Michael Jackson and Dracula Were Here

When I stood at Dracula’s grave in Romania my head was filled with one thought: “Michael Jackson was here.”

Vlad Tepes is the Dracula of history.  He wasn’t a vampire, just a ruler who believed in corporal punishment, namely driving huge stakes through people and letting them slowly die.  For this he earned his nickname The Impaler.  Bram Stoker based his novel on Vlad.

Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson.

Vlad’s tomb is famous for two things: it’s empty and Michael Jackson visited it when he came to Romania on his Dangerous World Tour.

To get to the Snagov monastery where Vlad’s empty grave is I had to paddle two other tourists and my cab driver in a rowboat to the island where it sits.  A family lives on the island and runs tours…

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Bear Gryll gets the Glory, camera crew gets the shaft

Not pictured: All the locals who lug their gear and the camera crew that captures their glory

Members of Expedition Africa. (Not pictured: All the locals who lug their gear and the camera crew who captures their glory)

Few knows this, but a while back someone asked me to audition for a position as the host of a television series that focused on Tattoo cultures around the world.

I was fresh off my trip to Asia tracking down my clothes – pre-book deal.  I set a camera in a field of corn and talked about where I came from and why I would be a great host for their show on tattoos, even though I knew I would be a horrible host for a show on tattoos.

I don’t have any tattoos, nor plan on getting any ever. The only tattoo I would consider getting is one from a man I heard about from some around-the-world sailors. He asks you some questions about yourself, you pay him, and then he gives you the tattoo he wants to give you.  If you ask for a certain tattoo, “I want a pony,” the deal is off.  “No Tattoo for you!”  This option would work for me because if the tattoo looked stupid, I could just blame it on the guy who gave it to me, absolving myself from the decision making process.  “Who would have thought that Care Bears were big on that remote island?” I could offer as my excuse.

Anyhow, I digress…

I would have been a crappy host for a number of reasons.  First, I don’t have any tattoos.  Second, I have a major problem with many of these “go places, do stuff, travel/adventure” shows: the camera crew is completely forgotten.

Bear Gryll…GRRRRR….gets me fired up.  Death waits around every ravine, under every rock, and from every angle.  At least that’s what he says.  As he climbs up the mossy rocks of a waterfall he looks at the camera and says something like, “One wrong step and I fall to my death.”  As he wades his way through snake and alligator infested waters he warns, “At any moment I could be attacked and fighting for my life.”  Bear Gryll is nuts, sure, but what about the poor cameraman?  He’s climbing a mossy waterfall while holding a camera.  He’s trudging through death-infested waters while holding a camera.

I’ve been watching Expedition Africa on the History Channel.  Four “explorers” are following in the steps of Stanley’s expedition to find Livingstone. The four fight over who’s leading the group where while local porters and even two bushmen look on. One explorer is even carrying around a pith helmet! It’s embarrassing.  It’s just a reminder of the ugliness of colonialism.  “We’re white, educated, explorers, the locals are cute and all with their bare feet, but we know better than they do.”  The group comes across some tough conditions – climbing muddy mountains in the rain, crossing deserts in excruciating heat.  But…what about the camera crew who are climbing a muddy mountain in the rain while holding a camera, and crossing the desert in excruciating heat while holding a camera?

I’m not a big fan of half stories and half-truths and that’s what these shows give us.

I would like to see a show about the camera crews who are tossed on ships while holding a camera filming the The Deadliest Catch, the camera woman sitting in the out of control rig barreling down the Ice Road, the dude climbing next to Bear Gryll.

Now that’s a show I could host.  Although I suppose then there would need to be another show about the people filming the camera crew who are filming the camera crew.

Not only are the camera crews left out of the story although they are sweating, trekking, risking their lives just like the stars of the show, but the affects the cameras have on the results of the show aren’t acknowledged.  Go to your nearest airport and start begging for 100-bucks.  Not going to happen.  But go to your nearest airport with a camera crew from the Amazing Race filming you, and your chances are good.

I’ve said it before, reality brings death to romance and I would like to make one addendum.

Reality (TV) brings death to romance and cameramen.

(Below the cut is an old column about my Travel Channel Hero Alby Mangels and the time I spent with his nephew in Australia)

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A thousand words: Batman is coming to town

I’m leaving soon to pickup my brother, Kyle, and his wife, Jenn, from the airport. In honor of their visit, here’s a picture of Kyle.

Lookout villains of Muncie! Batman is coming to town! (Note to villains of Gotham: run amok with reckless abandon. Live it up!)

Kyle is Batman

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Upping the Ante: 100 entries and I'll shame my family

The iPod contest is going awesome. There are some hilarious entries. Some have altered lyrics to existing songs and others have even made their own from scratch.

Obviously we’re all having a lot of fun, so…

Why not have even more fun?

Here’s the deal: Currently we have about 40 entries, if we end up with a total of 100+ by Tuesday (6/30) at 11:59 PM EST from NEW people, I will perform the winning song.

I’ll sing. I’ll dance. I’ll shake my groove thang….

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Are you a bead maker or a boob flasher?

As unemployment rises we tend to think more about work.  I guess it the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing.  Why we work? How we work? What we get out of work?

Yesterday I heard philosopher Alain de Botton talking about his new book, The Pleasure and Sorrows of Work. A lot of the discussion centered around jobs such as the person who fixes the machine that makes the part that makes the box in which the plastic bags are shipped that hold the cookies that people eat.

Ask that person what their job provides the world?  What sense of accomplishment it gives them? They might not have an answer.

Industrialization and technology have separated many of us from…

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Chinese reader worried about the future of her village

One of the things I ask myself about my book is, “Did I get China right?”  I was only in China for a month. (Remember there was no book deal at the time and my leap of faith was getting really expensive.)  While I don’t think it’s possible to get a place, especially China, right, I’m overjoyed to get this email validating that I didn’t get it all wrong. And, according to the awesome, fabtabulous, make-my-day letter I just received from a reader in China, I actually might’ve  been pretty close.

Dear Kelsey,

I’m a reader of your book ‘Where am I wearing’. I spent two days finishing your book and I really love it. I’ve learned a lot from your trips and the effort that you made.

I’m a Chinese girl…

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