Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Dana Point Yoga Studio & Gym

DDF recently got a very nice job as director of research & development at a moderately sized bio-medical firm in San Diego, so we'll be saying good bye to the lovely environment of Orange County in the next few months after the house is sold.  As I type this late March blog post, I am sitting in my home's breakfast nook / drinking area that has glass on two sides and looks out over the back & side yards, where I can see all 8 hummingbird feeders, 3 hummingbirds drinking from various ones, and
an adolescent (and vociferous) mocking bird exploring one of the feeders under the white guava tree. The sun is setting behind the trio of king palms, and I am well rested after 90 minutes of yoga and 2 hours of stair running and beach parkour.  Started off the work day early, ended before 2pm, and made a bee-line for the beach.  4 and a 1/2 hours later I am feeling reflective and somewhat pensive.  The hummingbirds - who are chasing each other all around the 8 happy hour dusk feeders - are not pensive at all.

But I digress...  this post is supposed to be about my Dana Point Yoga Studio & Gym...  so we'll move onto the collection of photos I've taken in the last several weeks to help illustrate these abodes.  These are in contrast to the earlier locations I've illustrated here on JustJoeP, like Arizona Back Yards, Arizona Blue sky environments, Pool Sides, Group Pool Sides, Hawaii, Hotel Rooms (French Hotel Rooms, and Chicago Hotel Rooms), Mountain tops, grassy beach fronts (my first introduction to the Dana Point Beach) and next to Tide Pools.

There's usually lots of flowers and floral arrangements all around the studio & gym.  It's especially nice when laying on the yoga mat and looking up to see this brilliant coral tree, contrasted with the beautiful blue sky behind it - no gray pall here, typically.  Sometimes a California Phoebe comes up and proclaims his loyalty to K-Mart: "Cheap!  Cheap!" and then dives down towards the grass to snatch up some insect or another.  Other times an Anna's hummingbird male alights and flits all about the coral tree, claiming it as his.  Other times and ornery crow squawks at me: "get off my concrete pad!!!"  from one of the two symmetrical coral trees.   (I am fluent in Crow now, having observed them closely for 2 years in California)

My gym has showers...   which one can use to remove the sand from one's feet, if you've gone down to where the water meets the land.  People in wet suits frequently rinse off there - not something most gyms have (wet suits).

There's lots of very large whales who frequent my gym.  They're almost always on the move, and many times bring their small (10 feet long and a 1000 lbs...  if you call that "small") children with them.  Lots of grays, some sperm, blue, fin, and occasionally a humpback comes to the gym as well.   I wouldn't call them "obese", but they are very Big folks indeed.

And then you've got all the skinny white folks, who are always looking at food, but apparently never eating any of it.  They're down by the water's edge, gazing at their own reflections.  They're up on inclined slopes, tip-toeing through the succulent ice plants.

And there's those who try and hog all the equipment, and sing while they're doing so.  They don't sing too loud, even if they're trying to be fierce and menacing...  it's still pretty adorable.

And there's the flashy dressers...  in bright green & fiery red magentas.

There's a wide variety of equipment in the rock parkour area.  Big ones, little ones, solid ones, smaller ones that rock when you push off, sandy ones - but like most gyms, you have to be careful about those who don't clean up after they've used the equipment.  A little bit of Bird poop on rocks is still better than MRSA though, any day.

You don't have to have status to work out here... but there's lots of +$100K vehicles in the parking lot.

So I am going to miss my coastal gym that I've grown so fond of here in Dana Point.  It's a short 15 to 20 minute drive (if I get out of the house before the high school kids get out of class), and the parking is free, or nearly free.  The breezes are amazing.  The scenery, unparalleled.  Every Wednesday they do cut the grass and that makes it a little itchy...  - grass in Arizona was never really an issue as it was all burnt by the orange fiery ball in the sky.  I'm sure I'll find some kind of studio & gym equivalent in San Diego...  but Dana Point was nice while it lasted.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Whiplash - In Flight

On the way home last week, from seat 45F in the tail of the Delta 767, I watched Whiplash on the tiny screen in the back of the headrest of 44F from Charles de Gaul to Salt Lake City  Interesting movie.  Watched it because I am a drummer, and Skoda (J.K. Simmons) has always fascinated me as an actor - he's even good in the Farmer's Insurance commercials.  Also watched it because getting comfortable and falling asleep on a 11 hour flight is impossible while sitting in a coach seat on a turbulent trans-Atlantic crossing.  [Note: aircraft designs put the horizontal stabilizers in the tail on purpose, as that's the part of the plane that wants to bounce up and down the most in turbulence].

Simmons plays a complete and utter asshole, who is defective as a human being and as a band director.  He's an anachronistic ego-maniac who has drunk too much of his own Koolaid.  The mono-dimensionality of his character and the lack of any redeeming qualities puts him on par with a Bond villain for dislikability.   Miles Teller does an OK job as the protagonist "Andrew" I just never really believed his drumming in the movie.

If you're a drummer, watch Whiplash.  If you're not a drummer, and want to see a total ass hole band director paralyze his stage band with the utmost fear... then this film may interest you.

Birdman - In Flight

It took a moment…  but I remembered…   Birdman!   “Maybe I’m crazy…. “  has been humming through my mind in the shower, as I walk the streets and river-sides of Glasgow, ride in elevators, and  wait in lines at airports.

Michael Keaton was truly oscar worthy in this film.  I see now why he won the Golden Globe.  Ed Norton was very good, and showed he’s great at playing a total ass hole.  Big Eyes actress Emma Stone was both beautifully played and exhibiting a very dark and disturbing side that I hope she does not emulate in real life.  Zach Galifianakis finally played a character who was not an idiot or a child, and it was refreshing to see him being a useful grown-up - something I had not seen him do previously.

Perhaps it was my irritability from being unable to get comfortable in the “Premium Economy” seat, or the fact that Air France in-flight service crews really don’t give a merde about the Premium Economy passengers - except when passing through quickly on their way to coddled business class where my company no longer believes I am worth buying a ticket for - or that I was extremely dehydrated at 40,000 feet and -68C outside with not a single drop of water being offered by the absentee Air France crew… but I found the beginning of Birdman VERY funny.  Laughing-out-loud-funny.  

Ed Norton at one point strips naked - apparently someone in Hollywood thinks hairless, little-boyish, weak little Ed Norton shirtless and pastey will put butts in seats - all it had me doing was snickering “first rule about fight club, is be strong enough to actually fight someone, little boy” …  this guy played “The Hulk” … really?  But in the scene where he is naked, his girl friend is confronting him and telling him to put his clothes back on and he says to her, standing buck naked in front of her in the wardrobe section backstage “play with my balls” - how hilariously inappropriate!  

Michael Keaton running through Times Square in his whitey-tighties is kinda funny.  The jamming, syncopated, rhythmic drum track provided by (insert name here) through-out the film powerfully appealed to me, in a tribal, reptilian brain, primal sort of way.  It was awesome when the drummer finally appeared, on screen, drumming.

There were far too many scenes going up and down back-stage stair wells.  I don’t care if that’s an integral part of the “theatre experience” I found it about as annoying as Wes Anderson’s fixation on centering the camera on the scene’s speaking actor and close framing him.  Enough with the stairs already!   I get it, there’s lots of ups and downs, and it’s cramped.  SNL does the whole back-stage thing very well, once every 3 or 4 shows, and that’s enough.  Don’t dwell on it throughout the movie.

Keaton evoked the old Batman voice for his Birdman alter-ego, and that made it all the sweeter (to me).  His telekinesis ability was interesting, but )I think) under-played.  A levitation here, a dropped light there, an exploded bulb or 4… I would have liked to have seen a tiny bit more of this ability on-screen to know that he was not hallucinating, but I am not a Mexican director with my own agenda.

Birdman - if you have a chance to see it on Netflix or Amazon, I highly recommend it. (I wrote this 2 weeks before the Academy Awards gave it an Oscar)

Do Not waste 2 hours of your life watching 50 Shades of Gray as I did in Glasgow last month, in a theatre packed with over-weight, dolled up, Scottish housewives, who heckled the screen and who had to endure some of the worst written, worst acted, weak themed, mis-represented characters of any film I’ve seen in the last 35 years - literally since I began buying my own movie tickets.  A severe disappointment it was, and my expectations going into the movie were already very low.

The Judge, in flight

While unable to sleep more than 1 hour in a non-reclining center seat on Air France last month, headed to Europe, I watched “The Judge” on the plane.  Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall gave superb performances in the film.  It’s a little heavy handed and stereotypical, but still a good movie nevertheless.  

A string of near impossibilities and absurdities made it less enjoyable for me as a viewer, since I prefer to see a story to which I can relate , that makes sense, and that doesn’t try to Force me to suspend disbelief to the nth degree.  Robert Downey Jr as the sleazy, successful lawyer-to-the-richest defendants, ok, I get that.  Duvall as the hard line, strict disciplinarian who only understands “tough love”, ok, I get that.  But 
- bizarre sentencing histories, 
- a strange small Indiana town that is faster to fly to than to drive to from Chicago
- a town so small that it has only 1 bar and everyone there knows everyone, yet big enough that it warrants multiple judges in its tiny little court house
- a distinctive lack of flying insects (I think they probably shot it in California somewhere) in any of the scenes (that Ain’t Indiana)
- Robert Downey Jr ramming a perfectly good garage door (his father’s), backwards, just to be an asshole 
- a sentenced judge not being raped or killed or severely beaten in a small county prison system where he put most, if not all of the prisoners, into that system

Billy Bob Thorton and Vincent D’onofrio have very under-stated, under-played roles.  I loved Billy Bob’s portable metallic collapsing water glass.  I used to have one of those when I was in Scouts many years ago.  D’onofrio could have done so much more with his part…  but maybe directing and editing threw a wet blanket over his excellent acting.

You know…  I saw another film while I was flying for 7 hours, sleeping for one 1, and tossing and turning for nearly 4… but I can’t think of what it was right now.   If I recall it, I will blog about it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Warsaw at Dusk

Approaching Warsaw from the air, it is blanketed entirely in cloud cover in February... much like the Mid West, where SO Many Poles have immigrated to and reside today.

I've never been to this bustling capital city of 1.7 million Poles.

Every time I use my rudimentary Polish (approximately that of a 3 or 4 year old child) I am immediately responded to in fluent Polska responses.  I then have to apologize, to tell them 'while my pronunciation may be good, I know only "mały" (a little, pronounced "mow-eh") and not "dużo" (a lot, much, pronounced "do-zh-oh").

"It is easy language, you will learn it quickly" they tell me.  ...something about being a "ski" I think.

Time for me to go out and find a nice steak (stek) and crash early, up on the 28th floor. Much to do this week!

Glasgow Dawn

from the 10th floor of the Hilton

enroute to the airport, crossing the river.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky Exploration

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

My first Scotch in Scotland
As I am a big fan of cognac, Irish Whiskey, and Bourbon, I was looking forward to trying Scotch Whisky in the land where it was invented, distilled, and for which it is famous.  The twist is, I don’t enjoy the taste of peat or smoke, and so many Scotch Whiskies are heavily laden with both peat & smoke.  I was delighted to find out not all of them are.

Waiting for my colleagues on Thursday after work at the hotel bar, I partook of an Oban, 14 years, “medium bodied with fresh peat and a whiff of the sea”.  It was a fine introduction, and I savored each sip.

I then moved on to Bowmore, 12 Years - subtle notes of lemon and honey with distinctive smokiness.  Nice, but a little too much smoke for me.

Dalwhinnie, 15 years - creamy vanilla, heather honey & just a hint of highland smoke.  It was enjoyable.

At dinner I had a Highland Park - characteristic honey sweetness followed by fruit - and it was a pleasure for my taste buds.  

A fine dinner of aged, local, British beef with mushrooms, lively conversations with my 3 colleagues, a glass of Monkey Shoulder - a blended Scotch Whisky the kids are drinking now-a-days -  and we were off to the Bon Accord, rated (on Google) as “the 2nd best whisky bar in Glasgow” and walking distance from the Hilton.  I think Google was wrong, and it is actually “the best whisky bar” not only in Glasgow, but perhaps all of Scotland. Excellent service, friendly atmosphere, a selection of +300 whiskies as well as a variety of drafts. 

Thomas, the owner’s son, recommended a Glen Dronach, 12 year, aged in Sherry Casks.  It was amazing, smooth, and remarkable - for 12 pounds, it should be.  Knowing I did not like smoke, Thomas recommended an Isle of Jura 10 year and a Glenmorangie Original 10 years.  Both were excellent drams.  I bid farewell to my colleagues, and walked back to my hotel, digesting the evening.
Bon Accord has excellent steaks as well

When I awoke on Friday morning, I had 10 seconds of “ught-oh… is this going to be a bad morning?”  Sat up, cleared my head, and found I was fine.  In slow motion, but no head ache, no nausea, no loss of balance.  En plein forme.  Did some email, slowly did yoga, grabbed a good breakfast of haggis, and walked into work.  

Friday night, the exploration continued.  
Auchentoshan 12 year
Glengoyne 10 years
Balvenie Double Wood 12 years
Glengoyne A’Buna
Aberlour A’Banadh
Old Putney 12 years
A glass of Bon Accord Glen Grant 20 years
and finally, a glass of secret batch, made only for the tasting society of Scotland of which owner Paul McDonagh is a member.  No name on the bottle, just a number, ordered by the father and poured by the son to give to their delighted Californian customer.  It was an amazing way to end the night.

I am a Huge Fan of single malt Scotch.  Tasty, delicious, high quality, no hang-over, magical.  If you’ve never tried it…  you’ve been missing out.


at my hotel breakfast on Thursday morning, I found the usual eggs, “bacon” (which were slices almost the side of a man’s shoe heel, but still very tasty), sausages, and haggis.  Curiously intrigued, I scooped a dollop of it and put it on my plate beside the protein.  After preparing my tea, I sat down at my tiny table-for-two (where I was eating alone).  Cautiously, I took my first bite.

Haggis is delicious.  Or at least, the haggis served in Scotland at the Glasgow Hilton was delicious.  I had a double dollop of it this morning.  Not sure why everyone maligns it so much.  Sheep’s stomach? Well, when I was a kid, stitches were made of cat gut, and delicious sausages are still made of small intestine.  Fois gras is savory liver.  Kimchee is buried under the ground for months before it is served (though I still am No Fan of kimchee of any flavor, inside or outside of Korea).  The haggis that was served to me, I saw no stomach, tied or veined, but it is sitting well in my stomach as I sit in the Glasgow air port waiting my international flight’s departure.

[Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onionoatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and nowadays often in an artificial casing]

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cumberbatch's Imitation Game

Dr Desert Flower and I went and saw The Imitation Game last night at our favorite local theater, and it was a really good movie.  I'd wanted to see the film after reading several cryptography books and novels where Alan Turing is often a central character, if not repeatedly mentioned as the father of modern computer science.  I was not disappointed.

38 year old Benedict Cumerbatch played Alan Turing extremely well, with a range of emotion and affect, delivery and neurosis, fully embracing the quirky genius.  I will be quite surprised if Cumberbatch does not win Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations.  Whenever Cumberbatch spoke in a very low voice, slowly, recollections of Smaug inevitably entered my linguistics centric mind, but luckily the scenes were so fluid and changed so often, that the tone was never Smaug-like for more than a few seconds.  I still think Ricardo Montalban played a much better Khan than Cumberbatch did in the recent Star Trek incarnation.

Director Morten Tyldum did a wonderful job of weaving the school boy, post-Cambridge, adult, and post-WWII Turings into a beautiful mosaic that held the audience's attention.  Though we saw it on a Tuesday night, the theater was actually packed, surprisingly.

I would have liked to have seen More focus placed upon Turing and what his team did after breaking the Enigma code in 1943, and how they selected and parsed out information to MI6 so that statistically, the Nazis would not notice that the code had been broken… but the film glossed over that part and had it covered it more, there might have been a Nolan-esque 3 hour movie.

If you've not seen it, it's worth going to the theater (and not waiting for Netflix or Amazon) to see.  I think you'll like it as well (and if you don't, or you didn't like Alan Turing's work, his personality, his scientific work, or the person he was…  then, well…  you probably can't be my friend).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Thanks to my friend Ron for reminding me about this hilarious video:

When my friend Rick shared this link years ago, I did not realize (at that time) that the beard shown here is the same style & length as my son's…  kids now-a-days.  = )

Link here:  if the embed doesn't work for you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas Eywa - From the Tree of Souls

If you've ever seen the James Cameron movie Avatar, you're familiar with the willow like "Tree of Souls" (known as Vitraya Ramunong) .  Back at Thanksgiving, after I painstakingly decorated our Ficus tree (thank you Anne Morse for identifying it as a Ficus!) with strands of lights, Dr. Desert Flower, drink in hand, exclaimed "it's the tree of life, from that purple people movie!".  (how sweet!)

I think James Cameron did a better job on "The Tree of Souls" than I did…  but, my work will suffice for Southern Orange County, since no one is paying admission or benefiting from secondary DVD or on-demand sales.  

My neighbor across the street, who has lived here for over 20 years told me (last year) "that tree has never looked so good!", and when we moved in, it was drooping down so low that one could not walk down the side walk without having to duck to get below the pendulous branches.  Well 10 green dumpsters later, and lots of Naprosin, I've tamed the ficus to its current state & geometric configuration. It is pleasant to look down from my home office window and see it, and the street beyond, instead of an unruly batch of dark green leaves taking over the street before our home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hobbit 3 - The Battle Of Five Writers

This morning I wasted $7 and 2 hours of my life enduring the bastardization of a film loosely based around the Tolkien mythos, entitled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Eh, it really wasn't a battle of five armies.  And if you've read the book - as most Americans over 30 have - then you won't recognize most of the plot from the movie since it really doesn't have hardly anything to do with the book.  (and Jackson makes it actually 8 armies…  but I don't want to get into minutia) 

Peter Jackson did a great job in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy, sticking as close as he could to the 3 epic novels in 3 epic movies.  In the Hobbit movies, he drew out what could have been done in about 3 hours into 3 separate, painfully embellished films.  This last (thank goodness!) installment could have been wrapped up in about 30 minutes.  Instead, Jackson, and his fellow conspirators Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyen, and the increasingly annoying Guillermo del toro eviscerated J.R.R. Tolkien's beautiful little book, The Hobbit, and turned it in a misplaced love story, a personal blood feud, a father-son-angst conflict, and a mockery of the original Tolkien novel.  

To understand & appreciate how completely divergent The Battle of Five Armies was from the original Tolkien work, all one has to do is to look at the original Tolkien / Jackson ring trilogy epics, and then do a (1-X) calculation, proportionally.   So if in your perspective, Jackson got 98% right on the ring trilogy movies, in this final installment, he gets 2% right (1 - 0.98) = 0.02.  If he got 75% right in your perspective originally, then he's gotten perhaps 25% right on this last movie (1 - 0.75) = 0.25.  

There was no love story, between elves and dwarves or between anyone else, except for Smaug and his gold, in The Hobbit.  Yes, Tolkien wrote dwarves as greedy, and Thorin's grandfather as driven mad by the wealth, but Jackson and his cabal of co-conspirators created ridiculous plot devices that were not needed. 

The physics of a drawn bow, to propel an arrow through the air, are NOT purely the elasticity of the bow string, but the tension in that string and the elastic bending of the bow (as seen clearly in a simple long bow, or multiplied in a compound bow).  So when Bard (the Animated version was So Much Better!) uses his son's shoulder as the bow, that's a cute "father & son moment", but that arrow wouldn't have flown more than a few feet, much less several hundred feet, through the leathery hide of an ancient red dragon, through heart muscle, and killing one of the most vicious and formidable creatures ever to be characterized on the written page (think about it…  what other creature of mass destruction, pure evil & super intelligence have you ever read as much about in a beloved novel, and even cheered for (as I did, in the previous film, and this travesty as well)?  Jackson and his writers needed to spend less time launching water balloons with surgical tubing sling shots, and more time in Physics 101 class.

I half expected to see Paul Atreides (from Dune), riding along with the Northern Orc army - what's a matter Peter, were Wargs too hard to animate?  Or perhaps too deadly when matched against several hundred Iron Hills dwarves (who brought with them, no cavalry, but later, ram sheep conveniently appear)?  So many inane sub-plots and tangents…  I mean… it was great to see Radagast again… but the entire scene in which he appears… was not in the book.  Great to see Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith) as Elrond again… but in The Hobbit he never leaves Rivendell.  

There's so many things incongruent with Jackson's ham-fisted, market-driven re-writes of The Hobbit that it would take dozens and dozens of pages to describe, in even the briefest detail, and frankly, I don't have that kind of time to waste.  I am just delighted that Jackson cannot rape another Tolkien film, since the Tolkien family has not signed over rights to "The Silmarillion", and I hope in my lifetime, they never will.  

In The Battle of the Five Writers, J.R.R. Tolkien is soundly defeated.  Marketers rejoice, globally, and those who have never read the book will likely remain ignorant - reading takes time, and everyone lives connected to their digital devices, with the attention span of an impatient & unrealistic corporate board, expecting immediate results, gratification, satisfaction… which just leads to stagnation and disappointment, long term.  Much better to have video games, and plastic play toys, and to try and inspire fabricated dreams of interspecies romance, than to make a movie based solidly on the original work.  Pathetic & sad.

I was considering titling this "The Desolation of Smug", or "Jackson-itis" (the disease where you get infected with so much hubris, that you band together with other writer-directors [like del toro] who also show the same symptoms, and then you create an abomination, a bastardization, a remarkably ugly and painful vehicle that movie-goers have to endure while they were expecting 'this won't be so bad…  will it?'), but when I saw Jackson had teamed up with 3 other writers, the Battle of Five Writers sounded much better.