Updating and cleaning up

It’s been a while since I really took a good look at this website, and it shows. I’ve been so focused on the current job that a lot of the creative focus I had for this site went by the wayside, along with my creative drive as a whole. I’m right now in the process of giving everything here a clean up, not including ripping out whatever old WordPress plugins and getting the site up to date. I’m trying to get back to thinking about creative projects again, and what I want to have on this blog again. One of the ideas I have is to just do some blog posts about some random things I like, combined with coding projects or other things I can call my own.

More to come sooner than later.

The return of this blog

2019 has been an odd time for me so far. I planned to bring this website back in tandem with projects and content I had been working on, but life has a way to throw such plans sideways (and then some).

My previous employer closed suddenly last February as the owner of the nonprofit passed away. It’s one thing to be laid off, but mix in a pinch of shock and a heaping of grief and anger- you can begin to imagine what it’s been like so far. I’ve been told more than once by others how impressed they were to see me handling it all.

As I searched for a new job, I realized I needed to get this site up sooner than later. So as I’m searching for a new job/career path, I resurrected this dinky WordPress blog with a default theme. I wish I had the time to make some bespoke theme, but I did what I could to stylize it, and will probably keep tweaking it until I have the time to properly make something that’s mine.

I am working on a portfolio for this site, and I do have some content waiting for me to publish publicly. So expect to see more. When? Possibly after a few more interviews this week, maybe next week. Things are still tumultuous and I really don’t know where things are headed anymore, so leaving myself with nebulous goals is a safe bet for me.

To close it out, here’s a copy of my header image I threw onto my Flickr account- one of my favorite photos I’ve taken of Los Angeles about two-ish years ago on my iPhone 6.

Slice of LA

Managed to get that shot while out working my second job and it still manages to be one of my favorite photos I’ve ever done. Delivering alcohol in the greater Los Angeles area resulted in me meeting all sorts of characters and stories I keep thinking about transcribing one day. If I ever get the chance to, at least.

Thermal Selfie

I haven’t written much in a while.

Life gets the best of me, and work has been such a giant part of my life that I neglect to write. Or do anything but work related stuff.

I hate that. I need to change that.

I’m working on some more longform stuff, but before I go, a picture.

Here’s a selfie I took of myself against a metal wall using a thermal camera I got to mess around with. Just my body heat reflecting off of a metal elevator wall at work.

Thermal Selfie

dj orta dot com.

I’ve been holding off on launching my own personal website for a few years now.

And when I mean launch, actually launch and use the fricking thing. I had installed WordPress on it a millennia ago, importing everything over from my livejournal upon it. I started double posting things on both livejournal and WordPress at the same time, actually, using MarsEdit as an intermediary (I seriously can’t say enough good things about that app- buy it if you do any sort of blogging on more than one site. Hell, when I posted on insulinfunk years and years ago, I would keep all my drafts on MarsEdit before I published them on the site proper) before I gave up on Livejournal a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been posting things to my original URL (danielorta.com) from time to time, when my mind actually remembered to post things to it.

The biggest problem I’ve been facing is my own satisfation. I’ve been trying to get something off the ground, something I can be proud of. And I’ve tried- time and time again. I’ve tried multiple ideas and designs, and honestly, I’m sick and tired of the whole process. I finally have a simple, clean design I’m satisfied with.

So in short- I’m relaunching my website, now here, at DJ Orta dot com. It’ll have a small version of my portfolio work (done so far) along with some other goodies.

Got to see Conan

I went to see Conan today. For those who see the show tonight: Biscuts!

I got to see Conan.

I haven’t been to a live taping a show for a long time now. I wrack my mind right now trying to come up with great examples of where I’ve been at, but the last place I remember is seeing American Gladiator at the tail end of the show’s lifespan (or I think I watched that show. My memory is fuzzy on that part, but for some odd reason, I remember seeing a show with a giant foam ball gun, so I assume it was that show)

You never see the behind the scenes of it all- and it was amazing to watch. Everyone had everything fucking down. The wait to get in line, to get to the studio, to be seated, to watch the show itself took absolutely forever. But once it started- it took basically the show’s length for it to be shot- save for a few camera repositions, it was 30 minutes in and out, musical guests, comedy sketches, everything.

But the remarkable thing was the joy on everyone’s faces. The look on Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band is of joy as members bound through the studio audience, pumping them up with songs. And one cannot forget Conan himself- who prowls around, talking to all the members of the crew as they prepare the next segment easily. He towers over everyone in height, yet he was just one of the guys, being friendly and overall incredibly kind.

It was a blast to watch- I’m definitely considering going again soon.

By the way, I was on episode #412, “The Very Understated Adventures of Captain Beige”. The best you could see of me was you see was a giant orange blob, where I melded with my friend together into the audience.

Me on Conan

Fruits of Kickstarter

I had a small spark of Kickstarter addiction last year. I’ve been able to temper that addiction a bit with the new year, but at least I get to enjoy the first fruits of that limited shopping spree. On the very same day, I received two packages, each one containing a webcomics kickstarter reward.


I had already written about the Widdershins, a comic I had earlier suggested to support. It’s wonderful to see Kate Ashwin’s work in printed form. She’s been a kind person to me and a great artist who’s whimsical whit and stylings have crafted a wonderful world of Widdershins and it’s inhabitants. Johnny Wander, on the other hand, has been a gorgeous diary/journal-esque story of two webcomic artists and their daily life. It’s been a quiet favorite of mine for some time, so having the printed copies of volume 1 and 3 have been a lovely treat to have.

As I read through both of these comics, a sense of nostalgia came over me. It’s been years since I was in the world of webcomics proper. I was a shit writer, attempting to become a webcomics critic of people’s work that spent time (and sometimes money) into this quirky medium. A lot of these comics will never be known-some may just fade into obscurity on the internet. But they still persist, for the love of the medium or just wanting to tell their story.

I found my old bookmarks from my time as a reviewer. Last time I counted, there was close to 300–400 comics listed there. It took me nearly an hour to get through them every day, as I organized all the webcomics by their update frequency. It was a challenge- and I loved it.

But it was a crapshoot. It took too much money, too much time, and the reward was insignificant to my future. At a certain point, I had to give it up. Since then, I haven’t read as many webcomics as I do now. But I still miss it. I miss the enviroment of a truly set of indie comics and their unique artists and writers.

Ah, well.

Wait shit I forgot to order Johnny Wander volume 2…. crap.

Late Night Chinatown

“Hey, are you busy tonight?”. Those are the words I got from Primo. No warning, just a question. It was already close to about 9 o’clock at night on a weekday when he called me with that query.

However, I knew exactly what it meant. Having Primo calling you for no reason late at night only one thing: a late night photo run. He loves to do environmental photography of Los Angeles, taking pictures of buildings the areas around them. Doing this, however since going out late at night with the camera he uses in downtown LA and its neighborhoods can be somewhat risky. Something that most people would not recommend to do by themselves. He asks random friends from time to time to accompany him, and when he asks me, I’m… honored.

Primo in motion
So a few hours later we set off, with our goal of late night photography in mind. We done it plenty of times before. Primo wanted to try out his new camera so I came up with an idea- why not Chinatown? I’ve taken pictures and video all the time in Chinatown usually in the middle of the day, when the place is bustling with activity. The neon lights in Los Angeles’ Chinatown seems to accentuate the individuality of that district from all the others.

At night, it empties out, save for a bar or two in the area. The idea of its neon lights in the late night on empty streets seemed like a perfect idea, so we set off to LA’s Chinatown.

The streets are deserted, no one around, exempt for the cockroaches that skittered past my feet, daring me to step on them. I simply stood, watching the streets for people as he darted about with the camera, taking pictures of random objects.

He squints his eyes, looking at something in the distance. Examining for a shotHe turns to me and asks my opinion for it. Being someone with some skill in photography (not much, really), I’m happy when he asks my opinion. And I do so with a sense of pride as I give him my two cents. I’ll keep watch out for anyone, as Primo focuses on the photography itself.

We talk about random conversations, about memories of the past, and catching up since we’ve seen each other last. I tell him about the maddening amount of customers at work, and he tells me about his latest photography projects and clients. It’s a nice way for us to have time just for ourselves, even if it’s in a roach-infested Chinatown.

I come home exhausted, usually a few hours later. I’ll see the pictures maybe a week or so later. I look upon them with fondness, a bit of pride as I was able to, in some small way, be of some help to Primo.

(This was something I wrote months ago, but neglected to put on the site until now. Go look at Primo’s work, you jerks, he’s great!.)

Late Night Chinatown

Retail on the Holidays

Day five out of six in a row.

Last night, I got off of my work at 11. Today, I reported for duty at 7 am. I had a total of eight hours to drive my coworkers home (I do so for some so they don’t have to ride the bus so late at night), wish my sister a happy birthday (this year, she turns 23), sleep, and repeat this cycle over again. Working retail during the holidays, to put in simple terms, just drains every part of you.

I have no energy when I get home. Those times I planned to work out in the evening end up with me lying in bed, staring at the ground with a lack of willpower do push-ups. Plans to work on future projects are tossed aside as I try and not think about the man who’s screamed at me multiple days in a row.

I just don’t have the energy for the willpower sapped away as customer after customer comes at me like a never ending stream of self imposed misery as they put off their holiday shopping until the very last minute.

But there’s a certain moment that I catch that makes this all worth it. That smile forming slowly over the customers face as they finally found that perfect present.

That shy smile forming on a six year olds face as I present to him (at the behest of his mother) his early Christmas gift. He clutched it, gripping his new toy with such eagerness I find myself content. Happy to see his face turn into a shy grin.

Letting a customer know that yes, we do have that product still in stock, and their sigh of relief as I present that gift they would have scoured the entire Los Angeles area to look for.

It’s those times that make it worth it. That make me happy to be here. It’s having those moments where I know I’m tired but, I have my coworkers there to support me. Retail isn’t a fancy job, nor is it something glamorous.

Retail can make bitter husks out of people, and I’ve seen it happen. I would like to think that I’ve gained patience, understanding of the problems those face in the service and retail world. And I enjoy it- I just have to look for those small things that make the overall experience that makes it worthwhile. Or at least, tolerable.

note: I wrote this when on four hours of sleep or so. If I sound disjointed, my apologies. I will be writing more soon.

My sister and Rachael Ray

My sister and I have… a less than optimistic viewpoint on the famous cook, Rachel Ray. It’s not that we hate her- it’s more like… we strongly dislike her. Her fake optimism, the whole empire she built as a cheap Martha Stewart- okay, that’s beside the point, but either way… Imagine our surprise to discover that my grandmother has a subscription to Rachael Ray Magazine. My sister, being a good “adult” per se, started to deface the magazines as they arrived at my grandma’s house. Crazy point though- my grandmother has yet to notice. There’s a stack of magazines still in her living room with this artwork. I check on them occasionally, seeing what my sister’s latest mad works look like. Here’s a small taste:

Unibrow Rachael Ray

Chola Rachael Ray (that one is my favorite)

Derp Rachael Ray

By the way, she’s in her twenties. My sister is so special.