Friday, December 22, 2006

happy holidays

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off. I should resume blogging some time in January.
I just wanted to say thanks and wish you all Merry Christmas.
See you in the New Year.

P.S.: I wanted to leave something cheerful, and found this pearl of wisdom from Fernando Sabino, a Brazilian author:
"No fim dá certo. Se não deu, é porque não chegou ao fim".
Roughly translating it goes something like this:
"It'll end up well. If it didn't, it's because it hasn't ended yet". (can anybody offer an alternative translation?)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

meaning of home 2

Just a couple of examples, following up on the previous post.
Indeed these different meanings of 'home', depending on the culture, help explain the many variances in the way people live, from architectural design to family habits. In Asia it's common to remove one's shoes before entering anyone's home, a clear evidence of the separation between the pure ambiance of the home and the polluted outside world. Most homes and apartments have small shoe cabinets just outside the main entrance, such as this one, being sold in a Singaporean expat website.
Another evidence of the clear boundary between "clean" and "dirty" areas is this picture (via Jan Chipchase), of a mountain lodge in Japan.
These shoes are specifically for use in the men's toilette. The rest of the building is shoe-free.
I suspect these different meanings account for many other manifestations, such as the use of chopsticks, instead of knife and fork (seem as "weapons of aggression"). And Feng Shui, obviously, could only have been invented in Asia (in China, more specifically).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

the meaning of home

I've been interested in texts about 'home' recently (part of a broader interest in memoirs and migration), and came across this interesting quote by Genevieve Bell, anthropologist and Director of User Experience at Intel, in Fast Company's latest issue:
"...We have slow-moving cultural paradigms, and 'home' means something in our imaginations. In England and America, you say, 'My home is my castle.' In India, people talk metaphorically about their homes as 'pure' and the outside world as 'polluted.' In Indonesia, home means grace, modesty, and simplicity."

Deutchman, Alan. Fast Talk: Home Improvement. Intel's Genevieve Bell on why our homes will never be like George Jetson's. Fast Company. December 2006/January 2007.

where do ideas come from?

From an interview with Italian architect Renzo Piano (of Paris' Centre Georges Pompidou fame, which he designed with Richard Rogers), in Metropolis magazine:

When you visit buildings by other architects, what do you look for?
Haha! First, I enjoy them very much. Second, I steal everything. Stealing is maybe too hard a word. There’s an Italian word, you say “rubarro,” which means a nice robber, without a mask.

What did T.S. Elliot say, “Good poets borrow, great poets steal”?
It’s really about that. But art is about that. Music is about taking and giving back. In a way I spend my entire life stealing from everything—from the past, from cities I love, from where I grew up—grabbing things, taking not only from architecture but from Italy, art, writing, poetry, music. And you know what, I put all my robberies in a little piece of paper that I have with me and fill almost a whole sketch pad. Even when I don’t like a building, I still find something to take. This is probably because I was never a good school boy, so I grew up with the idea that I was not the first in class and I was a problem all the time. When you grow up with that idea, you spend your life taking from others.

Monday, December 18, 2006

michelin gps

Have you ever unknowingly driven through a major landmark or a nice restaurant only to find out about it when you return back home from your trip? Well, it happened to me a couple of times and I can tell you I was not exactly happy about it (you usually become aware of it only when a somewhat amused friend says "don't tell me you didn't go there!").Now Michelin, the European map and guide company, has launched a GPS that contains information from their guides and maps. Currently it's available only in Europe and in the US. The European version lists 51,000 establishments (29,000 restaurants and 27,000 hotels). Plus it has a feature called POI (Point of Interest) Alert. They claim to put "the pleasure back into driving". I think what it does is bring more context and meanings to our trips. As we drive, suddenly the GPS flashes, "One-star Michelin restaurant 2 km ahead". No more missed opportunities!

Biggs, John. Electronic Navigation With the Michelin Touch. The New York Times. December 14, 2006. (here)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

little miss sunshine

I'm a little late on this, but finally watched "Little Miss Sunshine" on the plane from Singapore to London.
I guess you’ve all read the excellent reviews this movie has been receiving, and they're well deserved.
This is a sweet, or should I say, bittersweet movie, a poignant human comedy about the Hoovers, a dysfunctional family traveling from Arizona to California in an old VW bus, trying to make it to the "Little Miss Sunshine", a pre-pubescent beauty pageant contest, the dream of Olive, the seven-year-old daughter.
The cast is excellent. Greg Kinnear plays a (not so successful) motivational speaker who splits the world between "winners" and "losers", and who desperately tries not to fall in the latter category; Alan Arkin is the foul-mouthed, cocaine snorting grandpa (who proves to be an anarchist and a prophetic sage in the end); Paul Dano is the rebellious teenage son who made a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken in nine months; Steve Carell, excellent as the depressive, suicidal uncle, the number one Proust scholar in the world, who brings a bit of much needed perspective to the whole absurdity of the situations; Toni Collette, as the exasperated mother who tries to hold the family together; and the unforgettable girl, the sweet Abigail Breslin, all innocence and wonder, who like most girls of her age, dreams of being a beauty queen.
But despite the reviews praising it as being a road movie with soul, I think they slightly missed one important underlying theme.
This is as much a road movie as it is a movie about raising kids in our days. In many moments, the directors (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris) invite us to think about the difficult dilemmas we face in raising a child nowadays.
What is “right”, and what is “wrong”? Is there "right" and "wrong"?
Do we let them find out for themselves some of the world’s ugly truths or do we protect them?
Do we nurture their dreams, impossible as they might be, or do we give them a dose of reality?
Do we impose our preconceived ideas of how things should be or do we let them rewrite the rules?
There's a scene when Olive, in a moment of self-doubt, hesitantly asks, "grandpa, am I pretty?”. At that very moment, when she asks a question probably every woman asks when growing up, she reminds us how susceptible children are to our actions. For an adult it's just a nod, or a glance of disapproval here, maybe a sarcastic comment there, but for a child they can mean a world of difference, the difference between a confident, bubbling child, and an insecure one.
The movie’s end (I won't spoil it for you) reminded me Sir Ken Robinson presentation at TED. He said about children: "if they don't know, they'll have a go". As parents, I guess, this is all we can hope for. That they will have a go.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I went to meet Alex and his gang from ag_407, André, Fernando and Selma. They handed me a copy of the "Invitro Yellow Pages" (looks great, congrats guys) and we chatted for some time. Such nice people. Later, Alex and Fernando took me for a delicious lunch at Pitanga (their specialty is typical Brazilian food).
The photo below was the "icing on the cake", a modern version of a traditional Brazilian dessert called "Romeo and Juliet". It's a cheese mousse swimming in guava syrup. Pure heaven.
Thanks Alex for picking up the bill.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

wii at the science museum

The Science Museum in London has a great exhibition exploring the history, technology and culture of computer games. You can play some of the classic games of all time, like Pongo, Super Mario, and PacMan, among many others.
The highlight of the exhibition is a special Wii and Playstation zone. We went there last Thursday and tried the Wii. We played tennis and it was a blast, really fun. Just one warning: although you don't get to run like in a real tennis match, it's advisable to warm-up at least your upper-body because the arm movement is pretty much what you would do in the real thing. If you don't do this, you'll feel your arms sore the following day (as I did).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

long trip

We're traveling to Sao Paulo for the holidays, with a short stop in London. It's a long, long trip (twelve hours from Singapore to London, and another twelve from London to Sao Paulo), so I'll probably won't be posting anything for the next few days.

invitro yellow pages

The good people at ag_407 published an internet guide, the "Invitro Yellow Pages", where some of the coolest people in Sao Paulo share their list of top web sites and blogs. They were kind enough to include me in the book (I guess that makes me the only exception among some really cool people). Thanks guys, can't wait to get my hands on my copy.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

foot reflexology

Spotted in Singapore. Bus advertising for Kinohimitsu Health Pads.
At first look, I thought it was a mattress ad (although usually there are only two people in these mattresses ads). Then I got closer and saw the pads on the feet (you can barely see the light blue squares). The foot reflexology industry is big in Asia. In Singapore there are many foot reflexology parlors.

cell phone, mobile, or keitai?

Mobile culture is one of the topics I'm most interested in nowadays.
Recently, I came across Mimi Ito's blog (I believe it was via Jan Chipchase's blog, but I'm not sure, just way too many feeds). She has edited the book "Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life", about the meaning of the mobile (cell) phones in Japan, from where the excerpt below was taken:
"In contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untethering from fixed location), the Japanese term keitai (roughly translated, ‘‘something you carry with you’’) references a somewhat different set of dimensions. A keitai is not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life."
I just thought it was striking that the Japanese have actually chosen a Japanese word to define their mobile handset. They have one of the most permeable cultures, at least when it comes to naming new objects and habits, happily adopting the English name, or a modified form of the English version (sarariman for "salary man", pasucom for "personal computer", chiketto for ticket, and so on).
But keitai, or "something you carry with you", really brings the mobile (or cell phone) to a higher level of intimacy and presence. It practically becomes an extension of the body, which might help explain the ubiquitous, almost symbiotic relationship the Japanese have with their mobile phones.

Monday, December 04, 2006

quarter pounder, r.i.p.

It happened to me some time ago. I was in a sort of a rush and had to grab something fast to eat. I went to a McDonald's and ordered a Quarter Pounder and a Diet Coke (the Diet just to ease my guilt). The lady taking my order looked blankly at me and replied: We're not serving Quarter Pounder anymore.
It took some time to sink in. I couldn't hide my surprise.
I'm sorry, what do you mean, is it temporary?
No, the lady replied again, the Quarter Pounder was discontinued.
I couldn't believe it.
You're saying you have discontinued one of your most iconic products? The Quarter Pounder, the "Quarteirao" as the Brazilians say it, or the "Royale with Cheese", star of one of the most memorable dialogues in cinema's history (in my book), and you have discontinued it? (I didn't say all this, but that's what crossed my mind).
The Quarter Pounder fell victim to the new, healthier McDonald's (in Singapore at least).
As culture changes, products and brands will change as well. Some new ones will be launched while others will be "discontinued". They have a Grilled Chicken Foldover now (by the way, what do they call it in Paris?).
Frustrated, I ordered a Double Cheeseburger instead, just to satisfy my crave.
Quarter Pounder, R.I.P..

Friday, December 01, 2006

wii have a problem

Some early Wii users are already reporting having troubles with the console. No, it's not a bug. It happens when they swing too fast (playing bowling, for example), and accidentally let the remote slip from their hands. What's the result? A smashed TV screen, and a broken remote (apparently the remote strap is not that strong). (via Yahoo!News)
I wonder though, is it really an 'accident' or does the interaction with the game feel so real they actually release the remote believing they've just released the ball?
On the other hand, and I guess this ends the discussion, The Onion made a "feature by feature" comparison between the Wii and the PS3, in which the Wii definitely comes on top (via Michell).
Me? I'm 'totally' leaning towards the Wii (despite the broken TVs). I'll just make sure I don't buy the bowling game and will try to get a stronger strap somehow.