Props to Erik Spoelestra for becoming the first Filipino-American coach (mother is Filipino, father is Dutch-Irish) in the NBA. He replaces legendary coach and weasel Pat Riley, who remains as team president. Spoelestra joined the Heat 13 years ago- starting as a video coordinator and spending the last 7 seasons as assistant coach. He is now the youngest coach in NBA at age 37. Good luck Erik, you'll need it. The Heat finished the season with the worst record in the league. Hey, if they get Beasly in the lottery and D-Wade gets healthy, Spoelestra better watch out for Riley to ax him like Stan Van Gundy.
Its interesting how experiences at establishments can be linked to its environment. Like when I've shopped at Urban Outfitters, I associate it within the context of its city (original store in Philly and locations in NYC). When I came across an U.O. in a suburban Pennsylvania mall, it felt strange and out of place. Of course U.O. is an overpriced caricature of what it wants to be...but that another issue for anotherday.
Anyway, over the years, I've enjoyed the flavorful Malaysian/Thai cuisine at Penang Restaurant. While I'm aware of their many east coast locations, my personal dining experiences have led me to associate it with an urban environment - primarily from living in Philly's Chinatown and on trips to NYC. So, I was curious to check out the new Penang opening in the suburban South Jersey.
We prefer their appetizers more than the entrees, so we placed our usual order of Roti Canai (indian style pancake with curry dipping sauce), satay beef on skewers with peanut sauce, and spicy seafood tomyam soup. It was all very good as expected. My wife says the interior layout exhibited good feng shui but it just took me a while to get used to this particular environment. Maybe its because I'm used to a Penang with a cramped interior which forces you to literally rub elbows with neighboring diners and share conversations. This Penang is cavernous with sky high ceilings and tons of personal space. The decor eschewed the urban edge of its Philly location for a soothing ambience anchored by a central waterfall, appropriate brown and red tones, and interesting sculptures made out of noodles. It was so relaxing that I was slightly unnerved - again mainly because I associate the restaurant with a more hectic atmosphere.
All of these thoughts were cleared by a magnificent dessert called Ice Kacang. Its a huge bowl of shaved ice with several sweet goodies including red beans and brown coconut syrup. A Malaysian version of Filipino halo-halo or Vietnamese rainbow ice. I can imagine it being even more delicious on a hot summer day. On hot days at this location, I won't have to worry about rubbing sweaty elbows and I could easily jump in the waterfall to cool off.
Next stop: Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. We jumped on the 2 train to Brooklyn and passed time observing some underground entertainment. A huge crowd surrounded a midget flawlessly dancing like MJ in the Beat It video; a guy wearing a mime costume and a creepy Phantom of the Opera mask writhed on the station floor and a crew of 10 year old breakdancers hustled for change on the train. We emerged on the parkway right in front of the museum - which sits next to the famed botanical gardens. Its been a couple years since my last visit, which was for the retrospective Basquiat exhibit - but I enjoy the manageable size of their galleries.
As expected, the crowd was full of trend chasing hipsters and otakus. From yards away, you can see a huge Murakami sculpture installation dominating the museum lobby interior. The towering installation features the character Mr. Pointy, surrounded by smiling flowers, mushrooms and other curious characters. Mr. DOB hung from above and both were immediate photo-ops for everybody. I did see one little boy who was scared by it all.
The exhibit takes you into the colorfully twisted world of Murakami. Featured artwork included naked anime characters in sculpture form, immense paintings, wallpapered rooms and animation films. Right smack dab in the middle of the exhibit is a Louis Vuitton shop featuring Murakami designed bags. Yupp, while you browse the exhibit, you can buy an insanely expensive LV bag. Fitting, since Murakami's artwork both comments and participates in the culture of consumption.
The show begins with an explanation of Superflat - an otaku influenced representation of the two-dimensionality of Japanese graphic art, animation and the consumer culture. The various interpolations of his "DOB" character serves as a comment on the longevity of characters (and knockoffs) like Mickey Mouse, Sonic and Hello Kitty in pop culture.
Another intriguing sculpture installation features "Hiropan" and "My Lonesome Cowboy" - a giant figurine of a naked girl and boy encircled by their body fluids. Streams of milk are squeezed out of Hiropan's giant breasts and streams of sperm are ejaculating in swirls around the boy. "Second Mission Project ko2" is another figurine installation showing another anime female character with detailed vagina at eye-level transforming into a jet airplane. A set of short films about "Inochi" focuses on an inadequate teenager with an alien head falling in love with a girl and failing to control his erections. These works undoubtedly reference the twisted sense of sexuality in the otaku anime world.
A short animation film showcases the adventures of bunny-eared characters Kiki (elegant) and Kaikai (bizarre) including inappropriate poopage. You can't help but smile while standing in the wallpapered room of a million smiling flowers. And you can't help feeling creeped out by the wallpapered room of a million eyes. There are also pieces with a bleaker outlook - distorted mushrooms and skulls on acidic landscapes which reflect upon atomic bombs and mushroom clouds. I also enjoyed his most recent work - a rendering of Daruma - the ancient monk who was responsible for bringing Zen Buddhism to China and Japan.
Overall the exhibit was a beautiful assault on the senses - an imaginative mix of art that definitely demands a reaction.
If you prefer a scenic entry into the NYC, I recommend a ferry ride in the springtime. Who enjoys the traffic and the newly jacked up toll fees anyway? Port Imperial in Weehawken is our customary jumpoff point because of its proximity to the Japanese strip mall anchored by Mitsuwa supermarket. This location is a great cultural gathering spot for Japanese people in the tri-state area, expecially ex-pat businessmen and their families occupying the opulent condos nearby. The market, food courts and shops offer hard-to-find products, delicacies and great people-watching.
On to the ferry. At the port, I saw the cheesiest promotional poster with the headline "Waterway to spend a Ferry evening" Get it?! Today, the weather cooled down to that in-between type of temperature that requires some thoughtful wardrobe decisions. One of those days where you're constantly taking off and putting on a jacket. At the ferry, the crowd was an assorted mix of people bundled up in layers and people dressed for the beach. Of course we see some white people in shorts, sweatshirts and flip-flops. In college, we used to joke about the stereotypical white college kid uniform of shorts and an inside-out sweatshirt (with the tag sticking out). Back then, I knew a volleyball loving kid that wore shorts 365 days a year. Never saw him in a pair of pants. Even in a snowstorm, you'd see him skipping down the street in shorts and a volleyball stuck between his arm and hip.
Anyway some people enjoyed the open air on the top deck of the boat. Not quite warm enough for us - so we enjoyed the view from inside. The key is to keep your eyes distant. As you walk the plank to board the ferry, you may not find the Hudson River water so enchanting. Unless you enjoy looking at cloudy brown water. I hear its cleaner than in the past - but not enough to pull a Kramer and swim across. The key is to keep your eyes distant. I blocked out the noise from nearby tourists and NFL Draft spectators to view the rippling water sparkling before the Manhattan skyline.
A not-so-quick cab ride took us to our first stop in the East Village - Cha An Tea Room, a fitting way to preface a day of Japanese art with some traditional refreshments. This place was recommended by my sister during her last visit. Our anticipation heightened upon entering as we found ourselves ascending a narrow dark staircase up to the tea room. Seemed quiet and slightly magical if not mysterious. Opening the door at the top uncorked a rush of noise - clinking tea china, and a swaying chorus of voices in various conversations. The interior space of the main room was tiny but ambitiously mixed an inviting contrast of dark wood and warm bamboo. I enjoy an ambience which transports you to a different place - and here it was easy to forget that you were in NYC. Up front, the tea bar featured jars of various teas and a crew of women fixing up drinks, meals and desserts. We sat next to a wall fixed up to be a side exterior of a tea house - complete with tall bamboo sticks, screened panels and a tiny entrance.
I intended to order a couple of sweets with my tea, but felt compelled to order a full meal with dessert. The menu is fairly cheap. I chose the $10 special of the day featuring Unajyu - eel served on a bowl of rice with sides of seaweed and assorted pickled veggies. I'm not a tea drinker but I thoroughly enjoyed my Hojicha tea, which is a perfect compliment for any meal with its nutty flavor. My wife chose a traditional green tea to go along with a bowl of rice porridge - a customary comfort food - with sides of salmon, tofu and seaweed. She seemed very comforted after finishing off her tray of food.
My dessert was an interesting green tea pudding that congealed into a slightly solid state and wiggled in a Jello-like fashion. I actually spent a few moments moving it around with my spoon and watched it delicately changing its physical form. Anyway, the consistency was incredibly light and subtly sweet with a wonderful green tea aftertaste. It perfectly complimented the tiny red beans surrounding. My wife's meal came with zen zai - mochi with azuki beans. Overall, it was a great experience (my wife raved about the contemporary Japanese toilet which opens automatically upon approach) and someday we'll have to try Cha An's traditional tea ceremony which takes place in their private rooms.
Assault or cultural misunderstanding? A Japanese man was arrested in the Philippines for punching a Filipina lawyer - Maria Esperanza Christina Garcia-Codilla (daughter of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia). She claims that Tanaka punched her in the back after telling her that she should not have placed her pushcart in front of the luggage carousel at Manila Airport. Tanaka claims that he never punched her and that it was a traditional Japanese "nudge" to get her attention. Here's the story on a Japanese news show. Love the kooky cartoon explaining the incident!
Props to Dale for reppin' the homeland by making halo halo on Top Chef last night. His version of the popular Filipino dessert didn't win the quickfire challenge but placed him in the top 3. But he won the elimination challenge with teammate Richard. Here's his halo halo recipe.
Growing up in Maryland, I got real familiar with D.C. go-go club music. Radio stations devoted hours to this style of club music on the weekends. Nice to see go-go percussion getting incorporated in this Roots song featuring D.C. rapper Wale.
santogold | starstruck
santogold | shove it
Al Green's upcoming album was produced by The Roots' Questlove & James Poysner. This track is pure smoothness.
al green feat. john legend | stay with me by the sea
Props to my sis for showing me this:
Dan Matutina's artwork draws heavily from his native Philippines, including very cool wallpaper inspired by banigs (handwoven sleeping mats). As a side note, when I was a kid visiting the Philippines, I slept on a bed with a mosquito net instead of a banig. But I forgot to use the mosquito net one night and I woke up with a million bites all over my body. Spent the rest of my vacation itching like crazy!
namie amuro - 60s70s80s
Trio of songs paying homage to 3 decades of American music:
namie amuro | what a feeling
namie amuro | new look
namie amuro | rock steady
ayumi hamasaki | mirrorcle world
janelle monae | sincerely jane
madonna feat. justin timberlake & timbaland | 4 Minutes
madonna | give it 2 me (prod. by pharell)
Last week, Cubs fans showed their support for Kosuke Fukodome by making signs supposedly saying "It's Gonna Happen" in Japanese. Unfortunately, the auto translator was faulty (who trusts those things anyway?) and the signs actually implied that Fukodome's success was only a result of luck. I'm sure the fans had good intentions in mind but a more disturbing story has popped up in the form of unlicensed Cub gear.
A popular souvenir stand across Wrigley Field is selling this racist t-shirt to "honor" Fukodome and his Japanese heritage. Note the slanted eyes on the Cub, the nerdy glasses and the stereotypically broken english written in Wonton font. The back of the t-shirt has Fukodome's name and jersey number. Of course its the top-selling t-shirt. I guess baseball and racism are as American as apple pie.
By the way, MetroDad lists his roster for an All-Asian fantasy baseball team. Not a bad squad:
CF Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)
2B Tad Iguchi (San Diego Padres)
RF Kosuke Fukudome (Chicago Cubs)
LF Hideki Matsui (NY Yankees)
3B Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Devilrays)
C Kenji Johjima (Seattle Mariners)
SS Chin-Lung Hu (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1B Kaz Matsui (Houston Astros)
DH Johnny Damon (NY Yankees)
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
SP Chien-Ming Wang (NY Yankees)
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers)
SP Akinori Otsuka (Texas Rangers)
SP Kei Igawa (NY Yankees)
RP Hideki Okajima (Boston Red Sox)
RP Chan Ho Park (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RP Cha Seung Baek (Seattle Mariners)
RP Takashi Saito (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Stepping outside on Spring's first warm day is an uplifting baptism of sorts. Finally, I freed myself from layers of clothing like a reptile shedding old skin. My new skin felt like a second skin: a crisp t-shirt, jeans and a fresh pair of AM1's. So simple, yet full of swagger splashed in a palette as bright as the sun. I love how bright colors just jump off people of color. The majority of people at my office don't dress like me. But the majority of people at my office don't look like me. Might as well be a minority in all aspects and celebrate our differences right? Thankfully, being in a "creative" profession allows me certain freedoms of workday apparel.
My coworkers and I decided to take advantage of this 80 degree Friday by taking a 1 1/2 hour lunch at an authentic Italian pizzeria with outdoor seating. Service was cafeteria style with a choice of pastas, salads, and pizzas with a variety of fresh toppings inspired by the owner's hometown near Naples. The servers spoke with thick jovial Italian accents, stereotypical enough to make you chuckle. I ordered one slice with thick white cheese dripping with delicious green pesto sauce. Greasy goodness with an earthy grit. My second slice was a lighter composition of red peppers, red sauce, onions and sausage. The peppers offered a refreshingly juicy contrast to the pizza dough. I don't know if it was healthy, but it tasted healthy. Warm weather bathed us as we polished off our plates and talked movies on the sunlit terrace. The beauty of spring weather is the lack of humidity. Humidity alone makes many summer days in Philly feel like a trap of hot steaming garbage. Today was perfect and while we (barely) made it back to work, my mind was clearly elsewhere. A 9 to 5 gig makes you appreciate the outdoors that you took for granted so often as a kid.
So, I left work early to literally run outside. There's a nice 3 mile trail that runs from my house around a lake. As much as I mock the sleepiness of my suburban surroundings, I must admit that the lakes and greenery are very scenic during this time of year. Of course, before I got home, I endured an hour of traffic. I suppose everyone else had the same idea of leaving work early. Unfortunately, my commute intersects with the route to the shore - which complicates things in the summer, especially on Fridays. Rt. 73 stood stagnant for miles beyond what I could see. And I sat there...caged in.
If traffic is full of frustration and mental fatigue, running is mentally uplifting in the spirit of breaking free. Free from the daily grind. Free from unreasonable clients. Free from traffic jams. I'm probably writing this with a residual runner's high, but my first outdoor run of the year was exhilarating. With the wind at my back, my legs felt non-existent and the trail felt like one downhill charge despite the contrary. The stillness of the lake quietly energized my fluid strides on the gravel path. I smiled between breaths while watching oncoming cars yielding to a group of geese cautiously crossing the road ahead of me. Their leader ventured out a quarter of way onto the road until quacking the rest of the anxious group to follow. As I got closer, I mentally whispered to them, "Take your time..." as I peered down the line of waiting cars. "Take your time, cuz it'll make the other side more enjoyable."
Like slice of life photography with a splash of voyeurism? Check out Out My Window NYC.
The Roots on Colbert Report:
The Roots (feat. Wale & Chrisette Michelle) | Rising Up
Giles Peterson | Worldwide Vol.01, No.22
Kidz in The Hall (feat. Talib Kweli, Bun B & Nato Caliph) | Work To Do (Obama For Marica) (Remix)
Soul Stirrer Mix
I love tributes to old technology. Sets of buttons courtesy of UK based Effektive Design.
Obacchi Jacket Lunch Box arranges bento box meals to recreate famous album covers.
Creepy but well done commercial for cod roe flavored pasta sauce from Japanese brand Tarako Great retro colors,
Four years ago in Japan, I was able to attend O-hanami - the traditional cherry blossom viewing that takes place in the first two weeks of April. We took a short bus ride from my in-laws house in Hachioji to a small park. My wife told me that many of the booths were manned by yakuza members but they were fairly polite enough that I wouldn't have noticed if she didn't tell me. Anyway, it was a memorable experience and wonderful way to usher in the arrival of spring. Fortunately for us, Philadelphia offers their own Cherry Blossom Festival, a wonderful celebration of Japanese culture within the blooming pink landscapes of Fairmount Park. 1000 cherry trees were planted in the spring of 2007, adding to the original 1,600 trees donated by the Japanese government in 1926. We set a red checkered blanket underneath one of the delicate cherry trees and spread out our sandwiches, salads and fruits for a nice picnic near the main festivity stage.
People watching was entertaining in itself. We shared a shuttle bus ride with a group of caucasian cosplay (short for costume play) fanatics. This group of girls and guys elaborately dressed up as colorful Japanese animation characters and surely attracted a lot of attention from passing cars. They mentioned that they attend different anime, manga and gaming conventions across the country in addition to cultural festivals. Once we arrived at the festival, we noticed many other cosplayers representing their otaku obsessions, including a plump middle aged man trudging around the park as a blond pig-tailed girl in a baby blue maid uniform. Disturbing but memorable. The rest of the crowd was diverse with a peppering of pretty interracial couples, martial arts masters, and cool hunters clad in Harajuku Lovers, BAPE, Evisu alongside traditional Japanese people in kimonos. It was certainly encouraging to see all types of people interested in Japanese culture.
Although we missed a martial arts demo and Mayor Nutter's key note, we managed to catch the Tamagawa Taiko Drum and Dance during our picnic. The group featured 20 teenage Japanese girls and boys. Although it was a chilly day, the shirtless guys pounded beats to get the crowd's collective heads bobbing to their rhythm. The girls danced in bright flowery kimonos while shaking various percussion batons. They added some modern hip-hoppish twists to the traditional performance including some freestyle worthy string instrumentation which accompanied their breakbeats.
Afterwards we strolled along the main concourse between towering rows of cherry blossoms, stopping to sample some traditional Japanese pastries and green tea cookies. Little kids crowded the calligraphy, origami, and kite-flying booths until they managed to scurry away with their souvenirs. We witnessed traditional tea ceremony curiously narrated by a white lady but demonstrated by an elderly Japanese lady playing the host and a white man of the same age playing the guest. She elegantly expressed the meaning and precision of each movement as she served the tea. My wife was impressed by the white man's respectful tone and his perfect robe attire - leading her to theorize that he was married to the Japanese lady. While carefully focusing on their harmonious movements, I felt transported to a different, more tranquil setting - a similar feeling to when you get lost in a book and travel to a time and place determined by the author. And its a similar sense of peace that we both found earlier as we sat watching the delicate petals falling from the cherry blossom trees. Its really therapeutic - disconnecting from the technologically enslaved workweek and reconnecting with nature and culture. Now if only we could bottle this feeling and reopen it when needed - like Monday morning!
According to this site which creates html graphs.
Photoshop can be a tool with unlimited possibilities or it can be a curse for the careless. Some of these goofs on PhotoshopDisasters are funny. These examples also serve as reminders that you can't believe everything you see in print and the web. Airbrushing and retouching are out of control in many pubs - rendering people into pore-free mannequins or stylized illustrations. In my previous job, I spent a lot of time making people skinnier, younger, clear-skinned and tanned. Basically I performed digital plastic surgery. Some client requests were so overzealous that their image became distorted beyond recognition.
It's also interesting to see web design - specifically the web 2.0 look - influencing print design but I echo this blogger's fatigue from the relentless trend of reflecting everything. Should we thank Apple for this?
I don't watch this show although I hear plenty about it in the office. Their morning after conversations go on for hours about how confusing it all is. Here's a funny recap:
The Roots | Rising Down
Best track off the leaks I've heard from their upcoming album.
As seen on grocery products in Japan via firm D-Barcode
A recent survey by Mindset Media found that consumers who buy more than 3 pairs of kicks a year are 61% more likely to possess the qualities of a leader (ideas, vision, inclusive & decisive style).
Some funny English-Tagalog mis-translations. More here
01) Contemplate - kulang ang mga pinggan
02) Punctuation - pera para maka-enrol
03) Ice Buko - nagtatanong kung ayos na ang buhok
04) Tenacious - sapatos na pang tennis
05) Calculator - tawagan kita mamaya
06) Devastation - sakayan ng bus
07) Protestant - Tindahan ng prutas
08) Statue - Ikaw ba yan?
09) Tissue - Ikaw nga!
10) Predicate - Pakawalan mo ang pusa
11) Dedicate - Pinatay ang pusa
12) Aspect - Pantusok o pandurog ng yelo
13) Deduct - Ang pato
14) Defeat - Ang paa (ng pato?)
15) Detail - Ang buntot (ng pato?)
Remember making and trading cassette mixtapes back in the pre-digital / prehistoric days? It was an arduous yet crafty process. I would cut songs at any place, mix in tracks from radio and create custom covers to make it more personable. Muxtape is a cool site where you can upload songs online and make a streaming mixtape available to all of your friends. Here's mine.
CD cover or Italian lifestyle brand Tokidoki). Tokyo design collective Groovisions are one of the pioneers of the Japanese Superflat movement - notorious for creating clean and flat imagery within a pop/otaku aesthetic. They are heavily involved in the music industry and their body of work spans across a variety of media.
- new jersey, USA
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- banig wallpapers
- jpop + randoms
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- out my window
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- this blog as a graph
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