Friday, October 28, 2011

Wicked Lit: Halloween Performance

(Wow, my second time traipsing around a mausoleum and cemetery this month. Where is my life heading?!)

Back in June, I posted about seeing a Wicked Lit production at the Biltmore Hotel. It was a trial run for the Halloween season, and I planned then to see this year's series. As you may guess, it was wicked fun!

Big picture overview: our location is the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena, and everything takes place on these grounds. There are two sets of productions, each with three different performances retelling a horror story. You see the performance in your set, then rotate to the next until you've seen all three. Yes, that means that six performances are going on at any time around the mausoleum and cemetery! But, each performance may or may not take place in the same space, so instead of having a set change, you move to the next scene.

I chose the B set, and my three performances in order were "Casting the Runes," "A Ghost Story" (a revamped version of what I saw in June), and "The Body Snatcher." I won't be a full-on spoiler, but "Casting the Runes" was about a magician literally cursing an editor who dismissed his manuscript, and how the curse was removed. That one took place inside the mausoleum, and we moved to a number of creepy spaces as the story unfolded.

"A Ghost Story" took place in one space and was a fun revision of the story I already enjoyed. Here you see our "host" for that performance, dramatically reading "The Raven" after being completely mute - well, except for "myeh" and other grunts - throughout his storyline.

"The Body Snatcher" focused on finding cadavers for the Edinburgh School of Medicine students, and the shocking depth one woman went to keep her job there. For this one we went to the lab, then watched while a corpse was being collected....

I'll stop right there as the effects for these shows was amazing! We imagined what was happening as opposed to having to see it, which was actually more powerful. (Remember the scene in "Shallow Grave" where they are sawing up bones? I do, because you see nothing but shadows and hear the sounds. My mind did all the work!) I'm trying to wrap my head around the master flow chart for six productions, multiple rooms and spaces for each, timing so that they were about the same length, plus lights, sound, and props galore, and so it goes. Holy cow!

I'm considering doing the other set before it ends on November 6. Anyone interested?!

Click here to go to Wicked Lit's Web site.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Munchie Machine

I was invited by my married friends to join in a Halloween festival at their kids' school. They were highly involved with the design and production of the Hauntitorium, an awesome haunted trail through and around the Auditorium. This was not your typical grade school production! A model of Bela Legosi in a coffin greeted you, there was a classroom for zombie training, a Psycho room with strobe lights flashing through the shower curtain plus a crazy lady in a rocking chair, aliens scattered across a wall, framed portraits that transitioned from life to death (Uncle Arthur now has an ax in his skull), creepy kids coming at you, and a gorilla that seemed to appear and disappear out of nowhere. I went through five times, and I'm sure I still missed some "killer" details!

Between the laps through the Hauntitorium, I was hungry! They had arranged for food trucks, and I think I've found my favorite. The Munchie Machine was there with an appealing selection of grilled cheeses, PLUS s'mores. (I have soooo been in the mood for s'mores, but apartment living doesn't lend itself to open flames.) I went with the maple bacon s'more, which you see here. Yes, it is two graham crackers, a full Hershey bar, marshmallows doused in maple syrup and flamed with the mini-blowtorch, and a delicious slab of bacon. DANG!! If the spooks and scares weren't enough, I'm sure my heart was fully shocked after that!

Click here to see where The Munchie Machine will be next.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zelo Pizzeria

I know, I tease with a pizzeria yet show a salad. But, I have my reasons: this salad was soooo tasty plus the unique detail of the pizza didn't photograph well.

Zelo's Pizzeria in Arcadia has cornmeal crust pizza as their distinction. Then there's their unique toppings, well, like corn and other gourmet options. I had the day's margherita slice special, and that cornmeal crust added a fantastic layer of flavor to a stand-by favorite. I'll plan to take a deeper dive into that menu!

But, back to this salad: beets, bleu cheese, walnuts atop greens and balsamic dressing. YUM! Fresh, crisp, and a nice nod to my herbivore tendencies. Delish!

Click here to go to Zelo's Web site.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Natural History Museum Dinosaur Hall

Finally, after visiting the dinos in DC, I saw the new Dino Hall at OUR Natural History Museum.

As shared, I worked at the Natch for more than eight years and cut through the old Dino Hall each day where the T-rex (half of the Museum's mascot team; Triceratops is the other) and other specimens stood - and sometimes laid - statically behind railings. They actually looked dusty and dried-up.

Wow! These new dinos are ALIVE! Walk around and under the articulated skeletons, and over glass-covered foot print paths. Hear how they think dinos sounded, based upon skull structure. Learn about the dino-bird evolutionary connection, and see a T-rex growth series. It's all very cool! Go see it for yourself.

Click here to go the Natural History Museum's Web site.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hollywood Forever

I have a random Saturday off. What did I choose to do? Join the Art Deco Society for their 28th Annual Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour.

I've been to Hollywood Forever for the film screenings shown on the crypt shared by Douglas Fairbanks Junior and Senior. Today, it was great fun to tour with the Art Deco Society docents to learn about the 112-year-old cemetery and the "inhabitants." Where else can you pay your respects to personal icons like Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Carla and Alfalfa from "Little Rascals," Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, Don Adams, Toto, and Johnny Ramone?

From that party-pack, I'm selecting Johnny Ramone to represent here, highlighting my long-time fascination with the Ramones. I was first blown away (literally, remember when they blew up the school?) by them in 1979's "Rock 'n' Roll High School" movie and instantly was a fan. I got to see them live multiple times - including the punk-rock mecca CBGB - while living in NYC in the late '80s. Dang, what did I do with those t-shirts? The Ramones frequently appear on my mix tapes to this day, and now my teenaged nephews are fans. Hey ho, let's go!

Forever Hollywood is an active cemetery, and there were several services taking place during this tour. Which celeb would you like to be buried by?

Click here to go to Hollywood Forever's Web site.

Click here to go to the Art Deco Society's Web site.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Washington, DC: Museum, Monument and Memorial Marathon

I'm in Washington, DC for a conference (actually across the Potomac in National Harbor, MD), and I only have one day to see the sights of the city. Let's do this!!


My first stop is the International Spy Museum, a place I've been wanting to visit since a friend encouraged me to apply for a visitor services job there more than 10 years ago. After an overview to the world of spying, you select a personae that you will maintain throughout the visit. You are then questioned twice as if you are that person, so be sure to pay attention to the details. My character was Carol Liu, an architect from Santa Monica, CA. Since I had a delicious "Art Vandelay" burrito from the Moe's Southwest Grill during a stopover at the Atlanta airport, Carol seemed like a natural extension of that joke. But it gets better! At the second checkpoint, I learned that Carol had to deliver a microdot of coded information planted into - what else - a visitor services guide for the museum. Perfect!! Along the way, I was surprised by great displays like a miniature gun masquerading as a lipstick tube, and the dog doo hiding a tracking device. The takeaway is to pay attention to everything around us. Note that photos are not allowed inside so this cool logo will have to serve as the tease.

Click here to go to the Spy Museum's Web site.


Just a mile walk away was the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Even though I worked for the LA Natural History Museum (AKA the Natch) for eight years and had been exposed to most of the things on display, I still could've spent eight or more days in these galleries! Here you see a giant jellyfish model soaring overhead in the Ocean Hall. Some other cool galleries were the Mammal and Dino Halls, and the display on Human Origins. In that space, there was a camera that converted your face to what you would have looked like as a early human! Scary and fun! My favorite gallery was the one simply called Bones, with skeletons of a wide range of animals. It was strictly old-school Museum exhibition-style and I loved it! Orange and avocado graphics with gold raised type behind the bones. You know what I'm talking about! Instead of boring benches, there was a classic round donuty thing with seating indentations for six. That photo almost displaced the jellyfish!

Click here for the Smithsonian NHMH's Web site.


After a quick lunch in the NHM cafe, the next stop was the Smithsonian National Museum of American History next door. I had been advised about the trifecta there: Julia Child's kitchen, Dorothy's ruby slippers, and the Star Spangled Banner flag. Americana wow! The Star Spangled Banner was the biggest surprise, mainly because it is HUGE! It is displayed in a darkened room, which I'm sure the conservators love, but it also gives a chance to get into Francis Scott Key's head to imagine what it was like that crazy night. Dorothy's shoes were fun to see, and Julia's kitchen was quite a hoot. She had traced the proper placement of each pot on her peg board. I didn't know she was all OCD. (As a bonus, I had already seen Julia's photo at the Spy Museum, providing some insight into her earlier career choices!) It was also amusing to see the First Ladies' inaugural dresses, including Michelle Obama's, all gathered together. Otherwise, it was time to move on. I'll have to further explore America's attic on the next visit!

Click here to go to the Smithsonian NMAH's Web site.


Museuming is now done and it is time to see some monuments and memorials.

The Washington Monument is first in line on the eastern end of the National Mall and happens to be the oldest structure there (1885). It is still the tallest building in DC, the tallest obelisk ever constructed and the tallest stone structure in the world. You may be able to see the ropes dangling down the sides for the engineers checking out the damage from the August 23 earthquake. The monument is still closed, with no real timeline of when it will reopen. (Like Julia Child, George Washington was another icon exposed at the Spy Museum. Apparently, he used multiple spy-worthy tricks while winning the Revolutionary War for us!)

Click here for the Washington Monument's Web site.


While walking west, I saw the White House and Jefferson Memorial from afar and stopped by the World War II Memorial, where I was a little disappointed to see the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is under construction. Bucking up, I kept moving. The next major site was the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. The Memorial was supposed to be dedicated on August 28 (the 48th anniversary of his "I Have A Dream" speech), but Hurricane Irene changed that. The dedication is moved up to October 16. If you haven't seen images of the full display, there are three stones: two mountains of despair and the stone of hope. You enter by walking between two stone mountains before seeing the quote "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope" on the side of the stone with Dr. King's likeness. Walls with powerful King quotes surround the Memorial and capture his greatness.

Click here to go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial's Web site.


The next stop walking around the Tidal Basin is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Roosevelt served an incredible 12 years as President, during some incredibly difficult times. He got us through the Great Depression (something current leaders should be studying!), and initiated the Works Progress Administration that put Americans back to work. (By the way, WPA artwork is among my favorite styles.) Although he died before we won WWII, victory was clearly in sight. His Memorial is divided into four "rooms," one for each of his terms. I selected these "I Hate War" stones, especially after seeing the WW II, Korean and Vietnam War Memorials on this walk through history.

Click here to go to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial's Web site.


As my final stop, the Lincoln Memorial was the one I really wanted to experience. As I've shared here, I've always been fond of Abe, as a man and as the Great Emancipator.

Unfortunately, my Aquarius brain was bouncing between the greatness of Lincoln and the beauty of this Memorial, then remembering the Tim Burton directed (another Burton-Lincoln connection!) "Planet of the Apes" ending where Mark Wahlberg lands his ship at the Lincoln Memorial and General Thade's head is there instead of Abe's! I hope I'm not spoiling it for anyone, but the movie is 10 years old.

Still, it was awesome to finally see the Memorial and read the excerpts from the Gettysburg Address and his second Inaugural Speech on the walls. There's also a little exhibit inside, showing pictures of historic events at the Memorial, such as Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech. To see those pictures in the context of being there was incredible!

Click here to go to Lincoln Memorial's Web site.

Eight hours later, and my mission is accomplished! Whirlwind tour of DC is complete, and I am inspired and feeling patriotic. Go, America!!