Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh, My God! (of Carnage)

When you're not able to create your own art all the time, the best thing to do is to immerse yourself in other people's art.  As an actor, I like to take in a good theater production from time to time, and study professional actors in their purest and rawest form.  

Finding quality theater in Los Angeles can be tricky.  To guarantee a high quality and professional show, you'll need to go to one of the better known theaters like the Pantages, the Ahmanson or the Mark Taper Forum.  I've always enjoyed a great show at those venues, but have had less luck at the "local" neighborhood theaters.

This time around, I went to see "God of Carnage" at the Ahmanson Theater, starring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden.  It was an uninterrupted 90 minutes of comedy, mayhem and inspired acting that only professionals of this caliber could deliver.  I brought binoculars so that I could study their faces and their movements on stage, but found myself being drawn into the crazy, dysfunctional story that was unfolding in front of me.  The show closed this past Sunday, but it might be playing in neighboring cities.  Someone also told me that there may be a movie in the works.  If that's the case, definitely add this to your "saved" list on Netflix.

I can hear the voices now: "...But tickets to the Ahmanson Theater are really expensive and I can't afford to go all the time!"  Yes, regular price tickets are expensive ($150 for orchestra seating) but if you've been following this blog, you'll know that I rarely pay full price for entertainment items.  There are websites like Goldstar.com and Stubdog.com that offer deep discounts on special event tickets, ranging from theater to baseball games to motorsports races.  The Ahmanson theater and Mark Taper Forum also offer $20 hot tix, which are available in person at the box office on the day of the show.  I went during lunch time to pick up my hot tix, but most of the time, you can just show up an hour or so before show time and buy the hot tix as long as they're not sold out.  You can find more information about hot tix at centertheatregroup.org.  Follow this guide to avoid paying $15 for parking when you go to these theaters.

Always immerse yourself in that which you love.  It doesn't have to be something fancy; even a trip to the Santa Monica Promenade can be inspiring, as you walk past the various artists performing on the street.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meah, What's Up, Doc?

Meet Storm:

I met Storm and about thirty (yes, thirty) other bunnies while going for a run in my neighborhood.  I never knew this, but an organization called TooManyBunnies.com operates just a few blocks away from me!  TooManyBunnies.com is a "no kill" organization, run completely by volunteers, that is dedicated to finding homes for domesticated rabbits that have been abused, abandoned or neglected.  This organization is headed by a lady named Linda, who is quite possibly the sweetest and kindest lady in the world!

My girlfriend and I were going for our regular (ok, occasional...) run through the neighborhood when we noticed a bunch of bunnies hopping around on the other side of the street.  We jogged over to meet these fluffy balls of joy and were led down the rabbit hole into a bunny sanctuary!  Linda had transformed an open yard into a safe haven for bunnies that were probably purchased from a pet store right before Easter and then abandoned a week later.

The bunny city was a living piece of art.  There were hutches high and low; some connected with pipes so the bunnies could visit each other.  You would never know that 30 bunnies lived there because they don't make any noise.

It felt like we were in the country as a few bunnies hopped around our feet and the aroma of hay filled the air.  Hay is used to line the hutches and also consists of about 80% of a rabbit's diet.

These bunnies were all rather low maintenance as they were litter trained and are self-cleaning, much like cats.  Their poo looks like little marbles, are odorless, dry to the touch and taste like jelly beans.  Just kidding on the last part.

Bunnies make the perfect pet for people on the go as they do not require much attention.  As long as they have food, water and a small area to hop around in, they are happy.  Having a rabbit as a pet can be rewarding and therapeutic for people who are tired of the L.A. hustle and bustle.  Rabbits have a calm demeanor and are happy to listen to your problems as you pet them.

Photo courtesy Mark Okamoto,
used with permission from Mia's mother
Meet Mia.  She is three years old and was diagnosed with a condition called amblyopia, otherwise known as "lazy eye".  One of the treatments for amblyopia is to wear an eye patch anywhere from two to eight hours a day so that the weaker eye can develop better vision.  This treatment has drawbacks because when the good eye is patched, the child cannot see clearly and becomes frustrated and uncooperative.  Often times, it is difficult to keep the eye patch on a child for extended periods of time.

E.B., the black and white bunny pictured above, was introduced to Mia to help her with her treatment.  E.B. only has one eye, as the other one fell victim to a dog attack some time ago.  When Mia is around E.B., she wears her eye patch so that E.B. doesn't feel bad for having only one eye.  I could tell that E.B. really cared about Mia as he let her carry him around like a stuffed animal.  I've never seen another creature so calm when being improperly carried by a three year old child.  We eventually showed Mia how to properly support E.B. so he wouldn't be at risk of being accidentally dropped.

Linda from TooManyBunnies.com would love nothing more than to match you with the perfect bunny for your family.  The bunnies are all fixed and litter trained, and adoption is always free.  She'll teach you everything you need to know about carrying and communicating with your bunny (yes, bunnies have their own language) and will even bunny-sit if you need to go out of town.  If for whatever reason you decide that you're not able care for your bunny anymore, Linda will be happy to take the bunny back so that it can be placed with another family.  There's no reason for the bunny to be abandoned twice.

Now what would I be if I told you to adopt a bunny and didn't adopt one myself?  (Hint: rhymes with hypocrite)  Meet MAC!  She's the latest addition to the L.A. Graffiti family!  We named her MAC after the cosmetics company because of her dramatic, smokey eye shadow.

If you would like to adopt a bunny, please leave a comment below and I will put you in touch with the awesome people from TooManyBunnies.com

I leave you with the mind-blowing cuteness of MAC eating a chunk of pineapple.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New King Is Crowned

Move over Pink's, there's a new king of hot dogs in Los Angeles and his name is Papaya King!  I was in Hollywood on Monday night and heard that a New York legend was opening a store in Hollywood.  I really didn't know much about the history of the original Papaya King.  I just read that they served fresh tropical juices and hot dogs.  Papaya juice and a chili cheese hot dog?  Makes sense to me.  I had to try one.

My friends and I drove from Redondo Beach to Hollywood in just under 30 minutes and found an empty/free parking meter just one block from our tropical, meaty destination.  Gosh, I love weekdays.  We walked into the New York-esque joint that had no tables or chairs, and just enough space for a line to form behind the register.  The line was about ten people deep and the hot dogs were flying out as fast as the cashiers could take the orders.

An obese man an his wife walked in behind us and was immediately impatient/upset with the line.  He complained incessantly about the NY style setup of the restaurant before the door even shut behind him.

"Are you in line?!" asked the obese man.

"Yes." I replied.

30 seconds elapse.

"Are you in line?!" asked the obese man.

"Yes, we are." I replied.  And just to prove to him we were in line, I asked the ladies a few people in front of us if they were in line.  They replied with a look that said, "duh..." and a bunch of people turned around to look at me as if I had broken the cardinal "no talking to strangers in a crowded place" rule in their anti-social world.

30 seconds elapse.

"Are you in line?!" asked the obese man, for the third time!

"Yes, we are," I replied, "but it doesn't look like it because those ladies holding straws decided to stand away from the counter so it looks like we're all not in line."

"Where is the line?!" asked the obese man, this time addressing a timid new employee behind the counter.

"You're in the line, sir." said the employee.

The obese man finally stopped asking questions, having found a credible answer from the employee (my answers and verifications were apparently useless) and resumed his heavy breathing and salivating.  I was trapped.  I was standing in front of an impatient, obese man and his food.  That's never a good place to be.  I feel bad for the person that gets stuck in front of this obese man in the 45 minute line at Pink's Hot Dogs.  It seems that patience is no longer a virtue and has been replaced with aggravated entitlement.  

As the line moved forward, I noticed these square pouches being flipped on the grill.  The grill master informed us that they were Knishes (basically fried potato pancakes) and tasted great with cheese on top.  Papaya juice, hot dogs AND Yiddish snacks all in one place?  My mind just exploded.

Between the three of us, we ordered papaya juice, a chili cheese hot dog with curly fries on top, a regular chili cheese hot dog, a NY musher (mushroom and grilled onions) and a knish with cheese.  We took our food to the Hollywood & Highland center to enjoy on the patio before our movie started.

"So, Papaya King after the movie?" asked my friend after only a few bites of his NY musher.

"Yes," I replied. "Let us pray that this movie is short."

The moral of this story?  I'm not convincing when I tell people that I'm in line, and Papaya King is amazing.  Oh, did I mention that they're open until 3:00 AM every day?

*Update: My friend Mark reminded me that if you check in at Papaya King on Facebook 5 times, you get a coupon!  No additional app needed.  The coupon is built into Facebook!

You better get going before Papaya King's line starts to rival Pink's line.  Their grand opening was yesterday, and trust me, word is going to spread fast about the new king of hot dogs!

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*Update #2: If you say "I pledge allegiance to the King" at the register, you get free curly fries!  Offer good through June 30, 2011 with a $5 minimum purchase.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Your Weekend Guide 5/20/11

Image courtesy Red Bull
It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday...  Everybody's looking forward to the weekend, weekend...

Now that the world's most horrendous song is stuck in your head, here are some fun (and always free) events for the weekend!

Skate and Surfboard Auction for the Venice Art Walk
Friday, May 20, 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Track 16 at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave Bldg C-1
Santa Monica, CA
One of a kind skate and surfboard auction.  Skate decks featuring art by 70+ artists including Dogtown and Z-Boys.  Also, custom-shaped surfboards with graphics by local tattoo legends.

Opening Reception for Royal/T and LA Brakeless Pop-Up Store
Friday, May 20, 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Royal/T, 8910 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA
Join the party as Royal/T and LA Brakeless celebrate the opening of their pop-up store.  The goods include a wide selection of high quality, hard-to-find bicycle gear, apparel and colorful accessories.  The party will feature live music by DJ No Electro and drink deals including 2 for $5 Pabst Blue Ribbon.

LACMA Jazz Nights
Friday, May 20, 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Weekly jazz night featuring various artists.

Red Bull Soap Box Race
Saturday, May 21, 12:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Pershing Square, 5332 S. Olive St.
Los Angeles, CA
The title says it all.  Consider taking the metro as parking will be very difficult.

Art Exhibit: Beauty Culture
Saturday, May 21, 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Annenberg Space for Photography, 2000 Avenue of the Stars
Century City, CA
Featuring hundreds of images from top photographers in fashion, beauty and pop culture.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Free Movies!

People always seem to think that in order to have a good time, you have to spend money.  The more money you spend, the more fun you will have.  I think exactly the opposite.  I get a kick out of spending next to nothing for my fun.  If you think about it, it makes everything, even the less fun stuff, more fun because it didn't cost you anything!

Take movies for example.  Would you have fun if you spent $12 ($25 if you got popcorn and sodas) for a mediocre movie?  No.  You'd be upset that you spent so much and didn't get an adequate FROI (Fun Return On Investment).  Now if you went to see that same mediocre movie for free, would you be upset?  Of course not!  Because you had a fun, free evening with your friends and now you have a laughably bad movie to make fun of!  See how not spending money automatically makes everything more fun?

Did you know that you can get free tickets to many upcoming movies?

I stumbled upon a website called GOFOBO.com not too long ago.  Their sole purpose is to give out free tickets to advance screenings of movies that are about to be released.  Their services are nationwide, so punch in your zip code and see if there are any free screenings near you!

Here's my first experience with GOFOBO:

I picked up a pair of free tickets for a movie called "The Losers" via GOFOBO after googling the phrase "free movies" (yes, I blatantly search for freebies).  I left earlier than I normally would for a movie to fight my way from the South Bay to Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  As we got closer to Hollywood Blvd, traffic started getting really bad.  "Why is there so much traffic on a Tuesday evening?!  I bet there's a stupid movie premiere that's blocking the road!" I exclaimed to my girlfriend, upset that we might miss the movie after having driven all this way.

We eventually made it into the Hollywood & Highland parking structure and started Olympic speed-walking to the movie theater.  As we came up to the theater box office, another barrier (literally) was placed in front of me as the entire sidewalk was closed for a movie premiere!  I found a security person and politely informed him that I was trying to attend a screening for "The Losers".  He looked at my ticket and told me to line up on the other side of Hollywood Blvd.  "That's weird," I thought to myself, "Why go through all the trouble to make the line on the other side of the street for a simple movie?"

As my girlfriend and I navigated through the sea of celebrity gawkers, I sneaked peaks between people's heads to see which movie was having a premiere on the same night that I was trying to enjoy a free movie. (Ugh! How rude!)  I managed to catch a glimpse of some posters for "The Losers" on the red carpet.  "How cool," I said to my girlfriend, "we're watching the movie on the same night as the premiere, in the same building."  (Feel free to sigh, shake your head and/or laugh here)

We finally made it to the opposite corner of the street, traded in our printed paper tickets for some postcard sized tickets, and were quickly ushered back across the street, right past the red carpet.  Of course I took the opportunity to snap a quick picture with my cell phone of Zoe Saldana, whose star was still hot having just come off of "Avatar".  We continued to be herded into the main lobby of the theater.  We were then told to grab a large bag of popcorn, a soda of our choice and find our seats quickly.  "Wait a minute, free snacks?  What's happening here?" I asked my girlfriend, "Are we attending the actual premiere of 'The Losers'?"  "Looks like it," she replied, as we both looked at our ultra casual clothes against a backdrop of suits and evening dresses.

We found our seats in the main theater and started to watch the celebrities and studio execs pour into the theater.  The movie started right away without any trailers and it hit me:  I'd just attended my first Hollywood movie premiere!

I always thought that the movie premieres were only for celebrities and movie studio people.  It turns out that 50% of the people at ALL movie premieres are just seat fillers, having gotten free tickets from a place like GOFOBO.com.

While GOFOBO is a great resource, there is a slight catch:  you're not the only one that knows about the website.  The free tickets that are offered are usually snatched up within the hour, if not sooner, depending on how popular the movie is.  If you're lucky enough to get a ticket, it's still a first come, first served scenario.  The ticket recommends showing up 30 minutes before the show time, but I've found that in order to guarantee you'll get into the screening, you need to show up 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of time.  Yes, there are some hardcore movie goers that will show up 4 hours ahead of time, but I've found that 1.5 hours is about the maximum time that most people are willing to wait for a free movie.  Just make sure you show up before the masses.

So there you go!  Go out and enjoy some free movies!  Free makes everything more fun!  Now if I could only figure out how to not pay rent...

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm a Dad!

Image courtesy of FOX
No, I didn't have a baby nor do I have one on the way, but I do have a baby-sized victory that I'd like to share with you.  All of my commercial auditions so far have consisted of a role with the modifier "Asian" in front.  Asian businessman, Asian scientist, Asian man, etc.  But the most recent audition I went on was for the role of "Dad".  Not Asian dad or ethnic dad, just dad.  I consider this a victory for many reasons, but mainly because we are all just PEOPLE and someone in Hollywood is beginning to realize that.

My getting called in to audition for the role of plain ol' dad may have happened for a couple of reasons:

1. My agent is awesome and submits me for projects as long as I fit the description.  She once sent me to a Goodyear tire audition that turned out to be a NASCAR commercial.  It was rather hilarious as the casting people didn't know what to do with me and ended up sending me home.  "There's no Asian people in this spec," said the casting assistant, "but from one Asian actor to another, I think there should be."  The audition called for a tall, athletic man with a great personality and a great smile.  That's it.  I can't fault her for sending me.  =)

2. The casting director that brought me in for the "dad" audition is one that I have been building a relationship with for the past 2 years.  I'm building a relationship with his staff as well and I'm always professional and at my best.  I don't know for certain if any of the above actually helps, but it definitely doesn't hurt.

When I arrived at the casting office, I was the only ethnic person in the room.  We were being paired up into families; a husband, wife and one or two kids.  The casting assistant paired me up with a nice lady and an adorable little girl, but offered to pair me up with a more ethnic family because she thought it would "help" me.  Help me?  Was it so unbelievable that an Asian man and a Caucasian woman would be married?  Yes, the little girl was Caucasian too, but she could have been from a previous marriage.  Is that too far fetched?  Am I over thinking this?

I think being paired into an "ethnic" family would actually hurt me because the unprinted fine print reads: "Limit one (1) Asian person per movie, scene or TV show, unless it's the 'Chinatown' episode, then the use of many stereotypical immigrant Asian people is permitted."

Once the nice lady and adorable little girl were told that I would make their family complete, the lady leaned over to the little girl and said, "It's ok, we adopted him." to which I quickly and confidently replied, "No, I think you meant to say that you married me."  I wasn't going to let her pervert this innocent, impressionable little girl who probably doesn't really notice or care about the differences in people and who definitely did not have the word "racism" in her vocabulary.  Not on my watch, lady.  She had no response for me and just laughed nonchalantly.

I ended up auditioning with the same lady and little girl as the casting assistant who was conducting the auditions actually preferred the combination.  The audition itself went off without a hitch.  We were pretending to make an announcement at a press conference as a family.  We had a podium and a microphone that was way too tall for the little girl.  When it was her turn to speak, instead of lowering the mic to her level, I lifted her up to the mic and held here there while she delivered her line.  I thought it was a cute touch, if I do say so myself.  It also got me more camera time.  Zing!

There were quite a few mini-victories that day, and I'm going to chalk them all up as progress in reaching my goal of being seen as a leading man.  I can't wait for the day that I get called in to an audition for the role of "Man".

One day at a time, one person at a time.  Keep fighting the good fight, my friends!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Electro-Rock Out with OTENKI!

Photo courtesy Billboard.com 
Hailing from my hometown of Houston, TX is an up and coming electro-rock band called OTENKI!  My girlfriend met one of the band members on a recent visit to Houston and we've all since become fast friends!  They are currently fighting their way to the top of Billboard's Battle of the Bands, where the winner is given the opportunity of a lifetime to perform at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards!  They won the Southwest region battle and took a road trip to Las Vegas for the final showdown, which takes place May 18th.

Their journey to Las Vegas is documented via video blogs and posted on Billboard's website.  Your views and visits to their page will help them win the battle!  Follow this link and learn more about the band: OTENKI

It's great to see a group of talented and driven individuals find success in a town that doesn't really have the infrastructure or support groups to foster young and developing talent.  Let OTENKI be an example that you can make art anywhere!  With online tools like Youtube and Facebook, you don't need to live in an entertainment mecca like Los Angeles to find success.  Just create your art, put it out into the world and your fans will come to you.

Keep on keepin' on!  Good luck to OTENKI at the Billboard Battle of the Bands finals!

Watch their music video:

Get to know the band and their origins:

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Asian James Bond

Ian Anthony Dale
I was lucky enough to stumble upon an invite to "Inside the Asian Studio" presented by NBCUniversal's Asian Pacific Americans group. For this particular event, actor Ian Anthony Dale (The Event, The Hangover) would be interviewed by Ted Chen from NBC4's Channel 4 news.  I've run into Ian before, but we've never spoken at length and I was eager to hear what the industry was like from his point of view.

Ted Chen got the evening started with some good jokes and anecdotes and proceeded to grill Ian with some rather profound questions.  All of the women in the room were definitely enchanted by his good looks.  The men in attendance weren't invulnerable to Ian either as he won them (and me) over with his charm and poise.

This evening's particular discussion topic revolved around the under-representation of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry past and present.  While there has been some progress in getting Asian Americans in front of and behind the camera, the progress has been slow and there is still a long way to go.  As Ian said, a huge change probably won't happen with this generation, but he's more than willing to help set up the foundation for future generations.

Photo courtesy David Yeh
When asked what his ultimate dream role would be; his answer: An Asian James Bond.  I'm totally supportive of that goal and would like nothing more than to see Ian play a James Bond type character.  The Asian American community could really use a suave and sophisticated role model so that our kids can grow up knowing that they too can be more than just a tech geek or math whiz.

When the discussion was opened up to questions from the audience, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him:

"With many of the roles currently available for Asian American actors being of the "character" or "caricature" type, did you have difficulties establishing yourself as a "leading man" type?"

"I'm still having difficulties right now." replied Ian.

I was completely floored.  Apparently, it was something that Ian and his manager are constantly struggling with.  Take a look at the photo to the left.  Do you see anything less than a leading man?  I don't.  But why is Hollywood having difficulties with Ian (or any other Asian American male) being a leading man type?  Ian's suggestion to help remedy this issue was to always depict yourself in a positive, leading light.  You may have a piece of great acting for your demo reel, but if it doesn't portray you in a way that you want to be portrayed, then don't use it.  If you remove access to negative stereotypes, then the world will only be left with positive portrayals.  Eventually, people will begin to see what you see in the mirror every day: an all-American, homegrown hero who is educated, well spoken and romantically desirable.

We can't change people's perceptions overnight, but we can affect one person at a time.  We can educate the people that we meet just by being ourselves, being involved in the community and sharing with them our world, which really isn't any different than theirs.  Negative thoughts stem from fear of the unknown, so get out and make yourself known to the world!

Official Ian Anthony Dale photos courtesy of imdb.com

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Where In The World?!

Can you guess where in the world this photo was taken?

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The Hamstars Are Taking Over!

What do hip hop hamsters and Kia cars have in common?  Absolutely nothing.  But I was reminded of the fluffy, rapping critters when I was invited to a Kia luncheon by my good friend Adam, from AutoStream.com.  I really didn't know what was going to be presented at this Kia luncheon; I just heard "free lunch" and said "ok, let's go."  We made our way down to Kia's North American headquarters in Adam's steroid using, son of a rocket GT-R.  I let out a couple of guttural grunts as the force of acceleration from the GT-R pressed me into my seat.  I can't think of a better way to blast down the coast of California.

Upon arriving at Kia's sterile looking corporate headquarters, we saw a neatly parked row of Kia Optima Hybrids parked in front of their building.  "Oh yeah!" said Adam, "We get to test drive the new Optima today."  Free lunch and a test drive?  The only thing that could top that for a Tuesday would be if the hip hop hamsters gave us a concert while we were eating.

Sadly, there were no lyric spitting hamsters, but the food was excellent and the presentation was educational.  The vice president of Kia pointed out that the company has shown growth every year since it's launch in the mid 1990's.  This got me thinking:  I wonder how many people laughed when they heard that Kia, a Korean company with small economy cars, was going to launch in the United States.  How was a little known company with tiny cars going to break into a market where big cars and Detroit muscle dominated?  How many people told them that this was going to be an impossible task?  Well, more than fifteen years later, they're still here and they're capturing more of the auto market each year.

Now think back to how many people laughed at you when you told them you wanted to pursue a career in art.  How many people told you it would be impossible to break into the industry?  If it's really your passion to have a career in the art world, you'll listen to these nay-sayers, tell them to have a nice day and pound the pavement like Kia did until you're happy with where you're at.

I often hear about seemingly overnight successes, people being discovered in elevators and such, but after doing some reseach, I quickly learn that they've been putting their nose to the grindstone for over ten years!  They just happened to be in the right place at the right time and had the right walk to back up their talk.  It takes 10,000 hours of practice to master your craft, so start logging those hours whenever you can!

Kia has definitely put in their 10,000 hours of practice and it's evident in their new Optima Hybrid.  It's a smooth and confident ride with plenty of creature comforts.  Perfect for transporting a young family.  Of course, being car guys, we had to finish off the day with a visit to the Lamborghini and Ferrari dealerships.  =P

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blazing Her Own Trail

Sarah Tadayon by Phil Holland
One of my friends recently made a HUGE change in her life, all for the sake of pursuing a career in acting. She moved from Los Angeles to TAIWAN!  She went clear to the other side of the world as part of her strategy to launch her career!  I found this move to be very intriguing as most people try to move to Los Angeles for acting, not away from it.  I wanted to learn more about her motivation in making such a big change and asked if she would participate in a quick interview.

Without further adieu, live from Taiwan, an evening with Miss Sarah Tadayon (Official Website)

How are you adjusting to Taiwan?
I am sweating non-stop.  I recently went for a bold hair move and got a perm, and in L.A., it looked awesome, but here it's just a mess of frizz.  I am covered from neck to toe in mosquito bites.  The bedroom I rented out was pretty dusty and unkempt.  My apartment is in a popular district for foreigners to move to, to teach English or study Chinese, so it's had such a big turnover that nobody really took the time to sweep out underneath the bed or dust the room.  I spent all of last night just cleaning, and I found an exorbitant amount of old garbage and belongings, including a Hentai (Japanese cartoon porn) DVD in one of the drawers.  Awesome.  But all feminine complaints aside, it's the best life decision I've ever made.  I love it here.  I love the metropolis lifestyle.  I love the metro system.  I love the people here.  I love the fruit here!  My mother's family is here too, and I am enjoying getting to know them better.  They are truly so kind, they are truly the best support system.

Why did you leave L.A. and move to Taiwan to pursue acting when everyone moves to L.A. for acting?
Pure math.  Here's the explanation: I had already been pursuing acting in L.A. for the last five years and I've done pretty well for starting from total scratch at age 17, finding my own representation, classes, auditions, etc.  I got to work on a few indie films and a couple of television co-stars.  But I felt that I was never getting as many auditions as I wanted.  Maybe it was my cast type, or the people working for me, or that I wasn't presenting myself in a way that showed other people that I had the confidence to do well.  It is most likely a combination of all three.  Really, I felt like a tiny fish in a humongous pond, and I felt like I was drowning.  My mother (who is from Taiwan) always told me I should try the Asian film market because of my look (Sarah is half Chinese and half Persian) and my language abilities.  While I was here in December for three weeks on a family trip, I thought I might as well reach out to the Asian industry.  I ended up booking Zhong Yi Da Ge Da (Asia's most popular variety show) within the first week, which airs on China TV, and it was kind of a big deal.  But because I wasn't familiar with the show, the host, or the repercussions of being on a show like that, I didn't feel any pressure, and I was free to just... entertain.  It was an incredible experience, everybody was so kind, and they invited me back.

I was in Taiwan for a week and landed a major show, versus being in Hollywood for five years and barely scraping by with one or two lines on television and a handful of low budget films.  If my life as a performer was a science experiment, the odds are definitely greater that I would find the success that I want in Taiwan, rather than Hollywood.

What's your overall strategy or plan in Taiwan?
Well, yesterday I called Chang Fei (host of Zhong Yi Da Ge Da) and left him a voicemail.  Six months ago, he and his production staff asked me to come back to the show whenever I was able to relocate here.  I'm hoping they will still feel that way now that six months has actually gone by.  The industry is fickle, and I don't expect anything to go as I think, so if that doesn't follow through, it won't be the end of the world for me.  I plan to find a top agent here in the next month for print modeling and commercial work.  I love film acting, but I know that the Taiwanese market works on popularity and hype, even more so, I believe, than Hollywood.  Because my Chinese isn't perfect, and because I look everything but Asian, I know I'll be limited as an actress unless I gain enough popularity that people will want to give me the opportunities to act.

You've already seen some success by appearing on the most popular variety show in Taiwan.  Do you think that will help you get in front of more casting directors?
Well, yes, of course.  But I don't think Taiwan has casting directors... I'm not sure how casting works yet... but logistics aside, yes.  I'm positive that being on that show will help me.  How could it not?

Where do you go to meet other artistic people in Taiwan?
Word of mouth.  Knowing people who know people.  "My church friend's daughter represents S.H.E. Let's go have lunch with her and see if she will introduce you to her daughter" etc.  Also, the night club scene apparently.  Overall, I'm not sure, but I'll let you know when I find out.

Typically, Asian parents aren't too supportive of their kids pursuing the arts.  Is the entire country of Taiwan the same way?  Or are they more supportive of creative pursuits?
Well, I can't speak for the entire country, but I can speak for the people around me.  My 17 year old cousin is a classically trained pianist, and her parents really invest in her lessons, competitions, recitals, etc.  My other cousin who is my age is a pretty well known actress and model in Taiwan, and I just saw her mother yesterday and she seemed pretty proud of her daughter.  One of my aunts is pushing me hard to eat well and exercise a lot so that I can look good on camera, but my other aunt seems to think the whole idea of even becoming successful in the business is a joke, an impossible thing.

When do you plan to return to the U.S.?
I can't answer this question.  I have no idea.  Six months?  One year?  Never?  I have a one year open ended return ticket, so I will definitely be back at least for a visit, but do I plan on moving home?  I have no idea.  It's only day three.  Ask me again in three months.

Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your thoughts with the Los Angeles Graffiti community!  Best of luck to you!

I hope, my dear readers, that you've found this interview to be inspirational/motivational.  Does Sarah have all the answers to a successful acting career in Taiwan?  No, but she came up with a plan and she executed that plan.  That's already 90% of the battle.  Kudos to her for putting one foot in front of the other.

You'll never know unless you actually go out and try.  I'd much rather live life knowing that I tried my best and failed, instead of forever wondering "what if..."

What's your next move, fellow artists?

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Somebody Order Chinese?

On the rare occasion that I get a craving for Chinese food, I like to go to a restaurant in Torrance called Seafood Port.  It's the most authentic Chinese restaurant I've found in the South Bay; and by authentic, I mean the food is fantastic, the servers may or may not speak English and the furniture/decor hasn't been updated since the 1970's.  On this particular occasion, I felt like ordering out so that I could enjoy my food in the comfort of my own home.  I already knew that calling in an order ahead of time is like throwing the dice on a craps table: you might win by getting someone who speaks English or you might crap out and have a conversation like the one below:

If you could imagine Speedy Gonzalez speaking broken English with an Asian accent answering the phone...

Seafood Port: "Hullabaloowpoijerk?"
Me: "I'm sorry, is this Seafood Port?"
SP: "Yeah!  Watchu want?!"
Me: "I'd like to call in an order for take out."
SP: "Yeah!  Watchu want?!"
Me: "I'd like to order the shrimp with snow peas..."
SP: "Wat kine snoopy you want?!"
Me: "Pardon me?" (I didn't know there were different kinds of snow peas.)
SP: "Wat kine snoopy you want?!  Gouwkpdlrj snoopy or kwonenrpwkn snoopy?!"
Me: "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying."
SP: "Gouwkperj snoopy or kwnekmronw snoopy?!"
Me: "I'm sorry, I still don't understand.  You know what?  I'll just come in to the restaurant and order."
SP: *click*

Did she just hang up on me?  Yup... she did.  But I was willing to overlook that small bit of rudeness because she was the keeper of the Chinese food that I so wanted.

After a short drive, I arrived at the restaurant to find it packed to the brim with a line out the door.  It was a scene straight out of the movies.  It was loud, it was chaotic and delicious looking foods kept flying out of the kitchen, delicately balanced on the arms of servers.  I carefully wedged my way to the counter and placed my order with the same lady that had answered the phone.  This time, I could point at the menu to show her what I wanted to order.  There would be no confusion or choice of "snoopies."

As I waited for my food, I watched the chaos ensue as food was delivered to the wrong parties, the line for tables growing longer by the minute and the patience of the people waiting for their take-out order rapidly growing thin.  It all made me start to wonder:  with such a poorly run establishment, how were they still in business?  And good business at that!  The same can be asked about many mom & pop establishments.  I know that customer service is not a priority for a Chinese restaurant; in fact, the concept of customer service is completely foreign (no pun intended).  You're never greeted with a smile and it feels like they're yelling at you when they tell you to "follow me!", but people keep coming back for more.

My conclusion is that they have a great product, they've some how cornered the market and they have STAYING POWER.  When you have a great product, people are willing to overlook a lot of things, which is probably why people are willing to put up with the demands of celebrities, no matter how absurd they are.  Seafood Port is also a great example of staying power.  I don't think the owners of Seafood Port had an ivy league business degree when they immigrated to the United States.  They had a skill, a need to survive and the word "failure" was not in their vocabulary.  They've pounded out, with brute force, a sustainable business that has survived the ups and downs of the economy, while their competition has closed their doors due to poor business.

Did Seafood Port accidentally become successful?  Maybe.  But if you look closer, I'm sure you'll find similar elements in other "accidentally" successful businesses.

Being in the art/entertainment industry is all about staying power.  You have to be able to last longer than your competition.  Thousands of people move to Los Angeles every day to pursue their dreams.  You just need to make sure that you're still here when they've given up and decided to move back home.

As an artist, I strive to be like a Chinese restaurant: have a great product, open 365 days, maintain a 'B' health code rating and stay in business for 30 years.  Sprinkle a little bit of professionalism on top of that, and I should be unstoppable.  Right?

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Your Weekend Guide 5/6/11 Edition

It's Friday!  What does that mean?  For me, it means that I'm stocking up on some snacks and movies and preparing myself for a nice, relaxing weekend at home.  I don't usually go out on the weekends because that's when the "amateurs" come out.  Your amateur drivers clog the freeways and parking structures, amateur partiers crowd the dance floor and amateur adventurers ruin your experience because they don't get out much.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my weekend: the freeways are empty, parking is ample and there's hardly anyone around to bother you.  But because it's Los Angeles, someone's always out having a good time and it adds just enough "life" to the scene without it being grotesquely crowded or uncomfortable.

If you must go out on the weekend because your mom told you it isn't good to go out on a school night, then here are some FREE things that you can do.  That's another thing you'll learn about me: I never pay for entry and I never wait in line.  More details in a future post.

Friday @ 6 pm:  Live jazz at LACMA featuring the House of Games
The jazz quartet House of Games has been thrilling audiences since 1990 with their distinctive blend of jazz, fusion and original compositions.  Individually, they have been featured artists with Ray Charles, Tierney Sutton, Miki Coltrane, Chuck Mangione, Jack Sheldon, Herbie Hancock and Michael Buble.  Drawing on a variety of styles, the quartet features Brad Rabuchin on guitar, Scott Hiltzik on piano, Chris Colangelo on bass, and Dave Tull on drums.

Saturday @ 11 am: The Santa Monica Festival
Commemorating its twentieth year, the Santa Monica Festival has evolved into a celebration of the unique intersection of art and the environment. Festival-goers can celebrate Mother Earth and all moms this Mother’s Day weekend with an eclectic mix of live music and dance, DIY art workshops utilizing recycled and repurposed materials, guilt-free shopping from vendors featuring earth-friendly artistic wares and local resources offered by a variety of City and local non-profit organizations.

Sunday @ 11 am: Fiesta Broadway
Fiesta Broadway is the world's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world.  It covers 12 square blocks of downtown L.A.  Don't bother driving there.  Find a park and ride station and take the metro.  Over half a million people will attend.

Enjoy!  Be safe!  Stay hydrated (with beer or water, your choice)!

Don't be an amateur!  Read The Art of Parking so you can adventure like a pro!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Many Faces of Paul Walker

Fast Five Desktop Wallpaper
If you haven't watched "Fast Five" in theaters yet, stop what you're doing and go NOW!  I watched Fast Five in IMAX and boy, was it satisfying!!  The fight between Vin Diesel and The Rock was epic, the car chases were exciting and the heist element made for a rockin' good time!  Thank you, Justin Lin, for grabbing the defibrillator paddles and zapping life back into the Fast and Furious franchise.

While I loved seeing all the cool cars and cheering on my boy, Sung Kang, as he hooked up with former Miss Universe contestant Gal Godot, I couldn't help but giggle every time Paul Walker came on screen.  Most of the time, he just had a blank look on his face, not knowing where he was or what he was doing there.  His line delivery at times was just down-right atrocious.  Don't get me wrong, I like Paul Walker.  I met him about a year ago at a racing event as he is a semi-pro race car driver.  He's super nice and super chill (as long as you don't ask him to sign a shirtless photo of himself), but that doesn't stop me from laughing as he's sitting in the back of an armored car with a goofy smile on his face while the other actors have faces of concern and fear.

Maybe "Fast Five" wasn't the right movie to showcase his acting chops?  To show the world that Mr. Paul Walker is, in fact, a classically trained actor, I've put together a collection of screenshots from his various movies, depicting his full range of emotion.

Please enjoy "The Many Faces of Paul Walker".

Of course, I'm posting this all in the name of good fun.  I'm glad that Mr. Walker has a successful career as an actor and I'd be more than happy to trade places with him, even if it meant that I would lose the ability to show any emotion in my face...  I kid!!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mine?! Mine?! Mine?!

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that a trip to the beach was mandatory.  I grabbed my equally beautiful girlfriend and made the 5 minute drive to the beach.  Can you believe it?  Just five minutes ago, I was at home surfing the web.  Now I'm at the edge of the continent, watching people surf the ocean.  I hope this is a luxury that Los Angelenos don't take for granted.  People travel thousands of miles to visit the beaches of Southern California.  We only need to put on some sun block and hop in the car.

I managed to find a parking space at the beach that still had 3.5 hours left on the meter.  I guess I'm still living up to the nickname "Parking Genie".

We found a nice spot on the beach as it wasn't very crowded at all.  There were a few families with young children and some leather-skinned ladies laying out to work on their tan.  FYI, if your skin starts to look like one of your dark brown leather boots, you're past the point of being attractive and you've totally missed the point of "tanning".

Leggo my Cheetos!
I sat down on the sand and just enjoyed the roar of the ocean and the warmth of the sun.  A seagull caught my attention as he began cawing triumphantly.  He had found a big bag of Cheetos that some kids had left with their belongings as they all went to play in the ocean.  He cawed only a few times and immediately jabbed at the bag of Cheetos with his beak, puncturing the bag with one well placed strike.  He wasted no time in eating the Cheetos as he swallowed them whole, occasionally looking up to see if anyone was watching him or encroaching on his territory.

Soon enough, a few more seagulls came around to the bag of Cheetos and this is when it got interesting.  I was watching the art of survival in it's rawest, purest form.  Some of the other seagulls cawed and puffed their wings to try and intimidate the original seagull, but he held his ground, cawing and puffing back.  Watching this exchange reminded me of the seagulls in "Finding Nemo", popping their heads into frame yelling "Mine?! Mine?! Mine?!"

I noticed that the original seagull was the only one pulling Cheetos out of the bag.  The other seagulls would wait for him to pull out a Cheeto and then try to steal it from his mouth.  Nobody tried to poke another hole in the bag or get their own Cheetos.  Why?  The world may never know, but this did remind me of how some people operate in the real world.  There are many people who wait for someone to do all the hard work and then try to steal or take credit for something that isn't theirs.

I'm often the seagull that figures out how to get the Cheetos out of the bag, and I've experienced many different instances where people are trying to take my Cheetos or the entire bag itself.  People have taken my ideas, pushed me out of my own projects or taken credit for work they didn't do.  Fortunately, nothing terribly bad has resulted from these instances; just a bruised ego and many lessons learned.  There are many people out there that just prey on others because it's easier to let someone else do all the hard work and then reap the benefits after having contributed nothing.  You have to be careful to not let yourself be manipulated by these people.

If you are the one that is always poking the box and doing all the trail blazing, don't change your ways.  Keep doing what you're doing, but protect yourself and be aware of who you surround yourself with.  It's not the end of the world if your idea is stolen or someone takes credit for your hard work.  Eventually, they won't be able to reproduce the results on their own and the world will realize that you are the only one with the skills to do the job.

Stay strong and don't stray from the essence of who you are!  Surround yourself with good people and inevitably, the right person will take notice of your talents and launch you to success.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To Dress Hollywood?

I've been told on numerous occasions by talent managers that I dress too well.  According to them, dressing well ages my look and can sometimes prevent people from casting me in younger, more hip roles.  They've all recommended that I dress more "Hollywood".  But what does it mean to dress Hollywood?  Join me as I explore this phenomenon.

I've always been clean cut when it comes to wardrobe and style.  I tend to buy t-shirts and button-downs that are fitted, I wear a nice sport coat/blazer when I go out in the evenings and sometimes I'll slap on a skinny tie or throw on a vest.  While walking to my evening destination with my girlfriend gently on my arm, I've overheard female passersby exhale: "finally, a guy with style..."  But now that I think about it, the ladies passing by were of the more "mature" variety.  Does this mean that young Hollywood has no style?  With the way some of them behave in the clubs, I think it's also safe to say that they have no class... but that's an entirely different problem altogether.

Let's take a look at today's style (or lack thereof):

Here is an example of something you might find me in, courtesy of Express.

Below are examples of what young Hollywood is wearing.  These photos were taken inside some of Hollywood's hottest night spots, courtesy of Guest of a Guest LA

Haven't bought clothes since middle school, eh?

Hanes, his way.

Spare any change?

What happened to the days when you had to at least have a collar and nice shoes to get into a club?  Sigh.

From my research, in order to dress "Hollywood", I need to look like a broke, unemployed middle schooler who's clothes were picked out by his color blind mother.  I also need to look like I haven't showered or groomed in a few days.  It's sad that Hollywood associates "youth" with lack of style and class.

How do we stop this grotesque trend from spiraling out of control?  Pretty soon you won't be able to differentiate between a homeless person and an aspiring Hollywood actor, save for the cup of change on the floor.  Will history repeat itself?  Will the classy days of Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant return?

Well, I'm off to K-mart to buy some white Hanes undershirts and some black horn-rimmed glasses.  Young Hollywood, here I come!!

Post your thoughts on today's fashion below!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Automobile Driving Museum

I recently stumbled upon a nice little gem in the South Bay called The Automobile Driving Museum: The Museum That Takes You For A Ride.  They weren't kidding about the "taking you for a ride" part.  Not only is this a classic car museum that is donation based (you can donate as little or as much as you want for the entry fee) but on Sundays, they take museum goers for a ride in a few of their classic cars!  The cars that you can ride in change every week, so check their website to see what's coming up!  On Saturdays, they encourage museum attendees to sit in some of the cars to really get a feel for them.  This isn't your typical "look but don't touch" museum!

A $5 donation got us a personal tour from Liz, a retiree car enthusiast, and a ride in a 1950's Kaiser.  The name Kaiser is the same one from Kaiser-Permanente health insurance.  Mr. Kaiser originally started the insurance group for his employees.  We went for a nice cruise around El Segundo with our driver, who shared with us lots of local trivia.  It was fun to imagine what life was like in the 50's as the Kaiser rumbled down Nash St., absorbing all the bumps with its super-soft suspension.

It was interesting to learn via the tour that a lot of our "modern" technology is really old technology re-done.  Many of the cars in the museum were pre-1950's but some of them had options that car makers today are touting as innovative and groundbreaking.  There was a car that had headlights that would point in the direction that you were turning, another car with wooden wheels had a Continuously Variable Transmission (something we've only seen in the last 10 years or so in hybrid cars), and another car had a convertible hard top.

The Automobile Driving Museum is a great place to visit, whether you're a car nut or not.  It's just fun to see how things were way back when.

L.A. trivia:  Douglas St. in El Segundo is twice as wide as any other other street in the area because it used to be a taxi-way for airplanes.  During World War II, airplanes would be manufactured in the surrounding factories and then taxied to the airport on what is now Douglas St.  It's not a taxi-way anymore, but the street is wide, smooth, and the traffic lights are about a quarter mile apart.  I'll let you put 2 and 2 together.  ;)

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