Monday, February 28, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

If you didn't know already, I am a Disneyland NUT!  Seriously, it is totally my happy place and when I am there, all worries go away.  Last week, we got to go again courtesy of my more than generous parents who treated us as a Christmas present.  We left before dawn on Monday morning for the trek down to Southern California and were in the park by 2PM, I believe.  We spent that first day in California Adventure as it is now tradition to go straight to Tower of Terror.  It was also fun to go because it was sister's first time since they built California Adventure.  Unfortunately, as a preggo, she couldn't go on some of the best rides!  We were there all night and it was simply beautiful once the sun went down.

February 21st, 2011 - Day 52

The next day was Jessica's 33rd birthday!  How lucky for her to spend the day in the park and have everyone tell her Happy Birthday all day!

February 22nd, 2011 - Day 53

Even more fun was the fact that we got to eat in the VERY exclusive Club 33 in Disneyland, a member's only club that many people don't even know exists.  The food and ambiance were AMAZING and it was once in a lifetime experience.  How many others can do Club 33 on the day you turn 33?  

Wednesday was out last day and we spent it in both parks, trying to get as much as we could in that final day.  Trips go so fast!  Of course, we had to go on Tower of Terror one more time!

February 23rd, 2011 - Day 54

Thursday was sad as we had to drive home, but guess what?  Our next trip won't be too far in the future!  Yes, with Jess about to go out on work leave for up to 6 months because of her knee surgery, we opted to buy a year pass as we figure we can get in a couple more trips while she is out.  With her out and my flexible schedule, it should happen!  This is so exciting!  For the first time ever, I am a season pass holder!!!

February 24th, 2011 - Day 55

We came home to an awesome sign created by our wonderful friend, Yvette, who watched the dogs for us while we were gone.  As the dog lovers we are, this sign is absolutely perfect!

February 25th, 2011 - Day 56

While in Disneyland, we bought a ton of memorabilia, including finally getting a toy of my favorite Disney character, the alien from Toy Story.  I have been wanting one for a while and finally got one, no matter how overpriced it was.  Yes, a few days after leaving Disneyland, I was still taking pictures that reminded me of the place!  Here, the alien looks out for, "The PAW!"

February 26th, 2011 - Day 57

My last two pictures of the day have been strawberry related!  Last night, we made the most amazing strawberry shortcakes and today, I opted for something a little closer.

February 27th, 2011 - Day 58

February 28th, 2011 - Day 59

Yup, that should catch me up...

OH!  Of course it was so hard to limit my picture of the day to just one Disney picture each day so if you like, check out the slideshow of all my pictures from the trip.  There's some winners in there to see.  Trust me!  Click here!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Brief Oscar Rundown

Well, I am back from vacation and the business in my life has just continued.  I know I promised you a full Oscar rundown post, but vacations and work got the best of me.  Here is a somewhat brief rundown of the movies so you can at least get my basic views of what will go down tonight.

Let me start off by saying that I genuinely liked all ten movies nominated.  Sure, there have been years where all the movies ranged from good to decent, but this is the first time that I have really liked all the movies since the first year I made the effort to see all the movies nominated before the awards show.  That year was 1997 when I enjoyed Titanic, As Good As It Gets, L.A. Confidential (which SHOULD have won), The Full Monty, and Good Will Hunting. 

So, with that in mind, it makes it tough to rank the ten movies in order of preference because that means putting movies I liked on the bottom of a list.  But, it has to be done so here we go.  Keep in mind, this is NOT the order in which I believe the movies are deserving of the Best Picture award.  This is simply the order in which I enjoyed the movies.  So here we go with very brief reviews...

10. Winter's Bone - It is tough putting a movie you like in the bottom spot, but it had to happen to someone.  It is even harder for me to put this in the bottom because it had two VERY good performances.  Jennifer Lawrence was amazing in the lead role and I really felt her pain and struggle in trying to find her father while dealing with the shady characters around town.  And John Hawkes in the supporting role was AMAZING.  He truly deserves the supporting actor nomination that he received and is unlucky to get nominated in such a tough year full of outstanding performances.  Not bad for a guy who, until this movie, was best known to me as liquor store clerk, Pete Bottoms, from my favorite film, From Dusk til Dawn!

9. Toy Story 3 - Pixar really did it again with another outstanding movie.  The thing is though, I don't know if I would consider this one any better than the first two Toy Story films and certainly not better than Up from last year.  The movie is a touching movie about growing up and moving on and it provided plenty of laughs to keep me entertained.  But as for getting nominated for Best Picture, I am still not sure why it is getting so much love and in some cases, what people think should WIN the award.  Again, don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I would have preferred if something else like The Town had taken its place.

8. 127 Hours - What a great one man show by James Franco.  He put on an outstanding performance and is truly coming into his own as a top actor in the industry.  I would have never predicted that when Jess and I used to be glued to the TV watching him on Freaks and Geeks.  And visually, the movie is gorgeous, no doubt aided by the beautiful location in was filmed in.  In the end though, I found myself waiting for the arm cutting scene and just wanted them to get to it, even if it signaled the end of the movie.  Still, a very good movie about an amazing experience.

7. The Kids Are Alright - Now we are getting down to the truly difficult in the ranking of films.  This movie only makes in to #7 and I LOVED it.  With outstanding performances, great humor, and enough dilemmas to make you question what you would do if in the same situation of the characters, this movie really touched me.  As Jess and I have discussed, it really did a great job of portraying just how awkward a meeting like this would be in real life.  The faces and uncomfortable silences were so genuine and believable, no doubt aided by the great performances.  I especially liked Mark Ruffalo in this film, but again, he is in that tough Supporting Actor class where the competition is more fierce than ever.  I actually felt very sorry for him and found him to be the most likable character in the bunch.  I really liked this film.

6. The Social Network - Now you are asking me to choose between my children!  Wow, I never imagined this movie would be all the way down at #6.  I mean, I loved this film and the writing on it may be the best out of all the nominees.  The acting is top-notch (Timberlake can actually act!) and the story is full of so much humor, drama, and intrigue, it is easy to see why this is one of the front runners.  It's a wonderful film.  I also love the dark look the film had.  Overall, this movie is just outstanding and it annoys me when I hear people say that they don't want to see it because "...a movie about Facebook is dumb." It is SO much more than that and the film could have been about any start up company.  Top-class.

5. The Fighter - A feel good sports film that really delivers.  In fact, this is my favorite sports film since Miracle.  It is a wonderful story than is taken to a top level film by its wonderful performances.  I have never seen Christian Bale do better.  He literally WAS the character his role was based on as evidenced by the footage during the credits.  If he ends up winning tonight, which I think he will, he truly deserves it.  Leo and Adams were also amazing in the supporting female roles and Walhberg had one of his best performances as well.  Everyone likes a good feel-good sports movie and this one took it to another level as it is much more than just a sports film.  Much more.

4. Inception - Hard to believe that a movie that I rated a 10/10 back when I saw it would only make it to number 4 on my list.  I mean, I LOVED this movie.  Visually, this movie is something that needs to be seen to understand and the story and complexity of it (even if it may be based on a Scooge McDuck comic) are just beyond belief.  The first half of the movie with the planning of the heist is full of intrigue and when the second half rolls around with the actual heist, I found myself on the edge of my seat the entire time.  And that ending, that final scene, was one of the best I, personally, have ever experienced.  A truly entertaining science fiction film.

3. True Grit - There really is something magical about a good Western film.  Not any Western film, but a truly good one.  This easily falls into the category.  Although I have, unfortunately, never seen the original and have nothing to base it on, I feel like this was a perfect Western.  The performances by Bridges and Steinfeld were absolutely outstanding and there was not one single moment in this film where I was bored or ready for them to move on.  I am guessing the film was about two hours long and when the ending did come, it felt like one of the quickest two hours in recent memory.  I wanted more and couldn't believe we were already at the end of the adventure.

2. The King's Speech - This was the last of the films that I saw (just saw it last night), and I almost saved the best for last.  This is a truly outstanding film.  For one, the performances are simply out of this world.  Firth truly deserves the Oscar he is going to win tonight and Rush, while I don't feel he deserves it over Bale in The Fighter, also put in a top notch performance.  The thing with Rush is, he is SO good, it almost looks effortless for him, like he isn't even acting but just being himself.  I am still not sure why Carter was nominated for this film however as, while she was good, didn't think she did QUITE enough to warrant a nomination.  Storyline-wise, I was drawn in from the beginning, an achievement for a simple film about a guy trying to get over his stutter.  But it felt like a good sports film in terms of feel good achievement.  At the end of the film when he is delivering his speech to the nation, I felt as on edge as I have with any good sports film.  It was that great of a feel-good moment.  A truly remarkable piece of filmmaking. And by the way, this is probably winning tonight.

1. Black Swan - Beautiful.  Honestly, I could end the review there.  That is a one work description of the film that totally gets the point across of how I feel about this film.  I came out of this movie drained because it takes so much out of you.  Portman was at her all-time best and makes this movie what it is, but the other supporting performances were also superb.  The movie really messes with your mind and although it is obvious that so many of the visuals are simply symbolism and not what is actually happening, the film still oozes with WTF moments that both amaze and creep you out at the same time.  And it all leads up to the finale which is one of the most beautiful scenes and endings that I have ever seen put on film.  The music, the performance, and the story all came to a head that ended in a denouement that left me absolutely breathless and almost tired.  It was just that powerful and has to be seen to believed.

And with that, there is my BRIEF Oscar rundown for tonight.  When I started this post, I had every intention to predict every winner for each category, but I have gone on long enough.  Jess and I always compete so I will simply let you know later how I did as I usually do pretty well.  If you are still reading at this point, thanks for sticking along and ignoring any typos because at this point, I am not going back and proofreading this monster!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quick, and I mean, QUICK post!

Leaving for Disneyland in about 9 hours.  Disneyland is SO my happy place!  But first, the last two pictures of the day...

Spooky, but cool, antique clapping monkey.  I want one!

February 19th, 2011 - Day 50

Today was friggin' beautiful outside.  And it was also much needed after being such an ugly week.  A sign of things to come?

February 20th, 2011 - Day 51
That's it...I am outta here!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The King of Bunco

February 18th, 2011 - Day 49

I was a sub tonight for the ladies' Bunco night and guess what, I actually came out on top as the big winner! Technically, I won two of the four prizes, but as they have a rule that you can only win one, I took the prize that paid out the most money!
 February 18th, 2011 - Day 49

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scrappy and Scruffy

Although that sounds like the title of a new kids show you might find on Nickelodeon, the title actually refers to the two new pictures of the day. 

The first picture shows that one man's trash can end up being another person's treasure of a picture.  Jess was busy making a cool autograph book for a child's first trip to Disneyland and was left with a ton of colorful scraps that were just going to go in the garbage.  I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea, but it was actually Jess who suggested that the scraps would look cool in a picture.  She came up with it, and I made it happen!

February 16th, 2011 - Day 47

For today, I chose to document Winston's first haircut.  He's about 5 and a half months old and it was about time for a haircut.  He was getting so scruffy and full of matted hair so it was pretty much a necessary thing.  He looks like such a different dog!  He's still cute, but a different kind of cute.  Love that dog!

February 17th, 2011 - Day 48

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Shire

February 15th, 2011 - Day 46
"Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?"
— J.R.R. Tolkien

When I first saw this drainage area and thought to shoot it, I thought it would look like a cool, spooky photo. I figured it would come out looking creepy. Then I took the picture, came and looked at it on the laptop, and it gave me a COMPLETELY different feel. It looks almost peaceful like and it kind of even reminded me of the visuals from the Lord of the Rings movies of the Shire. I could almost picture a little Hobbit coming out of there like it was his home. Funny how the feel of a picture can change so much in just a short amount of time.

February 15th, 2011 - Day 46

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hectic Life

First post in a week.  Man, I am just SO busy lately.  Granted, the first few days after my last post, I was out of town, but since returning, I have been one busy guy.  Catching up on work, catching up on processing of photos, and catching up on life sure keeps me busy.  But life is good so I can't complain.  Plus, a week from now, I'll be in Disneyland!

So what have I been doing?  Well, Tuesday, we went down to the Central Coast to go visit family.  It is just so relaxing for us there and the added bonus of having such a great family down there makes it a doubly wonderful time.  Really, if we could move there, we would.  My cousin, Jeremy, likes to collect unique instruments so I took the opportunity to take a picture of his Oud, an Egyptian guitar.  I could have taken a wide view of it so you could see the whole thing, but I felt this was more unique.  I am pretty happy it came out like this since I was pretty tipsy on tequila when I took it!

February 8th, 2011 - Day 39

The following day was ocean day.  We went and had brunch on the pier - love me some fish 'n chips.  We walked around Morro Bay and then followed it up with a drive to Pismo.  We saw the Monarch butterflies and their yearly migration and then went to the beach.  This was Winston's first time on a beach and he LOVED it!  I took a bunch of pics that I absolutely love, but this one won out in the end for my favorite.

February 9th, 2011 - Day 40
But like I said, I am in love with the pics I took and there was much more than just 1 good one.  Check out the slideshow here.  I promise you, you'll find some cool pics.

Thursday was the return trip home, but the fun continued a little upon our return when my folks came over so my dad could try my new tequila.  While I was waiting for him to come over, I took a quick shot of the bottles.  Looks like an advertisement should the company wish to contact me.

February 10, 2011 - Day 41

Friday was a reminder that vacation was over as I put in an extremely long day at work.  I keep this up, I am going to need a recharge in my batteries.

February 11th, 2011 - Day 42

Saturday was an awesome day.  It started bright and early with a Manchester United game at 430am.  Why didn't I just TIVO it?  I have no will power not to look up a score of a game when I know it has already been completed.  But they won this HUGE game and it made waking up SO worth it!  The awesomeness continued throughout the day and concluded with a nice dinner downtown with Jess.  It was Second Saturday so there were people everywhere, both normal and SO not normal.  I went out of my box for the first time and photographed a complete stranger, with his permission, of course.

February 12, 2011 - Day 43

Sunday was filled with watching soccer and working on pictures.  I finally got all the wedding pictures done and as a side note, the mother of the groom, called me to say she couldn't be happier with them.  That made me feel so good.  I still have a blog post coming on the experience.  Anyways, time got the better of me and by the time I thought of taking a picture, I was in no mood for something artsy.  I opted for something quick and fun instead.  I call it, "Incognito."

February 13th, 2011 - Day 44

Which brings us to today, Valentine's Day.  I wanted to get Jessica's help so I woke up before six that why I could get her to help me before she left for her 12 hour shift at work.  For being half asleep, I am happy with it!

February 14th, 2011 - Day 45

Whew...sorry for the lengthy post, but I had to catch up!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Busy, busy, BUSY

No posts for the past few days and this will be a fairly quick one as well.  Why?  What has kept me so busy?   A little bit of everything!

Saturday, I was a wedding photographer for the very first time.  There is too much to go into, but I will write a full blog post on it later.  I am still working on developing the pictures and it might take me until the end of the week.  For now, here is a preview picture which I used as my picture of the day for Saturday.

February 5th, 2011 - Day 36

Sunday, I worked on developing some of the wedding pictures, and the went on to cleaning the house for our Super Bowl party.  We had a great party, but it was exhausting after being so busy the day before as well.  By the end of the day, Jess and I weren't the only ones in the house who were dead tired.

February 6th, 2011 - Day 37

Today, I worked over 12 hours.  It was a crazy day and I wanted to get as much done as I could as Jess and I are leaving tomorrow for a few days to the coast to get away and see family.  I am going to need it too as today was crazy long and crazy stressful.  This is how I felt at the end of the day.

February 7th, 2011 - Day 38

Hopefully, the next few days give us the relaxation we least until we go to Disneyland in a couple of weeks.  :-)

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Darkness Below

February 4th, 2011 - Day 35

"But she dreaded the dark, dreaded shadows, dreaded black things. Darkness to her was the one thing dreadful." -The Time Traveler, HG Wells

 February 4th, 2011 - Day 35

The calm before the storm and it has nothing to do with this picture.  Tomorrow, I am photographing my first wedding and I am pretty nervous.  I photograph for fun; I am no professional.  Still, people trust me and like my work so it should be interesting.  Please, wish me luck!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

New Toys Are Fun At Any Age

I got a new toy today!  You may think that I may be too old to be getting excited about getting toys, but I am totally a kid at heart.  Check it out!

February 3rd, 2011 - Day 34

Yup, I finally got an external flash for my camera!  I am totally excited about it!  I HATE using the flash on my camera because a direct flash gives such an unnatural, washed out effect.  Now with this, I can aim the flash elsewhere and still get the desired effect.  Heck, once I get a diffuser for it, I will be even more in business.  Now I just need to learn how to use it!  :-) 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Straws Going Towards the Light

Quick post as it is late.  Pretty simple picture today, but I was happy with how it came out.  I grabbed a bunch of straws and since it was nice and sunny, held it up to the glass slider.  With one hand, I held the straws and with the other hand, held the camera.  It might have come out a little clearer if someone else had held the straws, but it might not have mattered as I softened the pic anyways.  Pretty happy with it.

Febraury 2nd, 2011 - Day 33

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Celebration Month!

February 1st, 2011 - Day 32

Today is the beginning of what promises to be an amazingly awesome month.  We have a trip to the Central Coast planned.  We have a trip to Disneyland planned.  And Jessica's birthday is this month.  Heck, we will BE in Disneyland for Jessica's birthday.  I thought to myself, why not start off a good month by eating a great food - burger stuff with bleu cheese and bacon.  I know you are jealous. 

February 1st, 2011 - Day 32