshot contributions of such underrated fare like The Long Kiss Goodnight (which is one of the great movie titles, ever, and sounds like it should be a classic crime fiction novel by Raymond Chandler) for bringing in the likes of Santana's version of The Zombie's classic, She's Not There. Through the years, there have been so many of these that have eaten up storage capacity on my computer and iPod (and in case you're worried, I do make it a point to run back-up programs).

And, if I was going to mention and/or list those soundtrack songs that illicit this peculiar procurement response (what else would be the point of yammering on so, if not to make a post of it), I'd have to start with the examples below. So the question I put to you, Have any movie/music combinations done the same to you and your personal digital player?



Even though Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly didn't come out till late 1967, we had the single the next year (well, my brother did - but I listened to it constantly after viewing this movie). Clint Eastwood's third spaghetti western continued his rise in world popular movie status, and continued composer Ennio Morricone's association with the famed Italian director. Years later, Morricone would do other distinct and wonderful scores in other film favorites of mine, including The Thing (1982), The Mission, and The Untouchables. When I finally downloaded this to an iPod, it was one of the first of these movie tracks (though, it was Hugo Montenegro's version of the instrumental).


I didn't see Breakfast at Tiffany's when it came out (I was only 7 years old in 1961), but years later, it is likely when I fell for Audrey Hepburn. Perhaps that very moment, when I recognized it, was when Audrey sang the Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini tune this in the movie. The irony here is that I started out with both the Andy Williams vocal and the Mancini instrumental versions in the iPod library, and it was only recently that I picked up Audrey's simple and heartfelt version from the movie itself.


I enjoyed listening to both Harry Belafonte's Jump the Line and Day-O songs, beforehand. But Tim Burton's highly imaginative use of them in Beetlejuice sealed the deal. I can't listen to either without thinking about the movie - and neither can my daughter who absolutely hates how the sequence (above) culminates.


Paul Oakenfold's charged dance tune, Ready Steady Go, gets here because it has been use twice in two electrifying action sequences. In The Bourne Identity's car chase sequence in 2002 (by director Doug Liman), and above in Michael Mann's exciting, almost music video-like sequence from 2004's Collateral. It's strange in that it works so well in both films since their sequences are so different in mood and staging. But, it does.


Truthfully, I'd have Gimme Shelter on my iPod, anyway. But, since it's been used so effectively by Martin Scorsese in some killer sequences for three of his crime films (Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed), I've got to mention it here. Even a Simpson's episode used it. Besides, any excuse to listen to Merry Clayton belt out that second, echoey vocal track is always fine by me.


And if I'm going to list that Stones' tune, you know I've got to include the Ferris Bueller's Day Off clip of the lead character lip-syncing the great Twist and Shout by the boys from Liverpool. The clip speaks for itself (and this song must be in the air, or ether, because this YouTube video clip was just added a couple of weeks ago).



Composer Danny Elfman's soundtrack of The Kingdom is mostly guitar instrumentals. But, this affecting track (titled Finale), which comes after the great but draining action sequence of the film, is such a melodic, haunting tune (that more than matches the emotional context and dialogue in the scene it appears in). If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about.


I don't have a lot of opera classics on my digital player, but most of those that I do have came from the movies. In this case, Vide Cor Meum (written by Patrick Cassidy) is a prime example. It really is an evocative piece. So much so, that director Ridley Scott used it (quite effectively) in two of his movies: first in 2001's Hannibal, and later in Kingdom of Heaven (2005).


Okay, I admit it. I can be such a Christmas time softy, at times. But, Josh Groban's version of Believe (from 2004's The Polar Express) sure made it easier to stomach the motion sickness inducing 3-D effects employed on this film.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Because of Him :: Greatest Guitar Riffs

This morning, our local oldies station (KRTH) was asking its listeners to call in and list their favorite guitar riffs in honor of the passing of another music legend. Lester William Polsfuss, also know as Les Paul, passed away on my birthday last week. And without his creation of the electric guitar, I don't think rock 'n roll happens without that single instrument. The Rock and Rock Hall of Fame has him down with a permanent exhibit and honors him as one of the architects on their website.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's Been 40 Years

Six shots were taken by the photographer (from the middle of the road) as the group strode across. And McCartney choose the one.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Splashy


I find a certain rightness in the world when good people get rewarded, or in this case, awarded. It's so easy to get down on things, or lose perspective, if you listen, watch, or read the news services on any kind of regular schedule. A recent post by blogger Confused of Calcutta brought some insight on this subject:

The web has places of light and places of extreme darkness as well. I like spending time in places where people build each other up, say encouraging things to each other. I like spending time in places where people pass along tips and recommendations about people they like, books they like, music they like, food they like, restaurants they like. Positive things.

There’s an abundance of bad news out there already, in all shapes and colours and sizes. So why add to it?

It is a thought-provoking piece, and well worth a read. So when I awoke this morning with an email from a friend who I consider one of the most positive people I know, I was immediately beckoned to the light. As usual, today's post by Jen's Book Thoughts re-orients your frame of reference with her excitement of reading in general, and specifically the enjoyment of crime/mystery fiction (and the underlying community around that genre). Plus the fact that she was given a Splash Award by Meandering and Muses, made it a good morning (no matter what was on my work/personal schedule today to get done). Jen wrote:
Most recently I received a note that said, "thank you for being a friend to crime fiction writers," and I felt horribly guilty. I've always viewed my blog as a selfish indulgence. I blog because I love mystery and crime fiction; I love to talk about it, share it, promote it and just be surrounded by it. I love having an avenue to be creative with it. The friends I've made have been the greatest bonus
You see, positive. It's like that hug you get from your kids (that seems to come out of nowhere) when you just pass by them, you can't help but feel buoyed by the experience, and warmed by it.

So when she turned around and bestowed it upon me, I was more than a little taken aback. Modesty (and knowing that my lovely bride of 20 years reads my posts and is not about to let my ego grow any larger than it already is) prevents me from repeating Jen's very kind, generous words in conferring this award. For those who manage to stop by, read what I write down and leave a thoughtful comment or two, it is humbling. In the spirit of the community that Jen writes about, I only hope my musings on life and the popular arts bring a portion of what bloggers like Jen do regularly.

And with that spirit in mind, I'd like to grant a Splash Award to another blogger who more than fits the bill of making an impact: blogger Corey Wilde of The Drowning Machine. Not only swimming upstream in a river of books, Corey successfully blends discerning book reviews of crime fiction (foreign and domestic) with periodic contemplations on a number of varied subjects. From the importance of keeping libraries open, to music, and the noirish quality of certain lyrics, Corey provokes curiosity and enjoyment in whatever he writes. Like I do with Jen's blog, his is another of the blog posts I most look forward to reading. So for Jen's fellow Ohioan, this Splashy is for you.

My thanks to both of you for the community you engender.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Quote Me This

As most agree, film is a visual medium - one that uses its projected images to reach the audience via their eyes. Needless to say, the sense of sight is one of our strongest senses. Without the visual cortex humans possess, movies would never have come about. And, the term imagination is derived from the Latin (verb), imaginari - meaning to Picture to oneself. All well and good--I am male and I fit that visually oriented stereotype, after all. [wife rolls eyes] Although, if I was all about the visual, the eye spectacle, then something like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be a summer movie favorite of mine--and we know by now that isn't the case. But for me, it doesn't stop there in my enjoyment of film. No, it still comes down to writing. No matter how good the characters look on the big or small screen, what they say (pause for effect), matters. And a film's dialogue is among the best things I enjoy when I take in either a new movie, or an old classic (that I've seen oh so many times). So here in this post, are some of my favorites movie quotes. What are yours?
The Schofield Kid: It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
William Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
William Munny: We all got it coming, kid.
Unforgiven
W.W. Beauchamp: Who, uh, who'd you kill first?
William Munny: Huh?
W.W. Beauchamp: When confronted by superior numbers, an experienced gunfighter will always fire on the best shot first.
William Munny: Is that so?
W.W. Beauchamp: Yeah, Little Bill told me that. And you probably killed him first, didn't you?
William Munny: I was lucky in the order, but I've always been lucky when it comes to killin' folks.
W.W. Beauchamp: And so, who was next? It was Clyde, right? You must have killed Clyde. Well, it could have been Deputy Andy. Wasn't it? Or, or...
William Munny: All I can tell you is who's gonna be last.

Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer.Image via Wikipedia


Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.


Senor Ferrari: Might as well be frank, monsieur. It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles.

outlaw_josey_walesImage by le0pard13 via Flickr


Bounty hunter: You're wanted, Wales.
Josey Wales: Reckon I'm right popular. You a bounty hunter?
Bounty hunter: A man's got to do something for a living these days.
Josey Wales: Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy.

Josey Wales: When I get to likin' someone, they ain't around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to DISlikin' someone they ain't around for long neither.



ninth-configuationImage by le0pard13 via Flickr


Captain Cutshaw: And you know what that heartless butcher prescribed" He said, 'here, take this. It's a suicide pill, with a mild laxative side effect.' What kind of bedside manner is that?

Captain Cutshaw: I don't belong to the God is alive and hiding in Argentina club. But, I believe in the Devil, alright. You know why? Because the prick keeps doing commercials.



aando-lImage by le0pard13 via Flickr


Mortimer Brewster: Look I probably should have told you this before but you see... well... insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops.
Mortimer Brewster: Aunt Abby, how can I believe you? There are twelve men down in the cellar and you admit you poisoned them.
Aunt Abby Brewster: Yes, I did. But you don't think I'd stoop to telling a fib?

Vincent Hanna
: I'm angry. I'm very angry, Ralph. You know, you can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa, in her ex-husband's dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house if you want to. But you do not get to watch my f*cking television set!

heat1Image by le0pard13 via Flickr




Justine Hanna: You don't live with me, you live among the remains of dead people. You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey, and then you hunt them down. That's the only thing you're committed to. The rest is the mess you leave as you pass through.

mementoImage by le0pard13 via Flickr

Leonard: She's gone and the present is trivia that I scribble on these f*cking notes.

Natalie: It must be hard living your life off a couple of scraps of paper. You mix your laundry list with your grocery list you'll end up eating your underwear for breakfast

tequila-sunrise2Image by le0pard13 via Flickr

Nick Frescia: Generally I recommend my men stay away from vodka, and stick with scotch and bourbon.
Jo Ann: Why is that?
Nick Frescia: So the brass will know they're drunk and not stupid.

Hal Maguire: What do you mean, Frescia?
Nick Frescia: Let's see. You've lost half a million dollars, confiscated a ton of useless coke, and have been responsible for the murder of a federal informant. And that, that's just tonight.

Chinatown (film)Image via Wikipedia

Noah Cross: 'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.

Evelyn Mulwray: Hollis seems to think you're an innocent man.
Jake Gittes: Well, I've been accused of a lot of things before, Mrs. Mulwray, but never that.
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