DT LA Art District GUIDE.

Lotsa people think LA and think beach but one of my absolutely favorite places to explore is the downtown Arts District. Consider it one stop shopping for all your hipster pleasures. From dope breweries, to couture clothing, to black as night soft serve, you can pretty much fill a fantastic day walking around this conglomerate of cool.

A few of our faves are the Pali Wine Co. where you can get your grape on in an unpretentious, sexy Scandinavian vibe. Cheap flights and a fun staff awaits: paliwineco.com

The best dogs are at Wurstkuche which is just fun to say. Crazy flavors and a riotous back room will leave your belly full and your voice lost: wurstkuche.com

Desert will bring you to the LA institution Pie Hole, again, offering anything out of the ordinary for discerning pie aficionados. thepieholela.com

By now you need to ease into the afternoon with a cold brew, so why not have 8 of them. Angel City is one of our absolute favorite in LA and their flights are legendary. angelcitybrewery.com

Ok so now you are sh!#@faced which is the appropriate time to eat black charcoal soft serve at Bae. Much more than an instagram darling, this soft serve is delicious as it’s activated charcoal soaks up all that liquid regret in your tummy: BAE

Finally finish out your banner day with a little retail therapy to perhaps buy that one-of-a-kind gift for that friend you just ghosted their brunch on. A unique store that is like an authentic Urban Outfitters, if Urban Outfitters sold real stuff. poketo.com

That’s the size of it folks, definitely head down to downtown to get some real LA living.

JOIN THE CLAST! YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/travelclast Instagram: @TravelClast Twitter: @ClastTravel Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

This is everything.

Came across this most excellent video essay by the Nerdwriter, if you aren’t familiar, behoove thyself and get thy familiar, each is better then the next, but this one, is pretty much the tastiest of the bunch.

In the short video, he goes on to deconstruct one of the most important, iconic, and flat-out famous photos in the world by the master Dorothea Lange. I personally have always had a strong connection to her, and this photo, as many of the other greats like Roberto Frank, in that budding time of candid “street” photography.

What you see however, is that it is not candid at all, and there is a master at work indeed.

migrantmothercolorized

What I think is so amazing is that this nugget of history goes for so many works of art out there. Any time you think that something is dumb luck, or viral by chance, most likely it is not. If you know your medium, if you are conscious of your art, then you can manipulate anything, even authenticity.

They took her thumb Charlie… they took her thumb.

enjoy.

 

 

From YouYube:

The story of how Dorothea Lange created perhaps the most iconic photograph in American history. First of a series. Go to https://NordVPN.com/nerdwriter and or use code NERDWRITER to to get 75% off a 3 year plan. Protect yourself online today! Support Nerdwriter videos: https://patreon.com/nerdwriter Subscribe: http://bit.ly/SubNerdwriter Watch the most popular Nerdwriter episodes: https://youtube.com/watch?v=_aFo_BV-U…   Facebook: https://facebook.com/The-Nerdwriter-3… Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheeNerdwriter Patreon: https://patreon.com/nerdwriter SOURCES James C. Curtis, “Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, and the Culture of the Great Depression” Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring, 1986), pp. 1-20 http://depts.washington.edu/depress/d… https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/128… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothe… http://www.mobileranger.com/blog/cali… MUSIC Divider by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…) Source: http://chriszabriskie.com/divider/ Artist: http://chriszabriskie.com/ Luar, “Valiant” https://soundcloud.com/luarbeats/valiant Luar, “Balance” https://soundcloud.com/luarbeats/balance Watch More Nerdwriter: Latest Uploads: https://youtube.com/watch?v=gqlgf_q3n… Understanding Art: https://youtube.com/watch?v=cLJAXu5OD… Essays About Art: https://youtube.com/watch?v=cLJAXu5OD… Essays About Social Science: https://youtube.com/watch?v=hBweUnkfQ… Popular Videos: https://youtube.com/watch?v=_aFo_BV-U…   The Nerdwriter is a series of video essays about art, culture, politics, philosophy and more.

How to become YouTube Famous. (In 13 steps)

It’s time to become YouTube famous. I feel like I’m the last person on Earth who isn’t.

How do you become YouTube famous? Well, there are A LOT of ways people suggest to do it, so I went through the top 20 most popular articles and combined them ALL in one place, like a cheat sheet, mainly because there are A LOT of steps, and I’m lazy.

So here we go, the ultimate guide to becoming YouTube famous (in 13 steps).

  1. Keywords: Hop over to Google’s Keyword planner tool and Google Trends and KeywordTool.io and TubeBuddy to see what keywords are hot, and stay clear of long-tail keywords.
  2. Transcript: Uploading a transcript of your video will give Google more context to index your video, driving more search power to you.
  3. Share: share your video 3 times A WEEK on social media (and aggregators like Reddit and Scoop.it), and after 1 week, write a blog post about your video and then share that post.
  4. Call to action: add CTA buttons to the end of your videos that link to a playlist instead of a single video. Just add &list=”youtube playlist ID”  For example: your normal video URL looks like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkxeqomggF4 You need to modify it and add the playlist ID like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkxeqomggF4&list=PL3Ikn3SKdJHh3ydUUZpusjBVgt3PTPmeH
  5. Subscribe Watermark: Instead of uploading a watermark of your logo, upload a subscribe icon as your watermark so it’s on the screen, discreetly, all the time.  Located in Creator Studio > Channel > Branding
  6. Check your stats: Each week check your video stats to see where viewers are leaving your videos. Add a YouTube card at that time code inviting viewers to watch different content on your channel to help retain viewers.
  7. Branding: Brand your content and channel consistently. Use branded thumbnails. Here are some tools to help you.
  8. Add featured channels: parter with other YouTube Content creators. Click Modules > Other channels > Save changes – Then add a few like-minded channels and save.
  9. Keep “related channels” on: this will keep you in the YouTube recommended network of channels.
  10. Link your website: go to Creator Studio, then hit the channel settings link to add your blog or website URL, and hit link your associated website.
  11. Interact: Ask questions for your audience, like other videos, leave comments.
  12. Sub Confirmation: when linking to your YouTube Channel add “?sub_confirmation=1” to the end of your URL. This will prompt the viewer to subscribe immediately upon clicking the link.
  13. Consistency: Post once a week, Thursday, at 2pm, for a year, at a time when your demographic of viewers typically consume your type of video (check other similar channels to see when this is) – check your analytics monthly, and adjust your release time to 3 hours before your peak time.

I’m not going to mention you have to make good content, or how to make good content, or any of that business because that’s like telling someone in order to learn how to swim you have to get wet.

I hope this helps you guys… as I attempt to build an audience for my new Travel Channel venture The Travel Agency, it was interesting boiling down all these different articles into a concise list of “how to get YouTube famous”. Good luck and see you online!

 

 

How to become a Master Editor.

 

 

Who is this guy, Humbleless Jones? Amirite?

Look, when you’ve jogged through as many bits as I have you can call yourself whatever the hell you want. You’re the one here reading this, so I’m assuming you want to know how to become a master editor. So I’m going to tell you. It all begins with lying.

Lemme explain.

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Learning FCP 3 on a plane to NYC to compete in a 24 Hour Film Festival.

I started out as a photographer, and even went to Brooks institute (no it’s not for the mentally insane…) before I realized I was crazy to think (call back) that I could make a living being a photographer. It was then I discovered Film, which really rang my bell, because I’m the kinda person that loves to try a bit of everything, and film, to me, seemed like it had every other type of creative art contained within it; fashion, writing, acting, photography, construction … you name it, its in there, how could you ever get bored.

My biggest fear in life is being bored. That and quicksand.

So I studied film (I promise to get to the editing soon) at UC Santa Barbara … but lucky for me they only taught “Film Theory” so I spent 3 years reading Bazin, Eisenstein, and Plato and never touched a camera. I graduated, and was completely unhireable. Cool.

So. The first thing you learn as a budding filmmaker is that no one, and I mean no one, will want to edit your film. So, to counteract that I taught myself, against my will, how to edit. I downloaded a cracked (stolen) copy of Pinnacle Systems editing software, and got to it.

About 5 years later, I was a pretty decent editor, despite really hating editing. It’s long, boring, tedious, unthankful work that doesn’t make you popular at bars. I was however killing it on the timed contest scene. Timed contests were my salvation out of college. I entered them with a frenzied passion, and found that I had a skill for producing good content quickly. (I attribute this to studying Pornography as my genre study at UCSB with professor Constance Penley … if you want to know how to efficiently run a set, study porn. Trust.)

At this point I was really fed up working in hotels and needed to get into the industry somehow. I moved to NYC and applied for any job I could related to filmmaking. One response I got was from editor Dave Herman. I went in for an interview.

“I’m shooting a movie,” he said, “and you seem to have a lot of experience making shorts. If you help me with my film, I’ll hire you as an assistant. Do you know how to run an Avid?”

“Of course.” I said. What the fuck was an Avid I said in my head to myself.

“Cool. Start Monday.”

We shook hands, and I went to the bathroom, then found a storeroom and hid in it until everyone was gone. That night I started up “the Avid” and figured out what the hell it was. I’m not going to pretend I pulled a Neo from The Matrix and figured it out right away, but somehow I squeaked through at V2.

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A young me knowing absolutely zero what I was doing.

Dave eventually left to go to Jump, which I called home for a few years, before leaving to go work at The Lab with two amazing creatives Johnson + Wolverton. There we worked on award-winning work like Lincoln, Jaguar and Comedy Central, and I met the most influential person in my professional career, Neil Gust.

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Neil was a very cool guy, sweet, tall, looked a little like Moby and was insanely talented. He was a musician, and it showed in his edit. In fact, I wouldn’t even call him an editor (although he’s won every award known to man) he was really a musician with image. Before Neil I never saw editing as exciting, passionate, sexy or emotive. It was construction work, but now, it was balletic. What is really impressive to me is that Neil didn’t pull a “you’re the man now, dog” moment or anything like that. He didn’t even know he was teaching me. Being his assistant, learning how he edited and me having to fit into that model taught me everything I really needed to know. Once I was shown what it was to really edit something, how editing was its own art, perhaps the most powerful tool in filmmaking, I was hooked.

Me under the influence of Gust way back when…

It’s amazing to me to look back and think that I never even knew this gift was out there, and even be editing and not realize it’s potential. Besides learning an important skill that I would base my career as a director on, I learned something even more valuable; the people you work with have the power to change your life. I never walk on set (or into the butcher or library or airport) and disregard the power of introduction. You never know who you are going to meet, what you have to learn from them, or how they are going to change your life. This is very important.

On the team of J+W … won a few awards for this one.

So, how do you become a master editor? You edit. You edit, then you do what you have work with people. You keep working with people until someone resonates with you. You steal their genius and make it your own. Then you edit some more. That’s how you do it.

I know I’m a master editor because there is no job I ever work on that I feel bored, or overwhelmed on. I can cut something six ways from Sunday without pause. I can have clients give scalding comments, nod intuitively, and start from scratch without even a moment of resentment. When you feel like your work is a game, a puzzle to perfect, that you can solve in an infinite amount of ways but only one is right, then it’s not a job, then it’s a skill, and more importantly, a pleasure.

A little more recently…

So why am I a director you’re asking? Because that was always the goal. I’m also too extroverted, empathetic and fun to keep at a desk all day. It might be different for you; I’ve always envied colorist that are at home in the soft light of their shrine-like studios gently nudging pixels different values throughout the day. Not me. I like the mix of all the art combining to make a new art, film, one art to rule them all. I will say this though; I am so thankful it was Editing that got me to this place in my life. Editing to me is the code in which story is told. It is the rhythm and recipe that makes the dish of film taste so good. I am a better director because I have editor eyes, editor ears and an editor’s mind. I’m constantly shuffling through possibilities, angles and jump cuts as I produce. If you edit, I think you rewire your brain a bit differently from other people, and for better or worse, see the code that filmmaking is made of all around you.

Yeah, it’s kinda like Neo. Don’t hate me, I just rewatched The Matrix a couple of days ago. Still holds up. Have you seen The Mosquito Coast though? Where has that film been…

Rs.

(One of my favorite edits to date … also directed and shot this … also won way more festivals than I could have wished for. Thank you editing, I love you.)

How To Make A Good Drone Film.

Drones. We all got drones. Everybody is doing the drone thing, amarite? I mean there is even a Drone Film Festival in NYC (which I’m a judge of;) so lemme tell ya when I say drone vids are a dime a dozen, they are.

So, how do you make a good one? How do you make one that stands out? One that people actually watch, and dare I say it, share?

Well, here are a few tips I use when making my vids, and things I look for in other flyer’s vids. Just some armchair advice, and you can’t beat the price.

  1. Shoot it right. 

This should be a no brainer but like cooking or construction if you use crap material, you get a crap product. So what do I mean “shoot it right”? Here’s a few things to think about while flying:

  • Fly steady. Do long sweeping moves. Try to ease in and out of panning shots. This is where the skill is in flying.
  • Know what you’re shooting at. Flying into the sun can be cool, but it usually isn’t. Be aware of propeller shadow hitting your lens (e.g. don’t fly 45 degrees to the sun)
  • Use a ND filter. This will slow down your shutter, and keep your footage more cinematic. Don’t have a ND filter? You can tape a piece of exposed 35mm film over the front of your lens. That one’s for free.
  • Be interesting. Sure you can go high, but the best drone footage has movement. If you are ballsy enough fly through something (safely people) or easier, set up a shot where you fly sideways across something, e.g. a wall, coastline or even a fence, you’ll get a cool shot.
  • Set your camera up right. Many of you have seen my post on the “best” settings for drone footage. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, I always opt for more resolution over frame rate. It will give you more latitude in post bringing me to my second point:

2. Dress up your footage. 

Sure, you can upload your entire clip to YouTube and let it rot there with the millions of others, or, you can do some dress up in post. Don’t be afraid of post, frankly it’s more fun then flying sometimes, and will make the difference between amateur footage and pro footage. Here’s some tips:

  • Cut it down. Then cut it down some more. Then cut it down, once again. Drone videos don’t need to be over 2 minutes ever. 30 seconds is actually totally appropriate. Short and sweet is the best rule of thumb here, choose your best moments, and get out.
  • Think story. I know you’re just shooting a field, or the ocean, or a strip mall, but build a story. Could be anything; start low and go high. Maybe try alternating closer shots with wider shots. Build a story, like you are leading a viewer on a ride. I alway re-order my clips (that’s editing;) so that they tell a story, abstract as it may seem.
  • Think backwards. Don’t be afraid to reverse your footage. 80% of the time I will have my shots playback in reverse, reason being is because with most drones, especially Phantoms, you can fly backwards faster and without the props getting in the shot. Reverse this and you look like Ice Man from Top Gun. Just make sure there are no people, or waves in the shots, or it might look a little weird.
  • Get weird with it. I know I just said be careful not to get weird with it, but I definitely want you to get weird. 99% of all drone films are just beautiful footage from the sky. Thats cool. Sometimes it’s real refreshing to see something new, weird, and edgy. Mix in B roll, stuff on the ground, handheld. Turn the image upside-down, that will make your head spin. Stand out footage will make you stand out.
  • Color Correct and Optical Correct always. Your footage isn’t really done when it comes out of the camera, it’s half done. If you can, shoot “flat” or “protune” to have latitude in post to color correct. Massage your contrast, grade your film, and give it a look. I guarantee you will make it 100 times better. Another great thing to do is optically correct the footage. Most footage coming out of the camera will have a pretty noticeable fish-eye on it. It will look like you shot it through a hotel door. Most programs, like After Effects, have a “optical correct” plugin that you can slap on your footage. Here’s a good tutorial that I every time without fail. Pro Tip: click the “optimal Pixel” checkbox. It will “bow” the top and bottom of your footage. Then just change your frame/canvas size to crop the image. This will give you the most resolution and a nice letterbox.

3) Music

I can’t stress this one enough. Good music makes good footage. Music is so important to film in general, but it goes triple for drone footage. A sweeping orchestral piece will elevate and give your film gravitas. Something electronic and modern will give it an edgy feel. Depending on what you want your film to be, music is the vehicle to get you there. You can use a famous song, but beware, some sites may not let you post it. Or you can go to a site like pond5 to get some cheap tracks that can be used anywhere. Even finding something at freesound.org can get you on the right track, so to speak.

Here is a little side by side of ungraded and graded footage:

And here is the final film with music:

that’s it really, three solid rules to follow when thinking about drone films. This is a special genre of film and relatively still new, so there is lots of room to bend and break these “rules” but I guarantee if you are at least thinking about them, you’re going to have a better end result. If you don’t I’ll be happy to refund your money.

Happy flying!

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a NYC based commercial director, editor, and avid drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com

If You Walk To Work In NYC…

These are a few things you will see along the way as you walk to work in NYC. It never ceases to amaze me how much this city has to offer, after so many years of living here. This is my morning commute, down 5th Avenue from 89th street to 18th street.

Just one street in NYC…

1

Cleopatra’s Needle

Well, that’s just a nickname we gave Heliopolis Obelisk, which is the oldest manmade monument in New York City. You will find this unreal slab from the past near 81st street on a quiet little hill. Millions pass it each day and don’t even know the 3500 year old marvel is watching over them. A gift from Egypt in 1881, it took 112 days just to move it from the shores of the Hudson River to where it stands now. Underneath it lies a hidden time capsule with a Bible, A dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, an 1870’s census, a guide to Egypt, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a small sealed box from the man who financed the transportation of the obelisk, the contents of which, no one knows (but was probably a Twinkie).

Old King Jaliello

You wouldn’t expect to find the King of Poland in Central Park, but you will, thanks to the Nazis.

So 1939’s Worlds Fair had this statue greet people at the Polish Pavilion on loan from Warsaw. Remember, NYC has a ton of Polish folks, and thank God, because perogies are amazing. Well, the war broke out, and the statue couldn’t go home, so it was moved to Central Park as a gift from Poland to the brave Men and Women who served overseas. Now he sits, swords crossed, like a badass, protecting the turtle pond at 79th street just across the way. One of my favorite statues in the city for sure, and makes one hell of a silhouette.

4

The Zoo

specifically the Lehman Gates at 66th street. Designed by the famous Paul Manship, who also did reclining Prometheus at Rock Center, this is a lovely deco gate that has a super playful jauntiness about it, with pan, animals, and birds all around. What I love is that you can walk right through the center of the zoo, and even see some of the animals, for free, any day of the year. The gate itself is the perfect entrance to a children’s zoo, and reinforces the notion that even in a steel and concrete hardened city like New York, you can find a little whimsy.

5

The British Empire Building

Rockefeller Center is one of my favorite places in NYC. No other complex of buildings scream the deco power of a city on the verge of becoming a legend. Everything about it, every perfect angle, is a throwback to a time when commerce, culture, and art collided in a beautiful harmony. The British Empire Building at 620 5th Ave is no exception. Patina green copper doors emboldened with golden statues signifying the 9 main trades of England. Above the door an ornate crest displaying “Dieu Et Mon Droit” in gothic lettering. “God is my Right” being the motto for the throne of England, to be found on any passport a British citizen holds, is the translation, but it is also a slight jab at the former occupying ruling class; Jennewein, the designer of the door, is said to have chosen that phrase not only because of the British throne, but because it was also the motto of Alexander Hamilton’s NY Militia The Heart of Oaks. Take that you Limeys! (I actually really like British folk.)

6

Rockefeller Center

Oh boy oh boy, look at that penis, I mean, building right there in the middle of Manhattan. Nothing screams virility more than this 70 story concrete wang of a complex built in 1930 by badass #1 JD Rock.

What can’t you say about this place. Theres a giant Christmas tree, an ice skating rink, art by Diego Rivera that was censored during the Pinko years, an underground city that stretches 10 city blocks, even a Banana Republic. I mean, it’s dope.

What I really love about this building is why it is what it is. Rockefeller was originally going to build an opera house here. Then the market crashed and the country went into the Great Depression, causing millions to go hungry and be out of work. Instead of halting work, he did the opposite; he built bigger. Labor was cheap and plenty and he gave jobs to thousands of people. The reward was one of the greatest landmarks in NYC and a more stable economy to boot. That’s NYC people, hell or high water we make it happen.

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building (which everyone calls the Christ-ler Building) is my 2nd favorite building in the city (right behind Grand Central Terminal). Why? Because it’s a real looker. I mean who builds a skyscraper out of stainless steel? We do. There are lots of reasons to love this building at 42nd street, but most of the reasons you might not know.

  1. There was a private club and speakeasy at the top (reopen that please).
  2. The first water bottling plant was in the basement. You’re welcome Desani.
  3. The Cooper Union (a free university here in NYC) owns all the land under the building.
  4. The spire was secretly hidden and was installed in only 90 minutes to fool a building going up downtown, hence, winning tallest building in the world (in 1930)
  5. Photographer Margie Bourke-White (see below) lived in an apartment on the 61st floor and had the highest toilet in the world. She paid 387.92 a month. I’d literally kill someone for that right now.

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9

New York Public Library

No body reads anymore. I mean look at this place. Empty. That, is my gift to you.

The NYPL is a fantastic place to visit. Sure there are cool lions outside, and maybe some of the best flagpoles I’ve ever seen, but its the inside that really holds the treasure. Upstairs is the Rose Reading room, which anyone can go to. It’s basically the Sistine Chapel of New York City and maybe the most impressive place to read Harry Potter anywhere in the world.

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What would be an iconic NY landmark without crazy history factoids right? For instance the library sits on a very interesting plot of land. It was the battlefield for George Washington against the British during the Battle of New York, it was then a potters field for unknown dead, then it was the main reservoir for NYC. I’m not even going to mention that Ghostbusters was shot there.

10

The Empire State Building

Whatever.

11

Ads of another Age

One of my favorite things to do is spot old building ads. If you look up in the city, which is harder to do then you think, you will be rewarded with a window into the past. On faded brick facades throughout town, the remnants of old commerce still haunt us; Italian tailors, Hat shops, Lawmen, and barbers left their mark high above the city streets, and while their shops may be long gone, their memory is all around us.

12

Worth’s Tomb

So, a billion people walk past this monument across from Madison Square at 23rd street and never even realize there is a dead guy inside of it.

General Worth is one of only three tombs located on the island of Manhattan. One of them, yes, is Grant’s Tomb (3rd favorite building) and the other one, well, I’m going to keep a secret. This strange little obelisk though stands watch over one of the most iconic intersections of the world, and the dead Gen inside gets one of the best views of one of the most famous building in the world…

14

Eataly

Just kidding. Well, maybe not. Eataly has more visitors perhaps then Grand Central Terminal, the busiest station in the world, and over 22 thousand products for you to put in your face, all of them, delicious. A big shout out to my man Mario who was nice enough to jump on our little sandwich show, which you can watch here. 

13

The Flatiron Building

AKA the Fuller Building or the Cowcatcher, the Flatiron Building is NYC inconcrete (that’s an “incarnate” joke folks. I’m here all week). This is how you maximize use of space people. Built in only 4 months, everyone thought this sucker was going to fall down during the first strong wind. It didn’t, and quickly became a treasure of the city. Some interesting facts about the building is that it had no female bathrooms (imagine that) and its elevators were water powered.

Oh, one more funny fact… the term “23 skidoo” comes from the Flatiron building because the shape would cause strong gusts of winds to blow up the skirts of the women walking by. Cops use to give ogglers the ol’ 23 Skidoo when thier eyes lingered a little too long (and if you go into the subway stop there, the tile mural there shows hats blowing in the wind, just another little nod to the ol Skidoo).

15

Legoland NYC

Ok, just a Lego store, but it has some of the most amazing displays that I’ve ever seen and they change frequently. When they do a crew of Legoists come in over night, black out the windows, and construct their masterpiece in under 8 hours, sometimes using over 1 million bricks. I mean I’ve worked late hours before but that’s nuts.

16

Davy Jones Street Art

Now this is literally street art. Word is that a homeless chap by the name of Davy Jones creates these amazing chalk art pieces on the sidewalks south of 23rd street. If you walk the streets enough you start to see his work everywhere from Lady Liberties to Horse Drawn Carriages. It’s one of the few times looking down in the city gets you a show.

Well folks, that’s it. We’ve arrived at 18th Street and 5th Avenue. Mind you there is a TON more to see and do (the Met, Paris Theater, Chicken and Turntables) but this is just a walk to work (I litterally shot all these in one morning, walking). This is what you would see, in one hour, walking from 89th to 18th street. Just another day. Now time for a cup of coffee. Thanks for walking with me.

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

Edmonton under the radar.

“Now you know how the ham feels,” the young kid behind the bar with the Shaggy goatee said over my pour, “you’re smack in the middle of it.” It is perhaps the closest way to explain how it feels to be in Edmonton, a city so smack central in a continent not many people make the trip to, or escape from. While it’s wholly inconspicuous remoteness might keep Edmonton off travelers radars, it was exactly what was attractive to me to her. What I came to find is that little ol’ Edmonton holds the record for some of the largest and most prolific attractions of any city, in the world. Where is the largest mall in North America? What city has the largest urban parkland? What city has the most music festivals? What major city has no rats, whatsoever. Always Edmonton. As a native New Yorker, I needed to see this ratless, wunderland for myself.

The first thing you notice about Edmonton is a strange dichotomy between city and nature. Here you will find two diametrically apposing wonders of the world; the largest shopping mall in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest natural reserves in the country.

As the morning weather was perfect, I headed to Elk Island National Park which is ironically chock full of wild buffalo that practically overrun you as soon as you enter. Thankfully they were Canadian Buffalo so they were very polite and allowed us to watch, photograph, and even say hello through the open window of our car. The rest of the park with its long hiking trails, lakes and public areas is a fantastic way to spend a morning, and brings you into the raw and beautiful Canadian wilderness instantly.

Having gotten my full of nature I was excited to see what the largest shopping mall in North America would look like. At first glance of the West Edmonton Mall, I was wholly unimpressed. Roosevelt Field in Mineaola, Long Island. The Dauphin Mall, in Kendell, Florida. Fox Hills Mall in Sherman Oak, California. These were Malls. Mecca’s to commerce, Cathedrals of capitalism, temples of teenage angst. From the lifeless, beige exterior I was so far not impressed.

Until I entered and fell gently to my knees.

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This mall isn’t just huge, it’s epic. Epic like a very long poem written by a beardy Greek fellow. Epic like being sent on a ship to a continent that doesn’t exist yet. Epic like a Jerry Bruckhimer film. Yes. This was the Independence Day of malls.

55 city blocks long this small city of stores houses hundreds of shops and restaurants, and more then a dozen bathrooms. That’s over 120 urinals, which is more then the population of some Swiss towns. This might all be impressive but when you realize there is a full beach with wave park, amusement park with roller coaster, mini-golf, a full scale pirate ship and a seal tank you basically realize you are no longer in a mall, you are in the worlds most entertaining city. I mean there is a live seal, in the mall, doing tricks for you, as shop. Oh Canada!

Strangely I did not see a hotel in the mall, or I would have stayed there, so I closed my gaping jaw and headed back to the city center. As dusk settled in I found myself in Old Strathcona, the wonderfully hipster historic center of Edmonton. Strath is full of funky shops, crooked bars, and artsy scene that echo Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Skateboarders and kids in need of showers give this bohemian center a charming, relaxed atmosphere, which is a perfect place to wind the day down. Strolling through the streets you can see some fantastic murals, a few antique trolleys, farmer markets, and street music. Best of all no matter what time of year you come you will always be treated to some epic event, as Edmonton has over 30 music festivals a year, and one of the largest Fringe festivals, which is more then any other city in the world.

A few pints of the local Yellowhead lager in me I headed back downtown over the High Level Bridge, where I ran into a nice lady who was painting on the walkway. “This bridge use to be completely dark. We put lights on it. Now it shines all year round.”

“Who put lights on it?”

“We did. The people who live here.” And it was true. Maybe in the best sign of proud city unity the inhabitants of the city funded to have LED lights placed on the bridge, by themselves. I thought having a co-op in my neighborhood was cool. This was next level hipster, on a city scale.

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Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Journal

Famished from my walk, I marched directly to the Hardware Grill, where Chef Larry Stewart transforms the traditional into the sublime. There were cocktails that leave you elated, lightly battered KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) that floated down from heaven, and a piece of Bison that was so tender, I completely forgot I saw these majestic beasts just a few hours ago wandering alive and free. It’s a fantastic place definitely not to be missed.

Sated beyond belief, I opted to walk back to see what Edmonton had to offer the night owl. I was pleased to find a bright and colorful city, fully of youth, gourmet poutine food trucks, and lively bars. Passing Churchill Square I stopped to watch a bit of a free screening of Pitch Perfect 2 that the city put on, with hundreds of people out enjoying the open-air theater, laughing together like it was a bunch of friends over someone’s basement. Edmonton had the feel of a small town packed into a modern city, as if you become instant family by just arriving there.

It was so friendly that it was hard not to strike up a conversation every time I stopped moving for a minute. People were chatty and excited to offer suggestions of what’s best in the city. I had already seen so much and been unexpectedly impressed by this unknown metropolis that I found it truly surprising to discover what was possibly the only reason to come to Edmonton: The Green Onion Cake.

“You haven’t had a Green Onion Cake?!” the girl in the Canadian flag wrapped folding chair said looking at me as if I said I never heard of Justin Bieber. “It’s our national dish! How long have you been in town?”

“About 8 hours.”

“What have you been doing?!” Apparently the largest mall, a natural Bison petting zoo, and a meal I will judge all other future meals against was a huge waste of time when facing the Edmonton Green Onion Cake. “Go to The Underground. Right now. It’s around the corner. No sign. That’s how you know you’re there.”

There are some foods whose origin are truly shrouded in mystery; bird nest soup of south east asia. The Surströmming buried Fish of Northern Sweden. The Chicken McNugget. This was another mystery that I was hoping to solve at The Underground, a gastropub that indeed doesn’t look like it should be there. Inside a commercial building and down a very poorly lit escalator you are birthed into a warm, dimly lit cavern of beer heaven. More taps than members of parliament, I saddled up to the bar and lent in close to the barkeep. “Do you have…” I paused… for dramatic effect, “Green Onion Cake?”

“Yep. With Pork?”

“If that’s what one does.” He nodded. It came. It was not what I expected.

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Basically a what a New Yorker would call a Scallion Pancake at a Chinese restaurant, but much larger, and with a large bialy like hole in the middle. It is then stuffed with tender pulled pork and special sauce which you then immediately shove into your face as if it were air, and you had been trapped underwater most of your life. It is delicious, but was a dish with an origin as unique as Edmonton itself. I was entirely confused. How was this Edmonton’s National dish, I queried my new friend behind the bar.

“Well, it’s hard to say. Lots of people have different stories, but I think the consensus is that there was this Chinese couple, from China, that made it originally. They have a restaurant that’s been around since the 70’s. They were the first. But I read that the restaurant just closed down. Like it closed today. A real shame. History. Gone. But hey, at least we still have the Green Onion Cake, amairite?”

In a way Green Onion Cake is a perfect symbol for the city of Edmonton; here is something foreign, that has traveled a very long way, and has not only been accepted into Edmonton life, but Edmonton made it its own. Be it the shopping mall, nature, or even it’s own heritage, Edmonton seems to have the wonderful ability to take whatever it has, and truly make it an original article unlike anything else out there.

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

Japan: Next Stop Nara.

Nara is a beautiful little town. Quiet, out of the way, and not murdered by tourists, it really is a beautiful retreat where you can experience ancient Japan in the modern era. The train here is a quick hop from Osaka, and getting around by foot is a breeze.

Arriving at the station we didn’t know what to expect; it really looked like any other town. As we walked down the main street, just off the station, we started to notice the shops were a bit more geared to antiques and writing utensils. It took us a good 20 minutes to get Nara Park. Lemme tell you something, this place is magical.

First of all… deer. Everywhere. It’s like a Disney movie. According to legend, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. They also love these deer biscuits that guys with carts sell. Don’t try to ride them thought. They do not like to be ridden, apparently, if you are not a god.

The park is magical. There are several shrines and museums, but the most fantastic part is just walking the paths. Stone lanterns line green paths, there are gardens pretty much everywhere, and you truly feel at total peace. At the end there is a small “love” shrine, where you can get a “magical” piece of paper that when soaked in the sacred water will show your love’s path. I can tell you this, my love’s path was the one that led me to Nara because I simply am in love with it.

Once you had your full of nature, the back roads of Nara are equally enchanting. This is an ancient city, and was the capital of Japan in the 700’s. Not too shabby. Wandering around here you will find little shops and artisans selling this and that, and some fantastic spots to eat that will make you cry tears of miso.

One thing that was super interesting were these yellow raised tiles (see above). You will find them everywhere in Japan, in the train stations, in the streets, everywhere. They’re for blind people. Yeah. So blind people can get around Japan, easier. That’s the kind of place Japan is.

In any case, blind or not, Nara is definitely not to be missed. Easy to get to, walk and see in a day. We had lot’s to see though so …

Next stop… KYOTO!

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.