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StndAir

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StndAir is simultaneously ridiculous, and ridiculously smart.

Travel to the Hamptons and beyond this summer will be fun, easy, and accessible with StndAir, starting May 26th through October 10th, 2011. It is available for the public, as well as Standard New York and Sunset Beach hotel guests, who will be offered room package/flight deals.

StndAir is an 8 passenger Cessna 208 Caravan Amphibian aircraft that will be available for charter service to any East Coast destination within a 300 mile radius of New York (Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Hudson Valley), as well as scheduled flights during peak weekend periods between New York City, East Hampton on Long Island.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge: Tanzania

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On one of my trips to Africa last year I had the distinct opportunity to visit and stay at one of the most remote and incredible places: The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.   Perched into the side of the craters wall, it’s a treat of wilderness and luxury in one of the more remote parts of the world.  It takes a hop skip and a jump in two bush planes and a bumpy drive in an AWD vehicle to reach, but it’s worth the trip.  I recommend starting the trip as early in the daytime as possible so you can see the crater as you drive upon it, and sights like Mt. Kilomanjaro on your flight in through nearby Arusha.

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The crater makes up a large part of what’s known as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which was originally formed from an exploded and then collapsed volcano.  The eruption and subsequent settling of the ground left a completely perfect wilderness refuge. The walls and steep hills that lead to the floor are some 2,000 feet tall and the crater floor itself covers more than 100 square miles.  It’s no wonder it’s home to more than 25,000 animals today.  It’s natures perfect sanctuary and a good place to see the Big Five.  Safari heaven by any measure.

Based on fossil evidence, most scientists say around this area was where man first came from some 3 million years ago.  Mind blowing to think about, but when you see it, it all kind of makes sense.

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After a bumpy but pleasant ride in, the grounds of the lodge come into view.  Setup like a postcard, every window looks out upon the wildlife playground below.

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After driving up, one of the first things you’re told are the ground rules.  Some basics:  The lodge is not fenced off, so lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo are found all around the buildings.  Venomous snakes and scorpions are found everywhere, so keep an eye out for those.  The lodge accepts no responsibility whatsoever for injury, death, loss or damage.  Under no circumstances should a guest walk in or around the lodge at night unless accompanied by a staff member.  Oh, and you’re in a malaria area.  Welcome to Ngorongoro!

An ominous welcome to what is basically a luxury lodge, but I forgot it almost immediately after I saw where I would be staying.

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The walkway to the main lodge.  Everything was perched up on stilts, and many animals were hanging out under at any given time.  Even in the middle of the night guests could hear and feel buffalo running below.

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We managed to see the sun set over the crater as we were checking in.

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I wondered what I would see first when we set out for the crater base first thing in the AM.

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Postcard like.  Just stunning.

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Inside the main lodge where we met the staff and checked in.  This would also be where we would socialize the next couple of nights.  It proved to be the perfect living room.

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The living room was packed with all kinds of old world items that made me feel like I was diving into a vast history of safari and game hunting. Books, globes, trinkets.  It was a truly opulent interior– hidden behind a handful of bland huts that from a distance simply blended right in to the crater walls.

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After checking in I was led to my own personal hut, situated only a 2 minute walk from the main lodge.  A king size bed, a view to die for. I felt like royalty.  It was flawlessly comfortable.

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I knew this bath would come in handy after a long day tracking animals.

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And the view I could see out the window from the bedroom wasn’t so bad!

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Dinner was served under chandeliers each night.  I was surprised to see that they could easily substitute and create almost anything to our liking. My then wheat sensitivities were not a problem– a rice based bread was made especially for me at each meal without hesitation.  I knew they had seen it all when the next morning they were ready with options for lunch out at the crater base (which was exceptional).

The first night we met our guide who discussed our game plan for the next morning.  We were up and out early looking for the big five.  When she asked me what I wanted to see most, I said a zebra and giraffe.  Hey, I’m easy to please.  I didn’t realize that was like spotting a subway rat in NYC.  We were joined by a second spotter– a spotter in training.  He saw things from such a distance I still think he was cheating.  Hundreds of feet away he would call STOP, whip out the binoculars and show me the ears of a lion, or the tusks of a rhino camouflaged far out in the distance.

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A common sighting the next day, baboons in the road!

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I called them African roadblocks.  What fun (and nuisance) they could be.

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Jurassic park clearly inspired by the real thing.

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The sun started to come up as we made our way to our first stop. A visit to a local Massai village.

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Jan Chipchase Blogs On

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If you’re not reading my friend Jan Chipchase’s blog Future Perfect you’re missing out. His travel schedule rivals my own as he bounces around the globe. Most recently between Shanghai, Libya, Cairo in only a few days on research and field missions.

His observations and findings continue to impress and amuse me. From Afghanistan’s Porn Consumption Norms to Monoply in Beirut. All i can say is: Go Jan go! A must read.

Spear Talks: Takayuki Akachi

This Post is Brought to you by Onitsuka Tiger

In 2010 artist Takayuki Akachi travelled around the world to 50 countries documenting how a pair of jeans fade, and in the process documented an incredible diverse look at global culture– that project gained notoriety and became known as the Traveling Denim Project, literally seen by tens of thousands of people.

For his latest project, Onitsuka Tiger sent him around the world to document the many steps of man, woman, and child. Check it out above and then read on to our interview with Takayuki!

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“My main purpose is to express the world of 6.7 billion people by the film. So I’m really trying to record as many people as possible…” -Takayuki Akachi

Josh Spear: You’ve worked for literally dozens of clients from Panasonic to NTT Docomo, from Pocky to Canon– and now, of course this video piece for Onitsuka. Do you feel constrained working for brands, or do they help you create your best work?

Takayuki Akachi: I’m always thinking of the ideas to create a touching piece. I think that the client work in Japan is like a team production around the agency. Sometimes communication skill becomes more important than production skill there. I might feel it tight a little bit on creative work. However, in order to create a touching piece, I think the process that we find the best way through many communications is also very important. Because I really want to make a touching piece rather than extremely cool one, I always sensitively think of what people feel when they see my work. In any case, this idea is always all the same.

“I always sensitively think of what people feel when they see my work….”

JS: You travel to so many countries. How many have you been to in total? What was your most favorite country, and your least favorite, and why?

TA: I have been to more than 60 countries. It is very difficult to choose my most favorite country. I love to look at the scenery of an unfamiliar town. The farther I move from my life , the more I can see the human common part beyond the way of life and religion. There are so many places in the world and I hardly know their language and their way of living. It is very exciting to travel those places with only primitive communications. In that sense, Afghanistan and a deep area of Togo are very impressive countries for me.

JS: We were very inspired by your work for Levi’s, the Traveling Denim project. What can you tell us about that? Whose butt were you photographing in 50 countries?!

TA: I preferably wear same clothes, same bag and same shoes on my trip. When I see the blemish and the hole on the stuff, it reminds of the scene. The changing and fading appearance of the stuff is synchronized with myself. Because my thinking also changes little by little through meeting various people on my trip. I tried to express the process of the synchronism with Traveling Denim.

The woman wearing denim is my wife. She is a good travel partner.

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JS: All of your films have a specific rhythm to them. Do you sketch out how the film will go before hand? Do you have a soundtrack playing in your head as you shoot it? What is your process here? How do you select the wonderful music!

TA: I think that the half of my work is decided by music. However, I don’t think about the music while shooting film. It’s my policy that I never direct the object of shooting. I always try to record the atmosphere and the time as things are. I always shoot alone and never take the crew with me.

My editing work is similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It seems like looking for a piece from thousands of pieces and fitting it into a puzzle one by one. As I mentioned before, the sound track is very important for my work.

Music is a guide to put a puzzle together. It is not possible to put a puzzle together without music. It is like that I look for exact pieces fitting the impressive beat and melody at the first. Secondly, I fill the space with other pieces. When I complete the work, I get the same feeling as when I complete the puzzle.

Music is a guide to put a puzzle together. It is not possible to put a puzzle together without music. It is like that I look for exact pieces fitting the impressive beat and melody at the first. Secondly, I fill the space with other pieces.

There are many music lovers around me. They give me the new and inspired music info all the time…

JS: When you were a little boy growing up in Japan, did you ever imagine you would shoot photos and create films for a living? What did your mom and dad do for a living?

TA: My father was a policeman and my mother used to work for an accounting office. I think I was not influenced by my parents about creating film at all. When I was a junior high, they bought an 8mm video camera to record family life. But they didn’t know how to use it. While I was very good at using the camera. So, I was responsible for video camera shooting in my family. And I used to take snapshots from the days of one’s earliest recollection. After digital cameras have become more popular, I have taken digital camera with me all the time and recorded everyday life.

I liked camera but I have never thought to become a professional. On the work site, I am often a director or a producer. It’s only recently that I have gotten the professional knowledge of camera.

JS: What do you carry with you when you travel? What kind of camera and equipment?

TA: I took digital single-lens reflex camera(CANON 5D mark2) with me for the first time on my trip.?It is very useful for my shooting style because it can record the moving image simultaneously while taking still image. I prefer the soft picture by lens of manual to the clear picture by lens of automatic focus. That’s why I always like to use the manual focus lens.

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JS: In Many steps for Onitsuka you created a moving story about one of the simplest actions man and woman do every day– one step after another. Did anything surprise you during this project? How alike and united we all really are?

TA: I think human beings are all very much alike. Wherever I go, local people greet to me with smile if I greet to them with smile. When you see their expression face to face, you find out if they welcome you. Meanwhile, it is very difficult to communicate with other animals with facial expression. Is there any person who is doing action that you can not understand in “many steps”? After all, human beings are all very much alike.

JS: How many countries was Many Steps created in?

TA: I visited 11 countries including Japan for Many Steps project: Thailand, India, Jordan, UK – Ghana, Togo, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Japan

JS: How has Japan influenced the way you see the world around you? How is Japan different than the rest of the world?

TA: It is very difficult to explain Japan as a Japanese. I think it is true to understand about your country only when you go out. Let me share my experience in Mexico instead of answering the question. When we traveled in Mexico with American friend, Mexican friend kindly invited us to stay at his house. His family prepared wonderful Mexican dinner for us and we enjoyed it with his family. After dinner, my wife and I thought that we should wash the dishes in return for their hospitality. But we also thought that the family may want us to not touch their kitchen. So we were at a loss what to do at the moment. American friend heard our conversation and told to us “Do whatever you want!” But we can not do whatever we want because we think about other people too much. I think it is very typical characteristic of Japanese people. For better or worse, this point is very different from other country’s people.

JS: What’s next for you? Where are you off to now? New projects on the horizons?

TA: My main purpose is to express the world of 6.7 billion people by the film. So I’m really trying to record as many people as possible through the trip. New project…well… I would like to create “a world clock” by connecting the image of a second from all over the world.

Thanks Onitsuka Tiger, and thank you Takayuki!

Movida Bar De Tapas: Melbourne

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Guest Post by David Vo

Having finished an amazing morning at the National Gallery of Victoria, my companion and I made our way to Federation Square, the long way. With a few kilometers under our belt and a hunger that demanded some sustenance, we found ourselves in one of Melbourne’s infamous laneways, standing in front of Movida Bar De Tapas. We put our names down on the list and explored the ever-changing graffiti art on the brick walls just outside the doors. Within twenty minutes we were seated at a high table.

We went though the entire tapas menu, sharing just a bite of each. The Gazpacho Andaluz really stood out for the flavor profile and creativity. The croqueta with the saltiness from the jamon and the silkiness from the egg really hit home for me. We also ordered a main course of the pork jowl. Extremely unctuous with the right amount of counter-balance from the Borlotti beans. We wrapped up with the churros and drinking chocolate plus a chocolate ganache with vanilla bean ice cream.

Next time you are in Melbourne, be sure to check out this gem of a restaurant. Make sure you bring a few friends so you can try each of the dishes. Just watch your wallet as things add up quick!

Movida Bar De Tapas
1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
(03) 9663 3038

KILL SPENCER: New Products

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A few of the new products from KILL SPENCER pictured here. iPad 2 Case in Black Leather (shown), an iPhone 4 Cover made of Black Birdseye Maple (not shown), a Courier Case (shown), and Oversize Tote (shown). Spencer’s work continues to impress me. Serious quality! If you’re in the market, look no further.

Yoshii Restaurant: Sydney

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Wandering around Sydney on my second night here, I found what turned out to be the gem of all gems– a small sushi restaurant in The Rocks area of town called Yoshii. No a la carte, just three different prix fixe menus to choose from.

I chose the Sashimi and Sushi course, which started with a small appetizer, and then a delightful array of beautiful fresh sashimi, and then sushi. The tuna, salmon (Tasmanian I assume) and unagi melted in my mouth. As good as any I’ve ever tasted. Between the sashimi and sushi courses I was given a lemon grass champagne sorbet to cleanse my pallet. A fantastic idea!

Next time I definitely need to try the long Yoshii Course menu though– with kitchen dish highlights like a seafood crepe filled with whiting and crystal bay prawn, and deep fried tooth fish tempura. I’ll be back before my trip is over, that’s for sure!

The Burton Nug

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In an unfortunate turn of events here in Whistler I lost my snowboard in transit, but fortunately the wonderful people at Whistler Blackcomb and Showcase Snowboards hooked me up with some new goods right away. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love after hearing about the The Burton Nug– an entirely new kind of snowboard meant to be downsized 8-10cm from your normal snowboard size for extra agility and fun. It’s a lot wider, and because of something called ‘flex profiling’, all the edges are very effective in every kind of condition.

I can easily say I’ve never had as much fun on any snowboard over the past 10 years. It’s just so all around well made. Surprisingly stable at high speeds, poppy, and even solid ripping in deeper steep powder. Maybe short and wide will make a comeback. I for one am totally sold. You can listen to John Gerndt (Burton’s board testing development guru) talk about making the Nug here.

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