Saturday, December 24, 2005

The true meaning of X-Mas

Dear friends.

I would like first to say Merry Christmas and what a wonderful time of year it is.

I'm sure by now you know the meaning of Christmas, (if you don't please pick up a copy of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown). But what of the meaning of X-Mas?

X-mas, commonly refered to as crossing Christ out of Christmas, isn't really that at all. You see the English "X" character is actualy the 3rd letter of the Greek alphabet Chi.

Chi is the first leter of the greek word "Christo" translated Christ.

Thus even though some of your secular friends may be using a shorthand and not acutually writing out the whole word "Christmas" Christ is still in that word.

And that is the true meaning of the word X-Mas

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe

I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I saw the first preview during the first midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith.

So promptly after finishing I am Charlotte Simmons, I picked up a boxed set of “The Chronicles of Narnia” in hopes of reading the book before seeing the movie. Mission accomplished as I finished the book about an hour before the first midnight showing.

The movie starts out with a rather graphic sequence of the carpet-bombing of London by during Nazis in World War II. Now for those of you not expecting any Saving Private Ryan type scenes here, fear not, this does move the plot along.

A great deal of the action in this film was a screenwriter’s embellishment of the C.S. Lewis’s original story unlike “The Lord Of The Rings” series of movies which were more or less direct translations of Tolkin’s novels.

The new sequences made directly for the film are done with a great deal of care and love for the C.S. Lewis’s intent in his writing. However modern filmmaking practices were implemented with the same care.

The “Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the most famous of the seven books that make up “The Chornicles of Narnia”. It is the story of four children: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy; who discover the gateway to a magical world in the back of an oak chest in the spare room of an old professor’s house.

Once they enter Narnia they are treated not as simple strangers in a foreign land, but sought as royalty after by the residents thereof. Quickly they find that they are the pivotal players in power struggle by the white which and Aslan (So now we have a Lion and a Witch to go with our Wardrobe! I love it when things come together nicely).

Providing the conflict is the evil witch. And that’s about her character, pure evil. She lies to Edmund to trick him into betraying his siblings, so she may maintain power. It is his redemption provided by Aslan that turns him and allows Edmund the chance to single handedly turn the tide of the battle himself.

This is the root of the Christian symbolism that was the basic intent of C.S. Lewis’s work. Aslan’s self-sacrifice even visually is reminiscent of “The Passion of the Christ” which fits since that is exactly the metaphor the book sought to make.

The big battle scene was more or less glossed over in the book, but is filmed quite like the war for Middle Earth in the recent Lord of the Rings films. I would also call this feat of cinema quite sterilized when compared to its older brother. The audience for this movie is younger than it’s older brother’s so Disney took the effort to create an epic battle without showing any blood. Nonetheless the action doe keep you gripped.

Overall the movie makes it’s point and is as good a film as it could have been given the brevity of the source material. The screenwriting was done well enough to provide more believable dialogue than in Lord of the Rings, though fans of the book will find the additional scenes added in to the movie a bit tedious.

This movie is perfect for anyone who has read the book, Families, and children not quite old enough for Lord of the Rings. Disney did well in staying true to the book and Liam Neeson’s voice talents were perfectly cast as Aslan.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Adventures of Andy in Los Angeles

Part I: Don’t believe the hype, getting there is NOT half the fun

Not sure exactly when the day started, I suppose you could say that at about 3:20 when’s courtesy call (FYI, I use the term “courtesy” loosely anytime before 8 AM) woke me up, and for some reason I thought it was my friend MEMO calling me. At this point the automatic lady on the other end was telling me that my 6:20 flight was on time a. I swear even an automated female can be a tease!

My alarm goes off at 4 AM promptly. My clothes for the day already laid out and in place, I jump toward the shower, do my morning ritual and pack the last of my things, which is simply a toothbrush and comb. Load up the car and it’s off to the airport. Now the TSA warns you that getting to the airport Two hours early is the proper timing. Columbus International at 5:00 am is not that busy. I think I could have gotten there by 5:30 an still made this flight… if it took off.

But by 5 I am already through security and surfing the web on the free wireless access in the airport and waiting for my flight. Oddly by 6 they had not started boarding. By 6:30 they explained that there was a problem with the de-icing mechanism and they would try again in another 30 minutes.

After an Hour of delay I approach the ticket counter and ask about my connecting flight in Houston. They said that they had me on a later flight out of Houston and I would be getting to LA about an hour later.

But the next test of the Houston bound aircraft was not successful. They call everyone with connecting flights to the ticket counter to re-ticket us for other flights. Now My 6:20 flight has become a 11:55 flight. To compensate me I got a coupon for another flight and a couple food vouchers.

Did I ever tell you I’m not a morning person.

Again, back to the free wireless internet and I spend some time doing my monthly budget for the rest of the year and then call my friends in and headed toward California.

Finally at 11:30 my flight for Houston boards. But it’s a small shuttle plane and we have to walk out on the tarmac to get to the vehicle. It’s cold and windy and I was sure that had I waited long enough I could have just been blown to Houston. At least I had 2 seats to myself, which provided me with a little napping space.

Houston wasn’t so bad, the skies were partly cloudy but it was definitely warmer. I’ve got about an hour to get across the airport so I take the monorail to my terminal and head to my gate. I get there just as boarding is about to commence and decline to purchase a souvenir shot glass as is my custom anytime I fly.

Once onboard I notice an odor, or was it a stench. It was foul whatever it was. Something like standing between the rows of port-a-johns at the state fair.

Unfortunately I thought it was just the sutartess standing next to me at the time but as I approached the back of the plane where my seat was it got worse. It was so bad that the Captain came back to ask if we could live with us.

“If it means getting there sooner we’ll live with it,” a man seated behind me said.

Sounds like somebody else had a delay today too.

Over the plane’s PA the captain announces that there is a plumbing problem in the rear lavatory. Speaking of which, why don’t they just call the bathroom what it is, a rest room? Or a toilet, or… well what’s with the fancy word they had to make up? Can’t you have a “crapper” on a vehicle that cost half a billion to build?

So the maintenance people come on to take a look and nothing gets done.

With apologies we take off another 30 minutes late. And how embarrassing it is for me to tell my friends why I’ll be late this time.

4:30 PST I finally land in LA. I’m going on 17 hours of being awake now, and I’m not happy.

I get my bags and my friends come to pick me up.

Welcome to LA!

Part II: A night in

Apparently the people who got to the golden state on time had a good time going out to lunch and doing whatever it was they were doing while I was smelling poop left over from the San Juan to Houston flight.

We stayed in and watched Anime (Golden Boy, Elfin Laid), and Dave Chapelle. My stomach was not right from missing meals all day so I turned down an In N’ Out Burger and fries. However my good humor was coming back as we all started giving our own DVD commentary on these strange but amusing Anime shows.

Around 2 am we turn in. I swear I must have power slept because I was rather awake the next day, and didn’t remember dreaming when I woke up.

Part III: The breakfast of champions

Opening ones house to another human being is one of the most hospitable things one can do for their fellow man. I am ever so grateful when someone does this for me. Therefore on Saturday morning I volunteered to cook breakfast. If you’ve never had my breakfast, I serve what is commonly known as an “Andy Sandwich.” Yes I am quite the renaissance man, well traveled, articulate, technical, and I can cook! How do I stay single?

The Andy Sandwich is a toasted bagel served with eggs (I had to do them scrambled this time because I had too many customers and not enough skillet space for fried eggs) American cheese and 3 strips of bacon. Now you might think I’ve stolen a recipe from Ronald McDonald. Well I did, but not for the Egg McMuffin. You see several years ago there was a sandwich called the McJordan Deluxe which was a burger promoted by his greatness Michael Jordan. What I found very interesting about this burger was that it was topped with steak sauce. And that is the final ingredient in the Andy Sandwich.

Four more satisfied customers!

Part IV: Goin’ to East LA

The best part of seeing another part of the country with people who live there is you get to experience it for what it really is. So in preparation for this afternoon’s party, MEMO needed to pick up the carne asada. So Hibi, Marshall and I go along for the ride.

Much like this blog MEMO can be easily distracted and drawn toward another topic. So we end up in a Mexican neighborhood in East LA for the purpose of genuine Mexican food: Tacos and Beer! Now you could get tacos and beer just about anyplace but this particular joint had a live mariachi band!

Photo coming soon!

Already running late we head to the Mexican grocery. The biggest difference between this grocery store and the ones in Ohio are that they cook the tortillas fresh at the bakery. They were still warm in the package when we bought them.

Seasoning, and a ton of beer later we’ve checked out and are on our way back to Santa Monica for the party.

Part V: Santa Monica House party

It may speak poorly to the potency of the punch that I was at a house party and can articulate everything I remember. Fear not, what you are about to read did happen, or at least probably happened. Some other stuff may have happened too but if called to testify in front of the Supreme Court this is all I have to say.

We arrived back at Jason’s house and I’m the first one into the living room. Under one arm, a case of beer and in my other hand the only evidence of why we were late (see the above photo at the Mexican restaurant), but nobody saw the evidence because as soon as I walked in Vivian’s eyes light up and she comes to greet me with a hug.

“I had no idea you were going to be here!”

Well of course not, I didn’t let anyone know for this very reason! Yeah, I like to make an entrance.

As I make my way through a crowd watching USC v. UCLA Cher hands me a glass of her now world famous punch (Cher, I need the recipe!). One sip and I declared, “This is potent!”

As I make my rounds, hugging girls, shaking hands with guys and vaguely aware there was a football game on (Much like the UCLA defense). On the back porch I open a beer and offer a toast.

“This toast is to all of you! As you know I was AWOL for a while earlier this year and though I neglected many of you this is a thank you to everyone here who accepted me back. Thank you.”

A bottle of Sake from Japan is opened, Midori, more beer… What, we’re out of punch? Oh good, Cher’s making more!

I could go into detail about a cute blonde girl form Indiana, but I think I’ll refrain until those incriminating photos show up online somewhere.

Kevin and I relive the story about the Princess House girls once again to the people who weren’t there when it happened. An hour later Steve is telling the story to Jason. I told you it was a legend!

More guests show up, including Tommy Yune who gives us a private preview of the new Robotech movie, and Greg Sigoff one of the voice actors.

I feel like I’m an insider now!

Marshall passed out around 1 AM and woke up wearing lipstick. Where are those incriminating photos when you need them?

I think we finally got to bed around 3.

I love LA!

Part VI: LA Sci-Fi and Comic Convention

Not much happened here. Marshall was pretty hung over the whole day and everyone else was pretty tired from the day before. The only thing I bought on the convention floor was a pack of Lost trading cards. I did get a photo of Billy Zane an that blonde babe from Terminator 3. I think they’re in a vampire movie together.

We stuck around for the Robotech panel where the voice actors from the new movie were answering questions and signing autographs. Tom had the great idea of having each of them read a passage of “The Night before Christmas” in the voices that they perform on screen. What a riot!

Between cell phone updates of the Steeler game (curses to the Bengals!), I got a series of autographs and several photos with new Robotech Hottie Chase Masterson! I’ll let those photos speak for themselves!

We’ll get to part VII in about an hour when you’re done drooling.

Part VII: Konichawa Bitches!

Those of us from the Midwest desired seafood for dinner and we ended up at a Sushi restaurant. Being rather uneducated in how to order raw fish I allowed Marshall to order and I ate at his discretion. Wow I swear that stuff cleansed me from the inside. I was like anew man the next day.

But during dinner there was a sake toast. To frinds? To good times? All good toasts, but what fit was something we had watched on the Dave Chapelle DVD on Friday.

“Konichawa Bitches”

And that summed it up!

I bet you never thought this Midwest boy would love sushi?

Part VIII: Getting home is also not half the fun, but at least it’s easier than getting there.

Monday morning already? You mean I have to start thinking about going home? Yuck! Is there enough time to look into setting up residence here in… oh right, real estate bubble!

But at sunny and 70, it’s hard to start thinking about the snow 20-degree weather I’ll be to which I’ll be returning.

Marshall and I mill about the house, make a little breakfast, shower, see off the other guys and girl before MEMO comes to pick us up.

Once again I get a courtesy call from Orbitz. You may want to sit down for this. Are you sitting? Okay, now remember I warned you.

My flight was delayed!


I look up online what’s up and the inbound aircraft was delayed. MEMO arrives with his wife and takes us to LAX. Hugs, goodbyes all around.

I approach the ticket counter and ask about the delay. The nice lady tells me that I have been rebooked on another carrier, but now going through Detroit. The flight takes off sooner but I have to walk all the way across LAX. This also means I don’t get a Houston shot glass.

LAX is a big airport and carrying my luggage, a leather jacket and my laptop was a bit difficult to take across the airport. But I get to the new terminal and get my bag checked. I’m almost there. All I have to do is get through security.

This is where I learn Murphy’s Law. Going through the metal detector I am asked to have a seat. I’m being randomly pulled for further screening.

Now, maybe I was loosing my red-stateness being in a Blue state for a few days but I’m a red blooded Midwest American boy. And yet the airline wanted to make sure I’m not a terrorist. Perhaps I should sell t-shirts outside of airports that read “I VOTE REPUBLICAN”

Then again, if you wear one of these shirts on a flight to Boston you may get strip-searched!

I do everything the man says and pick up my luggage and head to a souvenir stand for a Los Angeles shot glass. In the gift shop Marshall calls me and we’re actually only one gate apart. After my purchase we meet up and that’s the final goodbye of the day for me.

As soon as Marshall boards his flight I’m called for mine and despite seated by a grandmother headed back to Michigan from New Zeland and a Chinese lady who slept the whole time this was a rather uneventful flight.

In Detroit I land, call all my friends who are Michigan fans to let them know I’m visiting their favorite state. Nobody’s too excited for me. So I find my gate and have a turkey and bacon wrap at a sports bar.

I considered buying a souvenir shot glass here but decide that I’m better off not purchasing anything with the word “Michigan” on it. Now I feel dirty for using the name of that state up north.

My final leg home is only a thirty-three minute puddle jump south. I land at pretty much exactly when I originally expected to.

It’s cold. About sixteen degrees and there’s a layer of ice on my car.

I miss LA Already.

But at least I’m back in a red state.
Who am I kidding, I miss LA!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Legend of Kevin, the Princess House girls and Andy the Wingman

This adventure is more than an adventure; it is now a legend in Southern California. The story has been passed down for the past two years and is in some circles regarded simply as myth. I am here to tell you that the story is true.

In July of 2004 I was in Anaheim, California visiting friends who had gathered for Anime Expo. As the day’s festivities were winding down, our party found themselves at the bar of the Hilton.

But that’s not where this story begins. As the legend has been passed on to me from Kevin, who really is the central focus of this story.

As we, the anime fans, were enjoying our time at our convention, the Princess House girls were also having their convention in other parts of the same hotel. Princess House, is kind of like Avon and Pampered Chef combined. It has something to do with selling house wares to housewives from housewives. Why these people can’t just go to Target like the rest of us I don’t know?

Now you have a little background let’s delve into the psychology of the situation. You first have the Anme fans. Currently on the fringe of pop culture but connected, mobile and young. Fortunately many of these people were too young for the hotel bar, so that leave the adults and the princess house girls here tonight.

The Princess house girls are a bunch of women, mostly homemakers, who are under the impression that selling items for a large company is on a par with running your own business. Congratulations, you’re in sales. But this sales job has a perk, a convention in July in Southern California. Now think about this, you have a hotel full of women away from their husbands, children and easy access to much alcohol. This is where Kevin comes in.

Kevin really is a great guy… could use a pair of dark socks, but otherwise a pleasure to be around. At some point during this weekend he meets a princess house girl. From his recollection, she makes the first move and approaches him. Oh, Kevin is the type of guy who subscribes to the philosophy “The older the berry the sweeter the wine.” He really likes soccer moms too! Unfortunately for Kevin he had to be somewhere before he could get to know this object of his affection.

Back to the bar. Really, I’m going somewhere with all this. As we have congregated at the hotel bar and everybody is happy, drinking and enjoying the company of each other, Kevin shows up and almost ignores us because who should he see, but the jewel of his eye… well for tonight at least. Kevin leaves us, walks over to her table and buys this woman… oh I don’t know her name, but let’s call her “Beth” (I’d say that the names have been changed to protect the guilty, but I really do forget the women’s names, and therefore don’t know if I’m changing them, or just recalling buried memories).

Meanwhile I’m goofing off with all my friends at the bar and somebody notices that Kevin has not one, but two of the Princess House girls over there.

“Man, somebody should go over there and help him out”

“Andy, go over there and talk to the other girl!”

“Why me?… fine, here, hold my camera”

And a legend is born!

I de-nerdify quickly, and use button up my over shirt so as to look less like a sci-fi nerd and more like a guy just chilling in So.Cal.

Casually I walk over, “Kevin, how you doing?” I say while holding out my hand.

Kevin shakes my hand but gets a look of nervousness not knowing what I’m up to. “Hi, Andy, um… you don’t need to be here right now.”

I give him a nod and a wink and sit in the chair next to the other woman. Let’s call her “Michelle”

And as Steve tells it when he passes on the legend it, “From a cold start Andy goes over there and just starts talking to this girl.”

Now a little background. I typically fly solo. No wingman; and it’s very difficult to break into a conversation of 3-5 females. Therefore when there is one, and Kevin is already working his mojo with her friend, I am free to do my thing.

So we continue the small talk routine for a while and the bar closes. Fortunately there’s an after-party on the pool level with the Princess House girls. Kevin and I get invited to join.

This totally changes the dynamics of the situation. Now, instead of just one girl I’ve got an audience of about 15 people, not just women. Now the men were probably gay. Let’s face it in a business marketed towards single women they’re more likely to have gay salespeople. Why? Well these homemakers are probably already married and know better than to trust a strait man!

But the most important detail that came of our migration to the pool area was that now Kevin and Beth are seated several yards away at a secluded little table by themselves. But I decide to stick around a little longer. I’ve got an audience, and a table full of liquor, so I start playing the role of bartender and dirty joke teller… Ask me about the couple flying to Dallas sometime.

I entertain, I get people drunk and I’ve got Kevin alone with some chick he just met this week.

After the party gets going pretty well I sneak out and into the shadows. My work here is done.

So I head up to the girls’ hotel room to get my camera and give them the skinny on what all went down to this point. I was congratulated on my efforts and being a real guy tonight.

You see I left for a few reasons. First off I thought there was a girl from my convention I had a chance with and didn’t want to trade a bird in the hand for two in the bush… turns out I was empty-handed all along. Secondly she was married or separated or something and I had some amount of moral objection to following through with this.

The next morning Kevin is harassed for his exploits (not that he would ever incriminate himself with the details of whatever else went on, but I invite you to use your imagination and feel free to include any farm animals, circus freaks, or road high-rise construction equipment in your fantasy).

Now you’re probably saying, legend? What legend? Yeah impressive somewhat that you can cold start a conversation with a strange woman; a nice thin to do for your friend, but not quite legendary.

But there is a final part to this story. One which I will probably not be done justice in writing as the oral tradition demands. But I will do it anyway.

Kevin tells the story the next morning at breakfast. After I had left, an unknown amount of time had passed and Michelle comes over to Kevin and Beth’s table.

“Where did Andy go?”

And that is the legend of Kevin, the Princess House girls and Andy the wingman.