Thursday, May 31, 2012

30HG NBA Destinations: WrestleMania 29 and Indy Wrestling

When it comes to sports, Basketball and Wrestling are my twin passions. Whilst I spent 2011 looking to find a Basketball experience in each Country, I also had the pleasure of experiencing Wrestling in several regions. I was a fan of wrestling growing up but my passion for it has remained, maturing over time. I've written essays about wrestling for University, dedicated blogs to the subject and have gone on excursions seeking it. I described my love during my time in England thusly:
Coolspotting: Nerding out in England - Comics, CosPlay, Video Games and Wrestling
I often get asked why I like wrestling, my standard response is that it speaks to me intellectually. I enjoy the charisma, psychology and manipulation. Experiencing the show live, I realised I'd overlooked its obvious appeal - watching wrestling makes me feel like a kid again...
Below are the times I enjoyed Wrestling during my EuroTrip. At each event I was able to create some unique experiences, such as stumbling onto free tickets for UFC 138, making Spanish connections in Barcelona and nerding out with ROH superstar Eddie Edwards over his #12 Boston Celtics jersey
Pro Wrestling in Europe 2011
Live sports results: Barcelona, March 2011
- SWA Super Wrestling Alliance (Barcelona, Spain)

Coolspotting: Nerding out in England - Comics, CosPlay, Video Games and Wrestling
- FWA Frontier Wrestling Alliance (London, England)
- WWE Smackdown (Birmingham, England)
- UFC 138 (Birmingham, England)
- WWE Raw (Nottingham, England)

NBA Player jerseys: Overlooked eras, Forgotten teams
- WXW Westside Xtreme Wrestling (Oberhausen, Germany)
Wrestling around the world:
WWE Global Warning PPV (Melbourne, Australia) Aug 2002
Pro Wrestling NOAH (Shizuoka, Japan) Oct 2007
Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts in South America (Chile, Colombia, Brazil) 2013
- Ring of Honor, Survival of the the Fittest (Arlington, Texas) Nov 2016
- Texas All-Star Wrestling (San Antonio, Texas) Nov 2016
- Real South Wrestling Federation (Memphis, Tennessee) Apr 2017

Boston Celtics inspired tee for Hometown boy John Cena
You'll find my NBA to-do list has plenty of wrestling on the agenda. WrestleMania 29 in New York, the biggest show on earth being the obvious highlight. As 'Live Audio Wrestling' is my news source for all things in the fight game it would be a blast socialising with the gang for their 'WWE Raw' viewing parties in Toronto.

a) Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone in WCW
b) Shaquille O'Neal VS The 'Big Show'
c) The World Champion Detroit Pistons
You'd be surprised to find there is a considerable overlap between basketball and wrestling. Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone after colliding in the NBA finals extended their rivalry with confrontations on the set of Jay Leno and WCW programming. I got the chance to see Rodman fight in Sydney headlining for 'i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling' with the late Curt Hennig. Shaquille O'Neal has appeared on WWE programming having feuded with the Big Show. Not to mention Sheed and the Detroit Pistons rocking Championship Belts during their title defence.

VIDEO: Jerry The King Lawler Piledrives a fan &
Charles Barkley talks Brock Lesnar/Cena

While in the States I hope to explore as many Indie feds as possible and I imagine I'll be finding plenty of MMA which continues to grow. But Wrestling is my first love, it taps into an Americana I'm fascinated by and brings out my inner child.

Interestingly when I was speaking to the Coach of the GB Men's team enroute to Vilnius for EuroBasket. He remarked why he favored the European style of play over the American. "The NBA is a different type of basketball. Its more like WWE", in reference to its showmanship and emphasis on the individual. I replied "Well that's great for me because I love wrestling"
WrestleMania 29 and the LAW meetups appear on my Atlantic Division wishlist of the 30 Home Games mission.

Explore my to-do list for the States of the Eastern Conference
1) Central Division
Illinois | Indiana | Michigan | Ohio | Wisconsin
2) Southeast Division
Florida | Georgia | North Carolina | Washington DC

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Miami Heat are 'The Avengers'

The Miami Heat are The Avengers: James, Wade, Bosh
A team of superhumans looking to make amends after falling short - The @MiamiHEAT ARE The @Avengers

- See the Comics Superteam Conference Finals

Update: 2013
Over a full year after the Heat as Avengers meme, Miami have embodied it fully with dominant victories after each loss of the 2013 playoffs
Miami Avengers: 2013 NBA Playoffs

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

Are your Spidey Senses tingling?
My mood definitely shifted, I became suspicious of everybody. I even began questioning the authenticity of my hostel roommate, a down-on-his-luck Canadian traveler borrowing money from newly made running mates. I knew I had to find a way to get out of this mental funk. Attention is a double-edged sword. Being a traveler, a lot of possibilities were opened because people were curious and drawn to me as an outsider. I was welcomed into homes and friend circles, now this attention was being used against me. I was afraid to go out, the simplest chores would be interrupted by the constant initiation of conversation. I imagine this is the reality celebrities and hotties live in every day.

My running mate who escaped the scam unscathed was someone I befriended on the trip from Goreme to Istanbul. We bonded over our love of basketball, he was a diehard Laker fan and former intern for the team. We played a game with locals at the courts in the Nike Beyoğlu store the morning after his ordeal as he briefed me on what happened. I had my epiphany, I would convert scammer invitations into a game of hoops. It dovetailed with my 30 Home Games mission, my quest for a Basketball experience in each Country. He was skeptical, it was asking for trouble.

The genius of these scams are that they're only asking for your time. Its essentially rapport building through good conversation, a few shared drinks which sets the table for the manipulation to take place. Its only when the betrayal happens at the Clip-joint that one begins to question everything. A fellow traveler equated it to a relationship break up, especially one dissolved through infidelity. We start tracing its history, which parts were real? Was any of it genuine? Then we start looking inward, was it my fault for believing? I figured I could entice them to a game of basketball during what they thought was the "real" part.

The following few days I was upbeat, returning to my old self. Instead of shooing people away grumpily, I was looking forward to interactions but surprisingly the attention had waned. I can't pinpoint whether it was my change in energy, my familiarity or random chance. Interestingly I had begun to mutually greet one of the scammers like Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog would in the cartoons. He was a fellow in a blue/green puffer jacket I would regularly cross paths with, usually alongside a new Asian tourist. Our original encounter he tried to open me at Sultanahmet with the line "Hey you look like Michael Jackson".

In the closing days of my fortnight in Istanbul I did manage to find a genuine connection, befriending young artists at a Jazz bar. Over several days we hit the town, was welcomed into homes for dinner and tea and got to crash at a few places. The locals were understandably removed from this reality, they explained that some Current affair shows had shed some light on the scams in Istanbul. As it was a crime of opportunity, Turks from the east unfamiliar with the big city were also being scammed. Most attention was paid to non-Turks because they were ideal targets, distinct, lucrative and crucially - naive.

The charming person I spent most of the time with mindblowingly did her major thesis on 'Hyperreality' - a pet topic of mine. On my final day I was welcomed into her friend's apartment, we discussed scamming and reality as we smoked and drank in their attic. Their roommate, a Syrian revolutionary taking refuge in Turkey arrived late into the evening. He began in the front lines for the cause but decided his powers were best served in media relations. He weighed in on the conversation by showing videos he'd filmed that day presenting two versions of reality for the same event, one for dissemination now and the other truth to be released after the revolution was won. 

It was a memorable way to close my experience in Turkey and it gave me a sobering take on the scamming experience. I've always been fascinated by the power of charisma and the bending of reality but this underlined for me that its ultimately playing with fire. My running mate who escaped the scam had himself conceded, "As bad as it could have turned out, it'll likely go down as the most interesting that happens on this trip".

During this time creating genuine experiences with amazing new friends, the basketball mouse trap was the furthest thing from my mind. I never did get to hoop it up with a scammer, I didn't even come close to as invitations had dried up. I'm still intrigued by the prospect of holding court with a scammer but the idea served its purpose as it shifted my mood and I found the genuine experience I was searching for. I'll file it as 'Incomplete' and still hope to achieve it if I ever return to Istanbul. If someone is able to execute it on my behalf I would love to hear your story.

After a great evening capping off my time and saying my goodbyes the morning after, I had one final rude awakening. As I checked in at Atatürk International Airport the teller informed I wasn't in the system for any flights that day. I scanned my ticket, checked my phone everything seemed fine. It was then I realised that my Calendar settings were set to 2011. My Turkish friend had borrowed my phone 5 days earlier to use her SIM, I must've mistakenly applied the wrong settings when I turned it back on so the dates corresponded to the wrong days. I had been operating a day in advance this whole time, my flight was actually for tomorrow.
Everything is real until the moment it isn't.

- Scams in Istanbul: Why I trust people (1 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: Why people trust others (2 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

The folks at IndieTravelPodcast have a comprehensive discussion on several possible scams travelers might encounter - Indie Travel Podcast Ep 212: Travel Scams, cons and Travel safety

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Supreme x North Face: High Fashion Streetwear for Backpackers

I had presented the Jordan 2012 passport previously to whet the appetites of cool kids who love their travel. Now comes some 'World Map 5-Panel Caps via Supreme, hot off their collabo with North Face for their 'Capsule Collection' of Jackets and Bags.
Supreme World Map 5-Panel Caps via High Snobiety

Supreme x The North Face Spring/Summer 2012
Capsule Collection via High Snobiety 

Friday, May 11, 2012

MONSTER! Andrew Bynum - Triple Double No Assist

Game 1: Andrew Bynum 10 points, 10 blocks, 13 rebounds
The Denver Nuggets have pushed the LA Lakers to Game 7 after being down 1-3. Bynum delivered a 'Monster' Game 1 performance that brought to life a brilliant Kanye lyric from 'Monster'.
MONSTER by Kanye West ft Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross & Bon Iver
and I'm bout to take it to another level bitch
there you go again, ain't nobody as cold as this
do the rap and the track triple double no assist
but my only focus is staying on some bogus shit
argue with my older bitch acting like I owe her shit 
Since I've got some juice on the Lakers pulling through, I'm not invested on an underdog victory for this series. I'd just made a 'Beat LA' wallpaper so this Andrew Bynum wallpaper is my way of redressing the balance.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Scams in Istanbul: Why people trust others (2 of 3)

VIDEO: Aladdin - Do You Trust Me?

During my weakest point in Istanbul, I would think of this famous Disney clip and amuse myself by humming 'A Whole New World'. My intent shifted from sarcasm to optimism.


This is a cautionary tale. I myself have never been scammed in the following way. My brother was scammed in similar fashion in China (Tea Ceremony scam) and my good German friend experienced another variation in Malaysia (blackjack scam). My American running mate in Istanbul ran through the complete course taking 5hrs total. Fortunately he escaped unscathed, no Standover men forcing him to the ATM. I joke that his scammer was in a 'Jules Winnfield-like 'transitional period' and just let him go. The "Clip-joint" scam is explained below
The Single Male Scam
One of these is the "Let's Have a Drink" Scam which results in your paying a drinks bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros... While you wander around on your own in the evening, you're approached by a well-dressed man who speaks good English. He chats with you, then he suggests you have a drink together, and leads you to a bar or nightclub that's in on the scam.
VIDEO: Scam City Istanbul (National Geographic)

Below are a sample of the dozen interactions I experienced, these examples on their own shouldn't raise any red flags but do illustrate the variety of scripts. Most of these stories happen from 4pm onwards, as it approaches dark. I am dressed casually (hoodie, trackpants, no bags/camera) and all my interactions began with approaches in English, inexplicably they would say “Sorry, I thought you were Turkish“.

Just like making a sale or attracting a partner - the routine is about triggering certain human behaviours
Appearance: Young, Mobile phone in ear
Location: Sultanahmet Square, walking alongside
Story: Kurdish man on holidays from Antalya
Approach: (Phone in ear) "Excuse me which one is Haghia Sophia and which one is the Blue Mosque?"

Appearance: Older, Very well dressed
Location: Galata köprüsü (main walkbridge with Fishermen), In my path then stops suddenly to enjoy the view with me
Approach: "How far down do you think it is?"

Appearance: Young, dressed for going out
Location: Taksim Beyoğlu
Story: Visiting Istanbul from Izmir, staying at a hostel
Approach: "We are staying at x Hostel... they suggested this bar worth checking out"
Scams are a subversion of the ordinary interactions we have in daily life. Preying on our better nature, they are most effective when they address a want or a need. Scammers see these as 'vulnerabilities'. When our house is on fire, its reasonable to trust the first person we see with a uniform and hose.

When the want or a need is a "free lunch" or something sexual, its understandable why others would be unsympathetic but more often than not the wants are innocent. In the case of the Istanbul clip-joint scams, it could be a yearning for good company, seeking a local connection or just an interesting night out. A scammer is a 'Man with a plan', they target wayward travelers offering direction and directions.

I like to travel with an open mind and have found that all my best experiences in life involve me trusting in others. Most new relationships and experiences are founded on this principle, we use our value systems to balance Risk VS Reward then we make instinctual decisions. On-the-street interactions is how I arrived at many of my best experiences traveling. I didn't want to lose this aspect of my journey. This episode certainly made me more mindful and more grateful of the good fortune I'd had up to this point.

Everyday people are being scammed. Tourists are soft targets because they often stick out and are often more trusting. Looking through forums discussing Travel scams I've found people tend to break down into these types:
1) Victims - ranging from philosophical to vengeful
2) Cautious know-it-alls
3) Defensive locals

Instead of depriving myself of a great Turkish experience (which I had) because I was afraid of unwanted attention, I instead calibrated my state of mind. The more I reflect on this time, the more I realise how human the experience was. As an adventurous person by nature, I would have been perfect fodder for this scam thankfully things transpired differently. I found myself fascinated and obsessed with this stomach-turning game, it was when I read this that everything changed:

CAREFUL: SCAM in Istanbul...
... My guy was very well dressed and well spoken, when I told him I was just going to check my email and then return to my hotel because I was tired, he said he also needed to find a net-cafe and skype his family (he told me he was a business man from out of town !) and he even paid for my net use. I even got to say hello to his wife and child, so how could I suspect a lovely family guy ? Anyway, much the same as everyone else...
- BP007
Enter Basketball...

- Scams in Istanbul: Why I trust people (1 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: Why people trust others (2 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brand new "Beat the Heat" & "Beat LA" wallpapers

'Beat the Heat' wallpaper
'Beat LA' wallpaper
"Brand New" by Rhymefest feat. Kanye West
Now ain't - that about a bitch
And I'ma talk shit until I'm out of hits
They don't want to turn they speakers up they claim I ain't deep enough
All that talkin' I feed off of - keep it up
I'm relaxin' my feet is up - I'm leavin' you haters
Like when Shaq left the Lakers just to "Heat" it up
Seeing as the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat matchup for the 2nd rd has been finalised, Boom Baby productions has released their own 'Beat the Heat' merch. Find it at the Pacers NBA store here.
I suspect OKC will release their own Beat LA shirts so I'll update the wallpaper accordingly.

'Beat the Heat' Wallpaper: Pacers update