Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Bizarro Review

First off, you must never go to Iceland. And if you go there, you must never go to the Blue Lagoon. No matter what anyone says, do not go. Why? Because you'll be like me and the new wifee: constantly dreaming of going back.

The Blue Lagoon is a spa lover's delight. The geothermal pool is filled with a milky blue water that is rich in silica and sulfur, reportedly quite lovely on the skin. It's different from mineral hot springs because the water is fed from the sea (Iceland is an island) and flows from the ground through lava formations. Pressure from the heat blows the water to the surface where the energy is captured into turbines for Iceland's power supply. Well, something like that anyway.

Anyway, you'll hate it. Don't go there, especially when I plan to go there next. It's getting fricking crowded as it is, so I'm serious about this. What's worse is the Iceland currency, the krona, got devalued a few months ago, so the place is slightly cheaper than much of Europe, which means you can stay longer and go to the Blue Lagoon right off the plane and just before boarding on your return flight. After all, it's located about 10 minutes from the main airport, so plan your trip around it. Well, that's what I would do. You, on the other hand, should stay away.

I don't know why I'm mentioning this but Iceland Air is the only airline you can use to fly there, and it's a short 6-hour flight from Boston or New York. There's even the possibility they may fly from the West Coast... but I hope not. That would be too damn easy. And I need to take my wife to Gotham for dinner.

We stayed at a hotel that was right in the heart of Reykjavik. If I can only remember the name of it, I'd tell you, but I'd rather not. There's also a swell tapas restaurant around the corner. But it's only swell because it's the most popular restaurant in the city. And it's open late, which is important when you realize that toward June 21, Iceland is under perpetual daylight, and your stomach won't know what the hell to do with itself.

Partying can get extra noisy on the weekends, so stay outside the city center if you're old and grumpy and worry more about getting a good night's sleep. Oh what the hell was the name of that hotel? I think something like Hotel Reykjavik or something.

If you come back to Los Angeles, like we eventually had to do, then definitely go to the new Father's Office on Venice Blvd. in the Helms Bakery complex. Go there often and never go to the Santa Monica one. Why? Because the bartenders suck at the Helms Bakery location and I want you to go there so I can go to the Santa Monica one and enjoy no lines and better service.

Now, here's a place I'm glad people don't usually go to. In fact, Yelpers don't really like the place. More power to me. As for you, you need to stay away, too. It's called Ebisu and it's in Little Tokyo.

Most Yelpers talk about how it doesn't compare to other izakaya places they've been to. I'm glad. Stay at your favorite ones, because the izakaya places I love aren't necessarily great for their food or their atmosphere. They're all pretty standard, and that's just fine because the food is supposed to accompany all the drinking that you're trying to do. That's why the most popular ones in Koreatown look like dives. And the best ones in Japan look like Denny's.

I have no idea about the origins of izakaya, but if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say they sprung up in college towns where students could get a pitcher of beer and some cheap salty eats to soak up some of the alcohol. Eventually those students grew up and desired the same atmosphere closer to home, so they added sake and soju to the menu and other fine items, many of them deep fried, so that you could actually make a meal of all those drinking-associated foods.

Anyway, all you folks near Little Tokyo, stay away from Ebisu. Please!

One place that I wrote about recently, Metropol, has been getting way too crowded lately. Please, you people, don't go there either. I want a table and a plate of Coq au vin with a side of fries whenever I please.

Oh, and if you should be traveling in the Mediterranean, stay away from Valletta, Malta. It's too far for you anyway. Go somewhere closer like Rome or Venice where they need your cameras to pickpocket, or better yet, go to Tunisia where the cab drivers will rip you off. No, absolutely do not go to Malta. You'll hate it. And can you believe they speak mostly English there? The nerve!

So there you have it folks. Stay the frick away from any of my faves and go back to Yelp amongst the posers and fakers who know nada about nothing. Or something like that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chinese in Hollywood

Interesting, perhaps coincidental, news release came out about a film project by Arthur Dong called Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Films.

The cast in this film, oddly enough, is very similar to those in the promos mentioned in the previous post.

Asians in Hollywood

Apparently there's some sort of Asian film festival airing on the Turner Classic Movies channel in June. I'm still waiting to get the new HD widescreen TV before signing my life away to cable, so I may have to invite myself over to a friend's house to catch this. Actually, there's several chances to catch it, as they're airing 37 films throughout June, every Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm, starting on June 3rd.

With that out of the way, I did check out a promo for this series and, well, why don't you watch it first? (I tried embedding this but the code doesn't seem to be live yet.)

First off, I didn't know Ming-Na Wen, who once changed her name to just "Ming Na," is now "Ming Wen." Geez, where's the fun in that? It's hardly even pretty any more. Actually, I used to call her "Ming" back when I occasionally played poker at the house. (If you saw her on that Celebrity Poker show, she really is good at cards.) I swear, she always looked a little irritated every time I abbreviated her name, probably because Ming is more of a guy's name.

Secondly, in this next promo, Nancy Kwan still looks damn good! She's gotta be, what, 65 or 70 now? I met her many years ago back when I was working at Yolk and she looked me up and down, and then back down again. It was so blatant I almost felt like I had to go home and take a shower afterward.

The series is commercial-free and, according to the website, "uncut." So I guess that would mean they're going to air Enter the Dragon in its full, uncut R-rated version. We'll see, I suppose.

Now thirdly, that voiceover in the promo. Doesn't it sound distinctly chinky to you? I mean, it's not completely stereotypical, but it definitely borders on chinkiness. I don't know who is doing the VO as I can't recognize her voice. But I think it would be wise for TCM to hire a better Asian voiceover artist than her, possibly someone recognizable such as Joy Luck Club's Tsai Chin, or, if they can only pay AFTRA rates, then possibly one of the radio DJs in San Francisco (KBLX perhaps) or some local TV news anchor. Surely, they can find someone who doesn't propagate all those Orien'al stereotypes, right?

Anyway, you gotta give TCM some credit for airing this film festival. I'm sure a lot of thought went in to choosing the movies they selected. It'd probably behoove me to watch them, too, since my repertoire is fairly limited when it comes to old Hollywood films with Asians in them. Personally, I prefer to watch old Asian films with Asians in them, but that's just me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Love This Story

I was reading GQ this morning while on the throne and came across this story of a rising star who grew up in virtual poverty and was living on the streets since the age of 15. He'd collect cans and bottles to make a living, pulling in about 30 cents a day. For food, some friends would invite him over for dinner, but only if he'd sing for them.

Eventually, this guy met a guitarist and they started practicing cover songs from American rock bands of the '70s and '80s. They formed a band called Zoo and soon developed a loyal following, mostly for their dead-on renditions of their cover songs by the likes of Journey and other rock bands. This, however, wasn't unusual, for the country he lived in was the Philippines, and karaoke stars doing cover songs of American rock bands was nothing special.

Fortunately, for Arnel Pineda (OK, get ready for a really bad and obvious pun), he didn't stop believing....

This is him, playing with the actual group, Journey. Apparently, the lead guitarist of Journey, Neal Schon, came across Pineda on YouTube and was shocked at how accurate his mimicry of former frontman Steve Perry was. So, he called his other band members. Then they invited Pineda out for an audition, along with several others. Here's a recent performance in Las Vegas:

This a radio interview with Journey's Jonathan Cain (you might have to turn up the volume a bit):

Anyway, just thought you'd get a kick out of this like I did. At the age of 40, the guy found international fame, playing with the band he emulated throughout his life.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I haven't posted here in over 2 months (for reason why, see "Inverted Pyramid") but for some odd reason, readers are still finding their way here every week. Not many, mind you, but enough to make me wonder.

A colleague suggested I change the theme of this blog to something else. Perhaps to something that more reflects my life right now. What is my life? Well, per my policy, I don't reveal my current employer. But that means I can now reveal my most recent previous employer, BBDO, or to be more specific, BBDO West.

BBDO is one of those big, big ad agencies. As a whole, BBDO North America is huge, with some of the biggest clients in the world. But as just BBDO West, it's not very high in the ranks. Still, it represented a certain high point in my advertising career. Unfortunately, the L.A. office's main client was up for review and we decided not to go through with it. Well, I didn't decide that. Someone with greater job security decided that, and so about 40-50 people in the L.A. office are now either out of a job or are looking for one. The ones who are looking have their days numbered — until the end of July, to be exact.

I was due to get married, go on a honeymoon, and ultimately spend way more money than I'm comfortable doing, especially with impending unemployment on the horizon. So, I kind of made it known I was looking for a new permanent position and, luckily, an old colleague of mine had a position to fill. (Thank you!)

Truthfully, this current job is much harder than the one at BBDO. I don't have my own private room, and the view from the office windows aren't as scenic as the 16th floor ones in Westwood. But the job and the people are much more stable. Seriously!

But there is one thing I'll miss about BBDO: Every once in a while, someone will leave their mail program open while they're away from their desk. And someone else will send out a lovely little email, in that unsuspecting person's email address, to everyone at BBDO West. Something to the effect of: "Hi my lovely co-workers. I just want to tell you how much I love working with you all. Have a beautiful day!"

Usually, this person would receive very nice personal replies all day long. Now if we could all be spoofed so well.