Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Clarence Darrow, My Ultimate Hero!

What can I say? Ever since I read Inherit the Wind in high school, I've been fascinated by Clarence Darrow, the attorney of the people. I recently finished reading his autobiography and I am floored by his sense of justice. He took on clients no one would touch, like John Scopes of the Monkey Trials who had the audacity to teach Darwin in school, or Dr. Sweet who was black and dared defend his home against a white mob.

There was the case of Leopold and Loeb, the Massie Trials, and of course his defense of Eugene V. Debbs who had a hand in railroad strikes and who was later imprisoned by Wilson (he's my most hated president!) for being anti-war.

Darrow worked with the NAACP, was an atheist, a humanist, and a man who defended the undefendable. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH! In this day and age we truly need him. Palin's freaky belief in creationism needs to be counteracted by one of the best minds of the 20th century...Clarence Darrow.

I wish I could travel back in time, put on my white person mask (I wouldn't want to be lynched), and watch him in action during the Scopes Trial. I wish, I wish.

Monday, October 27, 2008


More uncanny similarities...Santa Ana Mayor Miguel "Invisible" Pulido and "E" from HBO's Entourage.

As anyone with a passing interest in Entourage knows, Eric Murphy is the most dull, unremarkable character on Entourage. He belongs back in Queens managing the night shift at a Sbarro pizzeria.

Pulido has been in office since Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" topped the Billboard charts, and his accomplishments are looking rather slim these days. Try pinning down an opinion from him on any semi-controversial issue...you'll be hard pressed to even find him! He belongs out of the public sector and back at his muffler shop.

I early voted last week for his main opponent, Michele Martinez. I'll track down her twin one of these days, too...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chills Over Veggie Pinoy Food

I heard from a Facebook friend that a vegetarian Filipino restaurant sat in the heart of downtown El Segundo. Being a vegetarian and a Filipina I just about died. I ordered BaddicusFinch to drive me there pronto. We found Papillon restaurant and had to wait around an hour until they opened. In the meantime, we wasted time at the local yogurt shop which charged by the ounce (we didn't know this).

The moment of truth came. The veggie menu and dishes I've seen my relatives devour countless of times swam before my eyes. You see, Pinoys are meat eaters just like most Pacific Islanders...and there's no room for someone like me.

BFinch ordered chicken adobo, Sonia ordered pansit, and I ordered pork adobo and menudo, a meat stew. I ate quite a lot, but as I was chewing my food I realized that the dish I was eating was crap. I could make better adobo than the one they served us. And worst of all, the supposedly tomato-based sauce of the menudo had more than a hint of melted velveeta cheese. Gross.

Anyhoo, I'm glad we tried it anyway. At least it's out of our system...hopefully the velveeta sauce as well. Yuck!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Miguel PuliDope

A couple hours ago we pulled the early voting lever at Santa Ana's Main Place Mall. Sure, it's an important presidential election with the usual long list of state propositions latched on, but I was also eager to cast my vote against Santa Ana's forever mayor...Miguel Pulido.

That guy's been in office since 1986 (when Police Academy 3 and Karate Kid II were in theaters), and we're still short on parks, down to one real library, neighborhood streets are crumbling, crime is up in comparison to the adjacent cities, we're running a $28 million budget deficit, and my street gets flooded every winter because somebody forgot to plug in storm drains!

So my vote went to Michele Martinez. Out with Pulido, please!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pavement and Otra Yell Japanese Style

Pavement would have to be the band I've seen the most in concert. I've watched this indie band a whopping six times. I've seen them at their worst and at their best. They sucked at Lollapalooza, stumbling through their set in the early 90's but thereafter their performances gradually got more solid.

When BaddicusFinch and I were in Japan teaching English for the McDonalds of English schools, we learned that Pavement was performing. Of course, we just had to go. BaddicusFinch, being nearly 6'-3" pushed us through the skirmish lines to the front row. The usually introverterd Finch began chanting, "Otra, otra, otra," when the band came on stage, flailing his thin arms in the air. Unbelievably, the Japanese crowd started imitating chants of the giant lanky man and followed his lead, arms raised with a fist. They probably thought that it was a quaint Westerner thing to do.

A couple of days later we saw them at the airport terminal. We were on our way to S.E. Asia and they were headed who knew where. Of course Baddicus and I were too chicken to approach them so we just stared at them behind our magazines.

Anyway, it was hella fun and a great memory since we've stopped going to concerts because of our advancing age. Otra to you all!

Beth Sholom, Frank Lloyd Wright, and a Pest

I was a pest in Philadelphia. I had a list of things to do and constantly bothered my sister who happened to be the driver. There was Betsy Ross' house because they had a squished penny machine, Independence Hall, The Philosophical Society where they carried Louis and Clark journals, the Liberty Bell, and all kinds of to do.

Finally, after hours of walking, we sat down for lunch at a Chinese fusion restaurant that was pretty much alright. No big whoop. Then I sprung it on her. I said, "After we see Edgar Allan Poe's house, can we swing by Beth Sholom?" I told her it was the only temple Frank Lloyd Wright ever built and that it was his last project before he died. It was imperative, I said.

It took an hour and a half to get to our destination using Stephanie's talking GPS contraption that freaked me out. BaddicusFinch adamantly refuses to use one of those. Once there, a line of police cars flanked the roads. They were ushering in well dressed Yom Kippur celebrants and there was no way I could pass in my t-shirt and jeans. Suddenly, I was wishing I was Sammy Davis, Jr. So we parked across the street and took some pictures.

The temple was very impressive. It looked like a Samurai headdress with lots of spikes. Thank you Stephanie for fulfilling my wishes!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It's election season, so naturally I get a crapload of political mailers. Anyone ever notice that Carlos Bustamante, gunning for Santa Ana City Council re-election, eerily looks like Parkman from Heroes?

Brooms and Airplanes Don't Jive

My sister's Russian mother-in-law, Olga, requested that I bring with me two Asian-style brooms when I visited them in Maryland. This request was made on a Sunday, a day before my trip. BaddicusFinch and I had a hell of a time finding them on a day where every Asian store seemed to be closed. Like a dufus I was hoping I wouldn't find any. I didn't want to lug a stick with fringes.

Alas, we discovered the brooms at Dalat, the low rent 99 Ranch Market. The very spindly sweeper with coconut hair-looking fronds was bagged to hide what it was and carried the next day on the plane as my hand carry.

I swear, every Filipino and unknown Asian checked out my witchmobile and smirked. Some even chuckled. Very embarrassing. But all ill feelings left me when I saw the joy in Olga's face. She said she's been looking in Maryland for two years now and failed miserably. So I ate her delicious food and sat back and contemplated my heroism and sacrifice.

Boathouse for the Gods

I visited my brother in Boston last week and he kindly humored me by following the itinerary I printed out for my east coast trip: John Adams house, Walden Pond, Salem, Nathaniel's Hawthorn's Seven Gable House and so forth, not to mention stopping by every squish penny machines in Massachusetts to add to BaddicusFinch's collection.

As we chugged along Nonatum Road in Brighton, I spotted a very interesting looking building that seemed to be made out of wavy wood. I shouted, "Stop! Make a right and go to the parking lot!" Again, an imposition to my brother and the other passengers in the car.

With a promise that I wouldn't take long, I proceeded to take pictures of the structure. It turns out later that the building was a new community boathouse where people could store their rowing boats for unlimited use for $400 a month. The exterior is wood laminate and was designed by Anmahian Winton Architects Inc. of Cambrige.

I swear, this building, though still under construction, is so easy on the eyes. I wonder what the interior will look like?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Buck the clucks

I had heard that public schools maintain student cumulative files for years, so the summer after graduating from high school in San Jose, I decided to check the damage. I have no idea why the administration reacted so defensively, but man, I practically had to make a Freedom of Information Act request to look at my own records. They finally relented, and some chump pencil pusher sat at the same desk watching my every move as I pored over the file. Oh yeah, for kicks I brought along a couple friends, Dave and Ted, and had their files pulled, too.

What was the big secret? I have no idea...there was hardly anything in there but a couple report cards and a goofball photo. The whole mystique of looking up top secret files was shattered.

This Friday my inner snoop compelled me to check the City Hall records of my little piece of the earth in Santa Ana. Again I found myself sitting across from a bureaucrat eyeing my every move while I paged through documents...public tentative tract map and conditional use permit documents in this case.

Guess who came along? Dave! Hehehe...he stared down the city worker and checked the plummeting Dow numbers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


This is the former site of the iconic Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated after his 1968 win in the California Democratic primary. The steel bones are coming up for an LAUSD elementary school, middle school, and high school. A few token elements of the hotel will be preserved and integrated into the school buildings, like portions of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub and the coffee shop designed by Paul Williams.

Hard to argue with the need for new schools in an area where kids are bused miles out of the neighborhood, but I still find it painful to see the historic buildings leveled. An adaptive reuse of the hotel could've worked, with historic building tax credits and foundation funding paying the slightly higher tab. Too late...but that's Los Angeles for you.

Can you believe that California ended up helping Nixon get elected in '68? (Seems nuts considering he lost the governor race just six years earlier.) We gave that crank a whopping 40 electoral votes. We've come a long way, California.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Garden Grove landskimping

One of these things is not like the other...one of these things just doesn't belong...

Ok, these aren't the most exciting apartment buildings in the world, much less Orange County or even Garden Grove. Very ho-hum designs for what should've been an excellent opportunity to reinvent this small stretch of Garden Grove Boulevard between Harbor and Haster. Goodbye Me-N-Eds Pizza, demolished to make way for these housing projects...I never even gave you a chance.

My biggest axe to grind is for the weak(er) landscaping in front of the most recent of the three developments, the Harbor Grove Apartments at 12777 Garden Grove Blvd. The front setback is entirely unwelcoming, with boring six-foot high metal fencing crammed up to the sidewalk. Behind the fence and in front of the building, only accessible from an awkward side gate, is your standard sod. I guarantee nobody will ever go in there.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this is "luxury" senior housing. (Location, location...walking distance to the hospital!) Rather than choking the residents with pesticide and allergen-laden grass, wouldn't setting aside areas for organic gardening be a better use of open space?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mike Leigh and a Cropped EzraPounded

Two Dollar Tuesday matinees at the LACMA would reel me in to the dark side, making me ditch work to watch old movies. Speaking of old, I would be the only youngster in sight. Octogenarians populated the Bing Theater, and there would often be fights. The hard-of-hearing would say, "What did he say?" and some termagant oldie would scratch out a venomous "Be quiet!" I once forced BaddicusFinch along for a movie ditch day to see Hitchcock's I Confess, and he witnessed the mad bickering, so I'm definitely not making this up.

Anyway, we were there last night to see Mike Leigh, one of my favorite directors. We saw a sneak preview of Happy-Go-Lucky, his new film with Sally Hawkins (she played Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion). It was a hilarious movie...but I'm not going to review it for you. Just take my word for it. It was good.

I've always been drawn to Leigh's films because they are so real. His work is described as British realism. He hires actors that look like us...funny, without makeup, fat, pimply, lower class, and what have you. No perfect Hollywood rework here. He spoke after the screening ended, and he was pretty gracious. He was old, and I felt nervous that he might go the Newman way in the near future, so I, a photo phobe, swallowed my fear and asked for a picture. It's the one above but of course, I cropped myself out. Anyway, here is a list of my favorite Mike Leigh films:

• Home Sweet Home
• The Naked
• Career Girls
• Bleak Moments
• All or Nothing
• Life is Sweet
• Secrets and Lies
• Abigail's Party
• Meantime

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cylon Invasion on the 22 Fwy

Sure, driving on the freeway can be a real drag, especially when mired in the quicksand of SoCal traffic. When listening to talk radio nut jobs isn't quite doing it for you, or Radiohead and Silversun Pickups make you yawn, there's nothing left to do but to look around other sorry dufuses in their respective cars.

And when the usual nose pickers make you gag and the food-stuffing herd guts your nerves, there's nothing else to do but look at freeway wall art. You'll find tiles with California native flowers, orange indentations on concrete, as well as the rudimentary palm trees. Admittedly they're nice and they sure make a difference...unless of course, they're tagged up, but that's another story.

On the Garden Grove Freeway (22), something completely different bedecks the edges of the freeway. They are monstrosities that you kind of like...well, sort of. They are concrete slab panels that resemble Star Wars stormtrooper helmets or Cylon raiders from the Battlestar Gallactica series with crazy visor eyes. Real headturners these things, but I like them since they're so unique...only found within a ten-mile stretch. Cool.