29 November 2007


I saw a movie called Paprika last night:

The movie made about as much sense as the trailer does. I was slightly confused for much of it, but things tied together throughout. The 90 minute Satoshi Kon film from Japan is about a device that allows you to record dreams as you're having them... it was developed to help in treating psychological disorders /issues. It fell into the wrong hands and dreams were starting to blur with reality. Everybody's dreams that had been hooked up to the machine started to meld together as well, slowly becoming a living nightmare.

I didn't realize until afterwards (from some special features) that a third to half of the movie had CGI in it. I suspected a little, but didn't know it was that much. They paid such attention to detail in this movie. There is a scene where a car is driving into a tunnel at night in the rain, and you can see the reflection of the car on the wet asphalt for a split second, before it goes in.

Those blue butterflies seemed to be present whenever evil stuff was happening, which was a little dissonant because they were so pretty. I bet Kon did that on purpose. Other strange things in this movie included a large Japanese doll that terrorized the protagonists, two bartenders that when combined would have looked just like Hitler, a parade of strange objects including a bendy refrigerator containing a boom box dancing around in it, solid objects that fell away like blankets, people taking in gibberish right before throwing themselves out of windows, you get the picture. Well, maybe you don't. I don't think anything will be able to describe this movie accurately, so please see it.

23 November 2007

The IDEA Conference

It's been a week since I was lucky enough to attend the 2007 IDEA Conference put on by AdAge in the Nokia Theatre (Ahra was there too, and so were Noah and Arthur, briefly).

It was refreshing and I was impressed. Lately (well, for the past year and a half or so) I have been a little disillusioned regarding industry conferences, because it always seems to be the same thing: panels of Creative Directors talking in circles about what creativity means. This was different though... the speakers came from a really neat array of backgrounds, and there was actually very little advertising speak. There was a media & music mogul, a neurologist, the founder of the Geek Squad, head of marketing from BlendTec (most of you are probably familiar with Will It Blend; a guy actually volunteered his BlackBerry during the conference to be blended into metallic dust), a computer science professor, the (drunk?) founders of VICE, etc. It was really interesting to hear everybody's stories and experiences, and I left the thing excited and wanting to work on a project or make something.

My three favorite parts of the IDEA Conference: Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad; Paul Bennett and Jane Fulton Suri of IDEO; and Luis Von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon Uniersity.

Robert Stephens

This guy spoke in true revenge-of-the-nerds fashion. He said something about the world being made up of three types of people: those who once worked for Geek Squad, those who currently work for Geek Squad and those who will one day work for Geek Squad. He talked about how he stole all of his ideas from the hotel industry because he's in the business of hospitality and not technology. He also said something hilarious,

"Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable."

I don't completely agree but I can sometimes, in some cases, understand where he's coming from.


The concept of Thoughtless Acts was my favorite takeaway theme of the conference. Paul Bennett and Jane Fulton Suri talked about observing human behavior, taking ordinary "thoughtless" habits that people have and creating a movement around them. The most fascinating case study they presented was CoolBiz. This was a movement endorsed a couple of years ago in Japan by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment to help reduce electric consumption. The agency working on this (I can't find the name - someone help?) decided to start a fashion trend of not wearing ties. They organized fashion shows with important Japanese businessmen walking down runways in dress pants and shirts, the top buttons undone and no ties.

This was born out of the insight that wearing a tie raises the body temperature by two degrees. By everyone in Japan suddenly removing their ties and casualizing the workforce, people stopped fiddling with the thermostats. One million households worth of carbon emissions were saved (in one year I think?).

Isn't this brilliant? This thoughtless act of removing one's tie at the end of the day was turned into a movement. Another example they briefly touched on was Bank of America's Keep The Change campaign. The thoughtless act of taking your loose change from the day and throwing it into a jar was turned into a savings account program - any purchase made with one's BoA card was rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference was put into a savings account. People were saving without even thinking about it.

Luis Von Ahn

He was my favorite speaker of the whole day. A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he started his talk with a question: "How many people here have seen this and filled one out?"

Everybody raised their hand. "How many people here think these things are annoying?" Everybody raised their hand. "Well, I invented that." Von Ahn invented Captchas to make the Internet a safer (and less SPAM-filled) place for us all. As robots get better at reading these things, he's constantly working on making it harder for them to.

Here is the cool part though: eventually he realized that since each Captcha takes on average 10 seconds to complete, an inordinate amount of hours are wasted every day, globally, filling these things out (something like 500,000 hours). He felt a bit guilty about wasting so much of the world's time, so he decided to do something useful with Captchas. He came up with a project called reCAPTCHA.

Let's for a second switch our focus onto a different business: digitizing books for the web. Luis Von Ahn knew that the computers that scan and digitize books sometimes make mistakes, especially with older books and manuscripts. Ink bleeds, letters mush together, and as a result this can happen:

So Von Ahn created a program that takes all of these words and turns them into Captchas on web forms. Do you see what he did? People all over the world are helping to digitize books without even realizing it. Ten million words a day are digitized! At around this point my head exploded.

Von Ahn went on to talk about another project he's involved in; he created an online game that gets people to accurately label images on the Internet without realizing it. By more people playing this game, more images are being labeled so that more relevant results will pop up in Google Images, for example, over time. This is another mind blowing thing, but I was still amazed at the digitizing books project to fully absorb it. I wanted to go back to college to just take classes from this guy, he was so neat. That's all guys – making good use of human processing power and helping computers solve problems they can't yet solve on their own. I think this relates to the "human behavior turned into cultural movements" stuff that IDEO talked about.

I kind of knew from the beginning of this – when Russell Simmons walked out wearing a bright lavender and yellow plaid sweater vest amidst a sea of black shirts and coats – that it would be a good day. And it was. A big thank you to MT and Jonah :) Anybody know where I can find photos from this thing?

[CoolBiz Flickr images from Joe Jones, Manish Prabhune(マニッシュ) and Joi]

x-posted to House of Naked.

12 November 2007

Bold as Love

Last week, Satish and I went to an art opening for Bold as Love at Priska C Juschka in Chelsea. I was given the tip by Clay; the artist is actually his cousin, Adam Parker Smith.

opening night

The exhibition is mixed media and mostly consists of felt heads of different people (each representing a different member of society - some of them the artist's friends, some celebrities like Mike Tyson and JFK) on stakes. I'm going to cite the handout a lot now because I feel like an idiot when trying to describe it myself.

Bold as Love is a social commentary on two things: "consumerist addiction to violence and the infatuation with the high school crush." It's described as a "gory gauntlet" (definitely spot on). Questions are posed: "Why is the glorification of violence addictive, entertaining and even romanticized? Why do we continue to live our love lives in the shadows of an unattainable model of true love?" These are both very relevant questions to ask in society today, and Adam interpreted all of this in one of the most unique exhibitions I have ever seen. Probably the most unique. I've never seen anything like it.

Bold As Love

Bold As Love

Bold As Love

Bold As Love

This albino peacock was in the back of the room, and I'm sure it had some significance but I didn't find any description of it anywhere. Clay?

Bold As Love

Guys, this thing was really powerful. It's up until the end of January, so you have a little bit of time. Go see Bold as Love. Let me know if you intend on going because I'll be returning as well.

Fred Flare love.

I don't know why I haven't written about Fred Flare yet, but it's about time. To put it very simply, Fred Flare is an online store full of awesome things. I mean, they have a panda bear skillet.

[click the image to buy]

I don't remember when I first discovered the site, but my first memory of it involves a ridiculous cell phone extension that I bought because I was in a silly and facetious mood almost two years ago.

I'm not just writing this because Fred Flare has great stuff. I'm writing because they give a shit. They give a shit and they love their customers. This rarely happens these days. But when it does happen people are happy, they keep coming back, they can't stop smiling and then they write blog entries.

1. Fred Flare routinely emails with discounts. Whether it be free shipping, 25% off for holiday gift giving or personal little touches, it feels like they're on your side and just want to make people happy with this stuff.

2. I went to pick up an order last spring once (you don't have to pay shipping if you go to their warehouse), and it wasn't ready. They emailed me later in the day apologizing, saying they were shipping it to my house for free and giving me a discount on my next order.

3. A couple of months later, they put me on their blog because they liked a photo I submitted to their "show us your flare" Flickr pool.

Since then I have bought quite a few things and have been consistently pleased.

4. Last month I noticed that they have a weekly cat feature on their blog where they feature their friends' and customers' cat photos. I submitted Kazu Yoshimi and she made it, much to my proud happiness. That's not all though... a few nights ago I got a message on Flickr from Fred Flare, saying that they chose their 20 favorite cats and gave everyone $20. For no reason!

All of this, paired with the holiday discount makes me quite happy. Thank you Fred Flare ♥

10 November 2007

Wordless Music Series

Last night I saw three performances. The first was Torngat, a three piece French horn /keys /drums /electronic band with a ton of beautiful energy. Then came Jihyun Kim, a classically-trained cellist. She adeptly played two songs (by Bach and Gyorgy Ligeti), each with many movements. It was amazing. I always love the bodily posture of classically-trained musicians. Finally came what I most wanted to see - a much-loved Icelandic band called Múm. They were phenomenal.

Now I get to tell you about the cool part. They played in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. I walked in expecting a church and got a cathedral.

The concert was part of the Wordless Music Series, which tries to break down the lines and distinctions between music genre labels to show people that electronic, jazz and indie rock music have a lot more in common with classical music than one might think. One result of juxtaposing these performers together is that lovers of all types of music are brought together as well to hear each other's languages and experience the blending and merging of not - so - different - after - all music. The church was one of the "intimate settings" they describe as illustrating the continuity in music styles.

Can you imagine what the acoustics were like? It was that, heightened. This architecture combined with the lighting, said acoustics, the temperature (cold) and the performances added up to an explosion.

The above photo illustrates how the whole thing felt and sounded to me. More white and less blue though. My mild synaesthesia really kicked in last night. I had never heard white before, so that was stupendous. Múm opened with Slow Bicycle, closed with I'm 9 Today and played Guilty Rocks in the middle. It was very powerful, and the girl with the white hair "had a voice like a siren" (Daniela's boyfriend Steve said that and was dead on). The ambassador of Iceland and his wife were there.

Here is the schedule of Wordless Music Series events; there are a few more left and I highly recommend going to these. You'll leave inspired.

[photos by Sterling]

08 November 2007

San Francisco and the UK - genre (music & fashion) blending?

One bulletin post on MySpace this morning sent me into an explosion of emailing and yelling at friends for their opinions (I am counting on your input, Heron). This is something I don't know a lot about and really want to hear other people's views on. When Arthur asked, I said "San Francisco, the UK, hip hop bleeding into other music genres' fashion, sort of."

So here goes. The bulletin was from Calvin Harris (one of my favorites from the UK of the neon electro variety), promoting this fantastic song (fantasticker video. so good that I made up a word.) by Mitchell Brothers:

Isn't that contagious? Anyway, an electronic artist promoting the hell out of a mostly hip hop song (he produced it). This is not dissimilar to the merging of hip hop and rock that I quoted in the Hadouken! entry, except this time it's less garage and more sparkle.

It made me think of when I visited San Francisco six months ago. My friend Jay was commenting on the culture there and how hip hop seems to have seeped into every other genre. Indie and skater kids wearing Dunks, shopping at Upper Playground, etc. I wonder if there is a parallel of sorts between this merging in San Francisco and what I was seeing come from the UK. I really want to understand this whole thing better. Maybe I'm imagining all of it. I e-mailed my friend Jess, who is from the West Coast and generally very up on things.

She responded with this.
i'd imagine that the hip hop influence on the fashion of other subcultures of the SF-microcosm (and LA, too!) is artsiness begetting (or beshoeing/behoodieing) more artsiness. i think in the indie rock circles, dressing with undertones of hip hop flare is done with a tad bit of irony in most cases. with companies like UP, i think the design aspect and creativity speak to these subcultures that value the aesthetic.

and maybe colors. hipsters/skaters/indie rock scenesters like getting away with wearing garish colors and loud prints.

...i think you might have something, comparing SF and the UK. another interesting comparison might be LA and SF and their interpretations of the same three-way clash between hip-hop, hipster, and indie rock fashion scene. down in LA, i've seen rappers dressed like old school weezer, and hipsters wearing dunks and XXXL hoodies. go figure.
Now, L.A. I really know nothing about. I browsed around The Cobra Snake a bit (he's a West Coast nightlife photographer) and found tons of stuff like this, which seems to confirm it all:

So what do you think? I would love to hear from people from San Francisco, L.A., the UK or anywhere else who could shed some more light on things. All of this reminds me of this entry Noah wrote in September about music lines blurring.

[photos from The Cobra Snake & Uffie]

EDIT | Sanithna exploded into a link frenzy. I linked him to the entry. Here is what he said:
You know, it's really weird about the blending of these cultures. The most lucid explanation of it came from David Gensler. He calls it mash culture. http://www.psfk.com/2006/02/interview_with_.html ; http://www.davidgensler.com/?page_id=2 . The most obvious/mainstream blending of it all for me was Kanye West. This guy who abandons visual art to produce beats, then begins to incorporate high fashion into his image; and recruits people like [Takashi] Murakami to do his design work. See also http://www.thehundreds.com ; http://www.mrkimsays.com/ ; http://www.murketing.com/journal/ ; http://www.catchdubs.com/blog/ ; and just some other things on the periphery of it all: http://www.stapledesign.com/jeffstaple/ ; and if you don't already know these links, here they are for posterity... http://www.hypebeast.com/index.php ; http://www.highsnobiety.com/ ; http://www.slamxhype.com/ ; http://www.honeyee.com/ ; http://riottt.com/ ; and still in the periphery http://www.fecalface.com/SF/ ; http://www.vinylpulse.com/ .

I e-mailed my friend Nate, and he said this:
When I came of age musically I listened to nothing but hip hop because it was so huge in the late 80s and early 90's. I wore Air Jordans every day until I had to wear adult sizes and they started costing way too much. Nike sneakers are just something I'm getting back to... and those hoodies and stuff have huge cross over appeal with people, like Pharell putting them out. I was real punk rock for a long time, but even punk mixed with hip hop a lot in the 80s. Look at the photography of Glen E Friedman; he was shooting punk bands and hip hop bands at the same time. Look at the movie Breakin... Ice T is rapping in it and he is wearing track suits with punk rock spiked belts and stuff... but this Friedman picture says it all; Public Enemy rocking Minor Threat.

05 November 2007


I am about to share something very embarrassing. I wasn't going to post today because I would have been making stuff up, and a couple of really cool things are happening this week so I was going to wait for those. Sanithna (happy birthday!) reminded me of this today though, and I think I have to share. Even though it is very, very embarrassing.

When I was 7 or 8 years-old, my favorite song for about 2 months was called Vuela, Vuela by a boy band called Magneto. I guess they were the other version of Menudo or something. I just searched the video, and well... here it is.

Seeing those dance moves and picturing myself being enamored by these guys in my silly youth... well, I hit the ceiling. About once a week something happens that makes me laugh so hard tears stream down my face. This was this week's. Last week it happened twice though (once because of this and once because of a patio furniture incident).

So, I wonder if these dance moves could ever be brought back. Fashion seems to cycle around a lot but I don't know if there is any hope for this Vuela, Vuela material. anyone?

01 November 2007

Flavorpill Halloween

Just a few photos from the Flavorpill Halloween party last night... more creativity with costumes! I was impressed this year.

Ichi the Killer

organ grinder & monkey. As soon as they saw my camera, they started their routine: surly faces and cranking, bouncing monkey, bashing cymbals, it was amazing.


My roommate was Lydia from Beetlejuice. I went as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill, Volume 1.

Vincent Van Gogh
Lydia & Vincent

Annie Hall - she was perfect. stature and everything. She had the floppy hat on, it's just faded into the background here, and my stupid finger is in the photo.
Annie Hall

Dee Snyder and Slash - both perfect. Slash was unbelievable.
Dee Snyder & Slash

Here's a great one from last weekend: Magritte's Son of Man.

Chromeo videos

Here are four videos from the Chromeo show 2 nights ago.

Fancy Footwork (and Satish screaming the words)

Bonafied Lovin'

Dave 1 & P-Thugg

Bringing everyone on stage (my favorite out of the videos, I think)

EDIT | Here is a video NYMagazine put out from the night.
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