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 ?

29 Mar 2008

saturday morning

i miss the beginnings of this blog, when i felt good about posting whatever trivia i felt like posting. now with all the new things, nothing seems important or interesting enough to post on the blog: i have flickr, in case i feel like sharing a photo or something, i have facebook to keep in touch with friends and colleagues and all that, vod pod for the selection of videos, twitter for silly thoughts, and so on.

on the other hand, i read less and less blogs, because i started feeling most of them are more likely to waste my time than actually add value to my thinking, intrigue me and provoke me to react or reflect. and despite how much i like wandering around random information, i once again found myself in the old-fashioned situation of being more happy reading structured, interesting books or articles rather than jumping from blog to blog, and getting very little out of them at the end of the day (obviously, that doesn't apply to all of them).

which makes me feel like the blog remained pretty much something big: something i should only update in case i actually have something important to say, something others are pretty much unlikely to read somewhere else. of course, that's stupid. because when i started this blog, i wanted to make it more like a companion in my quest for making something out of planning.

so this post is solely about this morning, and it's pretty much a spam post. i watched even more top gear videos, out of which i fell completely in love with this one, in which clarkson drives (or, more likely, carries around) the smallest car ever made, a hint for the future coming from the 60s.

reading Russell's articles in campaign is aways a bliss, and i particularly liked this phrase which might actually help me setting up an order for my thoughts: "The objects we use are starting to tell stories about our behaviour. And the people who can find the patterns in that informational fog (who can mine the reality and find the non-obvious relationships) and those who can sort through it and find the stuff we should be worrying about (modeling the surprises) will be the people we'll be desperate to employ. Them and the folk who can connect all those databases together, without losing CDs in the post." Together with a quote from Bertrand Russell, who said that "The secret to happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and personas that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile".

Since i am slowly recovering my love for movies, i am quite confused about what to watch today, although i know i'm the mood for sort of bio-movies. My shortlist includes Stop Making Sense (a supposedly innovative concert movie for the rock group The Talking Heads), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Sympathy for the devil (Godard's view), True Stories (i know, talking heads again) and No direction home, Scorsese's take on Bob Dylan. I'll probably just watch them all and get it over with.

And very interesting episode of Border Blaster, tackling Wolfman Jack's story, "from Wolfman's days as a renegade radio DJ to his appearance in the cult movie American Graffiti".

all these while thinking about how much i hate lack of fairness.

24 Mar 2008

history, baby

This post is a tribute to one of the funniest cars in the history of, well, funny cars: the Austin-Healey Sprite, relevantly nicknamed Frogeye (UK) or even Bugeye (US). I sometimes like to think of it as a sort of a Ford Ka ancestor. Enjoy the ads of the period, its 1958 presentation, as well as its feature in TopGear, nearly five decades later.

19 Mar 2008

planner meeting

Happily, John is back is town, which seems to be a great opportunity for a planning meet-up. This Thursday, 8 PM, Cafe Pedia Universitate. meet you there :)

12 Mar 2008

design is about making things better

Today i went to see Dick Powell speak during the opening conference of Filter Design Competition, the great design event organized by Oricum. Even though he didn't really say anything completely new to me, his discourse was very inspirational, because it revealed interest and common sense, two of the most important ingredients that help create brilliant work. And the fact that he also showed a great deal of examples, together with their results on the market only adds up to this observation. Here are some random notes i took:

  • ideas need to be pushed and pulled, that's what makes them eventually work
  • companies are like jelly: they like the concept of "innovation", because it's a buzz word, they spend endless hours in meeting and workshops discussing how to innovate, and yet, they sometimes completely fail to change, because they prove so reluctant to change after all (this sounded awfully familiar)
  • innovation is rarely about a "big idea", but about a series of small ideas brought together in a new and original way
  • crucible event (that's why observing people in their homes makes a lot of sense - design is about making things better, and most times those things it needs to fix or take into consideration are purely intuitive, therefore people will not be able to rationalize them within focus groups) -> knowledge (if we ask a 5 year old to design us the car of the future, his imagination has no limits, and he's very likely to come up with something with lots of wheels and engines and stuff, because he doesn't have the knowledge to know it won't work) -> idea -> belief -> embodiment
  • a brief is a collection of client prejudices
  • design is about making things better in a relevant and functional way, which is why designers are interested in everything, and scoping society, science and economy is vital to gain little insights, as well as big pictures
  • look rather than see
  • anthropology comes before technology, because people and more important than things
  • the product is where the brand keeps its promises (a brand manifests itself through much more than just communication and packaging)
  • it's essential to learn how to deal with how others manipulate your brand (coke versus mentos example, dove camapign for real beauty example)
  • if we solve all these small problems we've identified, we're gonna have a very successful product, even though it means harder work
  • "problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created" (einstein)
  • you see things and you ask "why?"; but a designer dreams of things that never were and asks "why not?"

appetite for exploration

last night i had one of the most beautiful and energetic journeys lately. because i went to uca marinescu's workshop, hosted by Fundatia Calea Victoriei, and from there to Ireland and Mongolia, just two of the destinations reached by this fantastic lady who's travelled across all continents, not even excluding the two poles. Although she's nearly 70 years old, you really wouldn't tell, while her great modesty and richness of speech, together with her radiant attitude, fill even the most pessimistic person in the room with joy and excitement.

That's why the meeting wasn't just an expedition in itself, filled with pictures, explanations, music, moods, anecdotes and stories. It was a lesson of life, optimism, simplicity, modesty and common sense, coming from a person who's completely capable of persuading everybody around to regain faith in the human kind, as well as in the healing power of exploration and discovery. In fact, she started her talk reminding us that the specific of a country comes from two main factors: its nature, and its people. The way the country looks like where it has not been touched by humans, as well as the way in which humans brought their contribution and left their marks.

And from these two perspectives, she analyzed Ireland, with its helping respectful clans, roots and traditions, and Mongolia, a land of complete freedom and honesty. She talked about the peaceful ways of the Mongolians, of the freedom that each individual there has, from the isolated homes, to riding, as the main means of transport. A freedom that they know how to enjoy, without disrespecting the other people, or the general norms of common sense that seem to govern around there. The two hours of stories and recollections reminded me that from time to time one should simply stop and go somewhere far away, where it's still possible to enjoy the pure essence of both humans and environment. Although uca marinescu fears that it has become more and more difficult for us, modern people of this country, to just stop for a while from our crazy city races. But, as long as there still are areas where the modern rhythm hasn't found an equally fertile ground, there's still a lot to learn about respect, beauty and proper living. And that's really worth exploring.
pic from here.

11 Mar 2008

the beauty of music

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

10 Mar 2008

common sense reminder about creativity

this video made me think about some of the young people i've come across in the mccann creative mentorship project. people who complain that the only reason why they can't get their ideas through is because they don't know how to graphically express them (even though they weren't even asked to do so in the first place).

9 Mar 2008

anything could happen

Only a few days left until a F1 season that seems to be more than exciting. Featuring F1's first ever night race (Singapore), banned traction control, Alonso back at Renault, ambitious Hamilton fighting against perhaps too confident Raikkonen, as well as an enticing line-up of number twos who are potentially unpredictably brilliant , 2008 season is surely worth watching. Top Gear gives a taste of things right before start.

7 Mar 2008

as seen by dorina lazar

this post is about interacting with yet another interesting person. i know i might be pushing it with these posts, but the truth is the more i talk to people whose job is completely different from advertising, the more i enlarge my view on how to be a better planner.

a couple of weeks ago, i attended this very cosy chat with Dorina Lazar, about her experience as an actress (the gathering was organized by the same foundation i'm just gonna keep on talking about). Apart from being one of the greatest Romanian actresses, she also is the managing director of one of the most interesting and appreciated theatres in Bucharest, the Odeon Theater. She struck me as a modest person, and her discourse was nowhere near "big talk", being filled instead with simple words and deep emotions. A true communicator, because what she tries to do with each new role is to communicate a story from the perspective of a certain character.

The thing that i liked the most about her was the way in which she rejected verdicts: even when provoked to talk about the young generation's generally claimed superficiality, she dismissed all such preconceptions, and tried to give us her own view instead. And this view seemed to make a lot of sense to me: she brought into discussion how acting was taught when she was young, by professors who were first rate actors on top of everything else. People who inspired respect and admiration through everything they did: their performance, their pieces of advice, their tone of voice, their education, wit and discipline. People who were true mentors, as well as role models for their students. Whereas today, the actress says, most professors are second-hand actors, mostly frustrated by never making it on stage, and thus lacking a great deal of expertise, as well. And this translates in many cases of younger generations being deprived of inspiring role models.

Another thing that impressed me were the recollections from the beginning of her career, when she used to go together with her theater group on tour a lot, in order to play on the stages of village cultural chambers. So they were supposed to act in famous plays in front of peasants who were eating seeds and commenting all the time. Which she thought to be a very good experience. Because keeping such an audience engaged meant developing very powerful performances, and improving her communication skills a lot. She did not take it as an ordeal (although it sometimes was), but as a challenge, because those people were not stupid, but simply uneducated.

Oh, and she has this theory that each audience receives the show it deserves, because the artists on stage unconsciously react to the vibes they receive from the audience. Which means that people in the audience are always an important part of the show, even if the show is not necessarily interactive. This only comes as a further argument to support my earlier point about live performances and their audience, and what brands should learn from it.

Tickets to most good plays sell out very quickly lately, and she thinks this happens because people have started to rediscover the power of theater, of real performance, the sort that is able to inspire reflection, as well as deep emotions. She remembers the beginning of the nineties, when people desperately embraced TV, and stopped attending cultural events; however, she feels many of these people eventually got bored of seeing such little substance in TV shows, of hearing the same TV stars and commentators talking without actually solving anything and so on. And that's a good sign for the cultural level in our country. I sure hope she's right :).

6 Mar 2008

participating in the new york of the 70s

for some unfortunate reason, i hadn't been to the czech center in a very long time. this monday, however, i couldn't resist not going, because the documentary they were going to play sounded way too good to simply ignore. i was very happy to find the room absolutely crowded with young people who had come to see genuine footage about how it was like to be an artist in New York, in the 70s.
Truth is, the documentary was indeed a bliss. Woody and Steina Vasulka had left the Czech Republic in order to go to New York nearly 40 years ago, and this change of scenery turned them into real chroniclers of the underground scene of Soho, who used their Sony Portapak in order to record images from rock concerts, undergroung events and whatever else which made a point about the context and atmosphere of that period of time.

Participation is a sample of footage that pictures the genuine atmosphere of those times: it doesn't have a script, or other cuts except from the ones between different scenes, but it surely has examples of attitudes from so many different manifestations from artists of that period, that you end up with quite a clear picture about how things were back then. Life for Soho artists surely looked difficult, but their passion in expressing themselves seemed so powerful and boldly stated, that you could simply feel wild energy and creativity floating around. The documentary features transvestite actors, ian gillan, jimi hendrix, jj johnson and many others, showing an uncensored, vaguely filtered highly pitoresque universe.
pic from here.

attending music workshops

Part of the reason why i've been so quiet lately is that i took my resolutions quite seriously, and enrolled in a great amount of stuff outside the office - from workshops and conferences to all sorts of shows, loads of opera and theater included. My choices so far have proven to be inspirational and truly enriching, especially since many of them were doubled by getting in touch with amazing new people.

I have become a regular of Fundatia Calea Victoriei's workshops and gatherings, because their alternative education sort of concept has so far proven to be insightful in a far more substantial manner than advertising language abuse .

The workshop in the picture is entitled "how to listen to music" and is held by Tiberiu Soare, a brilliant conductor at the National Opera Orchestra. The workshop hasn't finished yet, but i am so in love with it, that i simply felt the need to write about it anyway.

I had no idea what to expect when i first went there. It seemed like quite a pretentious induction in classical music directed by an honourable director. It's quite the opposite: it's a very passionate journey into learning how to make the most of any musical experience one might have. Tiberiu is brilliant, passionate, modest and funny, and despite the fact that his musical knowledge seems almost neverending, he doesn't even for one second pretend to be smarter or more entitled to discuss about music than any of his listeners. Maybe this is what makes the meetings great: the fact that what Tiberiu actually does is to inspire us never to take any idea for granted. To judge everything by ourselved, and never be overwhelmed or frustrated by remarks coming from critics, specialists or any other types of people who feel their opinion should be superior. Just as he warned us that a great danger in enjoying music is to fall in love with a particular interpretation of a certain musical piece, and to further dismiss by default other interpretations that might be at least equally good.

He makes music seem within our reach, because he never uses a technical term without explaining it in very simple and common-sensical analogies. It's funny in a way - it's so obvious that he knows so many things from so many different areas, and yet, his language is still easier to understand and his discourse still easier to follow than that of many advertising or marketing people.

We talked about different manners of approaching music, as well as about various potential definitions of music, always connecting music with maths, physics, philosophy and history. This comes as no wonder: as Tiberiu explained, it's essential for a very good conductor to know as many things as possible about the various stages in the history of music - the more he understands the social, economic, historical context, as well as the idea exchanges at a certain time, the easier it is for him to come up with a deeper interpretation of a musical piece.

When many people brag about always knowing exactly "what the author wanted to communicate", Tiberiu helped us realise that sheer music doesn't have a message, it's just an expression of our states of mind: you cannot say "the glass is on the table", no matter how many symphonies you write in your attempt. So music is actually accessible and open to anybody who is willing to use his/her reason, and not take any preconception for granted. And what you actually need to do in order to become better and better at evaluating musical pieces is to practice your comparative and your discriminative capacities. As well as to always have the patience to listen to the end. Nothing more.

I wouldn't stop writing for days if i were to discuss all the things i get out of these workshops, so i will just add various observations derived from it from time to time. In the mean time, i can say that music has never been dearer to me, as is the case with the need for opera :).

yamato again

i've been to their show before, but last night i went to see the drummers of Japan once again and i was completely impressed once again. I couldn't really realise whether the show was about discipline, about energy or about passion. Because it surely wasn't solely about music. It was an art show which at times sent vibes of scientific precision, a sample of entertainment that did not defy tradition. It was simple, playful, surprising and engaging.

And i left the show bitterly thinking about some clients that keep on talking and talking and talking about what they should do with their brands, in order to please all the consumers and potential consumers and consumer family and so on. In order not to upset anybody. And by obsessively thinking about this, they forget that "the consumers" are just people. Not this dark force, that's out there to get you, and analyzes every pixel just to prove you wrong. People in the audience last night were genuinely open and got deeply involved in the show, because it made them smile and laugh and be part of the performance. While the japanese fellows didn't seem to be thinking: "oh my God, but what if everybody leaves if i ask them to clap their hands in a difficult manner, and my, oh, my, what if they throw rocks at me if i mock them when they fail to applause as i want them to, and oh, dear, what should i do to make it clear to them that this is a joke" and so on. A matter of doing and of believing in your own voice, i guess, something we're still far away from. And i know this is a very general observation, but i had to express this week's frustration somewhere :).
pic from here.

13 Feb 2008

on my mind these days

and other stuff, of course :)

24 Jan 2008

ego moment

I am the proud owner of this brand new thing to certify i am crazy. Not the medical certificate yet, but apparently a strong proof i'm on the right path towards one.

21 Jan 2008

the sad truth about the new impreza

Last night, i was talking to an old friend (who is also a great Impreza fan) about how disappointed we both were by the looks of the new Subaru Impreza. We both felt it was a betrayal of the amazingly distinctive and sportsy looks that made us love Impreza far beyond its (equally amazing) performances. And, to my utmost (though sad) pleasure, Clarkson's most recent Top Gear feature perfectly points out what i think to be the feelings and thoughts of millions of Subaru fans. Enjoy !

17 Jan 2008

learn by doing

Five years ago, when i first become keen on cars, i took a Ford course named "how vehicles work - an introduction to automotive technology". it was very interesting and i learned a lot about the way cars are built, about their components and how they fit together, about engines and safety systems and design and so on. A very comprehensive course, developed in easy steps: how chemical energy of fuel is turned into rotation of the engine crankshaft, how big isn't necessarily best in terms of power, how an engine is supplied with the necessities of life, how the computer inside works, how the power gets from the crankshaft to the wheels, how automatic gearboxes and other developments work, how vehicles deal with bumps, how suspensions work, how vehicles change direction, how vehicles stop safely and quickly, how vehicles make, store and use electricity, how today's vehicles are built for safety, style and economy and so on. I had watched plenty of accompanying videos as well, so it wasn't plain theory. It was dreamlike for somebody like me, because it turned me from somebody who claimed to be a car lover because i knew designs and brands into somebody who loved brands and designs, but also had pretty much of a clue about how to evaluate what's under the beautiful design as well. I was very enthusiastic about all these things, i loved to talk about them and get as much information as possible. I ended up actually knowing how my car worked, as well as the differences between how my car worked and how the other cars worked.

Some time after, i met this fascinating guy, and at some point the car subject popped up in one of our conversations. It turned out he had been curious about the deep inside of a car as well, for which reason he had bought a second-hand car (a Scorpio, if i remember correctly :) ), and deconstructed it bit by bit, piece by piece. Whenever there was something he did not know or understand, he'd read about it and ask his father or mechanics. And that's how he started building his knowledge.

The difference between us turned to be quite simple: although we were both good at explaining and understanding mechanisms, he was able to identify a problem or replace some piece on the spot, while i needed time and i was completely unsure (as well as pretty much incapable) of replacing anything.

I know that's just a very basic example of learning by doing, but examples tend to have far more power when they come from personal experience. And while i was thinking about this example the other days, i realised yet another basic thing. Reading about interesting things is not enough, no matter how much knowledge i feel to be building. Cause real knowledge and know-how come from a lot of exercises and practice - and that's what building experience is all about. Just like simply knowing Math theorems does not necessarily turn you into a very good problem solver.

And i felt that to be true once again last week. I bought myself the hieroglyphic transcript and translation into English of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. As an Egyptology fan, i had read quite a lot on Egyptian history, hieroglyphs, art, mythology and so on. One of the books i've read was actually entitled "Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture". But having the Book of the Dead transcript in front of my eyes, i must admit i didn't do very well in understanding it. some parts vaguely seemed familiar, but i felt quite far from being able to translate it. Because i've never actually taken the trouble to "learn the language", i've just read about how it was used. So now i've started to actually learn the language from a great course that provides full explanations, as well as exercises. And things are already starting to get clearer and better systematized in my head.

Since it's late and i'm really sleepy, i have no idea whether this post made any sense. But what i was actually trying to say is that my most important resolution this year is to learn many great new things by doing. It's a great challenge for me, as well as a priceless source of insight. Cause, as some friend once told me: "you'll never know how it's like to be drunk, if you've never been drunk" :).

16 Jan 2008

articulate things through animation

A few weeks ago, i eventually watched The Nightmare before Christmas. I know that it's weird to have postponed the moment so much, and it was actually the only Burton related movie i hadn't watched, but well. I guess it's better later than never :). And what i also did a few weeks ago was to read Neil Gaiman's Coraline, the wonderful and terrifying adventure of a little girl who enters a parallel version of her own life. The connection between the two, apart from them both being very enticing stories ? Director Henry Selick, who had successfully directed Tim Burton's piece, and is currently working on the first 3D stop-motion animation movie based on Gaiman's tale. Reading more about Selick, i got more and more intrigued and, among other things, i found Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions - the animated short that attracted Burton's attention in the first place and basically obtained Selick the Nightmare before Christmas proposal. I particularly liked the use of cut-out animation.

yesterday's bads

sometimes you just don't do as much good as you'd want to with all your heart, but you do harm pretty much against your will.

Other bads:
  • people who talk about what "the consumer" thinks and wants, although the only thing they ever do in order to find that out is to read the ppt developed by the research agency.
  • people who think that "the consumers" are a sort of weird creatures kept in bottles, and not human beings who are blatantly similar to them.
  • non-bloggers who are afraid of bloggers, because they never had the curiosity to at lest try to understand how the latter work
  • people who still ask if publishing something a post on a public blog means making that something public and available for everybody (?!?)
  • people who don't want to listen to any complaint about the brand they manage
  • people who don't understand what teamwork means and how that functions (by the way, it's very easy to spot people who've never done any competitive sport in their life from)
  • continuous lack of sleep

10 Jan 2008


Ever since i've read its title i've been determined to get my hands on a copy of Jacques Carelman's "Catalogue d'objets introuvables". But until i actually grab the book, i've obviously researched Carelman's work on the net, and found fascinating objects i really think of actually buildinf for decoration purposes. After all, if you're surrounded by things that create a pretty much upside-down world of themselves, you're very tempted to reinvent your own thinking, right ?

And this must be the ideal chair for balanced thinking:

saint nick as told by

i spent my holiday in seciu, a small village situated on a hill near Ploiesti. and it was a very relaxing holiday, mostly because it was filled with reading, watching movies, interacting with people who have a completely different lifestyle (also trying to adapt to their lifestyle) and exercising.

The main reason why i wanted to stay away from cities was the commercial holidays syndrome that drove me completely crazy. While i was really nostalgic about the nice recollections of cosy times of holidays beautifully spent together with my family and close friends, decorating, singing carols, being excited about the Xmas tree and Santa and all that. So i tried to recreate that holiday cheerful atmosphere.

And part of the attempt was reading this book called "The Autobiography of Santa Claus" and written by Jeff Guinn. I must admit i was completely fascinated by the contruction of the tale. The book combines lots of historical information with lots of fiction, and the result is a nice voyage through time, that explains each magical aspect related to Santa (that is, nearly all aspects that make his existance improbable) in a rational way. Well, kinda rational. In the sense in which you're willing to admit that Nicholas has used all opportunities history provided in order to team up with people such as Attila, Arthur, Leonardo da Vinci (in case you ever wondered who designed the flying sleigh) or Benjamin Franklin, with whom he now shares the North Pole headquarters. And that's just a glimpse of the story, which is obviously not delivered in a "theory of conspiration" manner, but rather in a "whatif" joyous manner. And since winter holidays have the gift of allowing imagination to drift as much as possible, this was a really relaxing read, especially accompanied by fresh orange tea and ginger biscuits :).

baldly go

Speaking of interesting, inspiring people, i met Cris when i was working at Imager. She was a copywriter there, as well as a sort of "enthusiasm maintainer", as Kreti would put it. And i must say that rarely have i met somebody with so much energy, courage and ambition. Ever since, she has been for quite some time in Ghana, doing branding and getting as much as possible from the African culture, she has been a great freelance illustrator (related blogging here and here) and now she's heading for another adventure, namely at least one year in Dubai, where she's going to deal with marketing for a very cool firm (while also doing something about her passion for design).
a series of unfortunate events prevented me from attending the farewell party last night, which makes me a horrid friend once again, but i just wanted to wish you "good luck and have fun" in this new challenge, although i'm sure you'll make the most of it anyway :).

8 Jan 2008

new year's resolutions

i've been very angry at myself lately, but i wasn't sure why until last night, when B made a lot of very good points (see ? sometimes i really listen to you :P). and she made me realise that the bad ways in which i felt i've changed lately are more visible than i had assumed.

Sometimes it just happens: you get into something, and you slowly drift away from yourself and what you're really passionate about, by complying with crappy places, crappy people, crappy situations. But it's crazy and stupid and against everything i believe in and stand for. Cause i cannot really change the world if i complain more and more and don't even change what's crappy around myself.

The truth is that if you don't do stuff, if you don't practice, whatever knowledge or skill you might have simply gets erroded and slowly fades away. You just get out of shape. Just like you forget a lot of things if you don't share them somehow. And "i don't have anybody to talk to about the lots of stuff i know about one topic or another" is no excuse - if i do something about it, i will surely get more favorable contexts.

This was just a very large introduction to answer to Bogdana's new year resolutions tag. Actually, what i want to do this year is to become the doer i was once again.

1. get my dear old passions back on track (which means reading, exploring, travelling, writing and all that) - games, philosophy, profiling, movies&directors, egiptology, cars&formula 1, anthropology, animations&movies, rock and many others
2. do a lot of sport - skating, swimming, ping-pong, badminton, running (i also need to get the nike+ipod kit for this), doesn't matter what as long as it keeps me in shape, both physically and mentally
3. graduate and make up my mind about the next steps
4. spend more time with the people who matter to me and inspire me
5. travel a lot - experience people and places and lifestyles and all that