Pay what you think it's worth. I think it's worth five bucks.
There are times I wish I could be more forthcoming about the nuts and bolts of the work I do on these overseas jaunts. Often I feel (correctly) constrained from violating client confidentiality, but on the other hand, if the client is talking about me, well, I guess it’s okay for me to talk about me, too. With that in mind, here’s a picture and blog post from the website of Y&R Brazil, the Brazilian branch of the worldwide ad agency Young & Rubican, and that’s who I’ve been working for here.
Quite the art shot, huh? I couldn’t have conceived such an indulgence better myself. And here’s what they had to say about me (how’s your Portuguese? Mine is nonexistent, so I hope they didn’t say I sucked.)
“Romancista, escritor, roteirista de séries de TV como Married with Children, professor da UCLA e fera no pôquer. É isso aí, John Vorhaus é um cara cheio de talento e está aqui na agência para dividir sua experiência com os Youngs. Na pauta do workshop Ferramentas Criativas, estão criatividade e storytelling!”
As far as I can tell, I’m a romancista. Well, okay, I’ll buy that… whatever it is.
Apart from imparting my wisdom, I actually carved out a little time for sightseeing, notably from high at0p the Banespa Bank building in downtown Sao Paolo.
And if you get the impression from this that “downtown Sao Paolo” goes a long way, trust me, you don’t know the half of it. Here’s the other half.
And there are at least two other other halves beside this one but, well, you get the idea: big, big city. Skyscrapers as far as the eye can see — and traffic that boggles the mind. I thought we had it bad in Los Angeles, but Sampa teaches me that, really, I know nothing of traffic. But this is a cool place and a deeply vibrant one. As in so many countries, there’s a friendly rivalry between the main cities of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (which I didn’t get to visit this time, but damn well will next time). It’s clear that if you want to have a professional career in the place where everything is happening, then you have to be in Sampa, just like in America you can love San Francisco or Chicago all you want, but if you really want to be in the center, it’s LA or NY for you. This thought is not lost on Brazilians: hence the sprawl; hence the traffic. Everyone is here because, uh, everyone else is here.
And by the way, while the rest of the world is struggling with recession, depression, concession and regression, Brazil is rocking. Consensus is that this country is riding a rising tide of prosperity. Optimism is palpable. It’s great to see. You almost can’t be here and not be happy about the road ahead. It’s uplifting.
And if you’re not uplifted enough, how about a little sugar to start your engine? What you see here is fresh sugar can about to be squeezed into a cup for your drinking and sugar-rushing pleasure.
And… sigh… there goes my diet.
And… sigh… there goes my visit. Tomorrow I fly home, after a whirlwind week (well, less) in a place I’ve immediately fallen in love with and am already plotting a return visit. This city and country are special, and the people who live here know it beyond doubt. I’ll close this post with a picture of a bunch of people you don’t know, but there’ all my new best friends, and I look forward to seeing them again.
More later, -jv
Well, Campers, here I am in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and I’ve just come in from having a big walk around. I can’t tell you much about Sampa, except that it’s unreasonable large and that parts of it remind me of Tel Aviv (riotous street scene) and parts remind me of Bucharest (a little more attention to smooth pavement, please). What I can tell you about is my inner weather. All day long I’ve been haunted by the (good) feeling that “everything old is new again.” Maybe it’s because I’m on a new (to me) continent and in a totally new (to me) culture, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is really like the old days for me (like 1998, ’99), when these overseas jaunts were still a novelty and the mere act of being in a strange place was enough to get me seriously off. Followers of this blog will know that I’ve lost that feeling from time to time. It’s not that I’ve become jaded, except, okay maybe a little bit I have. Anyway, for some reason this place strips all the jaded away, and I’m walking around with the sense of wonder of a much younger man.
Just in passing today I noted the difference between being younger and being older. I fancy that it’s worth sharing here: Being older means you know more and care less. I don’t know if that’s true or not. It sounds like one of the (many, many) things I say that sounds like it might mean something and then you look at it closely and realize, hey, not so much.
Here’s one thing I know about Sao Paolo: people make eye contact. It’s weird and disconcerting if you’re not used to it, but you can be walking down the street and find yourself being “recklessly eyeballed” by all and sundry. Now me, I’m a reckless eyeballer from way back, but I’m so used to that being a one-way relationship. Here, out on the street, people are checking me out as relentlessly as I them (so much so that I sometimes think they’re flirting which, alas, they are not). I was told that this was the case, but didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own, er, eyes. Why it should be I cannot say. Does it speak to an open and connective society, or just a general prurient interest in one another on the street? Dunno. I’ve only been here a day. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have it all sorted out.
In the meantime, two pictures. This first is from my hotel hallway, outside the elevator.
And that’s good advice, no? Note that this warning has been required by municipal code since 1997. I guess there were a lot of elevator accidents theretofore.
This next shot is from a toy store here in Sampa, and it just tickles me that the game that informed my childhood a damn long time ago is still out there doing its thing, forcing people to choose between the Rota Segura (the safe path) and the Rua do Risco (the risky path). Same as it ever was, my friends, same as it ever was.
For me the Rua do Risco. Always was, always will be. Because everything old is new again, and as long as I follow the unsafe path, no matter how old I get, I will stay new, too.
More later, -jv
Well, Campers, I haven’t been overseas in almost 8 months and that’s kind of a record for — oops, I forgot my trip to Oslo in April. Okay, I haven’t been overseas in almost 4 months, which is no kind of record at all. This time I’m bound for Sao Paolo, Brazil, and I’m excited about this trip because this will add both a new country and a new continent to my resume. I will now have worked in 29 countries on 5, count ’em 5, continents. Ya-hey!
This is also an unusual trip because I’m going to do a job I’ve never done before: I’m tasked to breathe life into a cartoon mascot for a food company (can’t tell you more — would have to kill you). Well, I haven’t worked the advertising side of the street since I was 25, so this will be a real change of pace. Nor have I ever done exactly this sort of creative consulting gig before. So it’ll be “making it up as I go along” as usual. Doesn’t scare me. That’s how I roll.
As usual, I’ll be flying blind, arriving in a city I know virtually nothing about. A quick image scan on Google seems to indicate that the houses are pretty…
but the land is mostly magenta…
And covered with tall buildings.
But, one way or another, I imagine I’ll stumble along. I’ll only be there for 6 days, so no chance to chase my usual buzz of ultimate frisbee in foreign climes, and probably not poker as well. Ah, well. I’m hoping to get a little sight-seeing in, but frankly I won’t work too hard to arrange that. When you’re completely new to a place, everything is a sight to see, and even the most prosaic walk can be eye-opening. Well, I’m bringing my camera, so my prosaic walk can be eye-opening for you, too.
More later, -jv
This post will only be of interest to ultimate players, and then probably only that subset who were at last Wednesday’s SLACKER FAMILY PICNIC AND 4TH OF JULY BARBECUE EXTRAVAGANZA. Still that was more than a hundred Los Angeles area ultimate players, plus their family, friends and reluctant companions. We had it all: B-2 flyover. (Did you miss it? Damn those planes are stealthy.) Awesome fireworks display (later; elsewhere). Free food and drink (if you brought it). So another slacktacular time was had by all, and another annual event enters the Slacker Calendar, to join such stalwarts as Slackolumbus Day, Slacksgiving and Slacky New Year. If you weren’t there, you were elsewhere, so… get it right next time!
Your hosts, JV and Danielle “the Visionary” Davis
Matt Bunsen, possibly contemplating the Burners’ upcoming gig at Viva Cantina on July 24…
The gang’s all here…
The gang’s on beer…
What Slacker Family Picnic is all about: The Landesmans in all their ultimate glory.
More later, -jv
I’m not generally a critical guy and I don’t like to indulge in negativity, but I call it like I see it, and I have to tell you that the new Holocaust Center in Norway… in a word… blows. And I know what I’m talking about. I’m a fan of holocaust museums. I’ve been to ones in Bucharest, Berlin, Los Angeles, elsewhere (though not DC — I’m told that’s the granddaddy of them all). The one here has an interesting story to tell, the story of Jews who either did or did not get turned over to the Nazis during the time of Norway’s occupation… but they totally blew it.
The way I see it, there are three main problems with the Center.
The first: no information in English. Okay, I’m not anglocentric, but come on. The Center is just down the road from the Viking Museum, the Flam Museum, the Kontiki Museum — they HAVE to know that they’ll get a ton of international traffic. And they make no allowances for this. Seriously, who builds a modern museum in a major European city in this day and age and doesn’t have information in English? That’s a fail.
Second fail: big display problems. The space should lend itself to excellent exhibits, for it is housed in the mansion owned by Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling, from whom we get the word Quisling. But the rooms are all chopped up, and the lines of sight on all the exhibits is off-angle. Almost everything is too close or too distant for easy viewing. Plus, there’s almost nothing about Quisling. That’s not a design problem, but come on…
Third, everything is way overthought. Clearly the architect and the museum curator were more interested in making a statement — see how “designy” we can be — than in making the museum’s information accessible. Space is wasted, misused… mangled. It occurred to me that maybe this is what the designers had in mind: to make the viewing sufficiently uncomfortable that you felt the Holocaust on some visceral level. But, no, I don’t think so. I think they just got carried away with their own “vision.”
In my workshops I draw the distinction between “serving the work” and “serving the ego.” Bottom line on this museum, it does not serve the work. What should be an examination of the Holocaust is instead a celebration of the bright boys and girls behind the Center. I want to say go back and start over, because as Holocaust museums go, this one doesn’t even make my top ten — and I’ve only been to five.
There, I’ve had my rant. Make of it what you will.
More later, -jv
As my mother used to say (well, still says):
Hooray, hooray the first of May, outdoor shagging starts today. Only she doesn’t say shagging. Charming, mom, charming. Well, Mayday is probably not a big door where you are (alfresco fornication notwithstanding) but it’s a big deal in Norway, where it’s celebrated (as elsewhere) as a day of international workers’ rights. Most everyone has the day off. I, of course, did not. The irony of this is not lost on me. However, I did have time enough to catch the May Day parade, which went right by my hotel. There were people marching for every conceivable cause, from the rights of Palestinians to the right to smoke lots and lots of weed. And lots of people, including this kid, were marching for reasons I could not discern.
Perhaps he was showing his solidarity with Nike. I know not. Of course it was hard to know what anyone was marching for because their signs were in Norwegian (how rude!) but some of the marchers’ agendas were perfectly clear from context. These people, manifestly, were marching for the right of nurses to play drums.
And good for them, I say. Norway is a civilized country. If nurses can’t march and drum here, where can they?
Wish I had more pictures for you, but I had to leave the parade early, and go off to continue my ongoing quest to make the world safe for situation comedy. The work was the work, I won’t bore you with the details of that. Let’s just say that among the many reasons I love my job is that it introduces me to concepts I otherwise would never know anything about, including the plight of oppressed Norwegian drumming nurses. Set them free, say I. SET THEM FREE!
More later, -jv
Well, here I am back in Oslo, Norway, a place where I worked extensively in 1998 and 1999 — and haven’t seen since. I’m so glad to be back working here, though I don’t know if my presence represents a throwback to an earlier phase of my career or the reigniting of something that gave (and gives) me so much joy. Well, whatever. I’m just pleased — feeling blessed, actually — to be back here in this wonderful country, helping the makers of a very funny, very successful TV show do their job just a little bit better.
So that’s the warp of my life: traveling the world according to the now-venerable formula of exchanging knowledge for experience plus money. If I get to do this until I die, I shall be content.
Meanwhile, over there on the woof of my life, it looks like Lucy in the Sky is starting to gain some of the traction I hoped it would. Here’s a clip from a brand-new review:
Attention all Baby Boomers or BB wannabees: If you want to remember/learn about what really happened in the `60s and `70s with the Hippie Generation, “Lucy in the Sky” gives you a riveting, hilarious, honest, insightful look at what most of us teenagers went through during that time. Vorhaus has captured those feelings impeccably in Gene Steen, his intelligent, good-hearted, restless symbol of teen angst in a stereotypical Midwest suburban household. Gene thinks there is something to this hippie culture, but is not sure what until he experiences the freedom and risks of choosing his own path in life free from parental or societal restraint.
It goes on like that for a bit, and makes me think that, yeah, what I hoped to convey is getting conveyed.
And it tickles me no end that I write in a language where “woof” and “weave” can mean the same thing.
Here’s how the warp and woof intersect: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been using my teaching enterprises to support my writing endeavors. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been using my writing income to subsidize my overseas adventures. Years ago I made the profoundly lucky discover that “those who can do, do both,” and so long as I’m willing to accept a little personal schizophrenia (and why not? strong cloth requires both warp and woof) then I can continue to run pell-mell down these two interesting roads at once.
That’s it for now. Rainy Oslo beckons. (And EXPENSIVE Oslo: this place makes Moscow, Russia, look like Moscow, Idaho, but whatever). Photos may or may not be forthcoming, for I forgot and left my camera at home — and I hate the camera on my iPhone almost as much as I hate Siri.
More later, -jv