Archive | Scene

The Reinvention of Normal

 

 

Off the Wall Creativity and Its Inventions

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What is normal?  What is creativity?

Creativity is about connecting things.  When you ask people how they did something creative, they feel a bit awkward because they only saw something that was simply there, something they can’t fully explain.  It just seemed obvious to them after a while.  That’s because they were able to connect the experiences they had with the ideas of synthesizing new things.

In this brief profile by filmmaker Liam Saint Pierre, we dive head-first into the strange mind of British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox who’s been entertaining the world for years with his delightfully impractical and outlandish ideas.

His recent off-the-wall inventions include a stained glass driverless car, shoes with built-in GPS that guide you back home, and a giant listening device called Binaudios that mimic tourist binoculars for the purpose of listening to a city.  He’s also published a book filled with comic-like sketches of his most outlandish ideas, Variations on Normal.

St. Pierre’s film packs a lot into its seven minutes.  We spend time with Dominic on his “desperate” quest for inspiration, glimpse his studio, meet his parents and see the family business, and even trot round a hardware store after him.

There are animations of some of his most bizarre ideas and home video footage of Dominic as a child. “Quiet, shy children do a lot of work in their heads,” Dominic says rather poignantly.  “They’re thinking a lot, observing a lot.  Maybe as a child the creativity was there but it didn’t have an outlet.”

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns, looking
at things in a different way and not being afraid to fail, Dominic
believes.

“Let’s do the ridiculous and by doing the ridiculous something else might come of it,” Dominic shares in the film, perfectly encapsulating his entire artistic practice.

We’re reminded that the process of creativity is allowing yourself to produce ideas and make mistakes by doing the inspiring and outlandish, and the process of art and invention is knowing which ones to keep.

~Via Dominic Wlcox, Liam Saint Pierre, This is Colossal,
It’s Nice That, and Vimeo

 

 

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Extreme Bungee Madness

 

 

New Zealand’s Beauty and the Bungee Beast

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There’s nothing quite like the terrifying life or death experience of bungee jumping.

It’s a leap of faith.  The do-or-die moment of truth, the holding of your breath in unnerving disbelief, the fatal psyche-plunge into oblivion, the feeling of your kidneys gravitating up to your Adam’s apple.

And they call this fun?

Well, it’s a rite of passage, becoming a part of the small minority who can say they have jumped off a bridge connected to a giant rubber band while impressing their significant others or proving something to the family members.  Who knows, it could become your newest Facebook cover photo.

The above video shot by Devin Graham, also known as YouTube uber-darling’s Devinsupertramp, might just change your mind.  Devin’s crew teamed up with AJ Hackett Bungy to get some one-of-a-kind footage at New Zealand’s very first commercial bungee jumping siteBelow is the behind the scenes look of the whole bungee jumping party affair.

Anytime Devin is filming there’s going to be some action packed shots and some bumping music moving the fun footage right along.

If heights aren’t your cup of tea, then we’re pretty sure extreme bungee jumping won’t be on your to-do bucket list anytime soon. 

Just remember, the longest journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Or one humongous gnarly jump.

 

 

 

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Rising Up Against the Odds in Africa’s Largest Slum

 

 

A Shining Hope: Kibera’s School for Girls

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“I have a dream, a dream that will never fail.

Every mighty king was once a crying baby.  Every great tree was once a tiny seed.  And so is my dream.

This journey seems so long.  Yet I will not waiver.  The path has stones all over, but I will not give up. 

Every day of my life is a page of my history.  Every step I take is a move to my glorious destiny.

It’s not where I am, but where I’m going that matters.  So dream!”

~Eunice Akoth

 

 

Located just three miles from the center of downtown Nairobi and home to an estimated 1 million people living in an area the size of NYC’s Central Park, Kibera is Africa’s largest slum.

The Kenyan government, which owns the land where Kibera stands, refuses to formally recognize the settlement.  It regards its residents as squatters who simply don’t belong there even though they have nowhere else to go.

As such, the government turns a blind eye to its conditions and plight.  The people of Kibera’s 12 villages are conveniently denied basic social services such as education, healthcare, sanitation, clean water, electricity, and roads– and the basic human dignity that accompanies them.

A Girl’s Life is the story of Eunice Akoth, a fourth grade student at the Kibera School for Girls.  She has a passion for poetry, an aptitude for math, and a love of the book Matilda by Roald Dahl.

She has lived all her life in Kibera.  Although she is only ten years old, she has dreams of traveling the world from New York to Melbourne, before returning to Kenya and becoming a doctor.

Though Eunice is considered a bright student by her teachers and fortunate enough to receive a free education in a place where only 8% of the girls have a chance to attend school, she also represents the far-too-common case of a girl who must overcome extreme obstacles in order to find her way out of poverty.

Unfortunately, according to Nairobi’s Kibera Law Centre, the statistics are not in favor of Eunice succeeding.  Or any of the kids there for that matter.  The odds are stacked against them.

Kibera’s 1 million people are jammed into makeshift tin huts in a 1.5 square mile area; with an average of 8 people per hut and without toilets, human waste and garbage run rampant through the rambling walking paths of the slum village.  There are no streets, street lighting, police or medical facilities.  Nor is there clean water, for that matter.  The people must purchase water from private vendors, paying up to 15 times more than non-slum residents.  The area has consequently become a de facto breeding ground for typhus, diphtheria, and malaria, depending on how poor and how low to the ground you live.  In Kibera, everyone lives on the same level, sharing the same conditions.

One of the most densely populated places on the planet, Kibera’s life expectancy is 30 years of age—compared to 50 years in the remainder of Kenya and 62 years on average throughout the rest of the world.  Half of all Kiberians are under the age of 15, and only four out of its five children will live to see their 5th birthday.  Children widely sniff glue-like hallucinogenic solvents to reduce their hunger pangs.  Solvent is cheaper than food and makes you forget your misery.

Violence is also no stranger in Kibera.  Women are routinely beaten, raped, or sold into prostitution, and both men and women are denied any form of police protection.  Shockingly enough, 66% of girls in Kibera routinely trade sex for food by the age of 16; many begin as young as 6. 

43% of Kibera’s young women reported their first sexual contact was a forced encounter, under duress or trauma.  The young girls also suffer an HIV rate that’s 5 times greater than that of their male counterparts.  Condoms and birth control are unheard of.

So where does all this lead for someone like young Eunice?

It’s well known that giving an education to a girl like Eunice– in an urban slum like Kibera– means she will earn more money on the whole, will invest 90% of those earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to see adulthood.

The life-threatening obstacles can be boiled down to these three basic beginning points:  poverty, a lack of education, and gender inequality.  The lack of access to quality healthcare and resources often prevents girls like Eunice from staying in school, and the lack of value placed on women and girls means many of the most vulnerable girls in Kibera will never start school at all.

But there is a small glimmer of hope, of change.  It starts, simply, with creating a school for girls.  Kibera’s young women can be a model for others if given the opportunity.  With some luck and investment, they could transition from urban poverty to urban change.  They could become tomorrow’s progressive leaders.

Sponsoring the two videos seen above and below, the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) organization believes change– for Eunice and others like her in Kibera– needs to be centered on creating schools with superior education, free healthcare, food, and
psychosocial services that they can attend. 

And so they did just that:  The Kibera School for Girls was founded in 2009, the slum’s first free primary and middle school for girls like Eunice.

The Kibera School for Girls mission is about education, transforming lives and creating opportunity, fostering hope and empowerment, and making a difference for the most vulnerable.  With nearly 400 successful students well on their way, Shining Hope has expanded their goal by opening another new school for girls in nearby Malthare, another large and impovershed slum.

“Stop watching all your dreams going down the drain,” Eunice wisely says to others, rising above her tender age of 11 years.

“Fight.  Fight fearlessly!” she advises.  “Fight like a lion even if you are wounded– and change.  It’s not about who you are, but how you see yourself.  It’s about where you are going.  If you trust in yourself, you can make it.”

“So dream!”

 

 

 

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Pele and The Fire Within

 

 

The Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Lance Page
PageFilms.com 

 

 

“She is Pele-honua-mea, Pele of the Sacred Land.  She is Pele, the eater of land, when she devours the land with her flames.

She who rules the volcanoes of Hawai’i, and Mankind has no power to resist her.  When Pele is heard from, her word is the final word.”

 

 

The Fire Within is my visceral and artistic study of the Big Island of Hawaii’s hyperactive Kilauea volcano.  

I was born and raised on the island.  All my life I hadn’t had the chance to come face to face with her incredible presence until last year.

Many in Hawaii refer to the lava as ‘Pele’, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.  

After my incredible experience at the volcano it’s not hard to see why so many islanders to this day see her as a living, breathing thing.  I wanted to capture her beauty and mysteriousness as well as her unimaginable power in the best way that I knew how.  I wanted to just see her doing what she does. I shied away from any human interaction and turned my camera on the fiery blood of the Earth.

It is said if you want to protect yourself and your family from the lava flow, you have to pay your respects to Pele, the volcano goddess.  

According to local legends, she appears as a beautiful woman with long, flowing hair or an older woman with long, white hair and accompanied by a dog, and you must greet her with aloha and offer her help or respite to avoid her violent temper.  To really get on her good side, however, you must visit her at the crater, offering her food and flowers to settle her down.

This six and a half minute film is my best attempt at capturing what it felt like to witness molten rock slowly burning down a dense wet rainforest, or to peer into the six-hundred-foot-wide lava lake at Kilauea’s summit crater.

Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii and possibly the world.  I’ve never been anywhere else on the planet that demanded as much respect and awareness for the natural environment around me.

Her unexpected beauty and unsettling sense of danger were nothing short of humbling– and put so much of my short, temporal life into perspective.

~Via Lance Page, Herb Kawainui Kane, Olukai/Nick Selway

 

 

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The Pigeon Kings of Brooklyn

 

Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Take a moment to look up from the busy streets of New York City.

You might glimpse a flock of purebred pigeons swooping in circles around abandoned tenement buildings of the Big Apple.  They’re there for a reason.  They have a purpose.  They have people who care for them deeply.

We don’t know why we haven’t heard about pigeon-raising until now; it appears that the City has no shortage of people training and
caring for them, we found out.

In The Birds by Brooklyn based photographer and filmmaker JJ Sulin, seen in the short film above, we are let into the world of three men who independently raise hundreds of pigeons in New York City.  It’s the story of why Joe Scott from Brooklyn, Tom Scotto from Staten Island, and Vincent Outerbridge from the Bronx all became interested in a career raising the birds.

Pigeon Kings of Brooklyn, seen below, is also a short documentary about NYC’s Bushwick residents who raise pigeons in rooftop coops across the urban landscape. 

The three New Yorkers say they find poetry and religion in their birds, competing for the hearts and minds of a gaggle of pigeons flying high above the skies over Brooklyn.

Their aerial acrobatics are guided by their keeper, a streetwise Puerto Rican nicknamed 2Tone.  On the other end of the borough, a man named Goodwin, and his pal Super 13, tend to their own pigeon coop and flock of 300 birds.

Some may consider them a nuisance; germ-ridden, mangy creatures scrounging off leftovers and good for nothing but sullying city landmarks.  But these films show pigeons in a whole new light– where they vastly improve New York City’s sky and provide some of its inhabitants with company and happiness.

In the age-old art of pigeon keeping, the birds– all varieties of domestic pigeons– are precious rather than pestilent.

These two films highlight the hobby and competition among coop owners, all the while forming a tight bond with their pigeon flock.  Make no mistake, each man is trying to beat the other, to lure his precious birds away.  

Sure, it’s about bragging rights, but it’s also about finding that “true pigeon that will never break your heart,” as 2Tone says.

Who even knew?  We certainly didn’t and we had no idea they could be
so dear to so many.

~Via JJ Sulin, Narratively, Daily Mail, Chris Andrade, Vimeo

 

 

 

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A Vineyard Dispute, Lots of Cash, and a Murder or Two

 

 

Running For Your Life Through the Napa Grapevines

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It began with the red Adidas gym bag stuffed with $800,000 in cash– coupled with the wine deal gone sour.

A tragic story of an overhyped and failed wine venture here in the heart of Napa Valley, the drama ironically led to the emotional and furious court battles between Robert Dahl, who ran a struggling vineyard, and his chief investor, Emad Tawfilis, who had willingly handed over the gym bag to offer the vintner seed capital.

Their dispute, in a region where money flows like, well, wine, climaxed Monday in the style of a Hollywood movie or a pulp fiction thriller, with a wounded Mr. Tawfilis racing frantically through the grapevines as Mr. Dahl, carrying a silencer-equipped .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol and driving a black sport utility vehicle, methodically pursued and then killed him in sight of onlookers and arriving sheriff’s deputies.

Mr. Dahl, 47, a former Minnesotan with a checkered background of delusional disputes and broken deals, later shot himself to death as officers closed in after a chase up a twisting valley road in Yountville, near the Napa-Sonoma border.

The Napa County sheriff’s office said Wednesday that it was still sorting out Monday’s events.  But Mr. Tawfilis, who had given Mr. Dahl the $800,000 and more to finance another winery that may have been defunct at the time of the investment, had told his lawyer that day that he was meeting Mr. Dahl to examine documents and talk about settling the lawsuit he had filed to recover his losses.

Days before, a judge appeared to have backed Mr. Dahl into a legal corner, ordering a hearing on an 18-count contempt citation for violating court orders not to move or dispose of corporate assets and lying to the court.

“The settlement conference was nothing more than an ambush to kill Emad,” said Lewis Perdue, the publisher of Wine Industry Insight, who is also a mystery writer and a former police-blotter journalist.  He said he had talked to both men and written extensively about their legal dispute.

Mr. Dahl, those who knew him say, came across at first as an ambitious, fast-talking salesman with a wealth of moneymaking ideas and the appearance of financial competence.  

When he arrived in California around 2011 from Minnesota, he left behind a group of investors who so liked his pitch for Duraban International, a company he had founded to produce a mold-killing spray, that they bought the firm.

But they later decided that the product “wasn’t what it was purported to be” and sued Mr. Dahl, Steven J. Lodge, a lawyer for the investors, said in a telephone interview from Anoka, Minn.

That was one of two lawsuits Mr. Lodge said he had filed on behalf of unhappy associates of Mr. Dahl’s.

“He was real good at getting into deals,” making his business partners upset, “and then exiting in a ball of fire,” Mr. Lodge said.  “I considered him kind of pathological.”

Mr. Dahl and Mr. Tawfilis met sometime after Mr. Dahl, who was married and had three children, moved to a San Francisco suburb around 2011.  Mr. Tawfilis, 48, of Los Gatos, worked in the Silicon Valley tech industry, but apparently in finance and accounting rather than software.  A soft-spoken, private man, he was unlike the beefy, quick-tempered Mr. Dahl, according to Steve Burch, a winemaker who worked for Mr. Dahl for two and a half years.  But the two shared one thing, he said:  the dream of having a place in Napa’s glamorous wine industry.

“It’s not about the wine or the work that goes into it,” Mr. Burch said.  “It’s about the lifestyle — drinking wine every night and having great dinners.”

According to court papers, Mr. Dahl said he had the business entree that Mr. Tawfilis sought, a Minnesota business called the Patio Wine Company.  In 2012 and 2013, according to court documents, Mr. Tawfilis lent Mr. Dahl $1.2 million to finance the venture, taking 97.5 percent of the company’s stock and its assets as collateral.  In return, he was to split profits from wine sales that the loan financed.

What he did not know, Mr. Tawfilis claimed in a subsequent lawsuit, was that Mr. Dahl had already dismantled Patio and was siphoning his money into a another winery and a Napa craft beer brewery that was, at one point, said to be losing $100,000 a month.

By early 2012, the court papers state, the two men were at odds over terms of the loan.  But Mr. Tawfilis, undeterred, delivered the balance — at least $800,000 — in a bag the next year.  Mr. Dahl, elated, distributed a picture of the bag to associates.

Michael Calhoun, the husband of a member of the family trust that owns the land, the wine grapes and the structure for Mr. Dahl’s winery, said Mr. Dahl told Mr. Tawfilis he could get better deals on bulk wine purchases if he paid in cash.

“He wanted cash, and Emad met with him with Emad’s accountant,” Mr. Calhoun said.  “He handed Robert $800,000 in cash in a red Adidas bag, and Emad regretted it terribly.”

Mr. Dahl’s winery, Dahl Vineyards, was a small 7-acre leased spread producing 1,500 cases of red and white wine a year.  Dahl’s business found itself in regular trouble with county regulators, bringing in busloads of tourists to tastings over officials’ complaints that he lacked permits.  

Though the venture was little more than a leased renovated barn, his website waxed ecstatic about “the ideal home for his own wine brand that could reflect his commitment, heritage and his entrepreneurial spirit.”

But early last year, Mr. Dahl had fallen behind in loan payments and Mr. Tawfilis, investigating, discovered that Patio Wine no longer existed.  A volley of lawsuits followed, with the sides exchanging charges of fraud, money-laundering and usury, among others.

Mr. Tawfilis, no longer working by that time, “was consumed by this,” his San Francisco lawyer, David Wiseblood, said in an interview.  “This was a lot of money for him.”

Mr. Tawfilis was winning the legal war, Mr. Wiseblood and court documents both indicated.  Mr. Dahl was uncooperative, dodging court orders and making statements that the judge considered deceptive.  But negotiations continued even as the battle raged, and by last week, Mr. Wiseblood stated, the sides had agreed to meet in Napa to discuss a settlement.

That arrangement fell apart on Friday, after Mr. Tawfilis sent representatives to enforce a court order that Mr. Dahl turn over five large metal tanks that were part of the collateral for the loan.  The tanks had disappeared, and Mr. Wiseblood canceled the session.

But on Monday, he said, Mr. Tawfilis told him that he had exchanged text messages with Mr. Dahl, and that they had agreed to meet at the vineyard near Solano Lane and Hoffman Avenue to review Dahl’s records.

 “My advice was, ‘Don’t go to Dahl Vineyards alone — you canceled the meeting for a good reason,’ ” Mr. Wiseblood said.  

But Mr. Tawfilis went anyway.

Mr. Dahl had no documents to examine, however, and at 11:10 a.m. the two men held a brief telephone conference with their lawyers.  “There was no screaming, no profanity,” Mr. Wiseblood said.  “There was no hint of what was to come.”

Mr. Dahl’s lawyer, Kousha Berokim, said in an interview that he never saw a suggestion of violence in his client.  After the 11:10 phone call, he said, he believed that the two parties “were inching toward a number and a settlement.”

“I was hoping for a phone call telling me, ‘We’ve agreed on these terms, draft an agreement so we can sign it,’ ” Mr. Berokim said.  “That phone call did not come in.”

Minutes after the telephone conference, Napa County deputies received a 911 cellphone call from Mr. Tawfilis.  He had been shot, he said, and was running through the vineyard.  Mr. Dahl was in pursuit in his black S.U.V.

As rescuers arrived, Mr. Tawfilis fled onto a street intersection— near busy Hwy 29 running through the heart of the region’s wine country– and collapsed, the deputies said in a statement.  Mr. Dahl got out of the vehicle, walked up to him and calmly shot him again in front of witnesses and deputies, then got back in the S.U.V. and fled.

Mr. Calhoun, the relative of the landowners, depicted Mr. Dahl as desperate.  “Robert Dahl’s whole life was at stake, and it was do or die, and it wasn’t doing,” he said.  “He had a lot of anger toward Emad.  It’s irrational because all Emad did was invest in his company.”

With squad cars and a helicopter in pursuit, Mr. Dahl fled and sped up a heavily forested road and crashed through a private gate.  Deputies surrounded the area and called in a SWAT team, but there was no need. 

The vineyard dispute and subsequent murder, so to speak, had been settled out of court.  Mr. Dahl was found dead in his driver’s seat, due to a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.

 

~Via the NYT, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, YouTube

 

 

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Whiskey in the Jar

 

 

The Metallica Version for St. Paddy’s

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

One of the best known traditional Irish vocal ballads, Whiskey in the Jar has its origins stretching back to the mid-17th century.

Found in dozens of forms throughout the globe, it tells the story of a highwayman robber who rips off an English military officer and then is betrayed by Molly, his dear and once-trusted lover.  

Recorded by dozens upon dozens of traditional and not-so-traditional musicians, Whiskey in the Jar was taken in a rock and roll direction first by Thin Lizzy and the Grateful Dead, and then by U2 and most successfully by Metallica, who won a 2000 Grammy Award for their Best Hard Rock Performance version seen above.

The song, as you might have guessed from the title, is a favorite drinking and pub song celebrated among fans of Irish music all over the world.

Enjoy St. Patricks Day, have a tipple of good Irish whiskey, be among friends and behave responsibly. 

Or not.

 

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said stand and deliver or the devil he may take ‘ya

I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money yeah and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she’d love me, no never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

Being drunk and weary I went to Molly’s chamber
Takin’ my money with me, but I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired off my pistols and I shot him with both barrels

Now some men like the fishin’ and some men like the fowlin’
And some men like ta hear, ta hear the cannon ball a roarin’
Me I like sleepin’, ‘specially in my Molly’s chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

 

 

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Breaking Rules

 

 

Breaking Away is Part of Growing Up

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Rules are necessary for the development of society.  If they didn’t exist, we’d miss the pleasure of breaking them.

When we’re young, people tell us the world looks a certain way.  Parents tell us how to think.  Schools tell us how to think.  Religion and TV leave their indelible mark as well.  And then at a certain point, if we’re lucky, we realize we can make up our own mind.  We realize that nobody sets the rules but ourselves.  We find we can design our own life.

We didn’t learn to walk by following rules.  We learned by doing, and then by falling over.  Repeatedly.

“You are remembered for the rules you break,” Douglas MacArthur said.  “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun,” Katherine Hepburn remarked.  “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively,” the Dalai Lama advised.  “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it,” Thoreau quipped.

Whatever path you choose, however many roads you travel, we hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there, on behalf of humanity and a better world.

 

 

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Internet Café Refugees

 

 

Japan’s Disposable Workers

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It is better to bend than to break, the old Japanese proverb goes.

Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000′s, customers began using these spaces as living quarters to make ends meet.

Internet cafe refugees are mostly temporary employees, their salaries too low to rent their own apartments.  A growing class of homeless people in Japan, deemed the ‘cyber-homeless’, do not own or rent a residence.  Instead, they sleep in these 24-hour business cubicles.

A Japanese government study estimated that this phenomenon is part of an increasing wealth gap in Japan, which historically has been an equal society, economically speaking.

Following the recession of the 1990s, Japan’s white collar salary-men worked increasingly long and arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs, often leading to conditions of depression and suicide.  The situation took its toll on other economy workers, too, where 38% of Japan’s working class became ‘temporary employees’ employed by convenience stores, supermarkets, fast food outlets, restaurants, and other low paying, low skill positions.

Traditionally used by commuters who missed the last train home, the net cafés are now used by larger numbers of people as temporary homes. 

Although such cafés originally provided only Internet services, many expanded their services to cater to their newly dispossessed clientele by including food, drink, TV, showers, and selling underwear and other personal items, much like a hostel or hotel does. 

According to the Japanese government survey, those staying in the net cafes have little interest in the cafe or the Internet, instead using the cubicles only because of the low price relative to anything else available in temporary housing, business hotels, capsule hotels, hostels, or any other option– besides sleeping on the street.

It’s estimated that about half of those staying at net cafes have no job, while the other half work in low-paid temporary jobs, which pay around 100,000 yen—or $1000 per month.  That amount is much lower than what is needed to rent an apartment and pay for transportation in a city like Tokyo.

Japan has become a poor place for unskilled labor.  Osaka, Japan, for example, used to be a thriving day laborer’s town; today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless. 

And it’s seen on the other end of the age spectrum, too. 

More than four million of Japan’s young people called freeters, many of whom hold diplomas, are working in insecure positions, victims of an economic situation and working conditions imposed by employers realizing the benefits of using temporary employees.  Disgusted or disillusioned, many have dropped out altogether from working.  About 10% of all high school and university graduates could not find steady employment in a recent study, and a full 50% of those who did find a job left within three years after employment.

 

 

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Tripping Through Austria

 

 

A Three-Minute Tour

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s a drop-dead gorgeous place, a country rich in history and culture.

From the Austrian Alps to the low lying valleys, from the crystal clear waters to the lush green grass, the sights and sounds of Austria are nothing less than spectacular. 

After two years of filming, Thomas Pöcksteiner and Peter Jablonowski of FilmSpektakel created a three-minute film that captures a breathtaking new perspective of the stunning beauty and charm of their home country of Austria by compiling 600 time-lapse videos.

Each shot could easily stand on its own, but the team tied it all together using a zoom effect between transitions.  This seamlessly brings the viewer from inside the bustling cities to the picturesque mountainside, revealing Austria’s diverse landscape.

It’s some amazing scenery, more than a few natural and cultural attractions, and, to note, an awesome soundtrack of natural sounds laid over the voice of Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos mission in 2012.

 

 

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The Ocean Gypsies

 

 

Vanishing Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jacques Ivanoff
National Geographic

 

 

On the horizon we see them, their flotilla of small hand-built boats like a mirage beneath the setting sun.

They are wary of strangers:  At our approach they split up and scatter. We close in on one boat, and I call out reassuring words in their language.  The boat slows and finally stops, rolling on the swell in heavy silence.

I jump aboard, a privileged trespasser and rare witness to another world.

That world belongs to the Moken, a nomadic sea culture of gypsy people who migrated from southern China some 4,000 years ago, and, moving through Malaysia, eventually split off from other migrant groups in the late 17th century.  Their home is some 800 islands scattered along 250 miles of the Andaman Sea, off Myanmar (formerly Burma).

For the Moken people of Southeast Asia, the sea provides nearly everything a person might need.  It offers food to eat, a comfortable place to live, and, sometimes, love.

Members of this ocean-faring ethnic group– often called “Sea Gypsies”– travel on small, handcrafted wooden boats called kabangs, from which they skillfully procure fresh meals of fish, scallops, and clams, using nothing more complicated than a simple spear and a remarkable ability to hold their breath.

It is an elder named Gatcha who allows me on his family’s boat and listens to my plea to join them.  I have a long history here: My father, Pierre Ivanoff, worked with the Moken starting in 1957, and I reestablished that relationship in 1982, several years after his death.  I tell Gatcha that I’ve lived among his people, that I befriended their greatest shaman and recorded hours of his myths and tales that I wish to share.  When Gatcha finally offers me a plate of betel nuts, I know he has accepted me.

“The Moken are born, live, and die on their boats, and the umbilical cords of their children plunge into the sea,” goes an epic of the Moken.  For eight to nine months a year they live aboard their low-slung kabang.

As divers and beachcombers the Moken take what they need each day– fish, mollusks, and sandworms to eat; shells, sea snails, and oysters for barter with the mostly Malay and Chinese traders they encounter.  They accumulate little and live on land only during the monsoons.

Like the turtles of their rituals, the Moken spend much of their time submerged, both for work and play. Plastic goggles are now the fashion among these nomads, who used to carve their eye pieces from wood, then attach glass lenses from broken bottles with tree sap.

The wave troughs look immense from the kabang, but Puket—one of Gatcha’s seven children– sits in the stern calmly smoking his pipe amid the exhaust of the motor.  Puket and another son, Jale– a mighty spear fisherman– and a daughter named Iphim, a childless widow, travel with their father most of the time.

This family, like all Moken, poses little threat to others sharing these waters.  Nonpolitical and nonviolent, Moken keep to themselves except when trading, usually on the move in flotillas of seven or more kabangs belonging to an extended family.  Still, our lone vessel is stopped by a Burmese military boat disguised as a trawler.  Fortunately, we are sent on our way without incident, and Puket even manages to beg a few fish and some liquor by flattering the officials.

But it is not always so.  

As nomadic sea gypsies, the Moken have been exploited and harassed throughout history by the British, Japanese, Thai, and Burmese alike.  They’ve been stopped to pay taxes, driven away by illegal fishermen, forced to work in mines and on farms, prohibited from vital trading areas, jailed for lacking permits, and turned into opium addicts by merchants to keep them dependent.  

Recently the Myanmar government, following Thailand’s lead, has tried to settle the Moken permanently in a national park and exhibited as a tourist attraction.

The Moken have resisted, but threats to forcibly settle them hang in the air.  And other troubles abound.  Many young men die each year in diving accidents, often from the bends when they dive too deep and resurface too quickly while working for Burmese fishermen.  As the military presence increases throughout the islands, the Moken are unable to move freely in search of spouses.  And without room to roam, they cannot find the traders who provide rice, a staple Moken food, and fuel for their motors.

Ten years ago, some 2,500 Moken still led the traditional seafaring and spiritual life in this archipelago.  That number is slowly diminishing and is now at perhaps 1,000.

As the son of a shaman and a father figure to his people, Gatcha’s mission is to keep the old ways alive, bringing the Moken together for rituals that have suffered as flotillas have divided into subgroups and scattered north and south to reduce competition for natural resources.  

On this journey he will round up followers, including sacred singers and dancers to take with him to Nyawi Island, where things have gone awry.

Soldiers are harassing the Moken and Burmese on Nyawi, and the Burmese government has mandated a Moken festival for tourists– which Gatcha says is upsetting the spirits.  With offerings, trances, song, and dance on Nyawi, he hopes his people can begin to appease the ancestors, to whom they look for guidance and protection.

The days of gathering end with a night of restorative ritual, after which I am heartened to see Gatcha and his family push out to sea in the damp, gray morning, continuing their journey through the archipelago.  As the dry season nears its end, it is time to put down shallow roots on land, setting up a temporary camp in which to wait out the swift winds and rains of the monsoons.  It will be a place to honor the spirits and to build new boats for young men coming of age.

The island chosen for a monsoon camp offers a breathtaking setting:  A wall of virgin forest rife with boar and bats to be hunted, a band of beach, and a deep, powerful sea.  

Women comb the beaches and sing, and children play in the surf.  Girls coax sandworms from hiding with rattan sticks; boys fashion harpoons and learn from the older men how to hunt for fish, crab, turtle, ray, and eel, and how to eventually marry.

The Moken are the soul of this archipelago, the expression of a world that has begun to fade.  The world is closing in on the Moken way of life.  My hope is that as the rains continue to come and go, so too will the gypsy Moken, from sea to land and back again.

 

 

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The Two Million Dollar Man Living in a Van

 

 

Major League Baseball’s Daniel Norris

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The future of the Toronto Blue Jays wakes up in a 1978 Volkswagen camper behind the dumpsters at a Lakeland Wal-Mart and wonders if he has anything to eat.

He rummages through a half-empty cooler until he finds a dozen eggs.  

“I’m not sure about these,” he says, removing three from the carton, smelling them, and finally deciding it’s safe to eat them.  

While the eggs cook on a portable stove, he begins the morning ritual of cleaning his van, pulling the contents of his life into the parking lot.

Out comes a surfboard.  Out comes a subzero sleeping bag.  Out comes his only pair of jeans and his handwritten journals.  A curious shopper stops to watch. “Hi-ya,” Daniel Norris says, waving as the customer walks away into the store.  Norris turns back to his eggs.  ”I’ve gotten used to people staring,” he says.

This is where 22-year old Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida ‘burbs.

There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts.  There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry vegetables on his portable stove.  There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.

He has been here at Wal-Mart for long enough that some store employees have given him a nickname– “Van Man”– and begun to question where he’s from and what he might be doing.  A few have felt so bad for him that they’ve approached the van with prayers and crumpled bills, assuming he must be homeless.  They wonder: Is he a runaway teen?  A destitute surfer?  A new-age wanderer lost on some spiritual quest?

The truth is even stranger:  The Van Man has a consistent 92-mile-an-hour left-handed wickedly-fast fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a lucrative deal with Nike and a growing club of fans, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a 162-game season is to live here, in the back of an old 1978 VW Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000.  

The van is his escape from the pressures of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analyzed.

If baseball requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion.  If pitching demands repetition and exactitude, the van promises freedom.

“It’s like a yin-and-yang thing for me,” he says.  

“I’m not going to change who I am just because people think it’s weird.  The only way I’m going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me.  It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure.”

He lives in it for weeks on end during spring training or searching out the next big wave.   At night he pops open the roof and sleeps in the makeshift bunk.  He has a small machete for protection, or maybe for simply slicing apples.

He’s a bit of a free spirit and has all that he needs, really.  “It was a really cool experience for me, learning how to be self-sustainable.  That’s just kind of how my mom and dad raised me:  Learn to live on what you truly need and not really anything more,” he says happily.

On this morning, Norris’ adventure turns out to be the van itself.  He finishes breakfast and turns the key in the ignition, and the engine refuses to start.  ”Come on, old friend. You can do this,” he says, gently patting his hand against the dashboard.  He is due at the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in an hour for a workout, a massage and a throwing session.

He tries the key again, and the engine retorts like a firecracker.  Gas leaks onto the parking lot and a cloud of smoke shoots out from the tailpipe, but the VW makes it into gear.  ”There you go,” Norris says, talking gently again to the van.  ”Back on the road.  Just you and me.”

He bought the van in 2011, a few weeks after signing his first contract out of high school with the Blue Jays, and the VW has been his best friend and his spiritual center ever since.  

He named it Shaggy after the “Scooby Doo” character.  He sings it songs and writes it poems and gives it Valentine’s Day cards.  He takes it for hiking expeditions in the mountains of Tennessee and surfing trips along the Carolina coast.  He drives it each year to spring training in Florida, and this year he stretched that trip out over a few weeks.  He drove without a schedule from his home in Tennessee, avoiding the interstate and exploring the dirt roads of Appalachia, sleeping each night in the crawl space behind the driver’s seat with his head tucked against the back door.

When he finally arrived in Florida, he parked illegally on the beach and camped inside the VW until local police evicted him and offered directions to the 24-hour Wal-Mart, his home ever since.

Now he pulls out of Wal-Mart and drives three miles through Dunedin, squeezing the VW into a parking spot among his teammates’ luxury sports cars and tinted SUVs.  He sits in the back of the van to heat water for coffee.  

A few Blue Jays stop by on their way into the facility and watch Norris fiddle with his stove.  The pilot light doesn’t seem to be working.  The water is still cold.  

“Why don’t you just, like, go get something normal to eat,” says another young pitcher, Marcus Stroman, reminding Norris that the team provides free coffee inside.  ”Don’t you think this is kind of crazy?”

“Not to me,” Norris says. “To me this is the way that makes sense.”

~Via MSN, ESPN, MLB, Reddit, GrindTV,
   Plaidzebra, and YouTube

 

 

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The Woman on the Front Lines of War Journalism

 

 

Covering the Unquiet World of War Zones

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t forget news is often something that someone, somewhere, doesn’t want you to know.

The real-life tales from foreign reporters under fire or those determined journalistic gumshoes fighting against stone-walling bureaucracy are just as extraordinary as the articles that end up in the newspaper.  There are journalists out there doing back-breaking dangerous work and committed to digging out the truth and putting it on the front pages, yet their own personal tales often get lost in the telling. 

Christina Lamb isn’t used to talking about herself.  As one of the Sunday Times’ most revered war correspondents and perhaps the only female one, she’s far more comfortable telling the stories of conflict-struck regions of the world, giving her voice to those who don’t have one or can’t get it heard in the crossfire of bigger and louder leaders, armies, terrorists and politicians.

Christina realizes that, for every headline she brings, there is as much or more curiosity about her own lifestyle being a woman on the front lines.  “People seem very interested in what’s in my war bag that sits ready in the cupboard,” she says.

Earning her street cred with a couple of decades of war reporting and four books under her belt, she does a frightening job, but says with a smirk, “I just get on with it.”  When she’s covering a foreign war zone, she misses her home, her family, and the everyday niceties we take for granted, like “good coffee.”

For 27 years, Christina has been living out of a suitcase and travelling to some of the world’s most troubled spots.  Since she first set off undaunted at the age of 21, flak jacket and helmet in hand, Christina has reported from such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and other diverse hotspots.

Family life has changed the nature of her job for Christina.  Although she jokes that her husband would never ask her to stay home– “apparently I become unbearable if I stay put for too long”– it’s clear becoming a mother has altered her outlook.  When asked what moment scared her most in her traveling assignments, she gives her horrifying account of being ambushed by the Taliban in the Helmand province in 2006 and literally running for her life along with a group of equally terrified British soldiers, saying that it was the thoughts of her son that kept her going.

In addition, the loss of her close friend and female war correspondent colleague Marie Colvin in Syria in 2012 made the risks all too apparent.  “That was very traumatic for all of us at the paper and brought home something you tried not to think about.  I feel now we’re not covering Syria properly, but it’s hard to see how to do it safely.  Being a mother I try and be more careful.  And being practical, I can’t explain what’s going on if I’m dead.”

For her, the most frustrating time in her career was covering Robert Mugabe’s oppression of his people in Zimbabwe, watching the systematic destruction of lives, homes, shops and an estimated 700,000 made homeless, all in the name of tyranny.  “At least a war is fighting for something you believe in, whereas here it was just one man fighting to stay in power,” she says with frustration.

For every moment of frustration, Christina can console herself that her work has made a difference.

“There are good moments and amazing people you meet along the way,” she reflects, “but I don’t think many people would do this job if you didn’t think you could change things.  It’s why I find the Israel-Palestine situation so frustrating in its intransigence.  I like to see a glimmer of hope wherever I am.”

~Via the Sunday Times, Christina Lamb, Huffington Post, and Vimeo

 

 

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The Woman With Three Breasts

 

 

A Total Recall Circus Sideshow

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

We like stories about unusual people with unusual stories to tell. 

This one, though, takes the cake and left us scratching our heads in confusion and bewilderment and thinking the world had gone mad.

A wannabe pop-star and aspiring reality TV actress has spoken for the first time since she stunned the world by revealing her third breast.  

21-year-old Jasmine Tridevil from Tampa, Florida, may be the first woman in the world to have an artificial third breast– or she may have pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in Internet history.

In reality, Tridevil’s real name is Alisha Hessler, a Tampa-area massage therapist who previously made headlines for forcing a man, who allegedly assaulted her, to wear a “I beat women” sign on a busy street corner.

The website for her massage parlor, Alisha’s Golden Touch, describes her as a “provider of internet hoaxes since 2014” and a “specialist in massage for three-breasted women.”  Tridevil refused to display her third breast during a recent Tampa news interview, saying she was “saving that for her reality show.”  She also got busted for a DUI a couple months back, being over twice the legal alcohol limit.

At first glance, Tridevil’s story looks like a tale as old as time:  Girl wants reality show.  Girl has body dysmorphia and disposable income.  Girl spends a small fortune on an insane, Total Recall-inspired surgery to get it.  And Girl gets her 15 minutes of fame and free exposure.

Ms. Tridevil appeared in news outlets throughout the world several months ago and claims the surgery changed her life.

But many commentators claim her third breast is a wearable prosthetic.  She even reported a “3-breast prosthesis” was stolen when her bags went missing at the Tampa Airport in 2014.

Tridevil claims the procedure cost $20,000 and took around an hour and a half to complete.  But she had a big problem in finding a surgeon who would perform the procedure after consulting 50-60 doctors, she says.  She could not produce the name of the plastic surgeon she claims conducted the surgery while other well-known plastic surgeons have said that such a surgery would be incredibly difficult to do, violate ethic standards, and take up to a year to complete.

She claims to have undergone the surgery because she didn’t want to date anymore and “to make herself less attractive to men.” 

She denies the surgery was fake and that it’s all been a hoax.  “I’m real.  This is not a fake, I had the procedure done,” she says.  “If people don’t believe it, that’s up to them.”

Despite having numerous calls to categorically prove once and for all that her three breasts are real, she as of yet has refused every offer.

What do we think? 

P.T. Barnum was right when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute” and “Every crowd has a silver lining.”

 

 

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Alive in Oakland

 

 

Skating on the Thin Ice of Urban Life

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Ryan Reichenfeld’s Alive in Oakland is a unique short film
about skateboarding.

The documentary takes a look at the essence and purity of the sport and the impact it created in one small corner of the urban world. 

Zeroing in on brand new home-built skatepark constructed in Oakland, California, Reichenfeld chose to focus on the close-knit group of young kids who skate every day, spending some time with them and sharing their similar backgrounds and dreams of securing a brighter future.

Rather than focusing on the odds against them, Reichenfeld took a more optimistic look at the young kids and their hard-nosed skate style native to their community.

16-year-old skater Lem West, honing his skills to the new style, bluntly put it this way:

“Oakland breeds a different kind of skater.  Go big or go home.  We’re doing it for the fuck of it, and doing it for the love of it.”

* * * * * * * * * *

If you liked Reichenfeld’s film above, you might also like this one he and we did of growing up in Lake Havasu.

 

 

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The Real School of Rock

 

 

Aaron O’Keefe’s Middle School of Rock

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

You want your kids to be cool, right?

Well, cool within limits.  No worries.  Coolness and education is baked into each and every lesson Aaron O’Keefe offers for his students.  In fact, he created the O’Keefe Music Foundation to help other children reach their peak level of coolness.  And they totally rock doing it.

Teaching over 50 students a week, O’Keefe is a Lebanon, Ohio music educator who has grown a number of private musical academies over the last ten years.  With students ranging in age from 6-18, O’Keefe teaches a medley of instruments:  piano, voice, guitar, drums, electric bass, double bass, vibraphone, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and pan steel drums.

He takes his young students, mentoring and teaching them along at $24 per session, and together they work on the songs with practice, practice, and more practice until they get it right and giving a public recital every three months.  When they’re ready to rock and record, O’Keefe takes them on a “Rock the Range” road trip with parents to lay down the tracks at world famous recording studios in Chicago and Nashville. 

And you never know what they might be up to next. 

They may cover Rush, Ozzy’s No More Tears, Meatloaf, Guns N’ Roses, Tangerine Dream, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Queen, or a host of other groups depending on what moves them.

O’Keefe’s foundation enables children to record their musical performances for free when they’re ready, being provided with top of the line instruments, professional recording gear and a team of engineers capturing the aspiring musicians at their best. 

O’Keefe believes kids should have fun while stressing the foundation’s overall mission, which “educates children about music production, performance, audio engineering, and the value of team work.”

The video above, Kids Cover: 46 and 2 by Tool, went viral with nearly 8 million views and a news broadcast in a few short months, showcasing the hard work of O’Keefe and his students. 

The kid behind the drumsticks, Curtis Moss, nails Tool dude Danny Carey’s avalanche of dizzying tom-tom flourishes and somehow does it with far fewer tom-toms.  And the singer, Kala Esposito, handles Tool’s singer Maynard James Keenan’s angsty caterwauling pretty darn well and angstily, as she also does in Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools, seen below.

When representatives of the Zildjian cymbal company saw the students’ videos they were impressed.  They promptly sent over $1500 worth of cymbals, and then sent along some more bling in the form of t-shirts, lanyards, posters and hats following thereafter. 

We were amazed and impressed, too.  Seriously, if you’re not a totally heartless person, you’ll love it as much as we did.

 

~Via Aaron O’Keefe, O’Keefe Music Foundation, and YouTube. 
  Our appreciation goes out to Danny-boy for turning us on to it.

 

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Dogs in Cars: California

 

Doing What They Love Most

 

VIRAL VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

If three minutes of sunshine and dog smiles doesn’t make you grin,
we’re not sure what will.

In his short film Dogs In Cars: California, director Keith Hopkin captures eight dogs doing what they love and do best: leaning out the passenger side of their owners’ cars and taking it all in.

Set to the song California by Phantom Planet, the slow-motion video has the flapping ears, rippled fur, and the smiling faces of Jasmine, Kona, Bailey and others as they ride shotgun through the streets of LA.

It’s a moment of sheer bliss and a kind reminder of what’s important. 

Dogs filled with the joy of life, closing their eyes and giving themselves up to the happiest and simplest pleasures that exist:  the day, the sun and wind, travel, and of course, everyday love and being with their people.

When life gets overwhelming, take a page from the dogs’ playbook.  Let yourself be satisfied and content with a simple ride through life, and all the good and little things that happen along the way.

 

 

 

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Meandering Through the Desert of Life

 

Any Road Will Get You There

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

About a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Los Angeles along the Twentynine Palms
Highway, a tiny intersection brings you to the town of Joshua Tree, population 7,414.

Sharing a name with the unusual Yuccas that punctuate the rocky desert skyline, the town and its neighboring picturesque National Park are about as close to a road-trippers’ paradise as they come.

In a rare morning fog the 10-foot Yuccas jut about the low desert plains in isolation and silence.  For JG Francis, founder and owner of classic restoration specialist Mercedes Motoring, they signal the passage of a labyrinth of dirt roads he’s been exploring ever since he knew how to drive.

Renovating low-mileage diesel ‘Benz’s produced between 1968 and 1985 back to their original condition, Francis has managed making a hobby into a career.  Finding near-perfect specimens worth the timely investment isn’t easy. 

But find them he does, behind the doors of long-forgotten barns or online car forums.  Once they’re fully renovated, they don’t spend the rest of their days behind showroom glass or under cover in a ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ garage.  They get back on the road.

“These cars were meant to be driven, not just sit around looking pretty,” explains Francis at his headquarters in the LA suburb of Glendale, California.  “I’m not that big into the car scene because a lot of them aren’t put into use, and I’ve never connected with that side of the industry and show.”

Classics are not exactly known to be perfect run-about material, but drivability and raw craftsmanship is.  In fact, this is what makes these majestic survivors special to Mr. Francis.  He puts them to the test by taking them on a road trip or two of his own.

“I always take the back roads,” he explains with a smile.  “I avoid the Interstate at all costs.  It’s all just Walmarts, Chilis and Targets anyway.”

He spent his early years spent growing up in Nevada deserts where he lived next to a Mercedes-obsessed car mechanic.  “That’s where it all started,” he says. 

He still makes the desert his special place for adventures and a solo drive.  He loves the emptiness, the seclusion, the loneliness.

What moved Francis to sit behind a wheel instead of a desk?  Or, as he describes it, his decision to “become a corporate drop-out”?  “Working with my hands every day is really therapeutic,” explains Francis.

“You can get lost in the moment.  You can focus on the task in hand, but your mind can drift off into other parts of your life.  I find it relaxing in an odd kind of way.  The peace and quiet, the isolation, and the solitude.  You know, any road will get you there and it all works out in the end.”

 

 

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Kaboom!

 

Up in Smoke

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Think of it as an explosive love story– with sparks.

Rich and Dee Gibson are a quirky couple who have built a career out of doing what they love:  playing with fire and blowing things up.

As the owners of Rich’s Incredible Pyro, the Oshkosh couple spent more than 30 years traveling around the world planning explosions for air shows, before they semiretired in 2013.

The two met sky diving and bonded over their shared military backgrounds– Rich is a Vietnam vet and Dee worked in the Army Corps of Engineers.

They started their business in 1981, traveling from their home in Illinois to air shows across the country and around the world to create elaborate explosions for locals, who generally pay an entrance fee to watch the pyro-spectacle.

It took Brooklyn-based filmmakers Colin Sonner and Brady Welch a year to finally catch up with the couple in El Salvador, where they filmed this video at the Ilopango air show.  Rich and Dee periodically emerge from retirement each year to work there.

Going into this project, Sonner and Welch said there were two love stories at work.  One, of course, was the love between Rich and Dee; the other was simply the love of wantonly exploding stuff to smithereens.  But what the filmmakers also found was something deeper and more philosophical than what they had anticipated.

You see, Rich and Dee’s dedication to exploding things sky-high goes beyond mere flame and retort.  They call it The Boom, and it has to do with the rhythm, ambience and certain things too beautiful to be put into mere words.

It’s the same mesmerizing quality that led Rich to try to get as close as possible to fireworks displays when he was a kid.  It’s hard to turn away; and it sheds light on our primeval human fascination with all things that go up in smoke and thunder and flames.

~Via NYT, Fence Check, and Vimeo

 

 

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Smile to the World

 

“It’s Your Choice”

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.
  ~Dr. Seuss

 

When you smile to the world, the world smiles back.

People are basically good, and good-hearted.  And when they’re good and good-hearted, they smile.  It’s the curve that sets everything straight.

Smile to the World is about the power of a simple smile.  55 filmmakers from 31 different countries took their camera to capture shots throughout the world of just one simple thing: smiles.

Holzleiter Fanny, seen at right and at the end of the video, is a young Hungarian who was the inspiration and ambassador for Frédéric Viau-Davodeau’s universal film.  Fighting against her debilitating disease with a smile, she reminds us of something important in her three short words: “It’s your choice.”

It’s a good reminder to keep close.  While we will never know all the good a smile does, it’s a light in our window telling others there is a caring, kind and good person inside.

 

 

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Three Chords and the Truth

 

A Rock History Lesson– in 100 Riffs

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Is it the end of an era?

In the very cool video above, Chicago-based guitarist Alex Chadwick at Chicago Music Exchange plays 100 well-known guitar riffs from 1952 to the present day in one surprising take, providing a rapid-fire lesson of rock and roll history.

In 12 minutes, Chadwick tackles classic riffs from songs by artists ranging from Chet Atkins to St. Vincent and everything else in between.

The transitions are seamless as he moves between keys and artists while chronologically covering snippets from instantly recognizable classics like Wipeout and Bohemian Rhapsody as well as some lesser-known, more recent jams like Marcy Playground’s Sex and Candy and Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out.

And while some of you might’ve seen this clip before (It’s been viewed 7 million times), you might enjoy another run of Chadwick’s amped-up mad skills, playing his 1958 Fender Stratocaster and using a ’57 Fender Tweed Deluxe amplifier, Jim Dunlop Cry Baby, T-Rex Roommate Tube Reverb, pedalboards and a host of other vintage and new equipment.

Alas, we mourn for the good old days.  The ’60s are gone.  Dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock and roll never as great.

 

 

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The Difficulty of Saying ‘I Love You’

 

This American Life of Relationships

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Love is like a rose.  It’s difficult and thorny and awkward to put into words at times.

It causes some to simply freeze up, uncomfortable and catatonic, unable to mutter those words of deep affection and devotion.  Have you ever felt like you can’t tell someone something important?  It happens.

Meet Bianca Giaever.  She’s a filmmaker.  She is also a relationship consultant of sorts.  Taken together, she helps people say what’s on their minds. 

She swoops in and assists them for getting their message across in a video that they aren’t fully comfortable saying in real life.    Her company, Videos 4U, finds people who are “having trouble saying something.”

The Brooklyn-based director’s latest project chronicles Chicago-based Maia Leppo’s attempt to tell her boyfriend of eight years “I love you.”  Leppo is only seen on camera wearing a mask– because she’s too shy– but narrates most of the video, explaining why neither she, nor her boyfriend, have ever uttered the L word.

Giaever says the idea came as a result of some “serious” conversations for job interviews that she would rehearse beforehand.  ”But I would get there and completely forget everything.  I thought ‘Man, I’m a radio producer, I should just record myself saying the things I need to say, and then I could edit them perfectly and play that instead,’” Giaever said.

Voila!  That inspired her to help other folks having difficulty voicing a thought to break that communication barrier. 

Giaever won’t comment on her next video, keeping mum on which topics of conversation she’ll help people with next.  She says there are a number in the works.

Since Leppo’s boyfriend has now seen the video, the big question is: what did he say back?

Silly you.  ‘I Love You.’

 

 

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Inside The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

The Work of Director Wes Anderson

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel abounds with some madcap energy, high whimsy, and more than its share of dark comedy.

It was well-received at the box office, garnering nine Academy Award nominations.  But Roger Ebert.com film critic Matt Zoller Seitz also detected a deep sadness in the film which he explores in his new video, seen above.

The Wes Anderson Collection, is an intricate inside look not just at the story itself, but the dark influences and somber themes running throughout the film—and in Anderson’s career.

Seitz notes how art and artifice, and mendacity and duplicity, both play an important part in preserving legacies and destinies– allowing the historical characters some measure of control in an otherwise turbulent and chaotic world happening around them.  

It’s an intriguing, well-made, and novel assessment that shines a new and different light on Anderson’s latest work– and what is arguably his greatest film.

 

 

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Bonsai: Walking the Thin Line Between Life and Death

 

An American Shokunin

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“There are no borders in bonsai. 

Its peace flies to a rich palace as it does to a humble house, as it does to young or old, or to rich and poor.  This is the true spirit of bonsai.”

  ~John Yoshio Naka

 

A master is somebody who, every single day, tries to pursue perfection at their chosen endeavor. 

A master doesn’t retire.  A master doesn’t stop.  They do it until their death.  It’s a part of you; it’s who you are.

Shokunin is a Japanese word used to describe an individual that aspires to become a master in their particular craft or art form.

Ryan Neil falls firmly into this description, practicing the art of Bonsai for nearly two decades.  Bonsai, in its purest form, represents the five virtues in life:  truth, goodness, beauty, harmony and happiness.  Bonsai also symbolizes the keys to a lasting life:  nurturing, patience, caring and growth.

In American Shokunin, we get a glimpse at the broader philosophical thinking behind this professional American Bonsai practitioner, as well as some of the inherent challenges and aspirations that come along with the pursuit for bonsai mastery in America.

 

 

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U2: Every Breaking Wave

 

Are We So Helpless Against the Tide?

 

**U2 Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s a love story of two star-crossed lovers in Northern Ireland during the sectarian unrest of the 1980s, a punk rock Romeo and Juliet—but with brogues.

Irish director Aoife McArdle’s Every Breaking Wave is a short film based on the U2 song of the same name.  Set on the streets of early 1980s Northern Ireland, Every Breaking Wave is built around the themes of moral and emotional abandonment, coupled with the uncertainty of social and romantic relationships.

It follows two teenagers, one Catholic and the other Protestant, who fall in love amidst the ongoing violence of the time.  It was the era of “The Troubles,” when Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants were engaged in a bloody street war over control of the nation and its direction.

“The piece is full of sound and fury.  It contains a lot of things said and felt, with fucking guts, vision and ambition, Birdman writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu said.  “There is no fear in McArdle’s piece– but plenty of humanity, shot and expressed with poetry and without betraying the truth.”

Talking about her vision for the short film, Belfast-born director McArdle said:

“I wanted to make a film about what it was like to be a teenager in the early ’80s in Northern Ireland.  All the different pressures on you, the pressures of friendship, of falling in love for the first time, and all in the face of huge troubles.

Violence was inescapable.  It was on your doorstep. 

I remember very vividly what it was like to grow up when there were bombs going off and the army was everywhere.  I drew on a lot of those memories.

I hope people see that it’s a story, one that’s based on real stories.  It’s capturing a moment in time.  And I hope people feel inspired by how resilient teenagers were at that time in Northern Ireland, moved by their ability to live life in as full a way as possible, despite the circumstances.”

 

U2?s The Edge said of the short film, “Aoife’s short film expands on the theme which was largely rooted in our own experience growing up in the early eighties in Dublin.  She chose west Belfast in the same period, it was the neighborhood so formative to her.  We thought her work was extraordinary.”

It’s a stark, shimmering ballad of Northern Ireland’s turbulent and violent times, with a small glimmer of hope and salvation shining through.

“Aoife McArdle pulled off one of the most difficult tasks facing any filmmaker.  She created a universal story,” Hotel Rwanda writer/director Terry George said.  “She captured the tragedy of our young men and women, so full of life and passion, energy and possibility, swallowed up by the destroying rage of poverty, bigotry and repression.”

So true.

 

 

 

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‘Florida Man’: Washed up in the Sunshine State

 

Florida’s Flotsam and Jetsam

 

**Award-Winning Documentary**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Florida is a state with a strange propensity.   It has the unique and peculiar property of attracting people who are at the end of their rope.

In Florida Man, a surprisingly poignant documentary by director Sean Dunne about the worn-out and inebriated layabouts in the Sunshine State, the viewer meets a wide variety of beercan philosophers in the course of 50 minutes. 

Many of them have tales to tell:  the government’s economic dependence on the incarcerated; the heady thrills of a lifetime of brawling; the murderous tendencies of pill addicts; the undeniable pleasures of an impromptu three-way underneath a beach pier.

It’s not exactly “Fight Club” as much as it is the “Old Drunk Guys’ Parking Lot.”  It’s a love letter of sorts about one of our weirdest and best states and some of the characters in it.

A majority of the footage was filmed outside various bars, motels, Laundromats and tattoo parlors, and certainly a majority of the interviewees, if not nearly all of them, have booze sloshing around their system. However, it’s hard to state anything equivocal beyond the two facts laid down in the title of Florida Man itself:  it’s in Florida, and it’s about males.

Not all of the guys are old, and not all of them are drunk.  Taken altogether, however, there’s an unmistakable commonality among these worn-out old loser dudes who are willing to interact with Dunne and his crew.  As one guy says, “When I moved here I was a damn Yankee.  I got upgraded to redneck.”

To his credit, Dunne had not much in the way of an agenda when he started the movie, letting serendipity dictate the content.  As he says, 
 

“Basically we just drove around aimlessly, stopping any time we saw something or someone that interested us.  One thing would lead to another and the universe would pull us in one direction or the other.

Most of what you’re seeing in the final film is the entirety of our interaction with these guys.  It was quick and to the point and I didn’t even interview people besides the occasional “Any words of wisdom?”

So what we got was a whole bunch of people telling stories and talking about whatever was on their mind.  It was a strange and exciting journey that took us to a lot of places we didn’t expect.”

 

Disney World it isn’t.  The succession of mostly unemployed, retired, or near-retired drifters is a resonantly sad depiction of Florida.

Florida Man,” the Orlando Weekly said, is “about those guys you see pretty much everywhere in the state, riding his bicycle along unsafe highways, drinking beers in his front yard with his shirt off, tripping out in a hotel room with his bros.  It’s … well, it’s about as depressing as you could probably imagine it would be, because it seems to be just as aimless and sad as the guys featured in it.” 

A fellow whose footage opens the movie just lives to tussle.  “I love to make people bleed, I swear to God I do,” he says with punch-drunk conviction.

“Once you get to Florida, you don’t ever want to go back north,” is the questionable premise of another inebriated barfly, wearing a U.S. Navy trucker hat.

Moments after declaring, “I’m not a drunk,” an elderly African-American fellow jokes that the “Ace Liquor Store over there is my second home.”

The owner of the same store memorably says, “Here in the liquor store, we see probably 50% of the people arrive by either foot or by bicycle because they all have DUIs,” adding that most of his problem customers drink increasingly more until they “eventually pass away.”  He concludes rather matter-of-factly, “If you have a drinking problem, handle it.”

There’s much more to Florida Man, and it’s best experienced by watching this intriguingly fast-moving slice of the human condition firsthand.  If you have a few moments to spare, spend it with this hardy bunch of exercise and nutritionally-challenged leather-tanned sauced-up dipsomaniacal survivors– thanking your lucky stars that you, too, didn’t wash up as a piece of flotsam and jetsam tossed away on Florida’s shores.

~Via Sean Dunne, Dangerous Minds, Vimeo

 

 

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Living the Dream

 

 

Devin Graham Makes Every Moment Count

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What did you do in the past year? 

If you’re like Devin Graham, you’ve been busy.  Very busy.

32-year-old YouTube uber-darling Graham lives in Provo, Utah, and is well known for his exotic, extreme, fun and upbeat videos that the Humboldt Sentinel has frequently posted through the years.

He’s filmed almost every extreme sport there is:  from human slingshots to water jet packs, wingsuits to yo-yos.  Each video has action, great photography, a lively sound score, a ton of friends and what looks to be a massive party going on.  It’s everything we like in life.

But what viewers hardly ever see is Devin Graham himself.  He’s the guy behind the camera.

Through social media and worldwide recognition, Devin continues to lead the YouTube world when it comes to uniquely capturing the joy of life, making it all look sharp and stunning due to his filmmaking ability and talent. 

Though Devin has successfully produced many videos ranging from nature in Tahiti to puppies at Christmas, his main success and niche is in his work of extreme activities.  While Devin’s career has taken off, he still continues to produce videos that are close to his heart and soul.  Namely, they are small vignettes that in his words, “entertain and inspire the dreams we live.”

Devin’s Facebook bio simply states that he is a filmmaker, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of his tremendous success in the viral video world.  The question most often asked of him is what he actually does for a living.  To answer that question, he replied:

“I love making videos.  I love what I’m doing, and I’m very passionate about it!  I really believe that anyone can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

How I got where I am, why I do it, is what drives me.  My goal with any of these videos is to inspire and remind people that if you love something, to do it.  Pursue your dreams, don’t wait until it’s over, have no regrets, and seize the day.”

 

At the young age of 30, Devin gained a large enough following to capture the attention of advertisers, enabling him to make a substantial living from the work that he does.

In his early days of filmmaking, though, Devin was a one-man band.  He made his impressive videos without the help of a production company, an agent, a record label, a recording studio, or a production crew.  He did it solely by himself.  And it didn’t come easy

Devin was also well-known for consistently saying it was all about putting in the work and “getting the shot.”  Sometimes that would take him days of travel time, hours of filming, and sleeping in parking lots to capture what might be only a few seconds of footage to use.

“What it really comes down to is just being willing to work when no one else is going to work– so when you’re competition is sleeping, you’re up working,” Devin explained.  “What keeps me in business is being willing to get the shots that no one else will fight for– that no one else is willing to do.“

With his viral media success and popularity, things have changed.  He’s living the dream of what he wants to do.  And he now has a company, production manager, crew, better equipment, and a right-hand man named Parker Walbeck.

Each week Graham posts a new video and his income comes from the ads on the site.  Companies fly him around the world now and put him up in such places as Africa, New Zealand, Iceland, Tahiti, New York, England and Hungary to shoot videos marketing a specific product or event they have in mind.

His YouTube channel DevinSuperTramp has earned over 1 million subscribers and 195 million video views.  His extreme sports videos include World’s Most Insane Rope Swing Ever!!! – Canyon Cliff Jump (10 million views); Flyboard – Coolest Water Jet Pack EVER!!! (5.5 million views); and Human Slingshot 2X – Vooray (1 million views).

“I essentially try to come up with concepts that go viral.  I’m always trying to think of the next big thing,” Devin said.  “What determines my success is my audience.”

“As long as they watch, I can make any kind of movie I want to make, and to me, that’s the fun part.  If you’re pursuing your dreams and preparing for them way in advance, I really believe anyone can reach them.”

~Via Devin Graham, YouTube, and Keith L. Brown

 

 

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Getting the Orchestra Together on the Same Page

 

The Great Human Odyssey

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not easy getting everyone on the same page.

Composer Darren Fung created a magnificent musical score for the upcoming CBC series The Great Human Odyssey.

In an era when live-recorded orchestral scores are a dying breed, Fung, and filmmaker and anthropologist Niobe Thompson, brought together the Edmonton Symphony and ProCoro Canada to one of North America’s premier acoustic spaces: Edmonton’s Winspear Centre.

Over three days, 70 classical musicians and a large team of sound engineers recorded a remarkable score, capped with a sold-out public performance.  The above video, Making of a Film Score, offers an amazing insight into the orchestral and recording process.

We have walked the earth for a fraction of evolutionary time – about 200,000 years.  But in that brief window in time, we’ve colonized the planet and adapted to every one of its odd environments.  It is the great human odyssey

Humans are astonishing.  Thriving on every ecosystem on Earth, we seem quite at home whether its the freezing tundra, waterless deserts, remote Pacific islands, or playing a musical score in a full orchestra.

 

 

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Dying On Mars

 

Candidates Vying to be Colonists

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Would you do it?

More than 200,000 people have applied to be on Mars One, a four-man mission to the Red Planet with no return voyage.

Scheduled to depart in 2024, the voyage will be humanity’s first attempts at colonizing another planet.

“If I Die on Mars” is a mini-documentary from the Guardian News contemplating what’s either a suicide mission or one of the most noble voyages a person could ever embark upon. 

Meeting three of the 660 remaining candidates currently competing for a spot on the team, we find out how they’re preparing for the fateful day when they find they’re leaving life as they know it on Earth forever, never to return.

It’s the first manned space flight to Mars– and perhaps a one-way suicide mission.  There’s the physics student in the UK, a young doctor from Mozambique, and an Iraqi-American woman, all happy to sacrifice their futures for a place in history.  Why do they want to leave Earth, and who are they leaving behind?

It’s a poignant exploration of sorts of the human condition.  Have the candidates ever had sex and will they miss it?  Have they been in love– and what happens if they’re chosen for the mission but hit by Cupid’s arrow right before takeoff?  Are they afraid of disappearing forever into the abyss of space?

There’s also the whole issue of mortality and dying alone.  And whether or not you’ve wasted your entire life on what turned out to be a fool’s errand. 

Prepare to be left wondering whether the sacrifice is worth the potential reward.  Should we feel incredible sadness or respect for the four explorers who will eventually embark into the vast unknown?

The list of candidate colonists will be whittled down again, to 28 to 40 candidates on February 16, 2015. 

Good luck and Godspeed.  You’ll need it.

 

 

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Thinking Outside The Box

 

The Illusion of Seeing and Believing

 

A Truly Awesome **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The first time watching Box is a unique and jaw-dropping experience.

Seeing isn’t always believing.  The viewer must juggle the pure enjoyment value of Box with the logistical questions and thoughts about the boundaries of space and matter.

The second time we watched Box—and we recommend you do that on a full screen—the magical illusions seemed less illusory, meshing the images back to a state of reality that we could fully comprehend in our minds.

We watched in star-struck awe.  How did they do it?

The production house Bot & Dolly introduces us to special robotic camera systems that can move objects around with remarkable precision.  Bot and Dolly are former automoble industry robots, rescued from Detroit’s factory floor and retooled for a new life and purpose. 

The twin robots take flat images projected onto screens and seemingly transform them into 3D objects moving about in precise symmetry, while a man, seemingly in total control, interacts with them.

It is rare to come across a video that introduces us to a a technique completely new to the film industry and on the grandiose scale Box presents.  Altogether it’s one magical performance and an extreme experience of optical illusion that isn’t soon forgotten.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

 

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Puppy Love

 

The Life and Loves of Carli Davidson

 

Award-Winning **VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Carli Davidson’s photography was inspired by her own dog Norbert, whose drool she regularly cleans off the walls because he frequent shakes.

Shake, Davidson’s photo series, captures some of the frenzied shakes and drool and the slow-mo fur and eye movements of some pretty adorable pups. 

It’s the moments of wonder and laughter and the combination of innocence, ridiculousness, and the strange beauty of it all that caught us by surprise.  And it’s pure Carli.

An internationally recognized award-winning photographer and animal trainer, Carli’s photographs have been featured in publications such as Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and Slate.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Tim, pets Norbert and Yushi, and a rotating cast of foster animals. 

She describes herself as “an animal obsessed visual artist, photographer, director, and animal and human rights activist.”  You can also add author to that list, too.

Puppies are awesome, it’s a universal truth,” Carli said about her videos, above and below.  “And my thanks to everyone who brought their amazing puppies to the set for us to snuggle with.”

“Excuse the sweat, but I was working in front of a bunch of Fresnel lights and they are verrrry hot!  It was making the puppies very sleepy, and making me very gross.  Also you’re welcome for my wearing my super hot coveralls that were thoroughly smeared with peanut butter.  I wasn’t really planning on being in the shot.“

Carli, her pups, and her videos are nothing less than cute, cuddly and adorable.

We think we’re in love.

 

Behind the Scenes Shake Puppies from Carli Davidson on Vimeo.

 

 

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Blasting Away on Motorized Drift Trikes and Blokarts

 

Humming Thru New Zealand
Footloose and Fancy Free

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Devin Graham, aka Devin Supertramp, takes us on yet another
fun-filled awesome romp.

This time, we’re in North New Zealand, where the locals have rethought the use of their spin trikes (which we covered previously here) by adding motors, making for some wicked twists and spins and occasionally, collisions.

Knowing how to have more fun on the island, the New Zealanders also invented blokarts– small three-wheeled highly maneuverable land yachts capable of some tight sailing in small urban settings. 

Using only handheld controls, they’re easy to sail, turning and spinning around in tight circles.  They’re also highly transportable, folding up into a tight package you can carry, stuff into your car trunk, and take anywhere.

Landing near Papamoa two weeks ago after a direct flight from Utah, the team from Devin Super Tramp got straight to work filming their newest video at the locations of Mount Maunganui, Pilot Bay, and the Main Beach.  They also filmed the action on the streets of New Zealand and at the Blokart Recreation Park, setting the film to some bumping music. 

And for all you techno-film geeks out there, Devin and his right-hand man Parker Walbeck used the RED Dragon camera in 6K resolution, a Glidecam, a GoPro Hero 4 with stabilizing poles, and some way-cool quadcopter aerial photography capturing the action.

It looks like the Kiwis know how to have some shredding fun. 

We can’t wait until these trikes and blokarts blow onto our shores for us to wickedly try out in short order.

Below is Parker Walbeck explaining the Behind-the-Scenes filming
of how it all went down:

 

 

 

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Tripping Thru ‘Nam

 

A Young Man’s 3-Minute Trip

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Young Russian photographer Georgy Tarasov’s film is a trip through a country once ravaged by war. 

No longer.  That was 40 years ago.

In The Road Story Vietnam, Daniil Tarasov, Georgy’s brother, takes viewers on an adventure through many parts of Vietnam:  from cities to the countryside, by train, bicycle, motorbike, rowboat, and jumping under a waterfall.

Georgy, 23, is a world traveler.  He enjoys sharing his love of travel from behind the camera lens.  Traveling through the country in a 45-day long trip, it took him nearly two months to finish the video after returned to Moscow.

He said they faced several difficulties while traveling and making the video, but the spirit of adventure and wanderlust encouraged them to continue.

“It was an amazing adventure.  The whole trip was remembered as a great trip,” Georgy said, “And Ha Long Bay was among the most awesome places we have ever visited.”

 “I have lots of feelings about Vietnam that I tried to pass on in my video,” Georgy said. “Vietnam is a wonderful place.  It really is all beautiful.  But I cannot tell you which is more beautiful– the northern or southern regions of Vietnam,” he wisely noted.

One of the things the Tarasov brothers loved most about Vietnam was the children.  “They are always happy, always smiling, and I love that,” Georgy said.  He described the Vietnamese people as simply being “wonderful” and treating them well along their journey.

Since being posted on Vimeo last week, The Road Story Vietnam has been praised by many for its beautiful scenes and music, as well as capturing the overall spirit of traveling.

Georgy said he and his brother will return to Vietnam someday.  But next time, they will take the trip solely by motorbike exploring the country– being sure to have plenty of camera batteries and visas in proper order before they go.

 

 

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The Sadness of Losing a Best Friend

 

 

Crying Pup Grieves Over Loss of His Twin

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

BrettVett1
YouTube

 

 

I noticed Brutus, my Rottweiler, was upset.  So was I. 

His twin brother, Hank, had stopped eating.  He became lethargic, and then, seemingly, began grieving. 

Hank had always been by my side with his Therapy Dog service.  He grieved with me when I was so upset.  Now he looked so sad.  He was still drinking and nibbling on food so I thought he was okay.

He wasn’t.

A week later Brutus and I awoke to his peaceful body next to us as he passed in the night in his sleep.  The above video was shortly after we woke up, missing our baby.

Brutus first woke to find his twin had passed during the night and gone to heaven.  Brutus didn’t want to leave him.  He wouldn’t budge, laying on top of his head.  They were inseparable.

Brutus has never whined or cried out in pain the two years I have had him.  But I clearly saw in his eyes that he was crying for his brother.  The world around him just crumbled.  We both cried.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers for my sweetest boy.  Hank did not feel well.  I held him in my arms and let him know I didn’t want him to go, but if he had to it was okay to be free.  That death is a way to be free and not to be afraid.  That I wished I had him since he was a cute lil chunky puppy and that he was the best dog I ever had and that he had made a legacy for other Rottweilers being the extraordinary dog that he was.

A few hours later he was gone.  My father put my mind at ease saying Rottweilers of this size have very short lives and he thought Hank to be approx 10 years old and not 7 like I had thought.

I’m so sorry I wasn’t strong enough here.  Yes, I had a breakdown.  I cried in front of the dogs.  I normally don’t record my real life catastrophes or share them, but this was different.  I wanted to send a message to the world and show how much pain my dog was in because he loved his twin so much.

Let the world know animals feel love and pain just like us.  Share our story.  Animals do have emotions like we do.  Don’t let Hank’s passing die in vain with him. 

I hope something good can come out of something so sad.

RIP Hank the Rottweiler: Unknown — 01-20-15

 

 

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Double Deutsch Vision

 

Sight and Insight are Different Things

 

**Award-Winning VIDEOS**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

One step aside and you might discover something unexpected. 

It´s amazing what you can find right in front of your door, if you just open your eyes and look a little closer.

In the above video, Travel Where You Live, German photographer Sebastian Linda traveled around in his beautiful home state of Saxony as if he was trekking around in a foreign country.

Sebastian believes that if you travel where you live– and find the awesome places your country has to offer right in front of your doorstep—you’ll see good people, learn volumes, and have new experiences to share with others along the way.

We believe that.  Opening up your eyes, being aware, and seeing the newness of things around you.  It’s the difference between having sight and having vision.  Or, Wake up and Live.

Formic, below, is a bit of a different flavor altogether.  German studio Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg captures in stunning effect the world we don’t often see, down close and personal.  And who doesn’t like Beethoven’s 5th?

Life is one big road with lots of signs.  So when you’re riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind.  Don’t bury your thoughts.  Put your sense of vision to reality.

We’re reminded we are not here merely to make a living.  We’re here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.  We are here to enrich the world.  And we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.

 

Formic by Crave from Woodblock on Vimeo.

 

 

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Elgin Park

 

Creating a Miniature Utopia
of How the World Should Be

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Welcome to Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park:  A 1/24th-scale recreation of everyday scenes from mid-20th century America, ranging from the 1920s to the mid-1960s.

Elgin Park is a lot of things: a 1950’s utopia, a fantastical world, and an optical illusion.

Artist Michael Paul Smith’s imaginative town– composed entirely of miniatures– delighted audiences worldwide when
his photo series became wildly popular.

The series posted on Flickr went viral, attracting 76 million visitors from around the world.  Michael’s work has since been featured by media around the world.

For the first time, the documentary Elgin Park dives into the life of this charming, reclusive artist to reveal the dark inspiration behind his work.  What started as an exercise in model-making and photography became a dreamlike reconstruction of the town Michael grew up in.  It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood and feel of his memories.

Michael serves up a comforting slice of mid-20th-century Americana:  the local banker’s slinky ’56 Lincoln Premiere reflects the summer sun outside the hardware store on Main Street.  A spit-shined Divco truck delivers fresh milk from the Borden dairy.  On the town’s outskirts, where rents are low and hot-rodders use the county road as a dragstrip, a custom ’55 Ford gets a set of loud pipes at a one-bay speed shop.  

Driving Michael’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh.  He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart.  

“Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

The buildings are constructed of resin-coated paper, styrene plastic, and wood, plus numerous found objects.  Photographing
the scenes with real life trees and woods in the background, Elgin
Park takes on a very real appearance.

The vehicles are from Michael’s collection of 300+ commercially produced, diecast models.  Although drawn to American cars of the ’30s to the ’60s, Michael does not call himself a car buff.  “As a teenager, I was a car enthusiast for the design, not so much the horsepower,” he said.

Describing himself as a recluse, Michael has created his own little world he’d like to live in.  Like photographs pulled from shoeboxes in dusty attics, the images he makes form a parade of memories that, one by one, reveal the focal points and quiet corners of an imagination and a small town called Elgin Park.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Elgin Park book is available for preorders at animalmediagroup.com/shop/elgin-park/.  All preorders will be shipped to arrive by June 21st and each will be signed by the creator of Elgin Park, Michael Paul Smith.

 

 

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The Longest Walk

 

A Changing Selfie and Beard Across China

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 
 

Christoph Rehage
The Longest Way.com

 

 

My name is Christoph Rehage, and I like to take walks sometimes.

I was born a fat kid to a Hungarian mom and a German dad in Hanover, Germany, on November 9th in 1981.  During my childhood, I spent my time mostly consuming adventure stories and setting things on fire.  

Later on, I ended up in Wichita, Kansas, for a year, then in Paris as a laborer, and eventually in Beijing as a student of Chinese studies.

At some point in between, I spontaneously decided to walk long distances. 

Walking was both terrible and awesome at the same time, and I realized that this was something that I liked very much.  More than reading. More than swimming.  More than taking pictures, and probably even more than watching TV.

It was better than fire.

I’ve always had the desire for photography and exploration.  On the morning of my 26th birthday, on November 9th 2007, I started walking home from Beijing to Germany.  I walked and I walked, growing a beard that got longer and longer.  I had been planning this trip for over a year before I even started, and getting as far as I got was an experience for which I am very grateful.

Then, after a year on the road, close to the border of Kazakhstan, I stopped walking.  And I got a haircut.

I returned home to our village, made a video about the walk called The Longest Way, and posted it online. Little did I know that it would turn out to become a minor Internet sensation.

I never finished my original goal of walking to Germany.  Instead, I walked for a year and after roughly 2,800 miles, passed the Gobi desert, and then decided to stop walking.

I completed the journey solely on foot– straight, good old walking, and three pairs of shoes.  

There are instances where you can see me in the video sitting on a plane or riding a boat, but those are during breaks I had to take from walking, either to sort out bureaucracy issues or to take care of some personal things.  For example, obtaining the necessary visa for a trip like this was not very easy, hence I had to go back to Beijing a few times to resolve some issues.

Walking is good for you.  It helps you see the world around you in a much different way, at a slower and natural pace.  The sights and sounds are more clear.  In fact, walking itself allows you to clear your head, slow down, gather your thoughts.  There were times I felt myself thinking and living clearly for the first time, and seeing the world around me in a new and different way.

There are so many adventures and stories I could tell.  One of the things I learned is that people all over the world are inherently good in nature.  We all want the same things in life.  We all help each other wherever and whenever we can.  People are just that way.

I met so many folks.  I think if I want to get to know someone, I am most of all interested in what that person likes.  The things that someone enjoys doing, the people and ideas that he or she values.  I want to know that, and through that understanding comes the knowledge of what really makes them tick– and to live and love.

 

 

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The Little Drive-In With A Big Heart

 

The Choice:  Go Digital or Fade to Black

 

**Award-Winning Short Film**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Longtime projectionist Roger Babcock has been threading
film through the Hi-Way Drive-In’s projectors for more than
40 years.

However, with Hollywood studios no longer offering film prints of their releases, Roger faces an ultimatum:  upgrade all four of the Hi-Way’s 35mm film projectors to expensive digital systems, or close the gates which have warmly welcomed moviegoers since 1960 forever.

The drive-in has relied on historic RCA Brenkert projectors for more than 60 years, two of which have been there since it opened in 1951, Babcock said.  Babcock, 67, and his wife, Sharon, 65, bought the Hi-Way in 1996.

The Hi-Way Drive-In on U.S. Route 9 in Coxsackie, New York, opened in 1951, joining a growing trend when television was just starting to catch on, and the Thruway was under construction.  “We are one of just 400 remaining drive-in theaters in the U.S., down from a peak of over 4,000 in the late 1950s,” Sharon Babcock said.

But now, “Studios are preparing to stop making 35 millimeter prints of their feature films,” Roger said, “shifting to digital projectors that rely on computers with special encrypted hard drives, allowing them to save up to one billion dollars each year.”

Changing to digital would come at an enormous cost.  “It would cost $300,000 to convert all four of our screens to digital projection,” he said.

Roger remains steadfast and defiant in the face of closing down.   “We have no plans on shutting the drive-in down, none whatsoever,” he said.

But finding the money for digital projectors won’t come easy.  Babcock tried donation boxes and a fundraising campaign to the raise money, but these efforts netted just $4,160– which doesn’t even begin to cover the $26,000 to $40,000 deposit required just to get the digital projectors delivered, he said.

Babcock has turned to Social Security to help allow him to offset the cost of digital and keep the movies running for the community.  “Social Security at my age is going to help pay for this,” he said.

“The Hi-Way is going to an absolute extreme to show movies to customers that want to see movies in an outdoor setting,” he said.  “With Social Security, the monthly payments are reasonable enough for us to convert two or three screens, but not four.”

Babcock said the future of the fourth screen is still up in the air.  He said he’s considering buying a used digital projector for about $39,000 to show older movies that aren’t subject to the complex rules and regulations that first-run movies are.  Showing 35-milimeter films on the fourth screen is not an option, he said, because the movie studios prohibit theaters from showing digital movies and film at the same time. “With digital it’s all in, or nothing,” he added.

Digital projection will bring brighter, clearer and crisper pictures to the drive-in, but with many strings attached, he said.  Cost is the biggest factor.  Babcock won’t see anything on his bottom line for seven to 10 years if he switches to digital.

“Right now, our movies are affordable.  A double feature is $9 for adults and $4 for kids for new movies,” Sharon said.  “We don’t want to have to raise our prices to exorbitant levels to pay for digital,” she said.

Over the years, since Roger Babcock started at the drive-in as a box office attendant in 1971, he has learned how to fix just about anything on the 60-plus-year-old projectors in his projection room.  He keeps a warehouse of parts, a place he said he hardly ever has to visit. 

“These projectors are real workhorses,” he said.  “All I replace is bulbs and a gear here and there.”

He takes pride in maintaining the old projectors, and setting up films, which can stretch to 1.5 miles for a feature length film.  He said he loves it when guests assume a movie is digital because the picture quality is so clear.

The manufacturers expect the digital projectors to last just 10-15 years, Roger noted.  “Bulbs that cost $2,000 would only last for 75% of our outdoor movie season,” he said.

Roger also said he needs an internet connection for studio monitoring, something he never had to worry about with the old film projectors.  The projection room must also be a ‘clean room’, too– with heating, air-conditioning, and filtered air year round.  As for doing his own maintenance, that’s off the table, also.  “My contract would not allow me to do that,” he said.  “I would have to bring someone in for $1,400 a day.”

One thing that’s not an issue for the Babcock’s is attracting guests.  There’s a line of cars outside the gate every night before every double feature begins.  He said it’s thriving because they’ve focused on making the Hi-Way a great experience.  It’s popular with nostalgic baby-boomers, young people, and families who can be sure that one screen is devoted to kids movies each week.

“Many regulars come every week to see a new film,” he said.  “We even get people from the city.”

In the face of digital adversity and an uncertain future, Roger is refusing to quit.  He just won’t let the community and his movie-going public down.  And he doesn’t want to retire. 

Simply put, he and Sharon love what they do.  They understand they will have to go digital– or end up fading to black.

“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone during the 2015 season,” he said, with pride.

~Via Tansy Michaud, Adam Carboni, the Hi-Way Drive-In,
   Daily Freeman, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * * *

Our appreciation goes out to Roger and Sharon Babcock, Joyce Lehnert, and John Waters for being the underdogs and saving a little piece of Americana community.

 

 

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A Signpost for Humboldt County

 

Crime, Humboldt, and New York City: 1981

 

Award-Winning Short Film

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

NYC, 1981 is Austin Peters’ captivating six minute documentary
about a particularly dark and intense period in New York City.

A companion piece for the drama A Most Violent Year currently in theaters, Peters relates the dark truth about 1981, the year in which the film is set. 

We can only wonder if Humboldt County and Eureka could ever get so bad as 1981’s Gotham, given the crime we’re witnessing everyday on the streets and in the pages of the Times-Standard

Murders, robberies, physical assaults, criminals and drugs seem to be a daily occurrence here, running amok in our Fair City while no one seems to give a damn—from Supervisors to Councilmen, police to prosecutors, welfare workers to probation officers. 

We shovel more money into their burgeoning local budgets with nothing to show for it as a result.  It’s just more of the same crime, day in, day out.  They talk a big line of fiscal woes and promises, but nothing ever really happens for good.  It’s no wonder we have one of the highest per capita crime rates in the state and nation.

Like Eureka, death, assault, burglaries, rape, criminals running rampant, and an influx of drugs made New York City into a living nightmare with more than 2,100 murders in 1981.  That number went steadily into remission, shrinking down to 648 in 2013 after citizens demanded change.

The short film features the people who lived through those heady nitty gritty dirty days, when one could actually be caught dead in Times Square for different reasons.  Or Eureka, for that matter.

If the NYC, 1981 has a gritty ’80s feel, it’s because it was shot on 16mm film and processed at Film Lab, the only company that still developed film stock in New York City.  That company closed its doors for good in December, like many of the shuttered businesses still littering Eureka’s 5th Street.

Speaking in the film are Curtis Sliwa, who spearheaded the Guardian Angels;  Johnnie Mae, an actress who moved to New York from the South;  Dapper Dan, a Harlem street legend and fur salesman;  Penny Arcade (real name Susana Ventura), a fixture in the downtown arts scene; Nick Rosello, a Puerto Rican immigrant and auto body shop owner; and Wayne Walsh, a delivery trucker since he was 18.

NYC made amends after sinking under its own weight into a deep dark dismal abyss.  The Mob is long gone from power; the East Side has seen an arts and business revival; slums and run down areas have been torn down to make way for new development and housing.  The cops and probation officers are doing their jobs.  The Big Apple’s murder rate has dropped 70%, crime is at historic lows, and tourists are flocking back to Times Square.  Gotham’s citizens feel better; proud of their community, their neighborhoods, and the self-made accomplishments to get it done.

Humboldt County should take and learn from NYC’s example. 

Consider it a signpost for our future.  An example that Eureka citizens can and should demand better from our leaders and take back their community, too– especially when the fat-cat bureaucrats, asking for more tax monies without future promise, seem unable and unwilling to do so.

It is up to the people to lead where their “leaders” have failed.

* * * * * * * * * *

For all of those who are striving to make Eureka and Humboldt County a better place to live, thank you.  You know who you are.  And a special shout-out goes out to Charlotte McDonald and Eureka Main Street.

 

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Breathe

 

Breathe in the Air

 

Award-Winning **Short Film**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

When we breathe in, we are breathing in the laughter, tears, victories, passions, thoughts, memories, existence, and the joys of life. 

And we barely notice it.

Breath takes us on a journey that explores everything that life is– from birth to excitement, shock and awe, love, surprises, and even death. 

Blowing out the candles on your birthday cake, sharing a first kiss, warming your hands up on a snowy day, grieving the loss of a loved one.  We will take millions of breaths in thousands of ways across our lives.

Feelings often come and go like clouds in a windy sky.  Conscious breathing remains our anchor.  We wonder if Beethoven held his breath the first time his fingers touched the keys, the same way a soldier holds his breath the first time his finger clicks the trigger? 

We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.

It’s the essence of human life that’s beautifully captured here.  Who knew such a short compilation focusing on the myriad ways people breathe could make for a very cool short film?  It may only be a few minutes long, but it’s filled with such rich, emotional material to give one pause for thought. 

Breath is a video that will have you sitting back, relaxing, and remembering to experience life for all its worth.  It’s a reminder to live in the moment, to live in the breath.

And of course, to breathe.

 

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Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka

 

A Wrestling Life on the Ropes

 

**Award-Winning Short Film**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

In the 1970s, everybody arguably believed wrestling was real.

By the 1980s, people suspected the outcome of the matches were predestined, but they didn’t care because the grapplers were so damned entertaining.

One such star, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, was arguably the best wrestler of his time.  That’s saying a lot when you consider he came up through the ranks at a time when names like Hulk Hogan, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, “Ravishing” Rick Rude and countless others also did, all vying for the same spotlight of fame.

Snuka is a one-man highlight reel.  After winning the Mr. Waikiki, Mr. Hawaii and Mr. North Shore bodybuilding titles early on in his life, Snuka set his sights on pro wrestling and shot to the top of the wrestle mania charts. 

Whether it was jumping 15 feet off the top of the steel cage in 1983 at Madison Square Garden, settling ‘feuds’ with others in the ring, or being on the receiving end of a coconut smashed against his head by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Snuka made his mark in the wrestling world by putting his body on the line, night in, night out.

Jimmy could fly off the top turnbuckle higher and faster than any wrestler ever seen.  He was supposed to be a villain, but everyone loved the guy.  He was the underdog.  And an entertaining one at that.

From a childhood of abuse in the Fiji islands to his rise in the ring, divorce, cocaine addiction, and the mysterious death of his girlfriend, Superfly Snuka endured– barefooted, in leopard print tights, and with a matching bandanna for the roaring and adoring crowds of fans in the stands.

That was then, this is now.  His children, a son and daughter, have grown up to become pro wrestlers themselves.  He teaches and mentors young wrestlers entering the game. has written a book, and raises money for causes and charities whenever he can.  He likes to sign autographs for young fans while touring the B circuit of state fairs and carnivals.

But like a bloom that has come off the rose, Jimmy sees his glory days as fading.  He’s older now; slower, mellower, and in constant pain from years of abuse in the ring.

But, in true Superfly style, Jimmy refuses to give up and throw in the towel.
“I have to fly for the fans,” he says.

From Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story, he reflected on his highflying career:

 

“The word fear is not a part of my vocabulary.

Growing up in the Fiji Islands, the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and eventually Hawaii, I was never afraid. Danger means nothing to the Superfly.

I live my life to the max without giving much thought to how dangerous something can be or how impossible it might be.  I make the impossible possible—I always have, long before I jumped off the top of the steel cage at Madison Square Garden.

I can’t tell you how many times I used to dive off cliffs as a kid.  I loved birds.  I’d always look up to the sky, and I was fascinated with them.  I wanted to know how it felt to fly. 

My whole career I’ve soared like an eagle, brah!  As a kid I would dive off boats and cliffs and yell “Superfly!”  That’s how I got my name.  It was only natural that when I needed a gimmick as a wrestler, I used something from my childhood.

I wanted to swing tree to tree, just like my idol, Tarzan.  I remember in Fiji, my mother, Louisa, would take my brother, Henry, and me to the movies to watch Tarzan, and I wanted to be just like him.  Oh man, I loved that guy right away.  

I remember telling her, “I want to be like that man.”  When you see me in the ring today or on video, you’ll notice I always wear a headband and leopard print as a tribute of sorts to Tarzan.  I often wore shells around my neck as a tribute to my culture.  I also went barefoot, just like he did.  I admit, though, that I didn’t wear boots in the ring partly because no one from the islands wants their toes to be trapped in a pair of anything other than flip-flops.

When I got into the wrestling ring, I’d swing rope-to-rope and perch myself on top, just as I did as a kid on those cliffs.  Everything just came so natural.  I was an explorer and the islands were my playground, my education… my everything.

Like Tarzan, I never could sit still. I always need to be moving, and I need to be in the ring locking up with somebody and feeling the energy of the crowd.

I love the fans.  Everything I’ve ever done is for them.  That’s what makes my life these days so hard and extremely frustrating.  Feeding off my fans made all the pain go away, bruddah.

But as I’ve gotten older and the matches have gotten fewer and fewer
over the years, the pain has caught up with the Superfly.

I can honestly say I haven’t been 100 percent for ring action in many years.  Like I said, I masked the pain.  I tried not to see how swollen my body was after each show.  I pretended everything was okay, and that it didn’t bother me.  I ignored the pain.  Each time I’d work an independent show and couldn’t get to the top rope to do my signature Superfly leap, it reminded me how hurt I really was.

There were way too many times I had to do it from the second rope, or worse, the first rope.  I didn’t like that.  My wife, Carole, told me fans didn’t notice, but I knew they did.  That’s what they came for — to watch me fly!

I’m 68 years old as I write this, but all this pain has had nothing to do with getting older.  Yes, maybe the years took their toll, but never my ability.  I never wanted to be without wrestling.  I always needed to be in the ring.  That’s my home, bro.

Sometimes being trapped with my thoughts can be more painful than any injury I’ve suffered in the ring.  I miss being in the ring.  That’s what I love.  That’s what I’m here to do.  I’m supposed to be resting and out of the ring for a long time, but I know I’ll be back doing what I do best.  I love entertaining the fans, watching their faces, and seeing them have fun.  I enjoy the friendship I have with the boys.  They’re like my family when I am on the road.

The way I live my life is, I want what I want, when I want it.  All that runs through my mind is the past and the future.  I love what I’ve done, and I want to do more.  As I sit here, I remember all that I’ve accomplished in my career and personal life, and I want more of those moments.

But as I look back, I can also look ahead, and that takes the sting away.  Anything I’ve ever wanted in my life — whether it was using the Fiji Islands as my playground or learning the wrestling business in Portland, Oregon — I’ve had to figure it out on my own and bust my ass to own it.

I’m not ready to change that mind-set.

What this time has made me remember is all the things I’ve done– my highs, my lows, my failures, and my regrets.”

 

 

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Metallica Alcoholica

 

 

Hardcore Heavy Metal and Spirits

 

VIDEO:  ’The Unforgiven’

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Metallica was the golden era of one of heavy metal’s all-time greatest bands.

They were also one of the hardest touring and hardest drinking bands of the era, too.

It wasn’t easy for the group starting out.  They were going against the grain of what was considered “safe” musically by the mainstream when their bass player, Cliff Burton, died just as the band was breaking through.

On September 27, 1986, during the European leg of Metallica’s Damage, Inc. Tour, the partying members drew cards to determine which bunks on the tour bus they would sleep in.  Burton won and chose to sleep in Hammett’s bunk.  At around sunrise near Dörarp, Sweden, the bus driver lost control and skidded, which caused the bus to overturn several times.  

Ulrich, Hammett, and Hetfield sustained no serious injuries; however, bassist Burton was pinned under the bus and died.

Hetfield later said:  “I saw the bus lying right on him.  I saw his legs sticking out.  I freaked.  The bus driver, I recall, was trying to yank the blanket out from under him to use for other people.  I just went, ‘Don’t fucking do that!’

“I wanted to kill the bus driver.  I don’t know if he was drunk or if he hit some ice.  All I knew was, he was driving– and Cliff wasn’t alive anymore.”

The band continued on without Burton.  It all equated to a string of albums from 1983 through 1991 that sold zillions of copies worldwide, and made them a global stadium headliner.

Metallica was drunk the entire time they toured as part of the Van Halen-headlined Monsters of Rock Tour.  As one of several bands playing on this tour of outdoor stadiums throughout the summer of 1988, Metallica was indeed constantly inebriated.

Lars Ulrich recalls the hazy period:  “Basically, at the time, we used to start drinking when we woke up,” he remembers– which, on the Monsters of Rock tour was eleven o’clock in the morning.

“We’d get the gig over by three o’clock, and then we’d have eight or nine hours in which to drink.  It was awesome.  That was our first exposure to big crowds, like 50,000 people every day.  We were just drunk basically all the time,” Lars said.  “The not-giving-a-fuck meter was peaking.”

And a drunken James Hetfield once trashed a dressing room so severely that he received a tongue-lashing from legendary concert promoter Bill Graham.  After wrapping up a performance at the Day on the Green Festival at Oakland Stadium in 1985, Hetfield smashed a large hole in the wall of the dressing room, after attempting to push food through an air vent.  

After assessing the damage, Graham pulled the shouter/guitarist aside, and gave him some advice:  ”The bad attitude you have – well, to let you know, I’ve had the same conversation with Sid Vicious and Keith Moon.  And they’re both dead.”

When both the Bon Jovi and Metallica bands appeared at England’s Monsters of Rock Festival in 1987, headliner Bon Jovi arrived at the massive outdoor venue– Donington Park– via helicopter, flying over the crowd and creating a scene in the midst of Metallica’s mid-afternoon set.  James Hetfield was irritated in his usual alcohol-fueled mood of resentment.  He voiced his disapproval of the hair metallists by slapping a custom made sticker on one of his guitars that bluntly read, KILL BON JOVI.

Alcohol mishaps continued to haunt the band.  In 1992, while co-headlining the Guns N’ Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, a sauced-up Hetfield accidentally stumbled into a 12-foot wall of flame pyrotechnic display during the group’s rendition of Fade to Black

Suffering second and third degree burns to his arms, face, hands, and legs, Hetfield’s skin was “bubbling up like something on The Toxic Avenger,” bandmate Jason Newsted recalled.  Guitar technician John Marshall replaced Hetfield for the remainder of the tour as Hetfield was unable to play the guitar, even after sobering up for a bit.

In a 2007 interview with MTV, the band members reminisced on the problems
they faced during their alcohol-fueled period:

 

Kirk Hammett:  

“We always had alcohol around us and we always had it around us in large amounts.  When I first met these guys they were drinking vodka like it was water.  

I would start drinking about 12 in the afternoon, we would arrive at the club and go straight to the bar and see how much booze we could consume for free, and by the time we went out onstage we were almost always sauced.

That went on for about eight or 10 shows until I heard a tape recording of a show and my playing was not happening.  So I kind of stopped drinking before the show.  But then I would just drink twice as much after the show.  Alcohol brought out everything that we needed to say to each other that we couldn’t say to each other when we were sober.

It became part of our legend — people would know when we were coming into town to stock their bars and make sure there was always a lot of booze for us to drink.  I can’t really recall most of the Kill ‘Em All tour.  I only remember the shows during the Ride the Lightning tour.  But even then, all I remember is driving up to the venues, going in and playing the show.  Anything that happened after I have no recollection of.

I remember a lot more of Master of Puppets, because by then I was a professional drinker and I knew how to pace myself and I knew not to drink until I blacked out, which was always the norm before.  And nowadays I have issues with alcohol because of all that.”

 

Lars Ulrich:

“Going back and looking at the lyrics, there were a lot of clues, and there are a lot of places where there were tell-tale signs that James was in trouble, but all of us were so caught up in our own drunken activities that we never thought much of what the other guy was doing.”

 

James Hetfield:

“I had quit drinking for a while and didn’t find God or whatever I was looking for, so I decided to go back to drinking, and I kind of peaked when I was in Russia on this insane hunting trip.

I was in the middle of nowhere in Siberia hunting bears, and I was staying in this chicken shack with these Russians and they all have AK-47s and vodka.  We are stuck there in four feet of snow so we started drinking vodka — there was nothing to do for a week but sit there and drink.  

When I came home the behavior continued and it just spun out of control.  It was ripping my family apart and there were some ultimatums about being thrown out of the house.  It took that for me to realize what a problem it was.

So I had to go away. And I was really afraid to go away, not knowing what would happen to me, not knowing what would happen to Metallica, not knowing how I’d be treated in the press about it.”

 

Since their beginings around 1982, Metallica has suffered through their tragedies and triumphs, releasing nine studio albums, four live albums, 26 music videos, and 37 singles, winning nine Grammy Awards and selling over 110 million records worldwide.  They’ve been listed as one of the greatest artists of all time by many magazines, including Rolling Stone, which ranked them #61 on its list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

The band is currently in production of its tenth studio album, slated for a 2015 release. 

Unforgiven again, we hope they don’t let the evil genie out of the whiskey jar.

 

 

 

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