Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - a year of highs and lows...

Wow, another year has speeded by and what do I have to show for it? Well three marathons for a start. Yes, this has been another year for me dominated by running, which brought the highs of completing my first New York Marathon, but also the lows of my worst running times to date. But before I get into the detail of that, here's what else has been keeping me occupied this past twelve months.

Toasting the New Year at Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara
New Year's Day Hendry's Beach Santa Barbara
We started 2014 in style and took our Yellow Labrador Cooper and one of our closest friends to Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara to toast the New Year in style and blow away the cobwebs of 2013.

Throughout January and February I continued to train for my fourth L.A. Marathon, whilst maintaining my blogging empire (and thanks to my new Green Card I can actually keep the money I earn these days).

I twisted my ankle the week before the L.A. Marathon
Twisted ankle running injury
However, calamity struck just one weekend before race day when I turned my ankle on our final training run and as you can see the result wasn't pretty. I actually thought I'd broken my foot at first as there was a horrific popping sound when I twisted it.

Fortunately with some elevation, ice, anti-inflammatories and rest, plus some fantastic taping to help reduce the swelling and provide stability I was actually able to run on Sunday March 9, 2014.

With my Team to End AIDS teammates after the 
super-hot 2014 L.A. Marathon in March
After super hot LA Marathon 2014
As you can see going into the race I was at a disadvantage, plus the time change meant we lost and hour of sleep and this year's L.A. Marathon was the hottest race day in over a decade, which all contributed to my slowest race time, which was a major disappointment (although let's face it, with my ankle I was lucky enough to have run it at all).

Cooper turned 6
6 year old Yellow Labrador Cooper
In April Cooper turned 6-years-old and he continues to be the light of our life, although he has us wrapped around his little paw, from waking us up for 5am walks to coaxing endless treats from his two daddies. But as you can see he's a real character, so usually all is forgiven.

Running my second Vancouver Marathon in early May 2014
Running rainy Vancouver Marathon 2014
At the beginning of May I ran my second Vancouver Marathon in British Columbia, Canada and I always manage to forget how hilly the scenic course is. In addition to being my second time running this race it was also my second rainy marathon, which slowed me down and meant I didn't better the previous year's time by about three minutes, but I did achieve a sub-4 time, so not all bad.

My love affair with Runyon Canyon was over this year
Giant matchsticks Runyon Canyon May 2014
Since he was a small pup, Cooper and I have enjoyed our almost daily walks at Runyon Canyon, but this year the love affair was well and truly over. From the hot temperatures in the Summer months to fighting, disagreeable people and an incorrectly issued parking ticket, the hike has become less fun and so we've taken to heading to the beach far more often to work off all that Labrador energy.

Not even this fun giant matchstick installation at Runyon Canyon was enough to charm me this year, so our visits have become far more infrequent.

Enjoying visits to Huntington Dog Beach more
Huntington Dog Beach Labrador
Working from home when I need to clear my head, and make sure Cooper gets his much needed exercise, on occasion we sneak off to the beach to splash around and blow the cobwebs away, it's a real tonic.

This year we had plenty to celebrate at 
West Hollywood's annual Pride Parade in June
West Hollywood Pride Parade 2014
This year we also had much progress and successes to celebrate as a gay community, from marriage in California, to Federal recognition of marital status and benefits, like immigration, which have changed our world the past year.

It's also been a great year for Transgender awareness, with breakthrough roles and spokespeople on TV and even the cover of Time magazine, plus U.S. states with the freedom to marry has grown to 35+ with more positive rulings hopefully on the way. Let's hope 2015 will bring more equality in the U.S. and around the world were it's sorely needed.

Enjoying Janelle Monáe at the Hollywood Bowl in June 2014
Janelle Monáe Hollywood Bowl June 2014
In June we also paid our first visit to the Hollywood Bowl and were throughly entertained by the talented Janelle Monáe, who was just a bundle of energy and a true performer bouncing about that iconic stage. Stevie Wonder was even there for a duet, which was a real treat to see and hear him in person.

Mr & Mr one year on
Mr & Mr one year on
In July we celebrated our one year wedding anniversary and as a special treat we even got our Green Cards this year, so after almost six years I'm finally able to earn an income in the U.S. now that our relationship is Federally recognised.

Special tribute to Robin Williams in Hollywood
Standing on desk tribute Robin Williams Sunset Boulevard
In August the world was saddened by the death of legendary comic actor, Robin Williams, and this group of comedians paid their own special tribute by standing on desks, mimicking the actor in The Dead Poets Society, around the corner from the comedy club he used to perform in. It's things like this that are a constant reminder of why I love living in Hollywoodland.

Taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Palm Springs
For the Labor Day weekend were were joined by our wonderful bridesmaids from the U.K. for a lovely relaxing trip to Palm Springs and fun around Southern California. Bowing to peer pressure (and nominations from my niece and nephew), I even took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with a nice warm pool to jump into.

Riding the Palm Springs aerial tramway in September
Palm Springs aerial tramway
Whilst in Palm Springs I also had the opportunity to ride the aerial tramway for some spectacular views from the top of the Coachella Valley, something I'd never done on my previous visits.

Hollywood Bowl Planets Odyssey Concert
Hollywood Bowl Planets Odyssey Concert
We also took our visiting girlfriends to the Hollywood Bowl and sat in fantastic box seats for Holst's Planets played by the L.A. Philharmonic with accompanying images from NASA of the Mars landing and more spectacular views of space besides. We also took to opportunity to finally buy our wedding bands, a year late, but no less special.

Enjoying hundreds of iconic film costumes 
in one go at the Hollywood Costume exhibit
Hollywood Costume Exhibition Oscar
This year my fascination with all things movie costumes and props continued, and in October I ventured to the Academy's fantastic Hollywood Costume exhibition which had so many great outfits to enjoy. The only downside being that no photography was allowed, but it was still a treat to see all those iconic costumes out from behind display cases.

Carved Halloween pumpkins, but no West Hollywood Carnaval this year
Carved Halloween pumpkins
Carving some pumpkins is becoming a Halloween tradition, but this was also the first year that I missed the annual West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval festivities, but instead I flew to New York to run my first ever New York Marathon.

Near the finish of the NYC Marathon along Central Park South
2014 New York Marathon charity runner
I wasn't happy with my time of 4:22:09, my slowest marathon to date, but the weather conditions were pretty rough on the day and I hope to redeem myself in the future if I get the change now I know what to expect about the conditions before the race and the course itself.

I ran my first New York Marathon
2014 NYC Marathon finisher
It was the hardest marathon I've ever experienced, from the freezing cold start to the taxing five bridges, but the spectator support along the course through the five boroughs was also phenomenal and well worth all the pain and effort.

Finally visited the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial
World Trade Center 911 Memorial
Even though it was our first trip to New York in a while, after the marathon we didn't have that much time to do too much else, but we did manage to visit the 9/11 Memorial to pay our respects and I was in awe of the beauty that can come from such tragedy.

Turning the BIG 40 with a giant-sized cake
40th birthday cake
In December it felt like the past eleven months had flown by, and the last forty years for that matter and I celebrated my 40th birthday with a new camera to keep taking all those billboard and movie costume photos, a trip to the cinema to see the last installment of The Hobbit (instead of a trip to a rainy beach as originally planned), plus I was surprised with a dinner with close friends in the evening at Fig & Olive which was fantastic.

Another Merry West Hollywood Christmas
Christmas Tree presents
We spent Christmas Day in West Hollywood opening presents with Cooper and enjoying dinner with a friend, then on Boxing Day we jetted off to Vancouver for a sneaky few days rest and relaxation (also known as food, drink and spa facials).

One last run in the rain in Vancouver in December 2014
Vancouver Amazeing Laughter sculpture
Still in training for my next marathon (when am I not I ask myself), I managed to squeeze in a quick 7-mile run around the Stanley Park Seawall in the rain and returned the next day in the opposite direction for a more gentle stroll. Aside from almost missing our flight due to no parking at LAX airport, plus being delayed on the way back, it was the getaway tonic we both needed to end help end the year on a high note.

The philosophy for the rest of my life
Hug Life wall mural
Overall my life is pretty fantastic and if this year's taught me anything, it's to embrace life and all its wonders, enjoy it while you can.

In 2015 I'll be running my fifth L.A. Marathon and returning to the U.K. to run my first ever London Marathon, which will be a dream come true, so it's shaping up to be an interesting year already.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cool TV show billboards around L.A. in December 2014...

As another year draws to a close it's time to round up another month of TV show billboards gracing the skies of L.A. for the last time in 2014, although a lot of these billboards are for the new television season at the start of 2015.

TV billboards
Galavant 3D horse billboard installation
First up is a fun billboard creating a spectacle along the Sunset Strip for the musical Medieval comedy Galavant.

If you like this 3D horse installation, then you'll also love this crashed UFO billboard and this Coors 3D mountain climber billboard from previous months and years.
Ascension Syfy mini-series billboard
From the Middle Ages to the near future and Syfy's new space based drama, Ascension, which stars Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer (and a friend of mine, the lovely Tiffany Lonsdale-Hands).
Giant Girls season 4 billboard
I also couldn't help notice the similarity is design between Ascension and the fourth series of Girls, they may not have spacesuit helmets, but they are both gazing off into the future.
Marvel Agent Carter series premiere billboard
One show I'm really looking forward to in the New Year is the new Marvel TV series spin-off, Agent Carter. Hayley Atwell reprises her role as the plucky 'Peggy Carter', former love of Captain America (due to him being frozen in ice), trying to navigate her way in post WWII America, working for a covert agency and going on secret missions for Iron Man's dad, 'Howard Stark'.

I really love how this billboard captures that super-spy, crime-noir feel of 40's U.S.A. and I hope the eight episode series doesn't disappoint.
Justified final season 6 billboard
Meanwhile another hat-wearing hero back for a final season is Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal 'Raylan Givens' in the sixth season of Justified. If you're a fan of the crime show, be sure to check out every season promo billboard for Justified.
Country Bucks series premiere billboard
In the world of reality TV, it looks like A&E is searching for their next Duck Dynasty hit with their latest redneck fly-on-the-wall show, Country Bucks.
Celebrity Apprentice season 14 billboard
Whilst after a long absence, The Celebrity Apprentice is back on NBC for a fourteenth season or the reality competition show with contestants trying to win a place at the right hand of business tycoon, Donald Trump.
Heart She Holler season 3 billboard
Meanwhile over on the Adult Swim network, The Heart, She Holler is back for a third unsettling season with this spooky ad creative, which seems more suited for Halloween than the Holidays.
Better Call Saul series teaser billboard
Breaking Bad gets a spin-off prequel in the New Year with Better Call Saul, about 'Walt White's' dodgy lawyer 'Saul Goodman', played once again by Bob Odenkirk.

If you're a fan of the parent AMC show, be sure to check out these Breaking Bad TV series billboards from years past.
Mozart in the Jungle series premiere billboard
Following their critical darling Transparent, Amazon debuted another original comedy series just in time for a festive binge-watchings session, Mozart in the Jungle. With a bevy of familiar famous names like Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters and Gael Garcia Bernal, this series is an adaptation of Claire Tindall's memoir about her time behind-the-scenes with high-profile New York orchestras.
Empire series premiere billboard
Speaking of music, in January Fox debuts a new R&B musical drama Empire. Starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, the series is about the the power struggles and family dramas behind a music mogul's business when he's diagnosed with a life-changing illness.
Togetherness series premiere billboard
And over on HBO, the Duplass Brothers bring us a new comedy, Togetherness, about four middle-aged friends and family who don't have their lives all sorted out.
Orange is the New Black season 2 Consideration billboard
January also sees the start of awards season with the Golden Globes, and streaming service Netflix has been campaigning for two of its popular shows second seasons, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
House of Cards season 2 For Your Consideration billboard
I've just started watching OITNB, but am all caught up on House of Cards, so hope both receive the credit they are due (although Robin Wright won last year for her portrayal of the icy, driven and scheming 'Claire Underwood', so can she do it again).
Marco Polo series premiere billboard
This month Netflix also debuted another new series, their costly Marco Polo drama, which is inspired by the infamous Venetian merchant traveler and explorer.
Bill Burr I'm sorry you feel that way Netflix billboard
And if historical drama is not for you, they also have comedy specials like Bill Burr's latest, 'I'm sorry you feel that way'.
Appy Holidays Comedy Central billboard
And speaking of humour, those folks at Comedy Central were getting in the festive spirit this month with this Appy Holidays billboard (also cleverly reflecting how people consume media these days, evidence I have to say by my latest plane flight to and from Vancouver where everyone was watching their own programming on smartphones and tablets).
Creepy Santa Adult Swim billboard
In addition Adult Swim also gave us this Christmas-themed billboard in their own inimitable style, although I'm sure their furry-faced Santa is just a little too creepy and wackadoo for some.

And there you have this month's TV billboards competing against all the other movie billboards and festive lifestyle billboards crowding the city skyline this holiday season.

If you enjoy these outdoor advertising roundups, be sure to come back next year when I fully intend to keep the tradition going.

Until then, keep your eyes to the skies and have a very merry New Year's Eve...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Festive fashion billboards around L.A. in December 2014...

The Holidays may almost be over, but that doesn't mean that it's not time to wrap up warm in all your Christmas sweaters, hats and scarfs. Here's a selection of the festive fashion billboards trying to catch our eyes during December in Los Angeles.

Fashion billboards
Giant Coach FW14 handbag billboard
In the second half of 2014 Coach seemed to be on a mission to raise it's profile and get you buying its luxury handbags, clothing and accessories, obviously this giant-sized billboard on the side of the Andaz Hotel to herald the opening of their flagship Rodeo Drive store will have helped get your attention.
Tommy Hilfiger FW 2014 male model billboard
Tommy Hilfiger was another fashion brand wrapped up in winter coats and chunky jumpers this season, the perfect gift for the man in your life.
American Eagle Outfitters Yule love this LA billboard
American Eagle Outfitters was another clothing line trying to make the most of the festive season to target L.A. shoppers.
Burton Winter Gear 2015 billboard
Plus Burton was letting everyone know that its winter gear was in stock, just in time for ski and snowboarding season, and simply playing around in the snow.
Calvin Klein Collection FW 2014 rocks billboard
And Calvin Klein's higher end designer menswear and womenswear range, Calvin Klein Collection, certainly had a wintery feel with its latest ad creative featuring a cold shoreline and long warm coats.
H&M Holidays 2014 billboard
Meanwhile affordable fashion retailer H&M was high-kicking us into the holiday season, laden with gifts and festive party dresses.
This is Joy UGG slipper billboard
UGG Australia certainly didn't beat about the bush this Christmas in suggesting its comfy slippers and boots would make the perfect present with this festive UGG outdoor ad campaign.
Bulgari Lucea watch billboard
Whilst Bulgari was highlighting its new Lucea watches, the perfect gift for the lady in your life.
Gucci Cruise 2015 fashion billboard
At the same time Gucci was looking ahead to a fresh New Year of fashion, with the latest stylish looks from its Cruise 2015 line.

Fragrance and beauty billboards
Rihanna Rogue Man fragrance billboard
In the world of scents and cosmetics, Rihanna launched her latest fragrance for men, Rogue Man, with this sexy billboard.

If you like this ad, be sure to also check out the singer's other scents in Rihanna's Reb'l Fleur fragrance billboards from New York City's skyline.
Chanel No5 fragrance billboard
Meanwhile Chanel No.5 was back in the skies of L.A. with its signature perfume just in time for the peak gift-giving season.
Giant Halle Berry Revlon Love is on billboard
And this month Hollywood starlet, Halle Berry, was super-sized along the Sunset Strip for Revlon cosmetics new Love is on ad campaign.

As you can see there were lots of fashionable outdoor ads vying for your attention in this busy run-up to Christmas, plus they were also competing with all the festive drinks and lifestyle billboards and holiday movie billboards lining the city skyline.

Stay tuned in the days to come for a roundup of the new and returning TV show billboards also gracing L.A.'s streets in December, as we count down to the end of another year...

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