Friday, December 24, 2010

Andy Williams in Las Vegas

Everywhere you go in Las Vegas, you hear Christmas music this time of year. 10 percent of more of what you hear will be sung by Andy Williams, whose voice President Reagan called a national treasure.

I saw Andy with Petula Clark a few years ago in his theater in Branson, and his voice was as clear as a bell. Sadly, that's not the case any more. His vibrato was out of control, he couldn't hold a note as well, and the elasticity and the just plain mellowness he was famous for was simply gone.

This was billed as a Christmas concert, and so most of the songs were thus. However, strangely, he didn't sing one of the songs he is most known for during the season, It's the Most wonderful Time of the Year. My favorite.

Also, it was not really a concert. After Andy would sing a couple of songs, he would bring out another act. It was a variety show, almost Ed Sullivan-ish. The acts were a fast violinist who enlisted an audience member to help, a couple of dancers who changed costumes amazingly behind seconds of being shrouded, a mime who used two dummies to dance. And one of the most astounding impressionists I've ever seen - and, believe me, I've seen some greats in person: Jim Bailey, Danny Gans -- and Bob Anderson was so good, he even did Andy Williams. All of these were amazing acts. They were very entertaining. While you had the feeling that Andy, at his age, could no longer sing during an entire 2-hour concert, his additions really did fill in the gap.

He also had a sister act of four singing in the foreground plus four more singers in the background. It really added to the music, as did the 10-member band.

Andy only sang three of his 50 or so chart makers, including Lonely street, and, of course, Moon River, which he called, "one of my favorite Christmas songs." He told a story about Lonely Street, saying that when he met Elvis for the first time when they were both performing in Vegas, Elvis said to him that the song was the only thing that kept him from going crazy in Germany while he was in the Army.

They had some items for sale in the lobby. The woman selling the items works directly for Andy and lives in Branson. How interesting that his entourage travels with him. I bought an autographed autobiography that he wrote three years ago. Should be an interesting, long read.

P.S. One of my kids, after reading a tweet of mine, asked his mom, Who's Andy Williams? He didn't want to ask me. And that photo that accompanies this article was probably taken 10 or 15 years ago; Andy is completely white-haired now, and seems smaller.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, 2010

This year’s giant Star Trek convention in Las Vegas was a crazy mixture of fans.

I sat next to one fan, a guy I’ve seen at these events for about 15 years now, who told me he had added another room to his house for his collection. “If I’d known, I would have doubled the size of that room. And it would still be too small.”

I met another fan in the Las Vegas Hilton hotel elevator. She was dressed from antenna to toe as an Andorian. She was awaiting her daughter’s arrival at the hotel. “She’s never seen me like this,” she said. Boy, she’s in for a shock, I thought.

The fans are a big part of why I go every year. I often don’t know I’m going until July, when I wake up one morning and, with a friend in tow, find myself booking tickets.

I heard the results of a few polls within the convention. Nearly half of the convention crowd had not attended the Las Vegas convention before. And a third of them had never been to a convention at all before. Lots of new fans are now coming to these things, spurred on, one would suspect, by the immense popularity of the new movie.

I was very pleased to see that there were a couple of panels featuring Deep Space Nine actors. And, gosh, they all look to be the same age as when they played these superbly defined characters some 18 years ago.

On the first panel: Casey Biggs, Marc Alaimo, Andy Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, and Salome Jens. Below are some of the things they said that I thought were noteworthy.

Casey thought the “ratings really took off in the third or fourth season when the war really got going,” and several thought the show mirrored what was happening in the U.S., overcoming predjudices. Marc: “Our show, Star Trek, particularly Deep Space Nine, had a lot to do with breaking down all those barriers. We’re gradually overcoming all of those.” Andy added, “I’ve always been opposed to violence, so it’s ironic” that his character was an anarchist. “My family was destroyed by war. What was left for Garak…must be like a German after World War II. Star Trek for me was the most effective when it was plugged in.”

Marc was asked to comment on what it meant to be a Cardassian. “One of my instincts in the very beginning was to get over the bullying. I never wanted to be a bully. One of the things about Dukat was his power and how he used it. You never saw anything on the show that he did that was cruel or bullying. I enjoyed underplaying his power and let his intellect take over.”

Casey: “The writing on the show was so good. If you’re going to play Hitler, Hitler didn’t believe he was a bad guy. You as an actor have to take these heightened situations… and find something you call can relate to. We are attacking the good guys, but in the end, the good guys become the bad guys. There are 15 different sides to everything.”

Andy commented that he compared the Cardassians to Prussians that “lived by the code, like a Japanese bushido code. The imperialism grew out of a lack of resources. That grew into absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He added about the character Garak, “He was brilliant. When you’re playing someone who’s more brilliant than you, it ups your game.”

With some prompting, Marc admitted that he was getting married “in exactly two weeks.”

The second panel featured Aron Eisenberg, Armin Shimerman, Nana Visitor, James Darren, and Rene Auberjonois.

Armin told us that, “I missed an opportunity (in preparing to play Quark). I should’ve read a lot about Chinese culture. I may be wrong. People in America say, aren’t the Ferengi the Jews? In Australia they say, aren’t the Ferengi the Chinese? Ferengis represent the other culture. Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.”

“I was never embarrassed about the culture. The culture was important to me as our culture is to us. I never saw them as comic characters.”

James Darren chimed in. “I never felt like I was different from anyone,” that everyone was so welcoming on the show. “I loved playing Cupid for Rene and Nana. I loved playing the character because it reminded me of Frank and Dean. I lived through that era quite heavily. It gave me a nice way to express myself. To me, Vic was my idol.” As for the show, “I wish it were still on.”

Rene added to the discussion. “Everyone on this stage could make that argument” that they were an outsider. “The first time I walked on that set, my mind was blown. It (the Promenade) became the heart of that show: that set. Quark’s was the saloon in town and that’s where we gathered. Armin interrupted, “And you were the sheriff.”

Aron: “I felt really connected to everybody. It was the best time of my life.”

Nana, how did you get past Odo’s rubber during your kissing scene? “Rene’s power.” Nana added, “It began as a friendship and that’s the only conclusion it could have (that Odo left).” Rene: “I think the writers always knew that Odo would be going back to where he came from.”

I saw Nana in one of her first convention appearances in Santa Rosa, California. Buster was three months old then, and I swear she looks the same now as she did then. With as much enthusiasm. She says she’s having fun in her new baking business in New Mexico, and finds it very challenging.

Other items at the convention I really enjoyed:

1. The comedy routines. I couldn’t tell you which of the three panels was funnier, among The Voyager crew, the improv routine of Dean Haglund and Claudia Christian (doing Q and Janeway, loosely), and Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner together on stage. Each one was hilarious.
2. Seeing Julie Newmar on stage. She had to be helped up on stage in a smaller room, with a smaller audience, and told some great stories. She never really answered any of our questions, but it didn’t seem to matter. Catwoman is still sharp.
3. Seeing Marc Alaimo, Jeff Combs and Casey Biggs do their Shakespeare show, a few scenes from The Bard. They weren’t on the schedule, which may be why Marc was studying his lines on the side before he joined in.
4. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Sure, you’ve seen them before, but they’re still hilarious, especially together, and gosh, they’re still alive.
5. Little things like seeing Bill Sadler late at night, approaching some Trekkies at the Star Trek slot machine. He wanted to know how it worked. And watching a soundless “Generations” movie play on the big screen at the Starquest bar. And the big, twitter-prompted party at the bar on Sunday night; one bartender claimed it was “crazy, a madhouse, maybe 3,000 Trekkies. We should’ve had several more bartenders taking drinks.”

I would say the only disappointment was that there wasn’t anyone truly new on stage. In past years we got to see people like Stephen Collins, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Lloyd, all great people with great stories.

But it was great seeing old-time fans like Blair, Jo Beth, Freddy, and many more. May we all live long and prosper.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Comic Con: The Best Moments of 2010

Well, I didn't blog as much as I thought I would. Most of the problem was that the keyboard on the iPad is virtual, and I kept making error after error in trying to type like QWERTY. Frustrating. And the other problem was that I was living in the moment. That was good.

But here are the Best Moments of Comic Con from my perspective. Also, remember that I'm only reporting what I saw, what I experienced.

1. Ryan Reynolds reciting the Green Lantern Oath.

Simply awesome. The guy is serious. We love that. GL has always been one of my favorite superheroes.

2. The Big Bang Theory songs. This is not just one thing during the panel, but two: The Barenaked Ladies came out and sang the theme song - wow!! And we all sang along because they gave us these song lyric pages. There are three stanzas (is that what they call them?). Ooh. And THEN, Sheldon, oops, I mean Jim Parsons, sang "Soft Kitty" to us. You had to smile.

3. A surprise Quantum Leap panel. I ended up sitting through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force panel by myself while waiting for Ricky and Debbie to join me. Film clips of the best "Oh, Boy!" moments, Scott Bakula reminiscing. It was just wonderful.

4. An 8-minute clip from the new movie, COWBOYS & ALIENS, which actually has cowboys and aliens in it! Jon Favreau was there to talk about it, and brought onstage stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in their first Comic Con appearances.

5. Tom Felton - Draco Malfoy - was there to introduce a small clip from the latest Harry Potter movie. Tom seemed like a nice guy. I know, unfathomable. And he picked a raffle ticket -- we all had them -- for someone to win a prize. Sadly, he didn't answer any questions about the movie.

6. Spartacus. Say no more. I was expecting Lucy Lawless to produce her "special guest star," the merkin, but alas, she saved it for an interview later. The cast was bawdy, really in the moment, everything you expected and more. I had hoped to see a trailer about the prequel, but no dice. Nice to see, though, that Andy Whitfield looks healthy after having undergone treatment for melanoma.

7. Guillermo del Toro, wedged into the Hall H schedule, introduced his new film verbally (without any footage) by saying he is remaking The Haunted Mansion. And that he's not taking Eddie Murphy's phone calls. He says this one will be scary, not a comedy. And then he said if you get to a certain room upstairs within the next hour, you'll get a special prize. I did. It was a long poster of the ghost that was expelled from the original ride so many years ago (too scary for kids?). And the artist was there that hour to sign it.

8. Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber were there for Salt (a film I caught yesterday when I returned home). Jolie was very gracious, answering every stupid question from the fanboys, the same question over and over. And Liev, while getting few questions, was very witty when he did.

9. A glimpse into the Thor and Captain America films. The Avengers may very well happen.

10. The Exhibitor's Hall, or the dealers' room, didn't seem as crowded as last year. Maybe it's because they spread out programming alll over the place, including two other hotels.

Bad things at the con:
Picking up your swag at another hotel (sheesh).
Long lines, again, for anything.
Very little AT&T access -- with 120,000 people using it, trying to solve riddles, scavenger hunts, blog, post to eBay, etc., this was a major letdown, even after they promised they'd have the capacity. They didn't.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic Con, Day 4

"Can I see your iPad?"


"Can I hold it?"


Teenage boys think they should be able to do anything, even if it isn't theirs. Even right now, he's leaning against my chair, with an arm along the side.

At 8 in the morning on the last day, we're in line for Sideshow Collectibles. The panel starts in 2 hours.

Stupid boy, who said he was 15 and waiting for the Halo panel after Sideshow. But stupid mature adult - me - who saw the door open and an opportunity to charge her phone. I left the room when Debbie pointed out that a line was forming. They locked the doors and I could't get back in. Thankfully Debbie proactively found a staffer who wasn't a volunteer, and went in and retrieved my phone. Whew.

After this, there's the Merlin panel, and then we're free to roam the dealer's room one last time.

Highest bid on eBay item: $81 so far on the Hatbox Ghost litho from the new Haunted Mansion movie. (It later went to $152.50.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comic Con 2010 - Day 3 continued...

Looks like a group of people were just escorted out for some bad behavior. That's what security should be doing rather than trying to force us to move into the center to free up the prized aisle seats for newcomers. Newcomers who didn't get here at 6 in the morning to get in line.

Nice seeing Milla Jovovich, here to promote her fourth Resident Evil film. Alice is by now rather American iconic. The footage has women kick-ass fight scenes, but a plot you could stuff in a paper bag.

Debbie went off to find the Dark Shadows. I hope she make it in. The only people who remember that vampire soap opera are approaching 60.

Oops, had to stop typing to take a freebie on the aisle: a pair of sunglasses promoting Paul, a new movie starring Simon Pegg and Sigourney Weaver. We'll learn more in about 5 minutes.

Comic Con Day 3

We were in line this morning four solid hours for Hall H, and it's already been worth it: a preview of the new Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, followed by a preview of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

It was a full panel for Green Lantern, including Peter Saarsgard and Mark Strong. Ryan gave away a prop ring to the person who found a special piece of paper under their seat. The footage we saw didn't show GL in costume, but did show him using the ring to form a giant green fist, just like he used to in the comic. To much applause.

A big surprise! Draco Malfoy in the form of actor Tom Felton introduced footage to the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He actually seems, er, nice. And footage looks intense.

We were also shown a.clip from Zach Snyder's latest film, Sucker Punch. Most in the audience were not impressed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Comic Con Day Two

We're sitting in line -- inside this time - for all the TV programming in Ballroom 20, which holds about half the amount of Hall H. Our ultimate goal will be seeing The Big Bang Theory panel this afternoon. But in the meantime we'll see panels for Stargate, and Caprica. After that, we will try to get into 6BCF for Lucy Lawless and the Spartacus panel. That one is less sure.

One surprise was seeing Johnny Depp on video, telling us about the new Pirates of the Caribbean. He wa dressed as Cap'n Jack Sparrow. It was a nice, witty speech about nothing and booze and it was a lot of fun.

I did enjoy seeing Angelina Jolie yesterday. She and Liev Schreiber were here promoting Salt. I really appreciate the fact that she got the same question at least 4 times but didn't make fun of them. Why did you pick this part - she tried to answer each time earnestly. And Liev Schreiber was very funny. I really admire his work.

But during that presentation, Debbie and I left, hoping to turn in our tickets for Haunted Mansion swag. When we got to the little room upstairs, we found a 30's-looking guy sitting there. As we got to the top of the queue, we found he was signing a 3-ft long poster in silver ink.

The poster is a beautiful green-on-black rendition of the HatBox Ghost, a scary apparition that was removed from the Haunted Mansion ride. The artist is Ragnar. I know 'cause I asked.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SDCC: Okay, It's Still Day One

I forgot to mention that a guy ripped off his clothes during the MegaMind panel. Stupid.

I had to leave the Angelina Jolie and Liev Schrdiber panel to pick up the free gift, which turned out to be an exquisite poster of the HatBox ghost, signed by the artist. I hate posters. Can't get 'em home. Shipping is too expensive. They wrinkle if you breathe..

SDCC, day 1 continued

Our first movie promotion today was a little late, but then they showed a 3D preview of Master Mind, an animated film starring the voices of Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, and Brad Pitt. Will Ferrell came out blue, dressed A's his character. Tina Fey came out dressed as Tina Fey. Jonah Hill came out, wise-cracking all the way. Just when we thought Brad Pitt would come out, Will Ferrell brought out a life-size, cardboard stand- up, and we were reminded that, if Angelina Jolie had to be here today, somebody's gotta take care of the kids.

Uh oh - we just got word that the 999 cards they gave out while we were in the long line to get in will get us something related to the new Guillermo del Toro film, The Haunted Mansion. Del Toro assured us that it's not going to be funny, it will be scary. "And we're not returning Eddie murphy's phone calls."

More later.

Comic Con 2010, Day 1

Actually, it's really Day 2 for us. Debbie and I visited the San Diego Zoo yesterday, and when we got back at 2:30pm, Ricky was already waiting for us in the Worldmark lobby.

We checked him in and chatted awhile, and then headed over via the trolley to the huge convention center. We went right in, upstairs, and then stood in line to register for not even5 minutes. We got our badges and our humongous Warner Bros bags. I lucked out and got a Big Bang Theory bag. The next line, however, was much longer, an hour or so, and that was to sign up for 2011. I see they raised my senior ticket $2 to $52. A steal.

We trolled the voluminous dealer's room -- about the length of 3 or more football fields -- looking for items I'd read about that would be available for free. We either didn't get to places like CBS in time, or they offer things on a random basis.

We spent about an hour in the big room, and then limped back to the timeshare. We were very tired. Ricky finally made up his mind what time we would meet early Thursday: 6:15.

What with the ache in my knee and my feet, I didn't sleep well but was eager to get started in the morning. Debbie reported that the people above us kept her up until 3am. Even with those distractions, we were ready to go at 6am.

We got to the end of Hall H after we climbed off the trolley in the drizzling rain, found our place on the grass, and sat for 2.5 hours. A long wait. I sat. I stood. And finally we moved into the big Hall H, picked up our (lame) freebies on the way end, and then scrambled quickly for 3 seats on an aisle. We guess there wee at least a thousand people in front of us in line, and thus in front of us in the hall.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Build It and They Will Sleep

European Sleep Works has been a dream during this whole bed process. Not a bad comment when you consider the process has taken about 10 weeks.

Today was the delivery day, the window 11am to 1pm. They showed at 11:30am, much to my surprise. My past "experiments" with delivery have not gone so well. When I look at the patio furniture, I see blood.

But there they were. I showed them the side entrance, after closing doors that would keep the dogs out of the area, which meant they had to bring the bed and mattress through two gates, up a flight of stairs to the deck, and through the French doors. They didn't argue. When I saw they had to put the thing together, I was astonished. 9 weeks to build the wood. 1 week to ship from the east coast. Half an hour to put it together.

But put it together they did! It's a beautiful sleigh model, king size (European king). I am now washing sheets to put on it, as the cotton sheets will shrink to fit. Supposedly. We'll see how that goes.

But I'm sleeping on a new bed tonight! I just have to figure out to get Princess up on this high bed...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tumble Forward

I bumped up against a speed bump at the Desert Inn & Suites in Anaheim on Monday night. And fell right on my face. And, as it turns out, my left knee.

I was walking around, went back to my room, and called Dawn to help. I was bleeding profusely from the mouth, and immediately felt inside, even before lifting myself up off the concrete, to feel to see if my teeth were still there. They were, but one felt different.

This photo of the leg is three-and-a-half days later, Thursday. I would've taken a photo when it was the worst on Monday night around midnight, but (1) I couldn't reach the camera, and (2) I had other things to think of. Now that I know nothing is broken -- thanks to the doctor I saw on Tuesday -- I will just let everything heal.

I have to replace my glasses. I have to replace that tooth. But otherwise, I should be good. Walking is a little easier every day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gary Danko

No, Gary Danko isn't the latest pitcher for the Oakland A's. He's one of the world's finest chefs. And we went to this 5-star restaurant last night to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. It was a heavenly evening.

After all day of going, "uh, uh" when trying to describe what we ate for which course, here is the Taster's Menu:

Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar, Zucchini Pearls and Lettuce Cream

Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers
and Mustard Sauce

Seared Filet of Beef with Yukon Potatoes, Curried Cauliflower,
Cumin-Cilantro Butter and Tamarind Glaze

A Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses

Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces

While some would argue that such a menu in the hands (mouth?) of someone who doesn't even know what she's tasting is, well, wasted. I can see their point. But I can assure such naysayers that I savored every bite, that I enjoyed every minute with my sweetie.

Favorite moment? The service was exquisite. Everything was pitch-perfect, timed wonderfully. But perhaps the best moment was the 4th course, when they rolled the very large cheese cart toward us, as we're already stuffed, knowing we would have to make room for four very special bites of cheese. It was quite an experience.

One doesn't do this every day. I understand that. It'll be one of my best memories.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Petula Clark at the LV Hilton

Tipped off by the IPCS newsletter (International Petula Clark Society), of which I am a member, I was able to buy one ticket to see Petula Clark at the Las Vegas Hilton in early May.

I promptly informed Sweetie that I would accompany her that weekend to her gig in Henderson, Nevada.

I used the GPS to get from a picnic in Henderson to the mighty Hilton, going over no less than 4 freeways and a lot of commute traffic. But I found myself there, hunting for a parking space for the rental car in what seemed a very busy parking garage on Paradise Road, next to the Hilton. Granted it was Saturday night, but it was early Saturday night, and, besides, wasn't this a recession?

I was to find out very soon that (1) there was an international boxing match going on in town, and people would watch from each of the hotels, as well as gamble on its outcome at the sports book, and (2) there was a wedding going on at precisely the moment I parked.

But all of those are good reasons to go early, which I did. I picked up my Will Call ticket, used the match ticket attached to it to play a little blackjack, and finally went to the auditorium.

The Hilton auditorium brought back a lot of memories. My brother and I saw Elvis there. It's funny, I can't remember the year. Maybe mid-'70's? It was certainly before they remodeled the place. When we went that first time, all of those luxurious booths were in place, and all the celebrities were in them. We, of course, were wayyyy in the balcony, at a little table high above the stage, and I was trying to maneuver through my drinks they demanded I buy.

This night, however, I was third row center, a marvelous seat. And you can bet everybody there in those seats down front was a real fan. Well, except for the 4 people behind me; they certainly knew Petula, could name a song or two, but they didn't fall into the rabid category. Everybody else around me, however, were shaking hands, re-introducing themselves to each other. Most were from the IPCS, and had met each other at other events. Two couples had flown in from England to see her.

Her set was marvelous. Half the songs I had never heard her sing live. Oh, yes, I recognized all but one, but only from CDs. And she managed to squeeze in many of her hits, most in truncated form. And she told some marvelous stories: one about filming with Fred Astaire, and the other about playing the piano for Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland after she had recorded his song ("This Is My Song") and it had become a hit.

At one point a fellow down front yelled, "Downtown!" Petula glared at him, and mentioned something about, well, if I did that, we could all just pick up and go home, couldn't we? I thought that was very funny. Of course, she got to Downtown at the end, and entreated us all to sing that magic word of the refrain.

Come to think of it, she also asked for our help with a few other songs as well. And since we all knew the words, that was a lot of fun.

Each time I see her I wonder if there will ever be another time. This time seemed special because it was layered on other memories. And because, indeed, at her age, I wonder if we'll ever see her live again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Perfect Game

I couldn't sleep last night. There may have been many reasons, but this one kept coming to the front of my brain: My Oakland Athletics threw a perfect game.

Not just a no-hitter. A perfect game. Viva Dallas Braden!

I watched the guy for some 5 years now. I remember him carrying the candy bucket for the pitchers, arriving eagerly at the bullpen before the game. I remember seeing the bill that was so straight, all the birds from The Birds could perch on it, thinking, who is this kid? I remember watching him take the freight train from Sacramento to Oakland, bomb out, and then go back again. But there was something about this kid.... you were pulling for him.

At the age of 26, he has now arrived.

I didn't go to the game. I had tickets, but I gave them to our son, Jamie. I messaged him some no-hitter trivia facts in the 7th inning: Dave Stewart threw the last no-hitter in 1990. I didn't dream the game would be perfect. That's so hard, nearly impossible, and depends upon 9 guys being absolutely perfect. But, yet, they were.

I had the game on as I did household chores. Those chores got left behind once we reached the 6th and there were still no hits by the powerful Tampa Bay Rays. Awesomeness was approaching. I cried when the final out was made, Pennington to Barton, and joined with my teammates in jumping up and down.

I still haven't gotten over it. It will probably be the only one I'll ever witness, even though it wasn't live. The event is still awesome, even a day later. This is why you watch baseball, to watch young men do extraordinary things. Especially on the Little Team That Could. This is why I'm an Oakland A's fan.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Report from San Diego

I thought yesterday was a nice moment for a change, the day when my brother would be moved to a convalescent hospital. He was, but for only one day. Today he was moved back to the hospital because of a high fever and loss of affect (lethargic).

This doesn't look good. I thought by now, he'd be moving around more, more responsive, answering questions. Not only does he not make any sense when he talks, he talks a lot less now, if at all. Which wasn't really true when I visited him a week ago. He was talking up a storm, but not making any sense, literally.

I wait by the phone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My New Best Friend

My new best friend is the GPS. Which stands for, which works how.... Yeah, yeah, yeah, who cares. It works.

In the last year I've been to Orlando, Phoenix, Las Vegas. Driving all the way from Las Vegas to Oakland (in 8 hours, thank you). Currently in San Diego. I would be lost, literally, without my new friend.

Recalculating, recalculating...

I would constantly turn in the wrong direction, or misread a sign and turn here instead of there. Or, unable to get over to the freeway desired because of the horrible traffic, as happened to me in Phoenix during spring training, I kept going. "Recalculating, recalculating," the computer would tell me. And then it told me to take the next exit, took me around the block to the entry to the new freeway, and told me to get on it. Twice. I obeyed.

In San Diego to visit my brother in the hospital, I had to get from the San Diego Airport to the motel in Chula Vista, then to the hospital in that same town, then to Coronado to visit my nephew, then back again. True, for several of those hospital visits, my nephew picked me up at the motel, but for the others, I was on my own.

When I visited my nephew at his home, his 13-year-old son Danny asked him for permission to program his new GPS. Of course, at the time Danny was doing his English homework and looking for any distraction. "Maybe this weekend," replied his dad. I shook my head, and told both of them, "It doesn't need programming. It works right out of the box." Dismayed but undeterred, Danny said, "but I still have to program it in the car." I shook my head again. "Very simple. Plug it in, put in the address, and go."

Recalculating, recalculating. You gotta love it.

Visiting the Contagious

With Scott's help, I was able to visit Marvin the last two nights. We didn't go into the room, however, but it didn't make much sense to do that. He is highly contagious in the MICU at Sharp. He was sleeping, not communicating much. But today was a different story.

I am on my way back to Oakland, so I thought I'd give it another try. I actually found parking at the hospital -- a minor miracle, it seems -- and walked in, got my visitor's badge, and went to the fifth floor to the MICU, the contagious wing of the ICU. He talked to me, looked at me, but his responses didn't make much sense. Still, I was happy for the contact.

They have been talking about moving Marvin to the other ICU, the less-intense ICU, but the cardiologist won't sign off on the move because the drugs he's on keeps giving him arrhythmia. He's receiving great care, so what do we care?

I talked with James, the PA, again this morning. He asked me some questions: Did he get a flu or H1N1 shot? I don't know but I doubt it. Does he have an advanced care directive or living will? Not as far as we know. Believe me, I said, we've been talking about this the last few nights. However, he may have a will in his computer; whether or not it's been activated by a lawyer, I do not know. Ricky will work on the computer in the future to try to dig it up.

Right now, though, that doesn't seem all that necessary. He's improving.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

San Diego, Again.

Here I am in San Diego. It's not a fun visit.

I don't know this area of San Diego. As I just told nephew Scott a few moments ago on the phone, when I was growing up, this area was dirt. No buildings, no growth. He even remembers the growth during his lifetime.

But I'm here because my brother is ill. A group of terrible things has assailed his body, which is 69. It doesn't look good. I'm hoping for the best. It's been 3 days now, and I thought we'd know more. We seem to know more about what's happening to him, but not whether their treatment will work.

I don't have to mention that this brings up my feelings of mortality. More to come.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The San Francisco Star Trek Convention

Creation Entertainment has been gone from San Francisco for a good number of years, but they promised to return in 2010. I was surprised that they managed to book the San Francisco icon, the Westin St. Francis Hotel. The Westin St. Francis in the old days would never have greeted Trekkies at the front door! As Creation’s Adam Malin commented, the down economy made it possible.

The convention boasted the appearances of William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart on Sunday. I was delighted that Saturday seemed to be Deep Space Nine day.

It took so long to register at Creation’s table that we found Armin Shimerman and Max Grodenchik already on stage. Someone asked just then if they were really friends. Armin replied, “Yes, we’re very good friends even though Max doesn’t think so.” Max just smiled.

Another fan asked Max how he got the girl (Leeta). He explained that Dr. Bashir is a good-looking guy, “and his female fans wanted him to be single. So they came to me,” he reported to a big laugh.

The question of make-up invariably came up, as it always does. I’m always surprised by the answers because Armin and Max are such great storytellers. “We started at 4am and were done by Wednesday afternoon,” said Armin as the crowd roared. Armin added, “My make-up took longer than Max’s, but my make-up looked better than Max’s.” They both agreed it took two hours to complete the make-up by the seventh year of the show. What’s it like wearing that head? “Like a head cold,” explained Armin. “You’re congested and you can’t hear, which is ironic. The make-up got to be oppressive by the ninth hour, and you wanted to rip it off. But, of course, you couldn’t.”

Max added to the debate. “There was a scar (on his face) from the day before, and they’d apply the glue directly into the scar. It hurt like hell.” Armin added, “We used to be 6’ tall leading men…”

One fan asked why Quark seemed to show a lot of emotion in the episode where Quark went back to the Ferengi home planet to stop Moogie from making a profit and destroying their reputation. Armin: “I was dealing with my own problems with my mother (at the time). They (the scenes) were much more emotional and heartfelt from the others.”

A small boy came up and explained that he really liked the Ferengi episodes. He added that he and his mother were going to the costume party at the convention dressed as Quark and Ishka, respectively. “No offense,” he said to Max. Max stuttered in reply, “But I’m the Grand Nagus!”

Favorite Rules of Acquisition:
Max: #48 – The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife.
Armin: #1 – Once you have their money, never give it back.

Casey Biggs ran on stage with a lot of enthusiasm. He opened by saying that he loves San Francisco, and he and his wife had the most wonderful dinner the night before. “My wife writes cookbooks, and I’m surprised I don’t look like John Schuck,” referring to the rather rotund actor who played a part-time Cardassian on Deep Space Nine.

Casey related how he got the part of Damar, the Cardassian lieutenant to Gul Dukat. The audition consisted entirely of five lines, “They’re enraged, Sir. Fire!” and producers were very impressed with how he said the lines, which Casey thought was very funny. “An extra could say these lines. I was trained at Julliard! But swallow your pride and go in and say the lines.” When he gets the part, “I think it’s a one-day gig. Three hours for make-up. One hour to take it off. Two pounds of rubber on my face.” The director whispered to him during Casey’s scenes, “They have big plans for this character.” As Casey related, “We were the Nazis of outer space. When I was looping my character – adding dialogue, I got a note that read, ‘We want you to sound more Cardassian.’ So I made it more militaristic. Marc Alaimo epitomized that to a T. He was scary.”

When it came time for Damar to die, Casey was delighted that it was in the last episode, and almost the last scene. Except that he read that Damar was to be killed by a ‘ND alien,” where ND meant ‘non-descript.’ “I told the director I wanted a John Woo death (i.e., guns blazing, blood flying, dying in a beautiful woman’s arms). And that’s what happened. Only I die in Andy Robinson’s arms.”

Vaughn Armstrong came out when Casey was finished and the two of them sang a couple of space ditties that Vaughn had composed. Vaughn has played 12 Star Trek characters. Or, as Casey explained, he’s spent more time in the make-up chair than anyone. On one episode, he spent six-and-a-half hours in the make-up chair only to be told they didn’t need him that day. He had to come back the next day and do it all over again, starting at 3:30am. They were done shooting in about 20 minutes.

Vaughn told us that the pay was very good at the time. And Star Trek just keeps on giving. “Every episode I’m in I get residuals. And every day one of them plays somewhere.”

Patrick Stewart came on stage, looking dapper as always. He told us that he had seen the new Star Trek movie and immediately called J.J. Abrams to tell him what a marvelous movie he had made. The night before, Patrick attended the performance of the San Francisco Symphony, led by Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas and featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Yo-Yo, apparently, was “devastated” that he couldn’t come to the convention on Sunday. “And I mean ‘devastated.’” MTT and Ma’s daughter, Emily, however, made it to the convention. Patrick told us that he will be performing with the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas in Chicago next month.

We haven’t seen Patrick much, as he’s been working for the last six years in the theatre. Although he really enjoyed his years on Star Trek, “the last six years have been the best and happiest (years) of my life.” He announced that his Hamlet will air on PBS in April. “It’s three hours long, so clear the evening. It’s terrific.” And his MacBeth, which promises to be truly a different take, will air on PBS in the fall. “It’s as exciting a production of Shakespeare as I have ever seen.”

In an answer to an aspiring actor, he answered, “First thing: expose yourself to as much Shakespeare as possible, and one is by reading. Don’t be afraid of it. Actors do not have a better friend than Shakespeare. Rent the DVDs. See it live whenever you can. Find a company and stick with it.”

Someone asked him about being knighted, and we heard: “It hasn’t happened yet.” He received a letter in the mail, which he finally opened when he got to his stack of mail. “Quite an emotional letter.” Then he had to pick a date this summer when he would be knighted. And he had to remain silent about that fact until it was announced just before New Year’s. “I’m looking forward to it immensely.”

Upon this declaration, William Shatner came on stage and knelt before the almost-Sir Patrick. He had to be helped up by Stewart, who proclaimed, “Arise, Sir!” Shatner said: “I was wondering if you’d put in a good word for me.” As it turns out, they’re both resident aliens in the U.S., since Patrick is from England and Bill is from Canada.

When Patrick had left the stage, Bill said to the audience, “I admire him so much. This incredible theatrical reputation. But then," he added with a smirk, "I’m Captain Kirk.”

Bill’s new interview show, Raw Nerve, has been received very well. He announced that he will have three shows on the air this year, as projects he’s produced (one is “Aftermath” on A&E) will be launched. “To hell with Shakespeare.”

He related that he has yet to see the new movie, but J.J. Abrams promised to give Bill, his family and friends a private screening of Star Trek on the Paramount lot very soon.

A fan asked Shatner about his death scene on Generations. He told us that, as he lay in the rubble, on one take his last words, ad-libbed, were, “bridge on the Captain…”

The room was packed for the two captains, and they seemed to get along famously, each of them quite secure in what are hallmark careers. It was a pleasure to see them.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Few Odds and Ends

I find it interesting that, on my cancer blog,, more people reacted to the short article I wrote about the death of singer Kenny Rankin, who died last year of lung cancer at a young-ish age in his sixties. His death really struck a chord.

I attended one-half of a Star Trek convention this weekend. They are so seldom in San Francisco these days. Thank God they're no longer at the horrible Masonic temple on top of that hill. It was Deep Space Nine day today. It was great to run into my friends Jen and Amy, whom I met at a Battlestar Galactica convention some years ago. There aren't many sci fi fans in my life, and it's such a pleasure to share this love with friends. Thanks for being there. Tomorrow, King Shatner and Sir Patrick!

I am talking presently with a friend about how hard it is to walk into a room of people you sort of know. A party. A retirement luncheon. It's hard for extroverts to understand. It's a real dread. If I could change anything about my life, it would probably be (1) stop being shy, and (2) develop memory skills. I can work on it every day, but it is work.

Watching the SAG awards. I've seen some of the films, but I've never heard of a lot of them, or a lot of these TV specials, especially since I don't get HBO any more. Drew Barrymore was in something good? And we're not talking Whip It. What was that? Gotta catch up - I'll get my marching orders when the Academy Award nominations come out.