Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Style over common sense...

We've just made that cardinal decorating sin of buying a white rug and being a pet owner.  

I know what you're thinking, why on earth did we do it?  I mean come on, the dirty paws, the chewing, the piddle, the sick and poop (when he's ill), what were we thinking? I've used the same arguments with my significant other, but in the end we chose style over common sense.
Style over common sense
As you know I like to highlight the differences between the UK and America at times and so I'm pleased to say that getting things delivered over here appears much simpler.  We bought our new rug from Crate & Barrel (it's the Felix Natural 8x10, in case you were wondering) and they gave me a two hour time slot, from 9am to 11am, and they were literally outside my door at 9am (I think they'd been there waiting to knock for a while too).  

Sometimes furniture deliveries in Britain can be like pulling teeth and whatever delivery window you are given, you can guarantee they won't turn up until the very last minute (totally ruining your day by making you wait around for no reason), and don't even get me started on the Gas man.
Getting comfy on the new rug
Anyway, you can imagine how much fun a nice rug full of new scents is for a five and a half month old pup.

The other day I was bemoaning the fact that our living room was looking very sparse after we'd decided to put any furnishing buying on hold until the puppy stopped chewing and was better house trained, hence the new rug and curtains to add some texture to the room.  

Charlie has even been using his new toy, the carpet shampooer, with gay abandon the last few days and marveling at the murky colour of the water after it's been used to wash out all the ground in dirt (the previous occupants had two dogs as well, so Cooper's not to blame).  A few plants to add some greenery and it'll feel much homelier, now all we need is for pup to leave it alone (wish us luck with that).
Pup Cooper on the rug
Anyway, I think I can see a future for our boy as an interiors catalogue model. What do you think?

After my early morning delivery, I rushed out to do some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's.  I've never been there before, but everyone from my personal trainer to our relocation advisor has raved about it (especially the cheese and bread selection you can buy there).  There's certainly nothing like the shopping experience in the UK, but I think I was a bit underwhelmed, but maybe it was 'first-time-itis' clouding my judgement.
Trader Joe's
Better get on, I'm off to the gym at 1pm and have lots to do in advance of an imminent parental visit from the UK later this week.

Place your bets on how long you think the white rug will stay clean...

Monday, September 29, 2008

A perfectly pleasant afternoon with the Duchess...

Three of us went to see The Duchess at the Arclight Hollywood yesterday and all thoroughly enjoyed it (I believe the movie actually opens nationwide from the 10th October, so we saw an advance screening).  
The Duchess Movie poster
I think we liked it so much in part, due to the fact that we are all Europeans and have all lived in the UK, so could appreciate the British people, places and architecture in the movie more (especially living in L.A. where the architecture is not the most inspiring).  

Good old BBC Films and Pathe Films for bringing this period drama to the big screen. This genre is not one I'm normally rushing to go see, but the trailer seemed inviting and the reviews glowing, so I thought why not.

Although Keira Knightley (of Atonement and Pirates of the Caribbean fame) is a good actress, she is quite overrated at times, but I found her genuinely engaging and convincing as the Duchess of Devonshire.

Back home in London, we actually live just around the corner from Chiswick House, which was one of the Duke of Devonshire's properties mentioned in the movie and we used to regularly go for walks around the house and its grounds (which they are currently renovating).

Movie costumes from The Duchess on display at Arclight Hollywood
Costumes from The Duchess movie
The film is based on true events and is quite a simple tale (by that I mean no assassination attempts or chases across the countryside on horseback), without being too staid or dull.

The glimpses of locations in Bath and elsewhere around Britain, plus the amazing stately home interiors helped to perfectly evoke 18th century England, plus the film's costumes (some of which are featured here) helped to convincingly tell the tale of the extravagant aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
The Duchess film costumes on display
(Spoiler alert: Don't read any further if you don't want major story and plot details about the movie!)

We follow her unhappy marriage to Ralph Fiennes' Duke of Devonshire, who only wants for her to bear him a son.  Unfortunately he doesn't love her and is constantly unfaithful, even when she provides him with two daughters, plus accepts a daughter he sired with one of his maids. 
Keira Knightley featured on The Duchess movie poster
Georgiana finds solace in a new friend, Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell from Brideshead Revisited), who betrays their friendship by sleeping with the Duke in order to use his position in society to reclaim her three sons from her estranged husband.  The Duchess becomes trapped by this unhappy and scandalous turn of events, when Bess becomes her husband's live-in mistress.
The Duchess movie costumes on display at Arclight Hollywood
To find escape from her loveless marriage she falls passionately in love with an ambitious politician, Charles Grey, (played by Dominic Cooper from Mamma Mia and The History Boys), who will one day be Prime Minister.

Unfortunately the hypocritical Duke does not want to share his wife with another man (he just wants to be able to have his cake and eat it), so forces the Georgiana to choose between her true love and her children.  The Duchess sacrifices her own personal happiness for the children she loves and to protect the her lover's place in society.  Although she drops the bombshell that she is pregnant by Charles.
The Duchess movie poster
In an emotionally charged performance and perfectly set in the dreary English countryside to mirror her inner turmoil, Georgiana has to devastatingly give up Grey's child to his family's care to prevent any further scandal.

I've never been that much of a fan of historical movies (preferring more futuristic genres), but I really did enjoy The Duchess.  It was well acted and I thought Hayley Atwell as Lady Bess had real presence on screen, whilst Dominic Cooper's star is rising, although Ralph Fiennes character is so unsympathetic it's hard to like him, so obviously he plays his role well.  

This sad tale of 18th century gentry was interesting and captivating, without being overly sensational.  I give it a very worthy three *** stars, but go see it and decide for yourself!

Fare thee well until tomorrow...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dog-Blog: Sleepy Sunday...

Today I thought I 'd just share with you all some fabulous images of Cooper at rest (it is Sunday after all).
Sleeping bench pup
Deep sleeps
Curled up on the bench
Dozing dog
Dozing puppy
There's nothing cuter than a sleeping puppy, especially when he starts snoring loudly and breaking wind - that's our boy!

As a comparison, here is also a selection of adorable sleeping pup photos from the past, when our pup was only eight weeks old.  So cute...
Dog tired CooperCooper dozingCooper on fireplace tilesCooper content on his back
What's often funnier is the looks we get from him when we wake him from his slumber.  Sometimes it's the opening of an eye, a lift of an eyebrow or a furrowed brow.
Sleepy puppy
Sweet dreams Coop...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A misty morning with puppy at Sycamore Cove beach...

We set off early today for our second visit to the beach with Cooper, his first visit to the Pacific Ocean was when he was only sixteen weeks old, so he's a lot older and wiser now he's over five months.
Lifeguard hut 6 at Sycamore Cove
It was also my second time ever driving on a Californian freeway (the first time was only for five minutes, getting on and then off quickly at the next exit) and we drove up the 101 to Sycamore Cove in Ventura County where they allow dogs on the beach.
Misty Sycamore Cove
We drove in the early morning sunshine with blue skies until we got nearer the coastline, where it was very misty and like a totally different world when we arrived around 9.30am.
Lifeguard puppy
We made it there in one piece and had a fantastic time, even though it looked a bit grim, it was still warm and the ocean spray was refreshing.  
Beach puppy & Jason
It was amazing to see how fascinated Cooper was by the ocean.  He seemed to love the motion, the smell and the noise of the waves crashing on the beach.
Cooper & Charlie running along the sandy beach
As ever, the Pacific Ocean was cold in the water and it's not so much fun when there's no bright sunshine to warm you up (I can see why the surfers wear their wetsuits), but with all the running up the beach and splashing through the waves we didn't mind.
Charlie & Cooper running up the beach
The last time we'd been at the beach he was distracted by two of his favourite things, Barry and his dog Ginger, who Cooper adores, but this time the ocean, the sand and even we, managed to get his full attention.  It really was a pleasure to behold.
Surf puppy
I'm thinking that it would be great to take Cooper to a big lake sometime so he could have a proper swim without worrying about him being taken out to sea by the strong tides, or eaten by a shark!
Ocean Cooper
The beach was emptier than the last time, but there were still people fishing from the shore, throwing a frisbee (Cooper liked the look of that), playing in the sand and even setting up for a beach party.  
Beach puppy Cooper on his leash
There was also an array of wildlife, from pelicans swooping low over the waves to a sea otter (or maybe even a seal?) swimming in the ocean.
Sycamore Cove birdlife - Pelicans
As always we tried to capture as much of the fun as possible on camera for us to treasure (as he changes so quickly as he grows), but also to share with my lovely visitors, now 10,000 strong and growing every day!
Ocean puppy and Jason
We made it back home safe and sound, driving past Zuma Beach in Malibu and back on the 101, then over the now familiar Laurel Canyon drive (which takes us up to Runyon Canyon for our regular walks).  I'm told I need to watch my braking distance, but aside from that I did well for my first major drive on the freeway.
Beach puppy looking up
At home it was bath-time for Cooper, so even as much fun as the beach, as he loves to have a splash around in the tub.  I just think he likes to be pampered too!
Bath puppy
Hmm, there's nothing quite like the smell of wet dog...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Eagle Eye is well worth watching...

I'm not a huge fan of Shia LaBeouf, but I thought Eagle Eye was a really entertaining action thriller.

I actually thought LaBeouf was very convincing in this movie, he just seems to have become a bit of a Hollywood 'diva' since his breakthrough roles in Transformers and Indiana Jones 4 (where I thought he was appalling).

Spoiler alert: Don't read any further if you don't want to know major plot and storyline details of the film.
Eagle Eye movie poster on Sunset Blvd
Anyway, back to the movie. Two strangers (LaBeouf and Michelle Monoghan from Mission Impossible III) are thrown together when they are targeted by a mystery woman who manipulates their lives and threatens their loved ones in order to use them in a seemingly terrorist motivated plot. This turns them into wanted fugitives on the run from FBI Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton).

The wonderful thing about the trailer for this movie was that it really enticed me to want to see the film, but it didn't give any of the major story elements away, so when they are revealed I was really surprised and it increased my overall enjoyment of the movie.

Rather than a terrorist threat, the protagonist of the movie is an out of control American Defense Department computer called Aria. This supercomputer uses blind logic to determine that the President and his current administration are unfit to lead the country according to the Constitution, after they decided to go ahead with a strike on foreign soil against the advisement of the Defense Secretary and Aria's own mission abort recommendation. In this movie technology becomes the villain.

LaBeouf's character, Jerry Shaw, is college dropout twin of his recently deceased military brother (who discovered that Aria was faulty and was terminated by the computer, which was made to look like a traffic accident). Monoghan is Rachel Holloman, a single parent whose young son Aria threatens to get her to comply - after all if a computer can do anything from change traffic lights, electrocute you with a power pylon or take over a stealth bomber, you'd believe that it would be prepared to derail a train in order to kill your child.

Initially our two drafted fugitives are unaware the adversary they face is a artificially intelligent supercomputer and along the way are helped by other coerced members of the public. If you can suspend your disbelief, not questioning if a computer could actually achieve everything it does, you'll love it. If you start thinking too much about the logic of it all, you'll spoil your enjoyment of the movie.
Official Eagle Eye movie poster
After high speed car chases, armed robberies and experimental drugs, our two leads are unwittingly manipulated into becoming the cause of the President and his staffs assassination.

Ultimately LaBeouf's character's DNA and voice authorisation is needed for Aria to fulfill its mission, but our resilient hero manages to save the day by sacrificing himself and proving to everyone (his dad included) that he's as special and heroic as his talented dead twin.

So it's a clever story, it avoids being overly sentimental at times and there are a few surprises along the way. It's a great action thriller to enjoy at the cinema rather than on DVD. I give it three *** stars.

I saw the movie at the Arclight Hollywood and had an extra treat when my Arclight membership points earned me some free popcorn (I'm starting to get used to American popcorn now and the Arclight always has fresh stuff).

In case you don't know where the cinema is, it's around the corner from Amoeba Records at 6400 Sunset Blvd and I promised one of my blog visitors, Amanda, I'd get her a shot of the store if I could, as it used to be one of her old stomping grounds when she used to live in L.A.
Amoeba Music Store on Sunset Blvd
If you liked this movie review of Eagle Eye, you may also like these other movie articles:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dog-Blog: Two steps forward, one paw back...

Today I'm mostly sulking!
Cooper sulking
Last night's puppy training did not go as well as I'd hoped and left me feeling a bit demoralised.  The last couple of days, Cooper has been doing so well at walking on his leash and getting better when he's off-leash at Runyon too, that I had hoped we'd have a good training session.

There were only four pups in class last night, as one has been evicted (for being too disruptive) and another was on holiday, so I thought that would help and not hinder.  

Unfortunately Cooper transformed into this bouncy little monster that we've never seen before when the instructor started to teach him something and then when she started making her dog 'yipping' sounds, it just seemed to whip him into even more of a frenzy.
Big puppy grin
She pretty much threw down the leash at one stage and walked away, which pretty much shattered my confidence in my abilities to control him at the class, but also made us reassess Cooper in a new light.  

The trainer did have some valid points and we do need to change certain practices, but her people skills are sadly lacking and she may be able to train dogs, but she needs to take some lessons in human behaviour methinks.  After all, we are paying for her to help us, not make things worse!

So distraught was I last night, that I didn't really notice when the actor Ted McGinley, of 'Married with Children' fame, was voted off Dancing with the Stars.
Thoughtful Cooper
However I was annoyed that 1950's throwback, Kenley, wasn't voted off Project Runway last night.  Not that I especially liked Suede (who was just trying to hard to build this mysterious persona, referring to himself always in the third person - "Suede thinks this" and "Suede's not sure of that" ), but Kenley's become so arrogant and overconfident that she deserved to go.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day and another chance to whip Cooper into shape. I'm sure he'll start improving soon (fingers crossed)...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dog-Blog: Sharing the spotlight...

Today our pup shares the spotlight with a fellow Labrador whose owner stumbled upon my blog. 

Meet Mellow who's around four years old and about 50 lbs.  She's a yellow Lab mix and was a rescue dog.  She lives in Michigan with her owner Mitch and they've been together for three years.
Mellow at play
This photograph was taken at Lake Michigan on Labor Day.

Mellow is also a bit of a celebrity herself, as she features on the Iams pet food and West Paw Design dog toys websites.  She looks every inch a star.

If you'd like your Labrador featured on Jason in Hollywood alongside Cooper, just drop me a line with an adorable picture and some fun details.

Obviously not to be upstaged, here's Cooper in doggie heaven, as he accompanied me to Pet Smart today to get some new puppy food.  
Cooper in dog heaven
He was so well behaved it was a bit unbelievable really (especially as I was having to navigate the store with a trolley and puppy on his leash), but I just think his all his senses were being totally overwhelmed by the aisles of dog food, row upon row of toys and intriguing smells in the store.  Maybe all that training is starting to pay off!

The last time I was at the pet store I left behind a bag of shopping, so today I re-bought the bigger dog bowl and treats I'd left behind, but also managed to buy the wrong puppy food - for 'normal' puppy, rather than 'large breed', so that's me off to Culver City again tomorrow to change it.

Last night Comedian Jeff Ross was the first person to be voted off Dancing with the Stars season seven and tonight we'll find out which contestant will join him in the second of this week's eliminations. 

Anyway, it's week three of puppy training tonight, so just need get myself organised.  Bye for now...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something you don't see every day...

It's been strange day!

As my other half is away on business in Florida I woke up on my own, which is always weird after being part of a couple for so many years, and took our pup for his early morning walk.

Yesterday I had a message to say a friend was in town from the UK, so today I had a surprise visitor.  Before he arrived I ventured out to find a new supermarket, as the Pavilions I've come to to call my local has just been bulldozed to make way for a new store opening in Summer 2009.

I found a Ralph's and sped down the aisles plucking at the familiar things and spending far too much time debating over the new choices on offer.  Charlie gets so frustrated with me grocery shopping, as I can spend hours walking the aisles picking up products and reading the labels, admiring the packaging and weighing up all the offers, whilst he prefers to pick up what's in front of him regardless. Anyway, I digress.

So it was nice to have a daytime guest to entertain and after a short walk around the block with Cooper, we decided to go and sit by the pool (only about my third time in six months).

Anyway after chatting, a little swim and enjoying the sun for a while we heard an almighty smacking sound.  I thought a palm frond had fallen poolside, so imagine my surprise when I turned around in the pool to see two squirrels had sky-dived from on high to land beside the pool.  It was a sad day in the history of Squirrel Watch!
R.I.P. WEHO Squirrel
It's hard not to describe what we saw without sounding flippant or a bit sick, but as you know I'm an animal lover, so I mean no malice.  So unfortunately one of the squirrels had died instantly on impact (so hopefully didn't feel any pain) and was pretty much as flat as a pancake, whilst the other squirrel got up and then collapsed and lay there for about ten minutes.  We were a bit stunned and didn't really know what to do.

I found some neighbours around the pool and got the complex manager and as we went to check, the second squirrel got up and limped away.  They'd either been fighting or playing and fallen from the tree (although they are usually so agile they never fall, although there are no branches on a palm tree for them to reach for), or someone wondered if they'd eaten some rat poison and that had caused their plummet.  

Obviously we were also concerned for the other animals in the condo complex as there are so many dogs here, that if they sniffed around and swallowed some poison it wouldn't be pretty.

Anyway, it's certainly something you don't see everyday, kamikaze squirrels raining down on you from the sky!
Tented house for bug extermination
Another thing you don't see every day in the UK is tented houses.  As most buildings in L.A. are wooden structures they are prone to termites and bugs, so often they have to get in the exterminators.  This is all very strange (and amusing) to someone who comes from a land of houses built of brick and concrete.

To restore some sanity to the day, we headed off for our regular (and thankfully uneventful) Runyon Canyon trek.

I haven't even had a chance to catch up on last night's Dancing with the Stars, so I can't even pass judgement yet on who I think will go - I'd better watch it now...

p.s. No squirrels were harmed during the taking of this photo!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The race begins again, who will win...?

Dancing with the Stars season 7 posterThere's only 43 days left until the U.S. Presidential Election is held, but there's an even more important contest that starts tonight.


Regular visitors to Jason in Hollywood will know that I'm a big fan of Dancing with the Stars, so I'm all excited the seventh season is starting this evening.

However, it does sound like ABC are stretching out the season opener though, as it's a three-night premiere event compared to only two nights last season (and that was a bit overkill if truth be told).

Anyway, the thirteen 'Stars' of this season will include: Lance Bass former member of pop group NSYNC, singer Toni Braxton, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, 82 year old actress Cloris Leachman, Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Maurice Greene, the youngest ever contestant Cody Linley from Disney's Hannah Montana, daytime TV actress Susan Lucci, Superbowl Champion Warren Sapp, comedian Jeff Ross, actor Ted McGinley, Beach Volleyball champion Misty May-Treanor and finally actress and host Brooke Burke.

As I'm from the UK I only recognise a handful of these personalities, so let's hope their dancing can make them stand out. They need to give it their best shot as two couples will be eliminated in the first week of the competition.

I'll also be recording the show tonight as I'm out for dinner at Firefly in Studio City, although I nearly couldn't set the video as I'd already programmed it for Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and the third season of Heroes which premieres tonight - luckily we have two DVRs (phew!).

Anyway, stay tuned for my predictions on who I think the first two couples to be eliminated this season will be...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The stars come out under clear blue skies...

These last two days there have been lovely clear blue skies over Runyon Canyon, allowing a nice view of the sprawling city without most of the smoggy haze.
Runyon Canyon blue skies view
No doubt in honour of the Emmy Awards tonight, we had another celebrity sighting at Runyon today - it's definitely the cool place where all the stars like to hang out with their entourage (and dogs).  
Actor Matt Dallas from Kyle XY
A friend pointed out Matt Dallas, who plays the lead in the ABC TV show Kyle XY, as he walked by (I only managed to snap him from afar - he's the one in the black vest).  I've seen him walking with a dog there before, but I didn't realise who he was as I've never seen the show.
View of downtown from Runyon Canyon
Runyon Canyon is so popular because it's pretty much the best off-leash dog park in L.A. - it also helps that it has the most stunning panoramic views of the city too!
Be careful sign at Runyon Canyon
On Saturday evening driving back along Mulholland Drive after our walk I saw my first coyote walking by the side of the road and then Sunday night saw another (or maybe the same one?).
Runyon Canyon L.A. view
After I'd built up an appetite on our walk on Saturday evening, we headed out to Cafe des Artistes in Hollywood for a hearty meal.  The restaurant is quite hidden away on North McCaddon Place and it has a nice private garden bar at the front entrance, whilst in the back the main dining courtyard area is prettily lit by candle, all in an 'L.A.-French' style.  
Cafe des Artistes restaurant in Hollywood

We've dined there before, but the service last night was so much better and friendlier than last time. I had the mussels to start, followed by the Salmon which came on a bed of lentils, finished off with a pear tart - the food was good and we had a fun night out!

Today I'm also extremely excited about the fact that my blog has finally got a Google PageRank.  Jason in Hollywood now has a ranking of 2.  

It's all about Search Engine Optimisation of websites (SEO) and a very nebulous area where Google is concerned, but the short version is that your website pages are ranked on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very good.  The more relevant your content, the higher your Page Rank (PR). 

With any new website it can take months for Google to give you a PR (if at all), and to put it into context, the websites which I used to work on at my old company, which had loads of resource and money to put behind them, had page ranks of 5 or 6.  So I'm not doing too bad, but ultimately over time I'll be striving for a higher PR as a measure of the success of my blog.
Cooper exploring the roof deck
I'd also like to welcome all the visitors I've had from Labrador Puppies Retriever Blog, where Cooper was recently featured.  Here are a few photos of him being mischievous on our roof deck this afternoon - he just loves to chew those plants (and thinks we don't notice).
Cooper caught in the act
Keep coming back for more L.A. celebrity sightings, restaurant reviews and the continuing adventures of our yellow Lab Cooper...

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