Posts Tagged ‘International Creative Consulting’

Romancista!

Friday, August 10th, 2012

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

From Cold to Stupid Cold

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Well, after last week’s snowluge (that’s a snow-deluge, where the snow gets too deep even for a luge), the inevitable Siberian cold front has moved in and the temperature has plummeted from reasonable single digits (on the centigrade scale) to ridiculous numbers like -10 and -27. See, this is my big problem with the centigrade scale; it makes everything MUCH colder than it has to be. Okay, in fairness, blaming centigrade is truly just killing the messenger, so I’ll let that go. But I’m here to tell you that I have neither the clothing nor the temperament for snot-freezes-in-your-nostrils cold, which is where we’ve arrived at today.

I felt it in the air yesterday when I took my latest sightseeing stroll around Sofia. Highlights included the Natural History Museum, where I encountered this intriguing theory about the origin of the Cyclops myth: It turns out that the bones of extinct elephants littered the ancient Mediterranean world, which, if you didn’t know better (and how could you, since you’ve never seen a live elephant?) you would think the skeletons resembled a hugely over-sized man — a giant. It turns out that elephant skulls don’t have much in the way of eye-sockets, but do have a big, gaping trunk-socket — which, again, could look very much like a single eye hole to a primitive person trying to glean meaning from old bones. One thing leads to an other and voila, you’ve got yourself a cyclops myth. Why those bones should add up to a cranky blacksmith, I don’t know, but then again I’ve never gotten how those random stars of Ursa Major add up to the shape of a bear. Maybe it has something to do with ancient alkaloids.

I did some brief, frigid shopping at the flea market of Soviet-era flotsam, but somehow couldn’t bring myself to load up on looted Nazi swords or medals, be they real or reproduction. Magnifying glasses. I bought some nifty magnifying glasses. I’m exactly that kind of nerd.

High point of the stroll was the exhibit of relic religious art in the crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Here are some shots from there.

As you can see, even after hundreds of years, the colors are still quite vivid. So is, er, the imagery.

That shot was taken from “the Life of St. George,” who, as you can readily judge, had a hard one. I guess once you’ve slain the dragon, it’s pretty much all downhill from there.

Finally I leave you with this proof that time travel exists; how else does one explain the presence of the Bee Gees in 18th century religious iconography?

Rock on, Christ Pantocrator, rock on.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go outside and freeze some bodily fluids. Good times!

More later, -jv

Snow Far, Snow Good

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

I know, I know, more noise about snow. But seriously. I mean… seriously. It just snowed for 36 hours, and you can see the story in this photo essay of the tree outside my window at work.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t seem like such a much to you, but believe me, it’s impressive when you’re out in it. And to think people have historically fought wars in this weather. I don’t even want to walk to the car.

It’s a big deal, this snow. Apparently right now Bulgaria is on Orange Alert, which, I don’t know, maybe means that the snow is about to turn orange. The border with Romania is closed, though I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. You know, I mean, this country is also right next door to Greece, and when I think of Greece, I think of beaches and topless Swedish girls (funny, when I think of many things I think of… never mind). I do not think of snow. No. Not at all. But here it is, in all its gory glory.

I mean, it’s really pretty pretty, so long as you can view it in a dispassionate, super-graphic sort of way (which is much easier to do from behind plate glass or from another continent altogether). But I’m digging it, I am. Mostly because I know I get to leave it in a week or so, so yay. Back to Southern California, where our idea of a brutal winter is a rainstorm big enough to float a trash can or two. My only concern is that the weather may impact my weekend travel plans. I had hoped to check out the Kukeri, Bulgarian carnival celebrations that go back to pagan times. I don’t imagine it’ll be like Mardi Gras (too damn cold to show one’s naughty bits for beads) but it certainly seems worth checking out. On the other hand, I have heard horror stories of being stuck for 12 hours in stopped traffic behind accidents on snowy mountain roads, and I am certainly not up for that.

What I am up for is… chalga! This is Bulgaria’s pop-folk music, mostly limned by women in skimpy outfits and blasted out at 250 beats per minute or some such. Tonight, in the company of local hosts who will (presumably) keep me out of trouble, I shall be venturing into my first so-called “folk club.” I’ve been thinking Bob Dylan. I’ve been told that my thinking is way, way wrong.

Need some chalga? Check it out.

Okay, I’ll close the post with this lovely piece of found art, entitled, “One of these things is not like the other.”

Awesome, innit?

More later,  -jv

Well Now There’s This

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I think that pictures of snow must be the most boring thing in the world to people who regularly see snow. (I also think that light switches on the outsides of bathrooms are about the worst idea ever). For the rest of us, such snaps have a certain “watching a train wreck” quality. It’s not the beauty we’re drawn to, but the appalling implied chaos. First we have an immediate stretch of  treacherous walking and driving. This is followed by a period of extended slush/muck, during which mud and guck of every unspeakable description seems to leap from the ground onto your shoes and boots, pants, jacket, everywhere; and getting from point A to point B becomes such a boggy slog that you think, “Hell, maybe I’ll just stay indoors today. I mean, really, who needs food?” As snow turns to ice, it’s piled into huge dark mounds by city workers who contribute their own cigarette butts and Dunkin’ Donuts cups to the aggregate, as if out to create a post-modern sculpture upon the guiding artistic principles of chaos and inconvenience. These mounds will linger for weeks and months, until gradually melting away in the spring to reveal lost shoes, mittens, hats and the odd iced animal. Good times.

Yet when it’s fresh, it sure do look purty. So now there’s this.

And if you’re not from snow country, let me just say that the novelty wears off almost the instant it sets in.

I did get in a nice walkabout last night before the weather set in, and captured this picture of The Church of the Holy Blah Blah Blah (sorry, I never was good at tracking facts).

Plus a damned intriguing ghost rider in the sky.

Somewhere in the past week I also stumbled upon Jedi Salad

Made with real Jedis, I suppose.

We close this post with the estimable Plateau of Cheese. You will find it on the map not far from the Jagged Peaks of Tortellini and the Lake of Spilt Milk (over which there is no use crying).

Okay, that’s enough of this nonsense. There’s a world of snow out there just waiting to envelop me in its chilly moist embrace, so I’d better get cracking. You know the expression “Winter Wonderland?” It’s just like that.

Without the wonderland part.

More later, -jv

“Now Saving Bulgaria”

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

For fairly obvious reasons, these weeks when I download my pictures I download them to a file labeled “Bulgaria.” Just now I went to save all my changes and I was informed that I was “now saving Bulgaria.” That made me feel rather good.

But seriously, it’s only a television show.

I had a chance to take a long walk around today, camera in hand. As always, I set out to take pictures of important cultural artifacts.

This has to be important. It is on a very high pillar.

I like to show folks the typical sights of the city, including its streets and sculptures.

Streets.

Sculptures.

But my plan always goes to hell and I end up taking pictures of dogs instead.

(True fact or bar fact: there are more stray dogs in Sofia than people.)

And then things just degenerate into silly sign captures, like this one that, at least, tells it like it is.

And this one that, based on investigation, tells it like it isn’t.

Because that was not one New York tasting hot dog.

And then this one…

…which, to my non-Cyrillic-reading eye, initially struck me as “bimbo outlet,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

Anyway, all in all a pretty picturesque and picture-driven stroll around town. My mental map is now good and dialed in. I know where two Subways are (and two metro stations), plus two Irish bars, many Non-Stop stores in case I need a can of peaches at 3 a.m., what looks like the world’s sketchiest Chinese restaurant, plus the National Theater and the National Gallery and this palace and that church and blah, blah, blah.

Sorry, folks. I’d rather take pictures of signs.

More later, -jv

PS: Bar fact, which you knew.

The Jagged Pieces of My Sleep

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Thanks to Dr. Feelnothing, I got my hands on some Ambien for this trip, and so have been taking jet lag by brute force. It’s not a bad way to go — certainly healthier than Scotching myself into a stupor — but it has its disadvantages. For one thing, sleeping pill versus jet lag is a bit of a “clash of the titans” between a stubborn biological clock and the forces of forced unconsciousness, as a result of which, my sleep is a tattered, dream-splattered thing; brief, and not all that restful. Anyway, in the upshot, it’s not quite 6 AM in Sofia, but I’m up and at ’em already. Not complaining! Definitely not complaining. Between yesterday and today I discovered six new challenges of this job (the scope and timetable of it; the present lack of cast for the show; the present lack of set; the fact that I’m expected to teach a five-day, not a two-day, workshop) that excite me no end. Once again I’ve been thrown into the deep end, where the creatures are strange and the water is WARM!

On a note of personal discovery, I just love the found objects of the places I go. The first one presented it to me yesterday morning when I looked out upon daylight from my hotel room window for the first time, and saw this lovely bit:

And you know, it’s not the insects that concern me so much as the etcetera.

I have noted that the difference between myself and normal people is that they take pictures of people and I take pictures of things. What can I say? Things are so amusing!

Anyway, I have no shortage of homework. I have just reviewed the first episode of Married… with Children and noted all the cultural context issues, dated references, and lost-in-translation word plays that make adapting these scripts such a challenge. According to the contemplated production schedule, I only have 119 scripts to go. Fun!

Oh, and not content to do one job when three will do, I’ve just posted a new column on FISH BITES MAN, my soapbox at  EpicPoker.com.    You’ll find it at http://www.epicpoker.com/news/blog-pages/2012/01/fish-bites-man-weaving-tangled-webs.aspx.

If you’re liking these blog posts, be sure to tell your friends, foes, co-workers, dogs, members of Congress, whoever. Remember that whatever my text is, my subtext is always the same: Get them hooked on the drug that is John Vorhaus. Also available on facebook and on twitter @TrueFactBarFact.

More later,

– Johnny Jetlag

Duffy of the Desert

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Maxx has reached the desert portion of her Indian sojurn. I’ll let her words and pictures speak for themselves.

March 9, 2011: We are now in the desert – Jaisalmer – which is in the northwestern part of  India, very close to the Pakistani border.   We are told by our driver that the desert road is of the highest quality (translation: it is a smooth road) so that the military can get to the border quickly if necessary.  For the political buffs, the tension between India and Pakistan remains at a 60+ year standstill over Kashmir.  India feels it is rightfully theirs as the ruler of Kashmir in 1947 when given a choice to become part of India or Pakistan, the ruler chose India, even though Kashmir consists mostly of Muslims (Pakistan is Muslim; India is mostly Hindu).  Pakistan claims that the ruler was unduly influenced and Kashmir should belong to Pakistan. Fast forward, in 1998, tensions between India and Pakistan increased after a series of nuclear tests.  It got worse in 1999 as hostilities flared between the two countries when India launched military strikes against Kashmiri insurgents. Today, I am told by the locals living close to the border that all Muslims (Pakistanis and Kashmiris) and Hindus (Indian) are living in peace though each country remains committed to Kashmir.

All I can tell you is this:  the Indian desert is beautiful — golden hues shimmering off sand dunes or buildings; camels lazily snoozing by the road, and people who have that look of contentment in the simplicity of their lives.

More later, -jv et al

Guest Post

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

My lovely wife, Maxx Duffy, is traveling in India these weeks, and since fans of this blog seem to like trip reports from exotic climes, I thought I’d share a missive or two with you. Take it away, Maxx..

March 2nd: Tomorrow is the last day of the conference I am attending; I will then spend 9 days on tour.  I can already tell you that India is a land of opposites – the most striking being the wealth/poverty line.  I am currently immersed in an oasis of splendor on the campus of the Indian School of Business.  Just outside the campus’ gates (protected by security) are the slums that one hears about — but seeing those slums is shocking.  Though I have been to many 3rd world countries, I have never seen it is here.  The streets are lined with thousands of makeshift tents or tin huts (having tin is a step above). Children as young as 3yrs old begging; grasping your leg; adults with little to no clothing lying in the roadways with cars skirting around them. It is very difficult to absorb all this.

In my sessions at the conference, they admitted that India has no way of really knowing its population because those that live on the streets are not accounted for easily.  They also admit that while there are many initiatives from trying to get identity cards for slum residents (which can then help them get some financial assistance) to improving housing and healthcare (62 infant deaths for every 1000 births versus the U.S. statistic of 2 deaths for every 1000 births), those initiatives are only a drop in the bucket in terms of the long road they have ahead of them. In the days to come,  I will start sending photos of the sights …

And when she sends ’em to me, I’ll send ’em to you. More later, -jv

A Free Read

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Want to score a free copy of THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY? Just click below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Albuquerque Turkey (Hardcover) by John Vorhaus

The Albuquerque Turkey

by John Vorhaus

Giveaway ends February 23, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

JV on CNN

Here’s me being the sage of poker of our time, some time ago.