Hawaii for the Holidays, Again

After my first semester as real film student at USC, I needed a bit of a break and visiting my family in Hawaii for Christmas sounded like a good place to get it – even if it was going to be a working break. We only visited the beach a couple of times, but I really enjoyed being able to just sit around baking things, watching movies, playing card/board games, and chatting with my brother and parents at least some of the time before re-entering the frey of Los Angeles filmmaking.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach

The trip back was a little more relaxed than I had expected. When I got to the airport nice and early, the lady at the counter put me on an earlier island-hop flight, which gave me about a 2 1/2 hour layover in the Honolulu airport. The first leg of the flight was right around sunset, so it was extremely gorgeous.DSCN5910

I spent the layover shopping around in the little tourist stuff stores, getting ice cream, and reading one of the textbooks for the next semester. The flight back had terrible movies showing and it was very bumpy, but it was relaxed and I had a fine enough time and stayed hydrated. I got back about 5am. L.A was cold and totally socked in with fog. My freezer had somehow got open and everything was a horrible moldy melted mess on the floor that I had to clean up. After that, I took a nap for 7 hours and then bought some food to replace the melted mess.


Visiting Seattle for Thanksgiving

Okay, so this is a bit of posting after the fact, but here goes. This is a shot of a pretty lake in Seattle where I went for a walk with my brother and his family and drank hot chocolate:


I flew there from L.A on a jet where I also got to tell Conan O’Brien (who was seated in the front) that I liked his talk at the USC SCA Comedy Festival. I was in WA for only a couple of days, but it was nice. We had dinner with a couple of his friends, I finally got to meet my adorable, sweet and highly intelligent niece, and play with my brothers fuzzy wuzzy kitties, see their new house, and socialize with my sister in-law. Very nice.


Bloggin’ From the Airport!

Taken with the built in camera on my laptop at the LAX gate waiting area for Alaska Air. Pretty cool, eh?

I know it’s not really substantive, or substantial, to post about, but I think it’s really awfully cool that I can blog from airports that have free wifi access. There’s about a 3 hour layover, so I have nothing better to do with my sleep-deprived brain cells.

KOA (Kona) airport went smoothly. I sat next to a little boy who was trying to sleep on the flight to LAX (which meant I wouldn’t be able to sleep, since kids squirm, kick, and tip over onto surrounding people during sleep). And the only movie available to watch was Arbitrage (barf-up-a-chunk-worthy Richard Gere film about skeezy lawyers/finance types). But I had my tuna and pickle sandwiches to keep me happy. So far, this gate has had flights leaving for places ranging from Chicago to Seattle, Las Vegas, Portland, etc. Even though I’m coming back from quite a bit of traveling, it still makes me feel lazy to hear all those places go by and know that I’m just going back to school. Maybe I can make more of an effort to be as a tourist in Santa Cruz this time around. We’ll see.


Je suis de Paris!

Well, yesterday I finally gave in to the Frenchness of things. After I took my final exam for the French practicum course, decided to go shopping around the Republic/rue Temple area. I came in search of a bag to replace my backpack, but I ended up I buying myself a pair of black leggings instead. All the women around here seem to wear them, under skirts, shorts, even pants. Sometimes as pants. So, I figured what the heck.

When I got off the metro back a t Ledru-rollin, I went to this place called Ble Sucre that’s supposed to have the best madelines in Paris and got myself a 4-pack to eat at the little tables out front while watching kids playing across the street at a park. They concept of sugar glazing madelines was a slight improvement over the ones I used to get from a Monterey bakery that were sold in the Cornucopia grocery store, but they weren’t worth the more than $1 a piece I paid for them. They did have some interesting looking shiny fruit pastries/tortes that I intend to try later on though.

The price list at Ble Sucre. Click to see the bigger (more readable) version.

There’s a patisserie on almost every other corner here, so I actually have a lot of choices.

Here’s a Caramel Royal (chocolate pastry cream on a pastry crust layer) that I got just a couple blocks down the street (on Rue Traverserie) from my apartment.

On the way back, I noticed an used book store (livres anciens) across the street from the Pimlico (health food store) and bought one of Simenon’s Les Vacances de Maigret in the original French to read. Actually, I got the idea of buying the book from that Horatio Hornblower story wherein he learns French by reading a copy of Don Quixote. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but at least it’s a mystery book so I’ll be unraveling two mysteries at once in translating it.


The 29 Hour Day – My Journey To Paris

August 19th-20th

Hallway at the hotel

I stayed my last week in Los Angeles at an Extended Stay America in Woodland Hills. On the Sunday I had my flight, I awoke up at 7am and got into the airport shuttle at about 8:50am. The airport was only about 20 minutes away. I didn’t know if there would be traffic, so I was leaving about 4 hours before my flight was supposed to take off. For this flight, I was using an airline I had never heard of before called Air Tahiti Nui because they happened to have a relatively inexpensive one-way ticket – although they do charge $75 for the second checked bag.

Going through security was fairly simple, although opting for the pat-down over being irradiated by the x-ray machine like a non-organic chicken and the security drill the staff held as I was putting back my electronics probably added a few minutes. I got to my gate at 10:12am, so the whole thing took just about an hour. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a 1:10pm flight flight was delayed to about 2:30pm, and I didn’t find out until about 1:15pm so it was a long wait for me.

While I was sitting around at the gate, I struck up a conversation with a French lady who had been visiting her mother in L.A. She and her husband run a pizzeria in Paris and one of her nephews goes to UC Irvine to study biology. It was fun to chat a bit, but we ran out of conversation after a half-hour or so because we knew too little of each other’s languages to continue.

The flight itself was long, but pretty nice otherwise. We were served dinner a couple hours into the flight and breakfast a couple hours before we landed. Each seat had a little screen and there was a choice of a replaying cycle of movies, a few arcade-style games, and music as entertainment. I listened to language tapes a bit, but I also watched the movies Wrath of the Titans, Man on a Ledge, One Day My Father Will Come, 21 Jump Street (although I kept switching away because it’s not very good), and I re-watched The Incredibles. Dinner was the airline-food version of coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine with mushrooms), steamed broccoli and carrots, a salad with lettuce/bell peppers/corn, a roll with butter, and some kind of cheesecake thing with a gelatin layer on top. Sorry I forgot to take a photo.

I took a few photos out the window at night, but they didn’t come out. Here’s one of the sunrise though.

Breakfast was a choice of apple/cheese crepes or omelette (I chose crepes), croissant with butter and/or jam, mixed fruit (pineapple, red grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew), a choice of hot cocoa or other beverages (I chose cocoa, but it was the watery kind), and fat free raspberry yogurt. I decided to go crazy and use both jam and butter on my croissant. I was pretty tired, but breakfast food always seems best when I would normally eat dinner after a really exhausting day.

I’ve never been able to sleep on aircraft, but I think I managed to make my self dose off for a few minutes a couple of times before being startled awake by the screaming infant a few seats down (through earplugs yet).

The area right around Charles de Gaulle Airport looks like farmland: all patchwork.
When we landed, I followed my fellow passengers through customs and down to the “bagages sortie” to get my checked (or “oversize,” as they call them here) bags. The baggage carts were free, but as usual I got one with a sticky left wheel. I then spent a couple of hours being misdirected by info booth people while looking for the shuttle service. Oddly enough, at the very second I was about to give up, the shuttle service guy came up and asked me if I was looking for him. There was supposed to be a “VEA desk” for me to find, but it turned out to actually be a wandering guy with a blue necktie holding a clipboard. No desk or signs. After one of my bags leapt from the cart into a rain puddle (and a nearby lady fortunately saved my jackets) the shuttle took me to the correct address at the street near the entrance for the area wherein the ACCENT center is located. It really isn’t obvious. There’s a little passageway under the address of 89 that leads you there, but it takes some guesswork to find it after you’re plopped onto the curb with your bags. Although the email they sent out said the front entrance from the street was a courtyard, it’s actually the entrance to a little alleyway that leads to said courtyard.

The guy at the ACCENT desk gave me an envelope with my key and some instructions. He said to ignore the map and follow the written directions instead. I shouldn’t have, as they were so confusingly written that I and everyone else to whom I’ve spoken since got lost following them, but I did. A few minutes into my search for my apartment at Daumesnil, it began to rain a little. It was annoying because I had left my umbrella back at ACCENT with my big bags, but I couldn’t help think of that line out of the movie Sabrina where Audrey Hepburn’s character says everyone’s first day in Paris should be a rainy one – and that one shouldn’t carry an umbrella. I saw that movie just before I left L.A.

After almost an hour, I decided to do the sensible thing and use a combination of the map for general directions and asking one or two passersby for more specific directions. Then I had to get into the building. Still foolishly trying to follow some of the written directions, I stood around trying to find the red electric “eye” that my keychain was supposed to activate to open the outer door. Fortunately, another student who had already gone through some of this experience came over and we mutually figured out how to get through both airlocks.

The whole thing had taken so long that it was already time for the program’s mandatory walking tour of the neighborhood, that I wasn’t informed of until after I arrived and checked in. I was already pretty tired, but I resigned myself to be social anyway. We walked around for a bit, then had cookies, sandwiches, and soda at the ACCENT center. It was nice to meet everyone. A couple or so were even from UCSC.

After snacks, I emailed my parents to let them know I got here okay (since my cell phone had no service in France) and took my two big bags back to my apartment and went food shopping so I’d have something to eat for dinner and breakfast the next day. After I took a quick shower, I wanted to rest a minute before cooking dinner. It was only about 6:30pm so I figured I could stay awake a few more hours, but I must have fallen asleep the instant I lay down because I blinked and 8 hours had gone by. In retrospect, I should have closed the window even before lying down, but it was 86 degrees and I didn’t think there were mosquitos in the middle of a city. When I visited Switzerland with my family almost a decade ago, I made the same mistake and woke up with half a dozen really inflamed mosquito bites. When I got up at around 6:45am on the 21st, I smashed a skeeter I found in the bathroom that was filled with blood; but I didn’t know it was mine until I came home at the end of the day and found four or five badly swollen bites on my toe, ankle, and thighs. The use of Benadryl cream and Neosporin seems to be helping, but they’re still pretty awful looking/feeling.

As difficult as some aspects of travel can be, that’s just part of the experience. The first day or tow are always somewhat difficult, I’m in Paris for the next four months so weeeeeeeeee! (or, perhaps, ouiiiiiiiiii! (?)).

As a final note, don’t use just any source of free wifi you come across. I merely opened a browser on my phone after connecting to one and, despite doing nothing else, I got an email from Google the next day saying that the source of that wifi had attempted to hack into two of my email accounts a couple hours later.


Touristing It Up In Santa Monica

July 27, 2012

Santa Monica Municipal Pier dedication marker

I had some business in Santa Monica, so I decided to spend the extra dollar to get on the bus and visit the beach. The initial view of the place when one hops off the bus is an odd one. In stripes along the horizon is a boardwalk/theme park on the pier, an ocean and beach, an enormous parking lot, and a highway.
There was quite a crowd out, but I guess you’d expect that on a Friday afternoon.

The first attraction at the beginning of the pier is a building with a gift shop on one side and a merry-go-round, soda fountain, and arcade machines on the other.

The penny-squasher, electro-shock (“passion tester”) machine, and female Zoltar I expected; but the Mutoscope was a surprise. In my film history class, the teacher said only a few existed in the country nowadays, and there I was staring right at one. For those of you who don’t know, a Mutoscope is one of the original nickelodeon machines. It shows movies in the form of a giant flip-book (often with thousands of little paper cards) through a peep-hole style viewer. It was invented by W.K.L Dickson (after he left the employ of Thomas Edison) as a motion picture machine that was different enough from anything Edison had invented to defeat Edison’s numerous attempts at patent infringement lawsuits.

I wonder if this was the Mutoscope’s original paint job.

There were lots of rides and junk-food vendors galore, but there were also some kind of off-the-wall activities. The one that seemed the most novel was a trapeze school just sitting there amidst everything else.
At the end of the pier, past numerous representatives of the local homeless population that were attempting to eke out a living as “performers” (viz., loudly playing a boombox while flapping a puppet around), were groups of amateur fishermen – some of which were probably also homeless. I wonder what kinds of fish they catch there, and how palatable they really are.
The beach itself was mostly interesting for sociological reasons. Everyone was either traversing the wooden walkway to the shoreline or clustered all around the outlet of the walkway with towels and umbrellas. As you can see, the rest of the beach was empty. It has always been my habit to walk the length of beaches I visit. Not so for others, I guess.

The view from the pier

View from the staircase above the beach

I took a self portrait when I got down to the sand. The plethora of french fry stuffed pigeons and seagulls floating overhead made me nervous, but I decided that my wide-brimmed hat would protect me in the event of an bird excrement-related malady. Unfortunately, the very moment that I went to take a second photo of myself, that hypothesis was tested when I saw the shadow of one of the winged sewage factories cross my own, shortly followed by experiencing the sensation of a hot-one landing on my head. Luckily, it was small and mostly sand so I was able to clean it off fairly easily. However, I’ll let that be a lesson to me in the future not to tempt fate.

I had to start studying for my final exam, so I decided that was enough for one day. However, it’s worth mentioning that on my to catch a bus on the 3rd St. Promenade I  came across a house with some of the most remarkable gardening I’ve seen in a while. I don’t know who lives here, but isn’t this one of the most striking examples of exterior design you’ve ever seen? Just fabulous!

I had intended to take video, but I forgot to bring the battery for my video camera. My regular snapshot cam’s batteries died too, so some of these were taken with my phone.


Let’s Go Shopping! – Santa Monica

I was invited to my cousin’s wedding (which happened on July 28th), so on the 24th I decided to go shopping for a new dress, shoes, etc. Since I’m of rather limited means, I decided to visit one of Santa Monica’s Goodwill stores first. There was an interesting display out front in the form of some birds perched on a bike.

Parrots in front of Santa Monica Goodwill store.

Blouse and gown.

I found a nice pink, frilly blouse, but just about everything else was was size 12 – four sizes to small – and the nicer dresses (which were also too small) were about $29 minimum. Awfully overpriced for that place. Fortunately, a lady in the store told me there was a mall nearby and gave me walking directions. I didn’t know it, but all those stores were on the famous 3rd Street Promenade. I got a really nice $24 gown at the Sears to use with the blouse. It’s funny that a brand new gown cost me less than a used one would have.







After that, I wandered around a Bloomingdale’s and the rest of the mall.

Note the unusual fountain on the right.

A short distance down another street was a strange dinosaur-ish fountain and some stores with rather outlandish window displays.

A flag made entirely of shoes that filled a store window.

When I got back to Westwood, there were a couple of funny things I noticed. I didn’t get a photo of it, but someone was stuffing copies of the book The Da Vinci Code under the windshield wipers of all the cars on Weyburn Avenue. Also, there was a huge number of stereotypically snooty guys out wearing polo shirts and driving around in Porsches. I assume they came for the Farmer’s Classic (tennis competition at UCLA).

Shopping and display area behind tennis stadium.

My new shoes.

A couple days later, I got some shoes for the wedding (and some non-sneakers to wear in Paris, so I wouldn’t look like such a tourist) at a Ross that’s a fairly long, but manageable, walk from UCLA for about $10 and $14, respectively.


Getting to Know the UCLA Campus


This is going to be a rather long post, but it’s mostly photographs so I think you’ll enjoy it. When I went to get my student ID card at Kerckhoff Hall, I asked for directions and was told it was “the one that looks like a big castle.” Indeed, as you can see, it does resemble a castle quite a bit.

Kerckhoff Hall

As I was leaving Kerckhoff, a campus tour was just about to begin so I tagged along. The tour itself was somewhat informative, but it was also pretty funny because the guide kept talking about various #1 rankings for UCLA that UCSC also has (e.g. most vegetarian/vegan school cafeterias in the country) – although probably from different entities/magazines.The tour basically gave me a cursory overview of the central campus (what several of the buildings were named and where their were).

I always like to nose around wherever I happen to be, also I’m thinking of applying here for grad school, so I revisited some places in more detail (by going inside, for example) and looked around a few other places that weren’t on the tour.

I passed by Royce Hall a week or so ago and found it all decked out for a certificate program’s graduation ceremony. It’s a pretty building, isn’t it? I wonder if they hold all the graduation ceremonies there.

Royce Hall Graduation

I also visited three libraries. This was partially because I had to get a book from each one, but also partially out of “professional” interest as a student library assistant at UCSC. The arts library isn’t as grand as the other two, but the Powell Library looks like the inside of a church and YRL, as they call it here, kind of looks like a cross between a modern art museum and a faux-futuristic set from a 1960s television show.

Powell circulation desk

YRL circulation desk

You already got to see the screening room in Melnitz Hall where I have my class in a previous post, but the vicinity around it is quite interesting too.

Melnitz Lobby



The lobby for that building is covered with various movie posters, and makes quite a striking impression on visitors.

Control room

Also inside the building are a number of TV studios and their associated control rooms. This is quite a bit beyond what I’m used to seeing at UCSC’s Press Center.

The production office, basically the main office for the building, had a few neat ideas that I rather wish would be implemented at UCSC. For example, as you can see in the picture below, they give filmmakers and actors ready access to each other by putting the resumes/photos of the available performers right on the front counter in the office.

Behind Melnitz Hall is a kind of back lot area with some storage rooms for props, some staging areas where fairly large groups of students with cameras were shooting videos, and a small eating place called the Stage Canteen that serves sandwiches, snacks, and drinks. I always bring my own lunch, as a cost-saving measure, but if I didn’t this place would be quite convenient.

Stage Canteen

One place that I ended up going to much more often than Melnitz is the John Wooden fitness center, UCLA’s gym. It’s been interesting comparing this place to our own OPERS.

Running track (located directly below dorms)

The area immediately around the facility has a soccer field, a football field, a running track with a field in the center, and a very large tennis stadium. Each of the lanes on the track is dedicated to different activities: (5-6) running, (7-8) jogging, (9) walking, except lanes 1-5, which are closed to visitors.

Tennis Stadium

I still can’t get used to the idea of blue tennis courts. Walking up to this place, I thought it was the location of the swimming pool until I reached the top of the stairs. Still, it is a pretty stadium.

The inside of the John Wooden Center is rather large. It houses a full sized rock wall, a circuit room, several racquetball courts, a few dance studios, a basketball/gymnastics court, and what seems to be a volleyball/badminton court.

Gymnastics/basketball court

Volleyball/badminton court

My roommate has also been taking fitness classes in this giant, powder-blue room, so I guess it’s kind of a multipurpose court.

The exercise machines (ellipticals, treadmills, stationary bicycles, etc.) are located throughout the building. There is a very large room called “the strength zone” where most of the weight training machines are located, separated into sections by the categories of upper body, lower body, and free weights. There are also some in the “circuit room.” Most of the people that use the circuit room don’t seem to have any conception of what circuit training means, as they tend to camp out on each of the machines by doing a set, sitting on the machine for a couple of minutes, doing another set, and repeating this until they’re done instead of moving from one machine to another after each set like they are supposed to. This is true of any gym though. Many of the cardio fitness machines are located in a room adjacent to the “strength zone,” but they also line the halls on just about every floor.

UCLA’s version of our own recreation/ELP programs are also located in this building. Here are a couple of message boards giving some idea of the programs they have available here.

Recreation trips to Big Sur, Yosemite, etc.

Rec classes

A few days ago, when the sight of some rather interesting flora drew me to wander into the music building, I happened upon the school’s marching band just as they were wrapping up a rehearsal and held the door so that the tuba players wouldn’t have to struggle to get out. One of them commented, “You seriously just saved my life!” An exaggeration, to be sure, but it’s nice to get thanks for being polite. A few minutes later, on my way home I heard the band playing from somewhere up in Kerckhoff Hall, so I followed the sound and found myself right in the middle of a summer orientation session for new incoming students.

UCLA marching band


I got the impression that it was really more of an all day event, but the portion that I stumbled upon looked to have been just after they had eaten and were wandering around amongst various tables manned by several of the on-campus orgs.The last place I went, and unfortunately forgot to take pictures, was the student commons located in Ackerman Hall below the area with most of the little restaurants. The Commons has a campus credit union, almost a dozen ATMs (including a free credit union co-op ATM, which was the reason I came there in the first place), several more boutique like eating places such as Jamba Juice and Wetzel’s Pretzels, a tiny natural foods store, several study areas, an information desk, a textbook store separate from the regular UCLA Store, and some kind of a place meant to collect blood donations. There was probably even more down there that I missed, but it was nonetheless an impressive experience.

One thing that definitely takes some getting used to about this campus is the fact that many of the buildings are interconnected. If you enter the UCLA store and take the elevator, you can get out into sections of three or so different buildings altogether. However, if I were to sum up the biggest differences between the layouts for the campuses of UCLA and UCSC, I would probably just say that UCLA is like a giant public park (mown grass, trees, squirrels, statues and buildings on a mostly level campus with several large staircases that one must scale to get to class) and UCSC is like a state park (forests, open meadows, deer and raccoons with the squirrels, and buildings placed all up and down great hills and mountains that one must hike to get to class). I can’t honestly say that I completely prefer one over the other. Both are lovely campuses in their own ways and I’m glad that I’ve taken the opportunity to study at both.