Category Archives: see something

Whale-watching in Monterey

I went whale-watching last month during my Monterey spa-cation.  I wore jeans and three top layers — t-shirt, sweatshirt, double-sided jacket.  The swells were tough and as we skipped along the bay, I kept getting hit by the splash.  At the end of three hours, I had a nice layer of sea salt on everything.  I was cold and hungry.  I got miserably sick following this outing — but it was worth it.

A humpback whale put on a show and breached way the hell out of the water.  Sadly, my silly little camera was slow on the shot. The top photo was all the evidence I got of that majestic moment.

My three-hour tour in photos is not at all impressive.  I took almost 50 shots and all were of water with slanted horizons. That top one is the best, and yes, that means that my skills are sad.

Cool glass-bottom boat in the wharf

Ye ol' Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey

Excitement as we leave the bay

Seeing us off

Cruising along

Engine cut. Spotting far-off spout

Little tail or humback shot?

More far-away activity. Trust me it's there.

What's up, second boat? We heading back now?

After another hour ride, we finally see land. Hey, it's the world-renowned aquarium!

The locals welcome us back

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Potter’s so hot

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

Last post before I leave for my Harry Potter Extravaganza Night of the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2.

Let’s see, I’ve mentioned how the books are much more than superficial children’s stories. I’ve also mentioned how one of the best characters jumped off the page and was brought to life so brilliantly by a revered thespian.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to sell you on it if you’re not already sold by now. The ultimate barometer — popular culture — has already cast its vote. Its word is golden. No room left for debate.

Snape to it: Harry Potter’s complex character

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

Naturally, a series that spans more than seven books and thousands of pages will have a hefty number of characters to draw upon.

There are the students, the teachers, the family members, the villains, the officials, the foreigners, the flashback-ers.  The list goes on and on and on.

But of them all, and there are hundreds, by far the best character that Jo Rowling created wasn’t Harry or Dumbledore or Voldemort.  Hands down it’s Snape.  Severus SnapeThe half-blood Prince.

Is he good?  Is he evil?  Is he loyal?  Is he treacherous?  Did he infiltrate the Order or the Death Eaters?

If physical appearance reflects intentions, then he’s definitely shady.  Always in dark robes, slouched with his greasy hair in his face.

If House sorting is a better judge, then he’s definitely suspect.  Snape’s the head of Slytherin House and as Ron put it so succinctly in the Sorcerer’s Stone, “there’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.”

What about ambitions?  The potions professor longed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. He waited for years (Book 6) until his wish was granted.  Why the obsession, Snapey?

Nowhere else is there a character that keeps you guessing until the very end… and when that end comes you stop (mouth agape) and let out a long “Ohhhhhhh… I get it. I didn’t see it coming, but I get it.”  Coupled by a, “Daaaamn. That sux.”

Let’s not forget that in the movies he’s played brilliantly by Alan Rickman.  Brilliantly!  How could you hate Alan Rickman??  I dare you to!  Watch the three-minute featurette below and you’ll see why it’s impossible.


Update: The reviews have been consistent. Here’s something from the New York Times:

Pale and unsmiling, his black hair framing his white face like mourning crepe, he has always suggested Laurence Olivier’s Richard III, an ominous thought with children in the vicinity. That Snape has proven worthy of that comparison is partly a tribute to Ms. Rowling, but that he has become such a brilliant screen character is due to Mr. Rickman, who helped elevate a child’s tale of good and evil into a story of human struggle.

Children Schmildren: Harry Potter can teach us all

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit movie theaters Friday at midnight. In preparation, I have decided to re-read the book — a behemoth-albeit-quick read — prior to watching the last installment. As promised, I also want to share with people — young and old — why this is such a spectacular event.

To be sure, the movies have become a phenomenon because of their over-the-top production.  They showcase witches and wizards and the magical world unknown to us mere muggles.  Owls deliver mail.  Sports are played on flying broomsticks.  People hitch rides on the backs of flying hippogriffs (eagle/horse hybrid), thestrals (skeletal winged horse) or dragons.  They duel with wands.

The directors, producers, writers, cast and crew have done a spectacular job creating this landscape.  Nevertheless, they would never have been able to conjure it up on their own (no disrespect).  For that, they needed J.K. Rowling, mastermind and mad genius behind the books.  It’s her world being reimagined in IMAX and 3D.  For that, this first post is dedicated to how amazing the original text is.

If you have never read the books and disregarded them because you considered them a children’s series, you are woefully mistaken.  You should slap yourself on the wrist for, of all things, judging a book by its cover.  Weren’t you taught better?

The books are not a children’s or a young adult’s read.  They are just a read.  There is no adjective preceding it.  It’s a well-written book with serious themes to consider and a commentary on the world we live in.

Take note.

DEATH

Harry’s parents died at the beginning of the series.  Harry is the only known survivor of the killing curse.  Lord Voldemort splits his soul seven times to avoid death and seek immortality.  A prophecy linking Harry and Lord V. states that neither can live while the other survives and that one must kill the other.

Death and its flipside surviving are at the heart of the books.  But it’s more than just a fancy trick to make the read exciting.  It’s about all the emotions that come with it.  Fear of dying.  Coping with loss.  Acceptance as a part of life.

STRATIFICATION

The wizarding world is divided up into purebloods, mixed bloods, squibs and mudbloods.  There is a legitimate hierarchy and Lord V. wants to get rid of those born into non-magical families.  There are other races — house elves, goblins, giants.  At the bottom of the totem pole are the mere muggles, who haven’t the slightest idea that another world exists apart from their own.  When they see something out of the ordinary, like a flying car, they’re confunded into thinking something else.

The stratified society is painted in negative terms.  Those with power and money can trace their lineage to some of the earliest known witches and wizards.  House elves are treated like slaves and their magic (i.e. value) is often overlooked.  Goblins, described with nasty personalities, are charged with keeping money safe, building precious handiwork, like swords and tiaras, but never get a proper place in society.  Regular humans are easily malleable and made to do, see or know whatever witches and wizards want.  Racial prejudice abounds.

ACCEPTANCE and SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Harry is rejected by his actual family the Dursleys, but accepted with open-arms into the very large, very dynamic Weasleys.  Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, are the few students who accept and befriend Hagrid, the half-giant games keeper.  They stick by his side, even when he’s charged with opening the Chamber of Secrets.  Though ostracized by her classmates for her weird beliefs and nutty accessories, Harry accepts Luna Lovegood in all her crazy glory.

Though mistreated as a child, Harry grows up to be considerate and accepting of others.  He takes it a step further.  Harry sees himself as a protector of the weak.  He won’t stand idly by while watching someone being unfairly treated.  It doesn’t matter if the mistreatment stems from a classmate or a teacher.  If someone is being wronged, he’ll stand up to power to fix it.  Often, alone.

So yes, Harry Potter is set in a world of magic.  The story has an obvious hero in Harry and villain in Lord V.  But it isn’t a straight-up tale of good versus evil fought with wands.  The evil is layered — like in our own world — with varying degrees of intolerance, bigotry and hatred, power-hunger and greed.  In short, the worst of us.  Likewise, good is represented with acceptance, loyalty, stewardship and empathy.  Don’t believe me?  Read and find out for yourself.

PHOTOS (from top): Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix holding the prophecy that connects him to Lord Voldemort; Ministry of Magic statue in Deathly Hallows Part 1 with humans in the “rightful place” at the bottom; Luna Lovegood’s sporting headdress for the quidditch match in Half-Blood Prince.

HP: The book you can’t/won’t put down

It never matters what your intentions at the beginning of a journey.  Without a doubt, there will come a time when you’ll have to reevaluate those goals.

Whoa.  That sounded deep.

It’s most definitely true in my case, but not life-altering.  The goal I’m reevaluating is my 2011 resolution where I vowed to read 30 NEW books this year.  Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.  The only way I’ll make it to 30 is if I throw in some beloved re-reads.

The first of the year is my treasured Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I have to prep for what is a life-altering moment.  Yes, I speak of the release of HP7PT2, the conclusion of a series, the end of an era.

Oh God, I just might cry or scream or hit something out of fury.

These books are amazing and J.K. is ridiculous.  The characters she developed and the world she created exists.  And now that I’m rereading the last book, I can appreciate so much more of it than the first time I read it four years ago.

If you’re on the same page as me, mazel tov.  You know a good thing when you see/read it.  If you’re not, then I’m going to pepper you with nuggets of Why Harry Potter is Awesome.

Not now. Let me get my shit in order.

Why not judge book by its cover?

I usually love hearing when Hollywood has taken an interest in an amazing book and decided to make it into a movie. Though they’re not coming up with original content, at least they’re not rehashing some tried and tired plotlines.

And yet, I get really protective of the books they choose to make into movies. Will it be awesome? Will it suck? Are they invested in the entire series? I mean, just remember the disastrous rendition of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

That would have been an amazing series to see on the wide screen with all the fantastical elements — animal daemons, parallel universes, soul-eaters, angels, witches, gypsies, armored bears, oh my! What we got instead was the sorry, halfhearted Golden Compass that bombed so badly, future efforts to film the trilogy were immediately abandoned. That was not the kind of treatment that Pullman’s award-winning allegory on religion and philosophy deserved.

Which brings me to the upcoming release of Water for Elephants. I’m already unimpressed by the trailers and the cast (Robert Pattinson, really?!). But that’s not what bugs me the most. What kills me is that when Hollywood takes an interest, the publishing companies revamp the books and pander with new covers. No offense to Reese, but I don’t want to read a book with her and Pattinson embracing on the cover. When I read this book, the love story was the least compelling aspect. To me, it was more about the other circus characters, life in the Depression, reinvention and the human-animal bond.

Exhibit A is the photo on the left. Otherwise known as a ridiculous cover for Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. I got bombarded with it when I walked into Border’s this weekend and I assume most other big-chain bookstores (those that remain) have similar displays. Exhibit B is the previous cover. It’s simple and understated and evokes the mysteries behind the circus curtains. That’s what the book is more about.

Ok, I’m over my rant. Full disclosure… if it were anyone other than RPatz, I probably wouldn’t have cared. Sorry dude.

What resolve!

I made the deadline. My own internal, meaningless deadline.

To make sure I was serious about my New Year’s resolutions, I vowed to write them out by the end of the first week of January. First, it was Dec. 31. But laziness impeded that. Then, it was Jan. 1, then the end of the weekend and finally, the end of the first week.

Writing them out and posting them, holds me accountable. It also helps provide a reference because, unfortunately, my resolutions don’t read like deep life-changing goals. More like a To-Do list or some weekend errands.

REvisiting 2010

I roundly failed at each and every one of my resolutions from last year. Which means? I’m trying them again. To recap: I resolve to read 30 new books, run 500 miles, eat kosher (for more than one day in a row), do a pull-up. It won’t be easy. I’ve already started off on a bad foot/ankle. Haven’t run more than a couple yards to beat the bathroom crowd at HP7Pt1 in mid-November. Even that was ill-advised. But things are looking up. I’ve started PT and hope to be back to the back-of-the-pack by February.

But for everything else, I’m looking good. I have a shiny, new Kindle for the reading. I’m cutting down on cheese, which will undoubtedly, help me in my attempts to have a few back-to-back-to-back kosher meals. I’m focusing more on upper-body strength (thanks to a weak ankle) so I’ll be able to conquer that elusive pull-up, my own personal Windmill.

My Before-30 List

The crux of this blog. I need to get cracking on the list of things I wanted to do. I, sadly, can’t run The LA Marathon this year, but maybe once I’m all healed I’ll be able to run a marathon in Los Angeles. Lame. This is what I absolutely will do this year: watch AFI’s 100 best movies, find my red lipstick, play the accordion, ride a horse, visit two world wonders, continue my Arabic studies, shoot a gun, go rock-climbing, run in Central Park and see a Broadway play on Broadway, win at chess, take a dance class, take a martial arts class, take a cooking lesson, relax at a spa… ahhh!

And there’s still more…

Year of the Great Purge

In terms of resolutions, this one will truly require my constant attention. I am up-chucking everything!! Clothes I haven’t worn in the last year. Jewelry that I haven’t sported since I was a freshman at UCLA, which is really not that long ago ;). Shoes that don’t fit or don’t get rocked! Shit in storage that’s been sitting in storage FOR-EV-ER. I’m also going to tame that impulse I have to buy meaningless knick-knacks and tchotchkies. Get stripped down to the basics.

Once upon a time, I lived “comfortably” with two other roommates in a cell dorm known as Rieber Hall. I only had some storage under my bed and a small-ass armoire to put my shit in, on and around. “Comfortable” may be too strong. The point is, I managed. How’s it possible that my larger bedroom with a closet, a nine-drawer dresser, a four-drawer dresser, a bookshelf and a jewelry stand is not enough?! My place always looks like a disaster zone and attempts to organize it are full-day affairs! That’s ridiculous! RI-DIC-U-LOUS!!

Accio ‘Arry Pottah!

SCENE: A chilly November night on UCLA campus waiting to watch the Harry Potter movie.

DATE: 2001

Today, on the eve of the wide-release of the penultimate Harry Potter film it made sense to look back at where I was when I saw the first installment.

It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The movie had come out over the weekend and I hadn’t read a single book. I hadn’t even heard of this bloke with the funny scar who stopped you-know-who. I had nothing else to do that evening and went down to the Fox Theater in Westwood with a few friends. Such a cute movie. I saw it again shortly after that with other friends. Then, I decided to read the books and see what all the hoopla was about.

Nine years ago, I was just someone mildly interested in the storyline who stumbled into a movie theater. Today, having come full circle—read all the books more than once and purchased some essentials at a Halloween shop— I am once again on the UCLA campus on a cold, November night waiting to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1. This time, I’m dressed in my Hogwarts Griffindor tie and sweater.

I could have dorked out even more with glasses, a cape and wand. But it has been nine years. I have matured a little in that time. Sheesh!

PHOTOS: Taken today in front of UCLA Kerckhoff Hall, which could easily have been part of Harry Potter set. Kerckhoff Hall (below)


I learned all I need to know about hockey from Gordon Bombay

And the Kings announcer.

And the annoying five-year season ticket holder behind me.

This past weekend, I went to my very first hockey game… match?… no, game. The Los Angeles Kings faced off against the New Jersey Devils. I know nothing about these two teams other than one is from the West Coast and one is from the East Coast. One used to have Wayne Gretsky and one is a favorite of one Kevin Smith.

According the the District 5 PeeWee Hockey Team, success on the ice is achieved when you….

Take the fall! Act hurt! Get Indignant!

As for the rules of the game, the fact that there are three periods or the 2-minute penalties, all that I learned from Gordon Bombay and his band of misfits-turned-Junior Olympic champions and prep school scholarship winners.  So even that knowledge might not be properly vetted. I kept looking for that famous triple deke? And from my removed seat, I couldn’t tell if people were taking the fall, but very many did get indignant.

I learned two valuable things from this game that I could never get from the movies. No. 1… I really do need the deafening sirens to clue me in on when someone has scored. And, a bit related, No. 2… Hockey does not make for very good replays. Even in super slow-motion from a thousand different views, it’s still  a black blur… maybe.

Now, having said that, it was apparently a good game to attend. Here’s what I learned from the announcer and the annoying guy behind me:

  • An old captain was getting honored. Mattias something?
  • New Jersey has the best goalie in the league?
  • Kings won. No “?” on that one. I figured that out by myself.
  • 30 shots on goal is about average? New Jersey took 40.
  • Apparently, not even stopping 39 shots is worth a player-of-the-game mention.
  • Kings were in first place after that win. Division. Conference. And League.

PHOTOS: The LA Kings on their way to a 3-1 victory over the NJ Devils. Goldberg becoming a man in the first Mighty Ducks film.

If I could turn back time…

… I’d do it in Vegas!

I’ve found my musical icon and I’m going to see her rock it out the way only 60+ year olds know how. For my friend’s birthday, we are going to sway and dance to Cher song and be mesmerized by her many wigs and costume changes at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace this weekend.

Could you believe that there are people who chose to go to Vegas and not see Cher?? Inconceivable!! They obviously don’t know what they’re missing and I’ll be sure to rub it in after the fact.

In T minus 5 minutes, my weekend (and  my road trip) will officially begin.