Saturday, May 31, 2008

how to recap the twelfth day of my trip (tokyo edition)

it's very difficult for an american to comprehend how much of an ordered society japan is. everything has a correct way and reason, and that's it. in an example like the intersection in shibuya, it works wonders.

in other ways, it's completely inexplicable.

three examples of this, as how it affects me:

1. when preparing for our shoot, we wanted an outside exterior or court that screamed "japan!" and japanese athletes. so our japanese client presented us with one basketball court on a nike campus 90 minutes away from tokyo, and one athlete for each day. the basketball court was completely non-descript: white, clean, devoid of any markings. the athletes were tiny and looked more like fancylads than rugged competitors. if these were just one of many options, no problem. but when we asked for more (while being shocked there weren't any), we were responded with, "oh no. it cannot happen. it is impossible." impossible? really? there's a famous soccer pitch on a rooftop with the city's skyline in the background. did you even check that out? no, you did not. it was just a complete crock of shit - but in their ways of order, this is it because this is how we do things and how can you not be happy with it?

2. we shot on the nike campus on saturday, when most doors were locked closed both inside and out. during a break, we wanted to walk into the employee store, but just couldn't find a way except for a back door. we couldn't get anyone's attention until a store employee walked out. so we tried to walk in the door he left out from, but he said, "no! only entry in front. this is impossible!" but there was nothing impossible about it. we were practically in the store. yet he told us it was impossible for us to enter this way. so we begged him to show us the correct way to enter - and he walked us around the entire building to the proper front entrance, which is just like the back entrance. very little difference. weird.

and finally...

3. i'm writing this in the morning after because i packed up for my trip late last night and went to bed so i can sleep in. unfortunately, i got an early wake-up call, finished up packing and checked out - without ever checking the clock, which said 5:30 AM. we all planned to leave at 9:30. oops. four hours to kill, and i'm dead tired. however, i found this out after i checked out in the lobby and realized i was all alone. so i asked the girl at the front desk if i could just relax in my room for a couple of hours. "oh no, this is impossible!" i replied, "i'm not asking to get another day, just a place to sleep for a couple of hours. can't we make believe this didn't happen?" "oh, well...let's undo your checkout then. that way, it will be possible." does anyone else find this ridiculous? why should i have to undo my checkout just to relax in a room that otherwise wouldn't be used? but that's what i did, because that's the only way to do things.

when walking around the city, i've noticed and admired this rigidness to order and came to the conclusion that america could use a healthy dose of it. and i've come to realize that, sometimes, in just the right doses, japan could use a little "jerry springer".

we had dinner and drinks at the top floor of the hotel, which has a windowed 360 view of the city at night. as beautiful as the people are, they don't match up to the colors, lights and architecture of the city. the air is thinner this high up, but that wasn't the reason i wasn't catching my breath.

we're checking out more of the city tomorrow before we take off.

Friday, May 30, 2008

how to recap the eleventh day of my trip (tokyo edition)

each day i spend away from "the sickness" makes my body a little bit better. if i were at 15% on the day i was sick, i would say 50% the day after, then at 85% yesterday.

after all the sushi i ate yesterday, and after learning that my favorite roll was the one with foie gras, my body operated at about 63% today.

oh well.

still, we had the first day of our shoot today at the nike customer service center all the way out by the narita airport (about 90 minutes from tokyo). on the way, we passed the tokyo tower, which is pretty damn pretty. once outside of tokyo, however, there just isn't much to see.

while on the basketball court, i was shooting hoops with our trainer, who remarked that i have the perfect "white boy from the northeast" shooting form (it was a compliment). i thought that was a weird thing to say, but he mentioned that whenever he works with ballers from the midwest, they tend to bring the ball up from their center and shoot above their heads, whereas i (and my northeastern brethren) keep the ball on the side they're shooting with - and this is the correct way. he said it's just way too common for this to be a coincidence. so we walked about it on the bus, and this is how i broke it down: the midwest follows french licks' own larry bird's shooting form, but in the northeast, brooklyn's favorite son chris mullin was the man to emulate.

see? aren't i so observant? (especially when you ignore that bird played his whole career in boston, which is in the northeast)

anyways, it was a nice discussion that lead to many other tangents, writes the guy with the picture perfect form from the outside.

tonight's dinner specialty, the choice of our interpreter and dinner companion named taki, was shabu-shabu at a restaurant called...called...well, i can't read their business card. it's something in japanese.

anyways, the short version of the meal is this: there's two bowls on a hibachi in front of you (much like a korean BBQ). one pot is filled with a soup made from soy sauce, sugar and sake. the other is just water. once boiling, you toss in thinly-sliced raw meat into the bowls. after a couple of seconds, you pull it out and then dip it into a dish of sauce. then, you eat it. they keep on bringing you an unlimited supply of raw meat to eat.

it was frigging delicious, and a nice compliment to the sake we drank, which was named...named...yeah, i can't read that label either. sorry.

afterwards, in a search for a mcdonald's soft-serve ice cream, we walked around shibuya on a friday night amid the mass of the young, beautiful and stylish, mingling and mixing and crossing wherever you looked. no matter what street we walked down, there they were, and countless of them, but it was always ordered and never uncomfortable, writes the claustrophobe. i wrote this before and i'll write it again, but if i were young and beautiful and fashionable at a world-class level, i think i would give tokyo a shot, just to see what it would be like to fit in.

and hell yes, i'd bring my northeast jumpshot with me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

how to recap the tenth day of my trip (tokyo edition)

tokyo has some weird shit going on.

first off, there's these things called love hotels, which are pretty much exactly what you'd think they are - except not. before you think bad of me, these things are listed in most tourist books as an area to check out, so we did, right after dinner. this is not out of first-hand experience.

if you travel up a hill in shibuya, you are led to this seemingly unending maze of roads with these love hotels. the concept is this: if you want or need a place to get laid, you can come to a love hotel, plunk down 4000 yen (or $40 US) and get a room for two hours. they call that a "rest". for an all night "stay", it costs about 7800 yen (or $78 US). here's the kicker: the architecture makes them look really nice. they fit with the surroundings. and the photos of the rooms that they have on the outside looked quaint enough too. it didn't seem like something a slumlord or a pimp would own. it doesn't feel like the tenderloin or a red light district. in fact, i don't think it's looked down upon. it just felt like a service, like a hot dog stand or a library.

i don't have any other information past that, all of which i found in a tourbook and a foot tour. but considering how young and attractive the people are here, and all the entertainment outlets that surround them, it's actually quite a good idea.

like i said, tokyo has some weird shit going on.

also weird is that the best looking women in this city walk pigeon-toed. in fact, they overdo it. that's how we picked that up. it's really overtly obvious. i don't know why they do it or how, but it happened too often to be a coincidence. of course, everyone will probably be walking pigeon-toed by 2011.

this is in contrast to guangzhou, where the best looking women just ate pigeon toes.

thank you. i'll be here all night.

other weird shit: there's porn on the first two channels on the tv set when you turn it on. meaning, if the tv resets to channel #1, you can find porn on channels #2 and #3.

and they sell porn in everyday convenience stores, like 7-11 (which are all over the place here). and they're not hidden. they're there to be seen.

weird enough for you?

it was plenty weird for me.

japan's into weird shit.

getting off that, i did some shopping this morning in a place called tokyu hands, which is like walmart if walmart were cool, edgy and creative. it's got eight floors, each with three different sections, with the 24 total areas selling different stuff, like housewares, travel equipment, design supplies and the like. but i'm talking the coolest japanese versions of each. explaining it doesn't do it justice.

also what i can't do justice is the sushi i had tonight at a restaurant called gonpachi. remember how i said tokyo was into weird shit? well, the best roll i had in a night full of world class rolls was the foie gras. yeah, you read that right. completely blew me away once i learned that was it.

we had our pre-pro today at nike (a 20 minute cab ride that took 45 minutes thanks to a lost cabbie and the ungridded tokyo city), and everything's gonna go great the next couple of days. we then hit the nike employee store, and they had my lebron "my game is made outside" videos playing on the tvs. nice.

also, i had something called a cold chocolate drink, which is like liquid chocolate pudding in glass. it's the best beverage ever. if you're ever in tokyo, check it out.

anyways, here's how i'll end this post: someone said tonight that tokyo reminded him of the best parts of new york city, minus the best parts of new york city. and it's true. there's no homeless, litter, crime or sewage smells. everything is in its proper place. it's a wonderful way of putting this place.

this weird, weird place that has its own weird shit going on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

how to recap the ninth day of my trip (tokyo edition)

i'm alive. and in more ways than you realize.

i woke up without a headache, willed my tired body to get dressed, packed, checked out and dragged myself into a cab to the airport, and i couldn't be happier to get out of guangzhou. what didn't make me happy was learning that rich, my DP, contracted the same food poisoning that i had (except delayed by 18 hours). so as we drove to the airport, he was just starting the headache faze. poor dude.

anyways, four hours and countless rounds of video blackjack later, we landed in tokyo. narito airport is pretty far away from the city. as in, a $225 cab ride away far. but that's okay. that's why god created expense accounts.

we arrived to the cerulean towers, the most lavish and upscale hotel in tokyo. it's weird, though. yes, it's beautiful and yes, it's exclusive, but it's also rather cold and antiseptic. still, i can't complain. my room is nice, with a stunning view of the city. and my toilet features a heated seat. you read that right. go ahead. read that again. heated toilet seat. yessir, i ain't in guangzhou anymore. huzzah!

we had dinner in one of the twelve restaurants in the hotel - this one, a japanese restaurant. by the way, one thing that does stun me is that the employees in the restaurant barely spoke any english. not to play arrogant american, but wouldn't you think a world class hotel like this would only employ people who also spoke english? there are plenty of americans in this place. that's got to be a large portion of your clientele, right?

then again, why should they kowtow to my language? after all, i am the visitor.

i am the arrogant american.

anyways, this would be the first meal i would eat in 36 hours (outside of the three scoops of ice cream) and i felt that my stomach and digestive system would be up for it. we got sashimi, sushi and vegetable teriyaki for the table, and i ordered sliced beef for myself. and, with the first bite of the sashimi, i ate the best sashimi i've ever had in my life, and it wasn't close. and, with my first bite of sushi, same thing. i cannot put into words how soft, fresh and amazing the raw meat melted in my mouth, and how perfect the rice accentuated the taste. and the sliced beef was in another world. the whole meal was beyond tremendous, and i'm sure this isn't the best sushi restaurant in the city.

and trust me, i'll find it.

my stomach and digestive system were thankful.

we went out with rob (our trainer), getting to know him and he getting to know us. i told him that i wrote commercials for ea sports for four years. he then asks me, "i know this might be a weird question, but do you know the charles rogers commercial? i'm charles rogers, i had..."

"68 catches and 13 touchdowns? yeah, i know it. i wrote it."

"get the hell out of here! i love that commercial! i can quote that whole thing. holy crap, you're the guy who wrote that! i can't believe it!"

and then, he sang the whole thing, even quoting the tagline exactly.

how cool is that? and what's even cooler is that the commercial ran only on one single day five long years ago. that made my day, my month and this trip.

but i digress. after dinner, we went for a walk around shibuya, the shopping center of all japan, and it was just...just...i can't really describe it. it just was, is and forever will be.

i visited the hachikō, which is a statue of a dog and the ultimate symbol of loyalty. in fact, here's the story, from wikipedia:

Hachikō, an Akita dog, was born in 1923 and sold to a well to do family in Tokyo while still a puppy. The father of this family, Eisaburo Ueno, a Tokyo University professor in his 50's, loved Hachiko very much and doted on him constantly, taking him for long walks, always brushing him, and even taking baths with him inside the home. He treated him truly as one of the family.

Up until Hachiko was two years old, he always walked to the station with the father and after the father went through the stalls he would go home by himself. But, then he would return every day to wait outside the stalls to meet the father coming home. All the locals and train station people knew this man and this dog had a special bond.

One day however, the father died while he was teaching at the university. Hachiko went to pick him up but he never came. And, Hachiko never stopped waiting. Every day for about 10 or 11 years he went and waited. The story was picked up and popularized by Japanese newspapers, and Hachiko became a minor celebrity while he still lived, attending the inauguration of his own statue in 1934.

how much does that break your heart and lift your spirit?

we walked through the massive crossection of people in center-gai outside of shibuya station, where bill murray famously whispered something to scarlett johannson at the end of the brilliant "lost in translation". it's just like times square, but nothing like it at all. it's tamed, ordered and with nothing and nobody getting in your face. just absolutely beautiful, just the way it should be.

we walked around shibuya in the shadows of all the stores, each putting their own footprint of architecture on the neighborhood. high rises with neon lights, angles jutting in and out at just the right arcs, it's what vegas would look like if vegas had even a smidgen of design taste and still got lucky. the whole area just completely blew me away to no ends.

it's an area that caters to the young, and the japanese women here are just jaw-droppingly gorgeous and impeccably stylish. they make it work. and i hate to sound gay here, but the dudes have got it going on too. i feel so 2008 here, which would be great if everyone else weren't so 2011.

basically, it's a perfect confluence of beauty, from the people to the stores to the fashion to the vibe.

if i were younger, i would live here.

and this all happened from a thirty minute walk.

tomorrow morning, i'll have the chance to walk around some more and do a little shopping. needless to say, i'm incredibly looking forward to it.

this morning, i was just a body with a defeated spirit and a weakened system. and now, i can't wait to wake up for tomorrow.

what a difference a day makes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

how to recap the eighth day of my trip (guangzhou ritz carlton edition)

holy crap.

over and over again.

guangzhou finally got the best of me. diarrhea by the hour, on the hour, from midnight to noon, followed by a searing migraine until 8pm, all going hand-in-hand with dizziness, delirium and weakness. it was like my stomach was a septic tank, and each time i unloaded, the level went down a little, but not all the way, and each time i turned my body, i was reminded that i had something toxic inside me. just a sickening day to spend 24 hours in a mysterious foreign country.

so yes, i flew all the way to china to get me some montezuma's revenge. go figure.

then again, it could've been worse. i could have had a shitter without a seat.

needless to say, i didn't get on my flight to tokyo. it got pushed back to tomorrow morning. and instead i spent an entire day in room 2311 of the ritz-carlton, watching cnn international (lebanon has a new president!), a replay of the champions league title match between man u and chelsea (john terry really blew it, no matter how you look at it), and mythbusters (proving and debunking the miraculous qualities of vodka) - and the rest of the day and night were spent with my eyes closed and a cold towel on my forehead. all i ate were three scoops of chocolate ice cream (a well-deserved $15 meal) and drank my fair share of water.

i lost my appetite. if you're looking for it, i think i flushed it down sometime around 3:30 AM.

seriously, if rich, my DP, wasn't around to make changes to my airfare and to be a clear head for me, god knows how i would have reacted. i might have boarded a plane to guam or something. who knows. no part of my body was in its right mind.

good times.

and i know all this didn't happen from the 5-star meal i had in the hotel. i guess my body just isn't fortified enough for fresh kill. or the middle ages. however you want to label it.

at least i lost some weight for the wedding.

but stlll, hey, soon i'll be on my way to tokyo, home of the original "office". can't wait. should be a lot of fun.

and, of course, should be a lot of karaoke.

something in a baritone, maestro!

money talks
but it don't sing and dance and it don't walk
as long as i have you here with me
i'd much rather be
forever in blue jeans, babe.

Monday, May 26, 2008

how to recap the seventh day of my trip (guangzhou edition)

i'm typing this while cloaked in a terryclothed ritz carlton robe and slippers, fresh from a well-earned hot bath after a long day of shooting. i'm very tired, and i don't know how many words i have in me to get out.

today actually went great, although it mirrored yesterday - a great and fruitful morning, followed by a strange and disinterested crew in the afternoon. it must be something in the culture, i guess. but we still got a lot more than what we expected, so in any measure, the guangzhou portion of this trip is a success.

what has gotten to me is the guangzhou/cantonese food. we had dim sum yesterday and today, and i'm fully tired and bored of fried whole chicken, wierd pork combinations, questionable beef dishes and unenjoyable desserts (unless you love cold soups of frog ovaries, which was on our table yesterday). but tonight i had an amazing dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was as much southern china in dish as it was refined and classy - which would make the first of our trip out here. was it authentic? probably not. but i had enough of authentic, and i was craving for something sophisticated and less barbaric. mission accomplished.

here's things i noticed about this part of china:

- the last word that comes to my mind as i explore the city is communism or government control. it's a city, just like any other city. then again, i was only here for a couple of days and shooting ads for most of it.

- nobody gets hurt when everyone is playing by the same rules of the roads. and that holds true when there aren't any rules. being a passenger in a car here is a scary proposition, not just for me in the back seat, but also for the random people jutting in front of the car in a speeding intersection. i just don't get it, but i guess that's just how they do.

- the people who live in this city seem much more able to acclimate to other cultures and ideas than the people who live in my old neighborhood in the inner richmond. and, to be honest, the difference is substantial.

- i am happy to leave here for tokyo, and i wish never to return here. beijing or shanghai however? i'm game.

and i can't wait to get me some sushi.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

how to recap the sixth day of my trip (guangzhou edition)

words and meaning do not only get lost in translation, but they also take time. that's what i learned today trying to direct talent and a crew that speaks cantonese.

when they're not asked to make decisions, or to think on their own without being told, everything is great. in fact, you can fly through stuff. but once anything gets disrupted, all hell breaks loose, and you just can't get back on track. or, at least, not today.

the morning was great. unfortunately, it set up a precedent that i now know was impossible to match. we flew through scenes, the talent was attentive, everyone was happy. and the location looked great.

and we broke for lunch.

everything broke right after that. camera moves took three times as long as they should have. checking shots on the laptop took four times as long. the crew ruined takes when their cellphones rang over and over again. strange people walked into shots even when warned not to. takes were ruined when the crew dropped stuff - even when they should be standing still. and rehearsals took forever because the talent just wasn't getting it or it just wasn't being explained clearly to them.

it was frustrating and unending.

still, we fought through it, and because of our fruitful morning, we finished ahead of schedule. and tomorrow, i'll know not to expect too much, that i'm just better off playing the role of the talent during rehearsals, to employ a longer time when a camera has to be moved, and to always keep in mind that i am not in los angeles.

holy crap, i'm so not in los angeles.

i'm going to sleep. it was a long day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

how to recap the fifth day of my trip (guangzhou edition)

guangzhou is endless.

think of it like los angeles - a huge sprawl that spreads for miles and miles. except, when you drive through and around it, think of it like new york and chicago - nothing but high rises and skyscrapers everywhere you look. it's an utterly impressive city of twelve million residents.

and the architecture is stunning. i don't dig rectangles and squares, but that's what makes up most of american architecture. but like vancouver, guangzhou is full of misshaped buildings, with stylishly curved rootops and angles jutting out at weird but beautiful angles. and they transpose nicely with aging buildings beside them. this makes the city both old and modern at exactly the same time.

we headed out to the sports university to scout out our shoot. the land is amazing, with countless outdoor basketball courts and a modern soccer stadium that seats thousands. there's a multitude of gymnasiums and buildings, and arena we're shooting in features a gym that would make a small college proud. we arrived to watch a floor hockey tournament featuring teams from china, thailand, canada and australia. floor hockey is like field hockey, except on a court. it was kinda cool, and made me wish i had two working knees.

but that's not what this post is about. once we were done with our scout, it was time to eat and explore. our first stop was a farm. here's a photo:

the farm also served as a restaurant where everything they served was fresh. so we ate chicken and pork. remember, i said everything they served is fresh, so that means that they killed the chicken right before they cooked it, and the pig was killed just an hour before we ate. if we were unlucky, they could have caught an escaped chicken from the pen and wring its neck in front of us. i'm glad i didn't see that.

but it was so fresh, and the result is that i've never tasted meat that delicious.

the chicken, fried with its head still attached, was stuffed with garlic, ginger and basil. it was amazing. we had pork ribs, pork sausage in rice and pork burgers, which wasn't very good. we also ate this amazing vegetable dish that looked like seaweed but had a deep buttery taste to it.

all in all, an incredible lunch.

by the way, two things i learned here.

one: when you get your place settings, it is customary to pour yourself some tea from a kettle. you then use the tea to cleanse all your silverware for good luck. so you stir your chopsticks in it. then you pour some in your bowl. then you pour it on your plate. then, you dump that tea on the floor. now you are ready to eat.

two: when someone hands you something with two hands, it is customary and respectful to receive it with two hands. i really like that.

after lunch, we walked around downtown guangzhou, which is just like times square, except it's everywhere you look. it's just mobs of people walking every which way, going shopping, buying anything, and vendors running up to you with their best deals. it was beyond hectic. and people just walk out into the middle of the street with oncoming traffic. i'm amazed that i didn't see any accidents, but they must be used to this type of stuff. suddenly, the inner richmond back home makes perfect sense to me.

for dinner, we headed to a famous guangzhou seafood restaurant. our guides informed us that this part of the city is known for their various types of cuisine. this block we were on specialized in seafood. the next block down was dog, and the one past that, mouse. that last sentence is not a joke. he was serious. if you want to eat anything, come to guangzhou. the thought of all the possibilities made me a little sick.

anyways, we're at the seafood restaurant, and there's no menu. instead, you walk to a different area that's set up like an aquarium, with different types of fish in different tanks. your waitress walks along with you, and you have to point at which fish you want to eat. and by pointing at the fish, i mean you have to choose which exact lobster you want for dinner. as in which one. i thought i would have more guilt about this "playing god" manner of food selection, but honestly, if not me, then someone else is gonna eat them.

when they served each dish, the fish was about as fresh as you'll ever have. the shrimp, crab, lobster and mussels were among the best i'll ever eat. don't get me wrong; they were prepared with an expert touch. but they were just so immdeiately fresh, and you just can't beat that. how fresh? well, for some reason, the lobster's arm was still moving when it came to the table.

have i gotten you sick yet? just wait. in fact, i've written the next part to be as tasteful as possible, but scatatology is what it is. and i have to tell this because, well, once you read this, you'll get why.

at the end of the meal, i had to use the toilet. i walked in, and because i had to do poops, i decided to forgo the urinals and use the shitter. i walked into a stall, and only saw a tiled hole in the floor and no seat. whoops, my bad. so i peed, and turned to leave. that's when i saw the toilet paper hanging on the side, and a bar running horizontally on the door, and the urinals on the wall outside.

it took me about six seconds to figure it out. i walked back to the table laughing hysterically. that had to be a mistake, right?

no, it was not.

in china, people don't sit down to use the shitter. they pull their pants down, hover their ass over a hole in the ground, grab hold of rails on the door, lean back and plop away. i'm not shitting you. that's how they do it.

so, after waiting for my mouth to close, i then asked the obvious question: "what do they do with their pants? couldn't you accidentally leave a beijing steamer in your undies?"

well, yes, but some people take one pant leg off and twirl it around their ankle to the side, and other just take their pants off completely.

this absolutely blows my mind. how can a civilization that's been around for 3000 years not take ten minutes to figure out how to sit down during a crap?

what's my point about all this? well, for a city as modern as guangzhou, there's still a large amount of barbarism - not in an unsafe way, but in a way that should have evolved. and in a way that i can't believe still exists in any form.

i needed to end the night on a classy note. so i went to the cigar bar in my hotel and smoked down a cohiba siglo III from cuba with a glass of 1989 aberfely single malt whiskey.

it's so completely wild that i'm actually in china. but everything i saw and experienced just grounded it for me. and i know it may or may not have sounded like it, but today was actually a truly great day.

and to leave you with a wonderful visual, here's a shot of my gorgeous hotel room. i'm stunned each time i walk into it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

how to recap the fourth day of my trip (orange county/LAX/tokyo/guangzhou edition)

at 8am, i left the ritz-carlton in dana point, onward towards LAX. twenty four hours later, i returned to the ritz-carlton, but now in guangzhou, a half world away.

a lot of nothing happened in between.

you know a trip is gonna be great when you pick up your computer bag and the strap breaks - because that's exactly what happened to me. and then, while in the airport, the plastic bag you boought that holds your magazines also breaks. that also happened to me. so you wound up shlepping around the world holding your two bags in your arms like a pet pig. good times. i highly recommend it.

the united flight from LAX to tokyo really wasn't so bad, as far as eleven-hour trips go. i got some work done on my laptop, listened to rilo kiley and also te raconteurs "counselors of the lonely", took a quick nap and watched three movies, of which i'll review now in the shortest paragraphs possible.

"27 dresses"
starring katherine heigl and various douchebags
written and directed by four-year-olds

even as far as romantic-comedies go, this one was especially shameless and see-through. honestly, i can't imagine anyone being able to sit through this and not try to take their own life. if the emergency exits weren't jammed shut, i might have made a jump for it. and this is coming from someone who actually gave this a shot because he had nothing else to do.

starring hayden christenson, samuel l. jackson and other douchebags
directed by (i can't believe this) doug liman

a movie that managed to allow me to intensely hate every character in the film while also not caring one iota about them. that to me is an amazing achievement in ineptitude. what could have been a pretty fun movie was ultimately done in by a first draft of a crappy script. and hayden christenson is one of the worst actors to have ever lived. if the emergency exits weren't jammed shut, i might have made a jump for it. and this is coming from someone who actually gave this a shot because he had nothing else to do.

"charlie wilson's war"
starring tom hanks, julia roberts and philip seymour hoffman
written by aaron sorkin
directed by mike nichols

united airlines can thank these legends for saving me from taking over the plane and flying it into the pacific ocean. i really wanted to watch this when it was out, and for the benefit of everyone on board, thankfully i didn't get the chance. it's smart, fun, funny, sexy and semi-true. it wasn't the best film these legends have individually made, but it was among the best of last year. (honestly, it could have had a little more beef, but i can't complain, considering the other crap i watched).

then i flew air nippon from tokyo to guangzhou, a five hour flight on top of the eleven hours i was just in the air. thankfully, there was hardly anyone else on the plane, so i was able to stretch out and relax as best as i can. and, by the way, the air nippon stewardess are the hardest-working stewardesses in the air. there was nothing i was left wanting. great job by those minxes.

finally, we landed in guangzhou, and passed through customs without a problem. we met our contact from the production company (andi), and while waiting for our client to fly in, we had some ice cream at a diner. i have to be honest with you: the conversation that took place to order two scoops of ice cream each was absolutely worth the sixteen hour flights. the discussion took a good 30 minutes, with the waitress hustling back and forth to show us different sizes and flavors and being utterly confused - even with a cantonese translator. wonderful stuff. i wish i wrote that scene.

and finally, 24 hours later, we landed at the brand new ritz-carlton in guangzhou. and there's no debate: this is the most beautiful and luxurious hotel i've ever stayed at in my career and my life - and i'm including the indianapolis marriott in that discussion. everything is stunning. check out the website, but i'll take photos when i get a chance.

and finally, here we are, in a sweltering city of 12 million people. i have a chance to explore today. tonight (or this morning for you), you'll read about it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

how to recap the third day of my trip (orange county edition)

today was a pretty uneventful day. got to the gym, watched a professional tennis player work out, shot eight hours worth of film and left. my shirt did not smell, i did not eat a $35 breakfast burrito and i did not piss on golden hydrants. but i did learn that there's no place for me to hide from my shin splints.


it was at dinner with my friend brian where i learned that david cook won "american idol", which gives me hope that this country might also elect the right president this fall, whomever that might be (although i damn well know who that is).

there's nothing really to report, other than i caught the final night of the oak hill capital partners convention. it's nights like this that make me so happy to be working in advertising. everyone was wearing their dress code: a nice blazer with gold buttons on the sleeve, a wrinkle-free button down shirt with the top-button undone, dress slacks with a crease down the middle and laceless slip-on shoes. and this is opposed to me going to work today wearing this.

there was a guy named tory at the drink up wearing, and i shit you not, a pink blazer, light blue shirt, red slacks (red!) and pennyloafers without socks. i'd make a joke, but he beat me to it.

i probably won't blog tomorrow night as i will be in the air, more than halfway to guangzhou. but if i have enough energy when i land, i will do my best.

just don't count on it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

how to recap the second day of my trip (orange county edition)

there are very few things as uplifting to me as jumping rope early in the morning while watching hordes of surfers take waves into the shore. that's the first thing i did upon waking. not a bad way to start the day.

however, what is a bad way to continue the day is to put on a t-shirt that smells like ass. and then putting on another t-shirt that also smells like ass. and then realizing that all 15 shirts you brought on your trip all smell like ass. and that you can easily point your finger at the busted washer at home for everything smelling like ass. and now you and your preson feels and smells like an ass. so you have to put all your shirts in the ritz carlton laundromat, and although your ass is now $90 lighter, you do return to cleanliness.

i hope that doesn't happen to you. or if it does, have a better story for smelling like ass than a busted washer.

we got to the gym to shoot today, and watched paul kariya go through his final morning workouts. dude's a tank. in fact, dude's a hall-of-fame tank. no way in hell do i want to be in the way of one of his hip checks or slapshots. pro athletes have a certain aura around them that's cool to watch. he was no exception.

the shoot went great, thank you very much. and on the ride home, we noticed that every fixture in dana point was painted gold. so this hamlet gives off the impression that this place is so rich that even their dogs piss on expensive things.

i found out from my bar waitress (who coincidentally just graduated from stony brook) that the "night of the living WASP" convention is actually for a bunch of blazers called oak hill capital partners. by the end of the night, they were so serious with their partying that they actually took off their frickin' ties. i suspect the cops to be called sometime before the markets open.

i'm also pretty damn sure that there's also a "rich old man with cute wife that's 25 years younger than him" convention, because there's just too much of that happening to consider it a coincidence. seriously, everyone here wears their creepy on the outside.

also in the bar, i eavesdropped on the worst powerpoint presentation ever.

this bar and area is the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, May 19, 2008

how to recap the first day of my trip (orange county edition)

orange county is an interesting place, and i mean it's interesting in how uninteresting it actually is. gated community after gated community after hollywood video, i could be anywhere in the country where the sun shines. in fact, it reminded me of vegas - not the strip, but where everyone in vegas lives, a rather soulless and fully homogenous place where character melts in a puddle outside chipotle.

needless to say, it's not for me.

we did a tech scout at trabuca hills high school (go mustangs!) and checked out their amazing athletic complex: eight tennis courts, two swimming pools, two softball fields, one baseball field and a brand new football/soccer field with stands that seat a couple of thousand on each side. it's really impressive. unfortunately, it looks too much like california to shoot there. but hot damn, i would have loved to have played here in high school. in fact, i might have actually taken the time out from basketball to learn how to hit a curveball just to get dirty in these diamonds.

who am i kidding. i'd learn how to identify a curveball to lay off of and wait for the heater i can drive.

but i digress.

we're staying at the ritz carlton in dana point, which is south of laguna beach. this hotel ain't foolin' around. everything is pristine. the pool is gorgeous and the rooms are almost too nice to stay in. i somewhat feel inadequate whenever i stay in a place like this. then again, in the bar, i saw a creepy bald 70-year-old man who looked like ben grimm with his semi-hot 40-year-old wife (or girlfriend). she looked uncomfortable, but had enough money to feel like she belonged. me, i'm just a guy wearing a katz deli t-shirt and a baseball hat sitting at the bar, watching sportscenter. i should be valeting cars outside.

trust me, i'll get over it.

there's a convention in town. i can't make out what everyone is there for, but if i had to guess, i would say it's a stereotypical rich white man's convention (bring your own blazer). i'll get down to the bottom of it. i can't be any more surprised than my trip to indianapolis, where my fat people convention was actually for physical therapy. who knew?

one more note: i'm having a glass of frei brothers' reserve pinot noir 2005 as i type. if you ever get the chance, have a sip. it's got nice hints of butterscotch and vanilla to it, and it's as smoooooth as sam cooke wearing velvet. i have no idea how expensive it is. for all i know, it's the PBR of the wine world. but i dig it.

before i forget (and i did; i just got out of bed to type this): we saw the strangest thing over dinner we had on the harbor. a security guard (who was a man in his fifty wearing a polo shirt) stopped another man (who was in his sixties and was bald) from writing his name in wet cement. he yelled, "you're old enough to know better!" and then followed it up with this surprising kicker: "and you're even carrying a concealed weapon. get out of here!"

so a man, who was old enough to know better and who was carrying an unidentified concealed weapon, wrote his name in wet cement and was then yelled at and chased out by a younger man who was still way too old to be a security guard.


i guess that's how they do things here in the OC.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

how this is great way to begin a trip to china and japan

yes, three years into chien-ming wang's career, they finally went there (look at the "BBTN Minute" copy in grey under the photo):

so, with me heading to china and japan for ten days, i figured it's gonna be best for me to converse with everyone by posting on this here blog - and it's an easy way to chronicle this great trip for posterity's and sarcasm's sake.

it's going to take a big wang to pull this off.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

how i know it could get worse, and i just don't think it's gonna get any better

after today's excruciating 1-0 mets loss to the nationals, causing the lowly nats to take 3 out of 4, and dropping the mets record since last june 1 to 74-75, i've got to say that i've come to the realization that the mets are what they are: a .500 ballclub that just doesn't play hard for their coach, and just doesn't seem like they care enough about winning.

and it pains me to say that.

and, the worst part about it is that i'm not alone.

"This team is simply not fun at all to watch or even follow. It’s a flat, joyless team and watching them play is like watching a Snuff film…..only a real sick bastard would take joy in watching."

"Schmoozer on a roll. Just called Willie Art Howe."

"We are losing and being embarrassed at home. Yes we are 2 games out of first but you have got to think about how fortunate we have been in regard to the other teams in the division. I have long given up my fight against the booing because frankly theres nothing anyone can do about it but at the same time i understand the frustration. Something is missing and i hope they find it before its too late."

"i consider myself a die hard mets fan. but in reference to your point, matt, today i actually did reach the decision that it is time for me to start tuning out. at least to some degree. i’ve maybe missed watching/listening to 10-15 games over the last 3 years. but i’ve reached a point where i’ve realized that watching this team day in and day out thinking that maybe today is the day where they start playing the baseball we’ve all been led to believe that they’re capable of is a fool’s pursuit. instead, i just feel angry and pissed off half the time (the days they lose), because this team is, as we all know, no better than a .500 team."

"We can’t wait any longer. This team is in a complete downward spiral on and off the field. Its brought to our attention again today how divided the clubhouse seems to be. The once great chemistry this team had is completely gone and this team is completely lost...How quickly things can change. Seemed like just yesterday I was walking out of Shea stadium with the feeling of hope and optimism. The feeling like this was going to be our chance at a World Series and a chance to finally stand side by side with Yankee fans...There is a cancer on this team. I don’t know if its a player or players or manager or whatever but something has destroyed this team from inside. Omar needs to fix this right now or he is the one to blame. We’ve been screaming foul for almost a year now and you haven’t been listening. Omar Do you even know your own team?"

"Willie deserves a lot of blame but it comes down to this with me. You remove Willie, I’m not sure this team improves. This leads me to feel that the problems with this team go far beyond Willie...This team needs an enema. I’m just not sure where the hose should go."

look, i don't know what can be done. fire willie? i'm fine with that. turn heilman into a starter? sure, go ahead. get moises some at bats at first base? go ahead.

but is that really gonna change the culture? is that really going to make it seem like the players give a crap? i know they do, but do they care more than the phillies or the rays or the marlins? i don't think so. by the looks of things, it's obvious.

i hope omar doesn't wait to see how this shakes out. we have already, and it's a heartbreaker.

Friday, May 09, 2008

how i guess you can write a good jingle

you just can't do it for a :30 media buy. this one hits on a universal truth with humor and a deft touch and, although it's a touch too long, it's not rushed or forced.

nice job, whoever.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

how surviving for 25 years is the least of their accomplishments

i just want to congratulate goodby, silverstein and partners for reaching their 25th anniversary as the highest vanguards of creativity and truth in advertising. and that's not just my opinion; they've got bookcases full of awards to prove it over and over again.

i had a great ten months there, and although i couldn't make it to their black-tie and open-bar extravaganza at the san francisco opera house, i know nobody will remember what happened there anyways, so nothing will have been lost, except for some brain cells.

since advertising is mostly an anonymous job by the creators, here's some of their most famous ads that you didn't know they did but know by heart and surely love without limits (and i'm sure i'm missing a ton of the obvious):
got milk?
emerald nuts
and, last and definitely least, here's two of my humble contributions to their impossibly long history of creative excellence.

congrats again, jeff and rich.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

how this has got to be a freudian slip of the most gigantous of proportions

this is from's writer marc stein's article about the knicks pursuit of mike d'antoni as their head coach.

i've taken a screen grab, just because i'm sure this completely hilarous error will be corrected by the time you read this.

yes, i remember those michael jackson/scottie pippen/phil jackson heydays well. the zen master would call out a play, pippen would bring the ball up, and wait for the exact moment to pass to the gloved one to moonwalk to the corner for an open fadeaway. oh, and how they would celebrate in the locker room, with jackson and pippen popping champagne and with their teammate popping macaulay culkin in the wierd place.

of course, marc stein didn't mean michael jackson. he meant this global icon instead.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

how i wish "american idol" followed the same rules of "the gong show"

because i would have loved to have seen jaye p. morgan or jamie farr gong the shit out of both of jason castro's performances.

and then, to keep the good taste patrol in the house, waldorf and statler from "the muppet show" would then throw tomatoes that would stick in his dreds and sting his eyes.

why? because those half-assed performances were inexcusable cries for help. seriously, he has a big chance for something big, and he chose to crap the bed like that, not only in the week leading up but also during the night of?

even the first lady of steveohville refuses to vote for him this week.

pack up your hackysack and go back to hemp hill, you hippy. your incense is almost out.

how lost memories and rumors can be like new friends

i received a letter from the editor of my old campus paper, the stony brook press, asking me if i had any information on the rumor that the porn movie "debbie does dallas" was filmed at suny-stony brook.

immediately, i remembered that rumor.

but it was one of those rumors that was essentially unprovable in 1996 when i graduated. of course, the university denied it. and besides, information like that is much more fun in theory than in fact.

still, it got me thinking and googling, and it seems that although nothing is confirmed, there is some beef to it. and by beef, i mean hard meat.

hell, if wikipedia and imdb says it happened, then who's to argue?

so there you go. the state university of new york at stony brook, now known for the MRI, steely dan and a classic of pornography.

i have a degree from there.

how this is the best nike ad i've seen in awhile

and if any commercial is worth two minutes of your time, then this is it.

hell, it even makes me like that guy ritchie style of directing again.

Friday, May 02, 2008

how i have no idea how to categorize this

i'll put this simply: an antarctic seal gets his groove on with a king penguin.

i honestly don't know if this is sad, funny or perverted.

but i do know it's the ronaldo of antarctic seals.

how i wish someone would do this for me (or i would do this for someone)

here's a video that modernista!, an ad agency in boston, made for one of their art directors who was leaving.

it brought a neon-colored tear to my eye and a jealous streak to my soul.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

how i just had the most inane phone conversation in my life

the staten island advance, that storied paper that gives you such pulitzer prize investigative reports like this and this just called me up to fact check on my engagement announcement.

the nice woman on the phone had some questions about our degrees (baccalaureate of arts or science) and about our employment, but when she got to the end of our fact sheet, she said, and i quote, "oh."



"what oh?"

"well, the staten island advance has a strict policy that we don't post engagement announcements when the wedding is less than two months away."


"yes, that's the policy, but let me pass you onto my editor for help."

okay, so i was forwarded to another nice woman, who read through my fact sheet, came upon the same troubling discrepancy, and said, "sir, the staten island advance has a strict policy of not posting an engagement notice when it's less than two months away from the wedding. we're sorry."

"yes, ma'am, i heard, and i'm not trying to be a wise ass, but why is that policy in place?"

" see...ummm...the advance has high standards of what is...ummm...newsworthy and what is not."

you know, i can see their point. after all, they were the first paper to break this bombshell. i can see a rag like the new york times printing a complete non-story like my engagement, but the advance is in no position to spare time or ink on something as newsworthy as me, especially when they're busy tracking down big breakthroughs like this.

still, i replied, "are you serious?"

"sorry, sir."

"well, how about this? can we change it so that it says we're getting married in august? nobody will know the truth except the both of us."

"that's also against our policy."

"you have to admit that's a silly policy. i mean, why is my engagement less newsworthy because of a time stipulation?"

she thought for a second. again, this was a very nice lady stuck between an engagement announcement and world-class newsmaking standards. so she came back with, "you know, my records state that you did hand this in on the 19th, which means that it does pass the two-month policy by two days. so i'll let it in."

"thank you."

seriously, thank you. you made our family very happy.

now i can't wait to see it, in a column between other engagements. and, of course, next to such hard hitting journalism like this.

how the survival of the fittest would turn this into a humorless world

oh that's true, mostly because any human being with a workable brain wouldn't do world class stuff like this.

there truly is a brilliance in stupidity.