Friday, September 29, 2006

An Evening With the Halos

In lieu of a company picnic this year, my company instead had baseball night when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim faced the Oakland A’s. Of course by now the Angels had already lost any hope of playing in the postseason, so it wasn’t exactly a nailbiter. Then again, there was the possibility that Tim Salmon, who was playing his final three games before retiring, might hit his 300th career home run (unfortunately he didn’t).

Tim and James, looking down from the nosebleeds. (09/29/06)

The only downside of the night was that the seats were WAY high up. In fact, our actual assigned seats were in the very top row, so you couldn’t actually get higher. We ended up moving down a row (since we were there with a bunch of my co-workers, we weren’t really paying attention to seat assignments).

In Front of Angel Stadium. (09/29/06)

Despite having lived in Orange County for seven years now, it was only my third ever Angel game (the last time was in 2003 for another company event). I don’t know why we don’t come more often, because every time I had a good time. And the price couldn’t be beat – tickets were paid for by my employer. Plus we got a $10 food voucher to boot (although that pretty much only paid for our sodas). The president of the company even bought me a beer later in the night — and not just any ordinary beer. It was the kind in the plastic cup that lights up!

Angels vs. Oakland A's. (09/29/06)

In the end, the Angels beat the A’s by 6-0. Oh, and there were fireworks afterward too. And I love fireworks!

Monday, September 25, 2006

On Tim's Actual Birthday

For Tim's actual birthday on Monday, we kept things pretty simple, since we had the big party on Saturday. We just went out for dinner at the Macaroni Grill, which Tim had wanted to try (he had been to one years before in Atlanta and remembered it being really good).

James and Tim at Macaroni Grill on his real birthday. (09/25/06)

It was just Tim, me and our friend Everett, who came along just because. Tim liked his dinner just fine, but what he really wanted was dessert — or more specifically, the tiramis├║, which I think is the real reason he wanted to go there!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lunch at Encounter

One of the best surprises of the Superhero Summit was the fact that Doris and Jen, our friends from Santa Cruz, were able to come down for the party. We always enjoy having them over, and were pleasantly surprised when they said they’d come.

Encounter Restaurant at LAX. (09/24/06)

Of course the only drawback was that they weren’t able to stay very long. In fact, they only stayed the one night. The next day they were flying back out — Doris to Hawaii for a work-related trip and Jen back home to the Bay Area. Since they were flying out of L.A. instead of Orange County, we decided to make a day out of it and have lunch at Encounter, the restaurant located inside the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

Encounter from an LAX overpass. (09/24/06)

The landmark Theme Building was built in 1961 to commemorate Los Angeles Airport’s expansion into the jet age. The restaurant, which provides a 360┬║ view of the airport, is built beneath two intersecting arches that form the four legs. It was designated a cultural and historical monument in 1992 and was renovated with a Jetson’s like theme in 1997.

Doris and Jen outside Encounter. (09/24/06)

Tim and I had been there at least once before, and I had been there a couple of other times, but it was a long time ago. I’m pretty sure the last time was during a year that started with a “1”. And since Doris and Jen had never been there, we thought it would be worth re-visiting.

Tim and James inside Encounter. (09/24/06)

It was just okay. The previous times I had been there, it was always at night, when all the lights are on. In the daytime however, the place looked a little weathered, with scuff marks on the walls and broken bar stools. Service wasn’t all that fast and the food wasn’t all that good (at night, you usually just end up getting drinks and appetizers).

The view from inside. (09/24/06)

While there, we gave Jen her birthday present (her birthday was earlier in the month). We got her an iTunes gift card and the new Clay Aiken CD, which absolutely delighted her. The only thing that didn’t delight her was the fact that she ended up missing her flight, which turned out to be just the beginning of what has to be one of the longest travel days ever. Let’s just say that Doris nearly made it to Hawaii before Jen made it to San Jose, and that’s with Doris’ flight leaving two hours after the one Jen missed.

The landmark Theme Building was constructed in 1961. (09/24/06)

Hopefully that little incident won’t prevent them from coming to visit us again in the future!

Superhero Summit Celebrating Tim's Birthday

To celebrate Tim's birthday — and his obsession with the City of Heroes online game — we summoned our superhero friends to the Tim & James Lair for a superhero summit like no other. About 16 superheroes attended, coming from as far away as San Diego and Santa Cruz, each in his/her own original costume.

Party hosts formerly known as James and Tim. (09/23/06)

The star of the evening was Coffee Matey, a superhero that Tim created for City of Heroes that miraculously came to life for the party. Coffee Matey was once a cartography student who spent a lot of time in coffee shops studying centuries-old pirate maps.

Coffee Matey in City of Heroes. (09/06)

One day he read out loud an ancient pirate oath. At that moment, he felt a tremendous surge of caffeine pulse through his veins, giving him the power to spew fire from his hands, heat the ground around him, and increase the speed of other superheroes during battle.

Coffee Matey in Person. (09/23/06)

The summit organizer was Father Fist, whose pre-ordination name was James. An ordinary parish priest by day, Father Fist turns into a full-force sin fighter at night. A one-time fighter in the Latino boxing circuit, Father Fist was knocked unconscious during a fight. When he awoke, he realized that his fists grew to five times their normal size when he detected sin taking place around him.

Father Fist, with Tennistra. (09/23/06)

Helping with the party was one-time super villain, turned superhero, Mischievous Brat (who at one time went by the name Joe).

Mischievous Brat raises his Smirnoff Ice. (09/23/06)

The first true guests to arrive were Tennistra and Technicia, who in their non-superhero hours, go by the names Doris and Jen. Tennistra gained her powers after a terrible accident with a tennis ball launcher, including the Forehand Fury and the Backhand Blast. Meanwhile Technicia showed off her abilities to teleport between Internet devices and temporarily disable super villain technology.

Technicia and Tennistra. (09/23/06)

A little while later, we encountered Flamingo Flash and Travel Man, whose undercover names are Jon and Amy. Flamingo Flash works to keep things in balance, which is an important skill for someone who spends so much time on one leg. Meanwhile, Travel man comes to the rescue of travelers when they need help.

Travel Man & Flamingo Flash. (09/23/06)

Flamingo Flash and Travel Man also brought along Dominatrix Diva, who uses her womanly wares to fight evil.

Dominatrix Diva. (09/23/06)

We also met Astroglider (aka Everett), who has the power to put any enemies within line of sight immediately into REM sleep. He brought along the Crisco Kid (aka Manny), whose mission is to fight the evil fashion empire known as Project Runway: Moscow, saving the innocent from sweatshops and ensuring that no person is forced to wear stripes on polka dots.

Coffee Matey, Astroglider and the Crisco Kid. (09/23/06)

Next to arrive were Anti-Oxidant (aka Christine), the arch enemy of super villain Free Radical. Although Free Radical wasn't in attendance, his distant relative was. You might know him as The Sneeze (aka Tom), who infects people with his infamous spray bottle of Sneeze Juice.

Anti-Oxidant and The Sneeze. (09/23/06)

Anti-Oxidant and The Sneze car-pooled with the weapons-skilled and home decorating-gifted Home Designator (aka Laura) and her husband, the shield-wielding Book Man (aka Ryan). We were happy to see that they made the journey from their secret lair in Glendale.

Book Man and the Home Designator. (09/23/06)

We also welcomed the Bubble Twins (aka Arik and David), a mysterious duo whose powers are equally mysterious.

The Bubble Twins. (09/23/06)

The Bubble Twins brought along a superhero who non-superheroes might know as Jean, but to us heroes is known as GrimeStopper. Equipped with her super cleansing brush, sponge and bucket, GrimeStopper doesn't just fight grime, she stops it!

The one and only GrimeStopper. (09/23/06)

Among the last to arrive were Double D Defender, whose undercover name is Dana. Equipped with two weapons of mass seduction, Double D Defender probably one of the best battle cries we heard: "Wonder Twin Powers, Lactate!" She brought along husband Flatulence Man, who sometimes goes by the name Eric. Flatulence Man, as you would guess, has the super human ability to turn liquid or solid into gas form, instantly clearing super villains out of the room.

Flatulence Man & Double D Defender. (09/23/06)

Last but not least, we also had a visit from Dark Guardian (aka Jeff), who has the powers of a bat. He also had one of the best costumes there.

Dark Guardian. (09/23/06)

It appeared everyone had a good time, and Coffee Matey got some good birthday presents to boot. In all, it was definitely a super hero summit to remember!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

So You Think You Can Dance - Tour 2006

Update: Susan at Ocean Tsunami Photography is also a fan of "So You Think You Can Dance" and kindly gave me permission to reprint the photo below that she took during the Los Angeles concert (Thanks Susan!). Click here to see the other amazing photos she got that night.

Benji and Heidi show off West Coast Swing. © Ocean Tsunami Photography (9/16/06)

One of our favorite TV shows last summer was So You Think You Can Dance. In fact, unless American Idol cranks it up next season, it's probably taking over as my favorite show. Sure, the results shows are unnecessarily long, what with the c-list musical guests, but other than that, what's not to love? It's got great moves, great music, quirky judges and great contestants that make you want to root for them.

Unlike the Idols show, the So You Think You Can Dance live show rocked! (9/16/06)

So naturally, when they announced they were doing a live tour, we HAD to go. It was non-negotiable. And what a fantastic experience it was! The top 10 contestants re-lived some of my favorite dance scenes. Ever.

The show was at the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal Studios, Hollywood. We hadn't been to since we saw Donna Summer in 1999. In fact, back then it was still called the Universal Amphitheater.

Martha, Travis, Natalie, Allison, Benji, Ivan, Heidi, Ryan, Donyelle & Dimitri were all there. (09/16/06)

As soon as the lights went out, the audience went nuts. After an opening routine, the dancers began rotating the numbers they did during the show, including (in no particular order): Benji & Donyelle's hip hop number to "Too Much Booty," Ivan & Allison's Tango from the 3rd week, Martha & Travis' Broadway-style routine to "Steam Heat," Dimitry & Natalie's latin number to Sergio Mendes' "Magalenha," Travis & Heidi's paso doble, Donyelle & Travis' contemporary "Georgia on my Mind" number and many others.

I was thrilled — thrilled! — when Ivan & Allison re-created their smooth hip hop "Sexy Love" number, and when Heidi & Benji danced their spectacular "Black Mambo" number that Nigel said he would pay money to see again. I was also very excited to see Benji & Heidi re-do the West Coast Swing number that they did from the Las Vegas semi-finals that saved him from elimination.

During intermission, we ran into judge Mia Michaels who's posing with a bunch of kids we don't know. (09/16/06)

Other memormable moments include Ivan & Allison's amazing contemporary piece to Annie Lennox's "Why," Benji & Donyelle's Viennese waltz (that she kept calling "Vietnamese waltz"), Heidi & Travis' park bench/Celine Dion routine, and Ryan & Heidi's Cuban rumba (the one where Nigel famously gushed about the way he "beat her bongos").

Of course the show wouldn't have been complete without Travis & Benji's hip hop nerd number and Benji & Donyelle's infectious Broadway number to Hairspray's "You Can't Stop the Beat." Both of those were fantastic!

James & musical theater triple-threat Tyce Diorio. (09/16/06)

There were plenty of other surprises, including a new contemporary piece that Travis choreographed to "Flying Without Wings." I really enjoyed the group numbers, like the the Final Four number to Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," the Interview with a Vampire-inspired "Ramalama Bang Bang" number, Chicago's "Cell Block Tango," Broadway's "Bye Bye Blackbird," Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison" and a Disco routine to "Born to Be Alive."

In addition, every performer did a solo that thankfully was much longer than the 30 seconds they get on the show. There were also plenty of video clips, including a nice tribute to the rest of the Top 20. At the end, we learned it was Travis' birthday. And to lead the audience in singing Happy Birthday was none other than host Cat Deeley.

Ivan and Allison do their hip hop routine to Sexy Love. (09/16/06)

Incidentally, I also got to meet renowned choreographer and dance teacher Tyce Diorio, who choreographed many of the routines (namely the Broadway ones). And I know we were the only one's who watched this, but Tyce was the Ringer on the Joey Fatone/Debbie Allen hosted reality version of "Fame." That show, if you remember, was NBC's short-lived version of American Idol. Poor Tyce. For being a triple-threat (acting, dancing, singing), he got voted out very shortly after being brought in.

Even though it took us an hour and 45 minutes to drive up there in really horrible traffic, the 2-hour, 15-minute show was worth every minute. If only the American Idol tour were this good.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

11th Annual Mehregan Festival

I work with a lot of Persians at my company, many of whom were involved with the 11th Annual Mehregan Festival, a modern-day take on the ancient Persian autumn festival dedicated to Mehr, the Persian god of light and love. So my co-worker/supervisor Dori and I decided to check it out.

A re-creation of archaleogical finds relating to Cyrus the Great. (9/9/06)

Held at the Orange County Fairgrounds, the festival was part street fair, part history lesson, part concert and part art exhibit. You walked in alongside giant panels of ancient Persian artwork. In the front was a scaled down replica of the giant monument to Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire.

The U.S. Army was a sponsor of the event ... Dori has a thing for men in uniform. (9/9/06).

Dori and I got there shortly after it opened at 11:00 a.m. Although foot traffic seemed slow, I'm told that when you tell Persians to be somewhere at 11:00 a.m., they won't get there until 2:00 p.m. Sounds like us Mexicans. :)

Our co-worker Kamyar, who was working the event, gave us a lift on his golf-cart-like-vehicle. (9/9/06)

We didn't stay too long (we both had plans that afternoon), but we stayed long enough to check everything out, including a bazaar, where we saw a Lotus Smart Toilet Seat demonstration of such features as heated seat, deodorizer, feminine wash and rear wash. There's even one with a remote. Although I did almost lose it when the sales rep demonstrated the motorized nozzle that sends a concentrated stream of warm water into the rectum! We couldn't help giggling a little.

This nice little Korean girl had no qualms about demonstrating the abilities of the Lotus Smart Toilet Seat. (9/9/06)

On that note, it was time for us to get a bite to eat. Dori and I each had a chicken kebab with Persian rice and a grilled tomato. I also got some Persian cucumbers and grapes to share. That was the best part. Afterward our friend Kamyar, who was working the event, gave us a ride on his little golf cart, which was fun. Overall, we were glad we went.

The Persian cucumbers with grapes were really good. (9/9/06)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Final Bowl Show for 2006

Tim, Jon, Amy and I bid adieu to the Hollywood Bowl for the 2006 season when we attended The Big Picture: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals. In cooperation with the American Film Institute (AFI), the Hollywood Bowl answered the question: What is the greatest movie musical of all time?

John Mauceri, conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for the past 16 years, addresses the crowd. (9/3/06)

John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed portions from the top 25 song and dance movies of all time before a live audience. Movie clips from each selected film were shown on the Hollywood Bowl's large video screens as the Orchestra started with number 25 until they reached the number one favorite. The list was not announced prior to the concert.

The Hollywood Bowl became a rainbow during the scenes from The Wizard of Oz. (9/3/06)

Needless to say, many of my favorite movies were included in this list. I'd list them here, but that would practically be the whole list! To see the entire list of Top 25 movie musicals in a PDF document, click here.

Celebrity Grave Hunting, Episode 1

Saturday afternoon we did something that I had been wanting to do for a long time, but just never got around to: Celebrity grave hunting. I did it once back in 1987, but it wasn't until I started reading the Find-a-Grave website a couple of years ago that my interest in celebrity graves was resurrected. And given that we live in Southern California — which is a treasure trove of stars' post-life homes — Tim, Jon, Amy and I set out to find celebrity graves.

I was expecting Liberace's crypt to be shaped like a piano. (09/03/2006)
I was expecting Liberace's crypt to be shaped like a piano. (09/03/2006)

Our stop for this afternoon was Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, since it was close to the Hollywood Bowl where we would be later that night. Plus it had a good sounding list of residents, including Steve Allen, Gene Autry, Buster Keaton, Harriet & Ozzy Nelson, among others.

Jon poses in front of Rod Steiger's home. (09/03/2006)
Jon poses in front of Rod Steiger's home. (09/03/2006)

Our first find was Liberace, who was buried in the same crypt as his mother and brother (about whom Liberace famously said, "I wish my brother George was here."). Shortly thereafter we found famed James Bond film producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, Hot Seat host Wally George, Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee and Rod Steiger.

Bette Davis — She did it the hard way. (09/03/2006)
Bette Davis — She did it the hard way. (09/03/2006)

Afterwards, we stumbled onto Bette Davis, Charles Laughton and Freddie Prinze. We struggled a while to find Lucille Ball, only to learn later that her ashes were moved to her hometown of Jamestown, New York in 2002. The other one we had a hard time finding was Lou Rawls, who has only been there since last January.

Freddie Prinze, who was 1/2 of Chico and the Man.  (09/03/2006)
Freddie Prinze, who was 1/2 of Chico and the Man. (09/03/2006)

At another section of the cemetary, we found Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy fame), onetime president of the Disney Corporation Frank G. Wells (the one who died in a helicopter crash in 1994), and Telly Savalas (aka TV's Kojak). It wasn't until we got there that we realized that we should have left him a lollipop.

Jon and Amy pay their respects to Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby? (09/03/2006)
Jon and Amy pay their respects to Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby? (09/03/2006)

John Ritter was nearby, but despite all our hunting efforts, we weren't able to find him, which was a shame, considering that I am a huge Three's Company nut. Oh well, there's always next time. Who's coming with us?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Labor Day Weekend Antics

To celebrate the last big weekend of the summer, we invited a few friends over for swimming, drinking and eating (three of our favorite things). It was a very pleasant late summer gathering ... for the most part (I'll get to that in a minute).

Amy whipped up some sick cheddar mashed potatoes. (9/2/06)

We mostly did what we normally do at these things. We lounged around the pool. We kept our tummies full by snacking on all sorts of goodies, like the fresh guacamole Amy and I made. And we drank plenty of Tim's famous mojitos.

Tom and Jon chat it up in the pool. (9/2/06)

At dinner time, we barbecued some burgers (regular and meatless), brought out Amy's delicious cheddar mashed potatoes and Christine's surprisingly good lentil salad. Afterward we played a couple of rounds of cards, during which I decided to take a quick cat nap on the sofa before I got my second wind.

Tom, Christine, Amy, Jack, Jon, Tim and Joe get ready to dig into our barbeque feast. (9/2/06)

While I was sleeping, Tom decided to play a prank. He grabbed the chocolate syrup Jack brought over for the brownie sundae dessert and attempted to give me a Chocolate Sanchez mustache as I slept. Needless to say, it didn't go over too well when I woke up. In fact, I kind of blew up at him. Jon phrased it best when he aptly summarized that Tom had just "screwed the pooch."

The infamous Tommy Sanchez got a little messy with the chocolate syrup. (9/2/06)

To try and make amends, Tom rubbed chocolate syrup all over his own face and posed for this horrifying picture. I ultimately forgave him, but not until reminding him that revenge is a dish best served cold. Which is why I'm posting this picture for everyone to see! :)