Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking for inspiration on the last day of November...

After nearly nine months of blogging I feel like I'm having a creative lull.  

Now that we've been living in L.A. for almost three quarters of a year I feel like we've seen most of the local sights and landmarks and as the days are cooling off slightly and intensity of sun fading, it seems as though my inspiration is drying up a bit too.Cure Cooper's puppy face
However, as often of late, when I need to be inspired I turn to my muse Cooper. He provides encouragement, motivation and optimism with his boundless energy and helps spark my imagination and creativity with his cheeky antics.
Autumnal pup Cooper
Yesterday I was reminded that there are still exciting things to be seen in Los Angeles as I had a celebrity sighting in Studio City.  I swear I saw the young actor Shia La Beouf of Transformers, Eagle Eye and Indiana Jones IV fame.  He was with a girl heading into Bed, Bath & Beyond looking his signature scruffy self (and if it wasn't him it was his lookalike).

My blog is also great for having a rant and getting things off my chest too.  Like yesterday at Bed, Bath & Beyond when we left our shopping cart to get a new coffee machine off the shelf and came back to discover someone had stolen our store coupons right from under our noses.  
Cute 7 month old beach Labrador
Like true Brits we were horrified by the impoliteness of it all and complained to the store manager about their unruly customers.  Luckily they were really understanding and gave us our discount, saving us over $87, which isn't an insignificant sum at all!  Good customer service saves the day.
Rope bone pup
Aside from my adorable Labrador pup providing inspiration, I also love it when someone sends me an email or comment asking a question about Cooper, complementing my blog, or even trying to find out more information about an image or something I've featured from my exploration of L.A. (I don't even mind constructive criticism or corrections either!).

If you enjoy what I do and you're interested you can become a fan of Jason in Hollywood on Facebook and also check out my photostream on Flickr.  It's all just an extension of the 'Jason in Hollywood' brand experience and you'll find additional images and updates, plus there's even some videos of Cooper on my YouTube page.
Beach fun pup
For those of you needing your daily Cooper update, I'm proud to say that he's turning into a real retriever at the moment and is slightly obsessed with his tennis ball (in combination with his miniature American football) and loves having them thrown for him.  Then he tries to get both in his mouth at the same time, which he's actually accomplished several times, though sadly I've yet to capture it on camera so far (not long until then though I'm sure).
American football pup
Anyway, this week I'll be home alone with pup (so not alone at all), as my other half flies to Florida for work, so I think it's time to find me some inspiration and get my creative juices flowing.

Wish me luck...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Our first Thanksgiving in Santa Monica and Studio City...

So after a few days of thunder storms and me having to work out where my windscreen wiper controls were in my car, we finally made it to our first Thanksgiving here in the States.
The rose garden in Palisades Park, Santa Monica
We didn't really know what to expect as we've never experienced the holiday before and haven't grown up in the USA celebrating the tradition.
Santa Monica Pier viewed from Palisades Park
What we do know is that Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and friends, so in lieu of having our immediate family with us, we chose to spend the day with our own brand of family, our magical pup Cooper and our friends who have made us feel so welcome here in L.A.
Palisades Park pup & Jason in Hollywood
We'd been invited to dinner in the evening (I get the impression as with Christmas in the UK, that every family tends to have their own traditional time that they usually eat their Thanksgiving meal), so we decided to blow the cobwebs away and drive down to the ocean for a walk with Cooper.
Palisades Park pup & Charlie
We still love the fact that even though it's slightly cooler now than earlier in the year, you can still venture out in shorts, t-shirts and the obligatory sunglasses in L.A. at the end of November.
Santa Monica palm tree
We strolled through Palisades Park with the other dog walkers, families young and old, people in their deck chairs enjoying the sunshine, yoga enthusiasts and joggers and wondered if this was a typical Thanksgiving Day.
Palisades Park rose gardden
Even though we love the park in Santa Monica, it would be even better if we could take Cooper down on the beach, not necessarily into the ocean but just to walk along the pathway as I know we'd all enjoy it so much.  Surfing the internet I have heard rumblings of a campaign to get a dog beach area in Santa Monica, so fingers crossed that comes to fruition in the time we are here.
Puppy loves palm fronds
No matter where we walk Cooper though, we can always guarantee he'll find a stick to sit down with and chew on (in this case a palm frond).  All the passersby think he's so cute, but when it happens every time you take him for a walk it's not so much fun.
Palm frond puppy
In the evening we headed off to Studio City for a really enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner. We stuffed ourselves with delicious turkey, pumpkin soup, cranberry sauce, stuffing and about five different desserts, yum!  

I was kind of waiting for something to happen, but apparently this is what people do on Thanksgiving, eat and drink lots - well that's not a problem for me, so a fun time was had by all.
View of Malibu from Santa Monica's Palisades Park
Only a few more days now until December and the big countdown to Christmas in L.A. (which should be equally weird in the sunshine!). Apparently today is Black Friday, with lots of sales and the day most people seriously start their festive shopping (and the shops finally make some money after limping through the year in the red).

Anyway, after an eventful walk with a naughty puppy at Runyon Canyon (after he'd been cooped up most of the week with the rain and chance of thunder, plus with masses of people walking off their Thanksgiving overindulgence), tonight we're heading back to enjoy some leftovers from yesterday. 

That's a tradition I don't have a problem enjoying...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

MILK is good for you...

It's official, watching the movie MILK is good for you, good for the soul, good for gay rights and basically a really good film.
MILK movie billboard on Sunset Blvd
From the start the use of archive footage helps grounds the movie in reality. Again it's one of those films that's hard to say you enjoyed as it deals with the assassination of a gay rights campaigner and prominent city official, but his story is equally uplifting, sad, poignant and well worth watching.  
Costumes and props from the movie MILK
By using archive news coverage to let the audience know up front that Harvey Milk and the Mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, were murdered (if you didn't already know - they were killed thirty years ago today on 27th November 1978), we're not left waiting for some dramatic death scene but are able to witness the story of his life, his loves and his struggles for the gay movement in California. Then when his inevitable death comes, it's not that sad imagery which is the message we are left with, but the sense of hope and determination to prevail that his life embodied.
MILK movie poster featuring Sean Penn
Sean Penn and James Franco, in fact the whole cast, are so believable in their roles.  The movie feels like a real gay life story. For once you believe that the lead actors have a gay relationship, that their on screen affection and kisses are convincingly real.  

Sean Penn just is Harvey Milk. Having Penn relate the story of Harvey's life, on a tape recorder in the event of his assassination, makes you believe he is actually telling you his own life story. 

As the movie is based on true life events this film could either have been very preachy, politically boring or alternatively becoming overly sensational.   Set in late 70's Castro district of San Francisco if the movie hadn't been made by an openly gay film maker, Gus Van Sant, it could have descended into into a debauched spectacle of bath houses and gay stereotypes.  Instead we get a genuinely human drama, with gay kisses, gay love, gay lives, gay culture and life in general in late 70's San Francisco.
Original movie props from MILK
I found the movie immensely watchable.  Growing up in the UK and quite ignorant of the gay rights movement in the States (I was born in 1974, so forgive me as I didn't live through it in the same way as other people did), it was interesting and compelling to see how Harvey Milk and his supporters repeatedly tried to get him into local government as one of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  

Having visited San Francisco and the Castro and loved it, it was also amazing to see the past created convincingly on film.

Watching the movie and seeing the witch-hunt against gay teachers and their friends created by the homophobic likes of Anita Bryant make me glad I didn't have to live through that time of persecution, fear and hate in the 70's and that several decades on I've been fortunate to grow up in a slightly more enlightened world, which makes it easier for each generation of gay men and women to accept who they are and come out to friends and family.  Not that growing up gay in Wales was ever easy, but compared to how it could have been it was.  

There's an interesting quote by John Cloud from an article in TIME magazine which read:  "To be young and realize you were gay in the 1970's was to await an adulthood encumbered with dim career prospects, fake wedding rings and darkened bar windows".  It makes you realise how far we have come today, although there's still a long way to go too for true equality for all!
Costumes from the movie MILK
I think MILK is great at outlining the struggle of being openly gay in the 70's and highlights the continuing challenge for acceptance today.  It saddens me that history does seem to be repeating itself here in California with the passing of Proposition 8, which takes away the rights of same sex partners to marry, but I'm reassured by the fact that we've faced setbacks together in the past and overcome them. 

Anyway, I was moved by the events in the film and although saddened, thought it ended with a positive message of hope.  I think that MILK deserves four **** stars.  We saw the film at a sold-out performance at the ArcLight Hollywood (where you'll also find costumes and props from the movie on display) and it was quite a unifying experience watching with a predominantly gay audience and at times it was like a pantomime of cheers, laughs, applause and even hissing at the villains.  I'm also sure that some of the crowd joined me in shedding a tear or two at the end of the film.

Anyway, whether you're gay or straight go see it to understand a little bit of history. 
Thanksgiving Turkey in West Hollywood
Today enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving and eat, drink and be merry...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The best of puppy at the beach so far...

After my bonding session playing frisbee at the beach with pup yesterday and with the threat of rain imminent (in L.A. no less, I know!), I thought it would be good to revisit some of Cooper's best moments at the beach to date.  Mind you with that marine layer along the coast, it's not always sunshine and clear skies.
Wet & sandy Labrador puppy at 17 weeks
For all you regular visitors I've also tried to include some original never-before-seen photos, as well as some recycled favourites.
Puppy's first visit to the beach at 17 weeks
His first outing to Sycamore Cove in Ventura County was when he was just seventeen weeks old.  
Cooper & Ginger making a splash in the waves
He was slightly distracted by the presence of his gal-pal Ginger and human-pal Barry and just wanted to pester them the whole time, but he still had fun on the beach and splashing in the waves.
Pup at the beach at 17 weeks
He looks so much smaller and younger then, though still as happy as ever.
Beach hut pup
His next visit wasn't as filled with sunshine as we drove the the beach early in the morning before the coastal mists had cleared.  Here he's around twenty-three weeks old.
Beach puppy racing up the beach
The beach was pretty much empty and in the off season at the end of September it didn't have a lifeguard on duty.  
Heading into the Pacific
We didn't want to leave Cooper off the leash though as there were a few surf fishers and we didn't want him getting hurt or tangled in their fishing lines.
Pup in chilly waters
Even though it was very misty it was still warm, especially racing up and down the shore.  Unfortunately the same could not be said of the freezing cold Pacific Ocean!
Making a big splash
We didn't mind though as we were having lots of fun and Cooper was fascinated by the sights, sounds and smells of the waves breaking on the beach.
Pacific ocean puppy
He's not had a really good swim since his first time in a swimming pool, but he likes wading into the water, especially if there's someone there to join in the fun.
Sitting on the beach at Sycamore Cove
If we had a garden I know that Cooper would be a real digger, so he loves the consistency of the sand as it allows him to have a good dig.
On his third visit to Sycamore Cove on California's West Coast we were able to leave Cooper off-leash for the first time to run freely up and down the beach.  As you can imagine he loved it.
Puppy racing through the waves
Luckily we had a friend in town who came with us and was able to get some pictures of all three of us together which was a real treat. 
Sycamore cove beach boys
It was mid-October but the sun was shining and the marine layer had cleared away.
Sycamore Cove pup with pine cone
Aside from the driftwood Cooper found other things to chew, reminding us the next time we really needed to bring a few toys with us for him to play with.
Sycamore Cove Labrador pup
So that brings us up to date and about a month since his last visit.  Now Cooper is just over sevens months old and starting to look more and more like a grown-up Labrador every day.
Our 7 month old Labrador Cooper
This time it was just me, Cooper and a frisbee (OK and a tennis ball).  
Ball fun at the beach
It took him a while to work out I couldn't throw it if he was chewing it all the time and alas it wasn't long until the frisbee fun was over and it was lost at sea.
Frisbee fun for Cooper
Along with chasing frisbees and balls, Cooper also had fun chasing the seagulls and other birds lining the shore.
Surf fun for pup
It wasn't long for him to rediscover his love of digging either and he was soon quite literally up to his neck in sand.
Beach digging fun
And there you have it, Cooper's adventures at the beach so far.  I'm hoping that there will be many more trips to come.
Pup watching the waves
Next on my list is Huntington Beach.  Apparently it's one mile of golden sands where dogs can run free, 37 miles south of L.A. and 89 miles north of San Diego.  

I'm sure Cooper can't wait... 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frisbee fun at the beach...

No matter how many times I think or say it, it still feels wrong to my British sensibilities to be able to go to the beach at the end of November and frolic in the surf and sand, but regardless, that's what Cooper and I did today.
Frisbee beach fun
I packed up the car with frisbee, tennis ball, camera and water and off we drove for fun in the sun at Sycamore Cove.
Smiles & frisbee fun at the beach
I've only ever been to the beach in Ventura County at the weekend before and always with my other half, so it was a mini-adventure for me and my seven month old pup on our own.
Frisbee beach fun with pup
He loves to be off-leash at the beach and to run across the sand and through the waves.  This time I'd brought toys along to play with, so it was double the usual fun.
Frisbee fun at the beach
The beach was pretty much empty, but there were still a few people sun-bathing and walking along the shore.  
Frisbee face pup
I arrived around 11.30 and there was still a bit of marine layer overhead, but the sunshine was breaking through and warm on my skin and the car said the temperature was around 70 degrees, so really not bad at all for November.
Chasing the frisbee
It's really the first time I've been able to properly play catch and fetch outdoors with Cooper.  He quickly learned that if he chewed the frisbee I wouldn't be able to throw it for him and he really enjoyed chasing it up the beach (although it's quite hard to throw and capture the moment on camera at the same time).
Into the waves chasing the frisbee
Sadly, the frisbee that's been sitting in our cupboard at home for many a year and was even shipped from London to L.A., was lost at sea today.  
Where's the frisbee?
Cooper went diving in after it, but the current was strong and its silver colouring didn't help it stand out from the Pacific waters and it was swept away.
Head above water
It was such a shame as Cooper was really enjoying playing with it.  I was careful to watch that our favourite pup wasn't swept out to sea too.
Beach ball fun
Luckily I had a fallback toy to hand, his trusty tennis ball, which was equally well received by the pup.
Tennis ball beach fun
As you can see from all the photos, which as always I make no apology for the multitude of images (although always the perfectionist I wish the picture quality was slightly better), our bounding Labrador puppy had a fabulous time racing through the surf and playing with one of his dads.
Labrador pup Cooper racing through the waves
Labrador pup Cooper racing through the waves
Labrador pup Cooper racing through the waves
Labrador pup Cooper racing through the waves
Today's excursion is part of my new philosophy to get out and explore more of L.A. and Southern California with our Labrador whilst I have this fantastic opportunity - just one man and his dog.  I think we're off to a good start.
Happy beach pup
Happy beach pup
Happy beach pup
Happy beach pup
When I drove back along the Pacific Coast Highway I couldn't help but notice how many people the Highway Police in Malibu were stopping.  I'm assuming it was for speeding, but it wasn't the best thing to see my first time driving the hour or so to and from the beach on my lonesome.
7 month old yellow Labrador Cooper
It goes without saying that with my prized passenger I kept to the designated speed limit and just enjoyed the music and Malibu coast scenery.
Puppy suds
As always a morning at the beach means bath-time for pup (which he loves) to get all the sand out of his fur.  

So all in all he's had a pretty fun day.  Lucky pup...