Kurt sent me a link to this Daily Mail article about cartograms of the world map redrawen with each country's size proportionate to demographic statistics like wealth, alcohol consumption, HIV, military spending, etc.
After finding myself surrounded by banks and bars the last 3 months, I'm not at all surprised to see that Luxembourg, a country so tiny it's barely a speck on a global geo-political map, is relatively large on the Wealth and Alcohol Consumption cartograms because Lux is #1 in GDP per capita and #2 in boozin' it up.
It's also fascinating to see that Military Spending and Toy Imports are virtually identical while War / Death is the inverse of the two. "1st World" countries like the US build bombs and play with toys while the people of "3rd World" Countries die of war, famine and disease.
Tonight I shaved my head and left a mohawk. It was hard because there is only one mirror in my hotel room here in Luxembourg. I video taped it and made my own little Sports Racer intro for the show with ze frank. I wonder if Ze will actually use my intro, and even if he doesn't, I think it was the perfect way to spend the night before my birthday.
Sam got me a flickr Pro account last night so I uploaded all of the photos I've taken so far on my new Canon and my cell phone.
You can view the pics here:
I'll add descriptions later, but I should note that the more recent pics (the first 200 pics) are NOT Luxembourg, but rather, they're the Roman ruins in Trier, Germany.
And I'll eventually post a proper blog (I swear)...
Well I said in my first “LuxemBlog” that I’m going to try to post at least one blog entry a day but I’m already failing to keep that quota so I’m making it my New Year’s Resolution to post every day.
I think that taking the extra time to organize my thoughts into a blog post will actually save me time in the long run because every time I go online, I’m hit with a barrage of emails and IMs from friends and family asking how my trip is going. Most people ask the same sorts of questions, so I find myself copying and pasting my replies to everybody, but there is a certain amount of editing I have to do for each person in order to maintain the continuity necessary for a coherent conversation. I figure this blog is the best way to keep from repeating myself, but it’s totally rude to reply to a live question with “you’re not the first person to ask me that so just go read my blog...” so hopefully no one will get offended if I do direct them here and no one will get too discouraged to email or IM. I really want to hear what everyone back home is doing as much as you all want to hear about Luxembourg.
Anyway, enough with that disclaimer, on to LuxemBlog #2:
Saturday December 30, 2006
It’s been cold and rainy ever since I got to Luxembourg City but I went out exploring in the rain and walked the 2 miles uphill to the City Center. I wanted to bring my cameras but I didn’t want to get them wet.
The neighborhood has the typical European charm that I grew to know while in Germany during Summer 2002. Most of the buildings are multilevel homes and apartments. Even though Christmas has been over for several days, there were still dozens and dozens of little Santa dolls climbing rope ladders into the windows of many of the homes.
There’s a bus that goes to the City Center, and it passed me several times during my walk, which took about 30 minutes, but I figured I needed the exercise and I’d get a better feel for the terrain on foot.
Most of the shops in the City Center were closed but the restaurants were open. I got a tomato and mozzarella sandwich at a little corner café and though I ordered in German, the lady replied in French, which has been typical.
Most people here in Lux City are multilingual (French, German and Luxembourgish) but the default language seems to be French. I've been trying to speak to people in German, but they always reply in French, because they probably assume that I too am a bilingual, but I don't understand French at all. If I get confused in the linguistically-alternating dialog I will switch to English, at which point the other person will usually also switch to English and then the conversation will continue in a single language, unless the other person doesn’t speak English, and then I’ll speak English and they’ll recognize that I don’t understand French so they’ll speak French much more slowly and simply. So far though, there haven’t been any complete misunderstandings and I don’t expect my “naiveté Français” to pose any problems here.
I wandered around the City Center looking for a place to eat my sandwich and I ended up in a gazebo in one of the town squares. It seemed like the rain had kept the locals indoors and only a handful of tourists were willing to get wet to see the sights to the square was eerily empty.
When I got back to the hotel on Saturday, I got a call from Marci, the line producer, who had just landed in town and was headed to the mall. I was hungry and didn’t even know that there was a mall so I asked if I could tag along. Marci picked me up and before we went to the mall we stopped at Attitude Studios, which is literally 100 yards from my hotel. I had already stopped at the studio the night before to pick up a SIM card for my cell phone from the front desk, but it was after-hours so I couldn’t go inside and it was good to get a chance to see the studio with Marci before I start work tomorrow.
When we got to the mall, Marci said she was going to need 90 minutes to 2 hours and I was a bit worried because I don’t really like to shop and the mall wasn’t really that big, at least not compared to some of the malls in LA. Luckily I ran into my friend Shane, the director, and his wife, Sibyl, at the very busy department store. They had just gotten back from their vacation to Italy and they invited me over to their apartment for dinner and a movie, which was perfect because I was hungry and one of the main reasons I decided to come to Luxembourg was to hang out with Shane. They made pasta and we watched Layer Cake. It was late when Shane drove me back to the hotel and I was so tired that I managed to sleep despite the noisy AC.
Sunday December 31, 2006
New Year’s Eve
I spent most of the day unpacking and cleaning up room. Since it was still rainy and windy, I stayed in my room, even when the maid came in to clean, which was kind of awkward. The hotel has laundry service, which is really really expensive but I decided that it’s worth it to pay for the convenience of not having to lug my clothes to a laundromat (and I don’t even know where the closest one is) so I gave the maid my dirty clothes in the bag provided.
I tried to order room service for dinner, but it turned out that hotel kitchen was closed due to the holiday. Luckily the concierge was extremely friendly and he helped me order take-out from the neighboring Japanese restaurant, which we discovered was the only place that was open on New Year’s Eve after trying several other European restaurants. The concierge was really surprised that I tipped 2 euros for my sushi, which apparently is very generous in Lux, even though it was just barely 15%, because people in the service industry here are paid very well as it is so tipping isn't really even expected.
Shane and Sibyl picked me up for a New Year’s Eve party at Nick’s apartment in the City Center. Nick, the editor, lives upstairs with his wife and son in the penthouse suite of a building very close to the town square where I ate my sandwich the day before. Nick’s son, Connor, is a raging ball of energy who delighted in showing me his toys. Gilad, the assistant editor, brought his wife and newborn baby. Robert arrived straight from his madcap connect-the-dots drive thru Europe. Marci was there and so was one of the guys from Attitude, but I don’t remember his name or the name of his lady friend.
I was surprised to hear my cell phone ring when Sam called because I hadn’t activated International Roaming on my wireless plan but apparently Cingular activated it for me when I called them to “unlock” my phone. I still haven’t been able to use the new SIM card that work provided because my phone is still locked out from other SIMs, but Cingular is going to unlock my phone for me in the coming week so I will have a local cell number while I’m here. I’ve been carrying my phone around Lux partly out of habit but mostly I need it to keep track of the time because I forgot to bring the dual time zone watch that I got at the Aspen Comedy Art Festival. Anyway, I was surprised to get a call from Sam and she didn’t expect me answer, but it was totally worth the $1.25 a minute just to hear her voice for a little while. Sam and her friends were getting ready for a New Year’s Party in New York, which was probably way crazier than our little party in Luxembourg.
After the countdown, we had a great view of the fireworks from Nick’s balcony, but it was very windy and rainy so I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d liked. I think the highlights of the evening were a friendly debate with Robert as Nick and I tried to defend evolution, and a “Snake Master” battle between Connor and me as we passed Nick’s cell phone back and forth trying to beat each other’s highscore at “Snake” (I had the highest score by the end of the night but I have a feeling the competition will be ongoing).
Between the New Year’s Eve party and little get-together with Shane and Sibyl the night before, I feel like I’ve really had a chance to make myself at home and settle in before I start work on Tuesday.
Monday January 1, 2007
New Year’s Day
Since the hotel kitchen was closed New Year’s Eve, I didn’t expect it to be open on New Year’s Day, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the breakfast buffet was still open this morning. As usual, I stuffed my face. Aside for blogging every day, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to get in better shape. I’m not going to stop eating as much because I’m still very underweight even though I’ve gained 20 pounds in the last year, but I am going to try to convert some of this recently acquired fat into muscle. I hope to go running on a regular basis, which should be awesome exercise around here because the city is very hilly.
I wanted to go running today, but it’s still raining, and though I love running in the rain (I did it all the time during my first year of undergrad at UCLA when we had an unusually rainy winter that year) but I just can’t afford to get sick and the weather has already done a number on my sinuses. My allergies have been fine so far, but I’m still very congested.
I guess the only thing to do is sit in my room and eat the leftovers that Nick and his wife gave me from the party last night because everything is closed today for the holiday.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Holy crap, I’m in Luxembourg!!!
So I haven’t blogged in a very very very long time because I’ve been so incredibly busy. The Catch-22 of blogging is that if your life is boring, then you’ve nothing interesting to blog about, but if you’re doing all kinds of crazy cool stuff that is worth posting, then you’re probably too busy to blog about it.
I wasn’t doing much at the beginning of 2006 so I didn’t have much to blog about, and then suddenly in May I had a full-time job for 7 months working pre-production Technical Coordinator on the feature film version of my friend Shane Acker’s 9.
At the same time I was also teaching Advanced Game Prototyping and Design at the Art Institute of Los Angeles and Interactive Animation at UCLA. The Ai classes are Undergrad and the UCLA class is Graduate level, but students in both classes use Flash ActionScript to make Flash games.
It was really really hard to juggle my full-time production job with teaching part-time but it was totally worth the experience. I knew I’d only be working on 9 until Shane and few other Americans moved to Luxembourg for production, so I was planning on using the Winter and Spring Quarters to finish my thesis film so I could finally get my Master of Fine Arts in Animation and continue teaching. But my plans changed when the line-producer called me from Luxembourg on my second-to-last day and asked me to come to Luxembourg for a couple months. I had to give up my Winter Quarter classes at Ai but I knew that Luxembourg is a once-in-lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t miss.
So with only a few weeks to prepare for a 12-week business trip, here I am in Luxembourg City in the middle of winter.
Thursday December 28, 2006
I flew out of LAX on Thursday December 28th and thanks to a full day of air travel and the 9-hour time difference, it’s already Saturday.
Both of my flights were on time and the 10 hour flight to London-Heathrow flew by (pun intended) because Air New Zealand had movies on demand. They offered all kinds of American films that I haven’t seen yet, like Little Miss Sunshine, but I figured I could rent those DVDs anytime when I get back to the States so I decided to watch a bunch of the films from New Zealand. Out of the Blue, The World’s Fastest Indian, Perfect Strangers, and Banana in a Nutshell were all excellent films by Kiwi directors (I’m going to blog Film Diary posts about them later). I also started to watch two other Kiwi films, but I stopped Fracture after 15 minutes because it just couldn’t hold my attention and I only got about 30 minutes into In My Father’s Den before the pilot turned off the entertainment system in the final part of our flight, right when the film was getting very interesting.
Friday December 29, 2006
The layover in London-Heathrow was 3 hours, but I wandered the shops in Terminal 2 until I caught the tiny Lux Air jet to Luxembourg City. I got to practice my German a little bit on the flight to Lux while ordering food, but “käsebrot und orangensaft bitte” (“cheese sandwich and orange juice please”) is pretty easy so hopefully the more advanced German will come back to me soon, though I think most of the people I’ll be interacting with speak French instead.
All of my American coworkers are out of town so I had to take a taxi to my four-star hotel, where I’ll be staying for the next 2 and half months.
Saturday December 30, 2006
My hotel room is pretty kickass. It’s a one-bedroom loft studio with a spiral staircase and a kitchen-in-a-closet. I doubt I’ll get to use the kitchen much though because I’ll probably eat most of my lunches and dinners at work like I did during pre-production, and the hotel has an awesome Breakfast Buffet which way better than the cheap bagel-and-banana “Continental Breakfast” that I’m used to while traveling. This morning I had orange juice, coffee, cereal, a croissant, a roll, toast and jam, cheese, a hardboiled egg, a tangerine and a kiwi. I’m gonna get pretty fat pretty quick if I keep eating like that. I was going to go for a run before breakfast to explore the city, but the sun didn’t come out until after 8 am and it was cold and dark. It’s not quite as dark now, but it’s still pretty cold, freezing in fact, just over 32 degrees Fahrenheit (check out the little weather.com feed for Luxembourg I added at the bottom of the left menu).
The only problem so far with my hotel room is that the air aonditioner constantly makes crackling and popping noises. Even when the AC is off it sounds like a giant hard drive being formatted. I know the human brain is capable of tuning out persistent sounds over time, but my brain can’t tune out the AC noises because the crackling is so frantic and sporadic and since I’m such a light sleeper, it made it really hard to sleep last night even though I was exhausted from my trip. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if the sound was droning and continuous, but I found myself anticipating the forthcoming gurgles during the few seconds of silence when the AC momentarily stopped making noises. After an hour of trying of trying to sleep, I finally covered my ears with a second pillow, which sort of blocked the sound but since I toss and turn in my sleep, I woke up each time I rolled over to reposition the pillow. The head sandwich also blocked out the sound of passing cars, except for the occasional car bumping European techno.
Other than the noisy AC, the only other problem I’ve encountered so far is that I can’t use the SIM card that the producer provided for my Sony Ericsson W600i because Cingular “locked” my phone when I bought it. Apparently most American wireless providers “lock” their branded cell phones when you buy them with a contract so that you can only use their network’s SIM cards. My cell is a GSM World phone compatible with European networks, but I have to unlock it before I can use any other SIMs. Hopefully I’ll be able to unlock my phone sometime next week when I start work after New Year’s.
I’m going to be very very busy for the next 12 weeks as Production Coordinator on 9 but I’ll try to overcome the blogging Catch-22 since this blog will be the best way to let my friends and family know what’s going on in my life while I’m half a World away. I brought my new Toshiba laptop, my new Canon PowerShot SD630 digital still camera and my trusty ol’ Canon GL1 DV camcorder so I’m going to try to blog everyday and post photos and video of my trip as often as possible. I doubt I’ll have time to do a daily video blog like my hero Ze Frank but I’ll try to post video at least once a week. I hope to have my first video post up by Sunday night (Luxembourg time) / Sunday afternoon (Los Angeles time).
Well it’s 39º F outside so I think I’ll go exploring before lunch.
Seriously, I can’t believe I’m in Luxembourg.