R.I.P. Prince

Today is a sad day. Prince, one of the greatest musicians of all time, died today. I don’t know  the details regarding his death, but I do know he died too young at 57.  

One of my first life memories is watching the music video for Little Red Corvette on MTV. That song is still one my favorites of all time. 

I still own a first print of Purple Rain on vinyl. I remember when that album and movie came out in 1984, a pivotal year. Prince was a phenomenon in the the 80s and into the 90s. He went obscure when he changed his name to that symbol but came back full force in the 2000s, in particular during his 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance

I still remember one of my cousins telling me about watching him live in the early 80s. He claimed that they wheeled out a bathtub on stage and Prince took a bath right there on stage. I don’t know if that is true but the story obviously stuck with me. 

I named one of my dogs Prince. He was my favorite dog growing up. I wanted to honor Prince, not insult him, by naming my Weiner dog Prince; I hope not to have offended him. 

How odd that WWE star Chyna also died today. I wonder what that conversation right outside the gates of heaven is like right now. Prince apparently cleaned up his act and became a hardcore Jehovah’s Witness. Chyna, I have no clue about. 

Film Noir: Post #1

I should have posted this earlier last week. Noir City Hollywood: The 18th Annual Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir started on April 15th and runs through the 24th at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. For some reason the schedule is shorter this year. The closing night party is just a cocktail hour on Sunday before the showing of the femme fatale classic Too Late For Tears. In previous years there was a live swing band, a fake casino, food, drinks, a burlesque show and other noir-ish entertainment. 

Attending the Noir City Festival cemented my interest in Film Noir. 5 years ago I attended the Festival for the first time. I watched the prison noir Brute Force, starring Burt Lancaster and another prison noir film starring Jack Palance. Since that night I have been obsessed with Film Noir. I even completed the free online course offered by Ball State University last Summer in conjunction with the Turner Classic Movies Summer of Noir film festival. 

I find it difficult to explain my obsession with the genre. I think the primary reason is the darkness and paranoia the films portray. As I explained in my post on RetroTV and fondness for the tv classics The Fugitive and Route 66, it comforts me that many of the same struggles we face today occurred during the idyllic 1950s/early 1960s. I believe that since we were able to survive through the struggles back then as a country then we will survive now. 

For those of you not familiar with Film Noir, search “film noir” in google and read some pages on it like Wikipedia’s. Then go to YouTube and legally watch some noir films that are available in the public domain. Start with the short but time-honored Detour. Then check out any of these available classic noir films: Kansas City Confidential, DOA, The Hitch-Hiker and The Big Combo. If you have a SmartTV these films are very crisp through the YouTube app. 

If you get hooked, internet search “The Encyclopedia of Film Noir”. There are free versions of that book available in PDF format on the web. Study the book and it will prime you to become a noir junkie like myself. 

#TransitGeek Story #1: Dodger Stadium Express

As I mentioned in my first post, one of my many interests is public transportation. This past Tuesday, April 12, was opening day for the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. The traffic while entering and exiting and Dodger Stadium is notoriously bad. Here is one story about it. And here are two haikus I have previously written while sitting in traffic:

  • No Easy Breezy/Leaving Dodger Parking Lot/All Very Shitty
  • The Hell That Is Felt/At Leaving A Dodger Game/Idle Wheeled Coffins

Some people (including me) leave the game early no matter how close the game is because if you manage to get to your car by the top of the 9th inning and speed out you just saved 90 minutes of your life. Others stay until the end and suffer PTSD from being in traffic hell. Even riding an uber traps you in that hell as I will explain later. 

There is another option, one that many say couldn’t exist in any real usable form in LA: public transportation. LA Metro has expanded its Dodger Stadium Express service to include trips from the South Bay of Los Angeles. So I ran an experiment with a buddy of mine. He lives in Studio City, under ten miles from Dodger Stadium. I live in Manhattan Beach, well over 25 miles from Dodger Staidum. He uber-ed to Opening Day, while I took the Stadium Express. 

I drove two miles to the Redondo Beach Station of the Green Line metro train and boarded the train that left at 10:55 am. Cost: $1.75.  

 Twenty minutes later I arrived at the Habor Freeway Station and walked down to the bus terminal basically in the middle of the 110 Freeway. I boarded the Stadium Express at 11:20. Cost: free with a Dodger Ticket.   

Happy and relaxed/excited Dodger fans filled the Stadium Express. Once the bus exited the 110 Freeway it took the bus lane all the way to the Stadium. And we arrived at 11:55.   

It took my buddy one hour via uber at a cost of $29.00. He barely made the opening pitch. 

Leaving the game was a completely different story. I left at the bottom of the 8th inning with the Dodgers already down by two runs. I walked to the bus area, boarded and five minutes later we were off. I was home in about an hour, that is inside of my home not just at the Green Line station in Redondo Beach. 

My buddy was not as lucky. He left in the top of the 9th. He boarded an uber. 90 minutes later and he still had not left the parking lot. He left the uber and walked out of the stadium. He waited an hour at a bar and then took another uber home. He still has traffic PTSD and has sworn to never use a car to enter/exit Dodger Stadium again. He will be taking the other Dodger Stadium Express that leaves from LA Union Station for all future games. 

So the next time someone says there is no public transportation in LA or no way to get to Dodger Stadium without driving and dealing with hellacious traffic tell them about the Dodger Stadium Express. Or don’t and watch them fume with anger. 

Think and Grow Rich: The Granddaddy of Bootstrap Success Books

I am a very big fan of Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I have read it or listened to it several times in the past two years. I have also watched Mr. Hill’s lecture on YouTube.  It has helped me every time I have lost any faith in myself. 

The book’s basic premise is that everything that you have wanted or that has happened to you all comes from your mind. I believe in this book so much so that I have purchased it or suggested it to anyone that will listen to me. Yes, I probably sound like a crazy person but I am ok with that. 

One of the main suggestions of the book is that you must have a definite plan, a definite purpose in life. You have to write down your definite purpose, which should include a specific dollar amount that you want to obtain, what you are willing to do to achieve your purpose and you must read it twice a day. I have written down my definite purpose and I try to read it twice a day. 

I have also copied selected passages from the book and repeatedly re-read them as well. Here are the ones I try to read on a daily basis. I hope they help any one out there that needs to re-focus their attention on his or her own life’s goal:

Think and Grow Rich Wise Words:

  • No more effort is required to aim high in life, to demand abundance and prosperity, than is required to accept misery and poverty. 
  • Nothing is impossible to the person that backs desire with enduring faith. 
  • No man is ever whipped until he quits in his own mind. 
  • A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. 
  • No one ever is defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality. 
  • Desire backed by faith knows no such word as impossible. 
  • Faith is a state of mind which may be induced or created by affirmation or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind through the principle of auto suggestion. 
  • Reposition of affirmation of orders to your subconscious mind is the only known method of voluntary development of the emotion of faith. 
  • It is essential for you to encourage the positive emotions as dominating forces of your mind and disregard and eliminate negative emotions. 
  • If you think you are defeated, you are; if you think you dare not, you don’t; if you like to win but you think you can’t it is almost certain you won’t; if you think you will lose you are lost; for out of the world we find success begins with a persons will, it’s all in the state of mind. If you think your are outclassed you are. You’ve got to think high to rise. You’ve got to be sure of yourself before you can ever win a prize. Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can. 

Here are pictures of two highlighted pages in the book that I have read repeatedly and have found much comfort in:

  
  
 

Office Space: Retrospective Thoughts

I just re-watched Office Space for at least the 77th time. While released 17 years ago, the film still resonates today because it is relatable and is about everyday life in America,  i.e., our office life. Yes, there are some unrealistic things in the film (the hypnosis, the (spoiler alert) fire, how awesome Jennifer Anniston’s character is), but most of the film nails the drudgery of American office life. Roger Ebert recognized this in his review by calling it “…a comic cry of rage against the nightmare of modern office life.”

If the films Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street are primarily cautionary tales about the perils of the 1%-ers and films like The Grapes of Wrath and other films address poverty (approximately 15% of the United States), then Office Space is about the other 84% of us, i.e., the Middle Class. Topics the film addresses that ring true today are escapism, the obsolescence of certain jobs, efficiency consultants, bureaucracy and upper management, failed leadership, software glitches, loss of youth and dreams and paranoia of job loss. 

One of the many things the film does well is its realistic portrayal of the quintessential office weirdos: co-workers with annoying voices, with borderline disorders or that are nihilists, perverse or jealous. Office Space also does something that I am not sure any movie has done since (especially in our post-9/11 world): prominently include a funny, sympathetic (presumably) Muslim character who is as pathetic and relatable as everyone else in the movie. Samir Naheenanajar, is perhaps the most difficult character to pronounce in movie history. He also seems to be the least jaded and most hopeful of characters, perhaps because he knows how much better we have it here in the United States than in other countries. Which is a dose of reality that should help ease swallowing the bitter pill of office drudgery. 

For a political analysis of Office Space check out Work Sucks: How the Movie “Office Space” Proves Radicalism Lives in the Mainstream

“Pop-Up” Restaurants: A Fix For Empty Lease Space?

In the building where I work at my day job I tried some BBQ from a restaurant that I had never heard of. This restaurant has its brick-and-mortar BBQ ops about 20 miles away from Downtown Los Angeles in Whittier. But, thanks to this “permanent experiment”, I filled my empty belly with their quality, and still warm, brisket. And on other days I’ve had Asian-Fusion, Indian and other delicious meals. All thanks to an interesting fix for a common problem of failed restaurants and empty space: “pop-up” restaurants.  
Over the past 11 years many restaurants have opened and closed in this particular space. There was a health food “experiment” where I consumed many stale and rubbery meals because of convenience. There also was the American Sandwhich/Sushi/Terriyaki “experiment” that was better but also ultimately failed because it tried to be too many things at once. And I think one reason why is much like our attention spans have become out-of-whack due to our phones, social media and other gadgets, our pallets suffer from constantly changing tastes. 

 While some argue over the actual rate of restaurant failures and the possible causes, it is no secret that running a successful restaurant is difficult. However, a “pop up” space where numerous restaurants periodically “cater” and “experiment” makes sense in our fickle society. Of course, it makes sense to open “pop-up” spaces where there is a lot of foot traffic: business centers, downtown cores, etc. 

The BBQ that I tried that day, Wowo’s Smokin Hot BBQ, boldly advertises that it is “Some of the best BBQ in all of LA & OC” (an area that includes almost 10 million people btw).  

 The flavor and quality of the brisket surprised me: fresh, not chewy and not overly expensive. Having tried Wowo’s at the “pop-up”, I will definitely try them the next time I’m fixin for some BBQ and near Whittier. 

Cutting The Cable Cord & Retro TV

If it was up to me we would permanently cut the cable cord in my home. Even more so after we (and many other Califonians) were dumped by Verizon FIOS and picked up by the awful Frontier. With a combination of free Digitial Television, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Apple TV (and all of the content apps), there is more media than I can handle in any one sitting. Unfortunately, my wife’s addiction to HGTV and HBO trumps my desire. So thecable-cord syringe remains fully plunged in our arms. 

I still enjoy free Digital TV and the classic shows and movies it shows with at work hooked up with an antenna. And if you are interested in cutting the cable chord get to know these free movie channels: ThisTV, Movies and GritTV. I have watched many of my favorite classic movies from the 1960s through the 1990s, including one of my all-time favorites Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and even some from the 2000s on these channels.

A few years ago when my wife and I were living in separate cities I did completely cut the cable cord and mastered the available free Digital TV channels. Back then there were less channels than there are today. I became a big fan of free Retro TV show channels, AntennaTV, MeTV and, more recently, Decades. MeTV used to have a Sunday Night Noir special and that is when I started watching two of my favorite shows, The Fugitive and Route 66. You can still catch those shows sporadically on random free channels, especially during marathons on Decades. 

Both The Fugitive and Route 66 take place in different cities throughout the early 1960s, and mostly in the Western portion of the United States. Both shows operated on the semi-anthology format, i.e., shows that devoted most of their screen time to the weekly guest stars. Some of the notable (and then younger) guest stars on The Fugitive were Kurt Russell, Carol O’Connor, Charles Bronson, Robert DuVall, Telly Savalas, Leslie Nielson, Beau Bridges, Donald Pleasance and many others.

Route 66 followed two young somewhat lost men around the United States in a Chevrolet Corvette convertible, and the events and consequences surrounding their journeys, connections and odd jobs. The Fugitive, however, had a purpose: pursuit of the one-armed man, the true killer of Dr. Richard Kimble’s wife. 

I have read that The Fugitive was the first television show about paranoia, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it because there is always tension and suspense underlying every episode. I also enjoy the snapshots of early 1960s Americana in both shows. As “broken” as some people (i.e., Trump) say this country is today, many of the issues that we face today (income inequality, racism, alienation, broken homes) perhaps with the exception of terrorism (which is a relatively new problem that commenced with the First World Trade Center Bombing in February 1993) mirror those that are presented as topics in Route 66 and The Fugitive. And I find that comforting because we were still able to survive and prosper as a country notwithstanding those pervasive issues.   

Day Trip To Buelton, CA: A Cool-Ass Town

A “go-to” day trip that my family and I enjoy is to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. We spend most of our time in Los Olivos. This time around we wanted to spend a few hours outside of Los Olivos or Solvang so we ventured to Buelton

Buellton is in Santa Barbara County, California and is one of the communities that make up the Santa Ynez Valley. You may have seen Buelton in the 2004 comedy-drama Sideways.

We didn’t go to The Hitching Post, the restaurant featured in Sideways, though we drove right by it. Instead, we ventured to the “industrial” part of Buelton where Figuerora Mountain Brewing and Industrial Eats are located. 

Figuerora Mountain Brewing is located at 45 Industrial Way towards the end of “Industrial Way” off of the main strip of Buelton, Highway 246.  The brewery has indoor and outdoor seating. The outside seating has some covered seating and a game of cornhole. 

  
The inside portion is spacious with high ceilings surrounded by the large vats of brewing beer. You can purchase beer to go, growlers and growlettes. Old pictures of the Santa Inez Valley adorn the seating area. They don’t serve food but you can order food to be delivered.    

   
Rather than have food delivered check out “Industrial Eats” a half mile north at 181 Industrial Way. They serve quality, locally-sourced food. They use wood fired ovens (see picture below) and serve beer and wine on tap.  Industrial Eats is also a butcher shop where you can cut your own meat or take butchery classes. 

 If not in the mood for meat order some pizzas. Three pizzas will feed four hungry people very well. There are also fresh preserves, pâtés, cheese and handmade bacon.

The inside is vast while the outside seating is more limited. You’ll note in the picture below that indeed there is a “big ass fan” inside as they proudly note on their business cards.   

  

 

Revenge of the Nerds: Retrospective Thoughts

A few nights ago, one of my favorite 80s film came on HBO, Revenge of The Nerds. I have not watched this film in many years and was presently surprised that it (mostly) still makes me laugh as much as it did when I first watched it many years ago. But I also cringed. Perhaps being a new father to a daughter caused the cringing.

The college fraternity romp was released when I was 7 years old. It was rated “R” and there was no way I was going to see it in the theater. I knew I would have to wait until it came out on HBO a year or so later. I still remember being jealous when I heard my older cousins, who were also under 18, were taken to the theaters by one of our other cousins who was over 18.

Of course, my cousins told me about how funny the movie was. But what they really focused on was one sequence in particular: the panty raid scene/revenge filming of the Pi Delta Pi’s.

Spoiler alert: to get back at the abusive jock fraternity and their sorority cohorts, the nerds break into the PDP’s house and secretly stash cameras throughout, including bedrooms and bathrooms. The nerds then secretly watch the girls as they dress, shower etc. This was a famous scene/sequence, one of the funniest and most talked about. Later in the film we see the nerds sell photos of one of the naked sorority girls to raise money at a homecoming competition between the fraternities. And that sorority girl then falls in love with one of the nerds.

I don’t think such a scene/premise could be replicated these days. Nor do I think it should. Maybe there is something scarier today about the fact that these nerdy guys with superior computer and other knowledge committed such a heinous act: perhaps we laughed back then because we thought it was ridicules and impossible. But these days, such an invasion of privacy is not impossible, it actually happens.

And that is one reason why the Erin Andrews sex crimes verdict  was at least one step in the right direction. Last week (March 7, 2016), a jury awarded Erin Andrews $55 million in her civil lawsuit over the secret recording and release of a video showing her naked during a hotel stay.

The other step is just hope that something like the sorority scene in Revenge of the Nerds will never be repeated, in movies or in real life.

My First Post

I’m Randy Smith. I live in Southern California. And I observe, study and write about many random things that interest me. So random in fact that perhaps my pen name should be “Random Randy Smith”? Ok, lame joke. Apologies. 

My random interests include Los Angeles, film noir, the 1980s (particularly 80s movies and music), transportation, local government, punk rock, writing, time management, movies, entrepreneurship, road trips, food, drink, relationships, day trips and other random things.

So yeah. I’m into a lot of things. Maybe too many things. What can I say? I’m an ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. So it’s hard to stay focused and to limit myself.

One thing I can limit is the amount of my words. My eyes get glassy when I read overly long passages on my phone. And sometimes I just prefer a quick read and hope there are others out there like me interested in quick reads on various topics.  I promise all of my posts will be 500 words or less. I have no clue if any one will ever read a single word of this. And that is ok. I promise those that do I will be brief, informative and sometimes even entertaining.

So for my first random thought/ tidbit, I will honor the upcoming holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. Tonight for dinner I had chicken pho from one of my favorite pho places in Redondo Beach, Pho Show. Without really thinking about it I grabbed a Guinness to drink with dinner. After cracking open the bottle I thought, that was dumb; no way would Guinness go with my chicken pho. Not the way prepare it with lots of lime, hot sauces and garnishes. However, upon taking my first sip I immediately realized how wrong I was. Guinness goes very well with pho. The thickness of the beer balances the hotness of the chili paste, hot sauce and hoisin packed broth.

So on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re sick of corned beef or shepard’s pie stop by your favorite pho place and take some pho home to go with a cold Guinness or two.