Day 59: Embarking on Tour 2

Spent the last 10 days in Abu Dhabi editing our first three episodes and planning our second tour of four cities: Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok and Melbourne. We leave tonight for South Korea. It will be another whirlwind tour and we’re slightly less prepared than the first tour due to less prep time and more distractions in post, but I have no doubt it will be a blast. I love Japan and Australia. I expect to love Thailand and Korea as well.

As a side note, Google has been a great assistant to me on this trip. In fact, Google’s my only friend on this trip offering me logistical travel support. Google Now is an app that predicts what useful information you might want on hand and prepares it for you. For example, it plucked our flight reservation out of my email inbox and returned our flight status without me prompting a thing. So helpful!

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Wish us safe travels and luck shooting! I’ll try to stay in touch.

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Day 44: Every Pint of Guinness Tastes The Same

Last night, we met a local brewmaster from Australia who moved to Ireland to make craft beer (there’s not a whole lot of craft breweries here yet). He summed up my first impressions of Dublin beautifully: “I moved here for the only reason a non-Irishman would – I married an Irish girl.”

With that, it’s time to hit the pub.

Day 42: All Business

Dear friends – I am sorry I have failed to blog so far. Finally found a minute on our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin (no private televisions, otherwise I’d likely be watching a movie and relaxing my brain instead). Since day one, my journey has been 100% nonstop whirlwind business. I have not had a weekend, day or single hour free from taskmastering this television series. We are wildly understaffed, under-budgeted and under-scheduled. When people regard my trip with envy, I shrug because this has been all grind and no play – perhaps the most difficult job I have ever had. I have not been able to engage in the places traveled because I spend nearly 60% of my waking hours buried in a device. All things considered, I have been to some pretty incredible locations. I fancy it a sampler platter of countries and have every intention of visiting many of them again.

After a stressful prep period in Dubai (which I shall revisit in a later post), we started filming in Singapore. Definitely an awkward first date for the crew, network and show but I anticipate a strong first episode. You can see a video recap of our trip below. Singapore was incredibly friendly to startups and foreigners. Many people we met in the city were not native and moved there for a change of pace. Everything was pretty clean and tidy, not much stress or chaos as far as cities go. We were there during Chinese New Year which meant that many businesses were closed and costs for everything else were much higher. If you ever get a chance to eat stingray, please do – absolutely delicious. Special thanks to Ken, our local production manager and guide, for taking care of us so well.

From Singapore, we ventured to Istanbul. Dear lord, amazing city. So much history, such ripe culture. Video below as well. I’ve never been to a place that’s so ancient. My inner architecture nerd couldn’t contain itself. We spent almost all of our time on the European side of the city in a district known for nightlife and trendy youth. We met some very talented people and shared several evenings with them. There’s a lot of incredible opportunity in Istanbul, but it’s clear that history and tradition stand in the way of an otherwise progressive mentality sometimes. Many of the entrepreneurs we met were looking elsewhere to start businesses. We ate a lot of street food and drank the absolute best Turkish coffee. Smoke everywhere – everyone smokes and every restaurant or bar we went to was filled with it. Until ten years ago, most of the city was still heated by coal, so you can imagine how polluted it might still be. With ancient urban planning, traffic was untenable the entire time. Our local production fixer, Berk, was an outstanding gentleman and an absolute blast to hang out with. We were very well taken care of in Istanbul and I look forward to returning.

Our next episode to film would have been Stockholm, but drama ensued – our shows hosts, Emiratis from Dubai, secured the wrong visas and were not allowed to board our flight. We discovered this when the rest of the crew landed in Sweden. A damn shame we couldn’t film the episode because Stockholm is a remarkable city. Packed with gorgeous people, flawless urban planning, and a selection of the world’s best cuisine, whiskey and beer. Outrageously expensive, so it’s probably good for our budget that we couldn’t stay the whole time scheduled. Partly from the smoke of Istanbul and partly from stress, I got wildly ill and spent half our stay in my hotel room. Blessing in disguise that we didn’t film. The rest of our time there was spent in uber trendy coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Every detail of Stockholm is painstakingly designed. Interior decor junkies would cry everywhere they go – even fast food joints were ornamental and carried world class brews. I’ll be damned if I don’t spend a lot more time in Stockholm before I die.

We reached Dublin yesterday two days early to regroup. We will film the Ireland episode this week and plan ahead for our future tours of travel. We will head back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi after we wrap Dublin March 7 to edit and prep our second tour of four countries in Asia. With the Stockholm error, we will have to reschedule the rest of our show – and milk an extra country out of the deal to replace Sweden (which I personally cannot complain about). We’re reevaluating difficult countries to enter and film like India and Brazil. If all goes well, we may get the chance to visit countries on all 6 continents which would be wild.

I will do my best to keep you posted along the way. The closer we get to the end, the less planning I will have to do and hopefully be able to win some minutes back to write you. No promises of course.  But please know that I love you.

Day 1: Exploration

Landed in Dubai around midnight last night, and it took us a good two hours to get out of the airport (our passport check line took over an hour because, we presume, the guy taking care of us was in training). British Airways also sent our tripod on the next flight; it took us a while to figure that one out. Sadly Justin, one of the three Americans on the trip and my good friend from USC, didn’t make it out of LA (his flight was cancelled). Hopefully not a bad omen for logistics to come.

We finally made it to our hotel rooms by 2am where I showered and promptly passed out. 24 hours of travel and little to no sleep on planes does wonders for passing out. I knocked out an 11 hour jet lag with one punch.
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We met our hosts around noon the next day and enjoyed Indian food together. I’m not yet used to eating with my hands. Following that stop, we were left to explore the Dubai Mall. It’s huge.

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Dubai is not without familiar American comforts: Red Lobster, Chili’s, PF Changs, Burger King and pretty much any American chain you can name. Without Arabic everywhere, you could mistake this place for a Las Vegas competitor without the casinos, booze or sin. I have a feeling Dubai serves as a pilot city for consumer franchises looking to expand internationally. Another important thing to point out is how unbelievably international this city is. Everyone from everywhere all in one place. Truly the crossroads of the world. Los Angeles, New York and Montreal (all of which I consider very diverse) can’t hold a candle to Dubai.

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I’m not a huge mall fan, so we spent most of our day outside admiring the architecture. Right next door is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Impressive.

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I also rather enjoyed the Address hotel and the rest of the skyline.

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There was a water show on the water. Overhyped, in our opinion. No Bellagio or Disneyland.

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We took the metro back to our hotel, a pretty smooth system. The stations look like spaceships:

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Ended the night with Thai food and a beer at the pub to watch UAE (locals here) beat Iraq in a soccer championship on TV. You must have a permit issued by police to buy alcohol from what few liquor stores there are (I have seen none) and only hotels can sell booze.

Restaurants make do with mocktails and some of the best tea or coffee I’ve ever had.

Nice day exploring. Time to get to work first thing in the morning!

Life Digitized

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Goodbye, college! Welcome to the cloud 🙂

A year ago I committed to going paperless and moving into the cloud. Now over twelve months later, I finished scanning and organizing everything that remained from high school and college:papers, tests, handouts, course readers and anything I might like to access again at some point. I also scanned all personal administrative, financial and legal documents that sat around collecting dust. I will recycle all of this paper and breathe a deep sigh of relief that I no longer have to cart  all that dead weight around.

The first thing you might be thinking is, “Craig, why would you go to all this trouble for documents you may never read again?” To anyone who knows me and my obsession with cataloging my life, this should not surprise you. To everyone else, my answer is not straightforward. The honest truth is, “just in case.” I might want to reference these documents again. Yes, clinical psychologists today have a term for that behavior: “hoarder.” Better and a totally different paradigm, I think, to hoard information that takes up zero physical space than piles of crap everywhere. Fancy me a “digital packrat.”

Some documents I refer to on a regular basis. Others I enjoyed rediscovering as I scanned them. The rest I will likely never see again. But at least now they’re organized, searchable (Google recognizes optical characters in PDFs and extracts information as searchable text) and accessible from anywhere. No more piles of paper to dig through or carry around. There are over 2,500 documents in my school folder alone, many of them tens or even hundreds of pages long. That’s a metric shit ton of dead trees!

Life in the cloud is certainly cleaner, lighter and easier. All of my files are mirrored across Google Drive, Dropbox and external hard drives (with the exception of over 14TB of video that I have not found room for in the cloud yet). I can access them all from my phone on the go and from any computer I can sign into. Google’s omni search bar finds not only web search results, but results from within email, contacts and all of these documents. Sometimes I search for a term and find the answer to my query in a class handout from years ago. Pretty wild. I suspect access to my personal information ecosystem will only get better from here.

So while it might not be as useful to me now, there’s no telling what fruits this project might yield in the future as the technology gods evolve.

My Ten Favorite Films of 2012

It’s that time of year again. Without further adieu, my top ten list for 2012:

1. Lincoln

2. Argo

3. Killing Them Softly

4. Moonrise Kingdom

5. Skyfall

6. Zero Dark Thirty

7. Les Misérables

8. Samsara

9. Looper

10. Ruby Sparks

Five Honorable Mentions:

Five Worst Movies:

Here are the 36 movies I’ve seen to date with 2012 release dates: