Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Anderson Cooper: News for a New Generation

New illustration added today to my website of Anderson Cooper from CNN. I remember watching Anderson since back when I was in high school when he was on Channel One always reporting from hotspots like in Africa and Eastern Europe. I recall always thinking, "Man, this guy is always in the line of fire - literally of bullets - no wonder he's graying so quickly!" If you don't know about Channel One it was (and I suppose still is) a national news program played throughout schools in the mornings to inform teens of world events. For the record, I really liked watching it every morning but some of the other punk kids found it was a convenient time to quickly scrounge together their vocabulary homework and avoiding the wrath of the grade book...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Getting ambitious in the short time I have left in California this summer. This is a spot I've been scoping since three summers ago but felt a little intimidated by it. Everyone has some "thing" that calls to them, whether it's a hill you itch to climb, a pair of shoes you yearn to buy, or even a show you gotta Tivo. This is how I feel about this spot. The large sheet of drawing paper practically blinded me today since there was no overhead canopy of any kind, but twenty or so minutes was plenty to throw down a perspective and proportions study to bring back to my room...

In the meantime, my pedestrian walkway painting is wrapping up as well as this Gum Grove one (seen here in early stages.) There's still a few compositions around Seal Beach I'd like to tackle but that might just end up being for another day.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

El Salvador Self-Portrait Series

This is looong overdue...don't know why I forgot to put this up on my blog weeks ago when it was finished. It's the fourth installment of my self-portrait travel series.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Long Time No See

Reunion in Santa Monica! If you didn't know, I studied Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan back in 2001 before heading off to art school. Met lots of interesting folks there from all over, including Gwen and Susanna who I've seen individually since then but not together until today. A shared anecdote here and there about the wild world of dating and suddenly we are off again in separate directions. I need to dig up and sort through all my video footage from Taiwan 2001 one of these days...

In the meantime, my brain is occupied with this little painting under a pedestrian walkway in Long Beach. There's a busy road directly behind my position so the noise pollution is unending, but other than that it's a nice secluded spot. Those beams are making this an tough exercise in greys, which I'm quite enjoying.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back in the U.S.S.A.

Back to the concrete jungle also known as Southern California...I am having El Salvador withdrawl. There are way too many differences to point out so I'm not going to try, but I will point out that it would be unfair to say that life is indisputably better in one place over the other. After all, there are many ways to measure "quality" of life other than by amounts wealth and conveniences.

I'm jumping back onto the artmaking wagon by revisiting some of my favorite sites around Long Beach for some landscape drawing. It's not nearly as green here as Central America, but the water power plants that dominate the Long Beach skyline around here continue to interest me. I forsee a painting in my future...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

El Parque Imposible (Impossible Park)

Parque Imposible...our final outdoor adventure of the trip. It is the largest protected park in El Salvador, green like you wouldn't believe, and a botanist and birdwatcher's haven from what I hear. The road to get up there is basically one strip of winding, steep, rocky, mountain road flanked by some occupied mountain shacks and overrun with dogs and chickens. Some of the countryside kids run out and wave to you as you drive by. But again, it's bumpy as hell so be sure your car is equipped for the trek up. If you really, really want to be prepared, then maybe learn how to change a flat tire on a slope too...

Once there we were assigned a guide volunteer named Andres (pictured above) who gave us some hiking route choices. It was $6 for me (gringo) and $3 for Viki (salvadorian resident). We opted for the hike down into the valley to a river junction which was an overall 7km hike down and back uphill. It is said this park is the best example of a mesoamerican rainforest and the guia Andres was well educated about the ecosystem. No armed policia this time...he said in this park it wasn't necessary. I believe they assign guides here because 1) they want to make sure you don't pass out in the middle of nowhere unnoticed and 2) they want to make sure you're respecting nature. He was super nice though.

The terrain here is rugged; even the simple routes would be a little tricky for a noob hiker. The fun thing about hiking to a water source is hearing it as you're nearing it...motivating you to keep going. When we finally reached the river, we were shocked at how crisp it was. Andres said that the park tests it frequently for contaniments, which it is completely free of. The fish looked like they were flying, the water was so clear. Being in the water was therapeutic; I actually felt cleaner having swam in it, which is odd for a river these days. This was the way water was supposed to be, the way that nature intended it to be. Andres even filled his water bottle up in the river in preparation for our ascent.

Normally, the hike back up would have been challenging but after Cerro Verde and Izalco last week, this was muy facil. You constantly have to look down at your feet to watch your footing of course but don't forget to look up every once in a while. You'll see some crazy exotic trees, gigantic empire-like antills, and of course local wildlife. The rainforest canopy is beautiful.

On the drive back down, seeing a chicken on the side of the road indicated to me that we were back in civilization (and no, I'm not being sarcastic.) As we neared the capital San Salvador, I spotted this pickup which for me wins the award for being my personal favorite of the entire trip. I mean, I've seen some precarious pickups these last two weeks, but this one takes the pupusa. All the junk being hauled seems to be methodically secured using only a few ropes. Look closely too because you'll see a kitchen sink at the top. What I don't understand is how one goes about unloading this truck? Once you cut one rope the entire thing is going to come crumbling down, right? I'm sure there's some ancient Mayan secret I don't know about...

Last night in El Salvador. Tagged along with Viki's family for dinner at a friend's house/restaurant. Time to start packing...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

El Boqueron and the San Salvador Volcano

Another volcano adventure today, no hike though, just a drive up to the crater. It's called El Boqueron which I believe means "giant mouth"...a pretty accurate description I'd say. Not sure I'd have found it on my own so fortunately Viki's dad is a good navigator. This girl was selling I think six or seven avocados on the side of the road for $1. Ah, things are so much cheaper when you cut out the middle man.

On the way up we did pass by a building marked with the letters "MS13" in spray paint which told me that it the structure was gang territory. There were lots of young adult males hanging about, one standing up on a wall almost like a lookout or something. Obviously I wasn't planning to hold up my camera and snap a picture. The gang is a LA gang, but they do now have recruitment locations throughout Central America. Google them.

On the way up, Viki suddenly noticed from the car a little hand grasping onto the rear windshield wiper. I reached back, knocked on the window, and saw a little boy jump off who was trying to hitch a ride to the top. We let him grab onto the side of the car instead which was much safer and before we knew it we found ourselves with a little tour guide named Gavin. Upon reaching the top we were swarmed by kids like Gavin excited to have new visitors to the area. I figure they get at least a couple a day, maybe more on the weekends.

Take that Brad and Angelina! Check out my new adopted family. The kids know how to be hospitable. They'll show you the paths to the vistas and share information about the area. The little girls would even grab pretty flowers off of bushes and give them to the girls in our group, in this case Viki and CK. We followed them up to the crater where I finally realized why they call this place "giant mouth." It was a breathtaking view of a GIGANTIC hole, steep as ever along the sides. It was like something straight out of Star Wars. It's supposed to be an official tourist attraction I think, but the government visitor center at the top was totally abandoned. They say you can hike to the bottom of the crater...a possible adventure for another day.

The kids are super photogenic too, sporting smiles as big as the crater they live on everytime you hold a camera up to them. Part of it I know is the excitement of having temporary vistitors on the mountain; the other part of course is knowing that city slickers like us carry quarters on us. It's fine though...give a quarter to a kid in the States and he'll/she'll be like "That's it??" The kids we met up here were happy, constantly laughing, and enjoying the simplicity of their little world in the mountains and away from the electronically corded jungles of the modern world that tangle up our lives. I envy them in a way.

When our little tour around a portion of the crater was done, we headed back to the car and the kids prepare for their uofficial payday. And obviously you can't give one kid something and another nothing unless you're okay with the saddened look of a chiquito salvadareno's face on your conscience. Some probably hitch back down to a local shop and blow it on candy. Others probably give it to their parents.

I'm finding that El Salvador is a country full of high views. It's probably the greenest and most mountainous country I've ever been to. We caught this view of San Salvador on the way back down from El Boqueron under some extraordinary light conditions feebly captured by this picture. I like to think that even members of the local MS13 gang stop between member initiations and enjoy the views offered by their beautiful country...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dos Dias En Guatemala

Hold onto your pimped-out buses, we're going to Guatemala. One thing I love about Central America is the super colorful public buses, often covered in designs, decals, pictures of Jesus, roof racks...some even have slick grills up front. I don't believe it's an attempt at showboating though, because like I said, these are public buses. It's just an overall more colorful culture, literally and figuratively. We took a car, by the way.

Border patrol on the El Salvador side was two uniformed officials sitting under a tent. One friendly old lady was spouting a lot of spanish while checking our documents...I did pick up the word "peligroso" which I knew meant "dangerous." I had already heard the Guatamalan side near the border was a bit ghetto anyways so yeah, it was the first time I had actually felt a little nervous entering a new country. Scenes from the movie "Proof of Life" kept running through my mind. Border patrol on the Guatemalan side was an abandoned station, completely nonexistent. I guess they have an open policy concerning traffic from El Salvador.

The second morning in Guatemala was spent in Antigua, a little town situated in a valley. There were a lot of caras blancas abound - I hear lots of gringos and euros retire there. There were a lot of Angelina wannabes too, carrying around their newly adopted Guatemalan babies like they were accessories. I did notice all the local women, young to old, wore traditional colorful and patterned clothing which I thought was beautiful.

From what I've seen, all the little towns here in Central America are centered around a central plaza or park, where the main church is situated. Church and community it seems are the foundations of society here. The look of this town was very similar to Apaneca and Suchitoto in El Salvador except Antigua was a more restored place, likely due to the tourism. The borrachos you always see hanging around the central plaza are hilarous.

That night, I tagged along with Viki's family to their cousin's graduation party in Guatemala City. The grad parties here are very much like the gringo prom, the main difference being that the parents take part in the festivities too, at least for the normal portion of the night. Music, dancing, elaborate a glance it looks like an episode of MTV's "Sweet Sixteen" except not one person is the spoled center of attention. I actually quite like this tradition here compared to the gringo prom, which is basically an elaborate party held for no particularly special occasion.

And don't let the Antigua pictures fool you, Guatemala City is quite modern and bustling. This video (if you can see it) is however the countryside...

Friday, June 15, 2007

El Salvador: Part 2

It took my leg muscles about two days to completely return to normal after the Izalco hike...just as anticipated. The confused look on my face in this pic with my buddy CK is a sign of my overheating and exhaustion carrying on into the night, though they were quickly alleviated by drinking copius volumes of ice water. Thank the volcano gods, for that night we dined at their "cousins" house on steak. Something about being out in a jungle all day brings out the animal instincts in you I think because when I saw that red meat in front of me, it triggered an impulse and I devoured that slab as if I had never seen meat before.

The other day we visited a friend's reptile farm slightly outside of the city of San Salvador. The whole experience felt very Jurassic Park complete even with an electric perimeter fence, although this was one for keeping out theives as opposed to containing T-Rexes. This little fellow sitting on my shoulder I believe is called a bearded dragon. Por que? I don't know. I had never seen so many reptiles before in one place. Small ones, large ones, red ones, brown ones, green ones, shelled ones, spiny ones, slithery ones, cute ones, creepy ones, jumpy ones...well, you get the picture.

Before entering the turtle section of the farm, we had disinfect the bottoms of our shoes. It was like a happy little turtle civilization with turtles as far as the eye could see. Off to the side they housed the giant turtles which to see up close in person is quite amusing. You stand there looking at this slow, shelled, almost comical-looking creature and wonder how the shell it has survived since dinosaur times...but indeed it has and so you can't help look at it with a bit of reverence. To sit on it was a treat too; it makes one feel a bit Super Mario Brothers-ish...

During my time here in El Salvador so far, I have been enlightened to the magical place that is simply known as "Pollo Campero." It's the tastiest fried chicken chain across Central America. So far I've only eaten there twice but both times were muy rico. I know you're thinking it looks like a pretty normal meal in the photo, so you'll just have to trust me on this one. Keep a lookout on the street for a sign with a big yellow and orange cartoon chicken!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Volcano Izalco Movie Clip

Filmed and narrated by my hiking buddy, this clip is taken at the peak of the volcano El Izalco. It feels like standing on a giant crater island floating above the clouds. In the background you can see our other hiking partners, our guide, the two armed policia, and me eating an apple.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cerro Verde y El Izalco: Take Two

We went back to Cerre Verde as planned in hopes of making it for the morning volcano hike. For 1$ a person a guide will take you to the volcano and back, a hike they estimate at 4 hours. Fortunatly three other adventurers arrived to put us over the two person minimum. Rain fell at 10:30 am, but the hike was on. They said we could tip the guide (this time, a 17-year-old kid named Danny) but it wasn't necessary to tip the security guards who were accompanying us on the trip.

Whaaat? Security guards? Armed police to be specific. Two of them.

We began with a brisk descent 2,030 meters down Cerro Verde in the rain, though under the canopy of the forest. We reached the base of the volcano (seen in first pic) where luckily the rain had stopped. Wide-eyed optimists, we began the trek straight up the side of the volcano on barely a trail. After 1,870 meters of maneuvering on a constant, rocky, steep, uphill grade, we finally reached the top of the volcano Izalco. Here in the second pic our two armed security enjoy the view that they apparently see twice a week. Apparently in the past hikers had been mugged and/or raped along the trail - hence, the reason for the government to install guards to protect tourism. Now you know.

Honestly these pictures do the experience no justice at all. To stand at the top of a black volcano above the clouds and look into it's fuming crater is exhilarating. To stand so high on such a steep and primitive slope for me was disorienting, but rewarding. All you could hear up there was the wind, the sound of your feet crunching along the rocks, and your breath. Walking around the huge crater, I saw some of the craziest, alien-like insects I had ever seen.

Also exhilarating? Standing practically up in the clouds and hearing a thunderstorm brewing literally beside you as opposed to above you. A bit scary in fact. A few booms were enough to set us 8 travellers out for the volcano descent quickly, this time down a different path of mostly red sand and rocks. Tricky footwork, controlled sliding, and clever weight distribution was required, but the impending storm was enough to hurry me down the volcano in fear of a mudslide or worse. By the time we finally reached the protective canopy of Cerro Verde, the rain was pouring down. In hiking, what goes down must come up; the brisk descent down Cerro Verde was not so brisk on the way back up. It was an interminable series of turns and dirt steps, each one leading to more and more forest each time. Sweat and rain were indistinguishable. If you could ignore the dizziness and vertigo, you could really take in the dazzling atmosphere of the misty forest.

In the end, we basically walked 2,030 meters down a mountain, then 1,870 meters up a volcano, then 1,870 meters down a volcano, and 2,030 meters back up a mountain. In my opinion, it is DEFINITELY NOT for the beginner hiker or the faint of heart. To my constant amazement, our two police guards and 17-year-old guide never looked tired, let alone phased, throughout the entire hike! They were super-friendly and helpful the entire time. It was by far the most grueling physical challenge I've put myself in front of, but no matter where I go in life, I'll ALWAYS know what it was like to stand on the fuming rim of a black Central American volcano...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

El Salvador: Part 1

Que chivisimo...loving everything about El Salvador so far. Scenery is complete with lush greenery and cows on the side of the road. Day 2 Viki and I drove up to Cerro Verde looking for volcanoes. It's amazing to see in the green landscape a huge black mound billowing with fumes...I guess it explains why the beaches here have black sand (which is really cool by the way). Tomorrow we return to hike up the actual volcano itself since we missed the required guided-hike up. And in case you find this interesting, a guided hike is 25 cents per person. Yes, a quarter.

Safety first, ninos! Just when you think you've seen the most packed-in pickup truck ever, another one will always drive by and amaze you. Usually the passengers stand in the back, especially when there's a big group. There's usually a roll cage type thing for them to hold onto, because as I said earlier, safety first ninos! Sometimes there's even a lawn chair in the pickup bed for elders to sit for the duration of the ride. It's efficient, that's for sure.

Day 3 we took a canopy zipline tour over the wooded mountains of Apaneca. Well worth the $30 to zip across 12 lines over totally primitive woods and farms with the wind whirring over your ears. I felt very much like Spider-man...or a or the other. The "bus" ride up was pretty cool too, a very rugged road through the jungle. And of course by "bus" I mean the back of a pickup truck, although this one had seats and a canopy roof.

Check back for more...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Branding Idol

Talk about marketability! Yes, I'm talking about you, Jordin Sparks. Not only does she now boast the most gigantic smile in showbiz, she has the talent to back it up. Her young age will allow teens to relate to her, yet her mature appearance will draw in older fans as well. She found a good balance between humility and confidence during the season which made her well-liked among all. She will be well-received by different ethnic groups, though that's really dependent on how the big wigs brand her. Simon and his gang are no doubt estatic to turn this blank mold into something big and lucrative.

I mean, what marketer wouldn't love to have a product with a huge fan base way before the product is even for sale??

The American Idol formula is invincible. The machine rolls on and I gotta say, it's entertaining. And for the record, I was indeed a Jordin fan this season. Some of those kids just looked like a bunch of noobs next to her...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sidewalk Arts 2007

A video clip of sequential photos I took while working on my square. Nice day, nice turnout, inconsistent judging...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Pursuit of Beautyness

Yay, get out your mirrors! It's time for the annual "The 100 Most Beautiful" issue...or inversely "The Other 299,999,900 Ugly Folk" issue. Really, that's just a half-full or half-empty thing, depending on your take on society creating exclusive clubs based on looks. To say I'm not a big fan would be quite an understatement...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kien and The Bone

The weekend took me into my first journey into South Florida, where ol' Gainesville buddies tied the knot. Beat it Nick and Jessica...this one's gonna last for sure. Mainly though it was a nice college reunion of UF buddies, sans Kien and The Bone. If you didn't live in Murphree Hall Section A or M in 1996 or 1997, then that last part of the previous sentence must have sounded like some weird movie found only in the backrooms of the most ghetto video retailers...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Hindsight Blame Game

I'm sad about Virginia Tech, don't get me wrong, but at same time I am completely tired of watching the media playing what I call "The Hindsight Blame Game." Actually, it's not just the media, they just happen to be the ones perpetuating it during their 24/7 coverage of any massive tragedy. Same cycle happens after every major tragedy.

This is the equivalent of finding out a girl has been sexually assaulted, then asking dumb questions like "Why didn't her friends lock her down once they suspected she was going out dressed in something cute, knowing that someone out there liked her?" rather than blaming the individual who couldn't control his impulsive behavior. Let's get one thing straight about this VT incident...the only person to blame here is this whiny kid Cho and his failure to integrate and cope with society. But unfortunately, the coward is not with us anymore to be the pinata of blame so as always, the masses look elsewhere...

"But why didn't administration lock down the school after two people got shot at a dorm?" they ask. Probably because evidence suggested it was a domestic dispute that escalated into violence. It is a residence hall after all where people laugh, argue, cry, etc. all the time. Who could've possibly predicted the ballistic rampage that would soon follow? No one, that's who.

"And the warning signs, and the creepy writings were all there and no one did anything about it!" they say. Then does this mean we lock up everyone with any history of stalking, alienation, and antisocial thoughts? We would if this was the movie "Minority Report" but unfortunately we don't have the technology of psychic triplets just yet.

"And how could this kid get access to such weaponry so easily?" they ask. Well, a long time ago a group of powdered wig-wearing revolutionaries decided everyone had a right to a gun. Better get accustomed to it too because that's not going to change.

Point is, if someone wants to kill, they're gonna kill. Who can really stop that? Life will go on the way it has, without metal detectors at college, without having to submit three letters of recommendation from your teachers when buying a gun, and without shutting down entire towns the moment someone gets shot. The best we all can do for each other after tragedy is spread support all around and stop having to find someone else to blame.

To those who want to continue to point the finger at others, I say stop acting like you saw it coming because you KNOW you didn't.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

300 Self-Portraits in Vancouver

New trip, new movie, same design. Enjoy!

If you haven't seen my other travel self-portrait series movies, click here to see them. I have two others from Asia and New York.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm No Bandwagon Fan

I'm no bandwagon fan, that's for sure. I remember back when it made our season to beat Kentucky in a regular season game. I recall the excitement of finding out that a Florida basketball game was to be televised on ESPN. I remember when they started this whole "Rowdy Reptiles" gig. I remember cheering our uncanny one-eyed player Fast Eddie. I remember watching Jason Williams showboat on the home court, then later with the Kings. I remember calling into Billy Donovan's weekly show with my roomates and asking questions about Dupay.

I'm no bandwagon fan, that's for sure...and that's why it's so rewarding to have watched the Gators take the championship again. Besides, is it so wrong to reward a group of kids for staying in college to repeat as a team rather than scurry for certain NBA millions?

I'm no bandwagon fan, that's for sure...and that's why it'll be fun to start over again next year and watch an all new team.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back to 1991: The Ride

What? "Back to the Future: The Ride" is closing forever?? Well, I suppose it was inevitable, considering the ride is over 15 years old and the new generation of audience is totally out of touch with the movie. Sad am I, but I too understand business is business. They gotta keep up with modern demands. No more will we be able to chase Biff through time in a simulated Delorean. The ride always gave me a headache too, but the way I figured it actual time travel would probably have had much worse side-effects...

So my sister and I took pictures in front of the ride this past weekend one last time. Rumors are it'll be replaced by a Simpsons ride, which if true sounds promising. On a side note...the Mummy ride is grreat! On the subject of Back to the Future closing, I think the Mummy said it best when he constantly and violently screamed during the ride, "Death is only the BEGINNING!!!!"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Canada is a Delicious Country

Well to be more specific the food is delicious in Vancouver, where a giant Chinese population has produced a myriad of great restaurants. This alien-like creature in the photo is an Alaskan King Crab, picked from the pollutant-free waters of Alaska for consumption only a few weeks out of the year. I imagine this creature to be quite the bully in it's natural habitat, although that's just me shallowly judging a book by it's enormously spiny cover.

Beautiful landscape, the Pacific Northwest is!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Symphony in Emo

Went to the symphony tonight with an artist friend of mine. Location? Lucas Theater downtown Savannah. Opening act? Mozart. Headlining? Beethoven's Symphony No. 4. We did get to thinking you think musicians of the past were considered "emo" by their societies? "Oh, here comes that drama king Beethoven again. Cut your hair you hippie!"

Friday, February 9, 2007

Go Fish

Yesterday I painted two big slabs of fish in response to a call for entries for an upcoming ocean-theme show in Savannah. Though the subject matter may not strike everyone's fancy the same, the truth is I've always been fascinated by the amazing colors in fish flesh and am just now finally starting to satisfy that curiosity. Delicious!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back Melodically

Let the games begin! Perhaps the greatest limitless empire in The States, American Idol enters season 6 with a bang! Like all of America, I too am glued to the trials and tribulations of ambitious young singers striving for a shortcut in life by becoming overnight successes. I'm telling you, those Stevie Wonder songs are just so catchy no matter who's singing.

Let's not forget though one of Idol's great trailblazers William Hung. He was after all the one who made it cool to be bad. Before that, being bad just guaranteed you a place in the trash bin of society. At least he turned it into a sort-of talent recycling bin.

Here we have William Hung and Yao Ming, two influential ambassadors to our Chinese race. Chuckle if you will but I'll take them over Paris Hilton representation any day....

Monday, January 8, 2007

Gator Dynasty!

Estatic. I am estatic. After dropping my jaw during the opening kickoff touchdown by Ohio State, I watched the Gators proceed to dominate the rest of the game towards a ridiculous 41-14 victory! First a championship in basketball, now football...even Emmit Smith (a Gator alumni) holds the current championship for Dancing with the Stars! Is it too soon to call this the Year of the Gator?

And what was the deal with that Ohio State marching band halftime show?? The theme song to the Titanic? The performance was made even more strange by the band members marching in unision to form the shape of a steamliner (once believed to be invincible) sinking into a giant blue tarp. Talk about symbolism. Baffled. I was baffled.