Beachcombing interlude

I traveled to San Luis Obispo last week to participate in a career fair at Cal Poly. There I met two of my previously-unknown-to-me co-workers, who quickly became my new best friends. The career fair was a blast, and the morning flew by! The event ended at 1:30 pm and our flights weren’t scheduled to leave until after 8 that night. I had a rental car, they had ideas of things to see, so off we went to exploring.

IMG_2831We drove about 20 minutes north on 101 to Morro Bay. Morro, Spanish for the crown, is part of the Morro Rock State Preserve, one of the California State Parks. This 22-23 million year old rock is one of Nine Sisters of rocks that extends from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo hills. We drove onto the causeway connects it with the shore, which make it a tied island, and parked on the south side of the rock. Ha, rock! It’s pretty big for a rock. So, what’s the big deal about this rock? Turns out, it’s a volcanic plug formed when magma from a volcano solidifies in the pipe or neck and the surrounding sediment is eroded away. Essentially, I was standing next to the remains of an extinct volcano. Cool!

IMG_2835It was peaceful, and for a while we watched otters doing their otter things out in the bay. They were quite active and entertained us for quite a while. Once they settled down on their backs to float around for a while, we began exploring the area. We took the path for a while, and then braved the boulders and climbed down to the beach. I am happy to report, none of use twisted ankles or broke anything near and dear to our hearts.

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It was late in the afternoon and we could see the marine layer inching its way inland. I became chilled and hiked back to the car for my jacket while my buddies searched for sand
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On the South-West face of the rock we found caves, on was large enough for a mountain lion. I was curious what critters might inhabit the various spaces. Not curious enough to climb the rock to investigate, which is not allowed.

IMG_2831We wandered over to the north side of the rock and watched the surfers catch waves and wipe out, undaunted by the cold (aided by wet suites).

While I enjoyed people watching, the was quite a bit of activity on this side, I preferred the other, quieter side.

After watching the surfers for a while, we decided to get a bite to eat. We headed to Marisol at the Cliffs in Pismo Beach. Even though it was chilly by then, we opted to sit on the terrace where I enjoyed a glass of wine, coconut shrimp and fried calamari with sauce that was d’bomb! I enjoyed good conversation with my new friends, good wine, and good food – for what more could a girl ask?

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View from Marisol’s terrace

Sated and hydrated, we had a couple more hours to kill before we needed to head to the airport. What to do? Apparently, the Farmer’s Market on Thursday nights is the place to see and be seen.

Before long, it was time to make our way to the airport, where we said our good-bys and made plans to keep in touch.

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You oughta be in pictures

One of the cool perks of my new job is the fun activities in which they encourage us to participate. Last week they chartered a bus to take us up to LA where we took part in the Sony Pictures Studio tour. After enjoying the sights, we were served lunch in the VIP area of the Plaza lobby. It was so much fun!

While waiting for the tour to begin, we wandered the lobby and explored the various displays of movie memorabilia.
GodzillaOff in the corner, I found a reptilian-looking fellow (nobody puts Baby Godzilla in a corner!). While I thought he looked pretty cool, lots of details went into his creation, he wasn’t all that massive. Perhaps Godzilla, like many of Hollywood’s stars, was required to diet? Maybe his next feature film will be titled “Godzilla, Hungry and Grumpy.” It could happen. Bolyn

I loved the costumes on display, I especially loved the fabric choices and exquisite details of the dresses and tunic from the movie The Other Boleyn Girl.

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After watching a short film on the history of Sony Pictures Studio, we began the walking tour of the lot. The first thing we notice after passing through the gates is a massive rainbow. Now, it would be really cool if the rainbow sculpture had been used in the production of The Wizard of Oz, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty impressive.

Weighing in at 100,000 pounds of steel, “Rainbow” is a multi-colored arc 188-feet across and 94-feet high, created by American sculptor Tony Tasset, and greets visitors beyond the Madison Street entrance.

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Apparently, Sony Pictures Studio wanted to build a couple of office buildings and a parking lot, and in exchange for these new additions to the studio lot, Sony partially funded the project via the 1% for Art requirement.

While the images of Dorothy clicking ruby slippers, flying monkeys, and munchkins might come to most people’s minds, I was thinking more along the lines of hey, it’s the end of the rainbow, where’s the pot of gold?  Alas, no matter how hard I willed it, no pots (of gold or anything else) materialized.

TicketBoothA short walk past Rainbow led us to our first glimpse of buildings used in a variety of films. For example, we saw the ticket booth were Frank Sinatra buys movie tickets in the musical Anchors Aweigh. While I was never a Sinatra fan, I adored Gene Kelly, and this film is one of my childhood favorites, and not just because Jerry Mouse made an appearance. The animation segment featuring Jerry took two months and $100,000 to produce because someone noticed that although Kelly’s reflection shone on the floor during his dancing, Jerry’s did not; therefore, Hanna/Barbara productions spent a couple of months revising the animation.

Studios

There are many different kinds of studios on the lot. We passed by the Foley studios, the place responsible for supplying noises for a film, like the swishing of clothing and the tapping of footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. I always thought that would be a fun job. Can you imagine the kind of stress related to finding the right sounds? For example, what sound might the breaking of bones make, or the tip-toeing of animated elephants? I imagine a Foley technician listens to the sounds in the world differently than the rest of us.

Stage6Some buildings had a shabby mystique to them while others were adorned with the Art Deco touches reflecting the era in which they were built.

No matter what they looked like on the outside, all the buildings had me wondering what was going on inside, and if maybe there might be a celebrity beyond the closed doors.

IMG_2728Of particular note among the various building on the lot is the Barbara Streisand Sound Stage. The stage was originally located at the MGM shooting stage until the late 1920s. One of the first film scores recorded there was The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The studio remains unchanged over the years because of the exceptional sound it produces; no one knows why the building has the incredible acoustics is does, and nobody wants to do anything, like paint the walls, in fear that such a change will alter the magnificent sound the room produces. I must confess the space wasn’t particularly spectacular, yet there was something fantastical about knowing you were standing in the same place as John Williams, who did the soundtracks for movies such as Jaws and Star Wars, Michel Jackson, and (of course) Barbara herself had performed. The artists who contribute to musical scores are gifted sight musicians. Get this: Many of the movies they work on are so hushed-up, the artists don’t even know the title! The players see the score for the first time about a 1/2 hour before they begin performing – that’s just amazing! Usually, the movie score is complete in one run-through and is finished in 2-4 hours, depending on the film.

StageWhile we weren’t allowed to go into any of the stages, there were several with doors wide open where we could get a glimpse of the interior. We passed by one large studio where the set builders were enjoying a lunch break.

Of particular note were stages 15, 27, and 30.

Stage 15 is the second largest studio in the world and was home to movies such as A day at the Races, Air Force One, Rocky, and Stuart Little, among others.

Stage 27 was once transformed into Munchkin land, the Emerald City, and the Witch’s Castle, although the yellow brick road, (painted plywood) has long since been lost in the annals of time. (Where exactly are the “annals of time” located, anyway?) Other memorable sets include the Spaceship Interstellar, and the Sistine Chapel.

Stage 30 was once owned by Esther Williams, which had her swimming pool and underwater tanks, and now this stage is where many water-themed movies are filmed (think Jaws and Hook).

There are many other things to share, for example, the Ghost Busters cars and their “storefront,” Stages for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (which are interesting, even though I don’t watch the shows). There are oodles of other tidbits and behind-the-scenes lore to explore. Instead of me blathering on, the next time you find yourself in LA, I urge you to take a studio tour or two. It won’t spoil movie magic, and it is most definitely educational, informative, and tons of fun!

Star studded Christmas Eve 

What better way to enjoy Christmas Eve than stargazing with my kids? We were lucky because there were very few moviegoers at the IMAX theater where we saw Star Wars, The Force Awakens. I’m not into huge crowds, so I was happy to find the viewing was so lightly attended. Note to self: Christmas Eve is an awesome time to take in a blockbuster movie!

Seeing Star Wars with my kids was a very different experience than seeing the original Star Wars in 1977. Wow, can you believe it? George Lucas’s space western saga has thrived these 38+ years. There have been highs, for example Ewoks, wicked-cool and imaginative creatures, and Jedi Masters, to name a few, and lows, dare I mention Jar Jar Binks? The story of good triumphing over evil remains an enormous draw to audiences of all ages.

StarWarsPosterForceAwakensThere were things I noticed while watching the movie, in particular, I enjoyed seeing a more-inclusive supporting cast. I saw people of color, which makes total sense, doesn’t it? I noticed women who were fighter pilots, generals, and business owners. Not only did I notice and applaud the efforts the film makers made to create a realistic representation of people, I felt hopeful because we’re seeing evidence of the drive for inter-sectional and multi-gendered representation in the stories we’re queuing up in record-breaking numbers to view.

I noticed there was one, maybe two scenes where two named female characters held a conversation about something other than a man. Maz Kanata and Rey spoke of the vision or memory Rey’s touching a light sabre invoked. Yes, Luke Skywalker was mentioned in their exchange, but he wasn’t the primary focus of their discussion, which revolved around Rey embracing her destiny, and the courage required for her to do so. It might be argued that the conversation between General Leia and Rey was one-sided, but you can’t deny the words spoken “may the force be with you,” were said with sincerity and well received, nor did they contain a reference to a man. Does it sound like I am juxtaposing this movie against the Bechdel rule? You bet I am!

Another theme I noticed was that in which a character’s inner struggle was made evident in the actions he took and the language he used, or at times, didn’t. Despite being thoroughly subjugated into his life’s purpose as a Stormtrooper since birth, Finn, formerly known as FN-2187, made a conscious choice to be a better person, heroically walking away from everything he had ever known because that philosophy didn’t jive with his inner compass.

Did I applaud like a fan girl when iconic figures of my childhood appeared on the screen? Did I cheer the good guys and jeer the bad? You bet I did (much to my children’s embarrassment)! One thing that struck me was how we were watching the children of these complex and interesting characters we had met nearly 40 years ago struggling with the same issues their parents had, and perhaps still are. Maybe there’s more to this circle of life than meets the eye.