Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Microsoft x Twitter

I know everyone's tired of Twitterology... Corporate marketers usurping the network, poor attempts to "keep it real," politicians, celebrities, magazines, all clamoring to join the Tweetosphere...

But CEOs?


(From their site) ExecTweets is a resource to help you find and follow the top business executives on Twitter. Created by Federated Media, in partnership with Microsoft, ExecTweets is a platform that aggregates the tweets of top business execs and empowers the community to surface the most insightful, business-related tweets.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friday Night Fever in Milan

Friday in Milan. I found myself wandering around the entire city on foot. By the time I'd returned to my hotel room I was variously exhausted, lonely, and anxious to see more. I considered calling my friends in the Hara-NDC crew to see if I could tag along on what was probably going to be a fun group dinner, but thought the better of it, as I'd just be mooching.

So I decided I'd grab dinner alone at the local Pizzeria.

7pm. RoRo' Pizzeria. RoRo on Via Fauché is actually a classy bistro with a full menu, wine list, and everything in between. I was seated by a clean-shorn man in a form-fitting suit... which made me realize that every restaurant I'd been to from day 1 was staffed entirely by a wait staff of clean-shorn men in form-fitting attire. In other words, I had not been served by one woman during my entire 5 day stay.

While I was reading the menu I overheard a two-top near me (Korean woman and older white man) argue with the waitor about the leftovers they wanted to take back with them. They were stereotypical Americans -- talking loudly to each other in English about how bad the service was, and then talking even louder to the waitor when he misunderstood their barked orders for a "to go container." [The couple kept repeating "WE WANT THIS TO GO." And it was so obvious the waitor thought they were saying something to the effect of "we want to go (leave)." The argument ensued when said waitor cleared their plates, hence denying them their precious leftovers.]

After they'd sufficiently complained, the Korean woman and I made eye contact which I immediately shut down by burying my face into a notebook. Please don't bring me into this. Please don't bring me into this.

Too late.

Said Korean woman came up to me and asked, "are you Korean?" (in Korean). Amazingly, I was somehow able to communicate that my mom is che-il kyoppo, but that I don't speak the language well. She gave me the Han-look of disappointment almost all Koreans give me when they learn of my background. Whatever. I should have told her I was the bastard child of Hirohito and a kisaeng.

Then she starts asking me where I live and what I'm doing here, and adds finally, in Korean: this restaurant is horrible. The service is really bad and I think if it's not too late you should leave... or at least that's what I gleaned. I just said, "ku re?" and didn't budge. Finally she left.

Soon I was well off into my first course--sea bass topped with a ginormous prawn and fried herbs. Delicioso. My beer arrived and a table of three was seated right next to me.

Second course -- risotto inferno -- which I ordered on the assumption "inferno" indicated spiciness. What to my amazement the risotto was black-red, and sour. I observed:

Inferno must mean "dark and scary," and not "spicy" as it would in the U.S.

I nudged the risotto around and pondered every bite. I heard the people sitting next to me murmur about me. No doubt making fun of how I'd just ordered the one dish on the menu that was decidedly tourist unfriendly. [Just so it's clear though: I loved the dish. It just came at me totally out of left field is all.] One of them kept telling the other two to shush in the universal language of a finger at his pouting lips, and then finally he leaned over and said:

You li~~ke za riSO...tto?
(formatted to approximate his accent)

Anne: Yes, but I think it was cooked in vinegar. Aceto. I like it but it's sour.
Man: Ah... I~ think it i--z not! aceto. I~ think it i--z waaahn.
Anne: Wine?
Man: Si. In facto, I know! it i---z. I am the owner of this restauranto.
Anne: (Face turning the color of the risotto)

Alfredo was the owner of the restaurant, which specialized in Tuscan cuisine. Risotto Inferno was named for the red wine the rice is cooked in. Red=Hell.

Alfredo insisted I join his party and let him feed me all their specials. I can safely say I'd never had any of these foods before. Rare steak filleted from the spine (a two-foot long section of the bovine spine on a silver platter, to be exact), with bitter olive oil as sauce. Pure raw chocolate inside chocolate ice cream. Grappa, Sambuca, Biondi wines (I know these aren't exotic beverages but I just hadn't had them before).

His friends were a show in and of themselves too. Filippo, a doctorate, and the director of the insurance division of a major Swiss bank. Priscilla, a designer at Dolce & Gabanna. Francesca, the head of T.T. Holding, whose biggest client is Toyota Europe. David, Priscilla's colleague, and dead ringer for Gary Sinise.

Despite being the five richest people I now knew, my new Italian friends were entertained by the fact that I was in town for the Furniture Fair, an event they see take over their lovely city every year but had never participated in. I talked my best talk, and by midnight we were promising to be each others godparents.

After we'd sucked the RoRo vine of all its liquor, Alfredo asked:

Where next?

12:00am Wish Nightclub. It's like a Bret Easton Ellis version of Milan. Alfredo leads us past a swollen crowd of miniskirts and Armani suits to get into the club/bar. The owner of the bar is the color of a Hermes bag he's so fake-tanned. Leads us in and buys us rounds of champagne and limoncello. We go out to the smoking area where five different West Indians beg Alfredo to buy off their roses for his ladies. His "no!"s get increasingly irritated, but finally he admits:

Two of these guys come to my restaurant every night. (Alfredo pulls his fingertips in like a drawstring bag, and shakes invisible maracas in the air. Eyes half-closed.) I am so prrroud! So prrroud they come to my restaurant. My restaurant! Every night they come!!!

1:20am Some underground club near the Duomo. The totally piss-drunk Alfredo has driven the four of us through Milan to check out "the most exclusive club in the city" in his ginormous BMW, all the while yelling at Filipo to translate the "beautiful song" playing on the radio.

Filipo: (waving his hands and screaming) Don't forrrget me. Don't forrrget the memories. She is singing don't forget don't forget. OK, I think Anna understands now.
[Incidentally, Filipo lived in Boston at one point so his English was actually pretty good.]

Same routine: Alfredo leads us past a crowd and hugs the bouncers who usher us downstairs.

Afredo: I want that you meet the 80 year old bartender.

I don't know what I was expecting when he said that, but lo and behold: an 80-year old specter of a bartender wearing a perfectly creased Armani suit with white pocket square and pinky ring. His pate glistened with the product he used to gel the five strands of silver hair combed over it. He pours gin and tonics over completely transparent ice cubes.

We drink. A lot. Then we dance. Alfredo looks at me like I'm from China.

Alfredo (laughing): You do not dance like you are frrrom New York, Anna. You dance like you are from Vancouver.

...or Canada.

2 or 3am. Outside the club. I'm supposed to take a day-trip out to Venice or Lake Como or something in just a few scant hours, and I'm dizzy from drinking. Alfredo keeps insisting I stay up all night and catch the first train out, but I am falling over myself drunk. Priscilla finally agrees we should all go home.

We had our picture taken by one of the earlier rose-vendors on a polaroid they also sell snapshots from. They decide I should keep it.

Filippo drives. In front of my hotel everyone says they hope I had a good time. I repeat several times that I had a great time.

Filipo: Don't forrrget about us. Don't forrrget Italy. Don't forrrget Milan.
Anne: Trust me. I will never forget this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pretty... pretty vapid.

To be sure, Craft/Punk was pretty. Honestly. Very well presented. And its curator, Ambra Medda, is the hot 29 year old internationalista everyone has a boner for right now. I am certainly just Mozart's Salieri...
But this attempt to make a Design (capital D) version of "Performance Art" was, well...dumb. This bougey borrowing of memes like "craft" and "punk" and "performative" is the equivalent of a Brian Austin Green rap album. No one was performing for more than five minutes at a time, and I'll grant they were probably pumping out the work on opening night, but by the last day of the installation when I attended, it was just people hobnobbing over Camparis.

Design isn't Art, and I know this now, more than ever, but the difference between Performance Art and Performance Design is that Chris Burden wouldn't have gotten up in the middle of a crucifixion to do cheek-kisses with an old friend.

Finally, I give thee tokenism:
Poor Sid...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The most awesome storefront in the E.U.

I walked past this store and did a double-take because of all the music boxes, but then I looked closer. Yes, they're music boxes...

Music boxes that play "Bridge Over River Kwai" and the "Socialist Internationale."
Wow. Just... wow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Newspapers will survive if they take out the news...and everything else, basically.

Whoever said the newspaper is dead hasn't been to a design fair lately. A noticeable trend in the Salone Milano has been the un-newspaper used to advertise designers (e.g. Tom Dixon), collectives (e.g. eco-designers), and even caucuses (e.g. furniture designers from Berlin). It's what the CD-Rom used to be. Recession chic, baby.

Still don't know how I feel about this though... The same industry responsible for the coffee table book--a book you don't have to read--is now publishing "the paper"--a newspaper without any news. I think it's brilliant communication design, in a manner of speaking. Unlike picture-postcards or the most experimental tote bags, a carefully worded headline will force you to "keep reading." Snapshots never last, but newsprint is even worse. You will feel less badly about throwing this biodegradable tabloid away, but won't be able to help yourself from reading (that is, if you know how to).

...or something like that.

And in related news, guess who else is starting a "paper"?

inre: The Hipster Grifter, a.k.a. just plain grifter

Damn. When Momus is weird he's frightening, but when he's on, he's on.

P.S. whatever happened to Kahimi...

(via Ryan)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Best Italy Souvenir So Far

Bic. Panty. Hose. 4 euros at the lotto-tabac kiosk.
Done and done.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Get your dog off Milan

If any of you are in Milan for the design fair this week, don't miss the Triennale Museum on Parco Sempione where this is taking place:

Tokyo Fiber '09
Sensewere Exhibit

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

T-shirt Contest #I stopped keeping track...

"We got everything at Whole Grain Supermarket, from apples to apricots."

"Acme Corporation addresses every market segment, from Austria to Belgium to Holland and Switzerland and beyond."

These are structurally identical but made-up versions of two sentences I've recently read.

I think it's important to remember that the original template for this cliché is "from A to Z." The Alpha and the Omega. The Yin and the Yang -- Spectrum, folks.


The first sentence was particularly annoying as it would have been so easy for the copywriter to say "everything from apples to zuccini."(Just take my word on this one.)

The second was a little more complicated, since the copywriter clearly couldn't dismiss the fact that there was no real spectrum to speak of. The breadth of their "A to Z" was more like "A to B."

This brings me to T-Shirt Contest #I stopped keeping track...

I've got it all.
Everything from A to B.

Tell me what you think the graphic ought to be. Maybe "A to B" isn't even the right alphabet spectrum. A to A?

PS: I swear on my mother I'm still working on the cucumber shirt btw, Jon in Hawai'i (who won that contest). I just haven't been able to come up with a graphic (I've been drawing and sourcing and well, just can't come up with it). A propos, if anyone wants to donate an illustration of Japanese cucumbers looking extra dong-y, you get the shirt too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NY Times, WTF?

There's this phrase I love that doesn't readily translate from the Japanese. It describes someone who is faux "European" but in a way that's different from our term "Euro-trash." Whereas Eurotrash specifically denotes a wardrobe and typically an actual European, the Japanese term is more like, "that bitch think she French or som'n."

Bata kusai
Stinks of butter

If you stink like butter, it's because you're eating too much of it. And if you're eating too much of it, it's because you think you French or som'n.

Well, my general disdain for The Times notwithstanding, this bitch think she French or som'n.
I give thee, the most butter-stanky retardonculous piece I've read all year.

It has plenty in common with recent extravagances. Like the Range Rover or the Sub-Zero fridge, it has a solid frame designed for function. Like a Louis Vuitton trunk, it has a chic design and a patina of history stretching back to the 19th century. And like a bottle of San Pellegrino, it evokes that genteel way of life that Europeans are always going on about. This new It object is the glossy black Dutch bicycle, its design unchanged since World War II.
Even as bicycle sales and ridership are up, even as the city becomes more bike friendly than ever, the extreme poles of bike culture are still in many ways hostile to biking as it is done in the Netherlands. There, where riding a bicycle to work in a suit and tie is as notable an act as drinking a cup of coffee, there is no bike culture — all culture includes the bike. The civilized pedigree of the Dutch bike is matched by its old-fashioned design: it comes with fenders, chain guard, generator and rack — standard, as they say in Detroit. With a bike kitted out like that, a man can wear almost anything he likes to work and not worry about getting grimy — no kamikaze messenger-wear required. Luckily, the new look of men’s wear, with its slimmed-down, sporty shapes (even in suits), is tailor-made for a bicycle commute. And since Dutch bikes are ridden upright, not hunched over, and you move at a safe, slow gait, sweating is not the issue it is when you’re careening on a road bike.
(emphases added)

OK. So New York isn't an Aryan nation of architecture program drop-ou...I mean, "Dutch" in our bike fashion, but "hostile"? Give me a break. This guy in the picture was probably getting his "gears tightened" at Barcade when they took his "is it hot in here or is it just my sporty tailor-made non-kamikaze messenger-suit" pose.

Yeah yeah, I realize my making fun of this look proves the point that New York isn't quite ready for biking dutchmen, but if being profiled with a Range Rover and Sub-Zero fridge full of Pellegrino doesn't bother you, you really think you French or som'n.

(Thanks, Daniel, for the link.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More lessons in copywriting...

Many moons ago, I donated to my alumni LGBTI Center (along with the Literature Dept. and Kresge College... go Slugs!). God bless 'em all. I'm practically broke but I want the chillun to have their queer movie nights, Kresge co-op, lit. department faculty mixers...

So, ever since donating, I've been receiving the UCSC Lionel Cantù LGBTI Center's Newsletters, which mostly just advertise campus events that I obviously cannot attend. Thing is, I don't unsubscribe, and I don't even delete them, because the writing is in its own stratum of terrible puns. So terrible as to be sublime.

I mean hey, if anyone likes a play on words, even a tired old pun, it's me. Ms. ill iterate.

But folks, there's a play on words, and then there's this:
Look closely.
Exhibit A:
"Bust OUT"

Exhibit B:
Rainbow type-fill

Exhibit C:
Splooge behind mic-head

Exhibit D:

Someone here has grossly underestimated the power of the word "gay."
I was surprised to get this in my mail today, not because it was junk mail, but because it was The New York Times. Here's how they open:
"People are talking...are you?"

I'm used to shit like:
"Tired of being fat?"
"Do you have unwanted gold?"
"Have you or someone you know ever thought of suing anyone for any reason at all?"

My question:
Do you think rhetorical questions ever sound good in an ad?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This will NOT make me laugh.

Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck has been grabbing many a headline these days, thanks to his amazingly bizarre antics on the conservative news channel. He’s decided to use that publicity — good or bad — to launch a short comedy tour.

According to the Associated Press, “Beck calls his act a ‘poor man’s Seinfeld’ and intends to mix topical humor with his modern-day reimagining of Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet Common Sense.”

Punchline Magazine

This makes me laugh.

Long a glamorous showcase for carmakers, auto shows have lately become a place for buyers and gawkers to vent. Few of the attendees at the Javits Center, where the New York show runs until Sunday, will ever encounter a top executive from G.M. or Chrysler. But all of them get within heckling range of the presenters and for some, that is good enough.

It does not seem to matter that these women — they are nearly all women, most of them young and attractive — work part time for marketing firms and talent agencies that have contracts to run the exhibits. Many know little about the car companies they are working for beyond the scripts they have memorized.

“I try to explain that we’re not involved in corporate decisions, so complaining to us doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” said Kerri Moss, standing on a large turntable next to a Jeep 4X4 Laredo, a Chrysler product. Recently laid off from her job as a teacher, she is trying to earn some money on the car show circuit, which runs from September to May. “And if that doesn’t work, I tell them we’re doing the best we can.”

(The NY Times)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Convergence: Vampire Edition

Vampires have invaded my karma.

This morning I came into Museyon offices and remarked that the editorial manager was turning into a vampire because she hadn't turned on the lights in the office (we get plenty of sunlight but her desk is in the darkest corner). Not to mention her all black attire and generally pallid skin-tone also bearing elements of Transylvania.
She was kind of offended by my comment, but c'mon...

Hot, right?

Then I got to thinking. I guess you have to have seen or read and enjoyed at least one of the following: Interview With a Vampire, F.F. Copolla's Dracula, Blood, Underworld, Twilight...

Which in turn got me to think about what to my mind was the best film of 2008: Let the Right One In.

In Let the Right One In the vampire is a tween, so suffice it to say the younger the vampire the better the story. Pet Cemetary, anyone? Maybe they're great undeads because kids are already bloodsucking little connivers with much more up their sleeve than they ever let on.

(Just so it's clear, I think adult vampires are hot. Child vampires are fun. Not to be confused)

With vampires on my mind I noticed a teeny tiny button detail on my jeans:

Över min döda kropp
(Over my dead body)


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Masters Weekend.
My friend r.o.b. joked we should have a counter-tournament called Slaves. Heh.
Well, ironically, the Golf Channel did a whole cheeseball piece last night commemorating the retiring PGA heroes of yesteryear. Most notably, the South African Gary Player, and the caugh-on-tape-saying-a-really-stupid-racist-thing-about-Tiger-Fuzzy Zoeller.
I know joking about the whiteness of golf is a gimme, but let's see... Gary Player. Awesome golfer, awesome seeming guy, but was no doubt slapping balls at PUH-lenty of no-blacks-allowed apartheid era courses. And the Golf Channel insists on giving back Zoeller his good name after what they suggest might be twelve years of exaggerated (if self-imposed) exile.

But well, I think the comment he made bears some repeating for the record:


(Sigh) Golf could be so rad.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

È solo un'amico!

So, I'm going to Italy in a couple weeks and decided to get guide books on the Italian language and Milan, specifically (where I'll be for four days). Unfortunately, even the guide books can't make bones about this landlocked city.

Milan? Meh... not so much, Anne. Not so much...

That's fine. Can't be worse than... Red Hook...
And at least I get to learn some Italian.
Which is why I bought the lonely planet Italian phrasebook, and I gotta hand it to them. They've really covered all your basic phrases.

"How much is this?"
"That's too expensive."
"Has my money arrived yet?" (Who says that? Pimps.)

...and then, page 120 (pictured above).

"Are you seeing someone else?"
"He's just a friend."
"I don't think it's working out."
"I never want to see you again."

If you have to look up dialogue for your break-up in a lonely planet guide, I think the Italian boyfriend cheating on you is going to be the least of your problems.

Speaking of which, Ian Frazier at the New Yorker has an identical crisis of incredulity for learning Italian in this week's "Shouts & Murmurs."

Nostalgia attack!

This KineJapan query popped into my inbox today and set off a glorious stream of nostalgia. (Though apparently only for me. Everyone else is talking about contemporary film.) The query:

I have a grind interested in films on law in Japan. This would be an easy lot to whip out for Hollywood film, but few titles come to mind for Japan. How about you folks?

The question immediately transported me to my childhood, when my parents would rent bootleg VHS recordings of Tokusou Saizensen which I'd watch from the shag carpeted floor, head propped onto hands, elbows digging into the ground.

It would take another 20 years for me to remember the name of the show, because all I could really remember was the melancholy end-credits-theme.

I mean, is that a sad song to remember or is that a sad song to remember.
Am I right?

The story of how I got re-acquainted with the show is pretty ridiculous too. I was in a dark corner of an even darker bar, in Tokyo, sipping on whiskey with my old publishing employers and Kitakata Kenzo, the most revered and renowned hardboiled author in Japan, talking about my personal knowledge of hardboiled fiction. I grasped at the memory of this dorama, unable to remember much else besides the song, and I couldn't even remember a whole lot about the song, except something about a "juujika" (cross). But that's all it took.
Everyone at the table interrupted me in unison:

Tokuso Saizensen.

In retrospect, this was without doubt, the equivalent of me meeting someone in 20 years graspng at memories of Law & Order and saying, "all I remember is this sound effect... DUN-dun."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tales From the Crypt: NYC Recession, Episode 2

Yesterday two different messengers came to the Museyon office, neither of them wearing any of the following:

a. walkie talkie
b. cuff around left pant leg to protect it from gears on their bike
c. beanie cap
d. messenger bag

I suspicion both of them were full-time employees for the delivering parties because they were wearing the following:

Messenger #1
a. necktie
b. pressed slacks
c. London Fog-style rain coat
d. a pin on his lapel

Messenger #2
a. pointy-toed heels
b. a clutch purse
c. BlackBerry with rhinestones
d. big flower pin on her head

To add to the recession-chic of these messengers, the first messenger asked me for a glass of water.

"Whew. That was some walk. I'm just parched. If you have a cup, I can just get it myself."

I was really sad to tell him our pipes are totally rotted and we never use the sink because the water is completely unpotable. He kept insisting we give him some water, and I kept explaining we really didn't have anything I could pour into a cup. Finally I just gave him the rest of my bottle.

Messenger: You sure?
Anne: Oh yeah, sure. That's some walk you got.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm giving credit when credit is due.
The NY Times finally calls their coverage like it is:

YOU never know where goat will take you. When I asked the smiley butcher at Jefferson Market, the grocery store near my apartment in the West Village, whether he had any goat meat, he told me: “No. I got a leg of lamb, though — I could trim it nice and thin to make it look like goat.” I politely declined. We fell into conversation.
Mine is the tale of the recent convert. Admittedly, I’m late to the party: goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, a staple of, among others, Mexican, Indian, Greek and southern Italian cuisines. Moreover, it’s been edging its way into yuppier climes for a year or so now, click-clacking its cloven hooves up and down the coasts and to places like Houston and Des Moines.

"Yuppie" Oh how I've MISSED you.