San Francisco, California Praan Unplugged

I had the weirdest dream last night. I was at MC Hammer’s party with Tay Zonday and Dax Flame. We left and wandered the streets of San Francisco in the middle of the night; this big wad of internet pseudo-celebrity. Tay got annoyed at me cause I kept asking him to say "This is CNN," and Dax just seemed perpetually uncomfortable.

I parted ways with Tay and Dax to meet up with Free Hugs guy. We went to get a drink, but neither of us wanted to drink so we just kept on wandering through the city. We discovered our lives have basically mirrored one another’s for the last several years. It turns out he is also a cranky misanthrope who would rather be playing Xbox than spreading peace and love and joy to millions.

I have said some not-nice things about Free Hugs guy in this journal. I may even, in a moment of heightened crankiness, have suggested that Free Hugs guy ought to get kicked in the balls. I hope he would find that more amusing than offensive.

I no longer think Juan should get kicked in the balls. Maybe some of the more zealous disciples of his movement, but not Juan. I really like Juan.

Okay, so it wasn’t a dream. It was an event called YouTube Live, which the YouTube folks were nice enough to bring me down for. It was an attempt to recreate some of the most popular YouTube videos as live performances. Now of course this sounds like an unbelievably terrible idea. But for reasons I still can’t quite grasp, it wasn’t.

It wound up feeling somewhat like an old-timey variety show. There was song and dance for the most part, but also comedy, a Parkour demonstration, some egregious hugging, and projectile paint courtesy of the Mythbusters.

Ultimately though, this was the only essential performance of the evening.

Bo sat directly in front of me, which meant I had the opportunity to congratulate him on a brilliant song and also inspect him up close for any sign that he was lying about being 18 freaking years old.

I watched him standing mournfully outside the afterparties, so I’m pretty sure he’s less than 21.

At one point the YouTube folks asked me to perform on stage with Palbasha. That plan dissolved. It would’ve been nice to get her up there, but what I do isn’t all that conducive to the occasion. As I often say, my schtick is fun for about 10 seconds, then it starts getting weird. Personally, I was much happier spectating in obscurity.

Anyway, the experience planted the seed in my head that it’d be cool to hear Palbasha perform Praan outside of a recording studio. Then I saw this video…

…and realized Garry needs to get in on the act and create a piano arrangement to accompany her. Until now I thought that would just be a reduced version of what already exists, but I’m coming around to the idea that an acoustic version might have merit as its own entity.

Garry seems up for it. I haven’t even spoken to Palbasha, but I’d love to see it come together at some point.

Back in October I was prancing around Asia and being coy about what I was up to. It’s out now, so I’m free to talk about it. I did a TV ad for Visa in the Asia-Pacific territory.

I’ve only gotten emails about it from Australia and Hong Kong, so as far as I know, those are the only places it’s airing right now. They may expand it at some point to a few other nearby regions.

This project was a departure from how I usually work. There was a crew with camera people and lighting people. They picked the locations and set up the shots. There was even a guy who stood in my spot until they were ready for me. They took care of the music and editing and all that. It mostly just felt like a very very nice vacation for both Melissa and me.

If I were to ever pick up and start working on another video, the production wouldn’t be anything like that. It’d still pretty much be me and a backpack stuffed with gear. But I was happy to try things a different way and learn what I could from some very talented, experienced, professionals.

The response to my introspective book rant has awakened me to the fact that there are thoughtful, articulate people reading this and I’d probably be wise to utilize them somehow in my process. I’m thinking of how I can do that in a productive way that doesn’t expose my anxieties and insecurities.

I guess one way you folks can help me is to comment on which specific stories and places from my existing journal are of interest to you, and which ones are not-so-interesting. What I’m doing right now is going through old entries and trying to extract the funny and engaging from the tedious and self-involved.

Any input will be read and appreciated.

72 Responses to San Francisco, California Praan Unplugged

  1. First! Just kidding, I hate those douches. But I’m up at 4 in the morning for lame work-related reasons, so, ping.

    Anyway congrats on the Visa commercial. It reminds me of a quote I loved from Trey Parker and Matt Stone: “Everyone always comes up to us and tells us we’ve sold out, and we’re always, like, dude, selling out was always our goal! Of course we’ve sold out!”

    As to the last question, I wasn’t reading your stuff until after your 2008 video was out, so I don’t have much feedback on which entries you should include in your book. But I did love the entry where you took a break from the media and the emails and just watched the video over and over until you were crying from it. It was nice to see that even you were affected by it. Just wanted to vote for that story, since you might otherwise assume it was a lame self-centered post and skip it.

    If I had to narrow down your videos to a single word, it would be ‘joie de vivre’. That’s not related to anything, I just always wanted to tell you that.

    Okay, now I’m going to bed.

  2. H-Berg

    Ahh, Tee beat me to it! I was just about to say, your Calcutta and Varanasi entries were outstanding. Your “Captain Karma” story was so great, I loved it.

  3. eli

    A few years back, I spent an entire night reading back through your blog and became a regular follower. The story that sticks out the most in my memory is your tales of Mt Kilimanjaro. I am also partial to your tales that include quirky tales.

  4. Claire

    Hi Matt,

    I’m going to be only half-helpful (or not-really-helpful) here. Rather than give you a concrete answer as to which travel moments you should feature, I just wanted to say I completely recognize and identify with the angst of your writing process. (As an academic, I’m supposed to write for a living). I’m sure the end result will be terrific – there’s no doubt, from this blog, that you can write. Just nobody’s discovered an easy way to do it, and the cliches (“keep at it!”) aren’t much help.

    That said, your moments of joy in discovery tend to be more fun to read about than the moments when you’re tired and frustrated; perhaps because I (and many others, I suspect) see the videos and your travel as wonderful statements of opportunity, and don’t like to be reminded of the actual headaches of travel logistics!

  5. Steve

    At one point you were at a hotel after being hustled for money and were offered a prostitute for the night… I forget where it was (mexico?) but you were scared to death in your hotel room laying there alone and seeing shadows outside of your door. I’d definetly include that. It shows the comforts of home are really the comforts of home, and people in other nations deal with that daily.

    LOVE the videos and the blog! More updates please! God bless and I hope you and Melissa enjoy your holidays.

  6. Susanna

    Congratulations on the Visa commercial!

    Unfortunately, I have yet to read a blog post of yours that I did not enjoy. Funny and poignant are your halmarks. It is rare when one did not touch me in some way.

    Good luck with the writing. Sorry I was not much help. But do know that no matter what you come up with, I will be buying it!

  7. robhon

    I’m just sitting here in my living room with my two kids (3 and 5) and I click on the video of the Visa commercial. My son, the 5 year old, says, “Ha, he’s a funny guy.”

    As for what’s good in your journal entries I’d just have to say this: Just keep doing what you’re doing.

    I’m not a writer but it seems to me that your writing is going to be like making your videos. The actual writing part is like traveling around and dancing. Then later you have to take all that material and edit it together into something compelling. It’s all eventually going to make sense.

  8. AnnMarie

    Please, please, please get them to create a piano version–and sell the sheet music. English translation of the words would also be delightful. (I’ve seen a translation, but it wasn’t next to the original so it was hard, for instance, to figure out exactly WHAT “praan” means.) Anyway, I love the song so much I have an iPod playlist that has it 12 times in a row (so that I don’t have to change settings to repeat one song, although I have also done that). I’d buy the sheet music in a heartbeat.

  9. Scott

    I’ve been reading your blog since you posted the second video however many years ago. I am most fascinated by your unsuspecting journey into your new life of internet fame. Your writing suggests you were a very different person when you set out to just not sit behind a desk for the rest of your life. Your early stuff reads differently because you didn’t have millions of internet groupies (like myself) who have nothing better to do than live vicariously through your experiences and feel the need to chime in on your perspective and criticize you accordingly. There is a perceptible shift in your writing when you began responding to the multitudes who ask absurdities like, “why do you hate Canada?” and those who feel it necessary to berate you for misjudging their culture during your stay in their country. At what point did you recognize your influence over so many readers, and how did that affect your writing? Was it a conscious shift on your part? Would you have ever imagined writing the journal entry “Who the Hell do You Think I Voted For?” when you set out on your first trip?
    I am sure you already have the idea of the book worked out, but the best part about your journal entries is the growth and shift in your worldview. You are still Matt Harding, but the great thing about the journal entries is that they show a glimpse of who you were en route to becoming who you are.
    It is strange for me to write this because I don’t know you, except through your journal entries. If you were honest with your readers (and I believe you have tried to be,) you need to preserve that in the book. I was drawn into your blog because of your facility with writing and your humor. I return to your blog because it is now more than a humorous travelogue. I am interested in the book as something more than a compilation of your favorite journal entries.

  10. Rich Rossi

    The one’s that I actually have a memory of are:

    India (when you fell in the poop)
    Climbing Kilimanjaro
    Your horrible sunburn (Neko Harbor)
    Angor Wat
    Salar de Uyuni
    The one where they had shot “Survivor”
    The one where you almost got robbed and you struck a bargain with the taxi driver to just drop you off somewhere?? (sorry don’t know which one.. Mexico?)

    These are a few entries that I saved. I’m not sure if I saved them so I could read them when I was away from the internet or if there were entries I loved?

    Most of your entries have at least one part where

    3/16/03 Invercargill, New Zealand

    5/16/09 Surat Thani, Thailand (actually 03)

    7/21/03 Beijing, China

    8/18/04 Mahe, Seychelles

    9/23/04 Moshi, Tanzania Part 2

    10/22/03 Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

    9/12/04 Nairobi, Kenya

    6/26/03 Veranasi, India

    6/7/03 Bangkok, Thailand

  11. CS

    I haven’t read your journal long enough to help you choose the best. But here’s my bit…

    I read somewhere that the best thing to remember when writing is never use the delete key. That being said, writing is catharsis, and once you are empty of all your stories, take a razor to edit and finesse.

    From this journal, its pretty certain that people will read your book. Which is nice not to deal with, since that is probably the toughtest reality a writer has to deal with. Now you’re confronted with the task of writing something worth reading. However, don’t write what people want to read. Write what you want to say. Whether those things are self-involved are irrelevant. If you cater to your audience rather than yourself, the content suffers.

    Anyway, good luck. Hope this helps.

  12. CS

    Oh and one more thing. How everyone says that you just have to write your book like this journal, well i say, Don’t listen to that. Not that I have any authority to say it. Just that, writing is a process and, as you already may know, it takes a lot of work. You can’t just write whatever and expect it to magically evolve into a masterpiece. This journal is a great facility for your thoughts, on a somehwat laconic level. But a book, well that’s different. A journal is your thoughts. A book is your story. There’s a fine line between the two, but as subtle and as inconspicuous as it is, there it exists.

  13. Saw this Ad in Singapore Cinema just yesterday. I wonder if you’re really keen in a much better production for 2009? Or even one with storyline? If I could be of any help just e-mail me :)

    I’m pretty good in coming out with shots :) (see my video)

  14. Lisa R

    The personal behind the scenes stuff is fun. July 12th I think, you mention the green screen and green room. Letting everyone know it’s an adventure that is often messy and unorganized is entertaining to watch from our everyday positions in front of a computer at work or at home.

  15. Hi Matt. As fas as I know, you are not very wellknown in The Netherlands. Spite of the fact that you visited the tulips at Lisse at some point. To be honest: I never heard of you either, untill I ran into your videos on YouTube at 22-11. I wrote a blog about you stuff. Maybe that will help to spread the nice work you do in my country. The blog:
    link to volkskrantblog.nl
    Use an online translator to find you what I wrote. ;-). All best, PB.

  16. cassandra

    Stumbled upon this while blog hopping. Can’t believe i’ve missed out for so long! (:
    Love your videos, love your site.
    Plus, i am WAYYYY jealous of you. (not the caps and the extra Y-s)
    Keep going!!

  17. Crspy

    Just saw the visa ad on tv here in Melbourne Australia. First came across your site from a youtube of you dancing at PAX 😀

  18. Lee

    I’m a PE teacher who tutors students after school and I’ve pulled out the Matt video from time to time. I tell them what I know about your adventures based on your blog and interviews. The story that always gets me is the Rwanda story. The kids are fascinated that you got this village to dance with you and they had no idea as to what you were doing.

    I personally think a picture book aimed at kids with a paragraph for each location would be one of the most helpful teaching tools ever…

  19. Graeme Wallis

    I just enjoy reading the small personnal details of your life. :-) Seriously though, I haven’t read all of your journal, I have dippeed in every once in a while, and read 8-9 entries in a go. Haven’t read anything I felt negatively towards yet.

  20. Graeme Wallis

    I just enjoy reading the small personnal details of your life. :-) Seriously though, I haven’t read all of your journal, I have dippeed in every once in a while, and read 8-9 entries in a go. Haven’t read anything I felt negatively towards yet.

  21. Rebekah

    Unfortunately, I can not offer any advise on your book for I am a new fan. But I do want to comment on your Dancing Matt video. When I got home from work this afternoon I decided to hop on line and check some emails and just relax on line for a few minutes. There was a link to on MSN home page, so I clicked just to get a smile. I was randomly checking videos some funny, some not. Well I clicked on Dancing Matt and was instantly entertained. Then as I’m watching the video I find myself tearing up and I’m really not sure why. After the video there is an interview clip that starts after, and listening to your description of the video I realize why I became so emotional. Your own description descries perfectly the spontaneous emotional reaction the video evokes. As I was watching Dancing Matt the first time I found myself thinking, “I want to be him”. Honestly, I am perfectly happy with my life but I am completely envious of all the experiences you are having. The constancy of your dance regardless of your surroundings was powerful for me, but your stopping to laugh with the children in Auki, Solomon Islands is probably what made me a fan of yours. I plan on reading previous posts in your journal and keep following experiences. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you are doing and wish you luck in everything. By the way I hope they start playing your visa commercial here in the United States.

  22. Dara

    Great Visa Commercial! I hope they start showing it in the states soon! As for your book, I know in your last entry you asked if equal stories or longer rambling stories (only for those deserving of a longer chapter) was better. In my opinion I like hearing the longer stories idea. This is mostly coming from a YouTube video you had while talking at a college. Some of your stories were just too good to condense, especially your thoughts on going to Antarctica!

  23. Dara

    Great Visa Commercial! I hope they start showing it in the states soon! As for your book, I know in your last entry you asked if equal stories or longer rambling stories (only for those deserving of a longer chapter) was better. In my opinion I like hearing the longer stories idea. This is mostly coming from a YouTube video you had while talking at a college. Some of your stories were just too good to condense, especially your thoughts on going to Antarctica!

  24. Sophia

    You think the VISA commercial only air in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Well, I am reporting from Taiwan and for your information the feedback here has been overwhelming. Here no one could ignore your lovely goofy dance on the commercial. The thing is most of us probably has no clue why VISA get this guy doing the funny dance. I only learn your tremendous achievement when my bro emailed me your 2008 world dance video link.

    I am sorry to find out that you dance alone with the Animal Latern when you were in Taiwan (I guess you were here in Feb, around Chinese New Year). Next time you come, please make advertise and let us dance with you. I will assure you that Taiwanese people can be goofier dancer than you.

    Have doubt that Taiwanese people can beat you for goofy dance competition? Here is one student from S. Taiwan who copied your idea and tell people how to tour around Kaohsiung in TWD 20 (USD 0.60). Attractive, eh!?

    link to tw.youtube.com

    And talking about the impact you have in Taiwan. Here is the TV news clip about this student’s “BISA” video.

    link to tw.youtube.com

    By the way, here is the Taiwan version of VISA commercial (I assume it’s the same as HK version which use traditional Chinese character)

    link to tw.youtube.com

  25. Sophia

    You think the VISA commercial only air in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Well, I am reporting from Taiwan and for your information the feedback here has been overwhelming. Here no one could ignore your lovely goofy dance on the commercial. The thing is most of us probably has no clue why VISA get this guy doing the funny dance. I only learn your tremendous achievement when my bro emailed me your 2008 world dance video link.

    I am sorry to find out that you dance alone with the Animal Latern when you were in Taiwan (I guess you were here in Feb, around Chinese New Year). Next time you come, please make advertise and let us dance with you. I will assure you that Taiwanese people can be goofier dancer than you.

    Have doubt that Taiwanese people can beat you for goofy dance competition? Here is one student from S. Taiwan who copied your idea and tell people how to tour around Kaohsiung in TWD 20 (USD 0.60). Attractive, eh!?

    link to tw.youtube.com

    And talking about the impact you have in Taiwan. Here is the TV news clip about this student’s “BISA” video.

    link to tw.youtube.com

    By the way, here is the Taiwan version of VISA commercial (I assume it’s the same as HK version which use traditional Chinese character)

    link to tw.youtube.com

  26. rudy

    Hi matt, I don’t speak english, sorry, I love your videos, but I don’t love Visa, and this kind of symbol.
    It’s not a symbol of peace and love in the world , your first videos were so.

    kiss

  27. Queena

    All I have to say is wonderful!
    i watched the AD in Taiwan these days.
    I believe this AD brings happiness to everyone in TW.
    The daning on the boat is natural as well as funny!
    I like it most! FYI ^^

  28. Carol Ong

    hey matt! i was just Youtubing ”visa commercial” cos my boyfriend was telling me over the phone that he found himself dancing ‘like the dude in the visa commercial’ in his room.
    So Youtube led me here and I’m delighted to share with you that the Visa commercial is now entertaining Singapore audience in the movie theaters. It is awesome! :) We love it.

  29. Well I think your dancing could help out causes in the future. What i mean is, if you were to dance in hospitals around the world, or in places where people need cheer…it could bring a lot of attention to worthy causes.

    Of course I adore your videos.

    Chris Feyrer / Naked Dancing Llama at http://www.frolic.org

  30. Sherman

    Wow Matt, the ad is really great!!!! esp. the DONG one!!! I am from Hong Kong and the ad is frequently played on TV =D I enjoy it very much and keep watching it on youtube again and again! Pls come to Hong Kong and dance!!!

  31. Lindsay

    I think you should include some of the journal entries on the media coverage you experienced in your book. I’m not saying you should mention all of them, just the ones that stood out, as I think it would give the readers a sense of the effects the video had on you. Also, it would be neat if you included the editing process of the video/s (My 6th Grade Science Fair Project in particular)
    Whatever you end up writing I’m sure the book will come across as a coherent cohesive whole (unless that’s not what your gunning for)I’ll stop now, I don’t want to confuse you.
    Good luck!

  32. Traci :o)

    Glad you came to S.F. All you need is Love. Here is our video from San Francisco City Hall 9/8/2008 Traci :o)http://transchatter.blogspot.com/2008/12/wedding-nuptials.html

  33. Hi Matt,
    I had no idea who you were until Yahoo sent out a link to the video you did at their home offices. I tracked back to your blog, and just sat, transfixed watching your 2008 video over and over again, calling other family members into the room to watch with me and then spreading the word to my ‘internet friends.’
    I subscribe to your blog now, go back to the video ocassionally when I need a smile, and would love to read a book on the video experience when it’s done. Would like to know the scoop on the de-militarized zone clip, the Bollywood dancers, the weightless dance in Nevada…and did the crabs pinch you on Christmas island :)

  34. cheryl

    hi matt,
    whenever i saw the visa advertisement in singapore, i would always say this, ” I love this advertisement! Especially the part when the guy almost fell off the boat!” Haha… that part has never failed to make me laugh, it looked spontaneous and real. Good job on that. =)

  35. egil

    Something is wrong with the comments on the blog. The blog says it has 50 comments, I count 25 (last comment: dec 10).

    What I like best is the beginning when you took a leap and started your journey from austalia. And i prefer the early blogs back when you were just screwing around on your own, without a sponsor. That said, your blog is still very entertaining.

  36. Twiff

    Matt – I love reading your journal. To read anyone’s travel exploits is interesting but yours are funny, even more interesting and have a real sense of humour and humanity about them. Adding your feelings in certain situations definately adds to the interest and I would certainly purchase your book! Your dancing was a very cool idea and very original and we are just pleased you had the nerve and guts to continue. Keep it up, carry on with your writing and we will continue to look out for your new entries. You are a great hit here in the UK! Happy New Dancing Year! We love you xxxx.

  37. Mac

    Hey Matt,
    I am living now in Taiwan for some time and actually saw the TV ad with you here on CNN, and some Taiwanese channels and some English channels. So if you keep wondering, yes – they screening it elsewhere.

    It is quite catchy I must say. Good luck to you.
    Mac

  38. Mac

    I’m sorry for a double post, but one more thing – are you guys planning to come to Taiwan? You could shoot an ad in front of Taipei 101 – currently the finished tallest building in the world. Dubai got it taller, but they are not done yet, are they? :)
    Take care,
    Mac

  39. Sandra Pesch

    Hi Matt,

    Believe it or not I just see your video by a friend who posted it on facebook. Had no idea of it. I’m from Uruguay and live in Cebu City Philippines and none of my cities made it yet :) Will keep crossing my fingers and following your great work from now on.

    good job and would loove to dance with you anywhere in the world!
    S.

    p.s. if you decide to go to Uruguay go in february carnival time, you could lead a contingency of hundred of drummers you know?

  40. Diana

    I am currently living and working in Bangalore, India and your TV ad has been playing relentlessly here for the past week. Actually I’m just about sick of it as it plays 2 – 3 times per hour! On every channel,in Hindi!

    But at least you have replaced my most hated ad for….I don’t even remember what, I would just turn the channel when it came on.

  41. Christiane Lippmann

    Hi, Matt – weitermachen – bis zum Friedensnobelpreis.
    Die Idee ist genial und hat Auswirkungen auf vielen Ebenen…..

    Christiane Lippmann. Lübeck

  42. Shawn

    Well, your bit in your India section about a supposed letter from Gandhi to Hitler, while intended to be absurd, I am sure, comes across as offensive beyond all belief, and very juvenile. I confess that I was really disappointed with you when I read it.

  43. Shawn

    Well, I thought that I should elaborate on the last comment a little. I know that it is hard to read things that are critical – but I do mean this is a constructive way. I didn’t say anything before, but if you are thinking of writing a book, this is really something that I thought was worth pointing out.

    At least for me, a lot of what traveling is about is learning to appreciate other cultures and seeing the value in ideas and people who are so different than the standard USA fare. Of course I love the outdoors and seeing things too. I would be lying if I didn’t say that :)

    Anyway, I thought that, based on some of your entries, that you had a similar perspective, and your 2008 video reinforced that. But some of your India entries, and that one in particular (I have also been to India) highlighted what *APPEARS* to be either: a) an extreme lack of deep cultural sensitivity, b) a lack of sound judgement and/or maturity, c) an extremely iconoclastic personality and/or sense of humor, coupled with apathy as to whether other people appreciated your humor/perspective, and/or d) something entirely different that I have no clue about as I don’t know you.

    I am not quite arrogant enough to think that how it struck me is how it is — I am only trying to tell you how it LOOKED from over here.

    Best of luck with your book! I think that you do have a lot of value to share.

  44. Sara

    hi matt,
    i’m a fellow world traveler struggling to write her memoirs so i can empathize with you over your book. i get a lot of inspiration from your journals and watch your video every time i need a good cheering up. so thanks for that.
    as for what stories to include… i am currently living in greece and was appalled, yet not completely surprised, to hear what you went through in athens. i definitely think it should be included and i look forward to its publication. if you ever return to greece and want a cool place to dance (sans malakes), come to crete and we’ll help you out. hope to cross paths with you somewhere in this crazy world…

  45. tensaibaka

    A slightly different version of this commercial just started airing in Japan. Saw it for the first time last night, but my wife didn’t know what it was about, then I went over to YouTube and this site, and explained everything to her. I’ve seen some Japanese blog entries about this today, so hopefully your video is spreading throughout Japan now.

  46. TokyoKiwi

    The Japanese version of the Visa commercial has been airing here recently- funny when at the end one of the three guys from the Japanese banknotes asks “Tokoro de, anata dare?” (=Um, who are you actually?)

  47. This last Sunday was Easter and I visited Nikki Beach Resort Turks and was amazed. They have an incredible Sunday Brunch with everything you can imagine, and it was all great! After we gorged for a few hours with unlimited mimosas we headed to the pool party. DJ on the pool deck with a margarita in the infinity pool was like heaven. We ended the evening with Beach bonfire and BBQ. Once again the food was terrific sitting around the bonfire laughing with some of our newfound friends. I know where I will be staying next time I come to Turks and Caicos.

  48. Your Visa commercial is playing in some of the taxis in Shanghai. Sometimes, it is one showing just you, but other times the commercial only shows other people dancing like you and not you! What’s with that?

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