Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rookie in AK

Rookie Sam Hulbert rolled in to AK a few days ago. He's hot off a couple big victories in important snowboarding tournaments. But, as you can see he needs an energy drink sponsor because he can't stay awake. Rookie has been handling the footy stacking especially when we create a "contest like" atmosphere around him. We give him two runs off every jump and put banners up along the landing and blue chalk on the knuckles. We also have cardboard cutouts of important media and team manger types and this really seems to motivate him. On the day pictured he got second place right behind Brandon Reis (even though Brandon wasn't there, weird....).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Career Goals

Pika and Sarah with Anastasia, the newest member of the Hooters family!

I don't really know how to tie this "cool story" into the Think Thank blog, but it's too funny NOT share it. With school tuition at UW through the roof and then the all to familiar life expenses of rent, food and i-phones, one of the student workers at my other job had to find a second source of income. Well, she did. She is now a Hooters Girl. I just couldn't believe my eyeballs when she showed us her uniform. Taupe tights, white tube-socks and sneakers, a translucent tank top and the shortest shorts in existence besides on the beaches of Rio. So if you're in Seattle and want to grab some wings, go to Hooters and ask to sit at Anastasia's table. And don't forget to tip! College ain't cheap!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cool Story Japan!

What is this?! A new blog post?! OMG!! Well, we've been busy making moments, and haven't done the most stellar job blogging about it. My bad! So I'm going to go in retrograde motion and fill in at least one of the gaps that I feel just should not go untold. This is Cool Story Japan, as described by me, Pika.

Our first run in with the authorities at the Narita airport.

It's February 3rd, 2009 and we're embarking on a 2 week trip to the main island (Honshu) of Japan. What? Not Niseko? Been there done that! Ha, ha, just kidding. But no, really we went to Niseko two years ago, and it was super hella awesome, but we wanted to venture into some uncharted territory. A place with a lot of diverse terrain, including mini-shred opportunities, so Hakuba it was! This is where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held, you might know it as Nagano, which is the name of the Prefercture. And Hakuba is like a magical place that you'd never even guess existed. It's only a 1.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo to Nagano Station and then a hour bus ride to Hakuba where the "Alps of Japan" lie in white, sexy splendor. (Way easier and cheaper to get to than Niseko) About 10 ski areas make up this winter wonderland, including Happo-one, Goryu, Hakuba 47, Sun Alpina, Iwatake, Tsugaike, Norikura, Cortina and they're mostly all accessible by ski buses, so we opted out of renting our own whip.

Backcountry at Goryu

Jesse in front of huge Bavarian-esque hotel at the base of Cortina

This trip had all of the perfect elements for a hammer filming mission. Mike Yoshida was able to take time out of his Ironman schedule to come take photos, Jesse Burtner a.k.a Beastmaster was there to corral, herd and inspire, Sean Genovese handling the flat landings, Tim Eddy bringing back the 1980s, Chris Beresford making mini-shred miracles, and me, Pika filming the onslaught of creative carving and holding down the logistical fortress. I loved this team, even when the snow was less then optimal, there was plenty of lemonade being made from the lemon snow. Not to be confused with yellow snow.

Mike getting out the big guns

Windstorm 2009

One nice thing about not renting a car, was that we had to mingle. This is surprisingly not something you have much energy to do on a filming trip. But, we were on a ski bus, or walking along the side of the road, or our property manager would shuttle us around. And during these trysts, we'd end up meeting a lot of people! Also, I think our friends, Etsuro and Kana, had told some people we were coming, and somehow the word got around, so I think people were expecting us to some extent. We walked into a shop that our friend told us to go to called Garage 902 on our first day and we were just going to say "hi", but instead we got adopted. It was awesome! Ken Ken, Masaki and Sam pretty much took us under their wing. Sam even lent us his van one day, which I personally probably wouldn't do for a near perfect stranger, but now I might. Maybe.

At Cortina with our new friends.

Ski-bussing it to Goryu

Maki, Ken Ken and Endo show us the ropes.

Ken Ken honors us with props to Think Thank.

We must not have broken any mirrors before we went because we got to Hakuba right when fresh snow started falling, the first in weeks. It was good up right up until the very end, when after a 40cm snowfall one night, the Gods seemed fit to drown us in rain which took a toll on the snow pack, but not on our spirits! You see, without a car, we explored a lot on our feet, and Sam drove us around one day to all these spots within walking distance of our house. So we found all these sweet spots that just seemed like abandoned buildings to the untrained eye, but to this team of snow-whisperers, were like magical playgrounds full of possibility. I don't want to give away too many Think Thank secrets, but we had a secret weapon to get the job done. See movie "Cool Story" to see said "secret weapon."

Hotel built for the Olympics, now abandoned to the elements.

The only thing that we had trouble coping with in Hakuba was the ski patrol, who are like Nazi Storm Troopers! Dang, we aren't used to ski patrol hassling us, and we're not used to having so much of the mountain being off-limits, but in Hakuba, they full on were trailing us down the runs waiting for us to duck the ropes. Riding off-piste is a cardinal sin in Hakuba evidently. We would split into smaller groups to try to get all stealthy, but they'd patiently wait and keep following us, even riding up the chairlifts right behind us. I guess, our shovels, snowshoes, bright jackets and big packs didn't help disguise our intentions, so lesson learned was dress all in snow camo, with invisible gear and go solo and meet up at a secret rendezvous point. We did get some priceless footage where Sean decided to just start filming the ski patrol following us. Our friends said that ski patrol will pretty much take your pass, take your photo to put on a wall of Hakubas-most-wanted, and even call your boss to disgrace you. Snowboarding just shouldn't be that stressful, so instead of playing chase with our ski patrol buddies, we decided to go somewhere else, hike out and hide from the world.

Beresford making things happen in Norikura after escaping from the Cortina ski patrol.

Yoshida san hiding from the ski patrol

Dance, dance, dance revolution! One night, our friend Sam put together this dance party that he got all sorts of local shops to sponsor. It was from 9pm to 5am! We lasted until about 2 am, which would have been closin'er down Stateside. Japanese bars know how to burn that midnight oil! It was pretty much our only night out drinking on the trip and we had saved up our energy for it, since Sam somehow managed to hang out with us in-between Snow Monkey Tours and Event Planning, we weren't going to miss a chance to support his cause! His band played too which was fun to see, and we got frisky on the dance floor with the Australians. Yes, there are lots of Aussies in Hakuba! A ton az!

Sam on the bass

Jesse and Dai from HCSC

It was really sad leaving Hakuba. What it lacks in accessible back country due to over zealous ski patrol, it makes up in community, untouched filming possibilities and overall pure-stoke attitude. How often do you make life-long friends in 11 days?

A blazingly fast bullet-train ride later and we were back in Tokyo. Neither Tim or Chris had ever been to Japan before, so seeing them see Tokyo for the first time, made it sort of like seeing it for the first time for me too. We always stay in this funny part of Tokyo called Ikebukuro. I say it's funny because every time we come, our Japan Distributor laughs, and asks why we don't stay in a place closer to Shibuya or somewhere that is more in the mix. But I love it! It happens to be the district where all of the "Love Hotels," Pachinko parlors and drunk business men are, so I guess it's not the most glamorous, but I kind of like to stay where we're the only white people walking around, and people make Takoyaki right out of their vans. Also it's right on the "Yamonote/Green Line" so getting around is easy as ... takoyaki.

Takoyaki is like a fried squid dumpling.... oishii!

Where else in Tokyo are there giant cones?!

The gang at the gates of "Sensoji" aka: Asakusa Kannon Temple

Tim telling us a "Cool Story" in front of the Asahi Headquaters

Bling Change

Sean with the only snow monkey I saw on this trip

One of the reasons we planned on going to Japan when we did, was that we wanted to get a full 11 days on-hill filming, but had to get back to Washington for the Holy Oly. We planned it perfectly to spend 2 full days in Tokyo and 1 day to go to the SBJ and Interstyle trade shows in Yokohama before heading home. Our buddies Kana and Yuki who Jesse has known for years spending summers at HCSC met us in Tokyo and helped acclimate us to the ways of Japanese youth culture. We went to multi-plex arcade/gambling parlors, vending-machine-ticket restaurants, a cacophony of creperias, and most memorable was a place called "The Lockup" where the patrons are prisoners in jail cells being served drinks with floating eyeballs, white powdery sugar to look like cocaine, or in meth beakers and other sorts of vials. At one point all of the lights turned off and a loud siren started blaring while people dressed up as monster-convicts ran around screaming. It was amazing.

Hardest decision of the day was which crepe to get?!?!

Kana and Yuki take us to The Lockup where we almost didn't escape from the sexy warden and zombie prisoners.

The next day Kana and Yuki swooped us up from our Ryokan (Japanese-style Inn) and we were on our way to Trade Show world. Both trade shows went on concurrently in the same building. So convenient. Unlike SIA where you have to do an iris scan to gain entry, at SBJ and Interstyle you just filled out a half sheet form with your name and address and checked off a box describing what line of work you were in and presto, a badge with your name on it! No pretending to be someone else! We did some meet and greet, hung out with Hiro at Visualize Image, Etsuro and Mike Miyazawa from Advance Marketing, the Lib distributor in Japan, and got to thank in person Maiko from K2 Japan who helped hook us up with some lift tickets. The most exciting part was Hiro telling us about the Alien Workshop video "Mind Field" premiering in Tokyo that night. I think Jesse has been waiting for that to come out for 4 years, so he could hardly contain himself.

On the train heading to Yokohama with Yuki and Kana

Jesse with Advance Marketing's Mike Miyazawa and Etsuro. Lib Tech kills it in Japan!

Sean personalizing the DWD booth

Jesse with Hiro from Visualize Image, our Japan distributor

Jesse, Pika and Etsuro

We blazed out of the tradeshow and went directly, well, after a banana, chocolate gelato with chocolate syrup and whip cream crepe, to the Burton office in Shibuya where Mind Field was going to to go office supplies. Arto Sari was there in person, along with Dylan Reider and Jake Johnson. The space was small and intimate with maybe 50 people standing in the indoor skate park where the premiere was held. The video blew minds, it looked like all of the time and effort put into it paid off. After a autographed copy of Mind Field later, we headed to an Izakaya for some last frothy beers with our friends before heading back to the good ol' US of A. Maki and Ken Ken even came out and our new friend Miyuki.

Arto just mere feet from us!

Chris and Tim "with" Arto

Japan is one of my favorite places to travel. From Seattle, it's a direct flight, and you can find tickets through IACE travel for really good prices. The people take a lot of pride in their work. Whether blue collar or white collar, Japanese put 110% into their jobs. It's clean, organized and honest. They have amazing mass transit. The food is healthy, and always full of surprises. The snowboarding is progressive, innovative and unique and a perfect place to go do a little bit of everything. Just watch out for those ski patrol! They'll get you every time!

Our last goodbyes! Thanks for coming with us to the airport Yuki!