Friday, July 29, 2011

Look familiar?

Spotted this on N. La Brea Ave. at Romaine St. in Los Angeles.

Favors Run This Town

Flower Favors via
I often hear people say "This town is all about who you know," but I don't think they really understand what it means.  "Who you know" is not about going out in Hollywood and meeting people at night clubs or mansion parties just so you can win the race to have the most friends on Facebook; it's about building and maintaining relationships.

"But it's hard enough to meet people in Los Angeles, let alone build a meaningful relationship!" you might exclaim.  You're absolutely right.  No one said it was going to be easy.  It takes a lot of effort.  One of the keys to relationship building is repetition; always running into the same person at the coffee shop, seeing each other in the same classes, etc.

Once you've established a level of comfort purely from repeatedly seeing one another, you'll have to escalate the relationship by initiating a meaningful conversation.  It could be as simple as inviting them to chat over a cup of coffee.  If you already run into each other at the coffee shop, sitting down for a conversation shouldn't be hard to do.

The next step to really move towards a meaningful relationship is to find out what their needs are and help them achieve their goals by doing them a favor.  Many people don't realize this, but this town is fueled by favors.  If you do a favor for someone, chances are, they'll do you a favor as well.  You're making an emotional investment in someone, but just like monetary investments, they don't always give you a positive return.  Sometimes people will just take from you and try to use you up.  Be wary of these people and protect yourself, regardless of how powerful they are or what they are promising you.

If you can surround yourself with enough good people, this exchanging of favors will quickly bring everyone closer to their goals.

When someone makes an emotional investment in you, please be courteous enough to at least thank them for their help.  So many people take those words for granted.  A simple "thank you" could be just as good as you returning a favor.  It seems like a lot of people's egos take a hit when they use the words "thank" and "you" together; almost as if they're admitting that they are a lesser being because they accepted help from another.  Please graduate into Kindergarten and realize that thanking someone is a sign of gratitude and appreciation.  The use, or lack there of, can really affect whether that person helps you out again.

I recently had an experience where an acquaintance was looking for a very specific and expensive item for a project with an impending deadline and sent an email blast to everyone.  I replied to the email because I knew exactly where they could go get this item for FREE.

End of story.

I never heard back from that person.  How hard is it to click "reply", type "thx" and click "send"?  Apparently, it's harder than I thought for some people.  It tells me that I'm not worth 5 seconds of their time.  Because this person isn't a close friend of mine, I can guarantee you that I'm going to think twice about helping them again in the future.

Don't build a bad reputation for yourself; this town is smaller than you think.

Of course, there isn't a hard, fast rule about building relationships, and it's always a case by case basis.  But if people are donating their time and effort to you, please let them know that they're being appreciated.

It takes a lot of effort to build a meaningful relationship.  Don't ruin it with laziness.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Set It & Forget It

A long time ago, I learned to just "set it and forget it" in regards to job interviews and auditions. If I didn't, I'd be playing the "what if" game until the cows came home; re-running every scenario in my head, acting out every single outcome, and at the end of the day, still not feeling any better about my performance.

What exactly is the "set it and forget it" method?  It's where you do your best to prepare for your interview/audition in the weeks/days/hours beforehand, give it your all in the interview/audition and then once you walk past the door frame on your way out, you stop thinking about anything related to your performance in the room.

There's really nothing you can do once you leave that room to better your chances of getting the job/role.  There are no re-dos.  There are no take-backs.  You have to be confident that you did your best and everything from that point forward is out of your control.  Just "set it and forget it".

People always say that the job is theirs to lose, but it's actually not.  It's only theirs to gain.  If you don't get the job, you're no worse off than when you went in, so there's no real reason to stress about it.

Here's an example of how setting it and forgetting it can help keep your life stress-free.

I recently went to an audition that was looking to cast an Asian male who was at least 5' 9", very muscular and looked like a martial artist.  The role would be for a comic book character at Comic-con.  I'm not extremely muscular, but at 6' 0", 180-ish lbs with an athletic build, I'm sure I could get pumped long enough to look "very muscular" for them.

So the night before and even the early morning hours before my audition, I focused on getting my arms pumped with push ups, dips on the edge of a chair and arm curls using an 8-pack of Gatorade (they asked me to wear a tank top, so I decided to just focus on my arms).  This audition was all about looks.  I really couldn't pack on 10 pounds of muscle in one night, but I gave it my best shot anyways.

I walked into the casting office, took a look at the character rendering that was posted on the wall and noticed that the character had the exact same hair that I did!  That's got to be a plus, right?  They were going to make us wear wigs, but maybe I wouldn't need to wear a wig.

I waited patiently as a couple of other guys auditioned before me and I even did some push ups in the hallway for a last second arm pump to get my blood flowing.  When my turn came, I went in the room and performed the standard audition procedure:  the name slate, the 360 spin and a quick two sentence interview.  I still wore the wig because that's what the clients asked for, but at least they got to see my real hair when I gave my name.

I was told that a decision for casting would be made by the same evening, but that bit of info went out the window as I stepped through the door into the hallway.  I wasn't going to wait by the phone for a call.

Comic-con came and went and needless to say, I never got a call from the casting director.  Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see who they cast for the character.  A little bit of searching quickly revealed that the comic book was titled "Blood Red Dragon" and was created by Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and a Japanese rockstar named Yoshiki.

I found press photos of the three of them at Comic-con, but I never saw the martial arts character that I auditioned for.  Instead, I found photos of the female character:

For a comic book convention filled with guys, why in the world would they keep the almost naked female character and completely cut out the MAIN male character?  <-- I really need a sarcasm font.

If I had played the "what if" game with myself, wondering what if I was taller, stronger, slimmer, etc. it still wouldn't have mattered because NOBODY got the part.  Why did the part get cut out?  There could be a million reasons and none of them would help me for my next audition, so there's no reason to worry about it.

It's better to "set it and forget it" and be surprised that you got the job or booked the role instead of stressing yourself out after each interview.  Some things are just out of your control and you have to accept that.

While I didn't get booked for the role, I did meet a new casting director and I can begin building a new relationship, which is really what I'm focusing on right now anyways.  But what if I was just a little bit more muscular in the audition...

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Art of Communication

I'm sitting on a big, red plastic marshmallow looking thing (Target's version of a chair) with my shopping cart next to me, waiting for my girlfriend to finish trying on some bikinis.  Moments later, a pleasant voice asks me, "Sir, is this your cart?"

"Yes, it is."  I replied.  "Is it in the way?"

"No, you're fine.  Some people just dropped their clothes in your cart." smiled the fitting room attendant as she removed some rather large clothes that were rudely tossed in with my items.

I guess some people thought that my cart, filled with a pair of jeans, some candy and other knick knacks, was the "unwanted clothes" cart.  Whatever happened to handing your unwanted clothes to an attendant or asking where to place them?

Moments later, a chubby young boy, probably in early high school, walks up to the attendant near the fitting rooms.  He asks, "Do you know if my mom is in there?" (Because every Target fitting room attendant knows who your mom is and what she looks like.)

"No," she replied.  "But you can try calling her name."

"Mom?  Mom?" called the boy, timidly.

He waited shyly for a response, but none came.

"Maybe you should try calling her name."  suggested the attendant.

(In a boxing ring announcer's voice) "PAMELA... (awkward pause)  HINSLEY..."

Still no response.

The boy called for his mom with a volume no louder than what he was using to talk to the attendant, and he never actually walked into the fitting room area, so most likely only my girlfriend, who was in the first fitting room, heard him.

"My mom thinks I have my phone, but I don't." sighed the boy.

"If you'd like, I can page your mom and ask her to meet you here."  offered the attendant.

"Sure!  That'd be great."

"Attention Target guests," announced the PA system.  "Would a Pamela Hinsley please come to the fitting rooms.  Your party is waiting."

"Your party is waiting...  That doesn't sound so bad."  said the boy.

"Yeah, we always say that." smiled the attendant.

"It's better than 'your son is lost in Target'.  That would be embarassing."  said the boy.

"Oh, we would never say that."  chuckled the attendant.

Moments later, his family arrived, welcomed by a "where were you guys?!" from the boy.  He thanked the fitting room attendant and waddled off to join his family.

"Aww..." cooed the attendant.

She and I could do nothing but share a laugh together because the boy just looked so defeated the entire time that he was standing there.

The moral of the story?  Don't get lost in Target because you'll be sold to the circus.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Luv Hunny!

Pooh via Disney
Have you ever thought to yourself or out loud: "I wish they would bring back [insert favorite childhood show here]."?  If you inserted "Winnie the Pooh", then your wish has come true in the form of a new Winnie the Pooh movie, in theaters now!

This movie is not to be missed by any Disney or Pooh fan.  This may be the last time, or at least for a long time, that you will see a classically hand-drawn Winnie the Pooh movie in theaters.

All of the elements of a Winnie the Pooh experience have been included in this latest movie, from the classic storybook narration to the whimsical adventures of a group of accidental heroes.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are still voiced by Jim Cummings, but Piglet and Eeyore sound a bit different.  Did you know that Peter Cullen, the original voice for Eeyore, also voiced the heroic Optimus Prime from "The Transformers"?  Now that's what I call range!

If you watch this movie, make sure you stay through the end of the credits for a special treat.  My favorite part of the movie (don't worry, I won't spoil anything for you) were the still photos during the ending credits.  The photos showed the actual stuffed animals from the Hundred Acre Wood, captured beautifully as a frozen moment in time when Christopher Robin was playing with them in his room, acting out the scenes from the movie.  This was the first time when I consciously realized that the adventures of Winnie the Pooh all took place within Christopher Robin's imagination.

When was the last time you escaped into your imagination and created a vivid world to play in?  Our lives today don't let us be creative and imaginative anymore, as we hustle to keep up with the Joneses.  Do yourself a favor and take some time to just escape into your own imagination, if only for a minute.  You'll be surprised how fun it is and how refreshed you'll be afterwards.  That's why kids love toys so much.  It's not the toy itself that they love, it's the world that they are able to create using the toy as a muse.

Don't be afraid to imagine.  It's what dreams are made of.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

It'sa Me-ah! Maaario!

Well, CARmageddon was a complete bust, just like the Y2K bug, the rapture and 7-Eleven's free slurpee day (I couldn't find parking at 7-Eleven!).  Since nobody was driving on the freeways, I assume/hope all of you took the time to get to know your neighborhood a little better.

My latest gem of a discovery is a pizza bar in Santa Monica called Stella Rossa.  It's a wine bar (they also have some craft beers) that serves some fantastic artisan style pizzas, "highlighting a range of sustainable, locally grown ingredients found at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and sourced by nearby purveyors."  If you like your pizza crusts crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside, you're going to be in heaven here!

I'm a night owl so I was really happy to learn that the kitchen stays open until midnight, Monday through Saturday, and 11 pm on Sunday.  They also have a late night happy hour boasting $4 beers and $5 glasses of wine!

This is a perfect place to take a date (you'll appear well-cultured with all the wines and artisan style pizzas around) before you go galavanting around town at one of the nightclubs on Main St.

What did you discover this weekend?  Share your neighborhood finds in the comments below!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

CARmageddon Survival Kit

CARmageddon will descend upon Los Angeles this weekend, closing a considerable stretch of the 405 freeway, the busiest freeway in the nation, for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!  Hide your wife, hide your kids and hide your husbands too because closing down the 405 freeway is just short of making the earth explode.

If you thought L.A. drivers were bad with a little bit of rain, wait until they're all forced to use the side streets for two days.  This will leave many drivers stranded as they have never bothered to figure out how to get around town using the local roads.  It's "the highway or no way."

What will we do without the ability to travel to the other side of Los Angeles for two days?!  Have no fear.  I've put together a CARmageddon survival kit so that we can successfully overcome this crippling inconvenience.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of important items that you should have in your survival kit to prevent premature death from the inability to drive across town.

1.) A book.  For those born in the internet generation, a book is a collection of pages containing words, that are bound together.  People used to read books to gain knowledge or entertain themselves for hours on end.  This is how knowledge and entertainment was spread before the invention of radio, television and the internet.  You can find a book at many local establishments called bookstores or libraries.  There, you will find many books that you can read over the CARmageddon weekend.

2.) A pair of sneakers.  This leather and rubber contraption goes around your feet to protect them from the harsh environment while you step outside for an activity called "a walk".  There are many places that you can "walk" to.  One of my favorite examples is the local park, where you can gather with friends and "play".

3.) A ziplock bag.  This plastic bag can be used to carry many things, including chips, pretzels or a sandwich, to be used when you go on your "walk" to the local park.  Before the invention of the internet, people used to bring food to a park and have what is called a "picnic".  You can use your ziplock bag to try out the archaic practice of "picnicking in the park".

4.) A BBQ grill.  You can use a BBQ grill to make food in your backyard or at a block party.  It can be used in a similar fashion to when you stay home for a holiday weekend such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day, to name a few.

5.) A remote control.  A remote control can be used to manipulate the television so that you can watch something that you enjoy, just like you do for hours on end on any other weekend.

If you're not able to assemble the CARmageddon survival kit in time, you can always resort to doing what you do every day at work: troll Facebook for 8 hours, assuming that the closing of the 405 freeway didn't destroy the power grids too.

Please don't be like children this weekend and feel like you have to go across town just because you're told you can't.  Take the time to relax and spend quality time with your family or get to know your local neighborhood better.  I wish they would shut down the 405 freeway once a month.  I've never before seen more people want to get together for dinner parties or gatherings.  It takes the closing of a major freeway to shock people into interacting with their fellow human beings the old fashioned way: face to face.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First Time's The Charm!

Congratulations to L.A. Graffiti reader Jennifer Lynn on her very first art show!  Jennifer exhibited five examples of her photography at "1st Thursdays", San Pedro's monthly art walk.  Her photographs were received with praise and one art enthusiast even said that it was the best piece of artwork he's ever seen in San Pedro!

I caught up with Jennifer at the art walk and asked how she was feeling about her first show.  She told me that she had no idea what she was doing and there were a few things she wished she had done in regards to the display, but overall, it turned out well.  In my opinion, I would consider that to be a huge success!

Very few people know what they are doing on their first time out; even fewer people pull it off perfectly the first time, so there's nothing to be ashamed of if you don't know what you're doing.  Jennifer learned a great deal from her first art show and now has "show experience" and can apply them to her second art show.  It only gets better from there.

Honestly, I thought her exhibit was perfect.  I really liked how the photos seemed to float effortlessly in the air.  I later found out that Jennifer was planning to hang them on the wall via nails, but the wall wouldn't accept nails so she had to improvise with some fishing wire.  Having the photos float wasn't the original plan at all, but that's the beauty of art!  You just go with the flow!  The only reason I knew it was her first show was because she told me.  I couldn't tell otherwise.

The artist, her work and a red cup.
I want to give kudos to Jennifer for just going out and doing it.  I asked her how she went about getting her art into the show/gallery.  She said that she just talked to someone on Facebook about wanting to show her art and was then directed to the appropriate person, which got things going and before she knew it, she was deciding on which wall  in the gallery to hang her art!  It's really that simple!

I hope Jennifer's story inspires you to create or display your art for fans to enjoy.  The hardest part is starting.  Success begets success, but you can't have success unless you start.

You can see more of Jennifer Lynn's photography on her Facebook page, DoubleVision.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Public Service Announcement #1

With summer in full swing, I wanted to make a quick Public Service Announcement (PSA) to help everyone have a safe and fun summer.

Knowledge is Power.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Bumblebee In (Stop-Motion) Action!

Image courtesy
I got a new toy and his name is Skittles. We decided to do a stop-motion animation flick together. Don't mind the girlfriend repeatedly going to the microwave in the background. ;)

This was made with a digital camera and Windows Live Movie Maker, a free movie editing program.  It took all of about 1 hour to make.  Turn off the tv for a bit and do something creative!  It does a body good!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

All-American Addendum

My latest attempt at making art was inspired by my love for our great country, the United States of America.  I grew up always hearing the term "All-American" being said in reference to high school jocks, hot dogs and a good ol' barbeque.  But what exactly makes something "All-American"?  I wanted to explore some items that are definitely American in essence and creation, but not perceived to be American.  I wanted to add to the definition of "All-American".

I present to you four digital images in a series titled: "All-American Addendum"

"All-American Take-Out"

The Chinese take-out box is instantly recognizable by millions in America.  We've all seen it on TV and most of us default to ordering Chinese food in these unique containers on a rainy or lazy day.  But the Chinese take-out box is not Chinese at all.  It's an American invention that was originally known as the oyster pail.  It was an inexpensive and sanitary way to take home fresh oysters that were shucked by the seller.  After World War II, there was a large increase in the number of people who began purchasing foods from restaurants that could be finished or heated up at home.  Chinese food became a popular choice since it was tasty, inexpensive and traveled well.  The oyster pail was quickly adopted for Chinese take-out, and the rest is history.  Chinese take-out boxes are only found in America and are manufactured by Fold-Pak, a company based out of Georgia.

"All-American Cookie"

Ah... the Chinese fortune cookie.  The crunchy, semi-sweet, message toting cookie that is served at the end of every Chinese meal... in America!  Fortune cookies are nowhere to be found in Asia (much to my surprise on my first visit to Taiwan) because they are an American creation.  There are competing claims as to who created the fortune cookie, but all the claims come from California.  If fortune cookies are found in China, they are sold as "genuine American fortune cookies".  Fortune cookies used to be made by hand, but once a fortune cookie making machine was invented in Oakland, California, it dropped the price of the cookies dramatically, giving birth to the novelty and courtesy dessert that we are all familiar with today.

"All-American Goods"

Made in China, consumed in America.  Having products inexpensively produced in China to maximize profit margins has become an American way of life.  Almost everything is made in China these days.  It's often a treat to pick up a product, flip it over and find "Made in USA" stamped on the bottom.  Most of our household items, from your beloved iPhone to the shoes that you wear, are all made/assembled in China.  That "Made in China" stamp allows all of us to afford our "All-American", consumer driven lifestyle.

"All-American Me"

What do I see when I look in the mirror?  An "All-American" boy who grew up on McDonald's when they still had dark meat in their Chicken McNuggets and when you could "Humongo-size" your value meal; a red-blooded American who appreciates a nicely chromed Harley-Davidson and a perfectly cooked steak; a car enthusiast who would choose a 1969 Camaro SS over a Toyota Supra.

What do other people (some, not all) see when they look at me?  A foreigner.  I once had a lady tell me that she expected an accent from me, upon our first meeting.

An all too common piece of dialogue:
Man: "Where are you from?"
Me: "Texas."
Man: "No, I mean, where are you REALLY from?"
Me: "I'm REALLY from Texas.  I was born and raised there."
Man: "Oh."

One of my personal goals in life is to update the definition of "All-American" to include everything that makes this country so great.  Help me pass on this "All-American Addendum".

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Monday, July 4, 2011

What Is Beauty?

Is this beauty?

Or is this beauty?

This is the topic that "Beauty CULTure", the current exhibit at The Annenberg Space for Photography, asks its viewers.  The exhibit features photographs from many famous photographers, all with a different take on beauty.  Some of my favorites are a diagram that dissects what makes a pin-up model a pin-up model and a collection of different celebrities' takes on the Marilyn Monroe look.

A description from the website:
"Through different lenses focused on the body beautiful, the exhibition examines both traditional and unconventional definitions of beauty, challenging stereotypes of gender, race and age.  It explores the links between beauty and violence, glamour and sexuality and the cost (in its multiple meanings) of beauty."

This exhibit is really interesting as it shows the change over time in what society deems to be beautiful and not beautiful.  There is also a documentary that plays throughout the day that shows the cult-like glorification and pursuit of female "beauty".  It's fascinating to see what the mass media and advertising is shoving down our throats as "beautiful", all for the sake of selling us more beauty products.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is located on the campus of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), home to some of the most powerful agents in Hollywood.  You'll park in CAA's parking structure and walk through its lobby to access the Annenberg Space for Photography.  You might even spot a celebrity having a cup of coffee on the lawn as you ascend the steps to the museum.  Admission to the Annenberg is always free.

If you arrive in the parking structure after 4:31 pm (yes, the sign actually says 4:31 pm) then parking is only $1 for the evening.  Make it a date night as the Century City Mall is just down the street and is filled with shopping, dining and possibly a free outdoor summer movie.

Go see Beauty CULTure and post your thoughts in the comments below!

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