Monday, October 22, 2007

urban camouflage

Very funny and interesting story in the New York Times. Vending machines being ubiquitous in Japan nothing better than a "vending machine dress" to become part of the cityscape. Note the feet of the "vending machine" on the right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Interesting things come out of obsessive behavior (well, sometimes at least). Here's a couple that I came across recently:
Documenting the life of a vending machine: Ryuichi Terada of Sapporo, Hokkaido, takes (almost) daily pictures of the Coke vending machine near his home, making detailed observations and complex diagrams about the changes in types of drinks, brands, posters, etc. It's interesting that he's apologetic about what he does, even naming his blog, "I take a picture of a vending machine every day (or so). I'm sorry". (via CScout Japan)
Skull-a-day. Designer Noah Scalin's project of making one skull image every day for one year. Don't forget to download the free skull font, which will certainly please heavy-metal fans everywhere (via How blog).These things put a smile on my face.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

a ring for a fresh start

Up until the '60s, the Japanese followed the shinto-style wedding ceremony, with the groom and bride wearing traditional kimonos.
Then starting in the late '60s, De Beers introduced the idea of the diamond ring as an engagement gift, a romantic ritual practiced in the west. The campaign was so successful that within a generation most Japanese adopted this costume and Japan soon became the second-largest diamond market in the world, only after the US. In the present days many couples, while still preserving the shinto ceremony, have adopted the western ceremony as well, white wedding dresses and all.
The Japanese baby-boom generation however is starting to retire this year, and in a society that is getting increasingly old, marketers have to redirect the focus of their activities. It's therefore time for another ritual to be promoted.
There's currently a campaign called "Thanks Days", starring musician and actor Akira Terao (most people outside Japan will recognize him from his role in Kurosawa's Ran), depicting a salaryman who is retiring from work. The commercial starts when he gets the flower bouquet from colleagues (a tradition for retiring people here). He then goes home, in a reflective mood, and all the while we listen to his thoughts (roughly translated):
For only thinking about work, forgive me...
For the days I got home drunk, forgive me...
For that time I lied, forgive me...
For everything...forgive me...
When he gets home his wife is preparing dinner and waiting for him. He gives her the flowers. Then, to her surprise, he produces a small box from his pocket, places it in her hands, and sheepishly looking away, says a short "thank you".
See the sequence below. You can watch the entire commercial here (click on the second link from the right).

Romantic movies usually have two types of ending. They either end in tragedy (one of the lovebirds die, sometimes both of them) or in happiness, when the couple finally meets at the end. In the latter case, the end marks their reunion but it is also the promise of a new beginning, in which they'll live happily ever after.
Well, the "Thanks Days" commercial catches this particular couple after they've been through their "happily ever after" years, revealing to us that perhaps they were not so happy after all.
This shouldn't be a surprise at all (as any couple would attest), but the problems are magnified especially considering the well-documented burden Japanese workers have to endure (presenteeism, long working hours, late-night drinking binges with co-workers).
But nothing is lost, people shouldn't despair. There's a renewed hope now.
The commercial shows that the husband, after more than 30 years of devotion to work (evidenced by the inscription "12075 days" in the internal part of the ring), is willing to start a new life.
As they celebrate over dinner, the voice-over says "propose again".
And finally, the wife toasts to a new start, a new hope, "korekara mo yoroshiku" (a bit hard to translate, but in a romantic way, it could be "from now on, let's take care of each other").
What remains to be seen, as millions of Japanese wives prepare to have their husbands at home again, is whether they'll really get their platinum rings or not.
And more importantly perhaps, will the couple live happily ever after this time around?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"creative bushido" viral campaign

This is one of the top viral campaigns in Japan, according to The Viral Chart.
It's a campaign for Yomiko Advertising. It's a bit of kabuki-style narrative, a Kurosawa epic, and guerrilla marketing all in one.
I liked that they've even put a Planner Samurai among the generals, ha!Pretty funny, and the art direction is great. Watch it here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

the garbage collector teaches a lesson

Garbage collection is serious business in Tokyo. There are many measures that encourage people to produce less garbage, including charging absurdly high fees to collect large disposed items such as old furniture and electronic equipments (up to US$ 200.00 depending on the size).
There's a very strict garbage collection schedule, a specific day in the week for burnable items, another day for non-burnable items, another for cartons, and so on.
Recently I left my garbage bag out according to the instructions I read in the city leaflet. Later, I saw the garbage collector pick up the bag but, to my surprise, instead of immediately throwing it in the truck, he inspected it, patting it all over. Then he put it back in the same place and quickly went away!
Puzzled (not to say another word), I went out to retrieve my abandoned bag and saw that the collector had stuck the note below in it. Roughly translated, it says something like: This garbage is not properly sorted out. Please sort out your garbage properly!

Monday, September 03, 2007

wii party ideas

Interesting piece in AdAge about the growing Wii-themed party phenomenon. That is part of a trend where "video gaming is beginning to transcend the solitary boy-in-the-basement stereotype with a new generation of gamers including women, older people and younger children who want to play in a more social atmosphere."
Take a look below at evite's wii party ideas (an online party invite company):

osaka 2007 - side notes

Couple of notes from the World Athletics Championship that finished yesterday in Osaka:
1. I noticed some people in the stadium watching their mobiles (with the screen twisted in the horizontal position) while the events were taking place in the track. They were probably watching TBS' broadcast in their mobile TVs. It's pretty cool to be there and feel the excitement of watching the live events, and at the same time being able to check the details and interviews on your 1seg TV.
2. Carl Lewis and Mike Powell were interviewed on TBS. Of course, Lewis is one of track's greatest stars to this day, but the local reporter (sorry, don't know his name) seemed to refer the questions only to him, ignoring the fact that it was Powell who won their event in Tokyo back in 1991, arguably the greatest long jump competition ever, when Powell broke Bob Beamon's long-standing record of 8.90m and established the current world record of 8.95m. Lewis couldn't be more generous towards Powell though, always acknowledging Powell's presence and praising his performance on that evening 16 years ago. He said: "I think this (Powell's record) will last longer than Beamon's record".3. TBS's anchors Oda Yuji and Nakai Miho should be praised for doing a great job. It's not easy to anchor an event like track & field for 9 straight days. What they may lack in technical expertise they more than compensated with an infectious enthusiasm for the sport. I've watched lots of technically correct broadcasts that utterly lacked passion. No wonder many people think track is boring. With their enthusiastic comments, peppered with word such as "sugoi" (amazing), and "subarashii" (spectacular), Oda-san and Nakai-san have won the sports many fans.4. No world records, but some great performances. Couple of athletes to watch in the next couple of years:
- Jeremy Wariner is getting closer and closer to Michael Johnson's record.
- Allyson Felix. Watch her out not only in the 200m but also in the 400m (she ran a superb 2nd-leg in the 4x4 relay)
5. It's great to see athletes from Panama, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador winning medals.
6. One of the greatest upsets in the championship was Bahamian Donald Thomas' victory. He took up high jump a year ago (!) and his unorthodox style (to say the least) is easily noticeable as his legs move frantically in mid-air as if trying to climb an invisible ladder. It seems to help him as he jumped 2.35m to beat the best high jumpers in the world. It was priceless to see Olympic champion, Swedish Stefan Holm's face of disbelief when Thomas cleared 2.33m.
7. As a preview of next year's Olympics in Beijing, it seems there won't be too many surprises: the US, Russia, Kenya and Ethiopia seem poised to dominate the events. I had thought that China would've come up with a stronger performance but apart from Liu Xiang no other star appeared.
That's it. Can't wait for Beijing 2008.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

bekele wins a thrilling 10K

A sane person wouldn't normally run a fast-paced 10K in a hot, humid evening (30C, 65%). Well, but then again, a sane person wouldn't normally face the same situation as Eritrean Zersenay Tadesse did in Osaka last night. You see, he didn't have much options facing the prospect of having to battle out two-time world champion, Olympic champion, and world record holder Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia. Bekele is known for his deadly final kick and for any runner intending on defeating him there's only one option: punish him from the start and pray he's dead at the end (and most importantly that you are still alive).
It's a gamble to see who the best runner really is, not just the guy with the best finish. If everything goes well, every runner will drop off the pace and there'll be only one left at the finish line. Misjudge your hand though and you'll end up dead on the track, defeated. And unlike the comfy seat of a poker game there's only one word to describe this gamble: pain.
That's what Tadesse bravely (some would've said insanely) set out to do on a hot evening in Osaka yesterday. He took the lead and set a torrid pace for the race. In a slow-paced race, contenders run in a packed group, some going wide on lanes 2 and 3. Not here. The contenders quickly spread out in a long line with runners struggling to keep in touch with the leaders.
Tadesse (in light blue shirt) kept pushing and one by one runners started to drop off the pace. Some would just slow down feeling the race was too fast for them. Others simply walked off the track unable to keep going while others still lied on the track in pain. They passed the 5K mark in 13:42 (27:24s pace) with only 10 runners in the leading group (from the initial 24). Tadesse's gamble was paying off.
Bekele, in the meantime, looked comfortable running always in third place. A group of Ethiopians, Kenyans and other African runners followed. Tadesse kept punishing the field lap after lap. Slower runners were overlapped (supreme humiliation for a distance runner).
After a little more than 8km only four runners remained in contention: Tadesse, still in the lead, Bekele, countryman Silesh Sihine, and Kenyan Martin Irungu Mathathi.
But then Mathathi made his move. Everybody went along but Tadesse. Having set the pace for most of the race he paid the price for his gamble and would struggle to the end. Suddenly there were only three runners fighting for the victory and the chase was on. They were sprinting down the backstretch with about 600 m to go and for a moment Bekele seemed to be losing touch as the other two left a 2m gap.
But he soon got in contact again and with 300m to go he was right behind his countryman Sihine as Mathathi fell to third. The race would be decided between the two Ethiopians. They were going on an all-out sprint, incredibly fast for athletes who had already run more than 9K.
Then with 150m to go Bekele hit another gear and, amazingly, unleashed what seemed an impossible last kick. Sprinting furiously, he went around Sihine as they came from the last curve into the homestretch and it was arrivederci! Take a look at the sequence below.

Bekele goes around Sihine and prepares to overtake his countryman

Bekele now leads with a little more than 100m to the finish line.


Does it look like the face of a man who just ran 10K?
Bekele smiles just before crossing the finish line

In the end there was only one runner left: Bekele. World champion for the third time. His time of 27:05:90 is incredibly fast for the conditions. Sihine got the silver and Kenyan Mathathi got bronze. Tadesse bravely hung on to finish fourth, 15s behind Bekele.
What a race! I can't put into words how amazing it is for a human being to be able to run that fast under such hot and humid conditions. Let alone unleash that kind of kick in the last lap (under 56s). It's amazing. Man, do I love this.

gay beats powell

The "World Championship in Athletics" is in full swing at Osaka's Nagai Stadium. Last Monday, in the 100m final, American Tyson Gay defeated world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica.
It was a thrilling race, one that reminded me how difficult this event is.
The race was being trumpeted as a showdown between Gay, who ran the world's fastest time this year, 9.84s at the American Trials, and Powell, who holds the world record with a time of 9.77s (respectively in lanes 5 and 4 below, taken from TBS Channel broadcast).Powell got off to a tremendous start and 30 meters into the race held a clear lead over the field. The race seemed his to lose.The 100 m, despite looking like an all-out effort, sheer power and adrenaline, is actually a very technical and mental race though. And here some technical explanation is needed. There's no acceleration after about 50 m. The human body just can't produce that amount of power. Sprinters can only hope to maintain or not lose much speed at the end. A sprinter needs to stay relaxed and focused in his own race if he wants to avoid tightening up and losing more speed than he normally does at the end of the race. And that is very, very difficult to do. Especially when you're sprinting for your country, for glory, for your life ("for god's sake"), against seven other guys who are breathing "on your neck". It requires an amount of confidence bordering on arrogance, a belief that whatever happens during the short time span of the first half of the race (little more than 5 sec.), he will eventually come up as the winner in the end. "I will win, I will win", that's what sprinters need to have in mind.
If you don't stay relaxed, you'll eventually end up trying a bit too hard and all will be lost. You'll tighten up. Your stride will get shorter. You'll lose more speed than others.
And that's where Powell failed. He didn't focus on his own race and tightens up, badly. He loses speed. Gay overtakes him swiftly and opens a decisive gap between them.
The race is over.Gay starts to celebrate even before crossing the finish line. His time, 9.85s, is not a world record, but it's a fast time nonetheless. And all it matters is the championship. Powell sees he had lost the race and gives up. Bahamian Derrick Atkins takes the silver. Powell is third.PS: I couldn't go to Osaka (damn...) so I took pictures from the excellent TBS Channel broadcast. For the IAAF official coverage of the event go here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

grant on oprah

Grant McCracken flew all over to the UK just to tell his "Oprah story" on Interesting 2007. Watch the video here (about 16min long).
It's a little out of context, but he first wrote about it in his book, "Culture and Consumption II", as part of the chapter about "homeyness" (if I remember well, his point was that the concept of "homeyness" and "interior design" are frequently conflicting).
Very funny (and damn interesting).
(via Russell Davies)

Friday, August 24, 2007

michell on tokyo

My friend Michell has written a nice post about Tokyo with reflections about his visit here last June. He captures a little bit of the sense of amazement that most visitors feel when visiting this city. Nice reading and pictures. Here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

observations in a tokyo cinema

In all other places where I've been to a movie theater, as soon as the credits start to roll at the end of the movie, lights slowly start to switch on, and people start to leave their seats. Only a few movie buffs stay to watch the credits.
Well, not in Tokyo. Here, the room stays dark until the very end and people wait until all the credits have passed. Only then the lights switch on. The few people you notice leaving the theater earlier are most likely foreigners. Ninety-nine percent of the audience stay put in their seats.
As somebody used to leave the seat as soon as the movie ends, it's kind of unnerving having to wait, even if only for a couple of more minutes, until the credits are over (oh, the stress of modern life). I take this extra time to observe...they all seem to pay close attention to the screen.
Why the difference in behavior?
Is this a country of movie buffs? No, probably not.
Do people feel that the credits make part of the movie experience?
Or is it a case of politeness? For other moviegoers, for the movie makers...
I have yet to find the answer but this is certainly... hmm, different. But very interesting nonetheless.

Monday, August 20, 2007

summer in tokyo

It's been boiling hot in Tokyo with temperature reaching 36 degrees (that's about 97F) and humidity at 80%. This is a country with four distinct seasons but I never expected summer here would be even hotter than in Singapore, where the thermometer reaches 32C (90F) all year long.
To save energy and fight global warming the government sponsors a campaign called Cool Biz that encourages the usually formal Japanese businessmen not to use neckties during the summer. As part of the campaign public buildings keep the air conditioning thermostats at 28 degrees!
However, one thing that puzzles me is how a country so concerned about saving energy doesn't adopt summer daylight saving time. Sunrise during August has been around 5:10AM (way too early) and sunset around 6:20PM (too early as well).
I heard some possible explanations, one of them concerning the stress people who methodically run their lives by the time of the 8:02AM subway train would go through to change their habit. This could be an explanation. One website offers the following explanation: Japan used to adopt daylight saving time in the past, from the post-war years until 1952 when it was abandoned following opposition from farmers who complained they had to work longer hours. Currently though it seems the Ministry of Education is the main opposition to the idea, concerned that lighter evenings would entice school children away from their homework!
So that's the secret to Japan's education system. No outdoor light, more children cranking out their homework.

* * *

P.S.: Moving to Tokyo has taken its toll. I've been too distracted to write anything. There's a unique way to do things here, a system that works pretty well once you understand it (but that's the caveat). You have to understand it first and that requires a considerable amount of energy to sort out even the most simple of things.
I still don't know exactly why, for example, it took almost three weeks to have a broadband connection installed at home. I don't know if I blame it on NTT or if I blame it on the real estate agent. Anyway, at least now I have a fiber optic connection that is the fastest thing I've ever experienced.

Friday, July 13, 2007

bye singapore, hello tokyo

It's time to say goodbye to Singapore.
Now, off to Tokyo. We're all looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.
Blogging will take a back seat for a while but will resume soon after we settle in.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ana airplanes to have hi-tech toilet seats

Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) will be the first airline to have Toto washlets in its airplanes. They'll be standard equipment in the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners ANA starts flying next year. The novelty is part of a larger battle, as airlines scramble to win customers, but it also corroborates what I wrote in a previous post, as this must be part of Toto's strategy to expand its customer base.
In-flight washlets will certainly bring more comfort for passengers. It will require some time for new users to get used to operating them though, but as ANA's chief executive well said (and borrowing from Heineken's classic slogan), the new equipment "will refresh the parts other airlines can't reach". (via Reuters)

to buy local or not to buy local

I've been hearing more and more about 'buy local' and 'food miles' (or 'food kilometers'). At first I thought this preoccupation with the distance covered by the transported food, from farms to supermarket shelves, made a lot of sense.
Recently however, I read "Food miles. Green good sense, ill-considered hype, or naked protectionism?", by Ethan Zuckerman, in worldchanging, and learned that the environmental impact of the food we eat should not be measured only by the distance it travels.
And in case you're a New York Times Select subscriber, you can also read "Don't buy local", by Richard Conniff, for another balanced view on the subject.
This debate is far from over and will certainly shape the way we buy our food from now on.
PS: I have truly enjoyed reading Richard Conniff's blog in the New York Times (unfortunately for subscribers only, sorry). Apart from learning a couple of German words - schadenfreude (pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune) and gluckschmerz (luck-pain, or sorrow at someone else's luck or happiness) - his writings offered an insightful look at human nature that were a delight to read.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

10 things about singapore

So far I have resisted to write any post that includes the words '10 things...' or anything similar in the title (pure adolescent rebellion against rules in general, I guess) but at last, here's a list of '10 things about Singapore'. It's a mix of travel tips you won't find in the guidebooks, with things that made me think, and things that I learned from having lived here for the past three years. So here's the list (in no particular order):

1. It's truly amazing what Singapore has achieved in the span of one generation (17th in the GDP/per capita rank, 25th in the Human Development Index). Of course, prosperity should not be measured only in terms of economic development but you can't claim the former without the latter. If you're interested in learning how a small island-nation became one of the Asian Tigers, watch Discovery Channel's documentary. It's fairly comprehensive, depicting Singapore's history since the times of the British colonization till the present (it's sold in DVD format).
2. The nicest magazine stand in the island (note that I said 'nicest', not 'largest') is the one inside Tanglin Mall's Market Place. There's an old gentleman who works there, I never asked his name. He always greets me with a smile. We exchange some words, 'so long no see', 'been traveling?'. Sometimes I can hardly understand his thick accent (and I guess he can't understand mine either) but small pleasantries like that always make me feel home. And he always keeps my 'Sports Illustrated'.
3. Cotton buds here are hard. I miss the soft J&J ones I was used to in Brazil.
4. There's something Jekyll & Hydish when it comes to Singaporeans driving cars. The usual affable and friendly Singaporean forgets all courtesy and manners when behind the car's driving wheel. There's even a government campaign called "Singapore Courtesy" aimed at tackling the problem. I don't know exactly what triggers this behavior, but there's a Ph.D. thesis there waiting to be explored.
5. Best cafe: Spinelli. Their cappuccino is very creamy and the tarts and cakes are yummy!
6. Best bakery: Simply Bread.
7. Multiculturalism vs. assimilation: Coming from the melting pot that is Brazil, I first became aware of this issue when I moved here. Singapore advertises itself as an example of a multicultural society, where people of different races, languages, and religions live harmoniously together while still preserving their culture. I've only scratched the surface, but from what I've seen, they've managed it like no other place. It's not perfect, there are many problems (one in particular that bothers me is the differentiated treatment given to foreign workers such as maids and construction workers), but to be fair, they acknowledge some of the problems and constantly try to improve it. With the growing movement of people from one country to another, the immigration discussions in the developed nations, and lately the terrorism issue, this debate will continue, here and in the rest of the world, for many years to come.
8. Overrated: Chili Crab (and this from somebody who loves sea food). Go for a Char Kway Teow instead.
9. Underrated: Siloso Beach. OK, it's not Hawaii, and there are oil tankers and other vessels in the horizon but this artificial beach is very nice on a lazy afternoon (and if you get the chance to go on a weekday when there's no crowd, it's even better. Just chill out and watch the sunset).
10. Changi Airport is the best in the world. Where else can you, on an international flight, get out of the airport in less than 20min after your flight lands? And that's counting the time to retrieve your checked-in suitcases!

como planejar a propaganda

Numa iniciativa do Grupo de Planejamento, foi lançado no Brasil o livro "Como Planejar a Propaganda", tradução do clássico "How to Plan Advertising", publicado pelo Account Planning Group da Inglaterra.
Para qualquer pessoa que se interessa pelo mundo da criatividade e da comunicação de marcas, é um livro essencial. O preço sugerido é de R$ 59,00, e você pode comprá-lo aqui.O projeto da versão brasileira foi coordenado por Jurandir Craveiro, sócio-diretor da NBS (e meu ex-chefe na JWT).
Disclaimer: ajudei na tradução de um dos capítulos.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

stormtrooper dancing in tokyo

Danny Choo, who has one of the most visited blogs in Japan written in English, puts on a stormtrooper armor and dances in the streets and subways of Tokyo, to the groovy sound of Earth, Wind & Fire. Watch it here.
The particular scene below was shot in Akihabara, Danny dancing with the local cosplay gang. Too funny.

apple evolution

Take a look at this chart that details the evolution of Apple product design from 1976 to 2007. Follow the link to see a larger image.(link via Guy Kawazaki)

Monday, July 02, 2007

toto is happiness

Toto, Japan's maker of hi-tech toilet seats (known as washlets) is trying to enter the American market. To me, it's a mystery why this hasn't happened before.
Whoever tries this comfy toilet seat will never forget the experience. Interesting to see how they're trying to sell a 'higher order' of cleanliness, if you will, and ultimately 'happiness'.
Check out their cheeky web page below.
And here, a shot of the control buttons. These icons always make me smile.

(link via cityofsound)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

the bed scene

I'm late on this (no, really late), but finally watched "Lost in Translation" the other day. I thought it was a great movie, delicate and nuanced, Bill Murray is excellent (besides, the guy sings - no, really sings), and Tokyo looks mesmerizing and mysterious as it really is.
There's one scene though that keeps coming to my mind - the bed scene. Well, it's not exactly what you were thinking.
Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) lie in bed, talking about life. It's a very chaste scene (as chaste as any scene with Scarlett Johanson in bed could be), and yet you couldn't get a more intimate, tender and delicate scene between two people.

"Bob Harris: It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.
Charlotte: Yeah. It's scary.
Bob: It's the most terrifying day of your life... the day the first one is born.
Charlotte: Yeah. Nobody ever tells you that.
Bob: Your life, as you know it... is gone. Never to return.
But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk, and...
... and you want to be with them.
And they turn out to be the most delightful people... you will ever meet in your life.

Watch the entire scene below on YouTube (gotta love YouTube).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

tokyo's limousine bus lady

While in Tokyo, the best way to and from Narita International Airport is the Limousine Bus. Thousands of passengers make that trip every day and they're always greeted by Kaoru Kubo, who has been the voice of the Airport Limousine for the last 23 years.
Who could forget her "gentle" reminder?
" phones should not be used on this bus as they annoy the neighbors!".
Listen to her voice on

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

200m in 19.62s

American sprinter Tyson Gay ran the second fastest 200m in history, at the U.S. Championship held in Indianapolis, behind only Michael Johnson's phenomenal 19.32s world record from the 1996 Olympics.
That in itself would've been a fantastic performance but given the wet conditions and a 0.3m/s headwind, we can only be left to wonder what Gay (photo below) would've done were conditions optimal.
But I have to say I can't help to be kind of wary now, given all the doping cases that sprung recently in the sport, and it's really sad that we get suspicious every time an athlete comes up with a world-class performance. Hopefully this is not the case. But I'm an incorrigible 'track nut' and can't wait for the Osaka World Championship.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

soldiers, go make babies!

When it comes to army enlistment, some have it much easier than others. Take Brazilians, for instance. Sure, we're all required to enlist, but the percentage of people who actually serve the full year is very low. Most people are dismissed without ever putting on a pair of boots. You can be dismissed for a myriad of reasons, e.g. simply because you are shortsighted.
Compared to that, some countries in Asia seem much more strict.
Despite the economic growth, regional instabilities and some demographic trends translate to a more rigorous recruitment system.
First, they're faced with regional uncertainties, such as North Korea, the Taiwan Strait issue, and the lingering Sino-Japanese tension over WWII atrocities.
Second, some countries face a shortage of able-bodied men. Singapore, for instance, has a total population of only 4.5 million (of which about half is male). South Korea is bigger, with a population of 49 million, but they also have a much bigger worry across their North border. What makes matters worse for young men in these countries is that both countries present declining birth rates.
These factors force Singapore and South Korea to extend their military service to a 2-year compulsory program. No excuses. In Singapore, even if you're heading to college you have to postpone it for when you finish the National Service, as it is called here.
But you can't keep young men out of the workforce much longer than that. That's too damaging to their careers and to the countries' economies as well.
Faced with this tricky situation, the South Korean government has just announced that starting next year, married soldiers will be allowed to sleep at home, instead of at the barracks as they currently do. The order is clear: protect the nation during the day, make babies at night. (via iol)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

cellphone symphony

Avant-garde musician Bora Yoon has been called "a one-woman orchestra". Watch this video recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where she creates a song by incorporating the sounds of her cell phone keys, and understand why. Forget about those annoying ring tones. This is quite nice!(via wsj)

Monday, June 18, 2007

pantone pattern recognition

Softbank Mobile: choose from 20 colors

Shinsei Bank Visa Cards: choose from 32 colors
Pantone Folders (via Eddie Wong)iPod Nano (okay, that's only 5 colors)
Have you seen other brands offering multiple color choices?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

we are what we eat

I was struck by the humanity in the photographs of this Time photo essay, "What the World Eats". Taken from Peter Menzel's book "Hungry Earth", the essay shows what's on family dinner tables around the world. It evoked all sorts of thoughts about globalization, inequality, and culture. Judge for yourself.
Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City
United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
See the entire photo essay here.
(via infosthetics - I'm an avid reader of this blog, in case you haven't noticed)