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.