Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Visit to the LOST Beach

Because so many of my friends are LOST fans, I decided to write up a longer description of what happened when we visited the beach where LOST is filmed.

First of all, we ended up visiting a lot of places where LOST is filmed without realizing it. There is a Web site called LOST Virtual Tour which can guide you if you set out to find the specific sites. However, looking at it after the fact showed me that we had been to a couple of the spots already. For example, there is a lookout point next to Hanauma Bay where Desmond confronted Kelvin. We went there, but didn't realize that's where we were. We just liked the view.

Since we had planned to visit the northern part of the island that day, we decided it would be fun to see the beach where many of the scenes from LOST are filmed. It's called Papa'iloa Beach and it's actually just a short drive from La'ie where BYU Hawaii is located.

We walked out on the beach and right away recognized some of the places where key scenes were filmed. We saw a group of people further down the beach, but still didn't realize it was the film crew. We assumed it was another group of tourists. Just then this kind of lanky older guy came walking over to us. He asked us if we minded walking up higher on the shore so we wouldn't end up accidentally on camera. It turned out he was one of the production guys for the shoot and they were actually filming a scene that day.

The cool thing is that since all Hawaiian beaches are public, he couldn't order us away, he could only ask. We readily agreed to move (because we're nice like that) and he asked us if we were coming out there to watch the filming. We explained that we didn't even know they were filming, but we wanted to see the location. He said, "Well, come with me. I'll take you around to the other side and you'll be able to see better what's going on."

The next thing we knew, we were walking through the makeshift campsite set up by the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors. We could see shelters with airplane wreckage and suitcases. We were in the middle of the set! I took a couple of pictures. We were passed over to a security guard who nicely asked me to not take anymore pictures. He said they were pretty paranoid about spoilers and that if I was seen taking photos, they might throw us out. We went around through the jungle past all these different props and sets, past trailers and miscellaneous crew members. I don't know if it was because it was Hawaii or what, but everyone was super mellow and nice. They seemed to go out of their way to say hello to us. I have visited a set or two in the past and can say that is not usually how it is. Everyone is usually all uptight.

So after pausing a few times to allow for something that was being filmed, we were escorted out past Eko's church structure to the beach. We stood there watching as the character Ilana was filming a scene where she kicked a guy and pointed a rifle at him after he fell. They did it again and again as the rain fell.

Just then Shauna grabbed my arm and said, "Oh, my gosh. That's Ben!" I looked through my rain spotted glasses and sure enough Michael Emerson, the actor who plays Benjamin Linus was sitting with another security guard under a tarp. He was chatting with the guard and at one point stood up to empty the rain-filled tarp.

We were there a few more minutes and then I looked up and saw a familiar face walking out to the tarp. It was Locke! John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) was standing maybe 40 feet away from us. He walked out and shook hands with Ben which I found sort of funny. At one point, he turned around and looked at us, but did not make eye contact. I don't blame him. I'm sure he didn't want to deal with a bunch of fans. Besides Shauna, Matt Hyatt and me, there were four other people there watching. At one point another person came out and was greeted enthusiastically by the two actors. It was a blonde woman, but it wasn't Juliet or Penny.

We realized we needed to leave because it was raining and we had tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center that night. The snag was, the guard who brought us out there told us we couldn't just walk out. He said we needed to go over to the guard who was sitting with the actors and tell him to radio for someone to come get us. I wondered how reasonable it was to approach a guard who was with the actors. In the end, Shauna did it. However, the guard seemed to misunderstand her. Instead of radioing for an escort, he took us himself. He was pissed off because he wasn't supposed to leave the set. I told him like three times that he was supposed to radio someone, but he didn't listen to me. He was the only guy on the set that was jerky about us being there.

Again, we were held up in the production area. I head a familiar voice saying, "I gotta do an interview in a minute." I looked to my right and in the trailer right next to us, maybe 10 feet away this time was Terry O' Quinn again. We didn't push our luck to ask for an autograph or anything, but it was cool to be there. The same hippified old production dude took over for the guard and took us back out to the beach. I apologized for our causing a hassle with guard and he said, "Ah, he'll do what we tell him to."

We went out to the beach and left. Shauna took a couple of pictures of Ben under the tarp as we left, but it was zoomed in and shaky. It's not the best picture, but it's what we have.

Honestly, we thought we would be lucky to see the beach, but to be taken through the set and to see a couple of the actors was so far beyond what we expected. Plus, everyone was so gracious (the one guard excepted) and were even saying goodbye to us as we were leaving.

One picture is included in this note, but this link will take you to the rest of them, if you're interested:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Disturbing Trend

Several months ago, I posted a video clip of my old band performing a song I wrote when I was 19 called, "Kill Your Girlfriend." The entry also told the story of how the song was written.

Since then, I installed a traffic monitor on my blog and have found that way too many people come to this blog after searching for terms like "How to kill your girlfriend" or "Kill your girlfriend and get away with it." That's a bit creepy. No, it's really creepy.

Therefore, I would like to issue the disclaimer that the author of the blog entitled Random Thoughts does not and has not ever seriously endorsed the killing of one's girlfriend, boyfriend or any combination of the above.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dog Strategies II

So my dog Odin is smarter than any pet I've ever had, bar none. I wrote before about his strategy to take his sister's bone without having to fight for it. He used a new technique just the other day.

The dogs were laying on the bed while my wife was resting. Daisy had a bone which she was happily gnawing on while Odin plotted. Suddenly he perked up and cocked his head as if he heard something he sprang to the edge of the bed. Daisy, realizing she must be missing something, sprang to action and was off the bed and out the bedroom door in a split second. Odin, however, never moved beyond the edge of the bed. He pretended to hear something because he knew she would fall for it! He faked her out. As soon as she jumped off the bed, he very casually walked to her bone and lay down to chew it in peace.

About a minute later, Daisy walked back to the doorway and stared at Odin in seeming disbelief. She had been had. Again.

I nominate Odin for President of all dogs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

24: Day Seven

I've been watching 24 since midway through Season Three. After seeing that, I caught up on DVD and have watched ever since. I admit that the horrific Season Six nearly made me give up on the show, but I had heard this season would be better so I gave it a chance. So far it has been better.

Nevertheless, I have a complaint or two.

One of the things that made 24 such a great show was the fact that anyone was expendable. It makes the viewer feel some of the danger that Jack is in and thus become more invested in the show. Having said that, I think that it's lazy to simply kill characters as an emotional wrench. They have failed to consider what cast chemistry means. A good example of this is Tony Almeida. In Season Six, they unceremoniously killed his wife, the former president and then Tony himself. This seemed to have almost no purpose, particularly the death of Tony. Then through a somewhat contrived plot twist worthy of As the World Turns, Tony is alive.

At first, we were sure Tony was a bad guy, but then we learned he was double crossing the bad guys to uncover their plot. Tony was working with other former CTU operatives and quickly agreed to help Jack. As everyone who has been watching has since learned, Tony seems to be bad again. This will lead to the inevitable showdown which will undoubtedly result in Tony's death.

I'm disappointed in this twist because I think it's a lazy way to create tension. I'm not saying I know what would be better, but I think these writers underestimate the importance of cast chemistry when they decide to knock of a character or make them turn evil. Now I suppose it's possible that Tony is double-double crossing the secret group that apparently is at the head of this plot, but he's already killed one agent directly and blew up a whole bunch on last night's episode.

I just don't see how they will write their way out of this one and make it seem satisfying. If this is the end of Tony as a good guy and a character on the show I'm going to be really pissed. Again.

Don't even get me started on what's wrong with Heroes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I know people who live in places like Chicago would smirk, but we get some pretty strong winds here in Lovettsville. When I was a kid, it had snowed several inches and then rained on top of it. The rain froze so that there was about a inch or more of solid ice over the snow. My brother and I nailed our sleds together and added a sail to it. We used the gusts coming off the Blue Ridge Mountains to fly across our fields. It was a blast ... literally.

The past few days have been really windy. I was walking over by the elementary school and saw this:

I really hope no one was inside.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to Make American Idol Better

Despite it's popularity, American Idol's ratings have waned. Watching it last night, it occurred to me how it could be an interesting show again.

Each week, a random contestant would be given a gun with one bullet. During the feedback from the judges section if the contestant doesn't like what he or she hears, then BANG!

I'm guessing either Randy or Kara would be the first to go.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

16 Albums

This has been going around Facebook and I wanted to post it here as well.

Think of 15 - 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions.

These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. These are my picks. I tried to limit it to 15, but ended up with 16 so sue me. There are a few more who came close, but these are mine.

1. The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles
My aunt was a cool hippie, but in her late 20s became born again. She gave me all of her old albums. Among them was the White Album. This was not the Beatles I was used to hearing and stylistically it opened up a whole new musical world for me.

2. Rock and Roll Music - The Beatles
This isn't a real release, but rather a compilation released by Capitol Records in the mid 70s. When the Beatles broke up, they still had a contractual obligation to Capitol which was fulfilled via the release of several of these compilation discs. My parents got this for me before it was actually available to the general public because they donated money to NPR here in D.C. This double album focused on the rock and roll side of the Beatles catalog. For me, it marked my first time hearing songs like Taxman and Hey Bulldog.

3. Live at Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
My dad was into country music more than anything. For the most part, I hated it. Johnny Cash was the exception. His voice and his stories spoke to me in a way other other country artists never did. He seemed like part of our family.

4. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy - Elton John
While Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gets most of the attention from his fans, Captain Fantastic is more or less a sequel. This is pretty much perfect pop music. Incredible melodies, brilliant lyrics. I can't here this without thinking of muggy summers in Virginia.

5. Destroyer - KISS
Destroyer was when KISS became bigger than life. Purists might say this is when they sold out and truth be told, it's not really a favorite anymore, but it was huge for me when I was 13. It was a perfect mix of music and comic books. What more would any boy want?

6. Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols
Hearing the Sex Pistols for the first time felt like an audio assault. Everything about it seemed wrong, yet I couldn't turn it off.

7. The Clash - The Clash
The Clash, even on their first album, showed that there was more more to punk rock than anarchy and screaming. They took what the Sex Pistols did and went a step further.

8. Live at Budokan - Cheap Trick
I never heard Cheap Trick until I heard the live version of I Want You to Want Me on the radio. It was heavy like KISS, but melodic like The Beatles.

9. Get the Knack - The Knack
Sneer if you must, but this is a perfect album. The Knack took everything that made power pop fun and crammed it into every song. Forget the skinny ties and short hair and wanna-be Beatles vibe, The Knack were the real deal ... for exactly one album. Sadly, they put everything they had into the one album and never even came close again.

10. Armed Forces - Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello took the anger of punk rock, but added a more pop sensibility to it.

11. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi blended the blues with rock, pop and folk. This album made me want to hear what influenced him.

12. East Side Story - Squeeze
I didn't want to give Squeeze a chance because everything I ever read about them included the notion that they were the "New Lennon and McCartney." I knew that couldn't be true so I blew them off. Fortunately for me, I accidentally heard them on MTV and was hooked. East Side Story is probably the best example of their particular blend of melody and storytelling. When I started writing songs, I spent years trying to write lyrics like these.

13. Spilt Milk - Jellyfish
Jellyfish was kind of overlooked amidst the 90s alt-rock explosion, but this is a perfect pop album in the absolute best sense of the term.

14. Nevermind - Nirvana
It's easy to take Nirvana for granted after all the hype and deification of Kurt Cobain. But this album was like the second coming of punk. Only this time, they took the best elements of punk, rock, metal and pop and mixed it into this amazing hybrid that sounded the death knell for 80s hair metal. I watched with amazement as overnight as BAM magazine stopped featuring ads for hair extensions and replaced them with ads for flannel shirts (as if the look alone gives a band credibility). Nirvana changed music formats and shattered conventions. The result was that bands no one ever would have given a chance made it onto the radio. What a lot of people miss about Nirvana is how poppy they were. Most don't get past the grinding guitar and primal scream of Cobain. Break down the songs and you'll hear real melodies there.

15. O.K. Computer - Radiohead
I think this may be one of the top five albums of all time. The last one before Radiohead descended into self-indulgence and pretension.

16. Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
An amazing power pop album. Intelligent lyrics, great melodies and harmonies. You can tell they are influenced by all of the best bands.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kill Your Girlfriend

So when I was 19, I had this girlfriend. She moved away and we were broken hearted. Well, I called her when I could, but in reality it was inevitable that we both would move on. Still, it stung a little when I called her and her mom said, "She's not here. Is this Roger?" No. I wasn't Roger. I didn't know anyone named Roger. I hung up the phone and never called that girl again. To take out my frustration, I wrote an angry, wanna-be punk song called Kill Your Girlfriend.

I had recently read a book called, And I Don't Want to Live this Life by Deborah Spungeon. Deborah's daughter, Nancy was the girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Sid killed Nancy after a night of drug abuse.

I took that story as inspiration for my broken heart and wrote my song. To ease your mind, I didn't really want to kill my (ex) girlfriend. I was just blowing off steam. I actually recorded the song that night with overdubbed backwards guitars and a wannabe Johnny Rotten singing style and forgot about it for a while.

Fast forward a few years and I was in a band called Audrey Smilley and we needed to have three hours of original music for a gig at a local club called, Brodericks. We had one week to learn it all. We played anything and everything we had ever written or thought about writing. It was only natural that Kill Your Girlfriend was resurrected (ha!). It quickly became a very popular part of our live set. Even the girls liked it, because everyone has relationship frustrations. The girls would sing, "Kill your boyfriend!" instead of girlfriend.

Anyway, my former bandmate Dale Garrard recently posted a video performance on YouTube of us doing Kill Your Girlfriend at a club called The Backstage Cafe in Provo, Utah. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dog Strategies

We have two English Springer Spaniels: Odin and Daisy. They are siblings, but from different litters. Odin has been with us for two years and Daisy just since August. The other day, Odin brought me a tennis ball. He does that sometimes when he wants to play. I dutifully took it from him and threw it down the hall. He didn't even look at where I threw it or move a muscle. Instead, he stared at his sister who immediately jumped up and chased after the ball. Odin, then walked over to where she had been and confiscated the bone she had left behind. I never knew that dogs strategized until that moment. But clearly, he understood that (a) if he brought me a ball I'd probably throw it and (b) if I threw it, Daisy would probably chase it.

I know people who don't have that much foresight.