Monday, May 27, 2013

A look at Azteca Games

Exotic Aztec flavor adds adventure to game spinning

Always interested in things Azteca, I wondered how video games are influenced by the Aztecs. Not surprisingly, the Aztec Mystique is alive and well for video gaming.  These Aztec games will not be part of the Azteca Theater offerings. However, I hope you find them amusing.   I especially enjoyed the graphics for the first game which reminded me of Tomb Raider and the Aztec background music from the second.

Hunting for lost Azteca treasure is an adventurous theme inspiring a number of video slot  games. Giant temples, sacrificial rites, Aztec Kings, beautiful Aztec women, headdresses, masks and gold treasure add excitement from the Empire of the Aztecs.

People wager real money at casinos on these games in hopes that the Aztec gods will smile fortune upon them. However, no need to wager money to try them. Two of these games can be played for free online.

1. Azteca - The latest Aztec-inspired game
Azteca video game

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
The video slot game Azteca  was introduced last year by Playtech. The look of Azteca reminds me of Lara Croft and Tomb  Raider.  The heroine is a very attractive figure that could just as well  be Angelina Jolie / Lara Croft.

As you can see from the three games listed here, the graphics have been improving, with Azteca being the most recent and most attractive.

This game is not available online in the USA as people are not allowed to play, even for free,  online gambling games that are offered in a casino in the USA. 

Azteca Sun Temple
Azteca gods

2. Aztec Treasures - Five reel video slot game
Aztec Treasures introductory screen
Aztec inspired background music with drums and flutes that makes you want to start dancing adds interest to this game.  The real icons are jewels, portraits and gold.  Like most video slot formats, there are five reels and 20 lines to win.

Each winning spin is rewarded with a little animation from one of the winning squares for a touch of fun and advancement from the traditional mechanical slot machine games.

Play Aztec Treasures online here for free
Play Aztec Treasures online for free, smaller screen

3. Aztec's Treasure - Old School five reel video slot game

Aztec's Treasure Slots,  by Real Time Gaming (RTG), acts much like a traditional slot machine, you can hear the wheels spin and related sound effects  as colorful images whiz by.

Play Aztec's Treasure here for free online

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of Azteca games.
- David Owens

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Alien Abduction Fantastic Idea for Chinatown

The Azteca ticket booth last night.

Where in the world is 
Maria of Chinatown?  
Could she be out of this world?  

Recent events in Fresno's Chinatown suggest there may be unforeseen forces at work. 
Story and photographs by David Owens
Original story: Who kidnapped Maria of Chinatown?

 A few years back the underground tunnel publicity in Chinatown revealed a mysterious history under our feet.  Silent ghosts, buried secrets, passages to nowhere, murder,  and forgotten lives fuel our imagination. But this is Chinatown's past and the tales we can imagine are far more exciting than the facts known.

Every night the streets of Chinatown bring their own plots and subjects for the imagination.  People appear out of nowhere, some on a mission, some wandering about in odd ways changing direction and speeds in rhythms only they can understand.  Behind these characters that grab our attention, the local residents go about their business, meeting someone, going down to the store for groceries, getting a burrito at Chris's Meats.

On weekends a taco stand sets up in front of the Azteca and smiles and laughter are heard as people eat and chat. Cars bring customers to La Fiesta the Spanish music night club next door.  Still more cars bring people down F Street to the Full Circle Brewery for some of the most interesting live music and events in Fresno. 

Personal encounters

A shadowy figure with slender limbs and large
head lurking in doorways on F Street.Alien? Nah, could it be?
Seen here at Salaam Seafoods, a great
restaurant during the day.
Indeed, F Street is never dull.  As the night wears on you notice groups of drifters, mostly from the homeless community the other side of Ventura Street.  The Fresno Rescue Mission and Poverello House serve a large community South of the center of Chinatown.  On the fringe are people with addictions and mental illnesses who have no where else to go. At first glance they can be scary to the uninitiated.

However, after more than a dozen years on the nighttime streets of Chinatown I feel safer here in the Tower District.   Less theft and less violent crime in Chinatown. I am safe here.  Aware of my surroundings and safe.   None of these street people have guns.  If they did they would have sold it for a beer or illegal substances they crave.  The worst problem, though minor, is an insistent panhandler.  "You gotta dime? Got a smoke?  A sincere no usually sends them away. Often the only word heard is 'Hey," the rest is communicated with gestures and body language.

For the person prone to a medical emergency, Chinatown is the place to have it. The response from Fresno Fire Station #3 at Fresno and E Streets is phenomenally fast.  Fire suppression? No problem.  The Fresno Police Department does well, but since they have not been able to have the dedicated neighborhood patrols as they did some years ago, they are not able to do as much proactive work as before.

Aliens of all kinds

Last night at the Azteca ticket booth a ghostly green light appeared in the shape of an alien. At first appearing to be menacing, soon I understood the expression  was simply tranquil, eyes probably closed and observing F Street through other senses. Hey, maybe...
838 F Street
Another guardian spirit has come in Maria's absence.  No longer will people stop, cross themselves and say prayers. Now the reaction is more a furtive glance and a quickened pace.  No more lingering for now.

K-Jewel music floats under the marquee, Cranberries, Avril Lavigne ...  a change! Music from foreigners...aliens!  Under Maria's reign as patron saint of F Street K-Jewel was a Sinatra station, the real classics of the American songbook.  Change is a certainty, even in historical Chinatown.

Before the railroad came to begin the future Fresno on the sinks of Dry Creek there were Chinese citizens living in wood houses and building underground basements and tunnels. They came originally for the gold rush and stayed. They were non-citizens ... again aliens!  The aliens occupied Fresno before there was a Fresno.

Each wave of immigrants that came to new agricultural hub called Fresno started in Chinatown, The West Side, or the wrong side of the tracks.  The Italians, the Armenians, the Mexicans, the Japanese, the Volga Russians and the rest.  The aliens came to Chinatown to get a start a new life in America, to become un-alienated.

Suddenly, people walk down the middlle of the street, a car appears.
The night brings this history to life. Darkness hides the dust, dirt and neglect. The bones of old buildings stand strong and imagination draws the missing pieces.  And the lost people of Fresno come into their own.  No longer suppressed by the watchful daytime people, they are here in force.   Relaxed and empowered.  No pretensions.

There are still some hard working people looking for their way up the ladder of success. Some are undocumented aliens from Cuba, Mexico and South Americas still looking for their place.  But there are also many who will never find the first rung.

Let's "Keep Chinatown Different"

Chinatown is the one area of town where the unexpected happens daily.  If aliens live among us, they started in Chinatown.  Anything can happen.  A manikin can be named Maria and become a saint.  And disappear in a mysterious abduction. Alien abduction? Too soon to tell.

Serious UFO hunters say Fresno lies at the bottom of the "Nevada Triangle" that includes Area-51 and China Lake. The other areas have military aircraft  activity that can spark unexplained observations. However, Fresno does not. Could the Chinese tunnels connect to alien portals? Are the Chinatown night behaviors  caused by alien experiments? Can we conjecture that Chinatown disappearances are alien abductions? 

 Questions about aliens and UFOs in the Fresno area are not new. 
Celestia, aka Anne Heche
Sightings and speculation increased dramatically in 2000 when Anne Heche was spotted partially clothed knocking on doors in Fresno looking for a space portal while possessed by an alien she called "Celestia."  For many, this was the first time the possibility of alien contact in the San Joaquin Valley had been considered.

Under the marquee at the Azteca Theater
Ooooh! As Anne Heche, speaking as Celestia, said, "Ik all notra daska don!"  "It's too scary for me now." 

In all seriousness, Chinatown is where unusual things do happen in Fresno.  Where Maria the Manikin went is open to speculation and over-active imaginations. Maybe she will return and add another chapter to her story. For now, I'm glad Chinatown is different.

Keep Chinatown Different. A new mantra.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who kidnapped Maria of Chinatown?

For the past twelve years Maria presided over the ticket booth at the Azteca Theater. Countless passersby stopped to greet her and for
Maria of  Chinatown
many she took on religious significance as they stopped, crossed themselves, and spoke prayers and blessings.  She was a vision of grace, beauty and hope.

Maria began her life in Chinatown as a clothing display specialist at Mary's Liquor on F Street 50 years ago.  Mary ran the store to serve residents of Chinatown and stocked more that the usual convenience store including some clothing. And Maria sported the best clothes and was quite popular with her good looks and slim 1960s figure.

ArtHop Chinatown
When the store was closed twelve years ago I asked what would happen to Maria who was already named for her  well known innocent and kindly looks reminding some of the Virgin Mary.

Soon Maria came to work for  the Azteca Theater.

Mardi Gras Chinatown
Maria cast her gaze across the sidewalk and  F street 24 hours a day. She welcomed visitors for ArtHop and Chinatown events keeping a positive outlook.

Sometimes she would get dressed up for holidays such as Christmas and the Fourth of July.  She gained some beaded necklaces for Mardi Gras and a Chinese hat for the Chinese New Year parade.
Maria in her Christmas hat

She kept a light burning around the clock and cast a kind look towards all. Some locals began to stop in front of her to say a prayer and pay their respects. She never looked disapprovingly or was unwelcoming.  She blessed many who had few blessings.

Maria Fourth of July
Hers was not always an easy life.  She observed her share of erratic behavior by those wandering the streets on the edge of normalcy.  People who were homeless, addicted or suffering mental confusion.  In 2008 she was assaullted for the first time. A confused individual broke through the security bars and tossed a heavy planter towards her before raising a misguided hand towards her and tore her brown hair off and escaped down the street. 

Shaved head for solidarity
Maria did not hold a grudge. For awhile she wore her bald head proudly in support of cancer survivors she had seen over the years.  Eventually she decided to change her look and become a redhead.  Never one to dwell on life challenges, she bravely carried on.

In the early hours of May 14, 2013 Maria was kidnapped. Security bars were forced open, the booth broken into, and Maria was taken.  And although she will remain brave and resolute through this adversity, she most certainly would rather be back at the Azteca Theater greeting her friends and those in need.

Maria in recent times in her auburn look.

No ransom note has been received and no one has taken credit for the abduction. The motive remains elusive.  We only can solace in the fact that wherever she is she will be doing her work to soothe the savage soul and bring blessings to those who are deserving.

Ever since Maria started her watch on F Street she has been adored and studied.  Many photographers have chosen her for their subject.  Azteca Theater as photographers model

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tyrannosaurus Azteca almost rewrites history!

Tyrannosaurus Azteca - Aztec Rex

Dinosaurs! Aztecs! Spaniards! Treasure! Human Sacrifice! Adventure!

Way back in 1521 the conquistador Cortes was busy plying the native Aztecs for gold and treasure, not realizing that the Aztecs had a surprise -- a prehistoric monster Tyrannosaurus Azteca!

Some critics call this an action adventure film. Some call it a comedy. Aztec Rex is a return to the campy monster movies of the 50s and 60s.

Two years before his amazing encounter with Montezuma, Cortes is sent on a scouting mission to shores south of Mexico where he and his band of Conquistadors discover a tribe of Aztecs who sacrifice their own people to satisfy the hunger of the "Tyrannosaurus Azteca " living in the jungle.

Just imagine what would happen if Tyrannosaurus Azteca had eaten all the conquistadors!  History would have been written without the Spanish!  Watch to see how Cortes and the Aztecs battle the beast and set the stage for the Mexico we know today.

See the trailer in English:

The Aztecs Summoned a Tyrannosaurus Rex to keep Cortes and his army out of Mexico... Now They Need The Conquistadors' help to stop the T-Rex from killing them all !

Way back in 2007 Director Brian Trenchard-Smith directed this 2.5 million dollar adventure.  Writer: Richard Manning Stars:  Marc Antonio, Allen Gumapac, Dichen Lachman

Watch the entire movie in Spanish!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

'Through the Back Door' with Azteca Films

Lobby Card from Por La Puerta Falsa
Take a few minutes and put yourself back in 1950 when films were often B&W and sound was mono. The Azteca Theater had been open a few years and audiences often filled the 700 seats.
Distributed in 1950

Courtesy The Grove Theater, Lindsay, California
In 1950 Azteca Films distributed the film "Por La Puerta Falsa" directed by Fernando de Fuentes was seen around the country in Spanish language theaters including the Azteca Theater in Fresno.

Story:  Bernardo, once a lowly pawn, has mortgaged the estate of former masters, Abigail and her husband Don Santos  and is in love with Adela.  Trouble and tragedy ensue. Set in the early 1900s.

Class Differences

Unfaithful Wife

These lobby cards were used to promote the movie at The Grove in Lindsay, California in 1950.

Basada en la novela "Campo Celis", esta es una leyenda que lleva consigo sangre y odio. Bernardo es un humilde capesion que con honrradez llega a ser dueño del Campo Quiroga, pero la ambición de una mala madre hace que todo alrededor se convierta en un campo de rencor y muerte.
By the Back Door

Por la puerta falsa
Directed by Fernando de Fuentes
Produced by Fernando de Fuentes
Written by Mauricio Magdaleno, Fernando de Fuentes
Starring Pedro Armendáriz, Luis Beristáin, Roberto Cañedo
Music by Raúl Lavista
Cinematography Jorge Stahl Jr.
Editing by José W. Bustos
Release date(s) 16 November 1950
Running time 93 min
Country Mexico
Language Spanish

Go back to 1950 and watch the movie:


Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chinatown Locksmith Retires a Role

Archie's trademark glasses
 No more fiddling, cycling and philosophizing -- for now.

By David Owens
Azteca Theater

This month, at the age of 84 years, Archie Wood decided it was time to move on. He hung up his bow, lay down his fiddle and closed his toolbox. And it was not entirely to his liking.  "I have a good situation going in Chinatown," Archie said.  "But those doctors think they have a right to tell you what a man can do!"  Doctors at the Veterans Hospital told Archie they would not release him until he moved to a place among other people who could help with cooking and check on him.   A social worker found him a room and board opening and he was at first agreeable under the condition they let him set up his locksmith equipment there, but that did not work out.  And Archie, in typical strong-minded action, caught a bus up to Portland, Oregon where he seems content to be and already has found some lock work.
Chinatown's mobile locksmith

When Archie Wood first came to Fresno Chinatown, already past the usual age for retirement,  there were no master locksmiths in the area. You could find a guy to make keys, but not more.   I rented him a place next to Jazzy Jeans in the D'Italia Hotel building at Fresno and F Streets.  Soon he was the go-to-guy  for  lock and door work in the area.  Car lockouts and safe work were fine,  the more challenging, the better.  He prided himself as a master locksmith.

Archie talked for long spells about the virtues and virtuous nature of being a locksmith. About how the locksmith had to be the most honest man in the neighborhood. "A locksmith is the only man you can not provide security against.  If he wasn't honest, you have no security," Archie would explain.

Then he might tell a story about how Mr. Linus Yale revolutionized security in 1868 with the invention of the pin tumbler lock, which is still in use today.  If Archie trusted you, he would pull out a lock tumbler mechanism and show you the ingenious parts.

"There ain't no more interesting profession than a locksmith, I learn something new everyday."

Everything within reach

Early in Archie's time in Chinatown he found that mobile locksmithing expanded his work possibilities and he had a pickup truck he would take out on service calls. Eventually he figured he better quit driving and made a Saroyanesque profile downtown riding his one-speed bicycle everywhere, with tools in his front basket and supplies on a rear rack.  

When Archie was not too busy tinkering with locks, he would play fiddle and guitar. He even started teaching violin to some local Chinatown kids.   He would tell stories about being one time on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, but that he had a lot of practicing to do before he would get another chance.

Proud to be a veteran, Free Mason, and a Capricorn, Archie was always good for an opinion. Early on I learned he did not like to be told what to do. I reminded him that a Capricorn is a stubborn old goat, to which he agreed and added, "and honest, responsible, hardworking, unyielding and persistent!"   Like I said, stubborn.  I confessed to him that I was a Capricorn as well.   After that I think he trusted me.

Fresno Chinatown is a crazy mix of people from all races, economic standing and psychological profiles.  Always has been and always will be an area of true Diversity with a capital D. 
Archie -- a veteran, Mason, of Anglo heritage and a free thinking  conservative -- definitely held a minority spot.  He kept a sign on the wall you usually see at restaurants, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." And the whole diverse world came through Archie's door.  Usually he could work with folks, but if he found someone being dishonest or trying to steal something he was quick to show them the door.  Like many merchants in Chinatown, Archie literally carried a big stick in case things got out of hand.

 This was the late 1990s in Chinatown, the merchants in the area organized  Chinatown Revitalization Inc, funded partially with city funds, and started placing identifying benches, trash cans and banners in the area. Once a month there was a big Fat Friday Festival on F Street and -- with participation of the Old Fire Station #3 -- held a hugely successful  Chinatown Jazz Festival every Fall.  We were trying to make suggestions to business owners and landlords in how to improve the neighborhood for the benefit of those who did business downtown.  Archie the Master Locksmith was a nice addition to what I was doing at the D'italia Hotel during this golden period of revival that held for a few years.   (Until the city entered into an agreement for a master developer for Chinatown which ended the advancement, but that is another story)

Always you could see Archie on his bicycle in a white shirt, thick black glasses and baseball cap,  attending to business and life in Chinatown.  Several times he tried to hire assistants so he could expand his business and help someone come into hsi noble trade. But always they seemed fall short, with a limitation of honesty or secret addictions. One woman I remember he was training to assist  in the business suddenly was there no longer. I always wondered if it was because Archie found out that  she was a man?  Archie could be tolerant, but he demanded honesty and integrity.

One day I got a call from Archie, "David, I can't stay here no more.  I've got to go. It's your manager, he's trying to tell me what to do. He don't respect me!"   Pride, integrity, stubbornness. Yes, the Capricorn butted heads sometimes.    Archie moved into a building down F Street owned by a man known as "The Reverend."  I am not sure what happened, except Archie had even less tolerance for someone who pretended to use a higher power  to get him to do things their way.
Over 4,000 blanks

I got another phone call. "David, I don't know what to do. I can't stay with these folks anymore, they don't respect me."  He had some choice words to reflect this disrespect for his new landlord which I will not repeat.  I told Archie I already rented his old place out to a natural food supplement place.

Then I had an idea. I was just getting another building in shape, the Peacock Department store building in the 900 block of F Street.  On the right side of the building was a small and ancient shoe shine shop that had been operated for years by "The Greek."  It was essentially a 4-foot door on to F Street that went back about 30 feet.  It filled the space between buildings and had been closed for years.  There was a row of old shoeshine chairs. (Incidentally, behind the shop is an old air conditioner unit that cooled by running cold water through coils. The Peacock Department Store was the first air conditioned store in Fresno.)

Eclectic and interesting- lunch with Archie
Soon I offered Archie a room upstairs over the old department store and the shop below for business.   There were 17 rooms upstairs that shared a large communal kitchen and two large bathrooms. It was owned by a Chinese family who rented the rooms out  to Philippine girls who worked in the fruit packing houses a few blocks away. (This was before the "anti-suspender laws" and redevelopment in the  1960s removed most residential housing in the area and killed local business. Chinatown was the area of Fresno men would come every morning to find work on the farms and rent rooms and find entertainment at night.)  The Peacock Rooms would be called a fancy boutique hotel in San Francisco, however, it was worker accommodations and low income housing in Fresno. Rooms ran around $10 a night and many rented out by the hour.

So Archie hung his sign out on F street and continued as a master locksmith. This was fine for years.

 About 2002 Archie got the idea that he ought to semi-retire, he had acquired diabetes and some sign of age and decided to move to a veterans soldier home in White City, Oregon.  So off he went, intent on helping with keys and locks and living out his time with other vets.  Well, something was not right. They would not him fix locks and live there. He had to be 100% retired.

As can be imagined Archie did not like them telling him that and he caught a bus back to Fresno.  I was out of the country renovating some apartments in Russia.
When I cam back and learned that Archie called Jazzy, the manager at the D'italia Hotel, and  put together a plan.

Master Locksmith at Azteca Theater 2013
I had started work on the Azteca Theater and had one small commercial unit, vacant in the building.  They went down there and essentially broke into the building and Archie installed himself as a tenant.  The burglar alarm went off and the Fresno Police and ADT alarms were busy trying to find me. Good luck, I was in Russia!  By the time I found out, Archie was happily back in business in the Azteca Theater building.  When I returned to Fresno I wanted to be mad, but Jazzy handed me the rent and the lease and I could only say thank you!

I rented Archie a place of business four times in three different buildings over the years.  As long as I let him do things his way he was happy and a model citizen. Another time he moved to Portland, Oregon and got an apartment and seemed happy. He sold me his equipment and I was in the process of clearing out the unit.  All personal stuff was taken away in shopping carts by a indigenous "homeless" man I knew to be generally honest and friendly with Archie. 

Violin strings, keys and Navy seal
A week later Archie called and he was at the bus station.  It rained too much in Portland and it did not suit him.  This time I had not rented out his place yet and Archie was able to return to an empty shop.  However, when Archie saw our indigenous friend it turned out he had saved all Archie's stuff in a vacant building nearby and Archie had his stuff back. 

This time Archie my stay in Portland.  As he can be Archie Wood, Master Locksmith, and pick up the fiddle to relax, he'll be happy. 

And in Chinatown, we miss his fiddling and tinkering. And wait for his fifth return!

840 F Street, Chinatown, Fresno 2013