Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Santa Movie Ever


Rare Exports... strange name for a Santa movie... took a long time before the connection is revealed. This is a Finnish movie, lots of subtitles, which make it a difficult kids movie. But it is the best Santa movie ever, and appropriate for kids (after all, the hero of the movie is about 10 years old, and a cute little dickens...).


We went to the opening on Christmas day, and what a fun present. It's hard to review this movie, since the ending is so hilarious that I don't want to reveal anything, except to say all the strange and weird elements of the movie finally come together.

Stark, wintery landscapes (some of them visually stunning). Reindeer ranchers, archeologists, corporate exploiters, hockey outfits, zombie elves, creepy Santas, child abductions, ancient woodcuts, and other inexplicable elements combine in this rather bizarre interpretation of holiday happenings.


OK, OK, too weird? Well, there is humor, especially the end (almost a shaggy dog story). One important thing to know... many Santa myths (Finnish?) from long ago describe Santa as mean... often punishing children rather than gifting them (check out the woodcuts flashing in the movie). This whole interpretation of "Santa" is worth more exploration. Here's a Finnish term from the pagan origins of Santa:

"Joulupukki means 'Yule Buck'. Joulupukki first came about as an evil, goat-like creature. He didn't give gifts to the children and he demanded their good behavior. He used to frighten people. In December, pagan people had big festivals to ward off the Joulupukki."

Admittedly, I was a little bored and lost during the first half of the movie. I suspect this was deliberate, to increase the impact of the ending (although, what did they do with the giant "buck" horns?). But if you check out this movie (hurry, it won't be around long and may be difficult to find in a theater near your), and obey the following safety rules, you'll be rewarded with a great Christmas treat.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Great Retirement Blowout

Well, what better place to have a retirement party than Junior's Tavern. Hell, I'd be there on a Saturday afternoon anyway. So, with Greg, Tom, and Randy's help, we pulled it off, including Junior's regulars, old friends, work mates, and #1 babe all joining in on the fun. (Click on pics for larger images).


Camera Girl was there to take these shots.


Choosing an outfit took a bit, but this seemed a popular combo... expressing my anarcho-commie-Darwinian leanings...


The world's greatest DJ arrived to great acclaim...


From work, my buddy Bill showed up with his son Mat, who refused a beer since he had a child care gig later that day and didn't want to hear "you smell like my grandpa"...


More Junior's regulars...



The Mingo Man slid off his Bar X stool to wander over to Junior's for a beer on me...


Brett brought me his wife... I gave him a present in exchange...


John Paul and I are plotting the takeover of the local music scene...


More guys...


More babes...


More bar...




Dan brought his beautiful wife down for a toast, But I think she just spied her uncle coming in the door...



Some old guys (lunch anytime, Michael), the retirement financial consultant, and the distinguished barrister and his wife...



Lots more folks from work showed up. I really didn't want to do the usual retirement fete at the office building with the shitty chicken salad sandwiches and the red punch and the sugar cookies... if I do sugar, I want it distilled! And if I'd known I was working with such hard core drinkers, I'd probably called for offsite staff meets!

And, yes, I've modified my will in your favor, Michelle...


I loved the way Anna whipped out her vibrator every time I called about an order... I'd like to think I have that effect on women... or was she thinking of hubby???


Annette is a saint... and wasted no time moving into my window cubicle... Bill will be so lonely... or does he get the new babe?


Stucki made it... and somewhere in this collection of photos is Denise... although it took me finding a shot of Patron to get her settled in...


And Matt... did he give up his usual Saturday feast and wine blowout? or just continue it...


Tom, the usual Saturday bartender, took the day off to join in the festivities...


And what better proof does anyone need that drinking red wine at Junior's makes you gay?


Finally, thanks to everyone who showed up, or emailed congrats. I appreciated this event more than you can know. Let's stay in touch... you know where to find me...

Oh, and I can't forget Lacey... who anchored this event, kept things together, and gave me a ride home (what a ride!). I hope retirement allows me the time to appreciate all you do for me.


Onward and upward... (and I've passed the 72 hour, Chuck Butler mark).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pat and Pete

Great Saturday night... two parties and Pete Anderson performing at Pat's BBQ. For those of you unfamiliar with Pete Anderson, for 20 years he was the guitarist and producer for Dwight Yoakam. Pete has since launched a solo career with a new CD and tour. Pat's BBQ, which has an excellent performance area (as well as great BBQ!), was kind enough to book Pete and his group for the local fans. Pete announced that he decided that his personal music had to be blues oriented, and that's what we got. Some great original blues songs and some classics. Pete plays signature guitars from Reverend, and a setup that provides both wet and dry amplification.



Pete's group was quite good... excellent keyboards and bass, adequate drumming (although the drummer played most of the night with a click track in one ear... hadn't seen this before... a sign of drumming to come?).

Anyway, thanks to Pat for booking the gig (seen below with JP)... a fun night, I hope to make it back to Pat's more often for food and music.


As for the parties... tequila, baby! that's all you need to know... very happy holidays have started.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Northcliffe Sunset


At least one good thing about the Northcliffe house vs. my place on 11th is the angle of the house to the southwest, allowing for better sunset viewing. And late October has the sun in the best position for great sunsets.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review


Page 1
Chapter 1

Fuck you...

Turn the page
Chapter 2

(the story begins)

Don Winslow has written the crime novel of the year. While the plot is not novel, it's the writing style that captured my interest, and I think what distinguishes this book from so many others. He has a quick, choppy, but constantly consistent style, that's humorous and deadly at the same time. Perfect for his characters, and more perfect for his locale... Orange County. And it's his take on OC culture that provides most of the humor... "if you live and OC and don't have enhanced breasts, what are you, like, Amish?" And then there's the alphabetical send up of South Coast Plaza. Having spent lots of time in OC these past years, I laughed my ass off.

The plot involves two pot growers, best friends, and their shallow girl friend. The Mexican cartel wants to take over their business (The Church of Lighter Day Saints), with a rather violent invitation to agree. So the book proceeds to delve into Cartel conflicts, DEA agents, SEAL training, designer pot, Laguna Beach, heavy weaponry, desert rats, beach volleyball, computer hacking, money laundering, and so much more. Winslow's command of these topics is impressive.

Hellava good book... check it out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wirechoir

While in not so sunny SoCal last week, I did get a chance to see Willis play a concert with Wirechoir, a five guitar ensemble, with added rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, at a church in Redondo Beach. I'm familiar with guitar ensembles from Willis' college days, but did not know the concept extended beyond academic music departments. The original Wire Choir, formed in the 70's by guitarist Tony Rizzi, featured a number of LA session guitarists, in particular, Jimmy Wyble, who came to fame with Bob Wills and his western swing ensembles. Upon his death, the Rizzi family gave the Wire Choir charts to the USC music school, where Terry Carter was studying (and Willis as well). Terry was impressed by the idea and has resurrected the guitar ensemble concept. The new Wirechoir now performs around the LA area and features some of the current crop of top guitar talent in that area.

The concert was quite enjoyable. My experience with guitar ensembles is one of mixed blessings, it's hard for the group to keep things together, particularly without dragging. However, Wirechoir does have its feces together, and kept things on a pretty even keel. Their arangement of Miles Davis' "Four" can be heard or downloaded here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joshua Tree Adventures


For a number of years I've visited Palm Springs and always wanted to check out Joshua Tree National Park. And now that I have my "Golden Eagle" pass, a Joshua Tree visit became more compelling. So finally this week, as part of an October vacation, we finally traveled up, and through, the park. With some trepidation on the part of my LA city girl friend, we did a short hike, a tour of the Lee's ranch, and a long drive to the remote entrance/exit of the park. All in all, pretty cool, and literally, thankfully, since the weather was stormy but temperatures pleasant. A good time to visit the park, avoiding the temp extremes of summer and possible snow storms of winter. (Click on the pics for a larger presentation).

After the initial stop at the visitor's center, then presentation of the virgin senior pass to the ranger, we were off. First stop was the Hidden Valley loop hike. This valley was used at the turn of the 20th Century by cattle rustlers, who hid their herd in the box canyon. Our intrepid hiker at the start, then some shots of the valley:



Here's a nice mini Joshua tree, and some shots of interesting plants:


Above, I thought these were yucca plants, with an unusual bloom I called featherdusters. However, while possibly part of the yucca family, the plant is more accurately called Parry's nolina. Here's another example, framing our intrepid hiker...


Joshua Tree is a popular destination for rock climbers. They've named this formation the "great burrito"...

And, finally for this portion of the trip, a neat shot of a rock window... By the way, this is not some form of sandstone, these rocks are granite!


We then drove over to Keys Point, an overlook high above the valley containing Palm Springs. Views are supposed to extend all the way to Mexico, but with overcast skies, we didn't see much. Unfortunate...


Lacey wanted to check out the Keys ranch... this is a tour conducted by a ranger and held once a day. Since it was stormy, we were the only ones prepared for the tour (we brought umbrellas, more for the blazing sun, but, as it turned out, proper protection for the intense cloudbursts we experienced). The ranger gave us a "private" tour, including the tin roof machine shed were we sought shelter during the most intense rain.


Bill Keys was an early homesteader in the area. First as a gold miner, then a cattleman, then as a "home depot" (he collected lots of junk for spare parts), somehow his family made a living and were able to survive until 1960 or so...


My favorite part of the ranch were the old trucks. A minor passion is to take pictures of these trucks, some day to collect them all into some sort of portfolio. The Mack truck has actually run in recent history (last 5-10 years).




And a shot from the ranch back over the entrance to the area.


Then we were off on the long drive to the southwestern entrance of the park. This took us across the division of high desert (Mohave) down to the low (and more desolate) desert (Colorado/Sonoran). We caught a great lightning storm and drove through pounding rain (thankfully brief). We did get a dry stop at the cholla cactus garden. Pretty neat...


Look but you better not touch...



From this exit, a short drive took us to I-10 and back to Palm Springs. Quite the loop, and a fun day. I want to visit Joshua Tree again, more great hikes to do, and other routes to take through the park.