Awesome illustration from Austin Madison.

I don’t like to get bitter via digital media.

But I have to afford myself a little steam to blow off.  Especially because I know a lot of smartmotivated people out there who aren’t getting jobs.  Now I don’t want to come off as if I’m entitled to anything.  Because I’m not.  I’m a staunch believer in earning everything in life.  I’ve been extremely blessed thus far and my frustration of late has nothing to do with my feelings of misfortune.  It has everything to do with the flawed system.

It’s not “flawed” because I’m unemployed (though sometimes I like to convince myself of this), it’s flawed because it‘s such a mystery to so many people.  I’ve heard from some that the key to securing a job is acting professional, presenting a polished resume and iterating your genuine enthusiasm.  From others; “they don’t even look at your resume, it’s all about how you stand apart and be different”.  Those seem like very contrasting ideas.  How do I fit in and stand out at the same time?

My favorite is the conflicting conventions on opening addresses.  Take example employer, John Smith.

Do I address him as Mr. Smith? Mr. John Smith? John?

Do I open with a dear, a colloquial hey or hi?  Do I want to sound rigid, compliant and respectful or easygoing, flexible and human?

Another analogy that has become increasingly perfect for describing the job hunt: dating.  Your resume and cover letter is your way of flirting.  That awkward, nerve-wracking interview is yup, you guessed it, the first date.  The interview call back is well… the call back.  The follow-up email is that rushed text of jubilation.  Much of what is muddled in the dating process is also excruiciatingly vague in the job application process.  What is the other party looking for?  If it’s a no (and even that is unclear sometimes), then what could you have done better?

From the other perspective, I know that it’s not easy to sift through hundreds of candidates.   To be efficient, recruiters have to use some baseline filters; GPA, grammar red flags, schooling.  The stress and time-consuming process in itself, unfortunately, just weeds out those not willing to sacrifice a newborn for the position (no one).

However, this whole stressful experience has yielded one great thing: reassurance.  Knowing (finally) what you want to do arms you with the tenacity to face rejection time and time and time again.

For those of you who don’t know me, the only thing I love as much as good eats is good cinema. For me the only equivalent of biting into a juicy tender filet is sinking my teeth into a Scorsese film…

Danny Boyle?  Tyler Florence.  

French cuisine? French New Wave cinema.  

The Godfather series?  6 course tasting menu.  

So, in honor of my two loves, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 meal/movie combos. 10 exceptional films prudently paired with some of the tastiest eats.  Think of it like wine pairing.  I’m like the sommelier.  But less snobby, more biased and not quite as qualified.  You should know upfront though, if your idea of a good pairing is a pint of chocolate bon bons and The Notebook… you are probably in for a rude awakening. And you probably admire Ryan Gosling’s abs more than his outstanding acting ability (see #6).  And you probably just got dumped (see #9 if that is the case).  But I digest.  I mean digress…

#10 Garden State / Baked Goat Cheese Salad


Intimate, real and laden with Frou Frou tracks.  Garden State boasts a superb soundtrack and a melancholy, but lovingly hopeful story of death and love.  So I paired it with something light, warm, and refreshing. A baked goat cheese salad with caramelized pear, walnuts and cranberries.  And you thought I was gonna say Garden Salad.

#9 500 Days of Summer / Caramelized Banana Pancakes


Another Sundance Film, another great soundtrack, another quirky cute girl.  This is arguably my favorite romantic comedy.  A lot of un-appreciated cinematography.  And un-eaten pancakes (see pancake scene).  Speaking of pancakes with caramelized bananas, organic maple syrup, and crispy bacon (Source: The Table).  This is delicious enough to save any relationship.

#8 Clockwork Orange / Kobe Steak  in a Marchand du Vin Sauce with Potato Mousseline


Disturbing, poignant,  pretty damn heinous.  Stanley Kubrick is simply brilliant and so is this film.  Good movies keep you thinking long after the credits roll.  This one haunted me. If you haven’t already, give this a watch (and make sure it’s the grisly X-rated original, none of that weak, R-rated bullshit).  And when you do, shove a butter-filled bag of Redenbacher’s in the microwave and indulge in salty popcorn bliss.  SIKE.  Shame on you.  A vicious classic set to Beethoven tunes deserves nothing less than a tender, juicy, bloody steak with lots of tangy sauce and some taters.

#7 Slumdog Millionaire / Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Naan


I’m going to preface my praise for this film with praise for it’s director.  Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors and his cinema (i.e. 127 hours, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) could have easily saturated this list.  Nuff’ said.  Draped with some not so subtle undertones of poverty, gang violence, prostitution and corruption, this film emerges as a feel-good piece.  I know my Indian friends will scoff at my selection of anything but traditional Mumbai cuisine, but this British staple is about as heartwarming and comforting as the movie itself.  Recalling my emotions from my first view of Slumdog and the tastes of my first serving of masala…  bring a nostalgic, salivating smile to my face.

#6 Blue Valentine / Moroccan Bastilla


Blue Valentine is a rattling, turbulent romance.  I like to think of it as the aftermath, the epilogue to The Notebook.  It’s the gritty nuances of love so keenly captured by Gosling and Michelle Williams that force me to appreciate this film over any other sugar-coated, rom-com fluff.  Gosling’s performance, much of it unscripted, was real and displayed enough talent for me to respect him as an actor (not just a piece of meat, okay ladies?).  Since dining at his well received Beverly Hills restaurant, Tagine, I’m also on board with his taste in food.  The modern twist on Moroccan flavors is nothing short of spectacular at this intimate joint.  So I’m pairing my favorite Gosling movie with my favorite dish at Tagine;  phyllo dough filled with cornish hen meat and scrambled eggs, topped with saffron and powdered sugar.  F***ing amazing.

#5 High Fidelity / Habanero Burger

This is my most casual pick for this list.  It may not deserve to be here.  But I know John Cusack does.  In my opinion, this is his best performance (with Being John Malkovich a close runner-up).  The characters, the story are so relatable.  Not to mention it’s world premiere dose of Jack Black.  But mostly I love this film because it pairs two other passions I have; music and women.  This is a man’s rom-com, so I’m dishing up a manly meal; habanero burger and fries, courtesy of GBK (burger joint in the UK).

#4 City of God / Brazilian BBQ Beef, Fried Plantains

This cinematic indie masterpiece effortlessly sneaks into my top 5 favorite films every time.  When you share a connection with a film so deep, you almost feel stifled, overwhelmed with emotion. There are scenes in this film so palpable, so provocative I actually get riled up.  Li’l Zé is a character I feel so perilously helpless against that I even catch myself yelling expletives and throwing things. The movie is set just outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and well, I happen to be a fan of Brazilian BBQ. I think you know where this is heading.  Whenever you get all hot and bothered, just take another skewer off the grill and release your pent up rage to gnaw on some tender, marinated beef.  When you’re done, feel free to chuck the skewer at Li’l Zé’s face.

#3 Goodfellas / Ravioli, Meaty Tomato Garlic Basil Sauce, Red Wine

Well I could sit here all day, we could hold hands, and we can rave about Scorsese together.  Or I could get your panties in a bundle by telling you I think Goodfellas is better than any of the Godfather movies. The progression, the desperation, the power and money complex of the Ray Liotta character I can empathize with so much better than the muffled groans and Sicilian roots of Marlon Brando. Goodfellas is slick and ticks along at a good pace (I really think the Godfather drags).  Now I know Godfather fanatics would have a long-winded harangue on cinematography and nuanced subtleties.  But I’m looking for entertainment here and the truth is when I popped my Godfather cherry at 14, I fell asleep.  But back on topic, what other cuisine could I serve up here but Italian? Obviously.  Just make sure that garlic is cut with a razor blade.  So it liquefies in the pan with a little oil. :)

#2 Into The Wild / Alaskan Salmon, Baked Beans


When you pair a tragic but incredible story with a genius like Sean Penn you get one of my favorite films ever.  Into The Wild is a quiet but resounding commentary on society, an aspiring and awesome rendition of nature’s beauty, and a personal journey of self-discovery.  My graduation is quickly approaching, do I begin my swivel-chair-bound job or embark on a two year epic journey to the humbling wilderness of Alaska? Hopefully some butter and brown sugar marinated Alaskan salmon and campfire-style baked beans will give me the fix I need.  But if not, any suggestions for an alias? No, Alexander Supertramp is already taken!

#1 Shawshank Redemption / BBQ


Predictable, I realize.  But also necessary. Like a song you have to sing to, like a good friend you can come back to, like that feeling you get when you curl your toes up on the carpet, Shawshank is comforting and familiar.  It was regrettably overshadowed during the 1994 Oscar season (7 nominations, 0 wins) by another favorite of mine; Forest Gump.  It is the quiet simplicity, the mellow, raspy narration by Morgan Freeman (which drew inspiration from Goodfellas), the crafty escape, the haunting  adagios, and the resonance of hope that makes me love this film.  The iconic rooftop scene when the inmates enjoy a bucket of ice-cold beer as the sun kisses the prison walls reminds me to enjoy the simple pleasures, the moments of satisfaction, no matter how fleeting, isolated, or trivial they may seem.  For the ultimate feel-good, the best comfort food; BBQ.  And for those of you who made it through this list; my highly-touted concoction for the best ribs, grilled corn, and potatoes on the planet:

Roasted Corn w/ Chili Lime Butter

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Kansas City Rib Rub

Tyler Florence’s Ultimate BBQ Sauce

And of course, don’t forget to pay homage to Andy and the crew with an ice-cold beer.

So I’ve been toying with this whole design thing for a while.

I arrived to college with a passion for ‘business’.  Whatever that means.  I had this vision that I’d hit the ground running, that great ideas would spawn from the mere whisper of “entrepreneur“.  The truth is I’ve had plenty of great ideas.  But I’ve always been better at nurturing others’ visions than my own.

It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve actually embraced it. Creative direction and design, while being a whole new playground for me, is something that I love to do. It’s something that I can seem myself getting better at.  And while I know I’m a novice, rocking on the baby swing set, I know how much passion and drive can give you the momentum you need.  And I’ve got plenty of that.

For now I’ve been using my new-found passion to produce content for my internship at CloudLock.  You can find some of my work here and here.

Along with this I’ve been working on some independent, free-lance design projects.  And re-vamping  the F-Squared Designs Site.  As of today, it has been relaunched as a personal portfolio website.

I know I’ve got a lot of growing to do.  But everyone starts somewhere.

Where would I really like to start?  A digital media marketing firm.

What exactly is a digital media marketing firm?  I’m not entirely sure.  I mean I know the definition.  It’s a firm that creates media for the digital world, right?  But how does a firm like this run?  Is it the modern twist on Mad Men without the raging fits of sexism and disregard for lungs?  Is it a collection of creatives sippin’ on flat whites, peering at 27 inch iMacs and tweeting pics of their lunch?  In a world where anyone can create content on the fly via status update, tweet, blog post… do these firms boast the connoisseurs of social media?

I’m on a mission to find the answers to these questions.  I just hope I’m qualified enough to get my foot in the door.

What doors am I considering knocking on?  Here are a few:

Blitz Digital Agency

Column Five Media

Razorfish

Breakfast

Lastly, a tune that I’ve been stuck on…

So this blog was originally created to house the memories, sights, and word regurgitations of my year abroad in London.  It served it’s purpose well, but now I’m finding a need for a virtual bin to place all my written expressions, my graphic digressions, and musical finds.  So let it be written, my blog has entered a new phase.  Ready?  Set?  Flow!

I can’t believe it.  I laid down a pretty ambitious itinerary in March and to my surprise, I did it all.  Yeah, it took a night sleeping in a car, running on some financial fumes, massive data roaming charges, applying for internships at airports, a series of power naps, sketchy encounters, and registering for classes via phone, but I did it.  And it was damn amazing. The past 34 days have been seriously some of the best I’ve ever had.  It’s hard to reconcile a lot of the moments especially now that I’m back in London, AKA reality; where responsibilities and finals have suffocated the thrill of travel.  I honestly thought I’d be sick of traveling after 4 weeks of constant re-location, but instead I feel like I’ve just gotten a taste.  A tease.  A glimpse into an alternate life style of adaptation, freedom, and beauty.  And not just physical beauty.  Visceral beauty.  The kind you feel and breathe and taste.  The kind that is a product of an experience, not just a place.  But we’ll get to that.

So here is how it went down:

Lisbon, Portugal

The first stop of my trip; I fell in love with this city from the beginning.  From the colorful, eclectic architecture to the hilly landscape reminiscent of San Fran, Lisbon was a pleasant surprise.  Upon arrival we took our fresh legs for a stroll around the city and made the quick realization that this old world city was the perfect kick-start to the break.  Something about this port city’s brisk sea breeze, graffiti-plastered walls, and quiet quaintness that really spoke to me.  Bi-polar weather gave way to both sunny, cocktail-sipping lounging, and cozy tea-sipping in our hostel’s homey lounge.

Highlights: Lisbon Oceanarium, hostel’s comfy lounge, Rose and cheesecake, Belem Tower

Madrid, Spain

A short stint in the air delivered us across a border and back within the big-city feel.  Madrid had all the bells and whistles of London but with more distinct old world accents.  I dusted off my limited Spanish as we all plummeted into a world of tapas, sangria, cheap cocktails, sunshine, and flamenco dancing.

Highlights: Lateral Bar, San Miguel Market, Royal Palace, Flamenco Show, Churros con chocolate, free drinks

Barcelona, Spain

Another quick flight landed us in the Catalonian capital.  I’m going to tell you now I wasn’t impressed.  Nothing against the city itself; it’s a beautiful testament to a rich culture influenced by the talents of Picasso and Gaudi.  But I felt tourism breathing down my neck.  From the flashy displays at the Magic Fountain, to the beaches made from imported Egyptian sand,  to the hoards of tourists… it was no shock to learn that there is dissent brewing amongst locals towards the growing tourist facade in Barcelona.  Nonetheless, there was lots to do and see… and that Egyptian sand was so ideal for lounging.

Highlights: Magic fountain, Restaurant Cal Pep, Mercat de Sant Jospeph, Gaudi Park/House/Church

Rope pyramid on the beach in Barcelona

Pula, Sardinia

Although our next stop was only another short 400 mile flight, the small town of Pula (7,000 inhabitants) was a far departure from the bustling, tourist entrapment of Barcelona.  Sardinia in itself isn’t a particularly popular tourist destination but when we arrived at our B&B in the town of Pula we were the sole American tourists there.  It was so refreshing.  It was my first opportunity to don my running shoes and do a bit of hiking.  Jen and I managed to hike/climb our way down to a secluded rock overpass, spotted with tide pools.  The beaches of Sardinia we’re spectacular.  Miles of soft, silky, powdery sand.  High dunes that you could literally swim or roll down.  The water glimmers with such a pure turquoise hue; something I’ve only seen in Hawaii.

Highlights: Shotgun on the drives through Sardinia, beach of Chia, hikes, rolling down sand dunes, King Prawn

Marseilles, France

The least impressive city in my eyes, Marseilles was incredibly memorable for the things we did outside the grasps of urbanity.  The city itself was beautiful by night, when the stench and stains were blanketed by a mellow breeze and a colorful array of lights.  However, a bus ride from the central city put us on trails that toured us through the limestone calanques of Marseilles.  The calanques were host to one of the highlights of my entire year abroad.  Plunging into the icy, blue and green Mediterranean sea, feeling the salty burn in my eyes, and the bite of cold in the water… fully submerged I felt the rush, the excitement… a form of chilling contentment.  Perched on that island of limestone, sun-bathing in triumph, in retrospect, maybe wasn’t a big deal.  But at the time I forgot about all else except me, the sun, the ocean, and the rocks.  And it felt good.  So good.

Highlights: Calanques, fresh oysters at Toinou, Chateau D’If (yup, from Count of Monte Cristo)

London, England

That’s right, a return to the motherland.  My fam came over to visit the SE1 in what seemed more like an exciting, crash-course layover in London, than a one week breather.  The prior two weeks of traveling really had taken it’s tolls as I limped around the beautiful attractions of London with my family.  It was great to see them and showcase the place I’ve labeled as home for the past 7 months.  It was also great to dabble in high-class dining.  And I mean HIGH class.  Sorry Dad.  I have Ramsay to thank for the best lunch of my life and Bosi for one of the best meals of my life.  And my Dad to thank for footing the bill.

Highlights: Borrough (per usual), 7 course tasting dinner at Hibiscus, Ramsay’s, Southwark Tavern

white chocolate covered strawberry ice cream, served over dry ice

Zurich & Geneva & Zermatt, Swtizerland

2 continuous days of sleep and a load of laundry later and I found myself next to my all too familiar little black Nike carry-on, Bose headphones blasting Cudi, hands clutching my boarding pass… Destination: Zurich, Switzerland.  My 6 day excursion in Switzerland had little planning.  Armed with a tiny Ford Focus, a few hastily printed google maps, a blackberry, and a pair of limited navigational intuitions… we set out to traverse Switzerland.  And Switzerland we traversed.  800 miles of traversing and everything else.  Yeah, our diets were limited to the grocery store, our sleep limited to a couch/car seat/bunk, our shower temp limited to cold… but damn, how unlimited the beauty of of Switzerland is.  Hiking around the Matterhorn, to the point where frozen tundra blends into icy snow, we spotted a few skiiers/hikers who stated, nonchalantly, they had been skiing/hiking for the past 5 days amongst the vast, mountainous, alps.  How unlimited the Swiss people are.  Crouched upon a rock, surrounded by powdery snow, listening as cracking ice gives way to mini-avalanches upon the face of the Matterhorn… I was left in awe.

Highlights: Zermatt, hiking the Matterhorn, Rhine Falls

Athens & Santorini & Mykonos, Greece

If I left Switzerland with my jaw dropped, I only had a short layover in Slovenia to pick it back up before it was back on the ground in Santorini.  A 5 hour ferry (made bearable by a few rounds of Ring of Fire/King’s Cup) from Athens delivered us on the island of Santorini.  I saw a lot and did a lot.  Mostly on ATVs.  ATVs kick ass.  One volcano tour, a donkey ride, dip into the Mediterranean, and a lot of drinking games later… Mykonos.  Mykonos was essentially a smaller serving of Santorini with a hint of nightlife and some beautiful sunsets.  I think Greece sensed that I was running on next to nothing in the bank and provided me easy access to the delicious, cheap, all-purpose gyro around the clock.  I think I could run on gyros and smoothies for the rest of my life.

Highlights: ATVing, gyros, donkey ride, volcano tour,

Looking back on the past five weeks, I feel so incredibly fortunate.  Few have the chance or means to travel and experience what I have, especially at my age.  It was a riveting time for me.  A journey that is mine for the rest of my life.

But as soon as I end this journey I know that this ending is only the beginning.

Cheers,

J


Shit inevitably happens in life.  Many times during the most inopportune times.  But then again, is there really a convenient time for it to happen?  Timing is something that is perilously out of your control.  Time and I have had a tumultuous relationship.  When I beg for it to speed up, the slower it seems to pass.  And when all I want is a few minutes more, a moment to last just a bit longer, time will creep up with such intent, such haste.  But then I have to ask myself, if I did have control over time, what would I do it with it?  Would I reverse the clocks and fix my mistakes?  Would I slow down my times of happiness so they’d hang with me that much longer?  Would I speed up through the regrets and sorrows?  Would I put my favorite moments on replay like a song I can’t get out of my head?

If I did, what kind of person would that make me?

If I did have control over time I’d set it free.  Because the downs in life are meant to feel slow, and the ups are destined to seem quick and fleeting.  Otherwise, how easily you’d forget what unhappiness feels like and how much you’d take happiness for granted.

“Life is a storm, you will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” – Alexandre Dumas

The storm arrived.  But I’m not going to buckle, take self-pity, or wish I could turn back the clocks.  No.  I’m going to reflect, I’m going to grow, and I’m going to seek release.

What better way than to travel around Europe for 4 weeks with friends?  Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Sardinia, Marseilles, Switzerland, Greece… here I come.

J

Well I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for this post.  It’s been a while since I’ve cracked open wordpress and pecked away about my latest adventures but I’m wiping the dust off my keyboard because I’ve had an amazing time these past few many weeks, including a trip to Marrakech, Morocco and a return journey to Amsterdam.

For those of you geographically challenged, Morocco is on the north west curve of Africa.  Yeah, Africa.  The first distinguishing feature as I took the first few baby steps out of the fuselage was the warmth.  Coming from London’s coldest winter in 40+ years I was so pleased to strip off my layers to partake in socal-esque weather.  Being taxied from the airport to our rihad was my first encounter with the flow of traffic in Marrakech; otherwise known as insanity.  The streets are filled with clusters of cars, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, carts, horse-drawn carriages, and people.  Anything short of lightning-fast reflexes here and you’re destined for some cataclysmic collision.  You’re forced to drop your anxieties and just have faith that your feet won’t be crushed by the tire of a motorcycle, hoof of a horse, or wheel of a tractor.  The Riad Chouia Chouia was our place of residence for our time in Marrakech.  The Riad carried an atmosphere of comfort, coolness, and tranquility.  It’s walls were adorned with trinkets of Moroccan culture, its atrium was host to an array of plants and flowers, and it’s rooftop terrace was the site of our late-night digressions and early morning groggy breakfasts.  The Riad was conveniently located a short 5 minute walk from the main square so after a quick settling into our rooms we made our way to the bustling square.  This square was lined with brightly lit stalls that featured various juices, nuts, dates, etc.  Crowds of people were weaving in and out of the area, punctuated by various salesmen all pitching the same, cheap products.  The degree of aggressive entrepreneurialism was shocking.  It was also a glaring reminder of the poverty that inundates Marrakech.  Throughout the trip we were frequented by desperate children begging for food or spare change.  It was disheartening but was part of the experience I had anticipated.  That first night we enjoyed exploration of the square and the markets and some traditional Moroccan food.  The next few days were highlighted by a sketchy tour of the tanneries, some bargaining, more great Moroccan food, sun tanning, monkey handling, and snake charming.  Marrakech really reminded me a lot of a less touristy/glitzy version of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Solid trip, such a great break from the concrete, steel, and chill of London.

A few weeks after Morocco I took a return trip to Amsterdam to visit Annie, a friend who is studying there.  She and the family she is staying with were nice enough to house both me and Josh.  I could use a bunch of other synonyms to describe this house and still abide by Bro Code article 48 but it simply wouldn’t do the house or atmosphere any justice; the house/family/atmosphere was damn cute.  Two cats were perpetually curled up in balls our entire stay, the mother offered us crepes 24/7 with our selection of either bacon, cheese, or ice cream and also took us on a little mini-tour of her childhood home in Amsterdam.  The whole family was super accommodating and the kitchen was stocked with these tea cookies that I still occasionally dream about.  As far as touristy stuff I took a trip back to the Van Gogh museum; which mind-blew me again.  The clear evolution of Van Gogh’s work is truly spectacular.  His perspective on a common object accentuates details that I would normally overlook.  Incredible stuff.  Equally provocative was our visit to the Anne Frank house.  To walk upon the same wood floors and ascend the steep staircase that Anne Frank did over 60 years ago is a harrowing experience.  Amazing.

A lot of other stuff has happened over the ridiculous amount of time I’ve neglected my blog.  But most recently my stomach took a delicious pit stop at French Chef Joel Robuchon’s London establishment, L’Atelier.  Check the pics.

Egg Cocotte Topped with Light Wild Mushroom Cream

House Cheese Selection

Cod

J

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.