Friday, April 30, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: April 2010

Here are the prominent songs of April. For some reason, "Kim & Jessie" is getting a lot of play this month. I love the creepiness of the line, "Somebody lurks in the shadows."

01 "Kim & Jessie" - M83
02 "Ruin My Day" - Jon Brion
03 "Psycho Killer" - Bruce Nash
04 "Your Head is on Fire" - Broken Bells
05 "All the World (I Tell Myself) - Correatown
06 "Echo Train" - Chad VanGaalen
07 "Camera Talk" - Local Natives
08 "Does He Love You?" - Rilo Kiley
09 "Fistful of Love" - Antony and the Johnsons
10 "I Can't Go For That" - The Bird and the Bee
11 "I Learned the Hard Way" - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
12 "Sweet Disposition" - The Temper Trap

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ragnar 2010

Team Photo

Last year's Ragnar Relay was the running highlight of 2009--just a whole lot of fun--and this year's version is no exception. Longer than last year's race--200.6 miles--and no cancelled legs, our team, Prefontaineous Combustion, ran a great race. Official times haven't been posted yet but we finished at around 28 hours, roughly an 8:37/mile pace. It's just amazing to think that between the twelve of us on the team, we ran for 28 hours straight for 200 miles and made it from Ventura to Dana Point.

Ragnar isn't for everyone. Having to stay up all night, running, smelly, stuck in a van with your increasingly smelly friends for over a day is an ordeal. But for the right person it's also a great deal of fun. I guess I'm that kind of person. It's a huge effort to run this race, but I'd more than happy to do it again next year.

I had the honor of running the very first leg. I was worried because the night before I was feeling so lousy with a cold and fever. I'd hate to run feeling so lousy. Thankfully, the big bowl of tom yum goong I downed on Thursday may have helped. I woke up Friday morning and felt better--still congested but less sickly. Still, I wasn't 100%. However, I knew that when I run with a congested nose, it inevitably clears up. Sure enough, dressed in a skimpy tank top and short shorts from American Apparel, I was able to run my first 8 miles without feeling like I was sick. I hadn't run for a week and even that wasn't an issue.

My first leg was the same exact leg I had run the prior year. I didn't realize it until I got to Ventura and remembered the course. As such, I had a bit of an advantage in knowing what to expect. It's an easy enough course--flat and fairly scenic--so I don't know if experience is a huge advantage, though. I ran the first leg in a pace just under 8 minutes per mile, which made me happy.

After a bit of rest, I ran my second leg just before 9pm in Woodland Hills. This was another 8 miler but also flat. Most of the run was along the Orange Line bike trail which made it an easy, relaxed run. I was a little surprised how loose my legs felt, as if I hadn't even run earlier in the day. My only problem was a case of post-nasal drip that annoyed me. It tickled the back of my throat and so I had to find ways to relieve the irritation. It wasn't a huge issue, though. I was also able to find a couple of runners who were running a strong pace and used them as pacers. I finished the second leg at just under 8 minutes/mile again. I guess that's just my cruising pace.

The third leg was in beautiful Wilmington at dawn: an easy 2.6 miles. I liked that as a reward for running two long legs, I was getting an easy short run as my last leg. However, if I had to ran the three runs, I would place this as my least favorite. I was stiff the whole way and was just worn out. Having just woken up 20 minutes before running, my legs were stiff and sore. I really should have stretched them out a little. I had nothing in the tank except the knowledge that if I kept running I will finish and I won't have to run again the rest of the day. That got me through it. I'm not sure what my pace was for this run since I didn't see what time I started. I'm guessing I ran a 7:40ish pace, so I probably finished at just under 20 minutes.

After that I donned my pajamas and cheered on my teammates as they finished their runs. I even joined Van 2 for their last leg and took some pictures. All my pictures are up on my Flickr page.

Until next year!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This is what I ate #6

I bought burrata at the Hollywood farmers market this morning and I made these crostinis with roasted beets. It was excellent. I could have eaten another plate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

52 Films in 52 Weeks: Chinatown

From the beginning I doubted I would complete the "52 Films in 52 Weeks" challenge, but I'm still shocked how soon and how far I fell behind. "Chinatown" is only my third film and we're already 14 weeks into the year. I'm 11 weeks behind! I guess that's not insurmountable, but it would require me to double up movies some weeks. What makes it tough is that there are movies I also want to watch outside of this series. Currently I have Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale" from Netflix. Netflix's streaming movies is proving to be an indispensable tool.

As I mentioned, my third film in this series is Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." I have long wanted to see this movie both for its classic status and--as I consider myself a Los Angeles booster--its depiction of the City of Angels. I'm happy to report that, like "Casablanca," it lives up to its reputation.

Jack Nicholson makes Jake Gittes a fascinating, well-rounded character. Gittes is jaded, cynical, manipulative, and tempermental, but he also proves to incredibly sympathetic and vulnerable. The look on Gittes's face at the film's conclusion as everything goes to heck is devastating. I guess this is the big surprise to me, how much depth there is to Gittes. I expected him to be a classic hard-boiled private investigator, but this was a nice surprise to find such a complex figure navigating us through the story.

The story itself is lurid but not in a sensational way. It seems to be a straightforward P.I. story at first--a woman hires Gittes to follow her husband who suspects of cheating on her--but then the layers are peeled and we are soon following a story that touches on political corruption, murder, and incest. Polanski grounds the film, though, so that as the story unfolds its dark, troubling secrets, the effect isn't something sensational or graphic. Instead the viewer feels the impact on these characters. It's lurid not for entertainment's sake but because life is full of dark, unseemly realities.

For its depiction of L.A., the filmmakers' experience in the city is clearly evident. From the neighborhoods and streets they mention specifically to the history of the city, Los Angeles is an essential component of the film. "Chinatown" does play to the L.A. stereotype of being an "artificial" city, a city that probably shouldn't exist let alone be the sprawling metropolis that it has become, but I think it also goes beyond that. "Chinatown" doesn't call into question Los Angeles's existence, but instead it brings to light the fact that underlying the city's growth and all the civic conveniences that have come about is a culture of corruption and greed. A price was paid for our comforts and as much as it can be smoothed over and hidden, it can't be undone. In this way it parallels the story of Faye Dunaway's character. Evelyn has lived a privileged life, but she paid for it in many ways. Like her, we are beholden to figures like her father, Noah Cross, for what they have provided us but we also are paying for their sins. There's nothing we can do about it now to correct it, so we are left to acknowledge the dirty truth and go on about with our lives.

"Chinatown" is a terrific film, and it ends with a perfect, albeit troubling line, a nihilistic shrug of sorts: "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Friday, April 09, 2010


I have this goal of attaining a "summer beach bod." It's actually been a goal for many years now but I have yet to accomplish it. Will this be the year? If I keep eating the way I do I doubt I ever will. Maybe for a day, and then I'll snap a picture of it to capture the moment then I can let myself go to waste again.

So far I've lost some weight, but I don't know how much. I haven't weighed myself. Judging from the decreased size of my man boobs I'm guessing it's about five pounds. Running is helping with the weight loss but I would need to really monitor what I eat to be successful. How can I do that, though, when there's so much good food to eat?

Tonight I checked out the Flying Pig Truck after work. The Art Walk attracts a whole caravan of food trucks, so when I got out of work I checked out which ones were there. A lot of them were unfamiliar to me or their food offerings just didn't appeal to me. I was about to give up hope and headed back to the parking garage when I saw the Flying Pig Truck parking. I had read good things about their fare, so I checked out the line and figured I'd wait for a bit. The line wasn't too long, and the Flying Pig started taking orders very soon. I was thinking of getting the braised pork belly bun but I feared that it would be too greasy. I was feeling guilty enough as it was, so instead I settled for the tamarind duck taco, which in my mind was healthier, along with crab balls. Now that I think about it, I probably would have been better off getting the pork belly.

The verdict? Both items were amazingly good. The tamarind duck taco was sweet at first but had a nice spicy kick at the end. I'm not a duck expert, but I thought it tasted great. The crab balls were quite good, too. It's a compliment to say that I could really taste the crab. They paired it with a sweet chili dipping sauce, but it really didn't need it. I could have had a couple more of those duck tacos, but I was good. I had a taste and it was good. I'll save the other menu items for next time.

While at the Flying Pig Truck I ran into one of my Flickr contacts, the uber-talented Joits. We had never met and only knew each other from the pictures we post on Flickr, which actually is pretty revealing. It's not often you get to meet an internet friend, so it was great to meet and talk to him for a bit. The internet really is a great tool for opening up the world.

Afterwards, feeling guilty from the food, which also included a vegan potato salad and half a peanut butter and banana sandwich from earlier, I went for a run. Rather than do my usual 6, I super-sized it to 8.75 miles. It was a lousy run. I just never got in a rhythm and felt sluggish the whole way. It was like I had only one gear and I went through the whole run on that one gear. I managed to drag myself through the run, so at least I can say I ran 8.75 miles. It sucked, but it was completed.

The weekend now beckons and Saturday there will be more eating. Dim sum in the morning and sausages and beer later in the evening. How am I ever going to be buff?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

This is what I ate #5

Salmon with Roasted Potatoes, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

Dinner and a movie. I finally watched "Chinatown." Great movie. Dinner could have been better. I oversalted the potatoes and the salmon was slightly overcooked. Oh well.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

8 Miles

Suddenly it's spring! Running around the Rose Bowl this morning, we were treated to wildflowers at bloom, mostly mustard flowers (I think), but there were also a few California poppies. Even the freeways were at bloom. I saw some purple wildflowers along the 134 and more mustard flowers along the 710. They seemed to be at their peak, so I can only imagine what the deserts look like right now. As pretty as they are, though, my allergies have been acting up all week. I guess I can put up with it for the sake of beauty.

The Rose Bowl is also experiencing a bit of spring awakening. Pasadena has seen fit to repave the road around the Rose Bowl and repaint and reconfigure (slightly) the running paths. The running path around the Bowl will be widened to 13 feet and the "Wrong Way" signs no one really followed (including me) will be taken down. Posts will also be installed to separate the running path from bicycle and vehicular traffic. I can't wait to see it all completed. Running on the newly paved road felt good on my weary legs. Good job, Pasadena!

As for the run, it went well. For the first time in a long time, we ventured past the white bridge beyond JPL. We couldn't go farther than the ranger station, though, because of erosion. Well, we could have, but we didn't want to have to hike down what amounts to a miniature canyon. I really only wanted to do 6 miles, so I was ready to turn around anyway.

What I've taken to calling my "shin issues" is still there. I'm still not sure why it went away while I was running the marathon, but since then it's still lingering. It's not painful. It's just something I feel, a tightness of sorts, and a tenderness when I touch the spot. I've been monitoring it but it's not getting worse and it's not hindering my mobility, so I'm following the advice of this New York Times article regarding doctors and exercise injuries. You don't really need a doctor to tell you that rest will help with an injury. I probably should rest and ice the leg more, but I'm terrible at doing that. With that said, if my leg snaps I sure as hell will see a doctor.

To reward myself for the longer run, I stopped by Fosselman's and got a scoop of their taro (ube) ice cream. I must say that it's better than the ube ice cream made by Magnolia in the Philippines. The taro flavor really comes through and the ice cream has the right creamy texture. Next time I'm picking up a whole pint to eat at home.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fools

Happy April Fools Day courtesy of Rufus Wainwright. Check out the familiar L.A. locations like Shakespeare Bridge in Los Feliz.