Sunday, April 22, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Escape Routes - Everglades Style

Part two of a two-part series behind-the-scenes on the set of Ford Escape Routes.  Click here for Part One.

Day two of my behind-the-scenes shenanigans with Ford's reality tv show Escape Routes was even better than the first, since we schlepped out to the Sawgrass Recreation Park just outside the gates to Alligator Alley in Weston. And you know I love me some Glades; I wear a silver crocodile ring, for pete's sake.

For Everglades newbies, this is an ideal area to explore the River of Grass without getting too hardcore deep into the mucky wilderness. You can see the Panthers Stadium in the distance, so you know you're at the border of civilization.


Each team of Escape Routes had to row and troll an aluminum skiff across a man-made canal, retrieve "show" alligators and snakes from the handlers, put them in pens or bags, return to the other bank and place the "captured" critters behind competitor's cars.

The animal handler I interviewed said that the alligators who were part of the competition were raised in captivity and used to this kind of thing. But the human cast? Most certainly not!

Rossi Morreale with Colombian Boa
Host Rossi Morreale looks very comfortable with his slithery friend and that's because he once owned a Colombian boa -- and no, not the kind a drag queen would wear.

It was a hoot to watch them get waist-deep into the water in their camouflage snake boots, rowing like mad and some not quite sure how to use the trolling motor. Folks, it's like using an immersion blender when you purée hot soup: stick it in the water if you don't want it to splash and sputter!


The whole competition took about an hour, but we waited quite a few more before it happened. So I had time to poke around when I wasn't annoying the field production manager with questions about how close I could get without appearing in frame. (He was a very nice guy, by the way.)

Behind the Scenes ford escape routes
The scene before shooting.  I was filming behind the jib, hoping it wouldn't knock me on the head when it swiveled.

Yours Truly with Video Gear canon ax10 filming in everglades
Yours truly with her humble gear. That steady stick is a lifesaver. I'd have no arms or shoulders left by the end of the day if it weren't for that gadget.

Prior to this week, I'd never been behind-the-scenes on a reality TV show set. The competition was interesting, to be sure, but seeing all the production technology set up in the Glades, almost in the middle of nowhere, was quite impressive.

The director's tent was hooked up to massive servers, cameras were rigged wirelessly to a huge monitor, standing microphone receptors were placed along the levee -- all powered by one single portable generator.

Unlike many other reality tv shows, this one is filmed Monday through Thursday with an air time of Saturday evening. I bet the director and editors never sleep. As well, because of the show's in-depth social media engagement, there's much online content to process. It's an intense six weeks not only for the cast, but for the crews and creative teams that make it happen.

But back to the competition! Terence was one of the first to be eliminated and it was fun to hear him from the peanut gallery as the others raced to finish. Each team worked well together, huffing and puffing to get the job done. The lovely ladies of Team Yellow won -- not bad for two models who had never stuck a foot in gator-infested waters!


By the way, it was a bit ironic that snakes and gators would be featured on the same show. You know, we have a little problem here in South Florida with invasive pythons, just ask the USGS.  And remember this photo of a python bursting out of a gator's belly?

But I can assure you, all the animals on the set were captive and treated royally. If you do go out into the Everglades, make sure you know the difference between your native and non-native reptiles. Learn more at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission website.

And don't forget to follow the gang on Escape Routes, airing for another two weeks on NBC at 8PM.

More photos on Flickr:



Yes, I was paid to write this, get over it. All opinions mine and I drive GM car.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Ford Escape Routes - Miami Style

Part one of a two-part series behind-the-scenes on the set of Ford Escape Routes.  Click here for Part Two.


I had you at bikini, right?

So Ford approached me to go behind-the-scenes at the Miami shoot of their new social media driven reality show, Escape Routes, and how could I say no? Especially since they were PAYING ME, hello?

We interrupt this blog post to recognize a very untypical EGREGIOUS FTC DISCLOSURE here at Sex and the Beach ...

Anyway, as I was saying, I was paid to spend a day with a bunch of friendly hams who were just begging to be in front of Vicequeen's camera for exclusive interviews! Talk about twist my arm.

And if you can absolutely tell me you don't go gaga over Team Black with Drew and Derek relaxing bare-chested under the sea grape trees, you are in a coma, girl.

Team Black From Ford Escape Routes

But before you Miamians think I'm just being a corporate shill, check out the video above for some great shots of JetLev action off a squatter's key near a Coconut Grove Marina. Yeah, like poor people live on islands by Fresh Market, whatever. Host @rossimorreale thinks that Miami people are beautiful models; obviously, he hasn't been to Walmart in Hialeah!

But did you know some engineering genius developed the idea of flying over water here in our neighboring Dania Beach?  A clever idea, but not one to be used by drug runners, right Rakontur?


Justine Loves Her Tech Gear

One of the highlights of the day was talking to Jurassic vlogger @ijustine about tech gear. I say Jurassic not because the cute bubbly blonde looks like a fossilized reptile, but because she has been vlogging since Jesus was a boy. What's more, she salivated over my Canon XA10, steady stick and Rhode boom mic covered with a very fuzzy windshield. She had me at "xlr" ... a true techy babe if there ever was one.


As a former Ford Fiesta Agent, I couldn't help but think this was the original movement on steroids.  The show incorporates audience participation through social media channels.

Do you remember that crazy shit Brad and I did with Ford two years ago? Brad towed a Ford car with a bicycle while I practically peed in my pants trying to steer the vehicle down Flagler street.  Oh, we also wrestled alligators in Orlando, Florida.  Well, to be more precise, Brad wrestled while I kneeled inches away from the gator's mouth recording the scene on camera.

You see, it was never about the car, but about the experiences afforded by the car.

Kudos to Ford for some very progressive social media thinking and for making everything I do with this brand so much darn freakin' fun.

And I hope my GM Southeast friends don't read this, because right now I must officially declare myself a promiscuous car whore!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Silicone Bitch: Ted Rubin Was Like the Dos XX Guy and Other Takeaways From Hispanicize

Last week, a flock of bloggers, social media influencers, brand representatives, news agencies and more -- to the tune of nearly 1,000 -- alighted upon downtown Miami for an intense 4-day conference. Now in its third year, Hispanicize is the Latino equivalent of SxSw, with over 60 panels and activities ranging from interactive brand experiences, film screenings, lavish parties and more.

Principal founder Manny Ruiz, a Miamian who writes Papi Blogger, definitely impressed Silicone Bitch with his brainchild. It was a marathon, non-stop event, where of course, there was plenty of opportunity to share and learn, but also to network like mad.

Mass breakfasts and lunches with keynote speakers on stage made the already delicious fare taste even better at downtown's swanky JW Marriott Marquis. Attendees heard Cesar Millan, host of Dog Whisperer talk about how he got started in his career. "I asked people if I could walk their dog for free."

Emilio Estefan -- do I really have to tell you who he is? -- regaled us with stories about his humble beginnings and insanely successful career as a musician and producer. Bumping into another Cubano, Stephen Bauer of Scarface and Que Pasa, USA? fame, wasn't too shabby either.

But the real celebrities here were the bloggers. So many of them, in fact, that it was dizzying, but in a good way. Faces I have seen on avatars and names I have tagged on blogger communities in Facebook became real for me for the first time.

At the core here was simplemente pasión -- passion for self-publishing and homegrown entrepreneurship which is the motivation for many bloggers.


Yours truly presented on a panel about travel blogging along with Manny Ruiz, Laura Spencer, a PR representative from Disney and Tracey Friley from One Brown Girl.

A general takeaway from the panel, via One Brown Girl: "don't just write because you're expecting something from a brand or a sponsor. Write about it because you were going to write about it anyway." And from me: "You don't have to travel to China to be a travel blogger. Focus on what's unique in your own backyard. Become a travel resource for visitors to your own community."


hispanicize conference miami
No business cards were harmed during Hispanicize.

I wasn't able to attend all the events because of work commitments (it's hard to go on vacation when you're a local), but even with my limited participation I made great connections with filmmakers, other journalists, brand agencies, PR reps and of course, many bloggers.

At one of the parties, hosted by McDonald's on a yacht, I ended up doing some impromptu coaching for a young blogger I truly admire, and there among the noise and disco lights, I helped assuage certain doubts and anxieties about her blog.

In a funny moment, someone confessed he'd been stalking my food porn on Twitter for over a year and a half.

Dinner with three other bloggers turned into a great mini-forum in sharing our best practices.

Someone who stopped me in the hallway asked if she should quit trying to get published in print. My answer: "Don't quit trying, but don't put all your eggs in one basket when the world of online publishing is your oyster. A byline on paper isn't the same it was 10 years ago."

I helped another blogger figure out how to plan a travel series without depending on brand sponsors.

The panels were great, but it's these moments in between the seams, the personal connections, that I carry with me. The sense of community and bonding was my best takeaway.


mom blogger hispanicize
A smart marketing move: print your blog logo on a tote bag.

Yes, it was divertidísimo, with lots of dancing. Oh yeah, mucho bailando.

And in case you are wondering about Ted Rubin, he's a dynamo of a guy, a great motivator whom I always bump into at conferences. His talk on ROR (return on relationship) was extremely popular, so he was quite possibly the most interesting man at Hispanicize. I'll let the video do the talking … (and thanks to Ted for being a good sport.)

Kudos to Hispanicize leaders, staff and volunteers for putting together this event. Follow them @hispanicize and track the hashtag #hispz12. Year-round, Hispanicize is a resource of Hispanic social media marketers and Latino bloggers.

More photos on Facebook.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Taste of Spain in Downtown Miami

A Taste of Spain at DB Bistro Moderne Miami

My mouth went to Spain the other day.

Tender, smoky octopus, redolent of the salt spray that splashed my skin when I went fishing in Galicia -- combined with a tangy piquillo pepper sauce, garbanzos, perfectly briny black olives and roasted Marcona almonds -- made me wonder if I hadn't boarded a flight on Iberia and traversed the entire peninsula from Andalucía to the shores of the Bay of Biscay, all in one mouthful.

While slowly enjoying each bite, I envisioned Flamenco dancers from the south and Gaiteros performing Celtic jigs to the north. Along the way, I saw fields of sunflowers and the castle ruins of Castilla-León.

I am rarely this inspired by food. This dish transported me.

Pulpo A La Gallega is an appetizer served at at DB Bistro Moderne, located at the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami. For less than $20, it's far cheaper than a flight to Spain and an absolute pleasure to devour -- slowly, of course -- with no shame to mop up the sauce with bread.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Silicone Bitch: Is Pinterest a Cult?

voodoo doll pins
The original "social pinning." Photo courtesy of Brendajos on Flickr.

Speaking of religious fervor, oh, I don't know, a bazillion users daily in a short period of time? Pass the kool aid. Not even Jesus can get so many people to attend church.

Pinterest seems to sum up what is inherently narcissistic about social media. (I'm the first guilty party to raise her hand, by the way.) "Here's pictures of shit that I like, and I absolutely must share them with you, even if I violate someone's copyright beyond creative commons."

If you must create a pin board about something you're planning, why feel compelled to share it with the rest of the universe? Wouldn't you want to share your wedding dress options with your nearest and dearest in a private board?

I know the answer: it's because we all want some validation and don't want to exist in a vacuum.

By the way, I created one Pinterest board about fishing called Angler's Cove and it's pretty boring because it's not about girly things like fashion and kittens.

As I always say: in social media, if the shoe fits, wear it. But don't feel obligated to be an adopter unless the platform really works for you in an organic and authentic way.

How quick are you to adopt social media trends? Do you see dollar signs immediately or are using new platforms for personal enjoyment?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Jeremy Wade of River Monsters Tackles Giant Fish in Florida and Proves Noodles Aren't Just Ramen

Jeremy Wade visits a taxidermy shop in Stuart to confirm the existence of large gar. Reminds me of Quint's famous line in JAWS: "Taxidermy man gonna have a heart attack."

Season 4 of River Monsters kicked off last night after a live fan chat, so I finally get to share my thoughts on the episode, which is of particular interest to us here at Sex and the Beach, since the first segment of American Killers takes place in Florida.


It's no surprise Jeremy Wade alighted here last year in search of potentially dangerous fish. The state is a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic, the gulf of Mexico and influenced by one of world's most formidable underwater currents, the Gulf Stream. Floridians live on giant porous rock with a flowing subterranean aquifer.

As a Floridian, I would have enjoyed seeing Jeremy Wade explore deeper into the backcountry, where freshwater runs from spring-fed sources. But some of those areas are still relatively untouched by human habitation, so the danger to humans is minimal. It's the tidal rivers that are of concern and sometimes man-made urban canals, though I have yet to hear of anyone crazy enough to swim in one -- they're ominously murky and home to alligators, probably a few dead bodies and submerged trash, too.


In the Season 4 opener, Jeremy Wade explores sections of the Indian River Lagoon system, 156 miles of tidal estuarine environment stretching from Ponce de Leon inlet just south of New Smyrna Beach to Jupiter Inlet just south of Stuart. Many spots in this area of Florida remain relatively uncrowded and free from coastal urban congestion -- compared to the waterfront concrete jungles of Miami, anyway -- but it's by no means remote from human habitation. Communities along the Indian River are a laid-back haven for water babies who love fishing, swimming and water sports.

(It's also beautiful drive, by the way, especially if you wander up or down A1A from Hutchinson Island to Sebastian Inlet.)

Earlier today, I spoke over the phone with Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, about the waterway. "It's a mix of freshwater and saltwater," said Perry. "Five tidal inlets through barrier islands make up the system, plus freshwater rivers and creeks that run off into the lagoon. Sometimes we get freshwater discharge from Lake Okeechobee, but that doesn't last long as the tide flows in."

To paint a mental picture, this isn't a freshwater "landlocked" river. It's a body of water in between the peninsula and barrier islands, a common geographical feature on most of Florida's east coast. I'm not quite sure what makes a river a proper river in this case, instead of a bay. Biscayne Bay isn't considered a river, but it's the same thing -- a body of water in between the mainland and the barrier islands. (The Matanzas in St. Augustine is another example of a beautiful tidal river that runs parallel to the mainland.)

Natural history aside, the cultural background of the Indian River is also quite interesting.

This river was originally named Ais after the Indian tribe that lived there in pre-colonial times. In the heyday of the Spanish Main, treasure-laden galleons, led astray from the Gulf Stream by fierce storms, wrecked on the coast just outside the barrier islands. Marauding pirates would lie in ambush or attack the encampments of shipwreck survivors.

It's in this region of Florida, known as the Treasure Coast, so naturally and historically rich, where Jeremy Wade catches a giant 350 pound Goliath grouper as well as a 6-foot juvenile bull shark.

(He also loses a tarpon and mentions that some folks have been killed by the jumping predators, which I have never thought twice about when tarpon fishing. For great tarpon jumping action, by the way, head to Robbie's Marina in the Florida Keys to hand feed the king of the backcountry.)

In the episode, Jeremy Wade interviews a shark victim from one of the local beaches. She makes a great point -- be aware if you swim in the early morning or early evening, when predatory fish are feeding. And yes, if you see bait fish jumping, that's probably because something bigger is chasing them. Anglers are used to seeing these fish behaviors off the surface of water.


jeremy wade goliath grouper river monsters season 4 animal planet
But forget the sharks. The grouper had me scratching my head. Goliath groupers -- a prohibited species at the time of publication -- spawn offshore and usually congregate around reef structures. Juveniles grow up in brackish mangrove estuaries. What was a monster doing off a beach near Fort Pierce inlet?

Mark Perry confirmed that they do sometimes dwell inshore. "Goliath groupers are definitely in the area around docks and near inlets."

So anglers, take note and prepare your heavy tackle. A 350 pound Goliath grouper like that caught off a beach by Fort Piece was definitely impressive, even if it wasn't in a deep inland river.


jeremy wade noodlingLater on in the show, Jeremy Wade fishes for alligator gar in Texas and giant catfish in Missouri. But I'm going to fast forward to noodling in Oklahoma, which I think was the best segment, as it reveals Jeremy Wade in a state of trepidation about this fishing technique.

A quick look around the internet tells me it's an "ancient fishing practice" though it would only be truly ancient if natives living on the continent were doing it long before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth.

But speaking of rebellious Christians, there's something oddly religious about the practice of noodling -- dunking your body underwater, sticking your hand down a dark hole only to have a territorial fish that's protecting its nest clamp down on your hand, with your fellow anglers spotting you just in case the fish sucks you down. It seems like a baptismal ritual, a "come to Jesus" moment.

At one point, Jeremy Wade describes it "as a stupid thing to do," and surely, it is dangerous, but if it really is a truly American fishing practice -- even dating back to native cultures -- then it should be respected as yet one of the thousands of ways folks harvest fish out of any body of water, in a non-invasive, ecologically friendly way. It's really almost like hand-to-hand combat, with the fisherman at a great disadvantage.

(By the way, the catfish in this episode, which Jeremy Wade catches for a competition with his noodling guides, are released and not killed for consumption. This is a good thing, considering the fish are spawning. I just wonder if the parents make it back to their nests.)

Noodling is clearly a strong midwestern fishing tradition. In the episode, Jeremy Wade remarks that this kind of fishing is "mad" but does prove America is the land of the brave.

Good grief, I don't have a brave bone in my body, if that's the case. I think I'll stick to rod and reel. The only noodling I want to be involved with requires broth and vegetables!

River Monsters will continue to air in the coming weeks on Sundays at 10 PM.

All photo credits: Animal Planet

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Miami Captured: Trains, Busses, a Bit of Frustration and Lots of Patience

Doppelgänger on Tri-Rail #beachedmiami

Fellow blogger Rick from South Florida Daily Blog recently posted a story on the amount of time he has wasted driving through our main thoroughfares because of traffic nightmares in peak hours.

This gave me food for thought. There's not much of a respite for public transportation commuters as well.

Anyone who thinks public transportation is feasible for a "normal" life in South East Florida can kiss my proverbial big Cuban ass. I don't know how folks manage to live in South Florida without a car, unless their lives are limited to the size of a fish pen.

On Saturday, I was a panelist at a blogging conference in Fort Lauderdale. At the last minute, I couldn't avail myself of a car or get a ride.

From South Miami Metrorail, using Tri-Rail, a free shuttle and one Broward County bus: four hours for 38 miles as the crow flies. If I had used a two-axle, the drive would probably not have been more than one hour each way. I made it to my panel by the skin of my teeth.

Take note: I started at 10:30 AM to get somewhere 38 miles away by 2:30 PM, thinking it would only take me about two hours, max.

On the way back from the conference venue: three Broward County busses, Tri-Rail and Metrorail: three hours.

That's seven hours for a two-way 38 mile commute to an event where I spent a total of three hours, if that much.

Let me put this numerically: 7 hours to travel 38 miles each way for a 3 hour event = 10 hours of the day. And this was with minimal delays on the trains and busses and me making it on reasonable time for scheduled departures.

More impressive still is the fact that the local Critical Mass cycling group had traveled 17 miles in a fraction of the time on Miami's roadways on Friday night.

Cyclist on Train Using Stairs Instead of Elevator #beachedmiami

Livin' the Big Life on Broward County Transit #beachedmiami

While it's a blessing that we do have public transportation options, that's still five hours of my life that would have been a totally awesome trip to somewhere (hey, what about Key West?) had I not simply been commuting locally for work.

Remember, I once traveled deliberatly sans automobile from Atlanta to Miami after missing a flight to San Francisco. That's different. And I also recall taking the subway from Central Park to Brooklyn last year, one hour max. That seems reasonable.

Seriously, I could have flown to New York City or driven to St. Augustine in less time than the seven hours I spent commuting between Broward and Miami-Dade yesterday.

Train Delay Fort Lauderdale #fml #beachedmiami

Cross-county commuting is definitely a bitch here, which is why I always recommend that you plan your life in South Florida with hyper-local focus, especially if you don't have a car. This is the only way you can lead an environmentally friendly life (minimizing your impact) while still staying relatively sane. Those naive, would-be Miami residents who dream of living here without a car, take heed.

On a positive note, the Tri-Rail is very comfortable. Security guards are friendly and so are other commuters when you ask for directions. Bus drivers are helpful, too.

And if you add it up, it's probably cheaper to use trains and busses rather than owning a car, not to mention savings on carbon points. As well, I was probably safer in trains and busses rather than behind the wheel, although traveling on Metrorail and Metromover late at night can be rather creepy and desolate, especially on weekdays. The Tri-Rail however, was bustling with tourists and locals last night, including pilots commuting from Fort Lauderdale airport to Miami.

But at the end of the day, where do you draw the line between being eco-friendly and losing practicality? Seven hours of a bone-rattling passage just doesn't work for me on a short, everyday kind of trip -- it'd be different if I was on an adventure somewhere. I pity the folks who have full-time jobs and children to take care of while still having to commute long distances in the tri-county region. They probably have little time left for anything.