Saturday, September 30, 2006

Wi-fi Watering Holes: Interactive Cafe

This cafe (where I am sitting as I post this) is one of the most stylish and attractive wi-fi watering holes I've seen. On Broadway in Santa Monica, a block from the Third Street Promenade and a couple blocks from the beach, this former art gallery features an alfresco patio, round tables with chairs adorned with wrought iron grapes, some large half-oval pleather booths, cases of baked goods and ice cream, a row of pc kiosks in the back, and lots of art -- including an architectual-looking installation on the black ceiling, a gigantic tiffany-style vase, and a Pollack-looking painting that seems to stretch 20 feet across the west wall.

You'd expect haute cuisine in such a setting; but the fare consists of simple sandwiches, salads and soups (plus the expected coffee and espresso bar). There are also shelves of international magazines and greeting cards, which leads me to think this is primarily aimed at tourists and travelers. (It's around the corner from one major hotel, and within walking distance of others.)

Something else this WFWH offers that few do: printers. Two of the PC kiosks offer printer access, for a fee (something like $1.00 for each 10 minutes). There are two printers.

One disadvantage is the lack of (evident) electrical outlets around the tables and booths (although there was an extension cord at the seats near the computer kiosks, with multiple plugs). Otherwise, it's a nice location to grab a sandwich and some high-caffeine drink while getting some work done.

Robert Downey Jr. = Shellhead

Marvel Comics character Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, may have started out as essentially Howard Hughes with a Clark Gable face; but newly-formed studio Marvel Entertainment may have made an inspired choice for the upcoming Iron Man movie by casting Robert Downey Jr. as ol' Shellhead. (Comics fans may recall Stan Lee's fondness for coming up with nicknames for his characters that included the word "head" -- e.g., Webhead (Spider-Man), Winghead (Captain America), Hornhead (Daredevil). For some reason, though, he never called Thor "Godhead" . . . .)

Stark's original weakness was a piece of shrapnel lodged close to his heart, requiring him to wear his chest armor/iron lung 24 hours a day (fortunately, it could be recharged from wall sockets or car cigarette lighters -- no joke). Eventually, the shrapnel was removed; so to find a new problem for the Golden Avenger, Marvel turned to substance abuse. Beset by stress he couldn't do away with by punching something, Stark turned to the bottle; and he's occasionally relapsed into it since. Substance abuse is definitely something Downey knows about.

The recreation of the "Demon in a Bottle" cover is copyright by Marvel. Downey's picture is probably copyrighted by someone, but I don't know who.

Family View

My cousins Linda Woods and Karen Dinino continue to conquer the world of arts and crafts books. They are scheduled to appear on the weekday morning staple THE VIEW next month.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hey Kids! Free Comics!

Here's a treat for fans of comics writer/artist Colleen Doran. When she started self-publishing her signature series A DISTANT SOIL (her Aria Press was the third publisher of the material, after WaRP Graphics and Donning/Starblaze), she included a backup prequel story, "Seasons of Spring." After only a couple of installments, she discontinued it. Now, she is reprinting the existing pages of the story on her blog and her Website; and may continue it there. Further, the art looks especially nice on the Web, since it's apparently photographed from her original art.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wi-Fi Watering Hole: Small Town Coffee Company in Kapaa, Hawaii

This was one of two wi-fi coffee places within walking distance of our resort in downtown Kapaa on Kauai; but it was the one that had (a) better drinks; (b) better hours; and (c) free wi-fi.

We never ended up using the wi-fi, because our resort room had a high-speed connection (and later in the vacation my wrist prevented me from picking up the laptop and taking it there); but it was good to know it was there.

In addition to terrific espresso drinks, it featured a "fou fou steamer": Steamed milk with syrup flavoring. I didn't have one, but Amy and Helen did, and pronounced them delicious.

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Plus, the place had that cool bohemian coffee place vibe -- as shown by the floors, carpeted with old Japanese newspapers:

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Wrist Update

I had an MRI of my broken wrist early this morning. This involved my laying on my stomach while the tech manacled my right hand to a sliding board; then being motored around in a tight tube, from my shoulders up, for about 20 minutes, with knocks, loud buzzes, and Star Trek sounds going off around me. (The tech gave me earplugs; but the plug came out of my left ear -- the exposed one. )

Anyway, the good news is the MRI revealed that I had not fractured one of the small bones in my wrist that is hard to heal, as the orthopedist had feared. The bad news is that the fracture I did sustain (to the distal radius) requires that I go to the doctor next week and trade my splint for a cast.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Kauai Vacation: The Wrap-up

Here's what happened the rest of the vacation: Tuesday evening, a luau ("Kauai's Best Luau!" -- the official name of the company); Wednesday morning, horseriding (and my nosedive off my horse -- followed by clinic, x-ray, and Long's Drugs); Thursday, a Catamaran ride to the Na Pali Coast (and snorkeling for folks except for me, laid up with the busted flipper); and Friday, my favorite tour: The overpriced, but extremely fun, Kauai Movie Tour -- in which two smart-mouthed guides took us to settings all over the island where movies, tv shows and music videos were filmed, allowing us to see the movie clips on the in-bus monitor as the real thing showed up outside our windows.

The photos from the Na Pali Coast tour aren't here yet -- they were taken with a real film camera. But here's the best of the rest.

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Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
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Part of the koi pond on the grounds of the resort.
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The beach in back of the resort.
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The Hanalei Pier, shown in numerous movies filmed on Kauai. One of the destinations of the Kauai movie tour. Note the splint on my right wrist.
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This (and the next two photos) is the Coconut Palms Resort, where "Blue Hawaii" was filmed. Hurricane Iniki wrecked it in 1992. It's scheduled to be demolished next month, and then rebuilt to original specifications. The Kauai movie tour took us here.
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This beach is where Lee Marvin landed in "Donovan's Reef." Courtesy of the Movie Tour.
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This and the next four photos were taken during our horse ride/hike -- before my fall.
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Me on my horse, Makei, in happier times. Yes, it's a long way from the horse's back to the ground. Fortunately, I fell in tall grass.
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Luau time!

Friday, September 22, 2006

"Shark" Chum

How can a production company and network shell out big bucks to hire James Woods as a star, and Spike Lee to direct the pilot episode -- and yet use a writer who either fails to research, or doesn't care, that:

1. The County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles are separate governments.

2. The mayor of Los Angeles does not control the DA's office, much less have the power to create an elite prosecution unit within it. The DA controls that office; and the DA answers to the County Board of Supervisors, not the city government.

3. Ergo, ADAs are not city attorneys.

4. Felony prosecutions in California are not entitled "County of Los Angeles v. So-and-so." The State prosecutes felonies. The cases are entitled "The People v. So and so."

5. When felonies are tried downtown, they are generally tried in the Clara Foltz Criminal Courts Building. The courthouse shown in an establishing shot was the Stanley Mosk Courthouse -- which generally tries civil trials. The courtroom shown in the episode did not look like any courtroom I've ever seen in the Mosk courthouse.

6. When a prosecutor asks multiple argumentative questions, defense attorneys generally object-- more than a couple times.

7. A prosecutor who commits such misconduct as bribing bailiffs to obtain inside information about jurors (who somehow, strangely, were chosen before trial) is simply sowing the seeds for reversal on appeal.

8. Lawyers generally, y'know, practice law. There wasn't more than a thimbleful of law in this episode.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Kauai Giveth; Kauai Taketh Away

A mishap occurred in our Kauai vacation yesterday, when a delightful horseride/hike resulted in injury to Your Humble Servant. My saddle slipped down one side (due, according to the stable master, to my not being centered -- I knew I shoulda taken those meditation classes); the horse bucked and galloped; and I went airborne. Fortunately, I did not share Christopher Reeve's fate. My only injury was my right wrist, which sustained what the radiologist called a "subtle" fracture of the radius head. I can still type (obviously) but I'm wearing a splint.

Second mishap occurred this morning. I went out on a catamaran with Amy and her sister, Helen (who's staying with us in the condo) to the Na Pali coast (but alas, not to snorkle as planned, due to the wrist). As we raced over the waves, the wind snatched up the baseball cap I bought iin Kona on the Big Island in 1999, and returned it to Hawaiian Islands, albeit the watery portion.

More photos soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chicks, Rainbows, and Sunrises in Kauai

More vacation photos. The sunrise photos were taken earlier this morning. The hen and chicks showed up on our backporch yesterday. The rainbow photo was taken with my cellphone camera on Monday.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Mr. Barer and the Tropical Stack

Two background facts:

-- When I was a kid, my parents went to Hawaii. They brought back a can of coconut syrup, which sat in the fridge for several months. My images of Hawaii were shaped by Hawaii 5-0, pineapple commercials, and that can of coconut syrup. I imagined that Hawaii had to smell of pineapples and coconut syrup.

-- Earlier this summer, I read Lee Goldberg's second MONK novel, MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII. In the novel, which takes place on Kauai, Monk's assistant Natalie eats macadamia nut pancakes for practically every meal. It strained suspension of disbelief to the breaking point that Natalie would remain the so-slight-she's-almost-not-there blond shown on the TV show after ingesting that many pancakes, but hey, that's artistic license.

Last night, we observed the ritual of grabbing a couple of maitais (at the Olympic Cafe in Kapaa.) This morning, I informed Amy that we had to have some mac-nut pancakes. So we sauntered to the Ono Family diner, and each ordered the tropical stack (mine with bananas, Amy's without). The fully-loaded tropical stack mixes mac nuts, bananas, and coconut into the batter, and tops the stack with each of those treats. Plus, the diner served a hot pitcher of -- yes -- coconut syrup, with shreds floating in it. Holy Frappuchino, that was marvelous. By the time I was done, I was so full of carbs you could bag me, twist-tie me, and put me on the bakery shelf.

Afterward, I went swimming in the pool, unconcerned when a tropical rain started falling. No rain, no rainbows.
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kauai Getaway

It's vacation time, and yesterday Amy and I flew to Kauai. I've visited here once before, in 1994, and I've visited the Big Island and Maui in past vacations, but this is the first time I've visited Kauai with Amy. We're staying at the Pono Kai resort in Kapaa.

Since were up late Friday night packing, we only got a few hours of sleep before the taxi came Saturday morning. Amy got a nice nap on the plane, but I've never been good at sleeping on planes, so I inhaled an entertaining novel from Hard Case Crime, BUST, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr. Ah, the joy of reading about bad people doing ill-advised deeds and suffering the consequences.

Once we got to the resort, we had lunch at the Olympic Cafe and ice cream at Beezer's. We paid the ritual visit to the ABC store, and browsed an art gallery. Then we came back to our room and laid down for a short nap. Six hours later, we woke up, watched some anime on the Cartoon Network, and went back to sleep.

This morning I took a 7 am stroll on the beach, where I shot these photos. We then went to the activity hard-sell -- er, orientation, and signed up for stuff to do for the week. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Carry On Potter

Remember the scene at the beginning of MISERY (both the book and the movie) where the writer protagonist finishes his latest book, piles into his car with the typewritten, unphotocopied manuscript, and drives off into a blizzard? Obviously no actual writer these days would travel around with a non-word-processed, uncopied manuscript to a hotly-anticipated book. And no writer would try to fly to England with that manuscript as carry-on luggage.

Unless, of course, your name happens to be J.K. Rowling . . . .

We Care a Lot about Transformers 'Cause There's More than Meets the Eye!

The combined tribute to The Transformers and Faith No More is prompted by perusal of the ever-fascinating TSA checklist of stuff you can and cannot lug with you into the noisy pressurized haven that is an airliner cabin. TSA has kindly advised travelers that although they still can't bring toothpaste onboard, they can bring "Toy Transformer Robots." But alas, "Nunchakus," "Throwing Stars," and other "Martial Arts Weapons" are right out. So once those Decepticons start transforming at 10,000 feet, you'll be defenseless.

Viva Anime Vegas

For those wondering how I spent my Labor Day Weekend, this Website features a video of the Anime Vegas con. No, not everyone was wearing a costume. No, I did not wear a costume.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Trailer Royale

The new trailer for the new Bond film starring the new Bond.

Damn. It's nice.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Greasing the Wheels of Progress

On his blog, Neil Gaiman notes that while current TSA rules ban travelers from carrying toothpaste, shampoos, and lip balm onto planes, airline passengers are permitted to bring up to 4 ounces of "personal lubricants" on board.

He writes:

"I think I must be losing it.

"For a moment there, I really planned to drive up to a drug store, buy a 4 oz container of personal lubricant, empty it out, wash it and refill it with toothpaste."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where are You Eating Lunch?

Last night, I watched Rian Johnson's movie BRICK on video. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It reminded me of the quirky movies about teenagers that came out during the '80's like BLUE VELVET and THE RIVER'S EDGE, although it's not as surreal as VELVET and not as bleak as RIVER'S EDGE. Its conceit is that it's a Chandleresque film noir in which nearly all the characters are teenagers. (When an adult appears -- such as Richard Roundtree as a vice-principal who plays the friendly-cop role -- it's startling.) Joshua Gordon Levitt plays the protagonist, Brendan, a teenage private eye who's bespectacled (he puts the glasses away when he knows he's about to take a punch), speaks completely in Phillip Marlowe argot, smart in a pinch but dumb about sticking his nose into trouble, and better at absorbing punishment than dishing it out. The girls are all controlling and predatory, the police and school administration are useless except as Brendan's tools, Lukas Haas plays a twenty-something drug kingpin like a skinny Sidney Greenstreet, and Brendan's sidekick is a coke-bottle-glasses brain (named "Brain") who serves Brendan for some reason never mentioned, and urges him to "break some deserving teeth." It has a jazzy score, and some beautifully composed shots. It's well worth a Friday evening.

Anime Vegas: The Wrap-Up

On Sunday, September 3, the Hellsing fun continued as Amy also won a sketch from Kouta Hirano. Before sketching time, Japanese guests of honor Hirano and Hideyuki Kurata held a joint panel. Kurata is not only the screenwriter for the HELLSING ULTIMATE OVA adaptation of Hirano’s manga; he is the creator of the marvelous READ OR DIE franchise, with novels, a video movie, a TV series, and various manga about various young women who are “paper masters” – able to telekinetically manipulate paper (which is a far more impressive superpower than it sounds). The panel was far more relaxed than most I’ve seen at cons with Japanese guests; the two, apparently friends as well as co-workers, joked about mixing the characters from ROD with those from Hellsing, and quizzed each fan who asked them a question about the fans’ favorite anime and manga. Both confessed their fondness for characters with glasses – particularly Kurata’s favorite paper master, Yomiko Readman, agent for the British Royal Library. “I love Yomiko!” Hirano gushed. “I want to marry her!” “You can’t marry my daughter,” rejoined Kurata. The conversation even ranged to Japanese politics; Hirano noted that a candidate for Japanese prime minister is a “hardcore” manga buff; but that he is very right-wing, and only supported by about 6% of the voting population.

After the panel came the sketch session. The con folks were nice enough to allow me into the signing room to take photos. Kurata’s table was next to Hirano’s. During a break in Kurata’s signing line, I brought him the box set of the ROD TV series, cunningly designed as a faux leather book. He and the rep from Geneon, Satoshi Fuji, had apparently not seen the set before (even though it was made by Geneon); and Kurata proudly posed with it for a photo.

At Amy’s request, Hirano drew her a picture of lead HELLSING vampire Alucard, in his manifestation as the bearded, armored Vlad Tepes. As Hirano sketched, Amy told him (through the translator) that she subscribed to the manga in which HELLSING appears, Young King Ours, through a local Japanese bookstore; and that we customarily go to Sawtelle to get the new issue, have some curry for dinner, and bought some boba. This amused Hirano. Amy managed to get to Kurata, on his way out of the signing, and had him sign her Hellsing Ultimate OVA (Region 2 version).

That night, the con showed the dubbed version of Episode 1 of the OVA; and reshowed the subtitled version of Episode 2.

Monday was the day for packing, buying last-minute stuff in the con dealer’s room, saying goodbye to our friends there (whom Amy had met over the Internet), and the mind-blowingly bad traffic back to LA (we started out at 4 pm, and got back around 1:30 a.m.)

Coda: Tonight we went to Sawtelle to pick up the Region 2 copy of the HELLSING ULTIMATE OVA Episode II that Amy ordered. We went to the Blue Marlin restaurant for dinner; and by sheer coincidence, the translator for Hirano at Anime Vegas was sitting at another table in the restaurant! Amy chatted with him (he remembered her), and showed him the new DVD.

Another con down.

The photos are culled from all three days.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hellsing for the Day

Saturday was the first day of Anime Vegas, the small (a few thousand attendees) con at Cashman Center in North Las Vegas.

Saturday’s highlights centered on one of the Japanese guests of honor, Kouta Hirano, creator of Amy’s favorite manga, HELLSING. On Saturday, the con held a lottery for tickets to get a sketch from Hirano. I was one of the 30 people who won.

As the photos show, I received a very nice sketch of Hellsing character Seras Victoria from Hirano. I mustered my limited Japanese sufficiently to tell Hirano the sketch was beautiful; and to wish him a fun time in Vegas.

That evening brought the premiere (possibly the world premiere; it hasn’t debuted yet in Japan) of the second volume of HELLSING ULTIMATE OVA, the animated adaptation of the manga which features a bigger budget and a more faithful version of the manga than the 2001-2002 TV series. The episode was subtitled. This second episode (which tells the story of the nasty Valentine Brothers’ assault on the Hellsing Organization’s headquarters) featured dazzling animation of the vampire battles, leaving the TV series’s animation in the dust.

After the lights came up, I notice Hirano in the back of the room. I thanked him in Japanese, which earned me a deep bow from him.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Vegas, Baby, Vegas!

Although I've lived in Socal a total of 20 years, today was the first time I've performed the ritual of the Labor Day Weekend drive from LA to Las Vegas. We're here for an anime convention (big surprise). Astoundingly, the drive went pretty smoothly, with few snags in the traffic. (And, surprisingly, these photos posted to my blog! More to follow.)