Catching Up, March 2017

Hi – we’re still kicking here, just haven’t had much motivation to update – but here are some quick bullet points:

First:  I got a chance to see my friend and former coworker Sharon as she was in town for a few days due to work.  That’s not a small thing to consider, as she normally lives and works in Israel!  Speaking of, I think it would be fantastic trip to go there, see the history, enjoy the culture, and see Sharon!   Anyway, we met up in the Silver Lake area and ended up having a late lunch at Hyperion Public.  It’s great to have it be so easy to fall into conversation.

Second:  Yesterday, Larry & I picked up my mom and then we went east to Upland/Ontario to visit with Trent and Stacie and extended family.  Trent was down from college for the weekend and it was quite nice to see him, as well as Stacie.  It’s nuts to think he’s 20, I’m 40, and hi, hello, I’m old.

Third:  This past week has been slightly different for me as my current work engagement was kind of in a “pause”, so I’ve had the chance to breathe a little and remember what it was like to not be stressed.  Don’t you worry about me though – my blood pressure will be cranked back up to Max come Monday and I can look forward to a heart attack by 45, probably.  But hey, it’s only what I deserve.

Fourth:  So, Movies!  We’ve been seeing quite a few lately…and need to add some thoughts and rankings on them in this ol’ site.

Love & Mercy (2014) (saw it via hulu):  What a life Brian Wilson has lived.  Obviously a Hollywood version of 2 critical points in your life will be overly heightened and dramatized, but even from what you read, it’s kinda crazy.   Love & Mercy takes place during two points in Brian’s life – one is during the Beach Boys’ recording of Pet Sounds, while the other part is during the 90s when Brian Wilson is struggling under the care of his psychiatrist and finds hope and love.   The struggles that Brian endured during the 60s to harness his talent while easily succumbing to drugs is fascinating to watch.  Many moments that Larry & I have learned about from other movies were recreated, especially in the recording studio and at his house.  He was a musical genius but his father was a major muthafucka and he truly does have mental problems.  So flash forward a few decades and Brian has fallen under the sway of a psychiatrist who effectively controls him with drugs and constant supervision.   The movie covers both of these periods and it’s a fascinating tour, albeit quite sad at times.  Spoiler alert – Brian Wilson is mostly fine now, but it wasn’t an easy journey, and he really does have psychological problems that require care.  Anyway, if you like the recordings within Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations, this movie is well worth your time.

Moonlight (2016) (saw it via ITunes): We managed to see this before the Oscars as I had heard quite stellar reviews of it from basically anyone I knew who’d seen it along with all the critical reviews.  I knew that it had to do with being gay and black, but surprisingly enough, that isn’t something that I immediately want to go rush out and see, even though I myself am quite gay.  While us whites have a carefree ride being gay (/Sarcasm), I know that for a black man, being gay is a whole additional level of pressure to deal with.  So yeah, I knew this movie wasn’t going to be a light-hearted gay rom-com.  And I was right.  BUT, I was also quite enthralled by the movie as it tells a very tough story, but obviously one that can be related to regardless.  It’s got at its center a character in 3 points of his life:  as a young boy, a teenager, then finally a man in his 20s.  It’s told chronologically, and we immediately know that while the young Chiron isn’t sexually active, he’s already perceived differently and tormented for it.  He only has his mother as family, and unfortunately, mom is a crackhead, and cares not all that much that Chiron is suffering.  Happily, Chiron finds a father and mother figure in an unlikely source, an empathetic drug dealer (played by now-Academy Award-winning Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Janelle Monae.  They provide a safe space for him as well as a sounding board, as Chiron has a frankly distressing and difficult conversation with them that sometimes hit too close to home.

The next phase is when Chiron is a teenager, and man, this is particularly brutal.  He’s awkward, gawky, and ostracized in high school, and his tormentors are relentless and cruel.  It’s terrible to watch and to empathize.  But he has one friend that ends up being a lifeline for him.    It’s a very emotional section of the movie, and I will avoid too many plot points, but by the end of it, you’re left wondering what the hell is in store for him, and before you can wonder too long, you see that he of course falls into the path that’s open to him and resembles his pseudo father almost identically.  Then a phone call comes and it’s that friend from his teenage years – a voice he likely never expected to ever hear from again, but there he is on the other end of the line and suddenly everything and nothing makes sense.  So they meet.  And it’s an agonizingly long series of scenes in which you want nothing more than for this grown-up Chiron to finally find happiness.  And maybe that’s why I ended up slightly cold towards the movie at the end – as that happy ending isn’t here.  In fact, the ending is almost abrupt…and from what I’ve read, it’s an intentional choice by the director, Barry Jenkins.  I get that it’s probably more realistic of a choice to make, but seriously, the lack of catharsis is a huge element to deal with.  Regardless, Moonlight is a fantastic movie and certainly deserved the Best Picture Oscar.  But as a gay man, those feelings were all too relatable and to not get some kind of happiness you’d likely see in any “straight” movie felt kind of like a reminder that yeah, the stigma is still there that people don’t want to see it.  Feh.

Get Out (saw this at Pacific Theaters today):   Alright, so you need to know that this is definitely a scary movie.  It’s got a whole slew of tense scenes, eventual violence, and a few jump scares – but it’s not a gross-out film, and with horror movies, I can only take so  much before I’m a mess.  The last horror movie I saw in the theater was The Conjuring and that shit was scary as hell.   Get Out is not like that movie – but it is certainly a fucked up experience that definitely is made for these fucked up times we’re living in.  So what’s the movie about, you ask?  Chris, the black guy, is dating Rose, the white girl, and they’re headed upstate to meet her parents.  It’s 2017, so of course Chris is slightly anxious about the whole situation as it’s not even clear if she’s warned her parents what to expect.  Rose reassures him constantly that they’re the nicest people around.   So once they finally get up there and meet the parents, it’s actually not so terrible and he tries to relax.  But then he observes the various servants around the isolated house and grounds, and of course they’re all black.  And strangely….off.    But we’re reassured that it’s not like that….and of course, things get ever more tense and strange as Chris learns and observes more.  And yeah, it’s all fucked up and holy shit it’s a good movie.  Whether it’s the fact that this is a movie from a distinctly 2016/2017 point of view or just that it’s an expertly done horror/thriller movie….just damn.  Obviously to continue talking about it means I ruin the plot, so just know that it’s quite a well-told story and if you hear the sound of a stirred tea cup…fucking run.

Movies Seen in 2017:

Fantastic / Rave-worthy:

Very Good:

Okay / Wait to See at Home:

So How About Those Oscars?

Larry & I had the opportunity to attend an Academy Awards party at Ken’s house in Los Feliz – “Ken” being Mila’s brother who I’ve known for pretty much all of his life.  He’s done well for himself and has a great house in the hills of Los Feliz and as you can see in the pics below, the view is REDONK.  It was a lot of fun to watch with this group of people and while I ended up doing terribly in my predictions for most of the lesser awards, when it came to Best Picture, I ended up deciding to pick Moonlight as I figured the awards would get split between Picture and Director, and when Damien Chazelle won Best Director, I thought I was looking good.  Then La La Land is announced as the Best Picture, and while I was happy with that result, I also know plenty weren’t, and it also hurt my ballot (not that it mattered, I lost hard).  But then, that craziness of ‘oh yeah, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope’ occurred and it was like, oh shit, are you kidding?  Not just because that was an insane thing to have happen at the Oscars…but also, my employer is the one who looks to have been responsible for it happening!!   EEEK……. and throughout the news cycle today, it definitely doesn’t look like that assessment is changing anytime soon.  I can’t imagine anything else happening besides THERE WILL BE BLOOD.   This is one of those cases though where shit doesn’t have a downhill option to go….the 2 partners who are there are the only ones allowed to know who won, so anyone else who was associated with helping is in the free and clear as nobody else has that comprehensive picture…and weren’t there with the envelopes.   Girl, this is gonna be a rollercoaster, just saying.

So in the meantime, here are some fun pictures of the view from Ken’s house along with some pictures of people you may or may not know.  🙂

Oh yeah – now this is an Oscar Winning Composer’s signature on the La La Land vinyl!:

The Jeopardy! Circle is Complete

Happy days – after our fun Downtown Day yesterday, when I checked the mail, only one thing was in there, and it was a beauty:  I got my prize money from Jeopardy! finally!!!!  That $2k doesn’t have any immediate destinations, but it’s awesome nonetheless to get the money.  My experience is now complete, which is a touch bittersweet.    Damn you, Netherlands!!!

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Downtown Day 2017: Skyspace, Central Library, and Bradbury Building

Larry and I have had a few previous downtown days, with some being harmless fun exploring the sights….

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…in which we looked at some potential apartments as well as the MOCA and Union Station; and then a trip in which it was pretty much a pub crawl….

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….it did start out educational as we saw the Space Shuttle, but then it became pretty much an exercise in drinking around downtown LA.  It was awesome.

So today was a bit random, as I just proposed going downtown to the Skyspace experience on a whim.  I didn’t want to sit home and there were no good movies out, and after proposing it, Larry agreed, and off we went.

The OUE Skyspace LA attraction is basically the long-awaited Observation Deck that Downtown LA should have had since the U.S. Bank building was built in 1990.  But DTLA wasn’t really a tourist destination for the longest time, but now with the Staples Center, LA Live, and a whole host of people living down there now, DTLA is much different.  And I think finally it made sense to keep expanding what there was to do, so last year the top deck of the building was built to make this observation deck a reality.   Not content to be just a view, they also built a glass slide that drops you from the 69th floor to the 68th – outside of the building.  It’s a very short ride, but it is quite a thrill nonetheless.

Anyway, I get ahead of myself.  You first make your way into the lobby of the building, process through, and then go up to the 58th floor.  Up there are a few neat interactive exhibits like giant video screens showing various LA cityscapes at different times of day, a very cool peak down a very deep hole lit up like a disco, and some other random stuff.  I guess it’s to justify the cost of the ticket?

As you can see, the magic chasm was pretty fun to play around with in pictures.  After you walk through all this excitement, you take another elevator up to the observation deck on 69 – and it’s pretty damn awesome.  A nice job has been done making a very clean, open space with quite clean windows to look out and take pictures through.  I do hate when observation platforms don’t bother to keep the windows clean as you’re kind of beholden to them for pictures.  Anyway, I digress – we did take a lap around the enclosed 69th floor to get a sense of what the views were, but held off on taking too many pictures as I wanted to be outside to get those.

But you don’t take the stairs to go down to the level below…you take the SKYSLIDE.

Yeah, it’s kind of awesome.  Brief, but awesome.  Some more from the Skyslide experience:

Alright, the remaining pictures are a lot.   I couldn’t help myself though as there’s just so much to take in.

Initial Looks:

View of the Oviatt Penthouse!

Alright, a whole lot of pictures of DTLA:

Okay, I then tried to capture LAX in the distance…

And some last pics before we went back to the ground:

Alright, so that was quite a cool experience.  I’d like the opportunity to go up closer to a sunset and get those kinds of colors too, but that can be for another time.

Once we got on the ground, we were right outside the Central Library of Los Angeles, which is itself quite a stunning building.  So we went in to take a look, and also we both got a library card.  It’s my first one in what feels like forever.

Central Library, Inside and Out

We didn’t check out any books today, but maybe one day soon?   I was getting hangry, so we then started walking towards Bottega Louie but a block before getting there, we ran across Karl Strauss Brewery.  Love the place from its Citywalk location, and that felt a little more relaxed than going to Bottega Louie.  So that’s what we did – perfect fit, getting beer and grub.   After that, we then walked our way over to the Bradbury Building.  Why?   Well, Larry had figured out where it was while we were up top and we figured if we’re down here, let’s go take a look.  It’s well known for having quite the dramatic and unique interior and also for having quite iconic films set within it – notably Blade Runner.  My pictures here didn’t come out quite as clear as I’d hoped, but you get the gist.

Food, Broadway, and the Bradbury Building

Then it was a walk back to where we parked, and along the way, caught one last glimpse of the US Bank building and the Skyslide:

And now we’re back home after a  fun afternoon.  Still figuring out where to eat having had a fairly late lunch.

Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)

Thursday, Sept 15, 2016 – Day 2 of London

<– Previously, we chunnel’d from Paris to jolly ol’ England

We had scheduled to go on a day-trip of visiting Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. These aren’t near each other, so there’s a lot of driving between each location. The fun started immediately in just getting to the departure point. When I’d done this with Susan and Jeff before, we went over to a nearby hotel for a pickup and got dropped off at the Victoria Coach Station.  This time, we got our selves there, which involves going to Victoria Underground Station at Victoria Train Station, but then having to walk outside that Train Station in order to go to the Coach Station. And once you’re outside, the signs get a bit confusing. Anyway, we chose luckily and got to the Coach station in time….to see everyone and their mother was also going on tours. Whatever, we got there, got on a coach, and were on our way eventually.

Departure from Victoria Coach Station:

The first stop, after an hour or so of driving and listening to our charming English tour guide (who looked a little like David Attenborough) tell us about London and the upcoming Windsor Castle, was the city of Windsor. 

Captured where we were on Google Maps

There was a nice walk from the bus parking to the gates of the castle, after which we were on our own.  Alas, they ran out of audio guides a few people before us, so we were on our own for that, which was okay.  We did first wander around and then caught the Changing of the Guard, which is a lot like the big one by Buckingham.  Although that’s quite a bit bigger methinks.  After some time in the sun, and listening to the band play some of Adele’s greatest hits (no joke), we walked into the St. George Chapel, which has a couple of cool burials within, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, along with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and father.   Continue reading Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)