Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pompeii, Italy. April/May 2010--just got back a week ago. Not a Cities show, this, but something for a British concern which will eventually find it's way onto American television in the not-distant future. What a mysterious and magnificent story worth another telling.

If I'm any indication--and I think I am-- the average Joe or Nancy has little idea of the intricacies of this ancient disaster. I guess intricate is an odd word to use when discussing a Plinian eruption (think Mt. St. Helens), even one that happened two thousand years ago, but after a week of interviewing Italian vulcanologists on rates of ash and pumice deposit, seismologists on earthquake effects, and historians on life at the height of the Roman Empire, not to mention a forensic anthropologist on another very important matter I can report loudly and clearly that there's a lot more to Pompeii and Vesuvius than meets the eye--and not just because it was all buried for centuries.

In brief, here's the tale, for anyone who doesn't know. Pompeii and its surrounding towns were, in August 79 AD, among the jewels of the Roman empire. They represented Roman splendor and extravagance since this was, in part, a playground for the elite. Basically, the money went there to play. Then, on that fateful day, it all met its tragic end in the most famous volcanic eruption of all time. Countless died in terrible days that ensued as these glorious communities were buried beneath, in some places, a hundred feet of ash and earthen material.

The upside of such a downer is that the burial of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and other locations essentially preserved these places in a kind of time capsule, making it possible for modern generations to walk the streets of these storied towns. It's not exactly like you're in 79 AD but its pretty close. A lot closer than, say, walking around the Forum in Rome. In Pompeii and Herculaneum you see building after building. And where they've done restoration you really see how the other half lived in this ancient place. It kind of takes your breath away.

So why me? They said they needed an everyman's perspective. So I went--hope you eventually like what you see. Especially about Pompeii.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Public Relations in the Desert

Give this a try for an interview re: speech next week in La Quinta. When the News website comes up, look for "Don Wildman Cities of the Underworld"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Speaking Out

I'm headed to La Quinta, CA, tomorrow to prep for a speech I'm making there on Sept. 11. I chose that date from a list because a) it worked for me and b) it's time to make it just another day again. Not to forget that horrible tragedy--I lived through it myself while living in NYC and will NEVER FORGET WHAT I SAW--but rather to try and express a positive in the face of such a negative. So I'm giving a talk about the underworld, which can actually be a very positive place.

Each time I speak in public I think, "what would these people like most to hear?" A little like writing a blog; you know they probably only saw a few shows at best and they barely have a notion who I am. So I start scrolling through the shows in my head and all my experiences around the world, thinking them through, making notes, scribbling ideas. I end up thinking so much that, in the end, the same thing always happens: I just talk. And, you know, it works. Because the underworld is inherently intereresting it almost doesn't matter what I say.

This time I do know that I'm going to speak about Jacquo Silvertant, a fine gentleman who lives in The Netherlands, right at the border with Belgium. Jacquo is part of a team of guys who are trying hard to preserve the most AMAZING and extensive system of tunnels that run beneath the City of Maastricht. The Caestert Quarries. Miles and miles of ancient limestone quarries that became the subterranean quarters of a hidden sect of workers who worked out of sight of the local church hierarchy and were therefore perceived as a subversive threat. Their reaction seems to have been to dig even deeper. All through these epic spaces you can see the graffitti left from centuries of stone workers...and the religious men who came looking for them.

Please have a look around the links here for more info and some amazing pix of the spaces and the graffitti. Keep in mind, this is 15th century graffitti still preserved down there in the dark.

I am so impressed by Jacquo and his kind, these activists around the world who seek to preserve spaces we don't ever see. Jacquo wants to make it a World Heritage Site.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Money, Money, Money

So here's a idea for increasing your financial prosperity. In Vietnam, we're shooting b-roll of the Hanoi streets. Which basically means wandering around the crowded blocks in the oldest neighborhoods and shooting the atmosphere, me walking among it...and on this day we come upon a gate of the original city walls. Gorgeous artifact of the antique municipality (which, in general, is a cool mix of Vietnamese and French Colonial architectural styles). Vietnam is a place with a still-developing tourism industry that allows one to get away with a lot more than you would in, say, Hollywood, where I'm writing at this moment. So you can pretty much do what you want--or at least we did that day. Given the opportunity for a great shot, our determined producer and crew would always just go and get it. In this case, they found a ladder and hauled cameras and themselves on top of the gate, sending me down the road to wander photogenically through the market crowds.

As we all mounted the sacred thing, we found a shrine. And on this shrine, money, being prayed for. I just loved the transparency of it all--you need money, just ask for it, just stick it right up in there for the Gods to see. Or was it simply an offering? Either way, these days, dong or dollars. Bring'm on.

Where's Waldo? See the camera crew?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Posted by PicasaOkinawa. Love the Asian lands--or rather, in this case, I-land. Home of my favorite beer, Orion, a Japanese brewery begun in 1957 basically to sell beer to the enormous US military presence there. Got a lot of soldiers, they need a lot of beer, you make a lot of money. You also need a lot of ice-cream and they started a now-beloved brand there, too. But for the beer, somehow that left me with a much-needed feeling of hope regarding the American effect upon our world. Orion's rather odd but adorable slogan: "LIVE FRESH AND SMOOTH-UNIQUE." I've taken this into my life, as I attempt to become "smooth-unique." What better goal?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Early Days

It is late summer now and I'm camped in Los Angeles doing more thinking than exploring. I wake at dawn to stumble into my backyard and close myself in the garage. That's where I have a makeshift office, where I turn on my laptop, open my books, and begin the daily descent to my inner underworld. Not always a healthy place to be. But not always bad, either. I mean, really, how many months can one traipse the planet in search of amazing adventures, both historical and physical? How many days and weeks in exotic locales immersed in foreign cultures and unique experiences? Yeah, okay--so, it's a little depressing that I'm here in the land of strip malls and freeways when there's a such world out there, one I've explored for three straight years. But there's writing to be done here and that's a good thing! Right? Right. Write!! Anyway, it keeps landing me in these places in my mind. And you don't have to buy a plane ticket to your own mind. So here we shall reside for a time to ponder burrows and bunkers, holes and hovels--the undergrounds, from the shows and not.

But first I'm thinking of all these folks who've written me in the last months from every corner of the earth. Wow. All these kind fans who've watched the shows around the world and written on Facebook inviting me to their countries to join them below. A kind of Underground Patriotism, really charming! I wish I had the wherewithal to do so--it'd be great. Visiting Andres in Columbia, Ana in Mexico, Fredrick in Toronto, Aleksandar in Serbia, a bunch of folks in Malaysia and Taiwan. Argentina. Israel. It never ceases to amaze me that some guy from New Jersey can talk into a camera and less than a year later people all around the globe are writing him notes. It's awesome--I'm really quite humbled. first installment, next post: Japan.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Way Down

Underworld Fans. I have been entirely blown away these last months at the interest expressed in our show, CITIES OF THE UNDERWORLD. As such--and as host--I am embarking upon a bit of writing. A blog, to be sure, but depending on interest, more as well. Over the past months, it has become evident that ours was an unusual-enough effort, galloping the globe and diving below it, making inroads to the coolest netherplaces, to justify further exploration And so...

What follows are entries with links. At least, if I figure out how to make that happen--links to the many available clips online, articles of interest, stuff. We saw SO MANY PLACES that you wouldn't believe it and you really would be amazed by how much didn't find its way into the shows along with personal memories, anecdotes, tips, insights. Outlandish things that happened in every corner of Asia, Africa, Europe, and, of course, the Americas. I suppose you could piece it all together if you watched every show and then had a couple beers with me. But I'm trying to save you the trouble. Plus some of you don't drink.

For now, a blog. I hope you enjoy and please leave comments/questions and I'll engage whenever possible! Thanks!