Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Art of Hustle

Image from "The Hustler" (1961)
Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped; turned upside down.  And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called...  wait a minute.  That's the Fresh Prince's story.

This is one of MY stories:

When I first moved to Los Angeles, one of my friends introduced me to The Edison.  I instantly fell in love with its vintage style and decor.  I wanted to pay it forward and share this local gem with my friend Justus and, his roommate at the time, Matt.

The evening started out with Matt unable to decide which belt to wear with his brown shoes: the brown belt or the browner belt.  I told him that it wasn't a fashion show and most likely no one would criticize him for his choice of brown belt.  Once the brown belt crisis was averted, we made our way to dinner and then on to The Edison.

We arrived at The Edison around 11:30 pm and there was a very, very long line to get in.  The line was so long, it was actually split into two parts.  One half of the line was in the alley where the front door of The Edison was neatly tucked away.  The other half of the line was on 2nd Street.

The three of us politely filed into the end of the line on 2nd Street.  I asked the bouncer that was in charge of the 2nd Street line how long the wait would be to get in.  He estimated that it would be about an hour and a half before we got in, if at all.  This was unacceptable.  If I've learned anything from my trips to Las Vegas, it was that a high ratio of girls to guys would get you priority consideration for entry.  Three guys would mean certain rejection.

I began polling the groups of girls that were around us if they would join our group and increase our, and their, chances of getting in sooner.  Not to my surprise, all of the girls said no.  Nobody wanted to step out of line, figuratively and literally, and take a chance at getting in without the 1.5 hour wait.  What was there to lose?  The door man says "no" and you go back to the end of the line, right where you came from.

A group of 4 girls behind us overheard what I was proposing and volunteered to join our group.  Now we were in business.  With 4 girls and Matt's browner belt, there was no stopping us.

I asked the bouncer for his name because names always go a long way when you're hustling.

"Dave." was his reply.

"Well, Dave, is it ok if I step out of line and try my luck at the front door?" I asked.

"Sure." he replied.

"Would it be ok if I tell them that you sent me?" I politely inquired.

"You know what?" laughed Dave. "I'm so low on the totem pole, I don't even think it would make a difference if you dropped my name, so go ahead."

I thanked Dave and began leading my entourage to the front door of The Edison.  As I was walking, a group of girls poured out of a taxi in front of me.  In an effort to further increase our girl to guy ratio, I politely asked them if they would like to join our group to avoid the long line.

"We're already on the list." sneered a girl who could barely walk in her high heels.

Clearly, she was new at this because being on "the list" means nothing in this town.  Everyone is on the list.  Even if you're not on it.

I didn't blink twice and continued to walk towards the front door.  I confidently walked straight up to the door man and said "I have 7 people in my group."

Immediately, a power-tripping bouncer rushed up and asked, "Who sent you here?!"

"Dave did." I replied calmly.

"Dave said you could come up here?!" barked the low self-esteemed bouncer with the current position of power.

"Yes," I asserted.  "Dave told us to come up here."

The bouncer, who was probably bullied in high school, immediately began calling for Dave over the radio, with his hand to his ear-piece as if he was Secret Service.  Of course, Dave wasn't answering.  He was low on the totem pole, but he wasn't stupid.

The door man with the clipboard gently raised a hand to calm the ego-tripping bouncer.  "If you give me a few minutes, I can take your group," said the door man.  After hearing this, the pitbull bouncer immediately turned into a chihuahua bouncer and quickly retreated back into his corner.

"Who's in your group?" asked the door man.

"The two gentleman behind me, this girl, these two girls, NOT that girl, and this girl here."  I announced.  The "not that girl" was the girl from the taxi who supposedly was on "the list" but was trying to squeeze into my group while having rudely rejected my offer from just a few moments ago.

"Who is this guy, Justus?!" exclaimed Matt, in reference to me.  "He's just picking girls out of the crowd and deciding who can go in!"

Justus smiled and shrugged playfully.

The door man checked our I.D.s and we descended the stairway into The Edison.  Total elapsed time: maybe 5 minutes.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I turned to one of the girls and asked: "How about buying a round of drinks for my friends and myself for getting you out of the hour and a half wait?"

"Sure!" she replied.  "What would you boys like?"

I think this is when Matt's head exploded.  According to Justus, Matt raved about this experience for about a week after, having never experienced a night like this before in his life.

For me, it was just another night. (Cue "Party Rock Anthem")  Ev'ryday I'm hustlin'. *shuffle shuffle shuffle*

The moral of this story?  If you act like you own the place, people will think you own the place.  If you act like an accomplished artist, people will think you're an accomplished artist.  Use it wisely to jump-start your career, but make sure you have the walk to back up the talk.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Andy Warhol Re-Imagined

I have always been a fan of Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Can" painting.  The subject matter is so simple.  It's an every day household item that is very American and everyone can identify with it.  Having seen the actual "Campbell's Soup Can" painting at the LACMA museum, I was inspired to create something Warhol-ian, but with a twist.

What if Andy Warhol had an Asian American upbringing?  What would he have chosen to paint instead of the Campbell's soup can?  He probably still would have chosen something simple;  something that is an every day household item and recognized instantly my millions just by the shape and color.  This would be my mission for a few days, to find that ultimate Asian American item.

Without further ado, I present to you my Asian American re-imagination of Andy Warhol:
"I am: Soy".  Watercolor on canvas.

This is my first ever painting on canvas.  I haven't painted since art class in elementary school, but I felt strongly inspired.  I went to the art supply store, bought less than $20 worth of materials, experimented with the water colors and began to paint.  This took maybe two hours of painting time; one evening if you factor in the time I had to wait for the water colors to dry so they didn't bleed/blend.

What have you been inspired to do recently?  Strike while the muse is hot!  Share your creations with L.A. Graffiti!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Blue Jeans and Movies

What do Levi's 501s and movie making have in common?  Absolutely nothing.  But from now until the end of summer, Levi's is sponsoring a film workshop inside MOCA's Geffen Contemporary in the heart of Little Tokyo.  To be honest, the "workshop" is more like a full service production facility that is COMPLETELY FREE FOR YOU TO USE!  They also provide educational events with working film professionals as teachers.  Check the website for the full schedule:  http://workshops.levi.com/

Some of the items you can borrow for free!
This is a filmmaker's dream come true!  There are editing bays loaded with Final Cut Pro, a giant green screen setup, a mini stop-motion animation studio and all the lighting, camera and miscellaneous gear you'll need to make a film, all at your disposal for a whopping price of $0.00!  That's right!  It's all free!  You can borrow the lighting equipment, grip equipment and cameras for free.  If you shoot a movie using traditional film, the Levi's workshop will even develop and transfer it for you for a small fee (this is the only part of the workshop that's not free).

If you have movies on VHS or any older media, the Levi's workshop will transfer them to DVD for you for FREE!  I plan on transferring my performance from Point Break Live to DVD.  If you've never been to the show, the audience votes one audience member to play Keanu Reeves' role via cue cards.  The joke is that his acting was so bad, anyone could do it!  I auditioned and was voted in with the loudest audience cheer!  Keeping with the theme of the early 90's, they gave me a VHS recording of the evening's show.

While the Levi's film workshop is great for budding filmmakers, there are also activities for people that are just curious about the art of filmmaking.  You can play around in front of a super slow motion camera, make your own green screen movie or animate something via a Phonotrope, a modern day version of the Zeotrope, powered by a record player.  You can see what other people have created on Levi's Vimeo channel:  http://vimeo.com/levis

Here's my Phonotrope animation, "HeartBomb".

I still don't know how blue jeans are related to movies, but I'm not complaining if they're going to make free resources available to me so that I can pursue my dreams!  For those filmmakers who complain that it costs too much to make a movie, you are now officially out of excuses.  Grab that script you've been working on, head to the Levi's Film Workshop and turn your story into a reality!

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Fuel Victory

"Product Specialist" Candace Foote reppin' the Graffiti
Today's post is fueled by NOS Energy Drink . . . literally.  I'm drinking one right now.  NOS is my favorite energy drink not because it's of the same name as the laughing gas that gives your car extra horsepower; not because it's the NOS button that Paul Walker and Vin Diesel press at the last second to beat their racing rival; but because the NOS team is an example of grassroots marketing at its finest.

I see the NOS team at almost every event that I attend, handing out free, full-sized cans of NOS Energy Drink to anyone who so much as glances their way.  If you're at a sunny, outdoor event and an attractive "product specialist" offers you an ice cold can of NOS, chances are pretty high that you're going to take one and drink it right away.  BOOM!  Mission accomplished.  You've tasted NOS and the next time you're wandering into a gas station convenience store, you'll recognize the blue and orange label and probably pick up a can due to familiarity.

As artists, we should follow NOS Energy Drink's marketing philosophy and have our work or ourselves be seen by as many people as often as possible.  "But NOS Energy Drink is a company and they're doing marketing to improve their sales and brand recognition!" you may argue.  Yes, that is true, they are a company, but on the other hand, aren't you, as an artist, a company as well?  You are the boss, the product and the employee.  If people don't know about you and/or your work, how can they like you or want to be your fan?

My current goal as an artist is to let people know that I exist.  I'm working on "getting myself out there".  What does that mean?  I'm not sure, but at a minimum, I show up.  I show up to support other artists, I show up to meet new people and I show up for the sake of showing up.  That's exactly what NOS Energy Drink does: they show up to everything.  As a result, the community feels a certain level of comfort with them and inevitably will build a bond with the brand.

We should all strive to be as prolific as possible.  Use the multitude of free tools available to you like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to share your work with the world.  It also doesn't hurt to get out and personally make a connection with someone as those are the strongest and longest lasting impressions.

Pop open a cold can of NOS and fuel yourself to victory with some new age grassroots marketing.  Go viral!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

E3: Everybody's Epic Entertainment

One of the cool things about living in Los Angeles is that just about everything is headquartered, manufactured, distributed, promoted or produced here.  This means that you get access to the hottest designer/manufacturer showrooms, the coolest entertainment venues and the largest conventions anywhere in the United States!  And if Los Angeles doesn't have it, our neighbor, Las Vegas, most likely does.

The latest mega-convention to come through L.A. was the Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as "E3".  This is one of the largest, if not THE largest, video game convention in North America.  The "who's who" of video game publishers, developers and fanboys from all over the world converge on Los Angeles for three days to exhibit their latest digital creations.   I'm a casual video game player, having gone through a few game consoles myself, and I've always thought it'd be fun to attend E3.  The light-pollution-dimmed stars aligned this year and I was able to attend E3 for the very first time!  E3 courtesy F3.  Thanks!  ;)

Square Enix's booth
Upon entering the L.A. convention center, I was immediately hit with an invisible plume of heat and body odor.  Did you expect anything less when the world's most hardcore video game fans were all located in one indoor venue?  Once I speed-walked past the main entrance and was able to breathe again, my mind exploded from the lights and sounds of E3.  Each exhibitor's "booth" was filled with an IMAX-sized screen as well as a plethora of gaming consoles, PCs and monitors; all of these things pounding your senses with colorful imagery and sounds.  I use the word "booth" loosely because their footprints were closer to that of Disney's Tomorrowland than a 10 by 10 booth at a swap meet.

Inside Nintendo's booth
I didn't actually play any of the games at E3 because the lines were too long and there wasn't enough hand sanitizer in the world to make me want to pick up a controller and/or put on a pair of over-ear headphones.  Instead, we went around trying to take funny pictures with their elaborate displays.  I even participated in a "big game" called "Ninja" where you take turns trying to slap another person's hand.  It's kind of like "Tag", but much more strategic and hilarious.  You can learn more about "big games" at IndieCade.com  Can't wait to play it at the next party.  All in all, E3 was one giant playground with few rules and even fewer girls.

I did come across a little gem that I really enjoyed called "Wakfu", which is being published by Square-Enix.  It's an online role playing game with Japanese anime style art/design and animation. The story even has an environmental message as the players must "arm themselves with love and a good sense of humor" to cure the world of its ailment.  The world and the characters are all beautifully crafted.  There's also a built in politics system where players elect other players to be governing officials!  I can't wait for this one to be released!

Check out an interview from G4TV about Wakfu, with Franko Fonseca, Associate Producer at Square-Enix.

Electronic Arts' booth
My first E3 was an experience of epic proportions.  I kept being blown away at the sheer magnitude of each game company's "booth".  Video games aren't what they used to be.  The days of Pac-man and Pong are long gone.  The production value and budgets needed to create these games are beginning to rival that of a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

Everyone's stepping up their game (no pun intended).  We, as artists, must follow suit.  The public won't settle for the same old stuff anymore.  Continue to re-invent yourself!  Never stop your quest for innovation!

For your viewing enjoyment, I present to you:

L.A. Graffiti @ E3, a photographic series.

L.A. Graffiti enjoys playing Wakfu!

Rising from the rubble
Fighting for your right to be artistic!

That's right, Sonic!  We are #1!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Slice Through The Crowd

Congratulations to my girlfriend for graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor's degree in Political Science!  The graduation ceremony was held on campus in an outdoor pavilion on a warm, sunny day.  Traffic wasn't cooperating with us that day (does it ever in Los Angeles?), and we were living dangerously as I dropped my girlfriend off so she could file in with the procession that was already entering the pavilion.

I parked the car in an outlying lot and took a shuttle back to the graduation ceremony.  Here I was, by myself in an unfamiliar campus, armed only with the knowledge that I needed to find my girlfriend's family in section 2 of the stands.  The procession of graduates was still taking place, which halted spectator traffic into the pavilion, so I found a shady spot and waited until the graduates happily found their seats.

After the procession ended, the spectators started to move into the pavilion, but there seemed to be little progress.  Great.  I had gone from a traffic jam on the highway to a traffic jam on foot.  I realized that people walk like they drive: slow and confused.  People were only waddling as fast, or slow rather, as the person in front of them waddled.  People were stopping in the center of the entrance, looking around for their relatives, yelling on their cell phones and bumping into people, all the while preventing other people from entering the pavilion.  These are the same people that operate 5,000 pound steel machines of death that fly at you at speeds in excess of 80 mph; AKA SUVs.  Kinda scary if you think about it that way, huh?

Having worked as a bouncer in a night club back in my college days, I sliced through the crowd like a hot knife through buttah.  Every time someone left a gap large enough for me to fit, I stepped into it, commanding my presence towards section 2 of the stands.   People around me were tip-toeing to see what the hold up was in the front, but I didn't care.  I just kept moving.  Once I got out of the crowd, it was a completely open pathway, kind of like once you get out of traffic on the freeways.  There's no indicator of what was causing the traffic; no accident, no stalled car, probably just some brake happy driver and a bunch of sympathy slowers (people who drive slow because they feel bad that everyone else is going slow, even though their path is clear).

I had no idea where my girlfriend's family was sitting as section 2 was rather large, but as soon as I got close, my girlfriend's sister stood up and waved at me.  As an artist, you should have the same approach as moving through a crowded graduation ceremony:

1. Have an overall goal that can be as broad as you'd like.
2. Move forward with clear intent.  Don't let a crowd of confused people get in your way.
3. Don't look back or worry about what's in front of you.

If you move forward with these guidelines, when you are approaching your goal as an artist, musician, actor, etc someone will take notice and show you the way to your final destination.

Congratulations to my girlfriend for being a trailblazer!  She's the first in her family to graduate from college!

Don't be a sympathy slower.  Never give up!  Never surrender!

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wednesday Is The New Saturday

Coke and Cupcake.
If you read my last post, you learned that $7 can go a long way for a night out, "LA Graffiti" style.  I actually went out the next night and out did myself.  I spent a whopping one dollar ($1) for live, vintage Cuban jazz, all-I-could-guzzle soda, a decadent chocolate cupcake and a caliente night of dancing with the girlfriend.

"Lies!  These are all lies!" you might exclaim; alas, if it is on the internet, it has to be true, right?

Because I went out on a Wednesday, parking was easy, close and free.  There's never a cover at The Edison and since it was a weekday in Downtown L.A., there was no line either.  We flashed our I.D.s, I complimented the doorman on his tie and down we went, into the vintage power plant that has been re-purposed into a classy bar with plenty of character.

I'm not sure if this happens all the time, but for certain on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the Edison offers designated drivers free sodas and an appetizer or dessert of your choice.  This is actually a really good deal because some of the appetizers can reach almost $15!  I initially thought that this offer was only for if you had a table and were eating dinner, but when I walked up to the bar and announced that I was the designated driver, the bartender immediately offered me a menu and told me to pick an appetizer or dessert.  I thanked him and passed him a dollar as he slid me my Coke (the soda, not the white powdery stuff).

You might even consider that my evening was free because the $1 went to tip the bartender, and wasn't actually a "required" fee for any entertainment.  Some people may argue that tipping is required, but I believe it should be based on service as so many service people have become lazy when it comes to customer service.  They sometimes even get upset when they don't get a 20% tip for their terrible service.  But that's to be discussed in another blog post.

The moral of the story?  Never anger a chicken that's crossing the road unless you have a birthday cake for him.

Get out more without breaking the bank!  If you don't believe me, "follow the paint" and see for yourself!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tuesday Is The New Friday

Random party picture that has nothing to do with my
post, but I thought it'd get your attention.
This past Tuesday, I went buck wild and spent $7.  You know, sometimes you just have to treat yourself for no particular reason.  "Treat yourself?!" you might exclaim. "What kind of treat can you get for only $7?!"  Well, let me tell you, my friends.  For just $7, less than an hour's work at minimum wage, I watched "The Hangover 2" in theaters, had my fill of movie theater popcorn and topped it off with an ice cream sundae.  Want me to let you in on my frugal secrets?

It's simple:  Go out on Tuesday.

Every Tuesday, at the Regal Promenade 13 theaters in Rolling Hills Estates (near Palos Verdes), every 2D movie is only $5 all day/night.  Popcorn is also only $2 on Tuesdays.  And because the theater is near Palos Verdes, the most suburban of suburbs (everything closes at 6 pm), the theater itself was rather empty, especially for a movie like "The Hangover 2", which just opened over the weekend.

"But where did you get the ice cream sundae?" you might ask.  "The movie theater doesn't serve ice cream sundaes!"  Correct!  The movie theater does not serve ice cream sundaes, but Norm's in Torrance does.  We were hungry after the movie and the only thing open that late was Norm's.  As I walked in the front door of Norm's, I saw a poster that said "Free Ice Cream Sundae with a ticket stub from a local movie theater".  I was expecting to only get one (1) ice cream sundae for the table, but the offer allows one (1) ice cream sundae for EVERY ticket stub (with minimum $5.99 purchase)!  So we all got ice cream sundaes!  I confirmed with the waitress that you don't have to go to Norm's on the same day that you went to the movies.  Just go within 2 weeks and you can still get your free ice cream sundae (with minimum $5.99 purchase).

So there it is!  That's how I enjoyed a fun filled evening for only $7 (excluding cost of food).  Now if only I didn't pump $5 into that claw game/machine with the stuffed animals.  Those things are so addicting!!

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