24 February 2009

Thinking in context

Just a quick thing I thought about upon walking into Terminal 5 tonight (for the first time, too: I looked like Dorothy when Oz blessed her with Techicolor). Right when you get through security, you're greeted with this beautiful image:

Trumpets started playing...

MUJI is one of my favorite stores, and not only because it's from Japan. I love its stark, utilitarian aesthetic and have found many a useful (and attractive) thing there – most notably their little PET travel bottles.

While we're on the topic of having to put liquids into tiny bottles (let's pretend the liquids ban here stays put for a while), and while we're also on the topic of stores in an airport (see where I'm going with this?)... Wouldn't it be cool if the store was moved a couple hundred feet to before you go through security*, so that in the case that you forgot about the liquids ban and brought your 10 oz. bottle of hair gel, you could buy some little PET bottles to transfer some of it into? You wouldn't have to throw the entire thing away (and thus also not have to worry about where you'll get your hair gel fix once you arrive at your destination).

Taking it one step further: wouldn't it be cool if this moved-200-feet MUJI store had a "liquids transfer station" inside, with cute little funnels and a sink for spills, to facilitate the transfer of said hair gel? Man, I would love that.

* Is this even allowed?

22 February 2009

Best in class tweets

Sometimes when I feel stress or ennui, I go through my Twitter Favorites to lift the mood a little (and it always works). Almost everyone I know is feeling a bit "eh" lately, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites from the past 2 years.

These made me laugh (sometimes until crying)

Picture 10.png

Picture 9.png

Picture 7.png

Picture 4.png

Picture 29.png

Picture 25.png

Picture 2.png

Picture 14.png

Picture 13.png

Picture 1.png

Some that made me want to hug the Tweeters /remember why I love them

Picture 6.png

Picture 3.png

Picture 20.png

Picture 17.png

Picture 18.png

Picture 12.png

Beautiful thoughts & scenes that make me want to run away and write for 6 million years

Picture 8.png

Picture 5.png

Picture 31.png

Picture 28.png

Picture 22.png

Picture 23.png

Picture 19.png

Picture 16.png

Picture 15.png

Picture 38.png

About little life annoyances that are amusing/charming after the fact

Picture 11.png

Picture 21.png

Picture 26.png

Picture 27.png

That's it, not a lot of writing on my end. I just wanted to share the little things people have said (maybe without even giving them much thought) that have made me smile. Hopefully you did too.

21 February 2009

Valerie and her Week of Wonders

Nearly a year ago, my friend Pam wrote about a 1970 Czech film called Valerie and her Week of Wonders. I had forgotten all about it until I was going through my shared items in Google Reader, and her post about it showed up.


I watched it last night, and Pam's description pretty much sums it up:
It is a bizarre coming-of-age reverie, consisting of a young girl who lives with her mysterious grandmother, lusty old vampires, magical earrings, burgeoning sexuality, ripe romance, hundreds of dripping candles, lacey dresses, oppressive religious figures, sick chickens, sun-dappled fields, dusty piles of books, and the list goes on.
The plot is a bit confusing (maybe in part due to the translation?), though I got the general idea. And it doesn't even really matter in this case, since I realized not too long ago that my favorite movies are the type I could easily watch on mute and still enjoy.


The perfect dinner table?

And boy, was this one beautiful. The lighting, costuming, and even the creepy characters were nice to look at (I like that a lot better than the current Hollywood torture gore trend that just won't go away). It's not a shiny movie, either: if you check out a larger version of a still, you'll see that it's pretty grainy and faded, which just adds to the entire movie's mood (whether intentional or not).

Not a picture frame

I'd like a narrow room with all white.

Check it out if you're into that kind of thing (Netflix has it); you can also watch the whole thing (in parts) on YouTube if you want to just poke around.

19 February 2009

Tasting Table

A few months ago, my friend Leila – knowing about my peripheral interest in food (mostly: taking pictures of it) – referred me to a new-ish daily email called Tasting Table.

Tasting Table screenshot

Via their site: Think of Tasting Table as the friend you always ask, "Where should I eat tonight?" We're your food-obsessed coworker who knows where to find the best $2 tacos and which $200 tasting menu is worth the splurge. And, like you, we're serious omnivores who don't take ourselves too seriously.

I liked the friendly, unassuming tone, so I signed up.

Picture 2.png

Well, after a couple of weeks I realized that maybe it wasn't for me. I love food, but I don't know a lot about it (unlike Leila, who is a cooking magician). The emails are amazing, but I felt a little dumb most of the time, like something was out of my reach (Harissa? Butchery classes?) or budget. Also: while I'm interested in cooking, I don't know how to (really, at all). And here I was, being given recipes using ingredients I had never even heard of.

So, I unsubscribed.

A few days later, I got an email from the CEO of Tasting Table, Geoff.

Hey, there. Sorry to bother you after you recently unsubscribed to Tasting Table New York, however we've just launched, so we are extremely sensitive to our readers' likes & dislikes. If you have a moment, we would enormously appreciate it if you would reply to this email with a quick explanation regarding why you unsubscribed? Didn't like the content? The look? Anything you can share -- no holds barred! -- would be appreciated.

We will not bother you again!

Thanks for your help,

Geoff Bartakovics
Tasting Table New York

Oh, my, god. Usually when I unsubscribe from a mailing list, I either:

a) Get an email confirming my un-subscription (please. just don't.)
b) Never hear a word again

But this, asking my opinion so the email could be made better for future readers? Amazing. I wrote Geoff an annoyingly long, twittish response, explaining my "low foodie self esteem" and desire to start cooking more (but not knowing where to begin). The friendly, "let's all work together to make the world a more delicious place" tone of the web site & emails was mirrored in the response I got: a heartfelt thanks for the feedback; a recommendation for a great "fundamentals of cooking" class in the area (including a specific instructor recommendation); a guide toward reading material that could get me started in understanding food in general. After a brief back-and-forth, Geoff ended with "Good luck! Update me on your cooking progress, would ya?"

Picture 7.png

This happened in November, and I'm still impressed. The emails that scared me away were only trying to help: a sentiment that was reinforced by the personalized communication straight from the CEO himself. A food expert asking me what I think? Geez. Because of this (yes, that was all it took), it doesn't seem so scary anymore.

And then I did something I'd never done before: I re-subscribed.

14 February 2009

The Savage Detectives

I just finished reading this book; my friend Joseph (whom I met via this very blog) picked it out. Sometimes I am a nitwit and don't know certain things; in this case, the fact that Bolaño is one of the most well-respected Latin American writers of his generation.

This seems to be a pretty polarizing book; some people loved it, and some people hated it & stopped reading after a couple hundred pages (it's around 650). I finished and liked it; it was definitely a dense, long, (at times) dragging read... but I came out in the end happy. It covers a million different points of view (which got confusing at times); the thing that amazed me was that each person seemed to have a distinct personality and writing style. So many writing styles! From one writer. Amazing. Toward the end of the book I also kept thinking about Natasha Wimmer, the translator. I can't believe that this book was written in another language, it sounds so perfect in English. I can't imagine how talented a translator like this must be.

I have probably said this once or twice, but I have this unbreakable habit of underlining /writing in my books (which is why I can never check books out of a library). Sometimes when I am bored and have 20 minutes to kill, I pick up an old book and only read the parts I underlined. Here they are for this one (don't worry, I'm not giving anything crucial to the story away):
(every book in the world is out there waiting to be read by me) The rest of breakfast was prepared by the servant (whose name I don't know or can't remember, which is inexcusable). I asked. Or whispered, or howled, I can't remember, France, great country of devouring mouths, For a long time I stopped existing. I sat at the table and wrote a poem that I called "15/3." Then I read William Burroughs until dawn. After dark I went back and found Jacinto Requena dying of boredom. when the two of us were in school together at Porvenir. Not for long, really, which goes to show how relative memory is, like a language we think we know but we don't, that can stretch things or shrink them at will. and suddenly I realized that my horizons were expanding imperceptibly and my life was being gradually enriched. Or maybe we were silent for a while, me sitting at the foot of his bed, him stretched out with his book, the two of us sneaking looks at each other, listening to the sound the elevator made, as if we were in a dark room or lost int he country at night, just listening to the sound of horses. I could've sat there like that for the rest of the day, for the rest of my life. jumping around like a monkey with a taco or a piece of pizza in his hand, dreams of transparent questions, Las lenguas del diamante and I got up and reached out my hand and touched his shoulder. It was like touching a statue. one day I noticed that he went into the bathroom with a dry book and when he came out the book was wet. Our group was cheerful but after so many hours on the road the main thing we wanted was a bath and a hot meal and nine or ten hours of solid sleep. a pink Barcelona sunset got on a very small bicycle and led us down ghostly streets, around ten o'clock everyone would start to come out, saying good morning, Juliette, good morning, Pierrot, hear them talking about the sea, the brightness of the sea, and then a noise like the clanking of pans, and of course there was always some idiot talking about the weather. I don't like strangers to touch me before I've washed my face. That morning we had coffee and croissants for breakfast we lit cigarettes. It was a cold morning, there was a light fog, a eucalyptus forest Cemetery by the Sea I heard the spoon, which Claudia's fingers were holding, clicking and stirring in the glass, mixing the liquid and the layer of honey, I heard the last coin fall into the bowels of the public phone, the sound of leaves, the wind whipping dead leaves, a sound like cables tangling and untangling and then slipping apart in the void. Poetic misery. I'd get tears in my eyes thinking of Mexico City, thinking about breakfast in Mexico City. There was always some charitable soul who would venture down to the bilge with a piece of bread, a bottle of wine, a little bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. it occurred to me that I was going crazy, which struck me as so funny that I had to sit down on the bed and cover my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. having coffee at sidewalk cafés and wine and little dishes of squid at bars, The secret of those streets is the way they can be dazzling and somehow familiar, homey, all at once. when the sky in Barcelona is an almost purplish blue, almost violet, a sky that makes you want to sing and cry just to look at it, Like all crazy loves, don't you think? If you add infinity to infinity, you get infinity. If you mix the sublime and the creepy, what you end up with is creepy. Right? in other words a Spain where chasms weren't barricaded and children were still careless and fell into them, where people smoked and fainted in a rather excessive way, and where the Guardia Civil never showed up when it was needed. The fourth cup brings madness, Amor tussique non caelatur: neither love nor a cough can be concealed. Amantes, amentes. Lovers, lunatics, it makes me want to laugh and cry all at once. Memories that glisten like a drunkard in the rain or a sick man in the rain. Then the young poets would understand and nod, even if they didn't entirely follow what I was saying, even if they didn't comprehend every jot and tittle of the terrible, timeless lesson I'd meant to drum into their silly little heads. I wrote about lofty things. Gardens, lost castles, that kind of thing. I settle for thinking about the hugeness of the Universe. Discipline: writing every morning for at least six hours. Writing every morning and revising in the afternoons and reading like a fiend at night. and I would've liked to go to Africa too that night while we were watching the sea and the lights in the distance, The sky in Indonesia was almost green, the sky in Sicily almost white. bitter laugh, and a house and books. He mentioned streets, metro stops, telephone numbers. By then I could make out their silhouettes where they sat leaning against the wall. Both of them were smoking and both looked tired, but I might have gotten that impression because I was tired myself. It was a gorgeous morning, or an airy blueness that gave you goosebumps. And then I looked at the walls of my front room, my books, my photographs, the stains on my ceiling, their faces had turned pale, as if they were at the North Pole, if the answer was yes, I was determined to make them coffee right away, Then I got up (all my bones creaked) and went to the window by the dining room table and opened it, and then I went to what was, strictly speaking, the front room window, and opened it, and then I shuffled over to the switch and turned out the light. I found Belano sitting at a long wooden table, stained dark by the passage of time, a notebook that looked like a prayer book and in which her friend's tiny handwriting flowed like a stampede of insects.
Maybe my squishing them all together like that annoyed the hell out of you, or you got bored and stopped reading. (Or reading the underlines isn't interesting to anybody but me, which would be fine and understandable). But with The Savage Detectives, I realized that squishing them together makes it sound like T.S. Eliot on steroids. Which to me is just perfect.

Most of the characters in the book are poets or writers of some sort (maybe you could tell). I could see people with a low tolerance for artsy rambling lose their eyes in the back of their heads before throwing the book out the window. My friend Jared told me (when I wasn't that far into it yet) that if it's read with the fact that there might not always be a clear plot (or even point, sometimes) in mind, it would be better to read. And it was. I actually hugged the book when I finished it.

12 February 2009

Dunkin' Donuts gets more* of my love.

Those who don't live in NYC may be unfamiliar with HopStop. It's a web site that tells you how to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible via walking or public transportation (bus and/or subway). It takes all soooorts of things into account when figuring out the best route to take, like time of day, transfers and construction work. I could sing its praises for hours and hours and pages and pages (and so could nearly everyone else I know), but what really blew my mind this week was something I noticed Dunkin' Donuts do on the site.

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

At first glance, pretty standard display ads, right? I like the placement, though, since there are tons of Dunkin' Donuts locations all over New York, and this is a site about getting all over the place in New York.

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

Now let's scroll down a little...

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

Here's a closeup:

Normally, I would be pretty annoyed to see an ad in the middle of content I'm trying to read; but look at what they did! They saw where I was starting my trip and told me where I could get coffee for the ride just two blocks away. Let's scroll some more...

Picture 3.png

There it is again! In case I was running late and hadn't wanted to walk an avenue out of my way, here is another Dunkin' Donuts smack in the middle of the next station and my meeting. I know that the algorithm used to generate these locations wasn't thinking about it in this way, but advertising the presence of more than one location gives options, which (to a point) can be a convenient thing.

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

Reading up on Dunkin' Donuts early last year taught me a bit about their rebranding efforts: they de-positioned the "fancy coffee" market and played the "efficient for people on the go" card (quick in-and-out, "just give me my coffee" service vs. the "relax in a big comfy chair and pull out your laptop" culture surrounding Starbucks). To me it fits pretty perfectly with someone looking up directions to get somewhere in the most efficient way possible. As Dunkin' Donuts says in their most recent ad, "We don't work around our schedule, we work around yours."

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

So, yeah, this isn't the sexiest looking thing in the world:

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

But it's the smartest placement I've seen in a while; it just works & makes sense.

Dunkin' Donuts on HopStop.com

This week's NY Magazine quotes Twitter co-founder Biz Stone describing straightforward web advertising as feeling "tacked on." Definitely not so in this case, and telling someone where they can grab coffee on-the-go is pretty straightforward. Dunkin' Donuts didn't just stop at the "two brands relevant to New Yorkers" part; they went deeper to a) make sure that they were giving people something they could use; and b) made sure that it made sense for what their brand stood for. Good work, guys.

*The "more" part of this post's title references the fact that I've mentioned Dunkin' Donuts one two three four five six times on this blog so far. Yeesh, I should cut it out, shouldn't I.

[x-posted to House of Naked]

06 February 2009


About a year ago, Paul told me that I had to see the movie Diva. He got so enthusiastic when describing it that I knew I had to put it in my queue. Well, this was before I re-signed up for Netflix, so I half forgot about it. I finally got around to renting the movie last week, and now I understand why he was so enthusiastic.

Diva screenshot

IMDB gave a pretty good rundown, so here it is: Two tapes, two Parisian mob killers, one corrupt policeman, an opera fan, a teenage thief, and the coolest philosopher ever filmed. All these characters twist their way through an intricate and stylish French language thriller.

Sound confusing? Well, it was, a tiny bit. But aside from being a good thriller, the imagery is so beautiful. It was my favorite part of the movie. And taking full-size screen shots showed the graininess of the film more (which I didn't notice on my lousy television set); delicious.

Diva screenshot

Diva screenshot

Diva screenshot

I watched a short six-minute interview with director Jean-Jacques Beineix afterward; he said that it felt like he made two movies for the price of one. Apparently when it first came out, critics trashed it saying that he was too grandiose (maybe because scenes include things like a young girl rollerskating around a huge loft that is empty except for a big jigsaw puzzle-in-progress and a claw-footed bathtub; and a police /moped chase through the Paris transit system).

Diva screenshot

It wasn't only the critics, either: In nearly a year, only 100,000 people in Paris went to go see it. After that, though, some switch went off in people's heads and they went nuts for the movie, closing that year-long run with 1 million views. Wow!! Maybe people all of a sudden got into an artsy mood? Who knows, but that's just awesome. I just can't see that happening today, and Beineix said that it definitely couldn't (mostly because economics wouldn't allow for it).

Now that I'm on the topic of then vs. now, I was flabbergasted when I saw that Diva was released in 1981. The movie is timeless, and I wouldn't have suspected that it was older than me at all (except for the female detective's hair).

Diva screenshot

I highly recommend Diva, and should probably take Paul's movie advice more often. Go see it! Even if it takes you a year.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...