Friday, June 25, 2010

last days of belgium

our hotel is in the brazilian/portugese/spanish district of town. and while, as i understand it, brazil tied their game at 0-0, yet that has not stopped the colonies of brazilians from driving through the neighborhoods, head to toe in green and yellow, waving flags, cranking their stereos, honking their horns, blowing their air horns, singing on the subways, and doing whatever else they can to celebrate. it's kind of fun to see them so happy, even if i don't fully understand why.

we leave for the airport tomorrow morning. i'm kind of tired and it's after 11 already. i should be packing and getting some sleep, but i know that, unlike some warm and fuzzy new york interns, i'm not very good at recollecting in detail the adventures of my amazing life days or weeks or semesters after the fact, and that if i don't do it now, these moments of life will be lost to the ether forever.
i can sleep in utah.

yesterday was the last day of the conference. we were collecting peoples' stories about how ".com" has changed your life. asking this question at a convention where internet domain names are the livelihood of most people often brings stories that are more technical than what we're looking for, but we also got some really interesting ones (a guy who's company owned the second .com address ever...). at the end of each day, we would randomly draw a name from the list of those who had given their stories and they would win an ipad. not too shabby.
on our last day we talked with a guy from pakistan (who, oddly enough, was not a terrorist or even an american-hater. further, his friend from afghanistan was also super cool) who talked about how he had a website called which is all about how the middle east (and other parts of the world) doesn't get apple products for up to a year or more after their release and the lameness that surrounds that. he was one of about three or four people we were hoping would win.
he did (legitimately).

outside the window where we were filming was a small (and rather mucky) waterway with a statue of a naked lady in it. i'm from the u.s. and i've seen plenty of naked lady statues. in an artsy town like brussels, they're about as plentiful as waffles. yet, for reasons none of us can figure, people would continually stop and take a picture of this naked lady statue. it wasn't even that good of a sculpture. just a naked lady statue.

on a similar note, in my swag backpack from the convention was a button that said "yes to .xxx". (the dot there makes all the difference, by the way, as one of the ad guys with us didn't seem to initially notice it) as i understand it, such a "top-level domain name" (heard ALL about those this week) would help keep all the adult sites in one relative area; good for those who are looking for it, and, as i understand it, good for people who want to block it out (if this isn't what it means, well, i wore the button anyway; too late now). this evening i saw a headline on that the resolution passed. go me and my button.

today was pretty much a free day for us. the other two production people with me really wanted to go to see bruges, a city in northern belgium that is cool because a cool movie called "in bruges" was shot there a few years ago. i haven't seen the movie (have to see if it's on clearplay when i get back to the western hemisphere) and was feeling tired at the end of a busy week (we haven't had to work especially hard, but we've played hard), so i wasn't all gung-ho for it but went along all the same.
it turned out to be closer than we thought (just under an hour on the train) and really pretty dang. like most old european cities, it's seriously old, coming in at over a millennium, and kind of looks like it graduated high school during the middle ages and decided that look was good enough for it. we saw a few really old cathedrals (note: there go the brazilians outside of my window again; it's 11:31 p.m. now and i fully expect this to go on all night), which combined with the cathedral in brussels that i saw yesterday (my first even), i think constitutes for a third of all the pictures on my camera. we went to a church that claimed to have a relic containing the blood of Christ, walked everywhere on cobblestones (which gets painful after six hours; asphalt, i miss you!), paid 30 cents euro (is there a way to get a euro sign here? they just look cool and i don't get many opportunities to write them) to use a public restroom, and, of course, bought some chocolate.

i bought more chocolate back in brussels, as i've done almost every day here. the mini fridge in my hotel room is full of chocolate. : )

i also finished my souvenir shopping for my family (i'm looking at you, dad) and we missed our bus stop because of a stupid lady who decided to stand right in front of the door (we're looking at you, stupid lady.) on the train back from bruges, i listened to (german techno band) kraftwerk's "trans europe express." it wasn't as transcendent as i'd anticipated, but now i know. and i was still there.

there's probably a dozen other notably memories from today, but you get the idea.
it's been a seriously dang awesome trip with no regrets (well, i wish i would have put forth a little for effort to pick up a few french phrases), but i'm also looking forward to getting home with my friends (and where people speak a language i know. i'd even be ok with japan.)
i'm also looking forward to being able to search google in english, instead of... is that flemmish?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the internet illuminatti in the land of chcolate

yesterday morning we walked about 1.8 km in light rain through the streets, pulling equipment and trying to find our way. sitting in the convention center where we're doing our interviews, i realized that in the last two days, all that i had eaten was a waffle with ice cream (granted, the best waffle i had ever had in my entire life, but still just one waffle) and a croissant i grabbed at the hotel that morning. belgium was great, but not without it's hassles. on top of it all, my pockets were jammed with my passport, ipod, and big fat wallet (mostly from discount/point cards from america, not euros).

since then, we have been able to store our equipment at the hotel where the ad agency team is staying, i've found a way to streamline and carry only what i need (much more comfortable), and we've had some good food. for example, yesterday i ate a pig knuckle.

when i'm traveling, i really don't want to eat food that i can get where i live (this maxim stands whether i'm in another state as well as another country; it can backfire, though. there was that place in thailand where i ordered something that didn't even have an english name and unfortunately ended up with barbecued chicken, to the envy of several girls around me....). we went to an solidly belgian-looking restaurant (next to the "boston cafe") and looked over the menus. french cuisine seems more enigmatic than japanese does to me and i was thoroughly confused. still, with several mispellings in the menu (notably "beaf" and "kooked"), this place seemed pretty legit. i gave the waiter my order and he nodded while saying something that sounded like "soup." i wanted something heartier than that, and so fumbled in bad french and hand gestures to change my order, pointing the next thing on the menu: "a knuckle of ham."
really, you image of it is as good as mine was. basically, it was a chunk of ham with several different-sized bones sticking from it. and, past the occasional tough pieces, was pretty darn good, along with the mustard sauce.

this year is the 25th anniversary of ".com", and so we're interviewing people at this internet conference about their experiences with ".com". hoping to get fun stories. one of our favorites so far is the guy who booked a hotel online for his honeymoon and arrived in spain one night, only to find a giant hole in the ground and that the hotel was still very much under construction (six months later, he received an invitation from the hotel, inviting their "valued customer" to join them for a grand opening). the trouble is, these guys are mostly internet domain name registrars, meaning they're the ones who sell internet addresses, and so they think of ".com" differently than we do and we end up getting a lot of dry stories.
essentially, these guys control the internet. i mean, if you were a g.i. joe-like super-villian and wanted to, say, blow-up the internet, this is the time and place to bomb. in years to come, the next dan brown conspiracy author will be writing about these guys and the power they have as they control the world.

we were waiting to hail a cab when a woman came up next to me and said something in french. startled and knowing only the smallest bit of french, i mistakenly responded with "please. no do you speak french?" fail.
realizing the nationality of the idiot in front of her, she spoke again in broken english. i'm not sure if she was asking if this was a bus stop or was telling us that we were not at a bus stop, since it did look like that was what we were waiting for.
to top it off, the first cab we stopped listened to our inability to speak french, saw that there were five of us plus several pieces of equipment, and drove off, leaving us confused and cabless.

belgium, like pretty much all of europe, runs on 220v electricity, twice as much as we do in the u.s. i'm learning that nearly everything that has a little block that plugs in between the item and the wall (e.g. my computer, my phone, my camera battery, our lights) can handle the 220v, provided you have a nifty little plug adapter; no power inverter needed. there are some things we still learn the hard way, as we somehow blew the circuit at the fancy hotel we were shooting at the first night. in america, it's a simple fuse box switch fix. it seems much more complicated here, as they had to call a utility guy and we still never did get the outlet back on that night. i still kind of feel bad about that one.

i assumed that most of europe was on roughly the same latitude as the states, but began to wonder when it was 10:30 last night and still notably bright outside, even for the summer solstice. checking a map, it looks like i'm roughly level with 300 miles north of canadian border. can't complain, though; the weather is absolutely perfect.

david sedaris is right: in europe, people do smoke everywhere. at an outdoor cafe today, the tables on either side of us were lit up.

at the same aforementioned cafe, everything around us was so amazing i could barely take it in. we were eating some sort of town square or plaza that was actually the royal courtyard or something. all four buildings in the quad were enormous museums, churches, or palaces. probably all over one hundred feet tall, they were covered completely in ornate stone scroll work, statues, and gothic-looking decoration. the streets were cobblestones. it's exactly what you think you mistakenly imagine "europe" to look like but presume that just fantasy stereotype. it's not.
brussels was already 1,000 years old when i was born and seems to have no shortage of truly-amazing architecture. it's awesomely baffling.

we opted to pass on dessert at the cafe, instead doing a "chocolate crawl", popping in and out of just a few of the many chocolatiers lining the narrow european streets. some look like old-world chocolate shoppes, others are sleek and modern. they all seem to have the best chocolate in the world.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

i'm in freaking brussels

yes, i am.

deciding to get out of the utah film industry was the best thing i've ever done for my job there. i have been busier this year than ever before. most recently, i was in north carolina a week ago. and now i'm in belgium on a different trip.

i haven't slept over 30 hours, i think, and my creative faculties are not as sharp as they should be. i will forgo any extensive explanation of the wonders of the city or of europe in general, but will leave a few brief notes:

the first: i've never had a pronounced need to visit europe. as i've said before, if you look like me or talk like me, i'm less interested in traveling there. but as we were standing down town today in what was such perfect classic european style, with cobblestone streets and small but ornate stone architecture all around me, i fell in love with europe, and faster than i'd anticipated.

our first (and really, only) meal here so far has been, of course, a belgian waffle. served by a way cool guy with coolio-like hair/dreds in a shop so quintessentially "european waffle shop" that it could have been crafted with precision by disneyland engineers, this was the best waffle i have ever had. or that i will likely ever have, even if i live to be 111. with ice cream on top.

i don't speak more than about three words of french. thankfully, our sound guy, ben, does. i like being in japan, where i can converse with the locals.

i didn't think to bring my camera cable, so there will be no pictures accompanying these postings. but i did bring my camera, and intend to fill up the entire flash card.

i loved looking down the streets as we drove through down, unbelieving that brussels looked pretty much how i wanted it to look. it was luscious. but the down town plaza, a quad of four grand and opulent buildings that looked like my art history book come to life, was so tremendous my brain about short circuited. plenty of pictures will be taken.

there's probably plenty more, but i really need to get to sleep.

for those wondering, brussels is 8 hours ahead of the current utah time. i wonder if this post will be time stamped according to brussels time?

post script: nope, utah time. interesting.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

my brilliant morning

my morning has been like this:

me: "it's been a good morning. i got up early, had breakfast, worked on my sunday school lesson, and now i'm getting ready for a shower. i think i'll watch a movie after this."

The Spirit: "you should go to the temple."

me: "what?"

The Spirit: "go to the temple."

me: "but i was going to watch a movie..."

The Spirit: "go to the temple."

me: "i wanted to watch a movie."

The Spirit: "go to the temple."

me: "yeah, but..."

The Spirit: "go to the temple."

me: "i should go to the temple today."

wearing a towel and with shaving cream still on my face, i check the temple schedule on-line because i remember hearing something at church about the provo temple being closed for a while. it closes on june 21. i'm good.

smelling like irish spring and getting dressed, i get a text message from a friend, asking if i want to do anything and i can't find my amazing red bow tie, but nothing is going to get in my way. as i pick up my wallet i decide to check my recommend.
it expired in april.
i am crestfallen.