One Ring Found, One To Go

Probably no one gives a shit about this other than me, but I’m excited enough to post that after a year, I have found one of my two missing rings.

Almost exactly a year ago, I returned from a Hong Kong trip and couldn’t find this ring or my Keith Richards skull ring. (That post remains one of the top ten most popular posts on this site.)

The story on this ring – it was 1971, I was 17, I had just graduated from high school, I was walking around in Greenwich Village with my cousin from Toronto and I can remember wishing that she wasn’t my cousin. We were walking down MacDougal Street and passed this tiny shop called C’est Magnifique. Along with all of the other jewelry in the window, there were a lot of pieces featuring eye balls – not the cheapo plastic ones you saw everywhere else, ones that looked real.

It was late and the shop was closed so I went back the next day. The woman explained to me that the eyes looked real because they used medical prosthetic eyes along with sterling silver. I had never seen anything like it before … or since. I picked out this ring because the color most closely matched my own eye color. I recall paying $25 for it, which was a vast sum of money for me in those days. Since I bought it within days of my graduation, I always think of it as my high school graduation ring.

It turns out this shop had been around since 1959 and was quite famous – more recent customers included Johnny Depp, Madonna and Iggy Pop, so I was in good company indeed.

Over the years, I would stop into that shop again to take a look around and the woman running it, Josephine Albrizio, would always offer to give the ring a free cleaning. I’m talking 20 years later! Amazing, right?

All things must pass and C’est Magnifique closed for good in 2014. At that point the business was run by Josephine’s grand-nephew Alfred Abrizio III, who has gone on to start his own studio, Sterling Assault. His specialty is jewelry with skulls but he continues to make jewelry with prosthetic eyes.

I wrote to him after thinking that I’d lost my ring and he told me he still had all the original molds so he could do an exact recreation of my ring. I was still contemplating placing an order with him but now I don’t need to – although some of the other designs on his site are also really intriguing.

I’m just thrilled to have this back. Now I need to replace my skull ring, which I think I will finally do in time for my birthday in a few months.

Getting G.A.S. Again

One of my “thinking by writing about it” posts ….

Many photographers suffer from G.A.S. I myself suffered from it for many years. G.A.S. of course stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

I cured myself of G.A.S. by not looking at gear review web sites and not reading photography magazines. But lately I’ve been thinking …. I may not need to buy a scooter (for reasons that I won’t go into) so maybe I would have the money to finally upgrade my camera.

My Nikon D800 is now 5 years old. It has served me well. But it’s big and heavy and the lenses are also big and heavy and imaging technology has moved forward by 5 years.

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Some Days Are Good Enough

It is 5:39 AM as I start writing this post. I’ve been up since 3 AM. There are several reasons for this.

I’ve started taking a medication called Champix, which is supposed to help one quit smoking by somehow reducing the, um, enjoyment one gets from a cigarette and from nicotine. Actually I’d started taking it in November but went off it when my mother died. I’d felt it starting to work and always intended to give it another try and started with it again last week. One of the common side effects is insomnia, which I’ve got. Another is very vivid dreams, which I’ve got. One rare side effect apparently is suicidal thoughts, which so far I don’t have.

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A Few Good Days

I need distractions. I’m so horrified by the events in the U.S. during the past ten days but I don’t know what to say about them, what to add to the discussion. I need distractions.

Friends from Hong Kong (American husband, Filipino wife) have a house in Angeles. We drove up there for the weekend. The drive itself is quite okay – well it’s roughly 60 miles but takes almost 2-1/2 hours if you drive straight through. The NLEX highway has plenty of American-style rest stops – the larger ones not only have gas stations but also have 15 or 20 fast food chains. The ones on the drive south also feature outlet stores from Nike, Adidas and others, crafts shops, even a shop selling ATV’s.

Every time we are at our friends’ house and go out for the night, we drive past Angeles’ Koreatown area but we never stop. This time I took a look at TripAdvisor and selected the top-rated Korean restaurant there, Guyiga. They do proper Korean barbecue, grilling over charcoal and not gas. The four of us had 2 plates of beef, 2 plates of pork, bibimbap, and they threw in the usual 10 or 15 side dishes and also 3 different bowls of soup. Add in some beers and the total bill came to P2,200. That’s just over US$10 a person. I don’t think it’s as good as our favorite Korean spot in Manila, Masil, but I’d gladly eat there again.

Back in Manila, Monday started with us going over to Rockwell. We had lunch at Ooma, a Japanese fusion place that’s been extremely well reviewed. We had their soft shell crab taco-maki (eat it with your hands like a taco, the waitress told us), steak aburi maki (torched hanger steak with onions and truffle oil) and salmon skin aburi maki (torched salmon, crispy salmon skin, asparagus). The taco-maki was good but nothing special, the other two were both dishes we would order again. We saw a lot of people were ordering the ebi tempura but were too full to add that to our order. P900 for two.

Then over to my eye doctor. I could go for the free eye check-up that all the eye glass shops offer, but I need more than that. I need to be checked for glaucoma and for macular degeneration, among other things. I go to the Asian Eye Institute in Rockwell. My doctor there is a Harvard graduate and the place is run to a better-than-American standard. After consulting with three doctors and getting all of the needed tests done, the bill came to all of US$30. As I expected, the lasik surgery I had 17 years ago is starting to wear off and I need distance glasses again. Oh well. I have no intention of getting lasik again.

After that, we went over to this month’s new mall, Ayala Malls The 30th. Yes, that’s the name. What’s nice about this mall is that even though it’s in a busy part of Ortigas, there is a huge open courtyard in the center, a small park really, and most of the ground floor restaurants have outdoor seating facing this park. We grabbed some coffee and cake and put our feet up at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, walked around checking out the new shops (mostly just the same as every other mall, of course) and I ordered new eye glasses before we went over to meet a friend at Draft.

This is the fourth branch of Draft. It’s a nice space. About 10 beers on tap, at least another 20 or 30 in bottles, and the fish and chips we shared was quite okay. The mall also features the newest outlet of S&R New York Pizza (S&R being the local equivalent of Costco – the prepared food there is so popular they’ve been opening stand-alone fast food restaurants around town), Halal Guys, Conti’s, Genki Sushi, Ramen Nagi and coming soon and I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing but …. Taco Bell.

We finished off the night by going to a press screening of Why Him.  I had really low expectations for this movie but figured (a) it’s free and (b) we could check out the new cinema there. And it turned out we both really liked it.

Basically you’ve got Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally as very typical conservative parents. Their daughter is attending Stanford and her boyfriend, James Franco, is a tattooed lunatic with “no filter” (who deep down of course is very sweet and also happens to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars). The story idea came from Jonah Hill, producers included Ben Stiller and his partner Shawn Levy, you get cameos from Elon Musk and KISS, and Keegan-Michael Key has some of the best bits in the film.

Low rating on Rotten Tomatoes but a 6.6 on IMDB. Here’s the red band trailer:

There’s a few bits in the trailer not in the actual film, so I’m waiting for the unrated edition or director’s cut that’s sure to appear in a few months. If you’re in the mood for a goofy comedy and a few laughs, you could do much worse.

Anyway, Happy Lunar New Year to all my friends and followers!!! I wish us all health, prosperity and a rapid impeachment of Donald Trump Emperor Baby Hands Clownface McFuckstick.

 

 

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WEEPS AS PRESIDENT TRUMP TARGETS MEXICANS AND MUSLIMS

Posted on the Anne Frank Center For Mutual Respect’s Facebook page:

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WEEPS
AS PRESIDENT TRUMP TARGETS
MEXICANS AND MUSLIMS

Statement of Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the U.S. civil and human rights organization among Anne Frank organizations worldwide:

As President Trump prepares orders to wall out Mexicans and shut out refugees from America, today marks one of the most hateful days in our nation’s history. Donald Trump is retracting the promise of American freedom to an extent we have not seen from a President since Franklin Roosevelt forced Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. Today the Statue of Liberty weeps over President Trump’s discrimination.

President Trump is beyond the wrong side of history. He is driving our nation off a moral cliff.

When President Trump uses national security as a guise for racism, he doesn’t strengthen our national security. He compromises our national security by engendering disrespect for America by people around the world.

Make no mistake, suspending visas for citizens of Middle Eastern and African countries is not called national security. It’s called prejudice.

President Trump is now exacerbating the largest global refugee crisis in history. His slamming America’s doors on the starving, the wounded and the abused is a grotesque blot on our nation’s history of freedom. The President’s actions are an embarrassment to the timeless vision of America as inscribed by Emma Lazarus to “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Demonizing refugees and immigrants, and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to keep them out of our nation, will go down in American history as one of the most tragic deviations from our national conscience.

Oscar Nominations for 2017

As always, the Oscars are a big deal to me. As political as they are, it was always my dream to one day win one and then go on the Tonight Show and tell a few jokes to Johnny Carson and walk away with Raquel Welch. I’m sure that eventually I will realize that’s not going to happen but it still hasn’t quite sunk in.

Anyway, here’s the full list, grabbed from Vulture. I haven’t seen too many yet, as nominated pictures tend to come towards the end of the year and may be slow to screen internationally. So far the biggest surprise I’m seeing is that Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence was only nominated for cinematography, and that I’m extremely less than thrilled to see Hollywood re-embrace Mel Gibson with nominations for best picture and director and 4 more nominations for Hacksaw Ridge. Not so surprised that there were zero nominations for Birth of a Nation, which at one point was seen as a sure thing.

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Manila – It’s the Little Things

Yeah. More bitching and moaning. But a lot of you seem to enjoy it!

When you are a foreign resident here, you are required to show up in person at the Bureau of Immigration every January to prove you are still alive and in the Philippines. You can fill out the relevant form for this online but you are still required to make an appearance. I get the feeling it is one of those “we make you do it because we can” things.

The main office of the BI is in Intramuros. It is just 14 miles from where I live but it takes longer to drive there than it does to fly from Manila to Hong Kong. The BI website lists an office in Makati. I tried to contact that office based upon the information available on their web site – I tried calling but the “main number” rings over to a fax machine and an email I sent to them was returned as undeliverable. This is a common factor with Philippines government web sites – unreliable, confusing and/or missing information.

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New Photo Gallery – Jeff Beck in Hong Kong 2010

I’ve added a photo gallery of my pictures of Jeff Beck, who appeared in Hong Kong at Asiaworld on March 22, 2010. The shot above is my current favorite from the batch.

As I mentioned earlier, as I’m allowing Spike’s Photos to wind down, I’m going to be adding photo galleries here. Rather than just copying over the photos from seven years ago, I’ve gone back into Lightroom and “remastered” them. Lightroom is a much better program and I’m much better with it than seven years ago.

The band included the great Narada Michael Walden on drums, Rhonda Smith on bass and Jason Rebello on keyboards.

While I’ve seen Beck live many times, stretching back to 1974 or 1975, this was his first time playing a concert in Hong Kong. And it was my first time having a “3 songs, no flash” pass for a major concert in Hong Kong. I’m really thrilled with how well these shots turned out (although when I go back to them now and see the settings I used, I’m amazed that they came out as well as they did).

I did get a little bit punch drunk while re-processing the photos, pushing things a bit to see just what I could do with them. They’re not in the gallery but I’ll show a few of them to you here.

 

I’m undecided about the results – they’re either artistic and unique or they’re goofy as fuck. You tell me.

Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photo – Photo Gallery

I’m now going to be adding Photo Galleries here (rather than on Spike’s Photos). You can see there’s now a Photo Galleries item on the top menu. I might add in some of the older galleries soon.

I’m kicking this off with a gallery of what I think are my best shots from the OPM Against Drugs Festival held in Manila on January 14, 2017.  Here’s a few sample shots:

Click here to see the full gallery!

 

 

Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1

January 14, 2017 – 100 bands, 5 stages for the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) Against Drugs Festival produced by Rakrakan. The 5 themed stages were Move, Indie, Groove, Mosh and Slam. (I won’t comment on the “Against Drugs” bit.)

My friends Tribo Subculture were one of the bands appearing on the Slam stage and they arranged an all-access pass for me.  The festival kicked off around noon but I didn’t get there until around 10 PM or so, which gave me time to shoot some of the bands, wander around the crowd a bit, get some food, gaze at the “merch”, and of course enjoy the music that I heard.

I’m told that last year they had 24,000 people there and this year it was up to 35,000. Well, advance ticket prices were just P500 (that’s around US$10) and draft Red Horse Beer was just P50, so why wouldn’t you go if you could? The crowd was remarkably peaceful and friendly and I thought it was a great event.

I’m still working my way through the photos I shot but here are some of my favorites so far:

Continue reading “Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1”