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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fuck Telus

I noticed that Telus has an ad appearing on my blog. Please click it, it will cost them 25 cents. Of which I'll get 1.2579872 cents. Then, all together, say....FUCK TELUS. Those bitches owed me 67$ for over 2 years. Each month they'd send a letter saying they owed me 67$, but never a cheque. Dirty bastards. It went on for TWO YEARS!!

A friend told me the new Spiderman movie was epic. I gave him a copy of "The Odessy". His head exploded.
I went to the new spiderman movie. Another retelling of his origins. The guy behind me, a 40 something dude with a moustache spent the entire previews providing specific details on the failings of the Toby McGuire spiderman flicks. Then the preview for Total Recall started. He  loudly pronounced his disgust for remakes in hollywood and demanded some originality. Then we watched the new spidermand movie. Another retelling of his origins. 40 something dork talked the whole way through. FML.

Luke the Bouncer - Whats with Airdrie chicks!?

When I was out clubbing, if I was bother a girl (which happened alot) she'd just be rude to me until I went away. In Airdrie, they come running to the bouncer. WTF?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Luke the Construction Guy

So I took a job doing construction to help pay the bills. I hate it with a passion. I'm out the door by 6am (I'm not a morning person). The other day a wall fell on me. Just fell and hit me. Knocked me off a platform. I have a scar.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bath Salts

What's with bath salts? Seriously that's the new drug? Dude, if you're getting your drugs at Bed Bath and Beyond you're doing something wrong.


Luke the Bouncer 1

So I took a job working as a bouncer at a bar. I hate bouncers. That hasn't changed, but I'm starting to see their side of things. The other night I walked around the corner to find a girl throwing a pint of beer at some dude. He then dumped his on her, missing and hit my manager. Then all the other girls in her posse got involved. There was much screaming and kicking. Once I got the girls out I told the beer dumping guy he had to leave. He couldn't understand why. Then his buddies all waited for me in the parking lot at the end of the night. They didn't recognize me when I'd walked by them at then end of the night. I'd taken my cowboy hat off which must have confused them. Old Jedi mind trick that is....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Whats That Thing on the Back of My Twenty?


I recently returned from a 14 month trip around Australia and S.E. Asia. Both regions have an abundance of rich cultural heritage, evident in their art. Trudging through the Vancouver Airport I noticed a piece of our own cultural heritage, a large greenish sculpture I recognized as a Haida piece. I knew I’d seen it before but I couldn’t quite place where. Later, when buying my first Double-Double since 2010 I saw it staring up at me from the back of a $20 bill.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by Bill Reid, commissioned in 1985 for the Canadian Embassy in Washington.  Cast in bronze, the original black version was recast in a jade patina for the Vancouver Airport.

That got me thinking. What other bits of Canadiana are on my money, and where are they from?

The Coins
The variety of indigenous species on our coins can be seen across the country, with the exception of the Polar Bear adorning our Toonies who only shows his white mug in the coldest of climates. Churchill, Manitoba or the Territories would be a great place to visit him.

Growing up in Atlantic Canada, I’d always identified with the face of our dimes. The  Bluenose II, hailing from Lunenburg NS is currently undergoing restorations but will be back in the water and offering cruises next year. 

The Bills
The Five Dollar Bill depicts the west Block of Parliament in Ottawa. On the reverse, children are tobogganing, skating and playing hockey. You can see that anywhere in Canada from around November to March. One player, interestingly, is sporting number 9. Though many greats, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and others wore that number, it is largely accepted as a tribute to Maurice Richard. An excerpt from Roch Carrier’s “The Sweater” on the bottom left of the note supports that theory. The Hockey Hall of Fame is in downtown Toronto.

The Ten note features an excerpt of “In Flanders Fields”. A salute to veterans and peace keeping it features a photo of war veteran Robert Metcalfe standing at the National War Memorial. The Memorial stands at Confederation Square, Ottawa.

The Twenty we’ve covered but if you ever get an old one you’ll see Moraine Lake on the reverse. You can visit Moraine Lake in Alberta, not far from Lake Louise.

Our Fifty Dollar note depicts the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill. A tribute to human rights on the reverse depicts the Famous Five, a statue of whom can be viewed in downtown Calgary near Olympic Plaza.  

The One Hundred Dollar Bill depicts the Eastern Block of Parliament on the front, while the reverse is a dedication to Canadian Exploration. One of Samuel Champlain’s maps and one of his canoes is depicted on the back. A statue of Champlain stands in Quebec City near Chateau Frontenac hotel.

So there you have it, now you know what's all over your money. Just in time too because they've just changed it. Now I have to do new research. Thats gonna cost me.

The Kirby Sewel Band


There’s nothing like seeing a big man with a big voice take charge on stage. Kirby Sewel is that man. We arrived at the Ironwood Stage and Grill early so we could get a good seat but were disappointed. The place was packed. Luckily we found the last bar table that let us see over the generally older crowd. 

As Kirby’s opening act kicked off, (one of those annoying acoustic guys who feel the need for a long, drawn out explanation before starting each song), Kirby swung by our table for a moment and said hi. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy and I was looking forward to hearing what he could do.

The band opened with a blues number that got the crowd moving in their seats. The sound is part The Commitments with shades of Van Morrison and the Blues Brothers. Maybe a little Blues Traveller with out all the harmonica. Their front man has one of those classic blues voices that carries right through you. Called "one of the finest Male Blues vocalists in Canada" by Real Blues Magazine, his voice is a versatile instrument that lends itself easily to country, jazz, gospel, and of course, the blues. His band is a tight foursome that transitioned easily from a bluesy country number, into a stripped down jazzy version of Pour Some Sugar over me. 

Kirby’s animated stage presence is kind of like John Belushi’s Joe Cocker from SNL. With flailing hands driving home the point someone has definitely done him wrong,  they played the songs from their two CDs. It wasn’t long before the crowd was up and dancing along. 

The Kirby Sewel Band’s original sound is a fun, upbeat journey that comes full circle through the modern roots spectrum. They have a big, light hearted sound that’s fresh and inspired. You can check out a few of their songs at http://www.reverbnation.com/kirbysewellband  along with updates for future gigs. Definitely worth checking out.

Lounge Burger


I love burgers. In fact, I eat far too many. I’ll head for the nearest drive through at the first faint pangs of hunger, and order something with bacon and cheese on it. And it’s never a baked potato.

The other day after helping a friend drop her art off at a gallery, she offered to buy me lunch, suggesting Lounge Burger. I’d noticed it once or twice but never been in. I said “Great” and we pulled in.

Lounge Burger looks very cool. The stone and wood d├ęcor and low lighting provide a laid back atmosphere that’s stylish and fun. Each booth has a little LCD screen at the table. I was happy to see they were showing a replay of the previous night’s Pens/Flyers game as we sat. 

I noticed they had a lot of beer on tap. Local Big Rock varieties, Sleeman’s from out east, Keith’s from farther east and Sapporo from really far east. Above that I noticed the hockey game on a giant screen over the bar. I noticed that the drinks menu was pretty impressive as well. It was then I noticed that we’d been there for quite a while noticing things. 

Finally a waitress came by and dropped off menus and took our drink orders. The menu was fantastic with about a half a dozen different patties, from beef to elk, wagyu beef and lamb. When our waitress eventually found her way back to our table I ordered the signature burger with yam fries and my gracious burger benefactor ordered the bison burger. I was excited and very hungry!

Lounge Burger is not the place to go if you’re hungry. Immediately hungry I mean.  The portions are generous, it just takes forever to get them.  Even the distraction of the Flyers pounding the Penguins wasn’t enough for me to notice that it was taking a long, long time for us to get food. 

It was worth it. A burger cooked just right is an amazing thing, and this one was cooked perfectly. Not a second too long. The caramelized onions played off the mild cheddar perfectly, and peppered bacon was a pure delight. There was some sort of aioli that gave the sandwich a great flavor and moisture. The yam fries were delicious as well, however the red pepper aioli that came with them was watery and relatively flavourless.

All in all I thought left Lounge Burger full and happy. I think I’ll go back and try one of their many other burger options one day soon. I’ll just be sure to have a snack first!

Ray Charles Tribute Orchestra

You can catch live music at The Blues Can on 9th just about any night of the week. Tonight we I joined my friends half way through a plate of salt and pepper wings, just in time to catch Donald Ray Johnson's second set.

Dressed in a custom cut purple suit and ash grey fedora, he looked every bit the blues man as he broke into the Bobby Sharp/Ray Charles standard "Unchain My Heart". Mr. Johnson lived up to his image. Fronting the Ray Charles Orchestra a 3 piece brass section, piano, guitar, standup bass, and drum accompanying 3 backing vocalist, the old blues singer belted out a tribute of Ray Charles hits, including Baby Its Alright, and I've Got A Woman.  The 10 piece ensemble is a tight talented group lifting up Donald Ray's voice without over powering his often understated and soulful voice.

After 40 years this bluesman from Bryan Texas is still going strong. Commanding a career highlighted by a grammy win, awarded winner of Blues Vocalist of the Year by Real Blues Magazine, and 2 nominations for the Maple Blues award, Donald Ray is the true embodiment of old school southern blues.

Ray Charles Tribute Orchestra can be seen at the Calgary Internationals Blues Festival on August 2, and Blues Bash at Sylvan Lake August 18.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fuck You Sir Richard Branson - Hate Air Travel 1

I fucking hate travelling. Don't get me wrong, I like going new places and seeing new things, but I hate getting there. Especially by plane.  The ONLY exception to that is via motorcycle. I'll go where ever you want me to on a bike, and I'll probably take the long way. A car isn't bad with the right people and the right tunes, but I hate planes. I hate their schedules, their airport, their security with their little magnet wands keeping the skies safe from evil, their staff (sorry Euan, and the hundreds of airport staff who have been very professional friendly and accommodating over the last year, but I'm venting) and everything else about them. The blue stuff in the toilets...I hate that too.

One day while leaving Thailand I had to pay $130 for my second bag. Since when can't we bring two bags? Who only takes one bag anywhere? I was leaving for over a year, I didn't know where I'd end up, I needed 2 bags.!It wasn't even heavy!

The lady from Virgin said it didn't matter, it was $16/kilo. So I zipped open my bag and started shoving things in my pockets. I found my hoodie put that on and started shoving things in those pockets. I put my laptop charger in my hood.

"There!" I said triumphantly dropping it heartily back on the scale. Still over.
"Ill tell you what, lets do a little carbon off-set type thing here. I'll go take a big dump and come back, whatever weight I've lost you offset from the weight of this bag. She looked at me blandly and handed me a bill. That look translates in all languages. The guy behind me was laughing at all this. Mostly AT me.


So there you go Sir Richard Branson, you got more of my money. Hazzah!

"Dear Sir Richard Branson, suck a pack of dicks. And choke on my $130." I hope he googles his name. I'm sure he does, all megalomaniacs do. It's in the handbook they get. If he doesn't, some poor underpaid/no pay intern, not quite-yet-jaded-or-broken-WTF-am-Doing-With-My-Life yet, is doing it. I know he doesn't care what some random blogger in Calgary thingks of him, but still, it would warm me to know that somewhere in his castle he's reading the words "Suck A Pack Of Dicks Sir Richard Branson" Warm like porridge on a snowy school day.

Crossing From Laos to Thailand

The sun hung blood red in the morning haze over Vang Vieng. It's burning season, the air is thick with burnt rice fields. Though the early morning air held a chill, the heat in my windowless closet of a room afforded me no sleep the night before.

Groggy, tired and feeling ill, I said goodbye to my friends Ana, Peter and Vet, and we piled into another grey van. I can't count the number of grey vans I've sat in since arriving in SE Asia this trip. The road to Udon Thani is pure hell. Walter described it as being in a washing machine. 170 kms takes 4 hours. An entire morning being bumped, jostled  and thrown around a grey van. Its the first time I've felt car sick in decades.

We stopped for brunch at the Full Moon Cafe in Vientiane (the word moon appears in every second eating or drinking establishment in Laos it seems), a cool little spot that offers the service of uploading music to your iPod while you eat for a small fee. While pouring through the list of music our DP informed me that he was bringing some weed across the border with him. You can buy the stuff anywhere in SE Asia, but not as easily as in Vang Vieng, where we had left. Still, it seemed silly to me. The penalties are severe for that kind of thing in this part of the world.

After the best burger I'd had in ages, we loaded up the grey van. Our first stop was to drop Walter off at his hotel. He was heading straight to BKK to pick up his gear. His daughter had already headed that way earlier in the week. I'm gonna miss that guy, forever blowing himself up.

A couple hours later we hit the border. Our driver grabbed our passports and hopped out of the van. Our DP and Wrangler decided to go duty free shopping. The poisoned mayo, so common in Laos, loaded onto my burger was haunting me so I ducked out to find a bathroom. After I searched a while I walked past the van when our sound guy yelled through the window that we were done. The driver took care of everything, we were good to go. Less than 10 minutes for all 5 of us. Brilliant. I called the rest of the crew and we were leaving Laos and entering Thialand. We crossed the Friendship Bridge and waited to get into Laos as our driver took care of business again. Love that guy!!

I neglected to take a pic of the one at Udon Thani, here's
its counterpart in Ko Chang.
While waiting I noticed a sign that had writing in both Thai and Laos, with quite a bit of info. At the bottom, in English it simply read "Severely Punished". On the left was a skull and crossbones superimposed over a collage of pills, white powder and a bong.
"I guess the punishment of E, Coke or Weed is death." is said. No one seemed phased by that, especially our DP.

Five minutes later we were back in Thailand. One more shoot day at a dam outside Chiang Mai, then 2 days in Bangkok and I'm out of here. Snow and hockey, here I come!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blue Lagoon - Outside Vang Vieng, Laos

We had to be packed by 9am the day after our wrap party. The party ended up at a place called Smile Bar, a place that serves Disco Buckets; Thai Whiskey, Redbull, Opium, Weed and Mushrooms all served in a toy bucket, like a kid would take to the beach.  Needless to say, much of the crew was in rough shape whilst packing up the vans.

We said our goodbyes to the crew that were movin' on and watched them bounce off into the morning haze. With nothing left to do and a day off to kill we decided to visit Blue Lagoon. Walter, Digby and I rented 3 scooters, I handed over my passport as collateral. With Nick and Ana riding bitch we putted off on another adventure.

The road to Blue Lagoon is 7 kms, but it takes 40 mins to get there. The road is a moonscape of stones, craters and ruts. Single lane bridges with precarious gaps charge 10, 000 kip per vehicle. Each way. Construction almost foiled us, our scooters sinking into freshly unearthed ground. We made it past, and a couple of wrong turns later we came to the lagoon.

A small fees gains you access to both the lagoon and a nearby cave. (There are thousands of caves in the limestone mountains of Laos.) The lagoon is a little pool of water along a river. Downstream the water is too shallow to swim and too rocky or littered to wade through. Upstream the river is choked by vegetation twisting from the banks. The water is blue and small fish dart amongst the tourists. Swings have been hung for the tourists to play on. The heat of the day was stiffling, so I climbed up a tree with via a makeshift ladder nailed to its trunk, and traversed the overhanging bough.  The water, cool and refreshing was only about 8 feet deep and I touched bottom. Shortly thereafter Walter jumped in forgetting his glasses so I made a second trip to the bottom to retrieve them.

We played for a while, splashing about and swinging in. Eventually we got tired and climbed the banks. We took over one of the small gazebo styled huts and took turns basking in the sun and retreating to the shade. As the sun lowered Walter hung a makeshift blind to protect us from it's burning rays in our little hut. A small canteen kept us in beer and water.

Walter and Nick decided to head back to the city, and Digby, always the adventurous sort, decided to check the cave. He opted not to pay for a guide. Ana and I sat and talked about the film we were shooting and watched people basking in the son. One girl I recognized from 2 nights earlier at smile bar. She had been wearing a dog chain at time. She must have left that home today. Digby had been gone for quite some time and we were getting worried.

When Digby finally arrived he told us he got lost and finally ran into another adventurous spelunker whom he followed out. It was time to go, but he wanted to get a bite first and urged us on. We made plans to meet back for dinner.

Ten minutes into the ride back I asked Ana if we had made a wrong turn. The road was WAY worse than it had been. on the way in. It was soft, and loose, making the little scooter almost impossible to handle. I got my answer a moment later when a grader came rumbling up the road, exchanging craters and ruts for loese earth. Ana suggested we try cutting through the rice paddies and taking the path behind the communist flag across the river from the Silver Naga hotel. Ok.

We took the first road that had a sign and followed the path marked by trampled ground and white flags. Eventually we came across a family of french people purchasing the right to visit a cave from two young Laos. We asked if we could get back to town this way and they said no. Damn.

We headed back and stopped to take a picture. I said to Ana, "You know, I have yet to be lied to by a Laos person, but that doesn't mean he's right, lets try another way." She agreed and we took a left into the rice paddies.

The thing about rice paddies is, they need to be kept full of water. To do that, small burms create boarders around patches of earth to make up a field. Being dry season, we cruised the fields easily, but the mounds of earth were hard to navigate. A couple of times poor 'ol Ana almost got bucked off. Others times she had to get off while we practically lifted the little scooter over the border.

After several wrong turns, more than a few hard bumps and some genuine worry we'd made a reckless mistake, we found our way to the back of the communist flag mountain. Hurray. We circumnavigated the landmark and found the walking path back to town. Our last hurdle was a walking bridge railed on only one side. Ana suggested she get off for that leg of the trip. After everything we'd been through she didn't trust me to get us across safetly. I'm sort of glad she didn't, my confidence on this one was pretty much shot, but I made it ok, and the tourists on the bridge politely moved out of my way.

When we returned out scooters the guy checked them all over for damage. I was quite shocked there was none, but relieved to get my passport back. I was exhausted and sore but still managed to get some dinner before crashing. We had a 14 hour travel day ahead of us.

Back to Chiang Mai...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Working on a Film - The People You Meet

Walter is our special effects guy. He's 62, a big lad missing the tip of one of his fingers on his right hand. Walter enjoys blowing things up. Walter set himself on fire t'other day.

The film we're making has been unfortunately underfunded and over staffed. The term time is money applies more to the film industry than any other I've worked in. We were running out of both. When people run out of time they attempt to make up for it by rushing. Rushing leads to mistakes. 

On this particular day, Walter was creating a series of large fiery explosion to replicate the misfire of a rocket. Being pushed to fit in as many explosions as possible, some black powder Walter was carrying came into contact with a pot that hadn't cooled enough and went up. The flame climbed his left leg and arm. Walter simply jumped into the nearby river. He was picking bits of burned powder out of his skin on the way to dinner that night.

When I asked Walter if he was OK after his little ordeal he said he was fine. Brushing it off as a minor incident compared to some of his other mishaps. One time, I think while working on The Thin Red Line (but I could be mistaken I listened to quite a few stories) a hard packed explosion went of between his legs. Milos, Tom and I looked at him in awe.

"You know what a palm tree looks like eh?" he said spreading out his right hand. Then he pointed to his outstretched thumb. "That's where me dick was"
A collective gasp went through our group was we clambered on down the patch work roads of Vang Vieng. Walter's mishap cost him 4 months in the hospital and several skin grafts to repair the damage. 

Over dinner Walter told the three of sabot working on The Matrix, Thin Red Line, Australia and others. He had stories about other people getting blown up, insane but brilliant requests from out of control directors and different techniques to getting better explosions. It was all very enlightening. It make me feel like film was the right choice. Lets wait and see.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kayaking In Laos

I mentioned to a guy I met through work that I was going kayaking before work one day and he asked if he could come along. Since then we've become friends so I was pretty stoked to have the company when I finally went this morning. I invited Peter Pan along too and he said yes, so it was a good group.

He spoke to a travel company next to our hotel a few days ago and got us a deal for 80,000 kip, roughly 10 bucks.  Great deal. I'd asked another outfitter to set me up and he quoted me $25. He had found out we were working on a film and figured we could afford it I guess. Little does he know...

We met our guide at 8am, 10 minutes later we were in the back of a truck travelling down beaten old roads surrounded by some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever seen.  15 minutes later we put in. Our guide was a young guy with a good sense of humour. He asked if we could swim. There were no lifejackets anywhere but he asked anyway. He made a little safety harness for my glasses too. I asked if I was going to need that. He laughed and put my kayak in.

The ride started on a gentle stream. We passed goats with their kids playing on almost vertical banks. Cattle roamed in and around the water. The mountains pressed upward into the morning haze as the sun desperately tried to break through. Our guide pointed out things of interest; caves, wildlife, different buildings. Once in a while we'd hit some small rapids and get a bit of a charge out of the extra rush of water.

Our guide chatted with me along the way. We traded stories about our homelands. He asked if I'd ever eaten snake. I said I had. He told me a real man in Laos eats snake and dog. He looked a little sideways when I said I'd never had dog before.

After 4 k we took a bit of a break. Not that the trip so far was very strenuous, but most of us had been sitting in hotel chairs at computers 12 hours a day for the past 2 months.  The sun was shining now and we were really enjoying the morning. After about 10 minutes we put in again and went on our way.

We booked through a company that doesn't have a name but is directly beside the front stairs of the Silver Naga hotel.

Vang Vieng is known for tubing. The same river we were kayaking is used daily by hundreds of intoxicated foreigners to float past a gauntlet of bars, each eager to toss you a line and sell you a bucket of something. I'm not judging, I fully intend to be one of those intoxicated foreigners early next week. But this morning we were out before the festivites began. The launch area, where the bars, swings, beer pong, mud volleyball and ziplines live was calm. The water was glassy save a few long tails shuttling beer  to the thatched roof bars across the river. A few were playing dub step even at this early hour, but no one was really about.

Just past the tubing area I saw a water buffalo completely submersed save the top of his head and snout. Another was wading shoulder deep by the bank. They gave me a bit of a warning snort as I paddled out of my way toward them, so I gave them a wide berth. A few catfish swam by at one point and a flurry of bubbles surfaced at another time. My curiosity must have shown, somy guide told me not to worry, probably just a crocodile.

We arrived back at the Silver Naga hotel and pulled ashore. Our guide took care of all our gear for us and we were on our was. A fantastic way to start the day, I was in high gear all morning. I wasn't until about 3pm that I felt the need for a power nap. I love

My new blog

I've created a new blog of just random things I think of. Apparently people enjoy reading these. I don't get it.

Anyway todaysrandomthinkings.blogspot.com is the new spot. And you can check out my website if you like too www.empirearts.ca .  Ok, thanks for dropping by.

Love,
Luke

Looking for work

I'm trying to find a job in the film industry. The problem is...I'm 36, heavily in debt and I don't have any experience in the film industry. Even if I did, its a tough field. Most of the ads I see want someone with at least 5 years experience. I have 2 months. In a field I'm not terribly interested in.

I guess this goes back to the old conumdrum, can't get a job with now experience, can't get experience with now job. It makes things a little difficult.

All that being said, I've got my heart set on a couple of companies that i really want to work for and I've set them as goals. In the mean time I'm going to do what ever it takes to get into those places. That might mean taking a job I don't really want to get through pay the bills while I work on the skillz. But I guess that's part of it.

So...anybody hiring??



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to Laos - The Thing about Crickets is...

The coolest part about travelling is meeting new people. Spending the past 2 weeks in Laos I've made friends with a couple from Vang Tien. This evening after work they took us for some real Laos food just outside the main area of Vang Vieng.

The restaurant "Full Moon 2" (there are many bars restaurants and shops with 'moon' in the name here)  was brightly lit with thousands of Christmas lights. The kind of lights that are wrapped in a plastic tube so they look like rope. As we walked up several people sitting in the dining area looked up at us, then started to scramble. I realised we were the only customers, the other 15 people or so were staff.

Caught a cricket in chop sticks.
Take that Daniel-san!!
About 4 of them hung around as we attempted to order. Unfortunately for me and one other in our party, the menu was in Laos. My friend Vet began ordering in Laos for us. When she was done, the other westerner in our group asked us what she'd ordered.

"Chicken tendons, duck necks, prawns, soup, and deep fried crickets" At first I thought she was kidding, then she said "Oh and some french fries"

The chicken tendons came first, deep fried and served with a sweet sauce. Other than the unusual chewy, stringy texture, they were surprisingly good. Next the bad news came. No duck necks. Vet rambled something in Laos and the waitress (or waiter, I really couldn't tell) tottled off to the kitchen. Sweet N' Sour pork. Awsome!

Next came the prawns and the crickets. I don't like sea food so I opted for the crickets. To be fair Ana went first. She closed her eyes, pushed her shoulders up and made the strangest face as she chewed frantically. She said it tasted like prawns.

Great.

It took me 10 minutes of eating french fries and changing the subject to work up the courage. When I was finally ready to eat the damn thing my phone rang. Saved by the bell.  After dispatching my call I was immediately called out for taking so long. (Actually Ana called me a pussy)  My friend Peter was ready with his camera (His name is actually Peter Pan, I didn't believe him at first) I took a deep breath...tightened my grip on my chop sticks and popped Jimeney down the hatch. Crickets are not nearly as crunch as I thought they'd be, and that was somehow comforting. The poor little guy broke apart in my mouth. Mostly flavourless and about the same texture as the skin on a peanut, it really wasn't so bad.

I washed my latest snack down with some beer Laos and had another french fry.  The rest of the meal was fantastic and I have to say, I really like Laos cuisine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day -Laos Style

It's V day here. Actually it's V day home too but you are all still snug as bugs in bed. The 14 hour time change does my head in.

Valentine's day actually snuck up on me this year. It seems that commercially fabricated holidays designed to increase the sale of Candy, Cards, Flowers and assorted Red Junk are not that popular in SE Asia. Back in Canada, I'm sure the last month has been a red blur of candy coated heart shaped advertising.

Last Valentines day I had just landed in Aus. Romance was in the air at my hostel where groups of backpackers went off to dinner, only to return 6 hours later, drunk and horny. The Valentines day before that I got into a fight with the girl I was dating while were were away for the weekend and we broke up. Happy days.

I was really made aware of Valentine's day a moment ago. I gave my friend's 3 year old a red marker and some post it notes to occupy her while I tried to work. She immediately drew misshapen red circle and handed it to me proclaiming, with a strong Laos accent, that she loved me. Our editor then announced "Aw, It's Valentine's day!"

I looked down at this happy little girl holding up a day glow yellow post-it, proudly emblazoned with a home made heart and said

"You're not my type, I think we should just be friends, now please leave me alone so I can get some work done" She stuck it on my arm anyway and toddled off blissfully unaware of how badly she'd just gotten dissed.

I love holidays!


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Monday, February 13, 2012

Working on a Movie -Adaptable

You need to adapt. To all sorts of shit. Hours, conditions, equipment, people, schedule, surprises...the list goes on.

On this trip I started out working at an amazing 5 * hotel with one guy. He taught me a lot of stuff. Then two more people joined our small little suite. But the view was great. Elephants walking by the grounds each day, babbling river, fantastic staff catering to us. Life was good.

Then we moved. To an alright hotel. Alright if we hadn't been at an AMAZING hotel the day before. My room was full of mosquitoes. The water was brown for a few minutes when you first turned it on. The staff was slow. Our little edit suite was now half a hotel room that the editor was staying in. There were 4 of us there and it was hot as hell. The AC worked but it was LOUD.

Oh, yeah, and 'people'....that's an important one. People are quirky. And they have habits and ideas and ways of doing things. And idosycracies. We all have 'em. It takes about a week for them to start to appear. About another 3 days for them to become annoying I figure. Add that to a tiny hot room with four people working long hours in it...well, we're lucky to be alive I figure.

Now we're in Laos. We are within walking distance to everything and have much more access to the rest of the crew. We get to go out and do things at night, see the sites. Have fun. The motivation to work a 14 hour day is waning. But, some days you have to. You need to adapt.

I'm not too bad at adapting. Working conditions don't bother me much. Shit, SFS was either freezing or boiling at all times, sometimes both in the same day. I just pretty much need a chair and a computer and I'm good to go. I don't deal well with bullshit though. If you can't give me a solid reason for wanting me to do something, I'm going to question it, and get annoyed. Sometimes I need to relax that rule though.

Its now 3am. I just finished work. I started at 10. Just part of the deal. Have to roll with the punches.

Laos

We landed in Udon Thani in a plane with a duck bill painted nose. A quick drive brought us to the border. It took about an hour to get about 30 of us through. Travelling with a 70 year old Thai TV star makes life interesting. People stopped to ask her questions or get pics and she'd make them laugh with her antics.

Welcome to Laos, pop 6,200,894. The hammer and sickle flags are a dead give away that we'd entered a communist state. Be that as it may, capitalism is alive and well here. The myriad of electronics, tonics, and pirated harmonics (music dvds, its a stretch, I know, but if you can do better....) on display at the duty free is a testament to that.
   
~Things I've learned in Laos: If there is a light above your bed LEAVE IT OFF or a staggering number of minuscule flies will fly into the light and stay there until they are cooked to death, only to fall onto your pillow.


After a few purchases we loaded the vans for a 4 hour trip over the worst roads I've ever driven on...and I've driven to Indian Mountain and back. Its not like dirt roads, its worse. It's dirt roads that used to be paved, but years if not decades of indifference have left them a mangled track of jutting tarmac and stone peppered between ten meter stretches of solid pavement. Our driver treated it like the groomed concrete of a formula 1 track. Passing on blind corners, being forced onto jarring shoulders where holes and stone were the norm, and dodging oncoming traffic seemed very much the norm to him.



Arriving in Vang Vieng is like arriving in a past that's been victimized by the present. Thatched huts line the roads along the village. Legions of scooters scamper through the streets overtaken by rumbling trucks and vans laden with inner tubes and foreigners. Restaurants featuring raised seating platforms with stubby little tables face plasma screens blasting Friends, or The Family Guy. I would hazard that 90 percent of restaurants or bars are playing one of those two shows. Depending on the time of day, the corpses of stoned or hung over backpackers are strewn across the cushions and mats at each table.


~Things I've learned in Laos:  A bottle of Whiskey for 15,000 kip (+/- $1.80). If there's a snake in it, "Don't worry, it acts like viagra"-bartender, Smile Bar.


Colonised by the French, their Asian servants fought back and reclaimed Loas leaving behind a varied culinary culture. Coffee, baguettes and pasteries are served neatly beside Larp and Laos BBQ. The food is amazing and cheap. The latest incarnation of Laos cuisine includes pizzas, garlic bread, brownies and milkshakes prepared with weed, mushrooms or opium. It's been the hot topic of discussion over dinner lately.


Drugs are highly illegal, this being asia, and a communist country no less, however the trend is tolerated here. While walking with a long haired buddy in a hawiian shirt one evening, a guy on a moped stopped out of the blue before us, shut off his engine and asked if we wanted to get happy. I almost had my belt undone before he said, "No, do you want to buy drugs? Weed? Opium?" 
"ooooohhhh"


~Things I've learned in Laos: The more fun the shit on the menu is, the less fun the staff is.


Each year 9 Australians, usually young backpackers, die in Vang Vieng. Most drown while tubing down the river. The wide variety of bars along the river eager to toss you a line and refill your Whisky/Redbull bucket may or may not be a contributing factor. Other dangerous yet fun activities include Kayaking, Hot Air Ballooning, Boat Tours, Rock Climbing, Spelunking in any of the various caves in the area, and Rock Climbing.


The other major pass time is drinking. BeerLao, the local brew is exceptionally good. Buckets of booze and redbull are dirt cheap and often come with free TShirts. Thatched roof huts serve as bars with hammocks, beer pong, pool and makeshift dance floors. Fire dancers light up the night. Most are staffed with expats who've elected to extend their vacation in exchange for lo/no pay and a free room. 


~Things I've learned in Laos: The party doesn't start till after midnight.
















Thursday, February 2, 2012

Working on a movie

Working on a movie is a pretty cool thing. I'm meeting people that worked with Stallone on Rambo. I'm surrounded by creative minds and problem solvers. I'm making friends from another part of the world.

And it's exciting!

The other day a coworker was bit by a monkey. I watched an elephant put a bomb on a truck. I rode a rubber raft to set one night in the dark because it was the only way to get there. Oh, and the food on set is spectacular.

Then there's the other side. I'm staying in a shitty hotel fill of mosquitos (mosquitoes?). I've officially eaten too much rice. I'm done with rice. Fuck rice. I'm stuck in a small, hot room 12 hours per day doing something don't particularly enjoy.

I'm calling that last bit "paying my dues" for the moment. But I'm not meant to be someone's assistant. I resent being told to call someone and get information about things when there's a phone sitting beside that person. I resent catering to their strange requests solely on the basis that I "might learn something" because they've got more experience than me. Don't get me wrong, I've learned a lot but I hate feeling like I'm someone servant. Its a mental thing, a bizarre mistrust and dislike for authority. Maybe I'll get over it one day, but probably not.

On the plus, I'm headed to Laos in 5 days. Never been to Laos... let's see what happens.

L

NYE 2011 (or 2012)

When we say new years eve, do we mean the year that just ended or the year that's just about to start? I think technically it means the one that just ended. I'd just like to be clear.

The most recent new year's eve, and the last one according to the Mayan Calendar, was an amazing one for this Mayan.  (For some reason the Mayan calendar has some sort of relevance now, although not important enough to know any other important dates on it...here's a website if you ever want to know what day today is on the Mayan Calendar  http://mayancalendar4u.com/page/10215  and happy "white HAND manik' ~ gather will branches" day!)

I had drinks with a buddy as we strolled to the city and watched  the early fireworks at The Rocks. Then I headed to a friend's place for a NYE party at Circular Quay right between the bridge and opera house. Most of my favorite people from school were there. At midnight we moseyed down to the viewing area and watched an amazing fireworks show. If you like fireworks, this a 'bucket list kind of show'. Who doesn't like fireworks??

Back at the party we drank our host dry and he kicked us out. I don't blame him. We caught a bus to the beach and waited till the world turned enough to reveal the sun. A swim, a nap, a quick packing job and 8 hours later was on a first class flight to BKK.

Pretty good start huh?