Monday, December 27, 2010

Trip to Universal Hollywood


Before the end of the year, if you buy a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, you get 2011 for FREE! 

(Blackout dates apply.  See the fine print for details.) 

So, like 200,000 of my fellow tourists, I made the trip over to the hill today to get my annual pass. 

Parking is a ridiculous $15 so I took the metro, which is completely free as I have explained in previous posts.  It took about 1/2 an hour to get there from my apartment. 

Unfortunately the crowds were a little crazy but there were still some options ...

Like play in the half-melted snow under the Grinchmas Christmas tree the Grinch's dog who fell asleep on the job

... laugh like a mummy after seeing how much a simple hotdog costs 

...stare at nasty foreigners with greasy hair

...get your picture taken with a bunch of astronauts

...get eaten by a shark

...walk quickly past the studio tour because the wait line was over 80 minutes long

...get drunk in a bar because there wasn't any wait to get in

...give up the studio stuff and go shopping at CityWalk

...get your picture taken with your best bud in front of the Universal globe

And for those people who really love this place, I'm sure there were job applications!  You too can be in the movie business!!!

Since I have the 2011 pass, I'll be back.  I haven't seen the new 3D King Kong and I like the Simpson's ride and walking all over the park is heck of a good workout, so I'll make the effort to return next month ...

when there are about 180,000 fewer people!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New photos are up!

I've put up more of my (artsier) Cambodian photos on the photoshelter site.  There is a gallery for the temples, people and nature. 

Thanks for taking a look. 

And if you're so inclined, you can purchase them!!  Yes, I know it's Christmas time and your dear sick mother needs new socks so I'm okay if you would rather throw your money somewhere else. 

The link is below: 

Phil's Photos at Photoshelter



This shy girl was photographed during one of my trips to the Cambodian countryside.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rainy days in California

There has been so much rain lately I feel like I'm living in Seattle (or Vancouver for the Canucks).

I'm walking around Universal Studios doing some Christmas shopping (yeah, I know that's weird). Sucks to be a tourist today. Pay $75 per person and see King Kong in the rain. This is supposed to be sunny California, dammit!

But I'm happy. Just having a caramel latte and staying dry and warm.

But I gotta walk back to my car eventually and it's a looooooong walk. I was too cheap to pay $15 for parking at Universal.

Oh well.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ciudad Juarez: Hell on Earth

I have a strong stomach for the world news but nothing disturbs me more than what is happening down at the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

My question is:  Why do people still live there?  If I were fearing for me life every day, I would take the next bus to ... well, anywhere. 

God bless the people who are trying to stand up to these monsters.  You are far more courageous than I. 

Here are just some of the shocking stories that I have read recently on CNN. 

Since October 14, when Juarez Mayor Hector "Teto" Murguia began his term as the city's new mayor, 25 police officers have been assassinated, Sanchez said -- an average of almost an officer killed every other day since Murguia has been in office.

Two armed attackers burst into a kindergarten and set fire to the school building in the violence-plagued border city of Juarez, state media reported. Police say the suspects left a message saying the school had not paid a protection fee, which they had demanded from teachers two weeks ago to prevent attacks against the children, the state-run Notimex news agency said Monday.

On the day of the funeral of a prominent social activist in Chihuahua, Mexico, a business she had ties with was burned down by a group of armed men, according to witnesses.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, made its own history Tuesday as its homicide rate reached 3,000 deaths for the year -- 10 times the number of killings annually that the border city counted just a few years ago.

"We know that patients have the right to healthcare, but nonetheless, we the doctors cannot offer our services if we live trapped in our homes for fear of going out to work, if we are kidnapped, or even worse, if we lose our lives, killed with impunity," a statement from the doctors' organization said. The statement noted the recent deaths of three colleagues -- one who died in a car bomb explosion, and two others who died after being kidnapped.

A group of armed men ambushed a police car and killed four municipal officers inside, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

A series of recent graffiti messages on school walls in Mexico's most violent city threaten attacks if teachers don't hand over their Christmas bonuses

I've never been to Ciudad Juarez but I used to go down to Tijuana (another border town) a couple of years back.  I especially liked the area around Rosarito Beach.  That is until I got stopped by a "policeman" for doing an "illegal turn".

He said he was going to take me to the local jail unless I paid him $100 cash.

We settled on $72 which is all my friends and I had in our pocket. 

There is no way I would go back to Tijuana and it would take a lot to even for me to set foot in Mexico.  Not until they clean up the corruption and control the cartels. 

Until then, you're just not worth it, Mexico.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Time to reflect

December is always a tough month. 

I just put too much pressure on myself. 

Here is a small list of things that I hope to accomplish before the end of the year:. 
  • Initiate peace talks between North and South Korea
  • Write a Grammy award winning song and boast that I'm better than Kanye
  • Go camping with Sarah Palin
  • Become adopted by Angelina Jolie
  • Invent a website that someone wants to buy for 10 billion dollars
  • Scare people into good health like Dr. Oz does
  • Travel to infinity and beyond
  • Hire Jane Lynch as a life coach
  • See what all the fuss is about
  • Do an Old Spice commercial
  • Swim to Cambodia 
  • Receive one ridiculously huge coupon a day
  • Eliminate spam mail completely
  • Bitch slap a really rich housewife
  • Find Obama's birth certificate
  • Ask Mark Madoff if it was worth it
  • Achieve Nirvana
  • Stop biting my fingernails
  • Get an iPhone 4 and an iPad and marry them in a civil ceremony
  • Watch the third season of True Blood
  • Have more than 5 followers on my blog
  • Make more than $10 from my blog
  • Tell DrPhil he's fat
  • Party like a rich Armenian
  • Find out where Armenia is
  • Become a big fish in a little pond
  • Update my status
  • Get censored on Sesame Street
  • Become a modern family
  • Start a religion and call my disciples Phillopians
  • Have an immortal life like Henrietta Lacks
  • Sleep all day and party all night
  • Become the mayor of Wasilla
  • Try a little tenderness
  • Make fondue and attend a key party
  • Experiment with a home perm
  • Prepare an Oscar speech
  • Find out how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar
  • Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight
  • Teach people about hummus or Hamas, if they want
  • Buy a suit
  • Buy a shirt
  • Buy underwear
  • Not feel guilty for wearing briefs (junk control)
  • Handle rejection
  • Laugh at the moment
  • Believe in myself or at least a better version of myself
  • Let my new life begin
  • Get physical
  • Eat vegetables
  • Make bad decisions to have better stories
  • Forget regret
  • Stay out of the rain
  • Raise money for The Savong Foundation
  • Bend the rules
  • Have a bathroom I can play baseball in
  • Change my name to Captain Awesome
And a few other things like save the planet and stuff like that. 

I only have two weeks left before the end of the year.  It's no wonder I'm stressed! 

I've included a picture for those people who follow my blog but don't like reading.  I call it a creative self-portrait. 

Hope everyone is enjoying the last days of 2010!
Books to enjoy!  Or not! 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
Swimming to Cambodia

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cambodian fish massage

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. 

When in Siem Reap, it's a lot of fun just to be a tourist. 

Going to the night market is not something that regular Cambodians do.  It is strictly for those out-of-towners who aren't too weary from trampling around temples.  Most of it, as the name suggests, involves shopping for souvenirs but there is a central bar serving strong drinks and plenty of opportunities to get REALLY cheap massages.

$4 foot massage for an hour?  No problem! 

But if you're looking for something a little more exotic, then there is another option ...


On this visit to Cambodia, I really wanted to try it out. I was hoping that the experience was better than their command of English.

For $2, you get a massage that lasts about 20 minutes.  This means that the fish are bringing in higher profits than their human counterparts! 

This does seem a little um, fishy.

You do get a free beer, glass of wine or coke while you're getting your toes tickled. This was a huge selling point for me because I was thirsty and a little nervous about sticking my feet into nasty water filled with a school of potential pirrhanas.

Here is the pool of water and the hungry fish. I don't think they get fed otherwise. Their diet consists entirely of tourist toe jam. Yummy.

After sticking my toes into the pool, the sensation was almost unbearable. I have ticklish feet and the feeling of having thirty tiny mouths eat away at me like I was some sort of human buffet was very disturbing.

But damnit, I sucked it up and endured it like a man.

Eddie didn't seem that impressed but the girls at the pool next to us were more entertaining than the fish. 

At the end of twenty minutes, did my feet feel any better?  Well, no but I walked away satisfied knowing that I had filled up lots of little stomachs and made them very happy even if they hadn't done the same thing for me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trip to Phnom Kulen

I've been back from Cambodia for about a week and I'm still in recovery mode.

My sleep schedule is off.  I haven't done any of my laundry.  And paying more than $10 for a dinner just seems unreasonable. 

But it's time to get a grip.  Get back in the daily routine.  Put those dirty clothes in the washer ...

Oh hell, I can do all that later.  It's my day off and I want to post some pictures of our incredible trip to Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen is the most sacred mountain in Cambodia.  It is there that Jayavarman II proclaimed himself a god king and started the Khmer dynasty.  It takes about an hour  or so to get there from Siem Reap and although the road is mostly paved, it can be quite a bumpy ride.  The main attraction is the giant waterfall although some would argue that the massive reclining Buddha is the most important reason for Cambodians to make the trip. 

We took about 25 kids from the orphanage.  With the adults, it made for quite a tight squeeze into two cars but we did it.   Everyone have seatbelts?  Sure, officer ...

After the long drive, the first stop was the bathroom.  In Cambodia, don't expect luxury.  Most of the time, you just get four walls and a hole.  No toilet paper?  No problem.  There's usually a hose. 

Here were the "facilities".  At least there was good ventilation. 

At Phnom Kulen, it is customary to buy a stack of riel (the Cambodian money) and hand out the small bills to the beggars who line the stairways.  There were children and elderly and handicapped. 

Then we made the uphill pilgrimage to the reclining Buddha.

And when we got to the top, there he was--a really big Buddha who had a very serene look on his face.  The Cambodians touched him and took their pictures and made offerings.   

And then it was off to the waterfall and it was a doozy.  We were coming off the rainy season so the water pounded down.  It was an incredible sight.  

Phnom Kulen is a beautiful place and if you're tired of the temple trampling, then you should make the trip.  It won't be cheap by Cambodian standards (a car, guide and entrance fees may cost over $100) but it'll be worth it. 

We played for hours; swimming, splashing, posing for pictures and generally goofing around.

I was a little worried about the little ones.  There were several times when I rescued them from flowing waters but at the end of the day, there weren't any of the casualties that I feared.  These kids were remarkably tough and even when they slipped on the rocks, there weren't any tears. 

This picture cracks me up.  We have muscle guy on one end and naked baby at the other.   

Everyone is happy showing off their stuff.  Yahoo! 

I'm the white guy.  And there's naked baby again posing on a damn pole! 

This is my buddy, Sehn otherwise known as monkey #1.  Nicest guy.  Hard to believe he is 16. 

For some odd reason, I got stuck with naked baby at one point.  He didn't really like me and was squirming to find his mother.  We were BOTH trying to find his mother.  I have no parenting skills.  Didn't she know that? 

And then it was lunch.  The adults brough along a couple of uncooked chickens, vegetables, rice and lots of cold drinks. 

Cambodians eat a lot of fish so the chicken was a special treat. 

I call it massacred chicken because the meat isn't carved; it's butchered.  I suppose they do it this way because there isn't a lot of meat and it's just easier.  Makes for more difficult eating though.  Watch them bones!   

And nothing is wasted.  Even the chicken feet. 

Chicken feet are a little rubbery but apparently still edible. 

Phnom Kulen was really an amazing trip, probably the highlight of my latest trip to Cambodia. 

But it wasn't necessarily the place, it was the people.  Cambodians are the friendliest people , kindest, most sincere people that I know and I can't wait to go back to see them.