Zouk Congress 2013 “Review”: Part 1 – Brazil, London, Prague

4th nternational Prague Zouk Congress 2013

So, I’m utterly bored of writing reviews (and writing in general). 8 months since my last blog post, here’s a very brief “review” (can’t actually call it a review but whatever) on the congresses I’ve been to so far this year.

Brazil. Great

With all the hype surrounding Zouk’ing in the birthplace of lambada, I felt underwhelmed. Great nonetheless though.

London. Great

Great first attempt. Poor location. Way out west away from central London. But a very nice hotel with free water though. Didn’t feel that international though as it didn’t seem like many foreigners came. Could be due to the Austria Congress which started the next weekend.

Prague. Awesome

Last year was awesome. This year was even better. Party themes were worse this year though.

And the obligatory workshop videos:

V Berg’s International Zouk-Lambada Congress 2013

London ZoukFest 2013

4th International Prague Zouk Congress 2013

Taking it a lot easier this year, so my next (and probably final) stop of the year will be Brno in mid-September.

See you there!

Zouk Congress 2013: What’s in Store

Twelve

Twelve, Twelve, Twenty Twelve. What an awesome date.

So, what’s in store for 2013? I’ve decided to limit my trips abroad to about 3, instead of 6. And this time, instead of going purely for some hardcore dancing, I’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. Arriving and leaving a day or two earlier. Having an entire evening free to explore Zurich on Friday before the congress officially started was pretty nice.

I’ll probably just go to one in each half of the year. Already confirmed for next year, and taking the 1st half of the year, Prague. Last year (or earlier this year) was immense. And the next one looks even bigger. I’ve also confirmed my “second” congress of 2013, the first London Zouk Fest, just 4 weeks earlier. Although it technically doesn’t count since it’s in my hometown…

For the second half of 2013 Brno seems a good choice. From the people I’ve met, it seems very popular. Although from what I’ve heard about last year (2011) it was in the middle of no where with the workshops and parties in completely different locations. If that is the case this time, I wont be going. I could check if this is still the case this year, but I wont. I’ll just wait for next year.

Berlin and Amsterdam are definitely high up on my list. Nothing definite though. Zurich, as great as it was, wont be considered. For the single reason of cost. It is way too expensive. Australia was briefly considered, but quickly ruled out mainly due to cost and also because I get the same feeling from the web site and photos I get from the Barcelona congress. Which I hated.

Off to Brazil in a couple weeks. Officially ending 2012 and kicking off 2013. Bring it on!

Why I Ditched Android For Windows Phone 8

Nexus 4

I really wanted the Nexus 4. Having used the Nexus S for the past 18 months, it seemed the obvious upgrade path. I was tempted by the Galaxy Nexus when it was launched, but the poor camera put me off.

Then the day finally came, November 13th (had it in my calendar), the Nexus 4 launch day. No time for when it would actually go on sale though. Checked the Play store at 8am. “Coming Soon”. Received the email notification on my way to work at 8:45. Loaded up the Play store when I got into work at 9:20. Still says “Coming Soon”. WTF.

It was later I found out that they were actually all sold out. Less than an hour after going on sale. Still have no idea what time that actually was. Google utterly failed in this shambolic joke of a “launch” of their flagship device. Shit communication all round from Google. Losing a customer in the process.

HTC 8X

I had to upgrade. My Nexus S was so slow it was almost impossible to do anything on the thing. Chrome would take minutes to start up. I never truly considered any other Android devices. I like pure Android. None of this bastardised Android SenseWiz crap. The device (from a hardware perpective) would have to absolutely blow me away for that to happen. The Samsung Galaxy S3 had the best chance, but failed. They all failed.

Nexus 4 wasn’t going back on sale any time soon. So what did I do, after reading up on numerous reviews, I finally decided to make the jump to Windows Phone 8 with the beautiful HTC 8X. I did initially want the Nokia Lumia 920, but after holding both the 920 and 8X, the Lumia is huge and felt like a brick next to the 8X. I knew about WP8’s flaws. But I can live with them. The only app I miss is Dropbox.

Google Logo

The only Google service I truly couldn’t give up was Gmail. But that’s true for everyone who’s main account is a Gmail one. Google Now is a very nice service. But it’s still something I can instantly give up. Google Music hasn’t evolved at all since it was launched. It was only a one-way upload of my iTunes collection. No syncing at all going on. Because of this I never maintained my Google Music collection. Another service I can instantly give up. Google Maps? Now that Bing Maps is using Nokia’s mapping data, with the ability to truly take a map of any country offline, that beats Google’s mobile offering hands down.

Google has failed to retain me as an Android user. I’ve avoided using (and getting locked in to) many of their services. Making the switch easy. The only Android devices I would buy are the Nexus ones, but Google wouldn’t take my money. I still love my Nexus 7, but since I don’t carry it around with me, I’ll be turning off Google’s ability to stalk me.

This is Jimmy, leaving the botnet.

First International London Zouk Fest 2013

Zouk Fest 2013

Prague in late March was my first confirmed zouk congress for 2013. The Zouk Fest in early March is now my second confirmed 2013 congress. Taking place in London at Heathrow and hosted by Joseph Koniak and Solange Dias, my teachers. This will be the congress of the year in London.

The only downside being that Heathrow is in West London, and I live in East London. A 2 hour journey (4 hour to and from Heathrow) isn’t what I need so I’ve had to book a hotel room.

Join me!

Zouk Congress 2012 Review: Extras

Some extras that didn’t make the final cut (or I completely forgot about while I was writing them) in my 6 parter zouk congress reviews.

Vienna, our first proper congress abroad. And coming from London, I’m used to shops being open on a Sunday. So it came as a big surprise that all shops (except a few restaurants) were closed on Sunday. And we didn’t have enough bottles of water to last us through the rest of the workshops and party.

Sorry We're Closed

After much wondering around we finally got bored and overpent at a local pizza place where my friend stupidly picked 3 bottles of sparkling water each. Which we both hate.

We learnt our lesson. And during our second congress in Prague, we were determined not to let this happen again. And we bought way too many bottles of water…

Prague left over bottles of water

What I had left as I was checking out of the hotel…

That’s 3 full bottles and 3 half empty ones. Wasted.

Our first 2 flights to Vienna and Prague went smoothly. Our 3rd, Barcelona was delayed by 2 hours. Our 4th, Berlin, was cancelled with the next available flight 6 hours later. Fun times in an airport doing nothing. In all honesty we could have left the airport and wondered around a bit, especially since we were still in London. From then on there was a running joke that statistically, one of our flights will crash. Thankfully, the rest of our flights were a lot smoother. The fact that you’re reading this means I’m still alive. Although our Brazil itinerary means we board 6 planes. We are statistically fucked.

British Airways Plane Crash

Our planning for Berlin was the worst. We booked our flights and hotel just over a month before it started. We usually book them months in advance. We did buy the Berlin congress pass 4 months ahead of time though. Taking advantage of the early bird prices. This laziness meant the closest hotel to the venue was fully booked during that time. It was also one of the cheapest places!

Since our delayed Berlin flight was a lot later then we had planned for, arriving at 11pm. It means the party would have already started. And it was at another venue, not the main one near our hotel. We kept to our usual plan, grab a taxi from the airport straight to our hotel.

New York Taxi

Since we also had to get to the party quick, we struggled to explain to the non-english speaking driver to wait 30mins in order for us to check in and drop off our luggage before taking us straight to the party. To be fair, the communication problems were entirely our fault really. We were on foreign soil and didn’t speak the native language.

Not much else eventful happened in London, Zurich or Amsterdam. Probably because we made all our mistakes during our first few congresses.

So that’s it. It’s all over. I’m still undecided how I’ll handle my Brazil review… But there will be at least one post.

Zouk Congress 2012: The Total Cost

20 Pound Note

With the end of Amsterdam, concludes my Euro zouk adventures. So what was the total costs of going to 7 congresses in a year? Or more specifically 6 months?

The costs below include the return flights, hotel and congress pass.

Vienna: £340

Prague: £454

Barcelona: £444

Berlin: £452

London: £89 (pass only)

Zurich: £622

Amsterdam: £464

That’s £2,776, or about €3,300 in Euro land, I’ve spent in 6 months on zouk congresses alone. The only reason Vienna was by far the cheapest was because it was the only time I was sharing a hotel room. The others cost roughly the same. Except Zurich.

I could’ve easily spent a lot less. But, for me, I would rather spend more for convenience. Convenient afternoon outbound and inbound flights. Instead of going for a budget flight at a ridiculous time, usually very early in the morning when public transport isn’t running.

On the flip side, my 2 week Brazil trip alone costs almost as much!

Zouk Congress 2012 Review: Part 6 – Amsterdam

Amsterdam Zouk Congress 2012

Zouk Amsterdam Congress 2012

Final stop of 2012, Amsterdam. For our final trip we were joined by a female friend. Great. Although it also meant we had to take an evening flight as she couldn’t get Friday off work. Just like Berlin all over again!

Friday night arrival, taxi straight to hotel, then off to the party. We arrived after midnight. Missing the shows. Mainly due to us getting utterly lost trying to find the venue. I blame my friends. Luckily I had my phone with me and had an offline map of Amsterdam. Still took us ages to find though.

We also arrived at the Saturday party after midnight. Again missing the shows. We had to go downtown for a bit of sight-seeing. We did arrive earlier for the Sunday party though. Which is usually the most important one as it’s the final night of the congress. Loads of fun. Awesome shows. And to my knowledge, all completely brand new (to me at least) performances. Unlike a few shows from previous congresses…

I amsterdam

I rarely take photos, so here’s one I found on Google…

I only took part in a few workshops. As usual. Sitting out of most of them and chilling on the nice comfy couch. I did take this opportunity to go to a few samba de gafieira classes though. My first taste of gafieira, enjoyable, but completely different to zouk, and hard as hell. I’m going to need a lot more classes.

Fairly short (and crap) review. It’s difficult writing so many in such a short space of time. There’s only so much you can say. They’re either great, good, or shit. This was great.

Sadly in all the greatness, I have no videos to share. There’s a good chance I’ll go back again next year.

I have 2 more posts lined up to wrap up my 2012 adventures. Both will be released later this month. Before finally moving onto the big one, Brazil. The birthplace of Lambada!

Zouk Congress 2012 Review: Part 5 – Zurich

Swiss Zouk Festival 2012

Swiss Zouk Festival 2012

And so onto the final leg of my zouk 2012 adventures. Just this and Amsterdam left. It’s been ages since my last Zouk post but this month will be Zouk-tober month. Time to wrap up my Zouk 2012 Euro adventures!

You can read my previous reviews of Vienna and Prague, Barcelona, Berlin and London.

Zurich wasn’t part of the initial Euro Zouk congress 2012 plans. I didn’t even know there was a Zouk scene in Switzerland. It all happened when some guy named Fredi mistook me for someone else during the Vienna congress. I later found out he was the host of the Zurich congress. After a bit a bit convincing, I decided to give it a shot.

It wasn’t cheap. I guess paying for a double room at a 4 star hotel (with no fucking free WiFi!) for just me wasn’t such a financially good idea. Everything there was also massively expensive. I didn’t bother exchange any money and relied on my credit card (and my friend’s Swiss Franc’s). I figured Switzerland was a massive financial district (2 massive global banks) that a using a credit card should be the norm. How wrong was I. We ended up going to McDonalds at least once a day. At least they had free WiFi.

Zurich Landscape

All that aside, this was an awesome congress. We arrived on Friday afternoon. There being no workshops ment we (for the first time during our Euro adventures) had time to relax and do a bit of sight-seeing.

The venue was awesome with a great dance floor and a huge nice couch. Which I spent quite a lot of time on during the workshops. There was plenty of choice with 5 workshops per hour with some excellent teachers. I learnt a few new moves which hopefully I’ll remember and actually use.

The parties were great. Great atmosphere, mostly great music. And a lot of good dances. Same venue as the workshops meaning the awesome couch was there for me to take a break. During which a certain opportunistic photographer took to take a photo of me taking a quick “nap”… It’s just a shame the final Sunday party wasn’t at the same venue.

Considering how expensive everything is in Zurich, there’s a low chance I’ll be back there next year. Which is a shame really as I really enjoyed myself.

Youtube videos of the workshops

Final stop, Amsterdam.

Eurogamer Expo 2012: Review

Eurogamer Expo 2012

Review time, less than a day after the event. My quickest blog post write up yet! Not much to say really. Didn’t really play much and the queues to the most popular games were too long.

We absolutely wasted our early bird tickets by queuing up for the Wii U section. We thought it’ll only get longer so might as well when the crowds should be at their lowest. There was over 2 hour queue for the ZombieU game, and that was with just the early birders! When we finally got in (after an hour of queuing in the non ZombieU queue) we wondered around a bit, then promptly left the area. Totally unimpressed by the Wii U. And like I said in my preview, just a gigantic console sized DS.

I was looking forward to trying out Pikmin 3, don’t know why I was so excited about this game. I did like the first one so it’s probably the retro goggles kicking in. But it just looked like a GameCube game (as did most of the games there) and I don’t think the WiiPad was used at all during the game. Just the standard Wiimote and nunchuck combo. It did display a map though…

God of War: Ascension

God of War was impressive though. Even though my friend hyped it up beyond belief. It was my first time playing any of the God of War games and I enjoyed it. Even though it’s more or less a standard hack and slash the controls were tight. Got ganged up on a few times 3-on-1 during multiplayer. I obviously died during those encounters… But nonetheless it was fun.

Dust 514 on the PS3, looked impressive. And after a 20 minute technical hitch, I finally got to actually play it and had no fucking clue what was going on in the game. I then realised how shit the PS3 controller is. What an awful pad. Doom 3 was also underwhelming. A 3D game with shit 3D.

When Vikings Attack

When Vikings Attack for the PS Vita was a nice surprise. A fun game where you throw shit at the other player to knock all their people outside of the circle. As fun as it was though, definitely not worth the price of a normal game. Would make an awesome mobile game though. Very easy to pick up and play.

Played Pro Evo Soccer with my mate a couple times. I’ve been a FIFA guy for the past few years using the 360 pad. My mate has been blindly loyal to Pro Evo even though FIFA has it beat. So, round 1, on a PS3 pad, my mate’s home turf. I beat him 4 nil. Next one, still on the PS3 pad, ended 1-1 and we got kicked off it during extra time due to some tournament. The final round was on the 360 pad, I forgot the score, but I also won that one.

Super Mario Kart

Then we had some fun in the retro section. Multiplayer Mario Kart on the SNES. Which I now suck at since I can’t power slide properly anymore as the recent incarnations have changed the way it works (snaking…). Topped off with a Virtual Tennis thrashing on the Dreamcast. Great fun.

After using the PS3 controller for most of the day, and confirming how much I hate the PS3 controller, it’s still the only console I’ll consider buying. The new 360 controller did feel nicer than the current one. The new D-Pad is weird though and I didn’t like the repositioned select/start buttons.

We’ll probably be back there next year, especially if the rumoured PS4 and Xbox 720 are there and playable. But they’ll probably end up like our Wii U experience this year… Disappointment.

Eurogamer Expo 2012: Preview

Eurogamer Expo 2011

Time for my first gaming post! The Eurogamer Expo is this weekend and we’ve got the early bird tickets meaning we get to enter an hour earlier (I think…).

I went last year and it was pretty good. Played some Zelda: Skyward Sword. I am a Zelda fanboy (just the 3D console versions by the way), and it utterly failed to impress me. Graphics were shit, I know graphics aren’t everything but the least they could do is not make my eyes bleed. I could actually see the pixels and they were huge. Zelda has definitely lost it’s magic.

The Shadow of the Colossus HD remake did impress me though. So much that I was tempted to blow money on a PS3 for that game alone. One year later and I’ve still not bought it yet, but the constant HD remakes makes it ever more tempting. Journey did impress graphically but the demo I played made it looked boring.

Shadow Of The Colossus

This year though, the Wii U will be there and playable. I have absolutely no interest in buying it. And much like with the Wii, it’ll sell like hotcakes at launch, have a few Triple A first-party exclusives. Then it’ll die a slow death with most games being mediocre at best.

Saying that, I’m still curious over how it’ll play though. And it’ll probably be the only time I’ll ever play it. In my mind though, it’s just be an overblown console remake of the DS. Bottom touch screen (WiiPad) with the main action on the top screen (HDTV).

My last console was the GameCube and I don’t plan on buying any console in the near future. I don’t need them and most games are shit and a total waste of money. Although if the PS3 hits the sub £100 price point I might finally pull the trigger.