Saturday, July 28, 2007

Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

(image courtsey SimpsonizeMe)

My wife is a huge fan of THE SIMPSONS. In honor of the movie, a dozen 7-Eleven stores were converted into Kwik-E-Marts for the month of July. Fortunately, one is near us in Burbank, so we drove by several times this month, hoping to stop by, but there was always a line around the block. We finally gave up and got in line today, knowing it would only be there a few more days. It took about 25 minutes to get in, and we spent a good ten minutes in the store.

My wife bought a Pez dispenser with Homer's head, and we got two pink doughnuts, which were amazing (much better than Krispy Kreme). Channel 7 News was there when we were there. My favorite subtle reference was the frozen Jasper in the freezer.

They did not do DUFF beer, but they did BUZZ cola (limit one 6-pack per customer). I wanted to buy CRUSTY-O's cereal, but they were sold out. That place is a license to print money. They could have done 10 times as many stores and still have lines around the clock.

This one is near the writers' office, so it has even more extras, "real" Bart tagging on the outside, and hand-drawn caricatures inside. I took a bunch of pictures with my digital camera, then somehow reset the menu language to Japanese, then in trying to fix it, I reformatted the card, erasing all pictures. I'm an idiot. Fortunately, the one photo above of me with Riley came out.

But now I have reason to go back. And get another doughnut.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hollywood Bowl 3

I was not too excited before tonight's concert, which was part of our subscription. Brahms' Academic Festival Overture was a fine start, but I'm not too fond of the Bruch Violin Concerto, and I'm definitely no fan of Schumann, whose Third Symphony was featured tonight. We kept the tickets primarily because Sarah Chang was the soloist on the Bruch. We had seen her ten years ago at the bowl, when she was only 16. She is an amazing performer. Not only is she impeccable technically, she is one of the most emotional players I have ever seen. Only she could breath so much life into a mundane work like the Bruch concerto. Unfortunately, the notoriously weak horn section clammed at least three times in the Brahms and Bruch. The strings, however, sounded fantastic. Conductor Alexander Mickelthwate had trouble keeping the orchestra together all night long.

The"Rhenish" symphony by Schumann is a snore-fest, but at least the last movement came to life for an nice ending to the evening. Nonetheless, it was a fun evening.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


It's hard to imagine there being a better movie this year than RATATOUILLE. Smart, funny, and very moving, the film has a fantastic script with great performances by all involved. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the film is the brilliant character animation. Clearly inspired by many classic artists from Disney to Chuck Jones to Charles Addams, each character comes alive after only a few seconds of screen time. There's also some great physical comedy, almost like a silent movie, when the rat (who can't talk to humans) pantomimes and later becomes puppet-master to the human chef.

This film is an absolute must-see for everyone.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Brad Penny gave up 4 runs in the first 3 innings, but otherwise pitched a good game, and the Dodgers managed to use a 5 run 4th , highlighted by Kemp's 3-run homer, to take a commanding lead which they never gave up. Furcal and Pierre had good days, each getting a pair of hits.

Beimel gave up a 2-run homer in relief, but Broxton pitched 1.2 innings for his second save of the year, giving Saito a well-needed extra day off.

Charlie Bartlett

I caught this film last night. It's a lot like RUSHMORE, and in fact, for the first hour, I thought it was a lot better than that film. However, it collapses under bad writing in the third act.

The acting was good, particularly newcomers Anton Yelchin and Kat Dennings. Robert Downey Jr. is always worth watching, but he was full of cliches here. I'll be very surprised if this film does well at the box office.

Mets Beat Dodgers Again

Tomko pitched well for the second game in a row, allowing no earned runs in 6 innings of work. (The one run was an error by Pierre.) Unfortunately, the bats were asleep against Oliver Perez, who allowed only 1 run in 7.1 innings. Nomar got his 3rd homer of the year, and Kent got 2 hits and a walk, but otherwise the Dodgers were dead.

The loss went to 43 reliever Hernandez, only his second day with the Dodgers after a last-minute pickup to help the sagging bullpen.

The only good thing about this loss is that it will force the Dodgers to do something before the trade deadline, which is only 10 days away. A starter would be great, but it's unlikely. A middle reliever would be good, and there are several available. A slugging third baseman is also on the list, but again there are none available. I expect we'll see Wilson Betemit traded, possibly for Yankee pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, who made himself expendable when he complained about Roger Clemen's contract with the Yanks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Les Paul: Chasing Sound

I finally got around to watching the AMERICAN MASTERS documentary on Les Paul called CHASING SOUND, the brilliant guitar player who was instrumental (pardon the pun) in advancing recording technologies for overdubbing, as well as designing solid-body guitars. Without him, the recording methods used in virtually all styles of music would not exist. The film is great, it explores his whole life and the many periods and styles in it. He's currently 92 years old and still performs publicly every week in New York.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of recording technology, as well as fans of Paul and his wife Mary Ford.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dodger Win Series with Phillies

The Dodgers won a close game at the ravine today, 504 over th Phillies. The play of the game was Ethier's 3-run homer in the 4th.

Billingsly gave up 4 runs in 5 innings, but Saenez, Beimel, Broxton and Saito combined for 4 shutout innings, and Gonzo's solo homer made the difference in the 6th.

One oddity in the 8th inning, Tomko replaced Saenz as a pinch runner, and the crowd still loudly booed Tomko as he jogged onto the field.

Dodgers Drubbed by Phillies

The Phillies embarrassed the Dodgers with 26 hits and 15 runs tonight. The Dodgers managed a paltry 3 runs, off a starter whose ERA was a whopping 13. They looked like a little league team. Hendrickson gave up 7 runs and 11 hits in only 3 innings. Stulz in relief was not much better, giving up another 4 runs in 3 innings, including 2 home runs. Saenez also gave up 2 home runs in relief.

It was a night to forget for Dodger fans.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dodgers Hammer Phillies

Jamie Moyer had a weak start, and Brad Penny another strong one, resulting in a 10-3 trouncing of the Phillies. After giving up a run in the 1st, Penny went a strong 7 innings, giving up only that run on 4 hits, with Moyer giving up all 10 earned runs on only 10 hits. DJ Houlton had a relatively weak appearance for the Dodgers from the bullpen, giving up 2 runs in 2 innings.

The kids did well for the Dodgers tonight, but the veterans also did well. Kemp hit a 3-run homer. Martin walked twice and got an RBI. Furcal, Pierre and Nomar each got 2 hits. Kent got a hit and 3 RBI.

It was an enjoyable game, with a fairly large Monday night crowd of over 42,000.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


It's been a week since I saw the film WAITRESS, and I forgot to review it. I guess that doesn't say much for the film. What happened to the director is terrible (she was murdered before the film was released), particularly since most of the problems in the film point to a first-time screenwriter with some talent that has yet to be fully developed.

It's a nice story, with good acting, but the characters are very one-dimensional (yet frequently
they speak out of character, and all with the same voice). Several actors rise above the material, most notably Andy Griffith, who might even be a long-shot for supporting actor. Unfortunately, most of the third act is predictable melodrama with no real emotional payoff.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hollywood Bowl II

It was impossible to top Tuesday night's fireworks, but the performances tonight were excellent. Most of the night was filled with standard favorites. It started off with a Berlioz overture that was a lot of fun. The main piece in the first half was the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, a piece clearly influenced by the younger composer George Gershwin's Concerto in F (written five years earlier), in a fantastic, exciting performance by Andreas Haefliger, with Leonard Slatkin once again conducting.

The second half began with the popular Rossini Overture to The Thieving Magpie, which was staged with dueling snare drums and was another fun fanfare. There were also two throwaway pieces, the Fauré Pavane and Mascagni's Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (featured in RAGING BULL). I could have done without these two short but pretty pieces, neither of which holds any musical development whatsoever.

The evening ended with Respighis' Pines of Rome, a piece that I had never heard in live performance, and which I feared might be a letdown at the end of a long concert. However, the orchestra gave an exciting performance, bringing out subtle orchestrational details I had not previously noticed, and building to an amazing climax at the end. I expected the concert to be long, but it actually finished a bit shorter than Tuesday's concert. With the lighter attendance, traffic was a breeze in and out, and it was another great evening at the bowl.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hollywood Bowl

Summer truly begins with our first Hollywood Bowl concert of the season. Normally I would like to go to a July 4th concert, but this year it was a Country-Western themed concert, so we waited until last night and saw the fireworks show with Pictures at an Exhibition.

The concert was great. Leonard Slatkin conducted. He's the principle guest conductor of the orchestra, and he's my favorite of the bowl conductors. He's very smart without overdoing things. The Russian concert opened with the Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture by Glinka, always an exciting start for a concert. The piece was followed by the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, performed by Gil Shaham, who showed amazing range on the instrument in many ways. Not only did he have a beautiful, sweet sound on the high harmonics, he also had a rich, sultry tone on the low notes. He also showed wide emotional range, finding humor in both the first and last movements.

The evening ended with one of my favorite pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition. The orchestra played it very well, but the real excitement came from one of the best fireworks displays that I've ever seen, which was amazingly well synchronized to the music. It was a blast (literally)!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dodgers Win Last Game Before Break

The Dodgers had a nice breakout game against the Marlins today. Hendrickson pitched on only 3 days rest, and pitched 5 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 2 runs.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, had 16 hits and 9 runs, 1 short of the "free wings" promotion at Hooters. (I hate the Hooters, but hey, free is free.)

Martin & Ethier each had home runs. They each had 3 RBI. It was a good game.

The mid-season report on the Dodgers is mixed. I'll write more about that during the well-needed All-Star Break. They go into it one game out of 1st place behind the Padres.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saito Blows Save, Tomko Blows Game

It was a very strange game.

Billingsley was so good in his last start, but in this game gave up a run in the 1st and 2 more in the 3d. The Dodgers managed to get 5 in the 5th (an amazing accomplishment for a team that has rarely scored recently). The Dodgers also left the bases loaded twice. The highlight of the evening was Martin's 2-run homer. He really played like an all-star tonight.

Houlton gave up a run in the 7th, then Saito gave up a run in the 9th. It's rare when Saito blows it, so it's hard to blame him for a single run after 23 saves this season. Beimel returned from the hospital to pitch to one batter. Saenez and Broxton both did well.

But in the 10th, the crowd of over 52,000 booed loudly when Tomko was brought on. He gave up 2 walks and a hit, and the losing run for the game.

The bullpen has been so overused, combined with the injuries, that no one knows who will start Sundays game. It's likely to be Hendrickson on only 3 days rest, and with an exhausted bullpen, that's a bad combination.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dodgers Have... Pitching Problems???

Probably the last thing you'd expect to go wrong for the Dodgers is pitching problems. First, we lose Schmidt. Then we find out Randy Wolf has been pitching with a sore shoulder and has been placed on the disabled list, which explains his rapid decline in recent starts. Then we find out Beimel has been hospitalized with potential heart problems. Hung Chi Kuo had been sent down to the minors, but didn't make it, he wound up on the disabled list as well.

Hendrickson started well, giving up only 2 runs in 5 innings, but with the depleted bullpen, Grady Little was forced to bring in Tomko in the 6th, who gave up 2 more runs in only a third of an inning.

They were so desperate, the brought in Broxton and Saito to finish the game, even though they were losing 5-2.

All of this combined could be a huge problem for the Dodgers, whose strength all year has been pitching.

At least the fireworks were worth staying for!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dodgers Beat Braves Again!

Things looked rough again with starting pitcher Randy Wolf giving up 6 runs in only 3 innings. But the Dodgers quickly tied things up in the bottom of the 3rd, and the Dodger bullpen remained fantastic, allowing only ONE hit and no runs in 3 innings! Saenez got the win after 3 innings, Broxton gets a hold, and Saito got his 23rd save of the season.

Betemit got 3 hits, a home run, 4 RBI, and 3 runs scored, all against his old team. Kemp got 2 more hits. The younger players keep looking better all the time, although Furcal, Kent and Lieberthal also each got 2 hits.

Again, a good game against a tough team.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dodgers Beat Smoltz

It looked tough at first, with Lowe needing 108 pitches to go 5 innings, and Smoltz needing only 87 to go 6, and both giving up only 1 run in that time... but the Dodgers managed a 5-run 7th inning, which broke the game open.

Martin went 4 for 5 with 2 RBI. Kemp got a 2-run homer and 3 RBI. Furcal and Gonzalez each got 2 hits. Beimel and Saenez combined for 3 innings with no hits or runs. The only bullpen weakness was Tomko, who gave up 3 hits and a run in the 9th and was repeatedly booed after each hit.

This was an important win against a good team and an excellent pitcher. The only bad sign was that Lowe got another no decision, even after giving up only one run. He's a great pitcher, and he deserves more wins that the Dodgers have given him.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Summer Upon Us

Most think think that summer begins in May when most college years end, or maybe early June when most high school years end, or maybe even June 21st when we get to the summer solstice, but for me, summer vacation does not begin until around July 4th (because I teach an early summer class at USC that starts right after graduation and ends usually just before Independence Day). So I've finally reached a time when I get to relax a bit.

Generally my summer activities include more Dodger games, visiting the Hollywood Bowl, attending wine tastings, catching up on Emmy viewing an occasional movie screening, and maybe a little travel if I have time. This year I'm also working on a television series... more about that later. So stay tuned, I'm bound to have more to say this summer. I know it's been slow for a while, I intend to catch up soon.