Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shameful Sameness Celebrated by Cable TV Programmers

Laying low, feeling ill. Too much travel, think I'll stay in and see what's on. Broadcast TV is in reruns. What's on cable?

My TV choices tonight:

- Baggage Battles - Travel Channel,
- Auction Wars/Shipping Wars - Discovery
- Border Wars - National Geographic
 - Pawnshop All Stars - History Channel

hmmm.. how about this "Cheap, non imaginative, derivative of a derivative, copycat cable tv programming wars" ? 

Or "I think I'll disconnect my cable TV because it's all the same old garbage" wars?

Would that work?

Here is what Apple's CEO Tim Cook had to say about the herd mentality:

"I've never thought going with the herd was a particularly good strategy. At best you'll be middle of the pack" 

Apple is not a perfect company but they damned sure are successful... and original. Maybe they'll shake up the TV business in 2013. 

Something's gotta give. All these non reality "reality" shows look and sound exactly the same. I swear there must be one big production company doing all this stuff. Probably barely eeeking out a living as "work for hire" too. 

But hey, middle of the pack is something. I guess. 

Think I'll watch netflix. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Alternative to Christmas Consumption

Ever get fed up when the day after Halloween you begin seeing holiday decorations displayed at retailers? Or Xmas themed TV commercials being aired (Macy's Department Store did this in mid-October one year)? Even holiday music blaring on the radio?

I do. I think to myself, it's November 1st? Must the bombardment into submission begin already?

Having spent a few holidays abroad, I can tell you with some sense of confidence that this is a uniquely American and recent "tradition". One I hope the rest of the world does not replicated.

In fact, it is not your imagination, it is indeed getting worse every year. As the 4th quarter and the Holiday season becomes more and more important to retailers, expect to see more and more stores like Wal-Mart did this year, opening up on Thanksgiving. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, it's all just going to get worse, until consumers push back and it gets better.

I've always loved Christmas and the good will and traditions and family time. I've spent a couple of Decembers in South America. As far as I know, there is not a single gift exchanged and if there is, it's so low key that you don't notice any throngs ever frantically shopping for gifts.

What you will see is lots festivities filled with incredible lights, food, drinking, dancing and a general feeling of cheerfulness and happiness....the entire month of December and even into the first of January. But not a moment before.

None of that "the holidays can be so stressful" stuff in South America. 

I've decided that my gift giving will now be relegated only to family and that my family would receive charitable gifts given to someone in need in a developing country in their name.

I tried it a couple of years ago and it was a huge hit. My mother loved the brood of chickens I gave her (or more specifically to the family in Haiti, in her name) and I'm going to keep doing it.

If you'd like to give it a try, do it, see what you think. I predict you'll be back for even more next holiday season. It's truly fulfilling.

Here are a just few suggestions:

- Save The Children 

- Unicef 

- Heifer Project International 

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This Just In - "Experiences" In, "Stuff" Out

Just in time for Black Friday or Grey Thursday (the name given by the retailers who are so greedy/desperate that they are opening on Thanksgiving) if you prefer, comes some telling research from Ebates and Harris Interactive. 

Americans are finally getting sick of "stuff" and looking instead for fulfilling experiences. Things like travel and vacations rank 2nd on the list and a full 57% of adults prefer experiential gifts this holiday season over the latest gadget or technology.

I for one think this is a good sign. Now if only somebody would let those clowns from "Grey Thursday" know this.


Ebates 2012 Holiday Wish List Survey of more than two-thousand adults conducted online by Harris Interactive discovered that among those that had a preference, clothing was the number one most-wanted gift this holiday (33%), followed by a vacation (28%). Rounding out the top ten most-wanted gifts by adults are: Laptop (20%), Tablet (18%), Smartphone (17%), Jewelry (17%), Homemade Gift (16%), Spa Day (16%), Tickets to a sporting event (13%) and latest E-reader (8%). 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cable TV Does Something Good? For a Change.

Maybe it's all the chord cutting going on but the cable TV industry may FINALLY be STARTING to get the message that we don't want 500 channels all showing the same programming night after night. If I hear the words "character driven reality show" featuring "over the top characters" or some jibber jabber which in so many words mean, "we want a show like the Kardashians, or Duck Dyanasty, or Honey Boo Boo or Fill in the GD Blank "Wars", bla, bla,bla" from another programming executive at a cable network, I may lose it and have to type a blog entry about it. Too late.

How many state troopers in Alaska, Gold Diggers in Africa, Rednecks in Tennessee or shallow people in California are we supposed to watch before we lose interest in the whole of cable TV in general.

Pretty soon these networks and their jelly kneed production "partners" will run out of crazy or sad characters to exploit or existing shows & genres to copy. Having run out of fresh ideas for low budget non fiction shows long ago, they are now cloning shows by focusing on different regions of the country, like "Texas Pawn Brokers" or "New Jersey Storage Wars", or whatever the latest Amish, hillbilly, backwards or truly damaged cast of characters they can find in whatever corner of the globe they can get to. Not that some of these shows aren't good or worthy, it's just that we don't need them all the time from every channel. That's a lot of wasted creativity and potential for diverse voices and choices, and yes for the next hit. 

Instead we're stuck in an endless cycle of retreads.

I grew up surrounded by REAL hillbillies and rednecks who went "handfishing" or had kids like Honey Boo Boo. Why in the hell would I want to be reminded of that on a nightly basis?  Just like folks in New Jersey don't want to be reminded of the fools that made up Jersey Shore or the real business folks who, like me, hope to God that there is nothing actually "real" about the new Bravo Show "Silicone Valley".  I could barely keep my dinner down watching that one.

One or two culture shock, fish out of water shows, I get it.. but hundreds of them.. the same show on whatever network it happens to land on whether it be Weather, History, Travel or the Military channel. The shows are the same, the networks are the same and the concepts the same. I'm beginning to wonder if the people in charge are also all the same. Would that be media consolidation?   

It's frustrating. But when I get my cable bill for $150 each month trust me when I say it gets more frustrating. I watch half a dozen shows regularly at best. Why am I paying $150 a month for Texas Storage Wars and Atlanta Tiddliewinks Wives or whatever this garbage they are peddling these days.

Could a supposedly "creative" industry be any less so?

And don't give me that parrot answer (lets face it "Character Driven Reality" is just a term some guy with brains once said at a conference and since then it's parrotted over and over and over to hide the fact that that old Hollywood saying "nobody knows nothing" has never been more true), that they are just producing what the viewers want. Bullshit.

What they are doing is loading up on the same type of programming that has seen one or two successes on another network or on their own network in another time slot and hoping that lightening will strike twice. This isn't a programming strategy as much as just playing the lottery.

Cable TV in the U.S. has become not only a race to the bottom but so formulaic that any simpleton viewer can figure it out. Non Fiction TV production is no longer an art, it's a factory.

"Has always been thus" you say? Maybe so and maybe I'm just getting grumpy but I'm hardly alone. When I used to say I work in Television it was with a bit of pride. Now I mumble something about "media" or "marketing" and hope they don't ask too many questions or they may figure out I actually work in "television". If TV is mentioned, well then it's off to the races as they complain and bitch just as much as I am doing right now. And not just a few friends in the industry mind you. The whole damn lot of people I come in contact with and anyone who knows me will atest to the fact that I have a diverse group of folks from a broad variety of backgrounds I interact with on a pretty regular basis. What can I say, I'm a people person. They intrigue me.

If only TV did.

At least in the good old days with less outlets there was less garbage to wade through. 

Well one network, one of the grandads of all the cable networks no less, USA, has signaled that maybe, just maybe, the tide is beginning to turn. They've decided to use their Saturday nights to feature programming that has meaning, that actually is meant to be entertaining and have a message.

Granted Saturday night is the typically weakest night of the week TV viewing, and granted their plans for running old movies like "The Color Purple" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" don't sound that earth shatteringly cutting edge or inventive.

And their social consciousness seems preoccupied with this nation's fixation with race and diversity rather than broader, more urgent global social ills such as crippling poverty, political injustice, a warming planet, etc, etc.

But it's something. And more important than what it is, it's what it is not. And that is not yet another "character driven reality" series. Who knows, maybe the other diversity problem in this country might get addressed eventually, the diversity of thought and creativity on the small (and getting smaller) screen.

You can read the Hollywood Reporter article about USA's plans for yourself HERE. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don't Look Now But TV Homes Are Declining

The New York Post 9/26/12 reported the following. 

Don’t look now, but there are more US homes without TV sets than ever before.

It’s an historic reversal of trend — something like the birds flying north for the winter — but Nielsen yesterday reported that the number of TV households fell by 500,000.

The reason?

More people are watching TV on their computers, the ratings company said in an e-mail statement yesterday.

Read the rest of the NY Post article HERE. 

Here is my little 2 cents for what it's worth. Consider the source, Nielsen Media Research, the company accused of accepting bribes in India, the company that has shown time and time again they can't be trusted to provide objective, accurate information, regardless of how many billions of $s are riding on it.

I have no doubt that fewer people may be buying TVs and are watching their entertainment online. My interns are in the early 20's and don't own a TV. They've never heard of "Modern Family", "60 Minutes" or "Real Time With Bill Mahr", but then again, they are from Moscow, Russia.

Yet, I know intuitively people are watching more and more online and less and less on TV. But I'm going to need more proof than Nielsen Media Research before I accept anything as fact. 

Television Killed Itself: The Rise of Pointless Television

One of the best critiques on the frustration millions feel about TV today I've ever read. 

Television Killed Itself: The Rise of Pointless Television

Saturday, September 15, 2012

You Tube to review "Innocence of Muslims" Video

Mixed feelings on this one. I don't want freedom of speech compromised because of the feelings of some in other parts of the world, many of whom have access to limited information and thus a limited view of the world. That being said, You Tube is a private company and censors content all the time for a variety of reasons. Of course the film is extremely distasteful, but so are many, many things posted on the web. Unfortunately, people are disrespectful and hurtful all the time, especially on the web where they hide behind their keyboard.

I'd prefer the cultures in these countries take a more tolerant view and accept freedom of speech, religion and tolerate other viewpoints, but will that happen overnight?

This incident could be an important watermark of dialogue between East & West. Either way I'll guarantee you this type of thing will happen more and more as people have realized it's manipulative power for their particular cause, which is sowing discord. Has there ever been a film lampooning Buddha? or God? Why didn't that spark violence? Maybe, if it happens again and again, it will eventually lose it's potency. Maybe the answer is more, not less? Just a crazy (and I suppose a potentially deadly?) thought.

The article from Broadcasting & Cable is below.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fearless Enough for France?

I'm heading to France next month, Cannes and Paris. Not my typical off the beaten path trip, that's for sure. After visiting so called "dodgy" places in Latin America and Eastern Europe, you'd think Western Europe would be cake right?

Not so fast. See the following article regarding a French fashion journalist bitch slapping a total stranger because couldn't find her and her 2 friends front row seats fast enough to a fashion show. After placing the slap, she even bragged about it to the NY Post, admitting that she told her victim "Now you know you don't F__K with French People" wow! uhmmm.. Hmmm. Maybe Colombia isn't so dangerous after all.

FROM NY POST - PAGE 6 9/13/12 
The French journalist who smacked a fashion publicist at a Zac Posen show has been slapped herself, with a $1 million lawsuit. HL Group co-founder Lynn Tesoro’s suit says the incident happened at Avery Fisher Hall Sunday when she was set upon by Jalouse magazine editor Jennifer Eymere, her sister Vanessa Bellugeon and her mom, Jalou Publishing head Marie-Jose Susskind-Jalou. The trio was très offended when Tesoro wasn’t able to immediately find them seats for the show because fire marshals removed 60 coveted chairs. A witness tells Page Six: “Lynn Tesoro was trying to help the French women find a seat, explaining there were no seats available on the front row, but one of the ladies seemed very angry and was being really mean to her. Suddenly, one of the French women sharply slapped Lynn in the face and stormed off. Lynn seemed in shock, but she was very elegant about it and kept her composure. Nobody could believe it had a happened.” The suit doesn’t identify the slapper, but charges the trio with “assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and/or libel.” In an interview with WWD, Eymere said she was the slapper. “I said, ‘Be careful, I am going to slap you,’ and she kept doing it,” Eymere recounted. “I didn’t hurt her. It was just to humiliate her. She humiliated my mom and I humiliated her in front of her crew. Voilà. I just said at the end, ‘Now you know you don’t f**k with French people.’” When Page Six reached Eymere yesterday about the incident, she said “I can’t comment, I don’t want to talk about it.” When asked about the lawsuit she added, “I don’t know about that.” A source said that after the slap, the mother and daughters left Posen’s show, meaning they missed the surprise appearance of Naomi Campbell, the ultimate model of anger management. Sources further tell Page Six that the French women have not been on any Fashion Week guest lists since the incident occurred.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Alleged Bribery Charges @ Nielsen Media

The NYC HCTV Bus Campaign Hit Targeted Latin  neighborhoods and Madison Ave. 

Nielsen Media Research, the long unchallenged purveyor of television audience measurement, has been accused by a media company in India of taking bribes. What is not surprising to me is the allegation that the CEO knew about the alleged bribery and did nothing about it.

In 2006, we unveiled an educational and online petition signing campaign (somewhat pioneering at the time, as this was prior to Facebook and Twitter mania) called "Change The Sample" - later re-branded "Help Change TV" - that "outed" Nielsen's practice of tilting their already tiny Hispanic samples towards Spanish speakers, thus helping the big two Spanish language networks and Nielsen deep pocketed clients like Univision and Telemundo.

The impact was not just billions of dollars in the pockets of the Spanish TV companies but a general under or stereotypical representation of young American Latinos in the English language media landscape (slightly less of a problem to this day, no thanks to Nielsen but instead to the explosion of media outlets).
Our Press Conference was infiltrated by Univision Execs.
Talk About David Vs. Goliath?! 

In meeting after meeting with Nielsen we told them about the flaws in their system. Incredibly, they acknowledged the obvious shortcomings but said "tough", that's the way it is, it would cost too much money to change. We started the HCTV campaign online and it immediately hit a nerve as I fielded call after call from the press. It was one of the most surprisingly viral efforts I've ever been involved in.

Nielsen's then spokesperson Jack Loftus, instead of answering the charges, came after me personally in the press, despite my best efforts to keep the dialogue tough but civil and professional. In the process Mr. Loftus revealed both Nielsen's and his own apparent ignorance about U.S. Latinos or minorities in general (Nielsen was a fairly lily white company, especially at the top, with the exception of a few token minority positions meant to placate African Americans and Latinos and distract from the bigger issues they had tracking minority viewing).

Loftus claimed we were angry at low ratings for our syndicated shows at American Latino Syndication (my company at the time) and said something along the line of, and I'm paraphrasing only a small bit here "Rose should focus on producing programming ALL Latinos would watch". We answered back that his comments indicated that he and Nielsen believed that Latinos are not made up of diverse individuals, but one monolithic group who only like tacos, mariachi music, soccer and  cheesy novellas.

Nielsen said ALL Latinos are basically the same. 

What Loftus didn't know is that our ratings had exceeded all expectations and we were doing quiet well, in terms of revenue, audience and affiliates. Certainly much better than I had ever expected or planned (a 13x episode commitment on a local cable outlet would go on to air in over 100 markets for over 11 seasons and counting)!

Months later at the NATPE television convention in 2007 where we hired models to circulate flyers wearing "Change The Sample" T-shirts featuring a photo of a young Latina (our office assistant at the time) with tape on her mouth, the icon of the campaign,  Nielsen in a David and Goliath moment for the media history books approached me frantically to beg us to pause the publicity campaign.

They  promised if we let up on Help Change TV! that they would commission an independent research study on this very technical (it's research, it's all technical... and boring inside baseball kind of stuff, one of the reasons Nielsen was able to get away with it in our short attention span media cycles) but nevertheless very important issue and would have official results of that study in six months. They even said they'd share the methodology of the study with us to insure that the process was as transparent as possible.

We backed off on the HCTV campaign as promised and waited... and waited.. and waited. Finally after hearing nothing more from them, 7 months later I contacted Nielsen to inquire about the result of the study that they had promised us at the NATPE meeting.

Their reply? "What meeting"? 

They denied there ever having been a meeting much less a promise to commission a study despite the fact that there were no less than 3 high level executives from Nielsen in that meeting, the EXACT same executives that were now denying the meeting ever took place. Even after all the things that had come to light about the ugly side of this corporation, I was still shocked. They weren't just denying their promise to do the study, they were straight faced denying that the meeting even took place?!

That was my first lesson in how a multi-billion dollar corporation can simply dance, dodge and delay (and evidently lie) without any moral code of conduct or sense of moral obligation to keep it's word. The experience forever changed how I view research from a research company that an entire industry relied, in which billions of dollars still rely.

Their CEO at the time was Susan Whiting, and in my opinion, though I never met her, she was ultimately responsible (ever heard the saying that a fish stinks from the head down, it's true). The company that she was overseeing had no problem outright disregarding the truth, even though that is what they get paid billions of dollars to objectively try to get at.  How can you trust research results from a company like that?

And how is this for irony? According to Nielsens' website Ms. Whiting was named Chief Diversity Officer in 2010!


My feud with Nielsen ended years ago (visit Help! Change TV to learn more), when I sold my company and felt I had done all I could to represent the case that Latinos needed to be represented in a more positive and accurate light on U.S. English language television  (Spanish TV wasn't much better, it was full of sexism and racism by omission - you could count the number of dark skinned Latinos on Spanish TV on one hand but the girls dancing around in lingerie or thong bikinis during "family hour"? Well, you'd need to use your hands and toes as well of those of your friends and neighbors).  I felt I had successfully brought to light that  Nielsen's erroneous numbers were a big part of the problem.

Grassroots Activism 

Things have changed dramatically since Change The Sample / Help! Change TV's heyday in 2005-2007. Nielsen has undergone ownership and leadership changes. There has been an explosion of TV channels, social media is now the norm and Univision has new owners that seem to be a bit more forward thinking. But to my knowledge, Nielsen still hasn't addressed the discrepancy of how it gathers audience measurement for the largest minority in the U.S. (and heavy TV watchers), U.S. Latinos.

And now this news that Nielsen's current CEO is now being accused of knowingly ignoring a major scandal involving alleged bribery in India? Maybe not that much has changed after all.


Indian broadcaster NDTV is suing Nielsen and Kantar Media Research over claims that staff at the firms’ joint venture TAM took bribes in exchange for overstating ratings. According to the suit, this practice has damaged NDTV’s business to the tune of around $810m in the past eight years.

In the case, filed in the New York Supreme Court, Indian broadcaster NDTV (New Delhi Television) accuses Nielsen and Kantar of violating the anti-bribery clause in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, through their TAM (Television Audience Measurement) joint venture in India. 

NDTV alleges that staff at TAM India took the bribes in order to falsify the ratings data, and says that at a meeting it attended with several of these field staff, they claimed they could influence what panellist households watched if they were paid between $250 to $500 per household per month. 

The TAM staff are alleged to have told NDTV that they were willing to manipulate the ratings for any channel willing to pay the bribe, and added that they were confident that they could triple NDTV’s channel ratings in Mumbai over a period of two to three weeks in the required target group. 

‘Nielsen, Kantar and TAM are liable for indulging in corrupt practices by manipulating viewership data in favor of channels that are willing to covertly provide monetary inducements/payments/bribes to TAM officials,’ NDTV says in its 194-page statement. 

The broadcaster complains that after making Nielsen’s CEO David Calhoun and Kantar’s CEO Eric Salama aware of the issue, TAM continued to publish data in India. NDTV asked the two firms to discontinue publication of the data until there was an increase in sample size from 8,000 to 30,000, but says that ‘no such remedial measures have been taken’, and ‘corrupt data’ is still being published. 

‘Nielsen and Kantar, despite their explicit promises to address such rampant corruption, have negligently, deliberately and wilfully, failed and refused to discontinue publication of corrupted data, failed to increase sample size and failed to increase security measures, all of which they knew they should have done,’ the suit continues. 

NDTV is seeking $580m on 42 counts, including negligence, gross negligence, and false representations. A source at Nielsen told DRNO that the firm believes the case is ‘without merit’, while Kantar parent company WPP said that the firm’s lawyers are reviewing the case, adding: ‘We are satisfied that there is no merit in any claim against WPP.’

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A good read & a good film...neither with Ashton Kutcher

Nothing gets my blood boiling like good old fashioned true stories of human rights abuse. Yes, I know, it's been going on since the beginning of time, but I guess having the good fortune of having lived in the U.S. (AKA the "bubble") in a certain age (now), gives me the kind of false feeling that human rights are indeed a right, not a privilege for the lucky few. Anyone who has traveled extensively, knows that unfortunately for much of the world, this is not the case, yes, even today.

Serial tweeter and celebutard Ashton Kutcher famously made an ass out of himself when he attached his well meaning but pea sized brain to a cause in the U.S. against "Human Trafficking" and got his facts completely scrambled. The Village Voice called him out on it; he whined in return and to be honest I didn't think much about it other than "when will this guy go away?" (not in my lifetime I'm afraid).

The reality is that human trafficking does indeed exist in the U.S., but on such a minute scale compared to the rest of the world, that for a celebrity to attach themselves to a cause in such an ill informed way, well, it just gets priorities wrong and people confused. Money that should be allocated elsewhere gets allocated here in the U.S. where we probably rank something like 101st or so in volume of Human Trafficking.

I mean the U.S. has hungry people too, but to compare the U.S. poor to the horn of Africa or Haiti, well that is sort of what old Ashton did with his ill informed "End Human Trafficking in the U.S." campaign.

Human Trafficking is a tragedy, whether it happens in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, but Ashton, ye born of privilege, do your research and shine the light where it is needed most, where it is a major problem amigo... the Third World my friend! Take a lesson from my man George Clooney, now that guy gets his facts and priorities straight (war crimes and genocide is where it's at man), or just cut to the chase and join the Church of Scientology.

In the end, I'm not sure how much a guy like Ashton Kutcher, even with his millions of twitter followers or twits as I like to say, can actually impact a large scale issue like human trafficking.

I humble, most notable non celebrity that I am, submit that the best way to raise awareness is to actually educate people on the REAL tragedy of human trafficking where it is REALLY impacting people.

Two great examples just passed my radar this week "Little Princes" a book about trafficking of children in Nepal during their recent civil war.

And I finally saw "The Whistleblower", a movie about human trafficking of young girls by UN and US Peacekeeping personnel in Sarajevo after their brutal civil war.

The book "Little Princes" is a true account written by a guy who did something about child trafficking in Nepal and the film is based on the true story of a female police officer turned U.N. peacekeeper who blew the whistle on the United Nations and their role in sex trafficking. Both people risked their lives and both the book and the film are powerful and far more effective than an air headed celebrity who can't get his facts straight for raising awareness and hasn't risked much more than humiliation at a casting call his entire life.

I highly recommend you consume both and preferably within a week of each other. I read the book in 3 days and saw the movie straight through without once pressing pause, both highly unusual for me. Entertaining, informative and inspiring, all in one or actually... two fell swoops.

In a world of media madness, isn't it good to find some media worth our time. Media not trying to necessarily sell us anything but a message that needs to be heard. That my friends is this week's/month's or whenever we actually find some and get around to it, "Media That Matters". (cue the branding music).

Now if we can just figure out how to traffic good old Ashton K. to a 3rd world country, far, far away from here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Machismo Culture...

Machismo culture in places like Latin America and parts of Europe (Italy) are well documented. But what about in the U.S.? Many times in NYC, females, young attractive females in particular, have confided to me, of being harassed on the street by overzealous men. We all know the stereotype of construction workers whistling to a beautiful girl.

In New York City, the savviest of girls, used to this kind of unwanted attention usually dealt with the issue by putting on a mask of stoney silence, a far off look and basically ignoring the perpetrator until they tired and went away. This is not to say this only happens to "young" and "attractive" females, these just happen to be the ones who shared their stories with me. And it's also not to say this was the reaction by all the females. I know some who gave as good as they could get, pretending to really adore the attention and getting very aggressive with the perpetrator and thus scaring the guy sh''less in front of his peers. It seems it's a power thing more than anything. Just a bully doing what bullies have always done since you went to grade school with them, picking on people smaller or physically weaker than them. They just grew up, physically at least.

More than once, when I lived in NYC, I went to some harassed female's defense, in an effort to get it to stop. It wasn't always the garden variety "you are so beautiful" or "look at that move" kind of stuff either. One guy with combat boots and a pit bull on a chain leash called an Asian girl an epitaph and told her he was happy about Hiroshima. I told him to shut the hell up. He ignored me, as did she and everybody went their separate ways.

Another time, two young hood rats gave me chase into my building and stood out on the street threatening me if I came out of the building. After convincing the doorman to finally call the cops, the NYPC came and arrested them. The girl in question disappeared. Not once did anyone ever bother to thank me, so I'm not sure it was ever worth it, but I can't stand by and watch people get bullied, even if it's not good for my own health.

Now Latin America may have a reputation for machismo culture, and yes, there is some truth to it, but I have to be honest and say that over a period of several years traveling there, I've never witnessed it personally. If anything, men seem to have a little old school, gentlemanly trait drilled into them, probably by their mothers who have an especially strong relationship with their sons it seems. I really admire the way Latin Americans IN GENERAL respect their elders, kids and females.

But I'm also not naive enough to know it isn't a problem there either. Only a female could relate how much so. This friend of mine, another attractive and coincidentally highly intelligent female from Colombia forwarded me this video.

It's in Spanish and I'm not sure if an English language version exist, but I think it's safe to say, the point comes across loud and clear, regardless of language.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Helping Others.. The Best Trip of All

In case you don’t know them, World Vision (or Vision Mundial as it is known in Latin America) is one of the world’s premiere charitable organizations. They work closely with kids and families in the U.S. and in almost 100 impoverished and developing countries to help them break the devastating and tragic cycle of poverty.
Back in December, when we were shooting our first episode of Raw Travel for Colombia, I had the pleasure of touring their Bogota office and interviewing Edgar Florez, National Director of World Vision Colombia.

More recently, I had the honor and privilege of witnessing World Vision in action. Their dedicated army of staff and volunteers registered kids and families in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia, Comuna Ocho (Community 8). My cameraman for the day, Raul, a U.S. born Colombian-American now living in Medellin picked me up at 6:30AM (evidently volunteering requires getting up early), to meet with Myriam, World Vision’s Regional Coordinator for Medellin.

We were joined by Edgar (not Edgar Florez), a U.S. educated Colombian and extremely experienced translator who regularly volunteers his services for World Vision. Though Raul speaks fluent Spanish and English and Myriam could understand English, it was a great comfort not to have to rely on my cave man Spanish the entire day.
After a short meeting at their offices, we had a delicious, typical Colombian breakfast and headed over by taxi to Comuna 8. Comuna 8 is on the outskirts of Medellin, way up in top of the mountains. The view is absolutely incredible and airplanes from the airport were actually flying below us!

Unfortunately the incredible views, views that in the U.S. would be reserved for the wealthiest, were offset by the fact that Comuna 8 is controlled by Gangs (there are still over 250 currently active in Medellin)and crippling poverty.

What does this mean for the citizens and visitors of Comuna 8? Well for us, as visitors, it meant we’d have to wear World Vision Shirts in plain view and our taxi driver would have to obtain permission for us to visit and prominently display a “Volunteer” tag on his windshield.

For people doing business in Comuna 8 (bus companies, food and beverage suppliers, etc.) it means they have to pay “fees” to each gang that happens to control the particular area they work in. But it’s the residents that pay the heaviest price, they pay weekly “protection” fees to their respective gang “landlord” and have restricted movement during certain hours.

While we were there, there was little evidence of this oppression or even evidence of gangs, other than we were told when and where we could safely pull out the camera to shoot. Also someone pointed out graffiti that marked a particular gang’s territory. We learned that we’d need to leave before 4PM because even the residents risk personal safety if they venture outside of their block after 4pm.
Someone also pointed out to me the infamous “borrachero” tree that grows wild all over Colombia and creates scopolamine, the “zombie” drug, sometimes used by criminals to rob or rape unsuspecting victims. They assured me the flowers from the tree itself were perfectly safe and naturally occurring all over Colombia. I must point out that while this drug is a real threat and no urban myth, I have never, ever had any personal safety issues when visiting Colombia. Common sense goes a long way all over the world it seems.

During our tour, every time I saw a young boy of 9, 10 or 11 (some smoking cigarettes) , I couldn’t help but wonder if they were destined for a life in the gang or could an organization like World Vision have an impact on this kid’s life? I was told later that the gangs often use young kids around this age as mules to hide their drugs and guns, correctly believing they’d be less suspicious to any authorities when the crackdowns and raids in these barrios occur.

World Vision works in partnership with the community, enlisting many volunteers who live there locally. Without this partnership it would be impossible to operate effectively and help the children and their families.

Myriam recruited one of World Vision’s local volunteers who lived in the neighborhood to show us around and tour the barrio, thus insuring our safety and ability to shoot our cameras uninhibited.

We shot a lot of great footage as many families invited us into their homes to see how they lived. One family had just delivered days old twin babies. When I walked in the father was giving one a bath while the mother was drying the other off and the adorable sister not so shyly watched us.

I was moved by the tenderness of the father. Myriam informed me she considered him a model father. I later decided I wanted to become a “Sponsor” for these twins (less than $20 a month each). They clearly had the love, now they just need a little money. I think it’s going to be a pleasure to see them grow up and develop the next 15-20 years of our respective lives.

I can’t wait to visit them as they get older and help them in any way I can, but I can’t help wondering about all the other kids without sponsors. Is it right that some win “the lottery” and others don’t? I’ve learned a lot about effectively helping impoverished people, especially after reading a great book called “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer. We simply cannot wait for the perfect opportunity to save everyone or nothing will ever happen.

But if those who can (i.e. most people who will read this) will simply try to save someone, then the worst poverty on the planet can actually be eradicated in a matter of years, not centuries. Wow, think about a world without poverty? What are the possibilities for us all then?

Thanks to Billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and millions of other “regular folks” things are changing. But everyday that we wait, tens of thousands of children die of easily treatable and preventable disease. While the U.S. does contribute greatly to charities, the vast majority of donations go to philanthropic organizations right here in the U.S. (often to local art organizations like the local symphony or museum, certainly not to actual starving people).

Our foreign aid tax dollars don’t’ go to the poorest countries on the planet either. They go to our allies in the war on terror and to places like Iraq and Afghanistan for political purposes, even though this gets lumped in and counted as humanitarian aid.

In other words, while the U.S., on the surface, seems to be a generous nation when you really analyze it, we are quite selfish. We spend a tiny, tiny percentage of our income and most of that ends up where it is needed least, in the U.S.

We have to ask ourselves “are U.S. lives worth more than others”? What is the cost of saving a U.S. life (estimates are in the millions) versus someone in the worlds’ poorest countries (in the thousands or even hundreds)? Even less expensive is bettering the lives of those in the poorest nations. For example, just $50 can give someone in a developing country cataract surgery and a new life where they can work for themselves, rather than simply beg for spare change.

We need to change our view of the world and understand that “THEIR” problems are “OUR” problems, not just from a humanitarian point of view but from an economic and security point of view.

I firmly believe that the affluence the U.S. has enjoyed the last few decades cannot continue to exist securely and safely for the long term as long as the majority of the people on the planet (many just miles from our own borders) are forced to try and live on less than $2 per day and make heartbreaking decisions like which child will go to school and which will have to work to help the family survive.

I saw in person that organizations like World Vision are truly making a difference. Myriam knew many of the parents and children in the community personally and after registering the families, each family received a gift “bowl” of goodies, like flour, cooking supplies, and little things that we take for granted but mean so much to a family living on the fringes of society and the edge of survival.

One lady had received help with fixing her house and a new bed after the rains had destroyed her old one. She proudly toured our cameras around while singing the praises of World Vision.

Medellin’s local government is to be applauded as well. They have a new and modern health clinic that offers medical treatment at greatly reduced cost to families in the Comuna 8 (in the meantime my health insurance premiums in arguably the most affluent society in the world climb 15% annually for less and less coverage).

They are building an Eco Park that will draw tourists from all over the city and possibly the country and help bring local tourism revenue as well. This strategy has proven effective in other at risk barrios in Medellin like Santa Domingo, where a new library and metro cable station was built and now is one of the more visited sites in the city.

A good economy is probably the surest way to break the power the gangs have over the Comuna 8 and the combination of World Vision, brave volunteers from the community and an enlightened government in Medellin could be just the powerful combination necessary to break the decades old cycle of poverty and gang control.

If you’d like to find out more how organizations like World Vision help so many children and families on our planet whose lives are sometimes (and sometimes all the time) at risk or at best can be described as a living hell, then please visit their website at or . Also check out for other practical ways for helping others.

Colombian Justice


The other morning I was in New York City going about my normal routine and heading to the gym before leaving on a business trip to Colombia. A few hours later, I’m in Medellin, Colombia among a throng of celebrants for the big Feria de Las Flores festival, Medellin’s biggest annual event.

While on the way to the gym in NYC that morning I was crossing a busy avenue when, even though I had the right of way, some SUV cuts me off and had I not stopped, he would have hit me. Instinctively as the SUV made the turn inches in front of me I slapped the rear door panel with a t-shirt I happened to be carrying.

The SUV suddenly stops in the crosswalk. Uh, oh, It’s on, it seems. I stop too, not knowing if this guy is big, small, old, young, carrying a gun or knife or what, but I’m angry and am in the right and am going to let him know it.

He gets out and to my slight relief it’s an older guy in his 50s, pretty harmless but he’s angry too. “I had the right of way” I tell him, “Well, I have to move too” he angrily responds. I say “if you’d hit me it wouldn’t really matter” to which he yells “I wasn’t going to hit you and there is no need for the hostility hitting my truck”. I explain loudly that it was a t-shirt that slapped his truck and to “chill out”!

He proceeds to tell me to chill out. I tell him to learn how to drive and on and on. You get the picture. This is all happening while onlookers gawk and NYC rush hour traffic grinds to a halt on a major avenue.

If anyone wanted to see fists fly they were disappointed. In the midst of the tied up traffic were a couple of cops in their car and they hit their siren, a signal for us to go our separate ways or risk a weekend in the clink. It was a wake up call and the driver and I both promptly decided to go on with our respective days. I head over to the gym with an extra rush of adrenalin.

The guy had said my hostility was uncalled for and you know what, in retrospect, I think he was right. He didn’t really come that close to hitting me; he basically just cut off a pedestrian with the right of way. Happens all the time.
I was still pretty upset when I arrived at the gym, but I worked it out and pretty much forgot about the incident. Just another day in NYC really, though I regretted losing my cool. There are times to lose your cool and times not to. I should have let it slide. Not worth making an ass out of myself in front of hundreds of fellow citizens.

Just a few hours later I’m in a totally different world it seems. I’m in Medellin, Colombia and hanging with an American-Colombian guy, Ryan, I had just met. Ryan is American of Colombian descent, raised in the U.S. but now living in Medellin. He speaks perfect English and like me his Spanish needs work. We decided to go check out some of the chaos that is the last weekend of the days long Feria de las Flores party.

We walk a few blocks to the VERY happening Parque Lleras area. While there we stumble upon a disturbing scene on the sidewalk just outside one of the bar’s outdoor patio.

A guy is being held down and being kicked repeatedly in the head, stomach and butt by 3 others, presumably employees of the bar. The big sort of preppy but macho guy who keeps kicking him in the head is also holding a woman’s tiny handbag, leading us to believe the young man getting the s**t kicked out of him probably attempted to steal it.

One guy doesn’t seem into it and is just holding him down while the other two have soccer practice on his head and ass. He’s not bleeding and is conscious and is trying to talk to them but whatever he says they don’t like because they let loose with another round of kicks.

A crowd is watching and no one is intervening. I speak to Ryan and say something like “hey man, we should stop that before they really hurt him” to which he responds we should probably mind our own business.

It’s true, we don’t know the back story and it sure looks like dude stole something and they are dishing out some Colombian justice before the police arrive. I find out later Ryan is a mixed martial artist. Maybe that is why I thought he seemed to be slightly digging the scene but I’m definitely cringing.

At this point I’m ready to say “no mas” but something inside me made me hesitate. I felt threatened by the scene and felt like an outsider interfering. I had been in Colombia less than a few hours. Seemed a little premature to try and be the gringo hero swooping in to save the day when maybe the day didn’t really want saving. Somehow I don’t think anyone (with the exception of the thief) would appreciate my sense of morality.

You see, no one else protested on behalf of the guy, not even the girls who were straining to see the scene and while it didn’t look like anyone was enjoying this in particular, no one was going to intervene either it was clear.

In my safe U.S. world, I don’t think 3 guys should ever pummel a guy while he is down, no matter what. That’s not a fair fight. Hell that’s not a fight at all. It’s just 3 guys beating up another guy. In the U.S. I think I’d call the 3 guys cowards and would immediately intervene and call the cops which would hopefully arrive in short order.

Now granted in the U.S. I might get my butt kicked for intervening too, but I think I’d feel good about it because I did the right thing and somehow I feel right always prevails over wrong. I was raised that way. It’s not realistic and it’s completely idealistic but I still believe that. I have to.

Ah but In the U.S. we have it much easier in so many ways. Clear cut cases of right and wrong, black and white, no messy gray areas right? Well of course not, but a case like this one, with 3 guys beating up one guy, it is a bit more cut and dry I think.

In the U.S. presumably, the guy is held until the police arrive THEN justice is served. We count on the police and the justice system to take care of the bad guys and in general, they do. The very existence of our current society depends on this “rule of law” which sometimes takes the fun out of the place, I’ll admit, but one might argue also helps one sleep better at night.

No such thing in Latin America. When I recounted the violent scene later to another American-Colombian friend of mine now living full time in Medellin, he didn’t sound surprised and he told me that many police here might let petty thieves like this kid slide. So when a thief is caught, he is punished by the victims in just the way I witnessed.

I read that in India when there is a car accident, the motorist at fault is beaten by a quickly formed, witnessing mob. It is their form of justice when there isn’t a functioning official form of justice (tickets, points on your license, insurance denied, etc.) they can count on.

There was a case in rural Guatemala where allegedly a crowd of locals beat a Japanese tourist to death because they thought he was trying to kidnap a baby (he was actually just admiring the baby and unfortunately did not speak enough Spanish to properly explain himself).

In Recife Brazil I witnessed an older kid beating up a much younger kid in front of adults who did nothing to intervene. I did intervene in that one and none of the adults would even acknowledge me or look me in the eye afterward. Were they ashamed of themselves or did they think I had acted inappropriately?

I must say in general, I find Colombia to be a peaceful and safe place these days and the police have always been professional and respectful to me (the Gringo card perhaps?).

But for many years people in Colombia and countless other third world nations have been victims of widespread violence. Good hardworking people and their families were surrounded by violence that hit close to home, often killing or claiming friends and relatives.

I think this presumed, alleged thief was being pummeled not only for his crime but for every other petty theft crime where another thief didn’t get caught or the police let the criminal go. Maybe each kick to the head represented a general frustration that good, hardworking and honest Colombians had to deal with scumbags like this kid, always worrying about somebody stealing something if they dared to have anything nice.

In the U.S., in our “good” and in most neighborhoods really, we readily and freely wear our expensive clothes and flaunt our "bling" happily, usually without fear of consequence of getting robbed, kidnapped or murdered over them.

In South America, you may have to dress down, keep your stuff locked up at home or risk being targeted for theft or worse.

I bet it’s frustrating for Colombians who want to enjoy themselves and their success and maybe that was what each kick to the head represented? Colombian justice. Teach the thieves a lesson in the war of good vs. evil? Or maybe it’s the old wealthy minority teaching the old poor majority who is still boss in this country. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it? What do I know, I’m just an observer, an outsider looking in trying to make sense of a similar but yet very different culture.

However, it does occur to me that in the relatively safe confines of the U.S., earlier in the day I had chosen a potentially violent means as response to a feeling of disrespect. It’s not an isolated instance either. The past year I’ve courted conflict on several occasions and have yet to find it. I’m not looking to fight but I’m ready to fight if wronged. I have more than I need, why am I so eager to fight back at the first sign of disrespect?

In Colombia, watching this alleged thief get pummeled mercilessly while onlookers watched made me feel ashamed of my own behavior earlier in the day. Ashamed at my lack of self control and seemingly subconscious desire to find trouble, whether it finds me or not. Ashamed that I sought a violent solution to an issue that really didn’t warrant it when by all accounts I should be the happiest-go-lucky dude on the planet.

Why should I, of all people, have such a short fuse. Maybe that’s it. The “poor” fight because they have to, the “rich” because they want to. Maybe, even with violence there is such a thing as luxury of choice.

Sept. 7th, 2010
Last week an elderly lady (72) was mowed down by an SUV making the turn onto third avenue at the very same intersection where I had the altercation. Now that I’m back in the U.S. and walking the streets of NYC I feel I did the right thing, slapping the guys SUV with my shirt and standing up to him. I think he’ll be more careful next time, at least I hope so. It’s funny what NYC does to you, but I don’t feel like turning the other cheek anymore. Maybe a little Colombian justice up here would do some people good.

Capitalism - A Xmas Story

Capitalism is under fire these days, and not just from “ultra liberal” filmmakers like Michael Moore. No, plenty of regular people have expressed doubts about our current model of capitalism. I guess a financial meltdown of epic proportions and the greatest economic crises since the Great Depression will do that.

I consider myself a capitalist. I once owned a TV production and syndication business that employed 25-30 people at any given time. While making money wasn’t our only and or most important mission, it was very necessary to keep the company afloat in order to fulfill our other, higher priority missions.

And while the more money we made, the more “comfortable” things became, my fondest memories were forged in the struggle of starting a boutique television business and attempting what seemed at the time, a near impossible task.

After 8 years of toiling away, I eventually sold the company, but once again it wasn’t solely about the money. My goals also included keeping the company going so that it could continue to pursue it’s missions and keeping our group of loyal and hardworking people employed and hopefully bettering their lives.

Now that I’ve had some time from the heat of battle of running a growing business and had the opportunity to travel, namely to developing nations, I’ve witnessed capitalism at work in other places. From what I can see with my decidedly non expert eyes is that capitalism has yet to pay off for the majority of people in most of these developing countries.

I’ve encountered a slightly different outlook on the role of capitalism than we have here in the “land of plenty”. It seems that in these developing nations, many capitalists are viewed, rightly or wrongly, as exploitative by a significant portion of the working class population.

When you consider that as many as half or more of the population of, Argentina or Guatemala for example, live well below their own country’s poverty lines then I begin to understand this point of view.

During my trips I was reminded of how fortunate I’ve been to live and work in the U.S., a country that not only has a high standard of living for almost everyone (relatively speaking) but where I can take an entrepreneurial risk if I so desire, and for the most part, be able to live or die by that risk.

So yes, I’m a capitalist, but not the “bottom line is the only thing” kind. I think this is partly because I’ve witnessed first hand the types of misguided decisions publicly traded companies make in the name of the bottom line.

I’ve seen from the inside, how Wall Street’s demands for bigger and bigger returns each and every year, can destroy an industry like the media business, an industry not only near and dear to my heart but vital to our national interest.
At what point is just making a good living and being a responsible corporate citizen enough? In Wall Street’s eyes it seems “‘never”.

Yet I was always heartened by those I encountered who bucked their bean counter bosses and refused to be slaves to a system that if rigidly followed, only rewarded the making of money. They recognized that beyond money, people mattered, reputations mattered and the pride involved in making a good product mattered.

Principles like integrity, honesty and doing the right thing can’t be measured on a balance sheet, but they do matter, big time. Though the wall street “masters of the universe” don’t make the connection, these principles, have a large, albeit intangible impact on bottom lines.

I feel the U.S. economy, which chews up over 20% of the world’s resources (with less than 5% of it’s inhabitants) is hopelessly trapped in a vicious cycle of consumerism that can’t possibly be sustained, by the planet or ourselves. But thanks to bets most of us had nothing to do with making, if this cycle of consumerism isn’t sustained, it could bankrupt us all and have global repercussions.
During last year’s Holiday season, I spent most of the month of December outside the borders of the United States in Mexico, Cuba and Colombia.

While in Cuba I encountered very little of what one could call the “Holiday Spirit”, which I guess makes sense when you consider the backdrop. Unless all you wanted for Christmas was a Che T shirt, the only reminder of the Holiday season was running into this Cuban character at night who bore a remarkable resemblance to Santa Claus. His “gift” was some kind of souvenir made out of a beer can that costs me a couple of Cuban pesos. Ho! ho! ho!, Merry Christmas from the Castro brothers! A cynic could conclude in Cuba that Christmas and capitalism go hand in hand, which is to say, not very prominent.

Unlike Cuba, Colombia really knew how to celebrate the holidays. The display of holiday lights, the festive atmosphere and parties are incredible.
While Colombians were heavy on the lights and celebrations they were decidedly less heavy on commercialism (at least compared to the U.S.).
Oh there were Holiday themed commercials on TV and the stores were anxious to sell the willing buyer stuff, but I had the distinct feeling the stores and corporations were more intent on celebrating the spirit of the season than convincing people to buy a bunch of stuff that they could ill afford.

It didn’t seem that gift giving was simply not the main or even secondary focus of the season. A festive spirit filled with cheer and goodwill and time spent with family and friends seemed the highest priorities.

In Colombia, there were no commercials featuring a Lexus with a giant bow on top suggesting this was the perfect year to buy your loved one a luxury vehicle. I mean does anyone remember when we moved from getting little Johnny a bicycle for Xmas to getting him a Lexus?

Looking back, I can’t recall a time where I was ever more in the festive holiday spirit than last December traveling through Latin America. The season felt special, not forced and it was fun without any relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy.
This realization didn’t really click for me until I returned to the U.S. and noticed how consumer focused our culture and the Christmas season were. The trip really prompted me to look more closely at our culture of consumerism during the holidays and throughout the year.

While Latin Americans typically wait until December before stringing Christmas lights, our consumer fueled economy is so dependent on retailers having a good holiday season (and thus a good quarter and thus a good year) that the barrage of crass commercialization seems to start earlier each year.

Case in point and proving it’s never to early to start making money off the holidays, it was October 9th when I first saw a Macy’s holiday themed commercial running on TV. It’s been on You Tube since September.

The commercialism of the “Holiday” Season is nothing new, but I believe that for a retailer to start banging the drum for people to buy in October for the holidays is a bit much. What happened to Thanksgiving before we kicked things off with the mobs, the debt, the stress?

Even for a country so dependent on consumers that our former President’s idea of healing the wounds of 9/11 was to urge every American to do their patriotic duty and “go shopping”. How heroic!

My extended family is large but we’ve never really gone overboard with tons of Holiday gifts. It just gets too ridiculous in a large family as ours. In fact, in recent years I’ve limited myself to giving gifts pick up from my travels abroad, usually something purchased directly from the person who crafted the gift.

I feel these gifts are more personal than something from a big, faceless department store or corporation. I’d rather the my money go to an individual artisan who might live on just $5 a day. My gift not only has a deeper meaning but maybe I’ve helped someone in the process.

Maybe I’m just a skinflint, a scrooge or just plain unpatriotic, but this year each member of my family is getting something completely different.

The fine folks from CHILD FUND INTERNATIONAL have done an excellent job of putting together a catalog of “GIFTS OF LOVE AND HOPE” for anyone that would rather spend their Christmas cash to help a family in REAL and DIRE need, than line the pocketbooks of fat cat bankers.

Instead of spending $200 for a faux cashmere sweater my mom will never wear, I figure why not donate $200 in her name that will be earmarked as start up costs for a chicken farm in Uganda that could literally change an entire family’s lives? Plus the look on my mom’s face when I inform her that I bought chickens for her this year? Priceless!

Each of my brothers are going to get a “goat” given in their name, to a family in Zambia, who can then breed them and start a goat farm.
My sisters are getting “sewing machines” donated to girls in India who can use them to generate much needed income.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done this and I have to tell you it feels great.
You know what? Maybe I was wrong. Yes, I know it’s only October but I’m already in the Holiday spirit but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with seeing that Macy’s commercial.

Bogota.. Why Am I Here Again?

Note to self: Frequent flier miles are no reason for a trip. For some reason I never wanted to go on this trip and can point to about a dozen reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. One really big one that may haunt me for the rest of my life.
Yet, here I am, in Bogota, Colombia for the umpteemth time and with plenty to do. I am staying in a cheap, private room in a hostel in the Candelaria neighborhood, the historic, central part of Bogota.

The wifi works nicely, the water is hot, and the room while bare bones is really comfortable, but the door doesn’t so much lock as stick shut at the top, so I keep lugging my computer and camera equipment with me everywhere I go.
The high altitude gets me here, so for two days I’ll cease running and that really hurts because I was getting addicted to it in NYC and starting to make real progress.
When I get to Medellin, I have lots of work to do and I like that city better. It’s easier to get around, Paisitas are a bit more friendly and in general, I just plain like Medellin.

But once again, why am I here? Why, why, why? Developing a travel show, launching punk outlaw records, continuing work on Punktology – the documentary of punk music throughout the world.. yes, all that is true. But why Colombia? why now?

My heart is back in NYC. I’ve been on trips like this before… where you wonder what you were thinking when you booked it. Travel for travel sake? Is that cool? Travel is best when you need to escape. I need to escape alright, but maybe, instead I need to face things head on. Things that can only be faced and confronted in NYC.
Overall, the healing magic of travel still has me in it’s grasp. But I wonder, what I’m doing, where I’m going because no matter where I go, I’m still here.

Billionaire Boneheads

Children in Haiti literally eat dirt because their bodies crave the iron missing in their diet. But at least these two Billionaires have their priorities straight. Truly inspiring.

A pair of rival billionaires set a new world record Thursday night at Les Caves du Roy nightclub in St. Tropez with an East vs. West contest to see who could order the most champagne.

Zhen Low — the younger brother of big-spending Malaysian billionaire Jho Low — squared off against Winston Fisher of the prominent New York real-estate family. At the end of the night, Low was the “winner.” The bill? A staggering 2 million euros, or $2.6 million, according to an announcement made at the club.
Witnessing the revelry/rivalry were Thor Equities CEO Joseph Sitt, SBE CEO Sam Nazarian and Paris Hilton, who helped Jho Low celebrate his 28th birthday last year at a four-day party in Las Vegas.

The Low brothers are third-generation members of a distinguished Penang-based family involved in industries ranging from real estate to high-tech across the world.
Baby-faced, bespectacled Jho is known to New York club-owners for regularly racking up six-figure bar tabs by ordering dozens of $900 bottles of Cristal Champagne.
It’s Fleet Week in St. Tropez, and the port is backed up with flashy yachts and their flashy owners. “If somebody with money, particularly brand-new money, wants to get noticed by the Euro jet set, this is the time and place to be seen,” said one observer.