Vision uncompromised by negativity!

Recently I went to a few places that have blown my mind away in terms of the vision needed to create them.

It started in Shanghai, well a little outside, with Naked and how this simple South African guy managed to build a resort in rural Shanghai. He raised $300m, he built and eco-friendly game lodge type of resort (without the animals) and it has become one of the most successful ventures of its type in China. Imagine the balls it took for him to venture out into rural nowhere and imagine creating something like this?

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Then last week (this was written a while ago but not posted)  I went back to SA and so decided to stop off in the Emirates.

After getting the hell out of Dubai at sunrise, the metropolis scenery subsided and it melted into typical desert for about an hour. As it began to change to white beach sand and sheer cliffs of hard rock, like nothing I’ve seen before and I cannot explain. Just miles and miles of rocky, bare, desolate cliffs. We began to climb into the mountain and I started to think that this guy was now taking me into deep dark Oman to be sold for body parts.

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As I reached the top of the mountain and could peak over the other side I saw something that blew my mind completely. A bay of crystal blue water, and a desert camp build completely out of the surrounding mountain rocks that blended so well into the landscape it looked like it had been in that spot since the beginning of time. Immediately I started to wonder how someone managed to drive out into the middle of the desert for two hours crossing cliff after cliff and then decide to pick this spot to put up a completely self-sustaining, Eco friendly resort.

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After a few days in this paradise I headed back into the ‘typical’ desert.

Sparse surroundings, beige sand and dunes for as far as you could see. Even in the air-conned car I started to believe there was no end in sight but low and behold an oasis.

Again how this was built, how its maintained and how they manage to get things like Bose sound systems, Nepresso pods and on and on into the middle of desert no where just flaws me.

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Then returning to Dubai that is supposed to be impressive I was completely underwhelmed, well except for this magical beast, a dirty vodka martini on the 120 something floor was much needed. In Shanghai there are many buildings of similar sizes but because they are all together you don’t really get the massive impact of this Burj.

I came away believing Dubai downtown was almost a cop out, I mean building a hotel in a city is easy if you think about it. If you have the money you can build anything really. You design, you pay and you build, its that simple really. While our stay at the Ritz was exceptional as it is in most instances at the Ritz, but after being in the middle of nowhere and appreciating the execution of running a five star resort with literally no connection to the ‘outside world’, I was underwhelmed.

The vision, the balls and the gamble of building a resort far away, difficult to get to and at such a high level is incredible. I mean I think I have a decent ability to see things before they exist, I’m not talking the next Apple invention but in my field I can see evolution faster than most, but the long term commitment to an idea that these people have executed so sensationally just blew me away. I thank whatever being that people like this exist in the world so that I can fly half way around the world, lie on a massive beach lounger, put on a Bluetooth headset and watch a cinema screen attached to a boat on the beach at midnight :)

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The people with this kind of vision, they are the ones who truly create magic!

 

 

Some experiences in China I just have to share

Mostly every day in China feels like an episode of Punk’d but after two years of being here most of it doesn’t really raise my eyebrows anymore. Having said that every now and again there are some experiences that just seem to blow my mind. Right now on a flight from Shanghai to Macau one is happening.

So I’m busy working on in this airplane (it’s another weekend of tasting menus, pretending I’m 21 again, lights, martinis and most importantly THE ROLLING STONES.

So the plane is an hour late, but this is common place in China, in fact so much so that now when I get on to the plane I sit down and start working because I’m pretty much guaranteed to get in at least an hour of peaceful work before anything starts to move.

As I begin to type away heavily into some random presentation or email I see out of the corner of my eye a 20 something year old Chinese girl, we shall refer to her as Princess, applying hand cream to her hands out of a tub, scooping out one glob of glop after another with her pointer finger and rubbing each and every square inch of her hands. This has gone on for the entire wait on the ground until her hands are so saturated with moisture that as we take off she presses the ‘call button’ incessantly until the seatbelt lights go off and an airhostess comes. She asks for one of those alcohol soaked hand towels in the little foil packet (yes I’m in economy class for these two hours and the hand towels are those thin antiseptic ones not the magical preheated fluffy face clothes) anyway I digress.

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She now gets one of the afore mentioned towels and barks at the air-hostess that she needs more, the airhostess scuttles off to find the Princess creep show more. In the meantime Princess is not trying desperately to tear open the slippery silver packet but she may as well have lubed up her entire body, dived down an ice sled run and then try stop midway using her baby toenails as breaks. Airhostess returns with a pile of clothes and Princess tells her to open them, airhostess opens 5 of them and Princess snatches them back.

She then proceed to use them to wipe off the grease on the now saturated hands, not just the excess but like lady fucking Macbeth out damn spotting until I swear she has taken off a layer of skin. In the meantime between each scrubbing session she has a bag now on her lap that perhaps could house Revlon fucking R&D department and between scrubs she is squirreling around in there like winter is approaching and she lost her last acorn.

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Now sufficiently degreased she takes to her finger nails, clipping each one five or so times so the million little shards of keratin have littered the plane like confetti and she is satisfied. Thankfully at this point she has to begrudgingly release her bag to the floor as the food arrives.

She brings her now perfectly groomed hands up to her mouth grasping the airline food container and using her spoon to shovel the contents into her tilted back head at a rate faster than I’ve seen POWs do after coming out of Taliban torture camps. That lasted all of three minutes.

After all we must not distract from the mission of beauty perfection in the two hours we have to Macau the city of celebrities, stars and glamour.

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Bag back on lap and squirreling continues at a more frantic pace than before. Out comes eyes drops, mystery liquid and a face mask. A FUCKING FACE MASK! Eye drops applied I watch in utter disbelief as she puts on a face mask as if it’s a Wednesday afternoon at the salon with the girls.

She now barks at the airhostess something I don’t understand, the airhostess returns with a frequent flyer membership application. Needless to say after being on the ground for an hour and in the air for an hour with this bizarrely frantic human being, I’m never flying Air Macau again, I’m never even going to Macau again for fear of having to spend another minute next to this bizarre creature.

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Just another day in China that makes pretty much every moment feel like a cross between Punk’d and a Japanese game show.

 

 

 

The Soldiers . . .

When I was younger I went to see the Great Wall. I was about 8 or 9 and the impact on me was profound. I never forgot it and recently I went back again with some of my best friends, needless to say I was as much in awe at 30 as I was at 8.

What I wanted to know is does it live up to its hype, you’ve seen so many photos of it that you feel like the memory of being there has been recorded already. What I wanted to know was, would it still take my breath away standing on The Walls again, and it did, emphatically!

The Terracotta soldiers are one of those places too, one of the places you’ve seen so many times you would think you had been before and so I was itching to get there to see them.

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When you walk into the main hall the vastness of it is immense, the pictures don’t do it justice but it is gigantic. These rows upon rows of soldiers waiting for after life battle makes you understand the power and narcissism the Empower at the time had (coincidentally he was the one who build most of the wall as well).

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This dude built 70 square kilometers of everything he had in life in clay for when he died because he believed that he would then have them in his afterlife. He them, after decade of artists and builders slaving away, killed them all so no one would know about his Terracotta army and come destroy them.

After getting over the enormity of these hangers and then trying to understand this is merely a tiny sample of what has been excavated (the government, rightly so, in not excavating until they have the technology to ensure preservation) my cynicism started.

It just all seemed a little too perfect, the farmers who was looking for water found the outermost corner of the tombs (the ones still alive now sit in the gift shop everyday just smoking, signing books and taking your money). These neatly packaged clay soldiers, most perfectly formed and then a few broken ones lying around, at the back the ‘hospital’ that doesn’t ever seem to change.

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Maybe that’s cynical people feel like when they see things that are inexplicable, and if anything this is that. Its mysterious vastness yet altogether a little too well coordinated to be from thousands of years ago. Having said that this guy built the great wall so why the hell not 70 square kilometers of army tombs.

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Don’t get me wrong, it is bucket list stuff. It’s magnificent, creepy and exciting all at the same time and I now have an archer in my lounge permanently but I’m realizing more and more in China the things that are supposed to impact me the most are far outshone by those I didn’t even know exited, cue the Leshan Buddha!

 

 

 

 

Why Venezuela right now, is a fight for all of us . . .

It’s funny, as a generation who saw the birth of social media, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks & Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and so on we truly believe we are free from oppression of freedom of speech. We believe civil rights are generally kept in check by the fact that one photo on twitter can cause the Egyptian president to be ousted, Gaddafi to be beaten to death in the streets or show us what a nuclear reactor leaking looks like and what devastation the earthquake in Haiti caused. We know everything, we see it all in an instant! We know whatever events happen either big or small in each and every deep dark corner of the world, that’s the power that social media has given us.

What a dream world we live in. The truth is we all serve at the feet of the respective governments that rule us. If and when a time arises for those governments to feel threatened believe me they will shut your freedom of speech down so fast you won’t believe it. I’m no anarchist, I’ve got no complaints about the government that rules the country I live in (my home country is a different story however), in fact I’m pretty sure I could make a powerful argument for why socialism / communism is the best way to rule a country for all its people but I do want you to acknowledge the sick truth is we are not free, not one of us.

Think I’m joking? Try and tell me what’s going on in Venezuela right now?

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Millions of students across the country have taken to the streets to protest a corrupt dictatorship and through government ordered death squads they are being beaten and killed in neighborhoods and streets all around the country. The videos seem like something out of Apartheid South Africa, funny, another place and time state controlled media allowed atrocities to take place almost daily.

You think you and your country are so different, cling to your false sense of security.

Right now in Venezuela the people who are supposed to keep order and protect its citizens are the ones that killing innocent young students for peacefully protesting against corruption and theft by the government. What a fucked up reversal of roles. Where is social media? Where are the tweets, the Facebook messages to the rest of the world to swoop in and help? Where are the camera crews that are watching every corner of the earth for a story? Where is the rest of the world to step in and intervene when human rights atrocities are being committed against the innocent? It’s almost amusing the fairytale we all live in sometimes.

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The truth is the state owns the media, they kicked out all foreign journalists and they have banned Twitter and Facebook. There’s your freedom of speech and while the country is in an independent news blackout, they are oppressing and killing their own people to continue their governmental rape of the country, fuck at least the students have the balls to fight and die for a future they believe their children deserve. In South Africa we have all the news and social media we could ever want and our president stole $20m to build himself a new private home.

These kids fighting on the streets across Venezuela are heroes risking their lives for honesty, truth and above all just behavior from their ‘elected’ leaders and we sit around the world with our collective power of voice doing nothing to stop it. There’s your freedom of speech!

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You want to make a difference, you want to believe that we no longer live in a world where governments can be run as corrupt and immoral as they want with no consequence? Then do something! Share a story, post a statement, and share the pain of those kids who are not being heard. Don’t allow this madness to continue just because it’s not happening to you or your family. Feel the desperation of knowing that no one is coming to help but yet have no alternative to keep fighting.

Help free Venezuela, because regardless of how much or little you think you can do, we, collectively do have the power, we collectively can, every now and again when the situation demands it, stand together and use our voices to say enough! Enough disgraceful behavior, WE will not take it. It’s time to help the youth of Venezuela push back.

Just have a look at the video below and go see the incredible images as always from Boston Big Picture.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFS6cP9auDc&oref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DEFS6cP9auDc&has_verified=1