Friday, January 19, 2007

Weird, I googled "Fashion" AND "Politics"

I guess everyone was wondering what I was wondering today....

New York Times' article "Speaking Chic to Power", published yesterday, asked basically, what does Pelosi wear to the House?

"Fashion authorities say Mrs. Pelosi should be applauded for her color choice (burgundy on Jan. 4, the day she was sworn in), her playfulness with jewelry (chunky, but tasteful, including signature Tahitian pearls) and her suit selection (from velvet to tweed), all of which can be imitated at a more affordable price by women who are not wealthy. Women are already taking note of her style; orders of Tahitian pearls have skyrocketed."

New York Magazine asked "How Chic is our Power", opening up the floor to some discourse on political style.

(Above, Pelosi in her Armani power suits; underneath: Christine Quinn, Amanda Burden, Diana Taylor, Helen Marshall, Iris Weinshall). These are all local (NYC) political powerhouses, and their style is identified by NY neighborhood.

Of Diana Taylor, State Banking Commissioner, Bloomberg's Girlfriend, "Taylor is the city politic's one true glamazon. It helps that she's tall and wears clothes well, but she also seems uniquely clued in to Fashion, capital F."

GLAMAZON. Should I try that next week? I love it.

LG Prada Phone vs. The Apple iPhone

Coolest new toys on the market, the web is abuzz today.

LG Electronics and Prada announced yesterday their collaboration to distribute a sleek, black new PRADA PHONE, to be distributed in Europe in February. Here is some of the press release's comments:

“We at LG are exceptionally proud of the PRADA Phone by LG” says Dr. Scott Ahn, President & CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. He continues, “The two companies have worked together seamlessly towards a truly shared vision, to develop one of the most beautifully stylish handsets the market has ever seen.”

Visiting LG Headquarters in Seoul, Korea, Mr. Patrizio Bertelli, President and CEO of PRADA, said: "As we do with ready-to-wear and accessories, we were looking at a break-through. Consistent with our approach, we are not branding an existing product; rather, Miuccia and I have been working with LG to give this new phone a very strong character and unique style, both in its contents and in its design. We, just like our partners at LG, are known for the attention to detail and uncompromising quality of our products. And we find these characteristics in the new mobile phone."

Macworld reports, "The Prada LG phone will go on sale first in late February through Prada shops in the U.K., France, Germany and Italy. It will cost around €600 (US$775). In March it will begin appearing in stores in Asia including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, said LG. A version for the Korean market is due out in the second quarter. LG has no plans to put it on sale in the U.S., said Judy Pae, a spokeswoman for the company in Seoul."

There's been some great commentary comparing the two phones, which are touchscreen, sleek black, have cameras, can play music, store and display pictures....fancy.

My favorite blurb yet was from Technology News: "Like the iPhone, the Prada phone has a touch screen and a camera. Like the iPhone, it plays music and videos and it can show documents. Yet unlike the iPhone, the Prada phone doesn't allow use with a full-featured Web browser through common WiFi networks....[F]or all its smoothness and flatness, the Prada phone is an orange and the iPhone is -- you guessed it -- an Apple."

Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?

In Praise of Ina Garten

What I love about Ina Garten, the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa, is that each recipe she shares with us is guaranteed to be delicious. My sister is convinced of my prowess as a cook and a baker, and I owe this to Ina's very precise instructions. I repeatedly make the popular Barefoot Contessa coconut cupcakes because a cupcake run to East Hampton is never a practical option for me. The cake is always moist and delicately flavored. And the icing - ohhhh that creamy icing - fluffy, cloudy, and deceptively light. As light as cream cheese and butter will allow. Perfection.

I missed Ina's October and December book signings in New York in support of her new book,
Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again. D, you lucky you, there's still a chance to meet her on January 22nd at Draegers in San Mateo. Tell her I love her?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mika Kato

If you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo on Saturday, January 20, be sure to catch the last day of Mika Kato's exhibition at The Tomio Koyama Gallery.

The gallery's
press release promises a few new paintings, charcoals, and a doll. A doll!

I first encountered Mika Kato's work at 2004's Roppongi Crossing: New Visions in Japanese Art. At once attractive and disturbing, Soda from 2000, is shown on the left.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cora Kemperman

I'm looking forward to the late spring when one of my oldest and dearest friends ties the knot. In Amsterdam. Yay. Aside from being able to spend such a special time with Gen and her family, I will also have the chance to explore the city for the very first time. First on my list: Dutch designer Cora Kemperman's shop. Known for clothing that is timeless yet innovative, fluid, architectural, and, well, simply beautiful. Kemperman's creations are statements, though made quietly and discretely. In an interview with Hermelijn van der Meijden of Eigen Huis & Interieur, Kemperman describes her collection as "feminine and elegant, has ethnic elements, is comfortable and has been produced responsibly." She describes her customers as "creative women who do not follow the mainstream trends."

In addition to being a design original, Kemperman's company is a model of corporate social responsibility. A percentage of the company's profits are channeled to fund programs that improve the lives of the people who work in their factories in India. To read more about Kemperman and her company, and to see more images from past and current collections, click

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Design at Work, Part Two

C, I had an amusing conversation about the proposed design of my company's legal-tech services division office plan in Boston, a well-respected braintrust in my company. (Please see blueprint above).

In response to my peers reacting to the proposed blueprints above, I tried to find some interesting design options for cubicles that would house these rowdy, hungry, child-like technology operations personnel happily for 12 to 15 hours a day. There is a really intersting article in the Birmingham Business Journal last month, called Modern design changing established cubicle culture, which has discussed the trends like lowering cubicle walls to permit interaction desk-to-desk, permitting the large office windows to be accessed by the entire staff in an open space, rather than reserved for senior principles in closed-door offices, intermingling senior staff among the people in their departments rather than keeping them apart, including open space with chairs and a rug, and so forth. It is about how today's business culture is in communication and the exchange of ideas and team-building rather than a hierarchal design approach.

This is what I found so far:


Years ago, I thought a good name for a design blog might be "house of glass" or, when feeling frou frou, "maison de verre," after the modernist residence built in 1920's Paris by Bijvoet and Chareau. The blog's focus was to be interior design and decorating, with a modernist bent. The name also referenced the act of observing, through imaginary glass walls, the environments people created for themselves while at home. But that sounds borderline creepy, 'no?

With Disenyo, D and I talk and obsess like old times. As D explains it: Disenyo is tagalog for "Design" (a derivation from the spanish word DiseƱo). ... So, on Disenyo, we're going to explore design from our New York and San Francisco sensibilities and discourse our ideas old-friend-to-old-friend.... So here we go, as we talk about our latest design fixations in the worlds of art, architecture, crafts, design, fashion, food, and technology. And Hello Kitty, we're always going to talk about Her Highness.

Photo from wikipedia, uploaded by Kowloonese in en.wikipedia.

Design at Work, Part One: Desk Monsters

Who could have thought that my inspiration could come from within a tiny interior little office with no windows that is smaller than my bathroom at home? I discovered a hidden competition among the corporate tech community members; those chubby geeks wearing prominent black frames on pallid faces, their garbage can overfilled with waxed wrappers from Quiznos, Dilbert cartoons scotch-taped to their white office doors...haven't you ever seen the movie Office Space?

Hear me out, all of you fashionistas and cooler-than-thou's...

You would think that corporate life stunts creative expression, but amid the mess atop corporate grey metal desktops (chinese stress balls, squishy rubber neon throw things, a plant half-dead 'neath the flourescent lights) I started to see Desk Monsters on people's desks. Not cheesy plastic stuff, not corny "Decision-Maker Dartboards", not Voodoo dolls with the boss' face superglued on the front, but real, REAL SCULPTURE?

One of my clients was on New Year's vacation, and asked me to come sit at his desk a couple days while he was away, to load a database onto the lawfirm's server. "Sure, go have fun." Then I saw his Desk Monster.

He likes classically styled Mexican paper-mache figures. This one I saw on his desk seemed to be a Meso-American god (maybe Mayan? Olmec?), about 10 or 11 inches tall, in brilliant reds, yellows, blues and whites, with lighting bolts crowning the head of a terrible countenance, so cool. I think it might have been Quetzalcoatl, a death god in the ancient Yucatan, he must've gotten it while on vacation.

His friend in the next office had a 3 foot long painted Iguana from South America, this one was made of clay, like this guy over here, brightly colored and hanging down unexpectedly from a corkboard.

In New York, a good friend of mine kept a 6 inch figure of a samurai and his begowned horse, he said it represented his "warrior spirit". (Yes, he's a chubby SQL programmer with 2 kids and wears glasses.) Can you imagine that my friend spent over $100 for his amazingly detailed little statue of an 18th century Japanese nobleman? We talked about it for an hour.

So, I got my own 2 pieces of sculpture for my desk, or maybe I will take them home and put them around the apartment. Both of these pieces are indiginous art from Bali. The artists come from small villages on the beautiful, mysterious tropical islands, where sculpture and wall art and textiles render a gorgeous spectrum of colors and layered designs reflecting the jungle and the sea. The Mermaid, the first piece, below, bears a cross at her neck and wears a sarong adorned with swirling kelp, carved from wood and painted with small tiny dots. The Princely Frog, the second doll, wears handloomed ikat cloth in blue and green, and his head and hands are lacquered wood, tattooed with a primordial jungle.

Maybe you should get a lovely sculpture because it reminds you where you are from. Maybe it's a momento of a great vacation you went on. Maybe it is your avatar. I just found it to be really fun and very unique and personal.

Update: I think I'm going to do a series of design at work....will keep you "Posted". (haha).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ruth Asawa: My Mobile Inspiration

Ruth Asawa's Contours in the Air was a fantastic exhibition at San Francisco's De Young Museum in the heart of Golden Gate Park. I had the pleasure of spending a few hours at the museum with my good friend Cha-Chi over here. The crocheted wire was dyed in many muted colors, and the open forms cast interesting shadows against the walls, ceiling and floor to capture "Air".

I've had a fascination with mobiles in the home since I was a baby, looking up from the crib bed and staring at floating stars and hearts and animals. My mother later taught me more sophisticated uses for mobiles, when she hung capiz-shell lanterns in fluid shapes from the living room ceiling down to the carpeting, lit from within by tiny accent lights so that the entire structure cast a warm seashell glow around the living room in the evenings by the fireplace in my family's home on the Jersey Shore.

Here is some text about the show:

In her lifelong experimentations with wire, especially its capacity to balance open and closed forms, Asawa invented a powerful new vocabulary. Committed to enhancing the quality of daily life through art produced within the home, she contributed a unique perspective to the formal explorations of 20th century abstract sculpture.

Working in a variety of non-traditional media, Asawa performed a series of uncanny metamorphoses, leading viewers into a deeper awareness of natural forms by revealing their structural properties. Through her artistic practice, Asawa has reconnected with the Buddhist ethos of her parents, transforming the commonplace into metaphors for life processes themselves.

“Because her work uses nontraditional materials and a manual method that appears related to knitting, weaving and craft, it is often overlooked in discussions of modernist sculpture,” says Dr. Cornell, Director of Contemporary Art Projects and Curator of American Art. “Furthermore, her decision to create works that hang, often meant to be seen from below, challenges the standard conventions of sculpture.”

-from de Young Museum Organizes First Major Ruth Asawa Retrospective

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Changing the San Francisco Skyline

USA Today reported that several city officials and planners were interested in modernizing San Francisco's skyline to favor taller skyscrapers. Dean Macris, the city's planning director, was quoted, "What you're struck by is how flat our skyline is. So we think it could be visibly enhanced if we had some peaking."

The article reported that developers submitted a proposal to build four connected towers in San Francisco's SoMa district, two of which would be 1,200 feet tall. Only two other buildings in the USA are taller: New York City's Empire State Building and Chicago's Sears Tower. The four towers, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, would be positioned across from another proposed development project in SoMa, a $1 billion transit center, itself bearing a nearly 900-foot tower above a train station. The proposal submitted on Dec. 21 is a mix of residential, office and retail space.

When I polled my officemates about whether SF's skyline should be changed, they were aghast. "One of the most beautiful sights when you're on the ferry (heading from Embarcadero Center for North Bay communities like Tiburon or Sausalito) is the San Francisco skyline at dusk."

Why change it in favor of taller skyscrapers? The 'City on the Bay' has a cityscape that is already one of the most beautiful and recognizable in the world, the subject of romantic movie trailers and professional photographers for decades. The article in USA Today argues that there is a persistent shortage of residential dwellings in the city, but I would disagree (coming from New York City). I feel like this is an empty city, sometimes I am the only person on 3 or 4 city blocks on my walk to and from the office before I encounter another pedestrian. Many apartment buildings here have vacancies or are only half occupied, including condominiums in premium areas like SoMa. There is an attitude among some San Franciscans that they are in competition with cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. I would hate to see San Francisco change its landscape because other cities have taller buildings.

For public safety, I would argue that taller is not better. A taller building in earthquake-prone San Francisco means more glass and debris and brick and metal can come crashing downwards from the sky if there are more and more floors above street level. *Also, in a disaster like an earthquake, imagine trying to get out of the building from a skyscraper's top floors? (Yes, I was in NYC September 11, 2001.)

Take a look at these views, what do you think?