Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Doggie Style

Mental note: When shooting a dog fashion show do not sit at the end of the runway. The dogs will come right up and try to lick you.

Today's photo assignment was to shoot a dog fashion show. As I've never shot a dog fashion show before I wondered what that would entail. Chaos! But very funny chaos. Since this fashion show took place in a restaurant, there were a lot of people drinking. The runway was at about at waist level. This meant that the runway became a very convenient place to put your drink if you didn't want to hold it.

Some dogs had to be carried

Perhaps people forgot that there were dogs involved. One such bulldog tried sampling a glass of wine by putting it's face right into the cup. I was too busy laughing to actually take a picture. My job was to get pictures of the dogs in the various assortment of clothes.

Sitting in the front of the runway probably wasn't the best place to locate myself as dogs are better shot from the side. In the end it didn't really matter where I was as models were overlapping one another and the dogs were pulling them in different directions sniffing other dogs and being very aware of the huge audience.

Some dogs walked on via a leash

We were told that behind the scenes in the dressing rooms the dogs were having cases of stage fright, freely peeing on things and refusing to be brought to the cat walk.

I think this dog loved the attention.

A dog wearing Versace.

Look at all the women that think a dog biting the trainer's foot is cute.

A dress made out of newspaper.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Monster Leak

The Hulk at Monster Records

Today while at Monster Records while blabbing with Roger, the proprietor, we heard a loud splash sound coming from the other end of the room. It turns out because of all the snow we've been having here in Toronto and the snow now melting created a large surplus of water on the roof. That same water had then made it's way into the store collecting into the S.H.E.I.L.D. model ship and plummeting down onto a bunch of records creating the splash sound.

In a totally unrelated topic I picked up the Rockford files season two. Thanks Roger, Thanks a lot. Now I've got that theme song running in my head. "Dee deee de de deee, de de dee de de deee".

Roger checks out the ceiling.

Passport Photo Professional

Sarkis, one of the best portrait photographers ever.

Depending on what country you're going to some won't let you in if the passport is about to expire in six months. Why is there an expiry date on the passport if it's not good for the last six months? That's like putting an expiry date on yogurt and having it go bad ten days before the date.

I didn't find out about this expiry oddity until travelling to London and finding out my passport was going to expire a month later. When I found out it was the week before I was going to leave. Long enough to worry about it but not long enough to apply for a new passport and get one in time to go. The slowness of processing is partially due to the slow turn around time that is normal on getting any government thing done but also because there's a back up of applications for those applying to travel to the United States.

Up until now, travelling to the United States as a Canadian has been relatively easy. Show them your birth certificate and a driver's licence and you're in. You can still do this until the end of 2007 if crossing the border via car or bus. However if you're taking the plane you have to have a valid passport. This doesn't really bug me as you need a passport to go to other countries any way.

To make things easier for us computer folk, the government has put the applications on-line. Yes you can actually download the passport application from the web.

With any passport you need a good photo. There are standards that the government requires. No glare on the image, you can't wear glasses, no smiling. Yes, no smiling, because passport pictures are a serious matter and the guys at the border can't tell if you're a terrorist if you're smiling. Why not make it even easier for them and make one of the requirements of your photo being that you're not fully awake. Usually when I'm flying anywhere the long line ups while waiting for the plane to get my boarding pass and check my luggage leave me with little or no energy. A photo of me being tired would match me perfectly in that instance.

The photo must also be black and white. I'm not sure the reason for this. "We must make your picture look as drab and as boring a possible." floats through my mind. Luckily when taking your photo the official passport photo people know all this and will tell you while you're getting your photo taken.

Hidden away in a deserted mall at 137 Yonge street is a photographer by the name of Sarkis. He's been there, what seems to be, forever. As a kid I seem to remember him being there when I used to spend time walking around with my parents. As a fellow photographer I can now appreciate the work that he puts into photographing his subject. When you get seated he tells you how to smile, tilt your head and even sit to get the best results.

He's not only fast and efficient but also quite friendly. Maybe that comes from taking photos of so many people over the years. I can't give this photographer enough praise. If you have to get a passport picture taken I would highly recommend going to Sarkis. For under $20.00 you'll get your picture in under 15 minutes.

Sarkis is hidden away in this building

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stan Lee

HMV on Queen street west (across from the Silver Snail)

I found out through Leah that Stan Lee was going to visit after making his rounds at the New York comic convention. This was enough to get me out of my cocoon-like apartment bed and out into the cold wintery world known as Toronto.

Trudging through slippery slush and ice I made my way to the HMV on queen street only to find this little yellow sign in the door...

Stan Lee couldn't make it.

Crud. The first hing that came to mind was that Stan "the man" Lee was snowed in and couldn't make it over from New York. Later on I found out he got sick. So Stan, if you're reading this "Get better soon and thanks for trying to make it out here.".

For those that don't know, Stan Lee is one of the quintessential people in the comic book field. Known for his text layout and unique vocabulary in various Marvel Comics and bigger than life comic book heroes like Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, Stan Lee was a known entity to any kids that were cool when I was growing up.

For me he instilled the sense of right and wrong, that with "great power comes great responsibility", that great comics have great composition and well as great stories and that text placement in your comic book panels is everything.

A photo depicting snow on Queen street today

From the photo above would you go outside? Not me. At least not today. Going out wasn't a lost cause even though the main purpose of going out was to meet Stan Lee. I had to deliver photos to Darryl from the photoshoot. Since his office is located only a block away I went over with my laptop and made a photo CD on the spot.

We ended up going to swatow for dinner. For the first time I can remember in years (about 18 years) we were the only ones in the restaurant. It seems we were the only ones willing to brave the snowy elements for food.

Darryl and I in an unusually empty Swatow.

That new car smell

Early this morning I found myself looking at the ceiling from my bed while trying to go to sleep but not being able to so. For some reason, and I'm not really sure why, I had been thinking about why new cars have that smell, kind of like new shoes. I have no idea how the question was put into my mind. I don't have a car nor do I wish to buy one (at least not for the time being).

With the help of the world wide web and the laptop next to my head I surfed around and found this article on Wikipedia.

To summarize the new car smell is created by various glues and plastics still freshly put together. They emit the order that creates the new car smell. As nice as it smells it's actually quite toxic and harmful to you. The article recommends driving around with the windows open for a few months to let the car air out.

With this knowledge I could finally fall asleep.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Night

Watching the Oscars at Paula's place.

I managed to get invited to an Oscar party, complete with print outs of the nominees, prizes and brain stumping games. Well actually it was one game that involved everyone getting a post-it on their back with a name on it. The name can be fictional, or real, or even the name of some movie monster (ie. the Kraken, or Mothra, or Christine).

The idea was that you had to guess the name on your back by asking others in the room questions. You could ask as many questions as you wanted and we never really kept score as it was mostly for fun and a good way to meet people that normally you might not have anything in common to talk about. It worked great.

The first post-it I had was the borg queen. Once I narrowed the subject down to a character on Star Trek it was pretty simple. "Did the character appear on the original series?", No, "TNG?", "Yes", "main character?", "No", "Borg?", "yes", "Hugh?", "no", "The Borg Queen", "yes". See how simple it is.

The next name was harder. It was Che Guevara. The third name was "Rocket Robin Hood".

Gord's first mystery name.

Poor Gord had be cursed with the names of Christine and the Kraken, the water monster that appeared in Clash of the Titans. It took him a very long time to get those. "Is the character human?". "No". Where do you go from there? It took him a while to ask the human question.

This year during the checking out the celebs TV segment the broadcaster actually had a freeze frame with a graphics overlay, kind of like those Xs and Os with arrows when you watch a football game play breakdown by the sportcasters. The lines or circles drawn on over the celebs pointed out "engagement" rings, bad pant lines, and other fashion do's and don'ts. It was really bizzare.

Vikings and Maids

Darryl and Barbie, the mad viking maid

At some point I'm sure there are readers out there asking "What the heck?" when looking at the above picture. No there's no new B-movie with Vikings and Maids being made. At least not to my knowledge. If anyone knows of one let me know.

Today a bunch of us got together to shoot various outfits for Darryl's upcoming hard liquor and porn posters. The theme seemed to escape even me and is something that really only Darryl can explain. But hey, shooting giggling girls in the odd costume isn't the worst thing one can do to pass the time.

Leanna and Barbie pose for Darryl's HLAP ads

If it looks like we're having a fun time in these pictures it's because we are!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Early to bed late to rise

The Pacific Mall

To Recap...
I went to sleep early this morning. It was about 7am when my body decided to call it quits after spending 20 hours playing the World of Warcraft, or as Darryl calls it, "WarCrack". This wasn't as bad as the 16 hour stint where I didn't get up to even go to the bathroom. No this time it was a bit better. I had timed it so whenever the character had to make bandages, walk across the map, fly to another part of the continent, or do something equally time consuming, I went out to get groceries, cook the roast (as described in the last blog), eat, assemble a hard drive, test the hard drive, start a very long 7 hour copy session on said hard drive and yes go to the bathroom.

My body had started to feel like rigor mortis was setting in. It didn't matter how I sat in front of the computer, my body started to ache. My left hand started cramping and my legs were getting sore. I had been sitting for most of the twenty hours in the lotus position. Thanks to the portability of the laptop I could play sitting on the corner of my bed using a foldable TV table. Tired, full of food and ache ridden, my brain finally gave in to my body's wishes and fell asleep.

As a result of pushing myself (into being a couch potato) I woke up at 2:30pm. Technically I woke up at 11am to a phone call from Marc seeing if I wanted to go for dim sum. I was in zombie mode when I answered the phone, pretty understandable, so I politely shooed him away off the phone and fell back into bed for a nice snooze.

Upon waking up the second time (at 2:30) I called back Marc to figure out what was going on. He had called because he was bored and wanted to do something. I wondered how doing something with me would be that much more interesting. After all I was getting pretty good at the whole living off the corner of the bed playing warcraft and testing computer equipment.

Since the drive tests worked and I needed to get more enclosures. I had six more drives sitting around so I invited him to join me to the Pacific Mall where the Vantec drive enclosures were being sold. The computer store downtown that I know of ran out of these particular units since my last visit.

Canada Computers in the Pacific Mall

After picking up two drive enclosures (that's all they had left) I got sucked into having a $6.50 bubble drink. I fit right in with the other consumers in the pacific mall drinking their bubble tea. I picked the "mango chiller" out of a long menu of variations. Was it worth $6.50? No. It was okay but I'd say up to $4 worth. Actually even $4 seems like a lot.

The pacific mall was packed with people from the moment we arrived. Parking the car was crazy. We thought if we just drove to the far side of the parking lot there would be free spaces. Nope. Packed, every car space taken. Inside the mall it was cramped and congested. I noted that you could buy bootleg HD-DVD movies for only $4 each. Sheesh. From Casino Royale to Garfield 2. How long has HD-DVD been out? Normal format DVDs were selling for 8 for $20.

In North America there are ads against bootlegging movies. One ad has a stuntman complaining that bootleggers are taking money out of his pocket. Not the movie production company or the movie distributor but the lowly stunt guy. It's almost as cheesy as the anti-pollution commercial with the native indian chief crying next to the highway.

Why you should not buy these bootleg movies...

  1. The video quality is usually poor. Some movies are taken from footage from a guy with a videocam sitting in a movie theatre.
  2. The sound quality is not as good as the commercial DVD.

While looking for the prefect bubble tea place, there's a lot of them in the mall, we passed by a model shop. It's been a long time since I'd been in a model store let alone put together a model kit. They were selling a 1:350 scale model of the Yamato (a spaceship from the TV cartoon series "Star Blazers"). It came complete with a life size hand trigger mechanism that when pulled lit up the wave motion gun. Cool.

Another store worth mentioning but I can't remember the name sold Anime outfits. Full sized for "real" people. I use the term real very loosely. This was probably a convention fan's dream. Upon a quick glance the clothing seemed simple. That is not a lot of detail. "Well, they are cartoon based.", I thought to myself.

Marc in the WalMart parking lot.

After dragging Marc around to get the drive enclosures we went on a quest to pick up a new kitchen garbage can. It's incredible the exciting, wild life I lead (dripping with sarcasm).

A few weeks, maybe months ago, my garbage can broke. The hinge snapped off. Since it was plastic the whole garbage can had to be replaced. I had been putting garbage into a plastic garbage bag that just sat in the hall of my kitchen. While it worked it looked a bit unsightly. Plus there was always a problem of the bag tipping over with the contents falling all over the floor.

There's a lot of work looking for a garbage can. Can in be cleaned easily? Is it made well? Does the lid take up space where the garbage could go? How long will it last? Are the hinges of the lid tiny little plastic tabs that will break off? How tall in the garbage can? What colors are available?

I ended up purchasing an oval shaped plastic bin with a spring loaded pop up door. The roundness would make it easier to clean than that of something with corners.

To end off the night we ended up seeing "Ghost Rider" at the nearby theatre. A truly bad movie. I'd give it a quarter bagel rating. I've said this once and I'll say it again "Really amazing visual effects does not a good movie make." and as far as visual effects goes, there were some really mediocre computer generated effects and some really great CG fire. I didn't notice any cameo with Stan Lee, so how good could the movie be? Flat acting, bad dialogue, bad script in general, but some really nice CG fire (Did I mention the fire?)

Something interesting to note... While in London, Enzo mentioned that here in North America we have huge vista-like scenic places. While I really never gave it much thought before it dawned on me today while standing in the various large parking lots. We do have a lot of space here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

To pork or not to pork

The pork roast BEFORE

I spent the day trying to catch up on my blogging while at the same time sticking a hard drive into a USB 2.0 enclosure, testing the hard drive, and baking a pork roast. I had bought the roast about a month ago for a mere $4.27. The roast before baking was 1.942 Kg (or 4.3 pounds).

When I bought it the expiry date was far in the future. The roast had lived in my freezer for the last few weeks. I contemplated cooking it for a me and a guest but ended up cooking it just for me. I suppose eating really is the theme for this week.

Being my first pork roast I wanted to be sure it was cooked properly. The book I have reads that the roast should be in the oven for 25-35 minutes per pound at 325° F. Just to be sure I had it in for three and a half hours. Aside from the burnt apples it turned out great. The cover on the casserole dish kept the pork moist. Upon taking it out of the oven the meat just fell off the bone and melted in your mouth.

The pork roast AFTER

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There seems to be a theme this week...

Gudrun looks like she's sneaking out some papers for Nat to sign

If there was a theme this week it would be food and eating said food. I ended up meeting Gudrun and Nat at a Vietnamese place near King and Dufferin (north west side). First time I've been to this place. The food's not bad but I still prefer pho88 on Broadview and Gerrard.

Nat(asha) signs her life away.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I will work for food... so it seems.

A snowman in the neighbourhood

Today was pretty slow. I had met up with Leah who for the longest time had been waiting for some roller derby photos I shot (see the blog entry from a long time ago). I was going to just give her the photos but she insisted on taking me out for Indian food... again the buffet.

I suppose she called at a good time as I was hungry and any food sounded good.

Leah feeds me Indian food in exchange for some roller derby photos

Hours later I received a call from Robin. She was trying to get some pictures taken of a few blankets to enter some art show/exhibition. I thought it would be easier to just go over with my camera and flash and shoot away rather than trying to figure out why her camera wasn't focusing properly.

She reminded me that she still owed me dinner for something else I helped her out with... I think it was the T-shirt shoot (click here for even earlier blog entry).

Robin holds up a sock monkey blanket

A sock pigeon

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Web daze

My garden gnome half buried in snow

Leanna popped by again today to work on the web stuff. We went to the local Indian buffet restaurant for lunch. I ate enough to feed a small army. When Leanna eventually went home I immediately fell asleep... most likely from over stuffing myself with food.

Another photo for Leanna's wall-o-food.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Meanwhile back in Toronto

Leanna walks towards my apartment passing over the broken water pipe under the side walk.

I woke up this morning at 6am (or 11am London time). My nose was bleeding. It's dry here thanks to it being winter and possibly because there's a dehumidifier down here in the basement. It's -15°C today in Toronto where as it's 11°C in London.

My neighbour, Lisa and her new pup.

Leanna and I stuff ourselves at Occasions, the local restaurant.

I spent the day with Leanna going through photos and working on some graphics for her website. It feels odd being out in the cold.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Returning Home

Josie waits for a cab to the airport

We managed to get to Heathrow airport an hour before our flight. Despite getting to the airport late and having problems with the high tech machines not reading our passports properly we managed to sneak in under the deadline and get our plane.

Our first stop within the airport was cafe Italia. It's the third time I've flown out of Heathrow and the third time I've had food there. They have great food. Today was the "pollo verde", a chicken sandwich with avocado (pollo = chicken, verde = green).

The flight was seven and a half hours. We didn't have the high tech monitors behind each seat this time around. Instead there were a few large monitors scattered throughout the plane. "The Guardian" was playing. It started while I was napping and I missed the beginning. Instead of watching the movie I decided to read the book I bought a week before at the Toronto airport, the Three Musketeers. It's one of the many books that had escaped my reading as a kid. Yes I've seen the movie, read the fat little book, and even had read the Classics Illustrated comic book a few times, but the actual book... no.

The Plane food...

at least the food that I was served while I was not sleeping.

A view of Toronto from the air... geez there's a lot of snow.

At the airport while picking up our luggage I noticed my camera case was opened. Unfortunately it was while I was picking it up off the treadmill that I found out when all my lenses and gear started falling out. "What the ___ hell???". Someone had gone through my luggage at Heathrow and couldn't put the stuff back properly but at least they closed the case. It was probably customs, which is fine. Here in Toronto not only was my equipment not placed into the case properly the case was not latched!

After a $60 limo ride home I was greeted by a slippery drive way covered with about 15 centimeters of snow and ice. I almost fell on my butt trying to navigate me and my luggage around the neighbour's car.

It's good to be back... As I hope that I didn't return with any six legged guests.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm a Tourist

The Star Kebab House, the local curry place

Being the last full day visiting London and now with all my London Fashion Week shooting complete I decided to spend the day walking around. You might say that today was my official sightseeing day. To start off, I walked west along the street from the hotel (located near Earl's Court) to grab some food at a local curry place. It's the same curry place, the Star Kebab House, that I frequented last season. I found out that it's been in operation for more than 30 years.

From the curry place I walked up past the local super Tesco to a bridge, took some uninteresting pictures (which is why they are not on this blog) of railroad tracks, then slowly made my way toward Oxford Circus where I'd eventually meet up with Derya (although when I started trek I didn't know that's where I would end up).

It's interesting to point out that most people I talked to about walking this distance (including Enzo a few days earlier) thought this was nutty.

Congestion charges going into effect February 19th, 2007

On my way from the bridge I noticed some signs indicating to drivers that there would be a new service charge for using the roads in town. I heard they wanted to do something like this in Toronto. While it's a great idea to decrease the amount of car emissions within the city, Toronto in my opinion, does not have the intricate transit system or suburban parking lots to support this idea at this time.

Stopping to 'smell' the flowers. It's still snowing in Toronto?

A crime stoppers ad

I thought this was interesting. The sign tells you what kind of crime was commited and obviously where it took place is specified by where the sign was placed. "Armed Robbery"? Sheesh.

The museum entrance

The first official stop on my tour was a museum, any museum. This being the third time I've been in London I had never stopped into any of the museums for more than 10 minutes. During my first trip I stopped in the Science museum long enough to point at a large dinosaur skeleton while Angie took a picture of me. Because of the tight schedule we had to run out of the building in order to cover other parts of the city in our 45 minutes of rushing around.

While waiting for a catwalk to start, earlier on in the week, I had met a London photographer named Patrick who told me "This is the worst time to go to museums.". When I asked "Why?", his answer was that kids are now out from school, something equivalent to spring break in North America. It figures. Note: Toronto Fashion week also takes place during spring break. Coincidence?

There was a long winding line that came out of the Natural History Museum. Despite this, I was determined to get in, to see something, anything. It is important fact that the reader know that to visit most museums in London the admission price is 0. Yes, that's right, free. When comparing the cost to the tiny Toronto based Royal Ontario Museum with it's exorbitant admission of $18.00, seeing museums in London is great! This also explains the grief of not seeing any of the museums during the last two visits.

The escalator into the "Molten Earth"

A big fat rock. So okay I forgot what the little label said that was placed under the rock. (Quartz?)

The next stop was a building that reminded me of the Ontario Science Centre. There were a bunch of nifty gadgety things with hands on items that kids could play/interact with.

A two and a half story circle lined with Light Emitting Diodes

"You've driving me up the wall"

I suppose the thing that impressed me was this car bolted somehow to the ceiling. It reminded me of those fake movie sets that are made upside down so when the camera is flipped over it looks like someone is walking on the ceiling.

A jacket made from steel wool

I liked the micro net

After the museums I walked over to Hyde Park. There were people playing hockey of all things. The hockey night in canada theme played in my head while I took some pictures.

The Albert Memorial

Entering into Hyde Park

A bird that looks like it's starting to doze off.

A statue of Peter Pan

Bird sitting on a post

A tree that has fallen over

Bear Hug fountain

"Feeding Pigeons is not permitted"

Sunset in Hyde Park

The subway map

In case you hadn't picked this up from previous blog entries, it's interesting to note that a subway in London is a underground walkway for pedestrians. Unlike the subway, or public train system here in Toronto the train in London is referred to as the tube.

A subway entrance

A subway exit

Exiting the park on the north east corner I made my way over to Oxford Circus via Oxford street. Traffic lanes are a lot more narrow in this city, yet they're way more congested. I'm not really sure how the bus drivers do such a great job of navigating without causing accidents.

Fruit stand

An accessory store with Lily Cole plastered all over their display.

Gearing up for Chinese New Year, the year of the "golden" pig.

Tap dancing for money

While waiting for Derya across the street from the Topshop department store I noticed these tap dancers. They were pretty good but were eventually shooed away by a police officer.

Topshop window display

After a barrage of text messaging Derya and I finally met up. I don't use text messaging in Toronto so much but in London it seemed second nature. We ended up eating at a Thai buffet restaurant. We were drawn in by a coupon some guy down the street was waving at us.

Thai buffet

Derya foreign news corespondent

Derya with a copy of the newspaper she writes for.