7 Oct 2008

wish jar

i don't think there's any doubt on the reasons why i fell completely in love with keri smith's "wish jar". it's cute, it's inspirational, and it's the kind of thing that simply makes you drop whatever it is that you are doing and run out into the world, explore it in minor detail, and exploit that every detail in as playful ways as possible.

4 Oct 2008


I fell in love with Lego when I was in primary school. I had (and still have, actually) a neighbor (who was also my desk-mate and play-buddy) who had loads of Lego pieces. They were all mixed together and deposited in shoe boxes and we’d get them out of the wardrobe and we’d spend hours and hours building whatever our vivid imagination considered appropriate. (photo below from here, the creation of brick artist Nathan Sawaya)

As childhood gaming faded away and the responsibility of endless secondary school homework took over most of our spare time, we’d often find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances of Math exercises and Geography lessons eroding our relationship with the Lego pieces.

This way, by the time we reached 14, the amazing pieces that challenged our imagination were long forgotten. And they stayed that way until last week, when I spent quite some hours evaluating items in the children’s department of a big retail store.

The long hours of close examination made me draw two main conclusions.

One (and I know I’ve thought about this before, but it just seemed so much more striking): it really is no wonder that kids are getting smarter and smarter, and that’s not exclusively due to computers. It also has a lot to do with the intriguing games one can find nowadays in children’s stores. Games that invite you to discover the world in its various forms and aspects, games that stimulate your ability to form complex constructions and structures, games that challenge your imagination and invite you to make the most out of your creativity. Games that have been developed by physics institutes and art labs and all sorts of other pretentious structures.

Two: my passion for using Lego bricks is slowly finding its way back into my life. Therefore, I couldn’t help buying myself a great Ferrari Lego from the Racers collection, which was followed by several Bionicle acquisitions. And I keep on finding reasons to go check out the Lego shelves almost daily. Anyway.

The thing is that reexamining my own Lego memories obviously made me curious in some different ways: am I the only Lego nostalgic around? was Lego a significant part in more nineties childhoods? are there other 20+ Romanians who have found the joy of Lego once again? or some who’ve never lost it ? is there a local community of Lego-builders? and I could go on and on, but I guess the point is made.

Happily, browsing local blogs and forums started answering my questions. As well as revealing some rather neat realities. It seems that many 20+ (and even 30+) guys have great childhood recollections concerning Lego sets, which they’d mix and recombine and use and reuse according to the free will of their imagination. Moreover, discussions around Lego apparently not only wake up memories, but also stimulate the parental instincts of these people, who are pretty much keen to pass on the Lego flame, rituals and secrets to their kids.

One very pleasant surprise was to come across a young guy in Cluj-Napoca, who is a Lego guru and who is making great efforts to build a strong local community of Lego embracers (he set up a Lego forum here, and you also google numerous other topics opened by him on other ro forums). His name is Adrian Florea, and his own creations are interesting and ingenious enough to have brought him several prizes, interviews, as well as an admirable position of Lego ambassador. the photo below is taken from boingboing.

Until I get to reach great Lego achievements, I must also link to an ArtLab research project that used the bricks as a means of expression and exploration.

3 Oct 2008

my new status

The more days go by, the more convinced I get that I am increasingly fascinated and intrigued by everything connected to people. So it isn’t surprising that I became pretty much addicted to attending all sorts of interesting seminars held within Fundatia Calea Victoriei. It's been an amazingly eyes-opening experience: i gained a completely new perspective on our country and its inhabitans. a perspective i'd never gain, no matter how many advertising researches i'd carry out.

one of the workshops, however, had a particular impact on me. it was an ethnography workshop, introducing some general aspects of traditional life and culture. my mind made a lot of connections, some of my old passionate interests reactivated, and i decided i wanted to dig further on.

So, starting this October, i also am a student in Ethnology (University of Bucharest), as well as hopefully involved in other related stuff. I have no idea where this new thing will take me, but it surely seems like an interesting and challenging path. Especially since the professors that I’ve met so far seem really passionate about sharing their expertise, as well as to listening to our ideas.

12 Aug 2008

am i reading too many comics ?

i am extremely disappointed by the whole scandal (ro link) around the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York. I have spent the last few years trying to make a difference, being part of projects that are aimed at changing the world bit by bit, and i have been blindly hopeful during all this time that a difference can actually be made. By enthusiastic, borderline crazy bunches such as Oricum, Fundatia Calea Victoriei, the Czech Center. Actually, by any enthusiastic, borderline crazy bunch that deeply believes in doing good things and in doing things better. During all this time, i have met a lot of such doers, who have inspired me a great deal and with whom i have worked, regardless of seemingly neverending obstacles. Never once have i doubted the worthiness of these projects, the value of these people and our power to make a statement together and do something about it.

Last night, however, following the whole scandal and reactions, was the first time that i felt completely powerless and mostly worthless. it was for the first time that i stopped and asked myself what i'm doing all this for. would i not be better off simply somewhere else, where normal reason, common sense and average education would make people think twice before jumping to conclusions, before speaking about something they don't know anything about, before judging things and people without having the smallest background that would allow them to actually express an opinion ?

11 Aug 2008

cu neagoe

tonight, 10pm, Antena 3, a chance to clear the pathetic situation. Go, Cristi ! context and credits for pic here.

5 Aug 2008

iron maiden concert

Iron Maiden. A band name i can connect so many memories to, it's not even funny...

Bruce Dickinson was right tonight: many of their great songs, songs that i adore, are actually older than i am. And, unfortunately, i cannot say that i have been listening to them ever since i was in my mother's belly. Nope. But sometime, when i was nearly 14 and in the 9th grade (and a folk afficionado, for that matter), i completely accidentally received an mp3 cd that had a lot of "old-school rock and metal", as the title claimed. It contained Slayer, and Judas Priest, and Ac/Dc, and Black Sabbath, and Lep Zep, and Deep Purple, and Samson, and many others. And Iron Maiden. Not many songs: it had Aces High, and Two minutes to midnight, and Bring your daughter to the slaughter, and Run to the hills, and Killers. I really liked the entire cd, and as i listened to it, over and over again, i realised a completely new era of musical taste was taking over my humble self. I loved almost all songs and bands on that cd (i still have a problem with Slayer, though :) ), but Iron Maiden got to me beyond that. I soon found myself puzzled enough to look for anything related to maiden i could find: finding old recordings of some of their songs was a real bliss, and so was catching one of their videos on VH1 rocks or something. I had a personal interpretation of each and every song of theirs i came into contact with, and soon enough not a day went by without me listening to maiden, even though i could not find maiden enthusiasts among my friends or acquaintances in the beginning. the more i collected, the happier i become, in a period when i hardly had internet, there was no youtube, and some bulgarian pirate cds were among the best deals i could find. as soon as i would get my hands on a video live concert, i'd watch it obsessively, and discuss every frame, every fan gesture, every band member move with my friends. i started learning about heavy metal with maiden, i grew up with maiden, i had loads of fun with maiden on the background, i found the person that completely changed my life by talking about maiden.

i know my brief fandom history of 8 years cannot compare to the histories of people who have been listening to maiden and waiting for this concert for nearly 20 years. but well, i only came to life in 1985. back in highschool, seeing maiden live was one of my greatest dreams, but it also seemed completely out of reach, as i had no money to go see them abroad, and the idea of them coming back with bruce as a vocal was also kinda wild. which is why i was waiting for the concert last night as for the concert of my life.

and the concert of my life it was. I have no objective idea about the concert whatsoever. i have no clue whether it was as bloody awesome as i perceived it for people who only seldom (if at all) listened to Maiden before. it was a demonstration of passion and energy, and that would simply give me wings. being able to sing live, together with the band, some of the songs i could absolutely die for, was so liberating and fulfilling i still bear the playlist in the back of my head.

the songs seemed to be coming and going really fast, with Bruce Dickinson playing and jumping around, as well as interacting with the public as the passionate showman he obviously is, with Janick Gers continuously doing tricks, with Steve Harris, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray electrically performing and with Nicko McBrain beating the hell out of those drums. The complex old stage would go through loads of different moods and images, taking us through a great journey around maiden artwork and imagery. The playlist was flawless, with Aces High, Two minutes to midnight, Revelations, Trooper, Wasted Years, The number of the beast, Can i play with madness, Rime of the ancient mariner, Powerslave, Heaven can wait, Run to the hills, Fear of the dark, (obviously) Iron Maiden, and the bonus Moonchild, The Clairvoyant and Hallowed be thy name. It's been great, it's been emotional and it's now yet another great maiden-related memory.

31 Jul 2008

iron maiden's gonna get you, no matter how far

On August 4th i'm gonna see Iron Maiden live for the first time in my life. The reason i am so excited about the concert is that i realised i will never be as passionate about any other band as i used to be about iron maiden. i had been their passionate fan during all highschool, and quite some time afterwards. albums, bootlegs, live concerts, videos, b sides, artwork, tshirts, you name it, i had it. i knew all lyrics from all their songs (and still know an impressive amount of it). i convinced all my friends to give them a chance. i listened to fear of the dark and dance of death each morning, around 7 a.m. when i crossed cismigiu park on my way to highschool. i have a tremendous amount of memories connected to iron maiden one way or another. and my greatest dream back then obviously was to see them perform live.

until they come, here's a video with two of my favourite guys ever, maiden's vocal bruce dickinson and top gear's jeremy clarkson.

29 Jul 2008

random links of interest

i have spoken before about how much i enjoy presenting, and one of my goals is to become and actual good presenter (whatever that means). one of the consequences is that i can't have enough of related readings and talks, because i am trying to use more and more platforms and instruments that are completely unrelated to powerpoint. which is why the visual thinkers community gathered by VizThink, and the numerous links i plunged it from the main site have been my brain candy during the last two days. the only thing i now have in mind is how to gather a sort of local community of visual thinkers, because i think it would be nice to meet and share thoughts every now and then.

until i do that, however, i must admit i was pleasantly surprised by powerpointheaven, which basically shows that powerpoint as a medium is not actually as wicked as the people who simply choose to overcrowd it with neverending bullets, charts and templates. just as i was enticed by the simple philosophy (and not only) behind visual thinking company XPLANE: "when you communicate clearly, people understand. when they understand, they make decisions which lead to actions and create results". and i also found interesting the Daniel Rose's idea to create The Global Collaboration Cue Card Project, that gathers visual interpretations of the concept "collaboration" coming from various people around the world.

seriously, now

some time ago, i read A. Plesu's "Tescani Diary". the reading was enjoyable and thought-provoking, and there were several ideas i particularly embraced. one of them said that "the act of thinking should start by taking a platitude seriously. starting from a platitude is equivalent to starting without a personal idea. the people who have ideas too fast, who have ideas even from the beginning, almost always end up not trully thinking. the key to optimal speculative start-up: not having ideas, but rather obtaining them."

i love the idea of taking a platitude seriously. i work in an environment that cannot work with presumably "general ideas": we fear not being particular enough, so we'd rather invent or fabricate something (a benefit, most of the time), than taking "general ideas" seriously and communicating them differently to people, embracing a new perspective and shading a whole new light on them. and that's a pity: in my opinion, most "general ideas" are general because everybody takes them for granted and nobody actually takes the trouble to go deeper into finding out what these ideas actually mean, what they actually translate into. although showing a brand new meaning of a "general idea" is very impactful and intriguing, because it makes people think: "hey, i never looked at it this way".
pic from here.

personal wrap-up

i have spent the last few months growing up and developing in many different ways. the blogging gap that i had was thus due to two major causes: on one hand, the fact that i attended a lot of workshops, and worked on a lot of interesting "extra-curricular" projects; on the other hand, the fact that i spent a lot of time thinking about what i do, what i want to do, what i see myself doing with my life. The truth is that i love doing so many different things, i love investigating so many different areas and i find so many places and subjects fascinatingly interesting, that i kinda got stuck in a carousel of emerging decisions. No wonder, since I had to deal with a lot of interesting circumstances, varying from amazing opportunities to pragmatic and rather painful surrenders. Happily, i am surrounded by some amazing people, whose support, ideas and feedback were essential for my mental sanity.

now most things have cleared up in my mind, and i have some trully great plans at least for the near-future. one of my conclusions was that i miss blogging. so here i am, resurrecting this old personal space that will keep on gathering my silly musings.

6 May 2008

hammock braindead

I must admit that the very short but lovely holiday i had last week brought at least a new passion for me: the hammock. I have experienced sleeping outdoors before, in various types of beds and grass, but hammocks are different in a way that i wouldn't have expected. They must be the most relaxing way of enjoying sun and warm weather ever. And because they're so relaxing, i realised u simply cannot read any type of book while endlessly bouncing around, with the sun and friendly wind blows and life actually feeling good and everything. i tried to read "serious" or rather technical stuff, and it was in pure vain.

so i resorted to reading a book i completely accidentally bought. it's called "it's just you, everything's not shit" and is written by steve stack. obviously, such a title would never have attracted me, but sometimes a book does simply cry to be taken from the shelf, and that's pretty much how i ended up buying this one some time ago. this proved to be a wise choice, because the book is really nice and heart-warming. skipping cliches or patronizing pieces of advice, the book simply alphabetically lists common nice things that make our life more beautiful and exciting. the simple things that we often take for granted or forget about, even though acknowledging or remembering them definately makes us smile and droole. As some Amazon reviewer said, the book "manages to delight and inspire without ever resorting to sentimentality". and it's also ocassionally funny, as well as ocassionally filled with interviews from very cool people, such as the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, the inventors of eglu or the man behind librarything. it's so great to find a book that you know will always be enjoyable to flick.

pic from here.

14 Apr 2008

printed storytelling

I love reading story-books, but i must admit i haven't come across a book that is as beautiful as "The invention of Hugo Cabret" in a long time. And i'm not saying this only because the story itself is interesting, but also because the book is a wonderful combination of impressive visuals and text that complete each other, instead of plainly illustrating each other, as the case with common children's books. Besides, the human touch of the hand-made drawings makes reading this book a very special and cosy experience. If you come across it, you'll surely enjoy it :).

8 Apr 2008

joy of presenting

i love creating and delivering presentations more and more. especially when two main contexts combine.

First, when the presentation is actually supposed to deliver the work and energy of an entire team, not just of the presenter. therefore, the easiest way to create an energetic presentation is to get everybody engaged and excited about it. to give people an interesting shape to play with, and get them playing. An unusual format, an interesting overall concept, anything that allows people to add their own bits and pieces, to add up to the whole. somebody in the client service might have collected blog posts and flickr sets related to the brand, some creative might have some great skills at editing and remixing mood videos, some designer might have gathered strange fonts and bottle designs...i think the greatest thing is to join all this, let it grow, and constantly have the team connected to the way the presentation is shaping. Then the final presentation will not be delivered by indivuals each presenting his/her own piece of thoughts, but by a bunch of people who are so excited about the idea they've been giving life to, that they'll come with various straight to the point perspectives to shed light on the idea. it's amazing what good vibe during the "making of" a presentation does to the final act of actually delivering it, especially since the final presenting team accumulates energy from all the people involved in the process.

Second, when the audience you're presenting to is very challenging, because they're most likely not be familiar with the idea's conceptual universe. i think it's precious when you have to create such a proper context that everybody gets it, even though you're taking them completely by surprise, telling them stuff they're only vaguely (if at all) familiar with. engaging them in your game, making them relate and contribute themselves to the points you're making, exciting them about your challenges and your ideas is very rewarding to me.

and that's why i am seriously thinking about more and more instruments that would help creating better, more interactive and spectacular presentations.

31 Mar 2008

not really getting friendfeed either

yesterday i came across a very old post from Nancy Baym, who spoke about "the widgetized self", personal portals that gather billions of widgets which bring the web to the people, instead of people going to billions of different websites. Which i often considered was a good way to deal with the huge ammounts of websites we've all spread our accounts on, a model that is highly unsustainable in the long run, as Nancy said as well.

More and more people dealing with this problem might be the reason why everybody seems to have fallen completely in love with FriendFeed, the new buzz word of web 2.0. Frankly, i don't really get the love around it, because the site seems to me nothing more than a fancy aggregator, which is not really easy to follow or truly helpful to me or even cool-looking or something. Is it so much better than Plaxo Pulse, for example ? Cause at this point i couldn't find its great functionality and i tend to agree with everything that Duncan Riley says about it here.

30 Mar 2008

why so ?

since i've received the book from a very dear friend, i've recently read james frey's "a million little pieces", the diary of a drug addict fighting his addictions. i pretty much enjoyed frey's style, which was equally fast enough to capture quickly, and tourmenting enough to leave a trace in the mind of the reader.

what i couldn't believe, however, was reading about all the controversies surrounding this book. frey published the book as a memoir book, leading everybody to believe that he was one and the same with the main character of his book. however, at some point, it was revealed that he had augmented some of the incidents in the diary, by describing them at a dimension they never actually had in real life. The public incarceration was taken so far, that in 2006, Frey and publisher Random House, Inc. reached a tentative legal settlement, where readers who felt that they had been defrauded by Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" would be offered a refund.

the reason why i am so puzzled is because whenever reading a memoirs book, i assume that not everything there happened exactly as illustrated in the book, because otherwise it would have seemed more like a newspaper article, than the diary of a person going through a lot. and the reason why i am interested in a memoirs book is because it offers me an insightful perspective of how a certain person perceives his/her life experiences, more than it offers me a very accurate recollection of some episodes in his/her life, which i could maybe access by simply reading a biography written by somebody else. are we supposed to be that offended if a writer inserts some fiction when writing his memoirs ?