Japan 2017 – Day 16 – April 2 (B’bye!)

We checked out at 7:30 am in order to catch our train. It was chilly and wet and our mood was a bit somber because it was our last day in Japan.

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In the station we bought our last bento box and took a bullet train to Shinagawa (Tokyo) then the Narita Express to the airport. We had reserved our seats on the train so we were in the “Green Car”. We overheard some idiot Americans complaining about there not being seats available when the truth was, they hadn’t reserved any. They were politely (and I mean VERY politely – almost apologetically – as is customary in Japan) to go to another car that was not reserved seating. Whenever I travel, I am often embarrassed by Americans. The entitlement, rudeness, and lack of respect for other cultures is such a shame.

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I LOVE THESE BLUE ROOFS!

I LOVE how clean Japan is. We traveled many many miles and I never saw as much as a tissue on the railroad tracks.
And while I am at it, the Japanese have a lot of tile roof houses. My favorite are these beautiful blue, almost iridescent, tiles. I want one!

Carol and Russell were on a different plane for the trip back, so we said our goodbyes and waved as they hauled luggage, some of it ours that we had dumped on them – thank you Carol and Russell.

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At the Narita airport we made our final purchase…Royce Chocolate. There are some things the Japanese do better than anyone else. Sushi (obviously), sake (Obviously), beef (Matsusaka not Kobe), and chocolate. If you ever have Royce Chocolate, it will make the best chocolate you have ever had, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 6 or 7. If you ever have it, you will immediately go out and buy a ticket to Japan so you can go get some more.

In the Narita Airport we had our last meal in Japan.
Squi, with his eternally positive nature, had Cherry Blossom Cake!
Kaz had Japanese meatloaf and tempura shrimp.

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I am embarrassed to say, I had a McDonald’s Cheeseburger. I think it was a “I’m unhappy to be leaving, guess I’ll go eat worms and pout” kind of thing.
Kaz just rolled her eyes and told our son, “You can’t take the white trash out of your Daddo!”
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We were lucky and caught a great tailwind, so the flight only took 8 1/2 hours instead of the usual 10. We arrived at LAX and although it felt good to be home, we dreaded coming back to a society that doesn’t have a lot of the things we enjoyed so much in Japan…cleanliness, politeness, and the best food in the world.

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Japan 2017 – Day 15 – April 1

The next day Mitsuru and Masataka picked us up again and took us to see a magnificent piece of engineering – a bridge in Sakaide. One strand of the cables that support the bridge could encircle the Earth 4 times! We were able to go up to a lookout point on a local hill and get a photo of the bridge.

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The Hanafusa Family is our 2nd family! Thank you so much for taking good care of us always.

From there, they took us to Kurahiki, which is a adorable town with a river running through the middle of it. On each side of the river are shops and if you feel compelled, there is a gondola in the river you can ride. Actors Headshot Photographer It was interesting to me that the river going through the middle of town had no barriers along it’s edge and it’s about a 6 foot drop to the water. I wondered how many people had accidentally fallen in and also how different the Japanese culture is. In the USA, there would be barriers and people would STILL fall in and the sue the city. That doesn’t happen in Japan. I guess they have a concept of personal responsibility…what a great idea! We shopped and checked out yet another temple that was really lovely. Squi and Mitsuru enjoyed the koi ponds while we wandered the grounds.

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When Mitsuru dropped us off at our hotel, he presented us with a bunch of sake that I was told I had ordered the evening before. Well, in spite of not remembering much about that – I’m glad I did….it’s delicious. There is a Muscat sake that takes 3 bunches of grapes to make ONE bottle…it’s astonishingly delicious!

That evening we “white trashed it”. We went to a HUGE mall, Aeon, and we ate at a food court!
We discussed all the food we had eaten in Japan and decided the best was in Okayama. But to quote Carol,”I wanna just eat my way through Japan!”
Next time!

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Japan 2017 – Day 6 – March 23

We were headed to Yugawara for my birthday present which was a getaway at a ryokan (an old style Japanese hotel) but first, I had to shoot the CEO of some company. I wanted to pick up a reflector on the way but between the traffic and the stop at the camera store, we ended up getting there late. The Japanese are ever so gracious and I got the shoot done very quickly. Funny how, even a late as I was to get there, the CEOs and his assistant sat us down for a cup of tea before the photo shoot began.Actors Headshot Los AngelesActors Headshot Los Angeles

After the work was done, it was time for vacation to begin in earnest. We went to Shinagawa and waited for our train at the station. Kaz disappeared for a while as Squi and I enjoyed all the trains coming and going. Every time Kaz disappeared in Japan, she always came back with food and this time was no different except for one exception. She got Squi a very special surprise – a fruit sandwich! I had seen most of the other stuff she had in bento boxes but never a fruit sandwich. It is now Squi’s favorite.

The train ride took us down the East coast of Japan to Yugawara.
https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/regional/kanagawa/yugawara.htm

From there a short taxi ride to Kamata, our ryokan.
http://www.kamata-oku.com/

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We arrived in the early evening and were able to walk around the grounds and take a few photos. I have this thing for bamboo forests – why or where it comes from I have no idea, but I enjoy them. So I was happy to see a small stand of bamboo near the ryokan. Hakone2522webLos Angeles Photographer
There were a couple of waterfalls and a koi pond and unlike Tokyo, it was peaceful and quiet. I can’t think of a better place to spend a birthday with my family.

We were shown to our room but Squi ran ahead and down the hall to what he thought was our room. Unfortunately, he went in the wrong room and we went into OUR room knowing he would be along soon. Sure enough, after a minute, he strolled into our room to join us….but not before he announced,”You do NOT wanna go in THAT room….(the room he had mistakenly gone in)…there’s a NAKED MAN in there!” I suspect somewhere in Japan, there is a man still wondering who the heck the little boy was that disturbed his privacy.

After settling in we had an amazing meal of lobster and sushi (Squi had a burger).Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot
We decided to try the outdoor private onsen but that proved to be a mistake. In our bathrobes, it was cold walking to the onsen and when we got there, I couldn’t even hold my foot in the water. It was waaaayyy too hot. So we took a shivering walk back to our room and drew a tolerably hot bath there.
Subsiding goose bumps and another beer put me in a true happy birthday mood as I soaked in the tub.

As we were checking our emails, catching up on the days events in the news, and having another laugh over Squi’s misadventure, the ryokan staff showed up to make up our futon beds and we were all ready to snuggle in for a comfy night.

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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 2017 – Day 1 – March 18

Michael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer 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.
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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Year 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR

So, we have said goodbye to 2016. One thing that is always good this time of year is that we all get to start 2017 with a clean slate and good intentions. New Year’s resolutions aside, it is a good time to see what was positive in 2016 and continue doing whatever it was with renewed vigor. We get to fix what was broken and keep what worked.

In the business of being an actor, it’s easy to let things slide because you are your own boss. Not too many agents in LA are going to call you up and ask how you are, how was your day, and how they can help get you more work.

Most agents these days just want to cut contracts. As harsh as that may sounds, when you look at it from their perspective, they have a huge pool of people who want to be actors and very little time to develop and guide individuals. YOU have to get the work and then they will do the contract deal. That means you have to make sure they have all the tools they need at their disposal. Your resume, reel, and head shot must all be up to date and available.

In less than a year, if you are going out much at all, most casting directors will have already looked at your head shot. Whether you got an audition or not, your photo has been out there and, hopefully, circulating. With that thought in mind, your head shot can become “stale”. If you are being submitted (or are submitting yourself) but are not getting any auditions, then you need a new head shot. If you have five head shots and only two of them are getting you called in, then replace the other 3 with something new.

Point is, your head shot is your first point of attack, your first calling card, and your first opportunity to get in the door. To let that slide is to undermine your career from the get go.

I look forward to seeing you all in 2017. Start the New Year with a fresh shot and listen for opportunity to knock!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Michael Helms

 

Happy New Year -

Happy New Year –

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Shooting engagement in Nashville!

We are going to see my parents in Nashville in September to cerebrate Squi’s 3rd birthday!

So, while we are there – I thought I should shoot some artists!   Contact Kaz via email to make an appt!

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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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Headshot Photography Workshop –

Special Intensive Weekend Workshop:

Saturday, September 14 –
Sunday, September 15 –
(9 AM to 5 PM)

Saturday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Introduction
Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM – Basic 

Sunday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Intermediate
Sunday, 1 PM to 5 PM – “Starting up as a business” / Special Guests

Two Days for $350

Individual Workshop:
Introduction $120
Basic: $150
Intermediate: $200
Seminar: “Starting up your photography business”: $120

Question?  email

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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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