Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Let Me Take You Back In Time . . . .

Below are more photos of our ongoing Seattle trip. Due to the way Blogger/Picasa/Hello works, the most recent photos are on top, and they go back in time as you scroll down . . . .

The Space Needle and the spacy crescent roll. Posted by Picasa

The bizarre crescent-roll shaped thing on the roof of the SF Museum. Posted by Picasa

Although the areas around the doors of the museum are decorated with icons from science fiction movies and TV, a display window on one side features a colorful display of book covers and jackets -- showing that the museum does not ignore SF's literary roots. Posted by Picasa

The sides of the extremely-weirdly-shaped building that houses the Science Fiction Museum and the Experience Music Project. Designed by Frank Gehry. Posted by Picasa

On Tuesday afternoon, we visited the Seattle Center (around the Space Needle) to go to the Science Fiction Museum, which can be viewed as either Paul Allen's tribute to the genre or a warehouse for his collection. Here is a kinetic, interactive sculpture made of long strips of iron. Posted by Picasa

A shot of Rick and Beverly's gorgeous backyard on Tuesday, another day of Seattle sunshine. Posted by Picasa

A bunch of Barers: from left, my uncle Arnold Barer; dad; and me. Posted by Picasa

More relatives at the party: from left, brother Steve; sister-in-law's mother, Lynne (back); cousin Cherie; and Cherie's husband, Kevin. Posted by Picasa

On Monday evening, we visited Buca di Beppo in downtown Seattle for my father's 76th birthday. Here's my dad's wife, Jean, in mid-conversation. Posted by Picasa

On Monday, we visited the amazing downtown Seattle video store, Scarecrow Video. Here's the window display they've put together for the DVD release of the Sin City movie. Posted by Picasa

Monday -- a beautiful Seattle morning seen through a cool window. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kudos for Tod

Anybody who reads cousin Tod Goldberg's blog knows how excellent a writer he is (and he'd probably slam me for the construction of that sentence). The LA Times thinks so too. It gave his new short-story collection, Simplify, a rave review. I heard the audio version of the eponymous story (read by Andrew McCarthy) while driving down to Orange County, and it caused serious traffic problems. Buy the book.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sibling Visit

On Sunday, after the con, Amy and I went to a wonderful dinner at the home of my brother Mike and his wife Debra. Photos below.

Steve and Rusty the Dog hanging out at Mike and Debra's house. Posted by Picasa

Dad at Mike and Debra's home. Posted by Picasa

Aunt Carol at the Mike and Debra home. Posted by Picasa

Amy and sister-in-law Debra at Mike and Debra's Maple Valley Home. Posted by Picasa

Dave Howell, a friend I knew in Walla Walla in the eighties, auctions off a feathery pillow at the Foolscap banquet/auction. Posted by Picasa

Rick and Amy explore a dragon's skull (sculpture) Posted by Picasa

Rick Marshall and Amy conferring at the con. Posted by Picasa

Harlan Ellison, suffering fools. Posted by Picasa

The dealer's room for Foolscap Posted by Picasa

Fools Rush In

The first stop on our Seattle trip was a small SF convention called "Foolscap" in Bellevue. Friend Beverly (with whom we'll be staying during this trip) was a guest there, and friend Rick (her husband) was on the con committee. Further, other folks I knew from my past life in Walla Walla were helping to run the show. The Guest of Honor was author, speaker, noted futurist, Geo pitchman, and all-around Renaissance man Harlan Ellison, a habitue of LA (like me) who tended to draw the crowds and the attention from all other programming with his spellbinding storytelling and pointed opinions. Photos above.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm a Travelin' Man

Posts have been scarce recently because I've been jetting around the west. From Tuesday to Thursday, I was in Lake Tahoe giving a presentation at a law-related conference. When I got back, I barely had time to catch my breath and re-pack my bags before heading out to Seattle for vacation. Right now, I'm at Foolscap, an SF convention in Bellevue, where my friend Beverly Marshall Saling is a guest and her husband (and also friend) Rick Marshall is on the con commitee. Pictures soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Grimm Tidings

Last night, Amy and I headed up to Westwood to watch the current Terry Gilliam flick, The Brothers Grimm. The theatre showing it, the Mann National, is running March of the Penguins most of the day; it only had one showing of BG on Saturday, at 9:30 p.m. The National is one of the few large single-screen theatres left in L.A. The fairly small audience was scattered throughout the hundreds of seats, giving the scene a somewhat pathetic look, as if a travelling circus was giving an extravagant, full-blown performance before an audience of a few bored kids and some chirping crickets.

BG itself is, well, messy. True, you could say that about several Gilliam films (Jabberwocky and Baron Muchausen come to mind); but seldom has Gilliam seemed more like an ennervated vaudeville MC, throwing act after act on the screen in the hopes of getting a rise out of the audience. There is much we've seen before -- from Dragonheart, from Van Helsing, from Sleepy Hollow, as if one cannot tell a story about 19th-century European fairy-tale magic without sampling the other recent gothic efforts. The film features Heath Ledger and Matt Damon as the titular brothers (who, curiously, are Germans speaking their native tongue with fake English accents). Much as the movies reimagined Van Helsing as an Indiana Jones-type adventurer, this one depicts the folk-tale-gathering siblings as [spoiler warning] con-men who pretend to fight witches and trolls in French-occupied Germany during the Napoleanic wars. Naturally, they encounter The Real Thing and are forced to battle it for real. There's a cute, spunky lady (reminiscent of Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing) who helps the brothers out; children in danger; and lots of references to fairy tales. While Gilliam manages some gorgeous scenes, and a few major creep-outs, overall the thing suffers from too little impulse control.

So, what have you seen lately?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Movie Melange

During his confirmation hearings, John Roberts caused a minor stir when he finally committed to something: his favorite movies. When he announced his faves were Doctor Zhivago and North by Northwest, commentators pounced on and dissected his choices, trying to determine what they revealed about his character. One pundit said that neither movie had anything to do with the law -- perhaps ignorant of the brief trial scene in North by Northwest, with the Chief from Get Smart as Cary Grant's lawyer.

What, then, would commentators say about my taste in movies? The flicks I've recently enjoyed range from 1967's action-noir Lee Marvin thriller Point Blank -- adapted from a Donald Westlake novel (the same one later remade as the Mel Gibson movie Payback), featuring the type of '60's cinematography that I love (lots of bright colors and dark shadows), and directed with tremendous style by John Boorman -- to Kamikaze Girls, the delirious comedy I watched at the Nuart tonight. Kamikaze Girls is a cartoony (to the point where it sometimes actually turns into an animated cartoon) film about the unlikely friendship between two teenage girls in rural Japan: The introverted daughter of a minor Yakuza (who makes his living selling Versace knockoffs in the street) who is obsessed with the Japanese Gothic Lolita style of clothing, wearing dresses out of the Rococo era; and a deep-voiced, scooter-riding girl-gang member, who talks incessantly, has a hair-trigger temper, and uses head-butts and rabbit-kicks to get her messages across. Not deep by any means, but fun. And the audience was full of American girls in their teens and twenties, dressed up in their own Gothic Lolita fashions.

Before KG, the Nuart showed a stunning trailer for the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean/Henson Productions film Mirrormask. If it can live up to the hype, it may be one of the most visually amazing fantasy films ever made.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trying to Read Roberts

From the sound bytes I heard, Judge Roberts managed to slide through his first day of questioning in his confirmation hearing for the Chief Justice position with the slickness one would expect of an attorney who argued in front of the High Court 39 times. Some significant statements: He believes in a constitutional right of privacy (via the protections of the 4th Amendment Search and Seizure clause and the 5th Amendment Due Process clause) and substantive due process via the 5th and 14th amendments -- which puts him somewhat to the left of Justices like Scalia. He is apparently trying to present himself as someone inoffensive to either the right or left.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Aloha Oi

I went to the last concert of my three-concert World Music Series (my birthday present from my wife) tonight. The theme was Hawaiian Music, which must be pretty popular in LA: the attendance was approximately 11,900 (the bowl's capacity is around 17, 300), a lot of whom were apparently expatriate Hawaiians. The music was melodic and relaxing, the dancing (lots and lots of dancers -- one troup was around 27 on stage at once) was visually amazing, the wine was Coppola pinot grigio, the main course was smoked salmon on focacia bread with gouda and olive hummus, the evening was great, and this sentence is a run-on.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Requiem for Rehnquist?

Alan Dershowitz -- certainly no fan of late Chief Justice William Rehnquist -- took the occasion of Rehnquist's death to write a column excoriating the jurist for his alleged anti-semitic background and beliefs. I had heard that he bought a house in Vermont that had a restrictive covenant that barred sale of the property to ''any member of the Hebrew race.” But I had not heard before Dershowitz's allegation -- based on "several sources" who knew Rehnquist as a student at Stanford -- that "he had outraged Jewish classmates by goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering with brown-shirted friends in front of a dormitory that housed the school’s few Jewish students. He also was infamous for telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes. "

What's unclear is whether this attitude (if Dershowitz's comments are accurate) remained throughout Rehnquist's fairly long life; or was only the result of college-aged stupidity

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Goodbye, Little Buddy

Bob Denver, Maynerd G. Krebs to one generation and Gilligan to another, has passed away at 70.

CLAMP Crossover

I've always enjoyed TV-show crossovers, where the characters from one show a production company was doing appeared on another. Examples include the characters from ABC's drama-comedy THE PRACTICE appearing on Fox's comedic-drama ALLY McBEAL, or the Green Hornet appearing on the '60's BATMAN series, or the paramedics from Jack Webb's succesful EMERGENCY! series appearing on Webb's one-season-wonder SIERRA. Then there were the multi-part crossovers in the Hickoverse between the BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and spinoffs PETTICOAT JUNCTION and GREEN ACRES.

Anyway, what brought this to mind is that the hugely-succesful group of Japanese female manga creators, CLAMP, began a cross-over experiment a couple of years ago, intertwining the plot lines of two very different comics series they created: Resevoir Chronicle Tsubasa, an action-filled trip through multiple dimensions starring slightly different versions of characters from past CLAMP features; and XXXholic, a gothic monkey's-paw/GREMLINS type series involving a beautiful witch who runs a shop that gives people whatever they wish -- but extracts a commensurate price.

Animation house Production I.G. continued this experiment when they released separate feature films last month based on both Tsubasa and XXXholic: even though the films feature original stories, their plots cross over with each other. Here are links to their English-language websites for Tsubasa and for XXXholic.

The posters above are copyrighted 2005 by CLAMP and whoever else co-owns the visual rights.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Mellow Sunday Morning

Amy and I had a near-perfect mid-Labor-day-weekend Sunday morning. We drove over to the Santa Monica Pier (with excellent weather -- not too hot, not too cold) and had brunch at Marisol, the Mexican restaurant at the far end of the pier. Of course, they had no breakfast items on the menu, and the view was better than the seafood burritos we had, but it was still very pleasant. After watching the ocean crashing on the beach for awhile, we visited Whimsic Alley, a charmingly decorated Harry Potter boutique. Amy and I have been reading the latest HP book to each other, and so I got the urge to visit this place. It certainly has all the HP merchandise one could hope to find under one roof. Afterward, we came back, where I'm banging this out to procrastinate actually going to work cleaning the house.


On Saturday, Amy and I attended the first day of Pacific Media Expo at the Long Beach convention center. PMX bills itself as a festival celebrating Asian popular culture, but it is essentially an anime convention with a few add-on events concerning other Asian countries. It comes a mere two months after Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the US, was held in Anaheim; it was therefore much more sparsely attended than AX (which had 33,000 attendees). It also has far fewer attendees, exhibitors and events.

The top photos show the work of Masaki Asai, a modeler who sculpts many of the anime figurines and model kits sold in Japan. A couple more photos show the exhibit hall. The final one is of me getting an autograph from Seiji Mizushima, the director of the anime TV series Shaman King (shown here on Fox) and Fullmetal Alchemist (shown here on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim).

William Rehnquist, RIP

The Chief Justice who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Nixon and who spent 33 years on the High Court -- refusing to retire even when struggling through cancer treatments -- has died. Hope Scalia doesn't become the next Chief.