November 10th, 2013 · 1 Comment
No matter how many bootlegs you see on YouTube, there is nothing quite like seeing your favorite band in concert — or, even better, seeing your favorite band in concert in their home town. This isn’t to say that musicians don’t give it their all at every venue in every city, but surely there is an extra energy that comes from sleeping in your own bed, spending time with your family and, of course, performing in front of the home crowd. Songwriter and lead singer Jon Foreman always introduces his band by saying, “We’re Switchfoot, and we’re from San Diego,” so of course when we saw that Switchfoot’s latest tour would not be coming to us, we knew that we had to go to them — and there was no question as to where that should be.
The Fading West tour is unique for Switchfoot in that they are not just playing music: They are also debuting a feature film they have been working on for several years now, “Fading West.” It follows the band as they perform and surf around the world, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. In addition to being a great surf film and rockumentary, “Fading West” is also intensely personal and poignant, a balanced look at the costs and benefits of life on the road. And of course the soundtrack is pretty awesome!
After the film, the band plays a slightly abbreviated set — shorter on the number of songs than what you’d expect at a regular concert, but definitely not short on energy and surprises — and answers questions that the audience submits via Twitter during the intermission. Super fun. Here are some of my favorite shots from their performance at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre. They’re not the best photos ever, but I must admit, I was a bit too caught up in enjoying the performance to focus!
Of course we also got the VIP package, which included a meet-and-greet. Always, always, always get the meet-and-greet option with your favorite band! In addition to getting to meet (and greet, haha) people you look up to, you end up with great shots like this:
Plus, we got them to sign a photo we took with them a few years ago at Turtle Bay. Never mind that I didn’t have photo paper or card stock and so I ended up printing the photo on a manila folder (seriously, look what’s in Tim’s hand on the left side of the photo above). Having a chance to chat with the guys — and drop the hint that they should come back out to the middle of the Pacific again soon — was the perfect end to a great evening!
Tags: music · travel
Image (c) Warner Bros. Pictures.
It’s extremely difficult to review “Gravity” without spoiling it. I went into the theater not knowing anything about this movie other than that George Clooney and Sandra Bullock get into trouble in space, and that it really stressed my fellow moviegoers out. I walked out completely blown away. I highly recommend going to see it with that blank slate.
All right, but you didn’t click over here to hear me say that. So . . .
- The special effects were amazing. I was going to say that I don’t know how they did it, but I didn’t want to seem like an idiot, so I looked it up. This Popular Mechanics article kind of explains it. I still don’t get how everything looked so realistic* when they didn’t actually film it in space or in some kind of zero-gravity chamber. Dammit, Jim, I’m a scientist . . . but I’m not a rocket scientist.
- If you have the opportunity to see “Gravity” in 3-D or IMAX or both (yeah, I don’t really know whether or how those things work), DO IT. Yes, it costs more, and you may want to vomit, but it is completely worthwhile in this case. (What the heck are you doing at a space movie if you’re prone to motion sickness, anyway?) It will turn this from a movie you could be watching on your living room TV into a surreal delight. 3-D works really well in conjunction with the concept of anti-gravity.
- The acting was not bad. It wasn’t Academy Award winning material, but it was believable. My inability to be moved to tears by Sandra Bullock should come as a shock to no one.
- Speaking of actors, I can’t recall ever having seen a major motion picture that had no extras in it. Well, there were a couple of people who didn’t have lines, but they were . . . well . . . (highlight the rest of the paragraph if you really want to know, but DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU) . . . dead astronauts. And the other astronaut’s family, who only appear in a photo. So that was interesting. For the sake of people who enjoy doing background work (I count myself as one of them), I wouldn’t want this to be a trend, but it definitely works for this film.
Basically, go see this movie. Do it now, before someone spoils it for you. What the heck, even if they tell you who lives, who dies and that Mission Control is voiced by Ed Harris (oops — oh, come on, that’s not a spoiler!), you will enjoy “Gravity” anyway because it is just that kind of unique movie-going experience. Absolutely stunning.
* DISCLAIMER: I am not an astronaut. Perhaps the movie wasn’t realistic at all, but everything that happened seemed like it could’ve worked, at least in my head.
October 14th, 2013 · 1 Comment
A few months ago (sorry for the “old news” — I’m still catching up on blogging!), my friend Rebecca and her husband, Robert, came to visit from Corpus Christi, Texas. I have known Rebecca for a few years through cancer advocacy work, and she is such a die-hard crusader, she had earned this vacation a million times over. Plus, I just love her, so it was great to spend time with her!
Rebecca is a big planner, so she had asked me for some recommendations for her Hawaiian vacation months in advance. Since I’m not much of a beach-goer or outdoors-person, I’m not very good at suggesting the kind of things people are usually interested in when they come out to the middle of the Pacific . . . but somehow, our conversation took a turn towards luaus. It occurred to me that I had never been to one myself. I got in touch with my friend Sharon, who hooked us up with her staff rate at Germaine’s Luau, and before you know you it, we were booked for double date in Kapolei.
I’m not gonna lie: The luau show itself was super corny! But I think that was part of the fun, and the tourists around us were definitely into it — and we laughed quite a bit, at least. It was kinda cool to see the different forms of native dance from across the Pacific, probably more so for the tourists who I bet didn’t know that there was more than one type of hula and even more so for the brave (and/or inebriated) ones who got up on stage to try things out. The fire dancing was amazing, too. As far as food goes, the bread was a little dry, but you can’t judge a luau on mainland food like dinner rolls; this event is all about the freshly prepared kalua pig, and that was absolutely a winner. And did I mention that there were drink tickets with admission? So there’s that.
I would wholeheartedly recommend going to a luau if you’re going to be visiting Hawai‘i — heck, even if you live here and haven’t been to one before! I can’t vouch for all the different companies out there, but I can definitely say that we had a great time at Germaine’s. Kapolei is really far from Waikiki, where most tourists stay while on Oahu, but Germaine’s has shuttle service from the hotels, so you don’t have to worry about driving all the way out to the west side and/or getting lost at Kahe Power Plant. Definitely a good deal for a fun evening!
Fire poi balls!
Pulling the pig out of the imu.
Rebecca and Robert.
We got lei-ed at the entrance. :)
September 10th, 2013 · No Comments
Every year, the Four Seasons Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu hosts its Run for Hope Weekend, the proceeds from which benefit the American Cancer Society and the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center. For a while now, the Friends of the Cancer Center have paid for volunteers from the Cancer Center to fly to and stay in Kona (not at the Four Seasons, but not at Uncle Billy’s, either!) to work at the weekend’s events. Todd and I have volunteered for several years.
This year, the fundraising weekend included the Taste of Hawai‘i Island gala foodie event on Friday night, a golf tournament on Saturday afternoon and the signature 5K and 10K runs early Sunday morning. Our team spent the weekend busing tables, assembling race packets, registering golfers, pouring drinks, pointing runners in the right direction along the race course — and, of course, relaxing in whatever spare time we had.
Taste of Hawai‘i Island.
Taste of Hawai‘i Island entertainment.
Checking people in for the golf tournament.
Collecting donations and serving up Bloody Marys — hey, somebody’s gotta do it.
Cheering on runners during the Run for Hope.
I’ve seen a few Four Seasons properties, and Hualālai definitely tops my list in terms of luxury and overall beauty. It’s not difficult to see why!
Tags: travel · work
September 2nd, 2013 · 2 Comments
For the last time (OK, probably not really), I am not Okinawan. Yes, I’m hairy and have unusually big eyes and unusual facial features for a Japanese person; I like taco rice; and, like some Okinawans, I have been asked if I’m Filipino — but alas, I’m just Japanese. But that doesn’t mean I can’t go to the Okinawan Festival, right? After all, since my family is not Okinawan, where else am I gonna get fresh andagi?!
Those who know me know I am not a big fan of heat, excess sunlight and hunting for parking, but I’m pleased to report that while we were at Oki Fest this year, it was overcast and somewhat breezy! Parking, well, that was another story all together: We did spend over an hour hunting for a spot. (Fortunately, I was not the driver . . . because for sure we would’ve been headed back home long before we hit the hour mark.)
The event itself was all right. I guess it’s more fun if you’re actually Okinawan, ’cause you get to hang out with your clan or whatever. We regular Japanese don’t really have clans anymore. I was kinda bummed about the food because either they didn’t have taco rice this year or they ran out by the time I got there, but at least they had decent maki sushi that was actually reminiscent of the one from the old George’s Delicatessen (my late grandma’s favorite). And, of course, andagi . . . :)
Cloudy skies, yay!
Mobile shisa snack cart!
Apparently, Todd didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to be making the shisa face.
Tags: everyday stuff · food
August 29th, 2013 · 1 Comment
I spotted my first kōlea (Pacific Golden Plover) of the season yesterday!
OK, summer: You may feel free to take your stiflingly hot temperatures and get lost now. :)
Tags: everyday stuff
All right, all right. I know I’ve been gone a while. I’ll try to stay this time and post more often. I know I’ve said it before, but I think I really mean it this time, and that’s gotta count for something, right?
Re: that gushing “Les Mis” movie post before this one . . . I think I was drunk. OK, no, I wasn’t. But obviously, I was so enamored by the book references that I wasn’t able to think clearly. In retrospect, while I really did like the movie as a whole, it is not dear to my heart like the original stage production is, and there are some aspects of the movie that really make me cringe. Then again, Javert’s suicide in the stage production also makes me cringe. Anyway, I liked it enough to buy it on iTunes, but I am indifferent enough about it that I haven’t watched my digital version more than once — whereas I have listened to the cast albums I have from the stage productions more times than I can count. I guess what I’m trying to say is, my initial enthusiasm was a bit much, and while I do not take back what I wrote, I will be the first to admit that I should never have a career in writing actual movie reviews.
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I have been looking forward to the movie version of “Les Misérables” for at least 10 years. When they finally cast Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and started filming it, I practically started salivating. Over the past couple of months, while everyone else was stressing out over Christmas presents, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for the next released snippet of “Les Mis” on YouTube.
Christmas Day finally arrived, and of course I had tickets to the first local showing. No, it wasn’t at midnight — though, believe me, had a midnight showing been available, I would have been there. I would not be in costume (please, the last time I dressed “Les Mis,” I was in high school), but I would definitely have been there. Maybe with bells on. After all, it is Christmas.
ANYWAY. Since I have been hyping this thing since before they even hired a crew, everyone has been asking what I think now that I’ve finally seen it. So here’s my super geeked-out review. Needless to say, SPOILER ALERT, even though, seriously, the book is over 150 years old.
The casting for this movie was spot on. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway both gave riveting emotional performances as Valjean and Fantine, and there is no way they will be snubbed when Oscar nominations are announced. I was worried when I heard that Sacha Baron Cohen had been cast because, well, he’s Borat, but he and Helena Bonham Carter were perfect as the scheming, opportunist Thénardiers. I love that these roles were actually darker in the film than they are on stage because even though the Thénardiers clearly play the role of comic relief in the grand scheme of the musical, they’re also villains who are out to ruin other people’s lives as much as they want to enrich their own. And speaking of villains . . . I’ve heard a lot of criticism about Russell Crowe and his lack of vocal prowess as Javert, but he really wasn’t that bad. Mind you, he wasn’t fabulous, but he really looked the character, and I didn’t think he was as bad, vocally, as he could have been. (Have you heard a tone-deaf person sing? Then you know: It could be much worse.) Everyone else was great. Samantha Barks owned the role of Eponine so much on stage that they didn’t even bother to cast a Hollywood star. Danielle Huttlestone was so ridiculously solid as Gavroche that they gave him even more face time and significance in the film than the character has in the stage production. Isabelle Allen made me laugh (intentionally, I think) with her wide-eyed facial expressions as Young Cosette. And, of course, Colm Wilkinson (the original musical’s Jean Valjean) as the Bishop of Digne was beautifully done. I love that his work wasn’t over after he turned Valjean from his life of crime, too.
CHANGES FROM THE STAGE SHOW
Yes, Tom Hooper made a few changes here and there from the stage show. Some of the songs aren’t in the same order — for example, “On My Own” (a second act number in the stage production) comes before “One Day More” (the first act finale on stage) in the movie, but while that’s a pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you change for obsessive fans (not that we know any of those, right?), it really doesn’t change the plot flow at all. I admit that I was concerned when “Do You Hear the People Sing” wasn’t included on the highlights CD — and then it didn’t immediately follow “Red and Black” in the film — but it popped up not long later (again, not affecting plot), so all was well with that in the end.
Then there are changes that were made for the sake of authenticity to the Victor Hugo novel. I love that they did this. From the time they first started releasing photos from the set and I saw the “elephant” Gavroche lives in, I knew they were going to do beautiful things that weren’t just straight stage-to-film. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Gavroche’s elephant. When we first see Gavroche in “Look Down,” he and his fellow urchins pop out of the elephant statue, which is larger than life. Victor Hugo spends quite a bit of time detailing the elephant and the time Gavroche spends in it, but I suppose it wasn’t practical for the stage show, nor was it essential to the plot. But when I read the book for the first time 20 years ago, I could just see it in my head and wanted to see it played out somehow. Obviously, the creatives behind the movie felt the same way.
- Gavroche’s errand. In the stage musical, when Marius finds Eponine dressed as a boy at the barricade, he sends her away to deliver a last-minute letter to Cosette. However, in the book, the letter delivery is assigned to Gavroche. I liked that they play it out the book’s way in the film because it reinforces the boy’s importance to the students, even before his ultimate sacrifice.
- Gavroche vs. authority. (Yes, I do love Gavroche.) In the stage musical, it is not abundantly clear why Gavroche has such a problem with authority, though we can assume it is because he is a creature of the street. In the movie, Javert roughs him up a little bit in one of the scenes — I think during when he (Javert) arrives in the square after Thénardier’s attack on Valjean and Cosette. I like that because it reminds of the part of the book where Gavroche is simply going about his business but is called all kinds of names by a guard: He simply retorts, “Citizen … I have not yet called you bourgeois. Why do you insult me?” This mistreatment fuels him to call out Javert later, when the latter tries to disguise himself as a rebel.
- Enjolras and Grantaire. While the death of Enjolras was particularly dramatic in the original stage musical in that he went down over the “front” of the barricade and was later revealed to be hanging alone from it when the turntable spun around to the music, it still didn’t pack the symbolic punch that the book version did. In the book, Enjolras is actually captured and executed by government soldiers — and the meatiest part is, he is shot alongside Grantaire, who, despite his constant drinking and apparent lack of idealism, actually admires Enjolras. In the movie, they are likewise executed together.
- Fauchelevent. In the stage musical, Fauchelevent is only mentioned as the name of the man whom Valjean rescues from underneath a runaway cart. The stage musical does not, however, cover the part of the story that takes place between Valjean rescuing Young Cosette and the events of “Look Down,” so it is not surprising that they left out this key detail, which the movie includes: Valjean, who, along with Young Cosette, is on the run from the law, is recognized as “Monsieur le maire” by the man he rescued, who then harbors Valjean at the convent where he (Fauchelevent) is a groundskeeper. This is especially significant in the book because Hugo specifically mentions that, prior to the cart incident, Fauchelevent actually resented Valjean (as the mayor) because Valjean had risen quickly from being nobody to being a successful business owner and mayor, while Fauchelevent, a lawyer, was not able to make ends meet.
I’m sure there are quite a few other from-the-book adaptations I’ve missed, but these really popped out at me as I watched the film.
Technically, the finished piece was a bit sloppy at several points. There were times when it was obvious that a line or two had been cut or a scene had been pieced together from more than one take, and the transition from one sentence to the next was completely abrupt. This is especially distracting for anyone who has done technical work (as my friends and I have), and it focuses unnecessary attention on some of the edits.
Overall, I really, really, really cannot say enough about how I love this movie. I can see where other devotees of the stage show might have issues with the casting or the script changes, but for me, nothing was so overwhelmingly bad that it outweighed the awesomeness of seeing this movie get done (finally) and get done well. The stage show has been going for over 25 years on the West End, and it will continue to be performed on stages across the globe for decades more, so people who would rather appreciate the stage version absolutely have an opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, Todd didn’t get to go with me to the movie on Christmas Day, and he wants to see it, so I am already looking forward to going back — and to eventually owning the movie on BluRay/DVD/digital in a few months!
Disclaimer: I do not own the above image of Cosette. All rights belong to (I presume) Cameron Mackintosh and the film company, and I am simply using the image here as a visual aid, not for profit.
Tags: movies · theater
Sorry I haven’t updated this page in months. I will try to be better about it in the new year. It’s not so much that I have nothing to say as it is that I have been avoiding controversial issues — which, really, includes all issues during an election year. You never know when someone is going to get offended and blow up your office building. And nobody wants that.
Tags: everyday stuff
Last week, I received a copy of the subrogation letter my auto insurance company sent to AIMS, the claims adjustment company representing Hertz. The letter basically said that my insurance company’s investigation determined that the Hertz driver was at fault and that Hertz should now pay for the full cost of repairs to my car. (Hertz is the rental car company who employs the the guy who backed into my car in March; their corporate office is in the same building as my office.) This letter was just a formality, and my claims adjuster called today to say it generated a response from AIMS, who said they would not be paying for my repairs because their guy is denying fault. This was all expected, because the guy is either delusional (like he really, really doesn’t remember backing into me) or a completely unapologetic liar.
Here’s what I was not expecting: The next step in a case like this would normally be arbitration, but apparently, Hertz, being a big corporation, is not a “member” of arbitration. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as membership in arbitration. Go figure. My options now are to close the case or file a civil suit.
I’ve watched enough court drama to know that my case is paper thin. As I mentioned previously, there is no evidence and there are no eyewitnesses. As I told my claims adjuster, even if someone had been standing just a few yards away, they probably would have missed seeing anything because we were blocked on one side by a construction wall. There were no explosions, no projectiles — just the crunch of the front of my car under the weight of his (oh, wait, his company’s — he’s not even the registered owner). Nothing to get anyone’s attention. No CSIs came to the scene to examine skid marks on the pavement to see which car had been in motion. If I took this guy to court, it would just be my word against his, and my story, true though it may be, makes no sense because what he did makes no sense.
So I guess maybe that is the end of that. I asked my claims adjuster whether my premiums would be affected by this, and she said she couldn’t tell me. They are making a notation of “not at fault” in the incident writeup, but whether I get assigned a point (which would then adversely affect my premium) is up to the underwriter.
Am I missing something here? It just seems too simple that the guy just gets away with this, doesn’t it? I am planning to write to Hertz corporate to let them know that his behavior as an executive reflects poorly on them as a company and that they have thus lost me as a customer, but all that will do is get things off my chest. Am I really just stuck with paying the deductible? Have I exhausted all reasonable options?
Tags: unfortunately it's true