Japan 2017 – Day 3 March 20

Today we got up early due to the time difference, even though we are NOT morning people. By 8:30AM, Kaz, Rick, and John Jack had gone off to teach acting class.Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer

After poking about and having morning coffee, checking email, and reading a bit of the ever depressing news from the States, our friend, Seri came by and we nosed about Shinjuku a bit before going to hang out with Kaz and gang.

There were a few actors who had signed up to get head shots done, so I was busy doing that while Kaz translated. We were in a hallway of a building and I was checking out the light there but had decided against shooting there. As we were leaving the area, I looked down and there on the floor was a very special necklace that I had given Kaz years ago. Somehow it had simply fallen off and I found it. Weird.

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After a LONG day of waiting for the teachers to stop chatting with actors, we headed off to the “Robot Restaurant”. It’s a huge production with robots “fighting” dragons, and other robots, and dancing ninjas, and crazy mad costumes of all sorts. It was a formidable costume and light show with lots of loud music. First of all, allow me to clarify…it is NOT a restaurant in any way, shape, or form. It is an amazing, wonderful, colorful, fantastic show….if you are 8-10 years old. Otherwise you will feel completely ripped off. Maybe we’re jaded because we are from LA LA Land, but it takes more that costumes, lasers, and jumping around for me to be drawn in.

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We got a kick out of that and wound our way out of Robot hell to try and find a bar. Dan, Rick’s brother, mentioned there was a fairly famous bar nearby. It’s the Albatros Bar and was visited and recommended by Anthony Bourdain when he was in Tokyo.

When we got there we were informed there wasn’t much room left except a bit in the upstairs loft overlooking a small part of the city. That was great for us, so we headed up the stairs.   The group of Californias asked us “Did you take JAL from LA on Friday?   We were sitting in front of you guys.”   We found out they were at the same show at the Robot Restaurant.  AND one of them were living in SF – where Dan works, and his cousin lives in Little Tokyo in LA.    What are the odds, eh? In all of Tokyo, we ran into them 3 times.

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We had a good laugh, tried to join them for drinks but there wasn’t enough room where they were or where we were the next floor up….so who knows, maybe we’ll run into them again in LA.

When in Tokyo, it’s hard to keep track of time because everything is lit and even at 2 or 3AM people will be scurrying about the city, so at some point we made it back to our house just a little worse for wear.

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Japan Trip 2017 – Day 2 – March 19

Things always start out innocently enough in Japan, maybe even with honorable intentions. But inevitably, there comes food. Small portions, so you think,”Oh isn’t that cute and pretty and delicious!” And then there comes some more food, and more food, and more food, and beer….LOTS of beer…and Sake….LOTS of sake.

You have lots of moments in Japan where, toward the end of the evening as you are staggering home, you are unable to cipher how you got from “innocent tiny food” to full, happy, and barely able to walk. The good news is, the dreaded hangover never comes. I think it may have to do with the lack of preservatives in the booze there, but whatever the magic is, I’m glad for it because there were a LOT of evenings that I went back to our room wobbly and smiling. Since the day we met, I have never attempted to keep up with my lovely wife. Kaz must have a super liver – or maybe doesn’t have one at all – but she is
a force and unerringly led the “fool brigade” back to wherever we had come from. At that point none of us knew in all of Japan where that might be.

The day started with Kaz and Rick teaching an acting class from 9Am- 2PM. John Jack, Squi, and I hung out at the BnB, went for a walk, and waited for Rick’s brother, Dan, to join the gang.
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We were joined by Kaz’s long time friend, Seri, who brought Squi some adorable cookies.

Many things are just SO “Kawai” (cute) in Japan. Cookies, information signs, bathroom logos, and even the street construction barriers are often some sort of adorable little bear or bunny. It’s odd to see a well dressed suited business man on a subway with a cute little charm hanging off his phone. But Japan is that way….Kawai is everywhere.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer IMG_6034

When we all reunited at the house, it was off to the subway to Izakaya to meet up with Kaz’s brother who had invited ALL of us to dinner. THAT’S when it started. Kaz brother ordered food…cute food….awwww…I can eat that. The more food, and beer – LOTS of beer, and Sake….LOTS of sake.
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Here’s John Jack pointing and saying,”Drink THAT!? ALL of THAT!? OK!”

Here’s John Jack a bit later when Squi found some spooky eyeball stickers. Yea – that’s NOT Kawai.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

There was a family sitting nearby to whom we apologized in advance, during, and after our meal. In typical Japanese fashion, they joined in and people we’d never met before laughed and took photos with us as if we were long lost relatives.

There was singing…a LOT of singing. And there was bonding over some group named “Bauhaus” and bowing and scraping when the name Peter Murphy was mentioned. John Jack, Rick, Dan, and Kaz’s bother became united allies in the name of post punk rock.IMG_0518

Guess I’m too old….never heard of the dude…but I don’t care, I’ll drink to him.

Squi and their children bonded over the absurdity and silliness of adults. IMG_0507

 

And of course, the requisite selfie was taken by our waiter.   Kaz’s brother, Takeshi, picked up the entire tab and we will be forever grateful.IMG_0511

Pretty sure we all slept well that night.IMG_0492

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Japan 2017 – Day 1 – March 18

Journey to Japan – Day 1

Boarding a plane bound for Japan is an exercise in mixed feelings. We’re SO HAPPY to be going but dreading being trapped in an aluminum tube at 37 thousand feet for 12 hours.Michael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
I’m jealous of those who can sleep on planes…I can’t. So, I have found the best way for me to pass time is to catch up on all the movies I haven’t seen. “LA LA LAND” was first on my list. What a horrid film…slow paced, predictable, schmaltzy, and I’m sorry but Emma and Ryan are neither singers or dancers. Watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire…listen to Julie Andrews or Judy Garland sing.
On the other hand, I LOVED “Moonlight” and feel it deserved to win. Well shot, directed, acted, and a wonderful story that walked a tough line concerning a sensitive and current topic. Sadly, the people who SHOULD see it, probably won’t.
I saw “Doctor Strange” – liked it a lot and recommend it. I’d watch Benedict Cumberbatch read a phone book.

We arrived at Narita Airport and on our way to pick up our baggage, Squi was running through the airport, tripped, fell, smacked his face on the floor and got a black eye. Great….we hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come.

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We got to AirBnB rented house in Shinjuku around 3 in the afternoon and Kaz had to leave soon after to go teach an acting class. Squi and I decided to have a treasure hunt, so we went out on our own and wondered around. The “treasure hunt” consisted of taking photos as we went so we could find our way back home. I think it worked better than bread crumbs. But ultimately we were too tired to walk very far, so we found our way back home, put our feet up, and watched Sumo Wrestling!
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John Jack, the head honcho at The Stella Adler Acting Academy arrived that evening.
So when Kaz got back, we started our first food search.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
We knew of a teeny hole in the wall restaurant in an alley in Shinjuku called Shinagawa Tei. The restaurant has room for about 8-10 guests and is owned and operated by a little old lady and her son. It’s a VERY popular local eatery and is practically impossible to get reservations but the last time we were there we just walked in at the right time and got seats! So we thought we’d go by and just say hello. As fate would have it, we got there just as they were opening and we got to eat there again!!! When we walked in the little old lady looked at Kaz and said, “OH….Matamura-san!!” We were stunned that she remembered us but so happy to get to have more of their wonderful food.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer

We love Japan and I’m pretty sure living there part time will be in our future. Also – MANY of these blogs will mention food! Food you can’t get in the US, food that you can get in the US but is WAAAYYY better over there, and food served in a way (both in terms of service and presentation) that you can’t find here in the US.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

After our meal, we wondered around a bit in Shinjuku before we met up with Rick, an instructor  from Stella Adler, who was also coming in to join the teaching forces.
We’d been up for a LONG time, so after a snack and too many Asahi beers, we crashed  at our house, happy, full, and excited about the days to come!

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Super Special Thanks to Hi Tech Dad!

Michael Sheehan of HIGH TECH DAD brought my website from the WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH.

I would have to re-built my damn website if it was not for him.

So, here’s my endorsement:   If you are a WordPress user, and get that infamous white screen of death, do not hesitate – Just CONTACT MICHAEL!

Also, his website is so informative.   www.hightechdad.com

 

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Charlie and the Big Bad World

AH yes…social injustice… a familiar bell ringing in my old hippie ear. Shall I wade in?? Well…I’ll go in ankle deep here, OK.

This is not a problem that has a solution. At the very best, it has only agreements to disagree.

I disagree profoundly with the KKK but I defend their right to free speech and, yes, even when it points it’s boney finger of vitriol my direction because of some of the beliefs I hold dear.

I have an idea…”Hey, Muslims, if you don’t like Charlie Hebdo cartoons, don’t look at them” because there are MILLIONS of your brothers who are peace loving, free speech defending, and TRUTHFUL practitioners of your “faith”. Matter of fact, a police officer that these guys murdered was a Muslim.

In a society, we have to have rules, laws, and boundaries. I could possibly drive 50MPH in a 25MPH zone but there are laws against that because at some point in time, lawmakers decided the risk to reward balance was too great to drive faster than 25.

Even though I am (confession alert!) a bit of a voyeur and even a bit of an exhibitionist, I don’t have or watch sex in public because there are laws against it (damn!). I SHOULD be able to freely copulate in a city square, but some Bible thumper took exception to it when someone did it once, so lawmakers did their thing.

This silly analogy can be extended to the extreme, as it was/is with Charlie Hebdo.

The French have laws against veils, crosses, etc etc for a just that particular social reason. Frankly, I’m iffy about it, but if I were Muslim, I’d abide by that law because it is the law of the land I choose to live in. Don’t like it? MOVE, or get involved in the accessible French system and lobby for changes you deem necessary and acceptable.

Terrorism has historically not worked and now the Muslims have an even BIGGER PR problem. Even folks who disagree with some of Charlie’s provocative tactics, have now come to defend their “right” to publish what they will. Millions of dollars have now poured in to keep that magazine running and people are flocking to want to work for the publication.

A blog I recently read stated, “And as I write this, I get this feeling the third world war has already begun, and nobody has quite understood that yet (and I also hope I’m wrong).”

The hope I maintain is that we are now coming into an age where people are more informed, more educated, and more world aware. With education, statistics suggest, religion dissipates and it’s power shrinks. Not in my lifetime, I know, and probably not even in the lifetime of my children, but if humanity survives, my hope is a larger awareness of the consequences of actions will precede the actions themselves. That is my HOPE.

In the meantime, I turn 65 in March and am able to see more clearly the scope and limitations of my own sphere of influence to make this hope become flesh. But as I have produced two children who now share and spread this hope, Mr. Jihadist just had a litter of 7.

Rather than take up more space, I will simply refer you all to the Bard, who said it best.

Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Act II, Scene VII   http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/you-it-act-ii-scene-vii-all-worlds-stage

Charlie Hebdo

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Everything is beautiful … NOT!

In the 1960s, Ray Stevens wrote a song titled “Everything Is Beautiful” and it won him a grammy. Perhaps it was the idealism of those times or maybe a personal philosophy that gave birth to this song. It starts out with children singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, a song I remember singing in church when I was a child.
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world”

Like Disney’s “It’s a Small World”, this song has a worm like infectious tune that rolls around in your brain like a marble in a barrel. A child, once he has learned this song, will hum it, whistle it, and sing it until adult ears bleed. Not only is the tune contagious, the lyrics are ideal and Pollyanna to the point of near myopic blindness.
After one chorus of “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, Mr. Stevens’ song moves into his “Everything Is Beautiful, in It’s Own Way” mantra.
The notion he puts forth in this song is that everyone and everything is beautiful in it’s own way. That if we CHOOSE to see the good, choose to find the positive, and choose to open our hearts to love, then …”the World’s gonna find a way”.

The first thing I want to say is, whatever you do, DON’T listen to this song on YouTube or anywhere else because it will stick in your head. In less than an hour you will be begging for some Beatles, the Who, or a good dose of Led Zeppelin.
But beyond that, I have a bit of a dilemma. I am embarrassed to admit, I actually agree with Mr. Stevens… in theory. I truly WISH it was that way. I WANT to believe the best of people. I WISH the world would live in love. Personally, I choose to live my life that way. I choose to believe the best of people, trust people, and see the best in them … BUT… at 62 years of age I can say it’s not only incorrect, it’s dangerous to walk through life with rose colored glasses.
I have had people steal from me, cheat me, and deceive me in many ways, but I STILL choose to believe the best. I choose to be this way because I cannot live my life in paranoid, bitter, and angry resentment for the few times that people have chosen to be dishonest, deceitful, or deceptive.
As the old saying goes, I can’t allow “one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch” for me. I love life. I love people. I am happy when I see generosity in the world such as the relief efforts for the tsunami in Japan. I am happy when I see a child share a toy.

“Everything Is Beautiful in It’s Own Way” is an ideal I wish were true, but when I go downtown Los Angeles, I won’t leave valuables in my car and I won’t leave it unlocked. What I WILL do, is be the best person I can to everyone I meet. I will try to add something good to the world. And through personal experience, I now have a fairly perceptive filter on who to trust.

The way I see it, not everything is beautiful in the world, but I can add my small part to what is beautiful and I can revel in all the beauty around me. People who refuse to love again because of having experienced heartbreak, are protecting and empty house. Love will teach us freedom and experience will teach us discretion.

Now if only I could get that stupid song out of my head. I’m going on YouTube and look for “Stairway to Heaven”!!! Yeah… gimme some Led Zeppelin

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Japan Trip – Glass Making

A day after the funeral, we decided to do something creative to cheer us up.
My GF’s friend, Seri, set up the glass making class for me.

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Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer My cheek hurt … it’s hard to get the bubble going, but once you do, then it gets easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK HERE for Michael Helms – Glass Making Video
Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

I decided to make a bowl. I chose a kind of teal color with a red rim. Here we are shaping it a bit before blowing again to enlarge it.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

 

 

Here I’m expanding the opening in the bubble to create a bowl. It takes a little pressure at first and getting the bowl perfectly round is tricky.

 

 

 

Still expanding the bubble to form the bowl while the glass is red hot. Then I changed the angle of the tongs to flare the top of the bowl a bit.

 

In these last two photos, you can see the finished bowl. It has a bubble in the glass, a flaw but some glass blowers think of it as character and leave them in. I like the “flaw”.

Also…my bowl isn’t perfectly symmetrical, but

again, I like it. Gives it character.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

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Untitled

Today’s Odd Journey

I flew hang gliders for about 34 years but officially retired about 6 years ago. It was a sad day and I miss flying terribly. Today I drove over to the place where all the hang gliders land.

Soon as we exchanged greetings my friend Joe offered,”Hey wanna fly this glider?” and I said “Nah, I don’t have a harness” then another pilot/friend, Fred volunteered,”I’ve got a harness”. Me,”I don’t have a helmet”. Fred,”I have a helmet, too!”

Next thing I knew, I was headed up the mountain with a truck load of fellow flyers. We quickly set up our flying machines then ran off the mountain into the beautiful sky. I visited places a few miles away that I hadn’t seen in a long time and watched as a Red Tailed Hawk circled in an updraft hundreds of feet below me.

So many memories from hundreds of hours floating thousands of feet above the Earth were flooding my brain.

One particular memory was  meeting my dear friend, Wayne Yentis.  I met Wayne 25 years ago in the hang gliding landing zone (LZ). He was a tall lanky man with a twinkle in his eye and was most probably the brightest individual I have ever met. Truly a renaissance man… he was an artist, a photographer, an electrical engineer, a musician, a computer genius, an inventor (of  the Clavitar) and a host of other things. He knew more about more than anyone I have ever known. Wayne had a recording studio in his house and was constantly sending me files of music he had written, played, and produced. Beautiful music.

One particular day I was in his studio and we were having a beer…or two…or many… and I got this goofy idea to take Karaoke music and substitute hang gliding lyrics. It was utterly silly stuff that made no sense to anyone other than another hang glider pilot but in our compromised condition, it seemed a marvelous plan.

I said to Wayne “How about “I got VG?” as I sang the tune of “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher.  He beer giggled.

For non-hanglider pilots, VG stands for “Variable Geometry” and refers to a string a hang glider pilot can pull that changes the shape of the wing in flight.

Then I started singing “On the Road Again” just like Willie Nelson, except I sang “In the Air Again.”

More beer giggles as Wayne recorded and mixed it.

The following week, I played one of our recordings for a fellow pilot who unwittingly believed we were serious and asked for a copy of it! Nothing feeds a gag like having an audience so I drove back to Wayne’s house with more beer, more Karaoke, and more silly lyrics. We recorded 15 songs, 12 of which made our cut onto the “Pelican Tunes” CD. When word got out, the local pilots bought them like hotcakes, then the Editor of Hang Gliding Magazine somehow got his paws on a CD and gave it a rave review in the international magazine! We were amused that pilots enjoyed the absurdity and got the jokes. Orders started coming in and we sold this CD all over the world.  That was over 7 years ago.

Today after about an hour of flight, I touched down and chatted with the guys in the LZ, when one of them mentioned “Pelican Tunes” had been used in a video of the European Hang Gliding Championships. I was shocked to say the least. SO…I did what any irresponsible gag writer would do, I Googled it…and wow….there it was…

I  seriously considered doing “Pelican Tunes 2” but Wayne Yentis passed away this Wednesday January 23rd, and with the passing of my partner in crime, my motivation is gone. The lyrics in my desk drawer will have to collect dust as the ink fades.

But have a beer and enjoy our goofy time together on YouTube.

Here’s to Wayne.

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