Monday, October 26, 2009

The Memories of Rent

I remember the first time I saw Rent although the details surrounding the occasion are quite blurry; I was in New York in the late nineties and I believe I saw it with my brother. I have no idea why we were in Manhattan together but I must have convinced him that we had to see the new musical on Broadway and I must have assured him that it had nothing to do with opera. We sat in the balcony off to the far side because that's all we could get at the last minute.

Rent was, and still is, a very unique musical. It tells the story of a group of colorful characters living in New York's Alphabet City. Most of them are struggling artists and four of the main characters have AIDS. There are no dancing clocks, no sexy Egyptians, no one glides around on roller skates and a chandelier does not come crashing down at the end of the first act. Instead the audience is served a generous dish of reality addressing issues such as poverty, homelessness, drug abuse and of course, AIDS. Despite all these dreary subjects, the overall message of the play is hope, love, friendship and having no regrets about life. The title of the musical refers to the fact that nothing is permanent; we are given our lives for a short time so we had better make the best of them. There is no day but today.

In a strange twist of fate, the writer of the musical, Jonathan Larson, died the night before the off-Broadway premiere of Rent at the painfully young age of 35. Obviously his own life echoed everything he preached in his famous musical.

I had the chance to see Rent last night. Over the years I have seen it many times (I think eight or nine times?) and it was a great pleasure to sit down with the denizens of the Alphabet city once again. It was a special treat that the two main characters, Roger and Mark, were played by the original Broadway cast members. Although it was a touring production, the quality was very high and the audience was wildly enthusiastic, breaking into the fastest standing ovation I have ever seen for a Broadway musical.

For me, there were a few disappointments. The powerhouse lesbian song, Take Me or Leave Me (it sounds kinda funny to put it like that but that's exactly what it is)didn't quite have the energy it was supposed to have and neither of the women had strong enough voices to really pull this song off. The actor playing Tom Collins was a little shaky in his early singing but he redeemed himself with his signature song, I'll Cover You. On the plus side, Mimi played by Lexi Lawson rocked the house with one of my favorites, Out Tonight and Angel, played by Justin Johnston, was appropriately exuberant as the Christmas transvestite. The company song, Seasons of Love, was very well done and was worth the price of admission by itself.

It was a great night despite the fact that I was seated far, far away from the main stage. I had tried for front row tickets (the rush seats) but found out at the box office that these were only available to students and seniors. Bah-humbug.

If you haven't seen this musical, it is HIGHLY recommended. Do NOT see the movie and think that you have seen it. The movie is an embarrassment and should have been straight-to-trash DVD. Rosario Dawson playing Mimi is just one of the movie's many painful problems.

So go see Rent. It is still touring around the country and although it has left SoCal, I'm sure it will be back at some later date.

And remember ...

FORGET REGRET OR LIFE IS YOURS TO MISS!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dinner before Rent

I decided to run out of work and drive down to Orange county to see Rent.

Didn't have much time for dinner as you can see.

The show starts in 30 minutes!!


-- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The laws of L.A.

Los Angeles is the only place I know where jeans and a tshirt are formal attire.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Masturbating dog

I'm not usually one to put stupid videos up on my blog but this one I just couldn't pass up.

Now where would he learn that?!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photographing Dusty

A pet photographer must be one of the most difficult jobs out there. Sure, there are well trained labs that are cooperative but most of the time, I'm sure these photographers are dealing with out-of-control subjects who want to do ANYTHING but sit still.

Dusty had to go into the clinic for another antibiotic injection and I decided that I would photograph him while he was in his cage. Not sure why. Perhaps it was a slow day. Perhaps I just wanted to document his humiliation like some sort of sick pet owner.

Anyway, it was not an easy photo shoot. Dusty didn't know why his owner was trying to shove a piece of metal in his face, especially when it didn't smell in the least like his dog treat. He kept on moving his head and my iphone camera didn't have image stabilization.

It was a painful experience for us both.

Here are just a few of the great shots I took.

Although it does look like I'm strangling him, I assure you I was only thinking it and not actually doing it.

Finally I gave up and took a video. Now you can see why my photo shoot was such a challenge.

video

NEW BLOG!!!

As if I don't spend enough time in front of the computer, I have decided to start another blog.

Yes, I know what you're thinking--the world NEEDS another blog and it's a good thing someone is stepping up to the plate and trying to fill up cyberspace.  So thank you for your support and all your well wishing.

This new blog will be much more specific (unlike this blog which rambles on about my dog, living in Los Angeles, new movies coming out and my travels to corrupt foreign countries.)  The idea came to me after I found out that my most popular blog topics were about filming locations in Los Angeles.  Since it doesn't seem like anyone has covered that subject in any depth, I decided to come up with ...

Are you ready?

POPSITES 

I will be focusing on locations (mostly in Los Angeles) which have been made famous because they are associated with a movie or a television show. 

The blog has already been started but as of right now, it is just a rough template.  You can check it out at http://www.popsites.blogspot.com/.  I'm not thrilled with the overall layout and design but you have no idea how difficult it is to find a good template out there in cyberspace.  Either the templates are just plain boring (what accountants use to write a blogs about numbers) or they are for teenagers (glowing stars and myspace-style backgrounds which make reading almost impossible.)  Since I know very little html, I had to go with a fairly generic template and despite several hours of trying, I was able to do only the slightest bit of customization.

So what do you think?  Yeah or Nay?  Keep in mind that my feelings are easily hurt. :)

I will still continue with this blog so don't forget to keep on checking in.  You never know when I'll post a stupid video of my dog doing something.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Laws of L.A.

Talent will only get you so far. Good looks will take you the rest of the way.


-- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, October 12, 2009

Becka Boodles

Becka sleeps in the drawer beside me while I work at my desk.

She always looks so peaceful and content.

She is a zen master.


-- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kung Fu Hustle

Last night I saw one of my favorite films on Spike TV.

It's called Kung Fu Hustle and if you've never heard of it, I urge you to take a trip to Blockbuster, fire up your Netflix queue or download a copy as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed.

KFH is a Chinese film about a middle aged couple who must defend their slum against the infamous axe gang. It's not yer typical Hollywood film and there are surprises around every corner, both visually and emotionally.

I suppose it could be considered a comedy (it's almost like a live-action cartoon) but there are elements of drama and suspense mixed with great action sequences.

And the best news? There is supposedly a Kung Fu Hustle 2 coming out next year.

Let's hear it for the landlords!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A writer's life

When I was in high school I had a very strong philosophy about life. The fact that I had a philosophy about life in high school probably tells you what kind of loner geek I was but that's beside the point.

At the time I felt that life was just absurd. No fate. No purpose and especially no meaning. I was a huge fan of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. If you're not familiar with the play it's about two men who are waiting for someone named Godot to show up. In the end Godot doesn't appear and we get the idea that the characters will continue to wait indefinitely. As a play it is as exciting as watching paint dry but as a concept it appealed to my burgeoning sense of pointlessness. There is no reason for the men to wait and yet they do. Some people have said that Godot is a religious play; Godot represents a God who has deserted us but that would imply that the two characters have a purpose to their life which goes against everything The Theater of the Absurd is about. Godot is simply nothing. Our lives are about nothing. And we try to give our life meaning and purpose where nothing exists.

This may sound a little unsettling to some but to me it was very comforting. If nothing mattered then I could do anything I wanted. This freedom was exhilarating.

After graduating high school, I made a big mistake. I started to care. I cared about making money. Cared about what I looked like. Cared about what people thought of me. Cared about being successful. Life suddenly had a purpose. My purpose was to care. This might sound all well and good but it was actually a very bad thing. When I started to care, I became vulnerable. And when someone is vulnerable they are open to attack.

I always thought I was good at writing. When I was younger, I received plenty of writing awards and aced my English tests. Before my fourteenth birthday my first book was published. (Okay my dad published it and to my knowledge no one ever bought a copy but still it was a book and it was published.) When I was in my noncaring, life-is-absurd part of my life, writing was pure enjoyment. I wrote for anyone who wanted to read it--what did it matter if it was good or bad? As soon as I started to wonder what people thought of my work, it was all over. Oh the agony of suffering through other peoples’ opinions. I soon found out that I wasn’t the young Shakespeare that I had always thought I was. I tried selling my short stories, my plays, my screenplays. I entered contests. Tried to find an agent. No dice. I cared but apparently no one else did. After watching American Idol one night, I feared that I was one of those Idol hopefuls who had no clue about their lack of talent. The next day when I was feeling a little more optimistic, I told myself that I knew how to write and I was pretty good at it, but just not good enough.

Last year I took off four months to write about my experiences as a veterinarian in a large city. Although I wasn't writing full time (I did quite a bit of travelling on the side) I managed to write almost a complete book and put together a book proposal. I called it The Pet Doctor’s Shoes and sent it off to a variety of publishers and agents. For people who love their pets I thought it would be a great read. My job is anything but dull and I get asked all the time what it is like to work with animals all day. It was a no-holds barred look at my professional life. Within a month I had received all but one of my proposals back. No one was interested. Yes I know a writer, any writer, must be able to handle rejection but that still didn't take away the bitter sting of opening all those "we regret to inform you" letters.


I'm not asking for sympathy here. I realize that there are a lot worse things than getting rejected by a bunch of strangers. I could have cancer. I could be blind. I could have been born in Afghanistan. I do have a steady job and I'm not starving. I do have people that love me and want me to succeed. My problem is my own.

I simply care too much.

This past week I've been thinking a lot about my writing. I even considered giving it up. I'm too tired to keep on putting myself out there only to get the remains of my work shoved back at me. But here is my (frustrating) conclusion; writing is too much a part of me. It's like trying to rip out my liver and expecting to live. I have to write. God knows why and he apparently isn’t willing to give me the answer.

So there you have it. I will write and throw it out into the universe and see what happens. If it comes back to me broken, I’ll nurse it and comfort it and have no regrets. But if it takes flight, I hope it flies far and wide and high and becomes bigger than I ever expected it to be.

And maybe then there will be a purpose and it will all be worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In praise of the iPhone

There is a big bandwagon out there and I just jumped on it.

About two weeks ago, I purchased the latest iPhone. I didn’t need a phone especially since I already had a Verizon contract with my Omnia phone. When I approached the Verizon people about my desire to switch teams, they told me it would be VERY expensive to break their contract. And hit men would come after me. And I would have seven years bad luck. And finally, after everything else had failed, they tried to tell me that the Omnia is a great phone.

But let me tell you, the Omnia sucks. Badly.

The biggest problem is with the screen. It is horribly inaccurate and very insensitive. After recalibrating the screen again and again, I tried finding an answer on google. There were a couple of suggestions but they all involved changing the registry and that was something I just didn’t want to mess with. As far as the sensitivity was concerned, there didn’t seem to be much I could do. In most cases, it literally took me a couple of taps before the screen acknowledged that I wanted something.

And to top it off, the Omnia comes with a dangling stylus. What year is this? 1999?

I presume the stylus is there to help with the accuracy of the typing but it didn’t help. In fact, all it did was remind me that I wanted to stab the phone with something sharp and make it bleed.

The deal breaker for me was the inaccuracy of the keyboard. Simple texting was a chore. I found that the most accurate way (which was pathetically inaccurate) was to handwrite my message with the stylus and have the phone transcribe it. Here is a good example of how this transcription worked.

Let’s say I wanted to text this:

Hey Patrick, I had a long day at work. How about we chill at a nice relaxing movie tonight?

This is how my writing would be transcribed by the Omnia.

Fuck you, homey! That whore you bought me last night gave me some bitchin’ crabs!

This was sometimes funny when I was texting my friends but it was often not appropriate when I was in communication with my parents.

You may wonder why I bought the Omnia in the first place. Well, I did compare the iPhone with the Omnia and the Omnia was definitely cheaper. $50 compared to the hefty $250 for the iPhone. And the Omnia had very good reviews (which were obviously written by Verizon employees.) The other selling point was the 5MP camera on the Omnia as opposed to the 3MP on the iPhone. I went back and forth but I was finally swayed by the fact that everyone was getting an iPhone these days and I wanted to be a little different.

Ugh.

If you are thinking about getting an Omnia, think about what I am saying very carefully.

The reason why everyone is getting an iPhone is because they are that good.

Of course, they are not for everyone. I probably wouldn’t get one if I were a jet-setting businessman or a granny who just wants an portable phone or a stuck-up Blackberry user but if you are looking for a slick piece of equipment that feels like the future in your hand, then what the hell are you waiting for?

The biggest selling point for the iPhone is the app store. There truly is an app for everything.

Want to know where to hike? Where to find a cool new restaurant? Figure out a tip? Find out the nutritional composition of your favorite Starbucks drink? Learn the lyrics to a song? Post to your blog? Fall asleep to the soothing sounds of an ocean? Add pictures to your Facebook? Track down medical marijuana outlets? Locate a bar where they serve Guinness? Send a postcard? Watch TMZ videos? Sex tips? Wikipedia? Where you parked your car?

There’s a freakin’ app for that!!!

I think the most amazing app is Shazam. If you click on this app, it can “listen” to a song and in less than 30 seconds, tell you everything you want to know about it. Name of song, band who did it, the biography of the band and their discography. You can watch the video on YouTube and it can even take you to the link on iTunes where you can purchase it.

I tried this app out in a noisy bar with low level music and it still worked. Sinatra! How did it do that??

The iPhone is absolutely beautiful and a true jewel to hold. The screen sensitivity is pure bliss and I am no longer in danger of plugging up my toilet because I tried to flush a cell phone out of my life.

The downside? It ain’t cheap.

The phone is expensive enough but of course, there is the monthly fee which is at least $80. Then you have to add on the apps that you need to purchase. I say “need” because everyone should have a phone which can tell you where to eat after giving it a good shake.

I never thought that I would put out this much money on a fancy phone but kudos to Apple for making me think that it is all so worth it.

There is room for improvement. I would love to see a 5MP camera with HD video. I would love multiple apps to run at the same time. The battery could definitely last longer. The phone should come with a case or a cover. And the reception could be a lot better in my apartment.

And make it cheaper.

A lot cheaper so I can buy more apps.

Pictures from Savannah and Tybee

What's the point of taking pictures if you can't bore your friends and relatives with them?

While I was in Savannah and Tybee island, I managed to fill a couple of memory cards with subjects that I have already photographed many times before.

But damnit, I still had a lot of fun walking around with my camera and shooting everything in sight.

Here are some of my favourites.

Ya'll says I must come back again so rest assured that I will.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

News from Cambodia

Thanks to the internet, I have found a new friend from Japan who recently visited the same area in Cambodia that I did.

Here is the report and some new pictures!

Hi, my name is Anneke and I just returned from a trip to Savong’s school in Siem Reap. Initially, I learned about the school on the Internet; when I contacted Savong he introduced me to Phil, who was extremely helpful in answering all of my questions and sharing his knowledge of what to expect. Thanks, Dr. Phil!

Savong runs a free language school for underprivileged children. The school has 440 children at the moment. There is now a small library with three computers, and two more were donated while we were there. The school is not only a place for the children to learn languages, but also a place for socializing and getting away from the everyday worries they may face.

As if running a school weren’t enough, Savong has recently opened a home for children who aren’t able to live with their parents (if they have any). He now has 14 children living there, with one person taking care of them. Most of the children are older and go to school every day, but there are a few very young children also. They have four bedrooms, where they sleep on the cement floor using only reed mats. The kitchen is a dirt-floored area where they have set up wood-burning hearths with bricks to set the pans on over the fire. There is one water pump, where the kids wash and drink. Thanks to a donation, they have an outhouse to use.

Savong has a large piece of land and wants to do so much more, but doesn’t have the financial support needed to even feed the children yet. The school runs on donations, some by volunteers who come to the school to teach. But the home desperately needs help. Savong is a generous and ambitious person and Cambodian people in general are warm and friendly. If you are ever in Siem Reap, I strongly recommend volunteering at Savong’s school for a day. It’s an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

http://www.savong.com/