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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buy Mi: Hong Kong Billboards and Advertisements [2009 Back Post]

NEW YORK, February 25 – While hang out in Hong Kong (December 2009), I paid close attention to local advertisements and billboards. It's always fascinating to observe local marketing campaigns. Here are a few interesting Hong Kong advertisements:

Love Mi, Sammi!

Sammi Cheng (郑秀文), the hugely popular Canto Pop singer, had a giant billboard covering the entire side of a building in the Tsim Sha Tsui district. It was so big that I had trouble fitting the entire poster in the viewfinder of my camera. The object in the foreground is a street light which should give you a sense of scale. The billboard was promoting Cheng's Love Mi tour which was being sponsored by Johnnie Walker.

The Tomino-esque Thing

Mass Transit Railway (MTR), Hong Kong's subway system, is the lifeline of the city. It's also my preferred method of travel. On several subway cars, I found Gundam posters. It was a cross promotional effort between the Gundam franchise and the MTR.

Learn to Shot -> John Woo Style

During my visit to Hong Kong, the city was hosting the 2009 East Asian Games which is kinda like a mini-Olympics for Asia. The city was covered with banners promoting the event. They made a unique banner for each sport, but this one caught my eye. The locals nicknamed this event "The John Woo Challenge".

Danny Wears a Seiko

On my way to breakfast, I unintentionally ran into posters of Daniel Wu (吳彥祖) at a Kowloon watch store. Wu, a fellow Giant Robot Magazine writer, was endorsing Seiko's line of Criteria watches. In addition to being a writer, I hear he does some acting on the side...

The First Circle of Hello Kitty

Cool Japan comes to the Hong Kong subway. Hello Kitty, the official ambassador of the color pink, enticed Hong Kong commuters to spend their holiday in Japan. The Japanese tourism posters were displayed throughout the MTR subway system, and Admiralty Station was completely transformed into the Hello Kitty Station. I'm sure that this is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Journey to Mong Kok

Here is another interesting subway poster. The Monkey King doesn't want you to monkey around on the escalators. Public transportation is serious business.

Doraemon Pulled This Out of His... Pouch?

In a lift leading to a pedestrian overpass, I found these instructional safety stickers with Doraemon(ドラえもん). Yes, trust the imaginary flying blue marsupial.

Let Them Eat Idol Christmas Cake

The Maxim cake company is notorious for using very attractive girls and female pop idols in their advertisements. The white fluffy concoction on the left is the "Angel Christmas Cake", and the sugary chocolate guilt trip on the right is the "Devil Christmas Cake".

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Polysics at The Blender: Technicolor Pogo Punk Explosion

NEW YORK, February 13 – On chilly Saturday night, I walked into a techno-rock explosion. The Polysics, a "technicolor pogo punk" band from Tokyo, played a one night engagement at the Blender Theater (Irving Plaza).

The Polysics are primarily known for their distinctive Devoesque sound and innovative music videos. Their music is a mix of classic techno-pop with a hard edge punk guitar. Having been raised on British New Wave, I was quiet partial to their synth-pop sensibilities.

I also enjoyed the geeky punk flavor of their stage show. Hiroyuki Hayashi, the lead vocalist, was very animated and charismatic. He was bouncing off the walls like bunny on speed and performed some comedically awkward hip thrusting. In several instances, Hayashi had the entire audience mimic some of his bizarre hand gestures and motions. The crowd loved the interaction.

At one point in the performance, Hayashi proclaimed that “Polysics will be your Valentine!”

The highlights of their performance were “Rocket”, “I My Me Mine”, and “Electric Surfing Go Go”.

The band played to a bizarre mix of fans. In the audience, there were hard core techno fans wearing Devo hats rocking out next to Japanese Goth kids. It was a pretty lively crowd.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Alfa at Best Buy: Hurry While Supplies Last!

NEW YORK, February 11 – I’ve seen plenty of indie music acts in bizarre locations. Some of the more notable ones were a shopping plaza in Kowloon, the tiny back room in a New York City bar, and the subbasement of a parking deck in Shinjuku. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a concert at Best Buy (60 West 23rd Street). So, when I read that Alfa Garcia was going to perform there I was a bit curious.

I decided to go to the Best Buy to check out the performance. As I walked past the large display windows, I found Alfa in the store front. She was standing on a small elevated platform that looked strangely like a pedestal. I immediately thought she looked like a product on display. Alfa’s gone commercial! She’s sold out! (Just kidding…)

Alfa performed eight songs including “Supergirl”, “Second Skin”, and “Don’t Write Your Goodbyes”.

Regarding the venue, Best Buy didn’t seem like the best place for a musical performance. The high drop ceilings and the warehouse nature of the space didn’t seem to provide good acoustics. The noisy shoppers also didn’t help matters, but Alfa still played brilliantly.

Overall, the event had an interesting schizophrenic atmosphere between Alfa’s singing and the customers haggling over the price of HD television sets.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Equals Winter. Winter Equals Hot Pot! [2009 Back Post]

Little Sheep in Hong Kong

NEW YORK, February 11 – Yesterday’s snowpocalypse event makes me think of relatively warmer climates like my recent trip to Hong Kong. Hong Kong denizens consider 50 degrees Fahrenheit to be “cold”. Jeez... I would take a mild Hong Kong winter day over a mid-Atlantic snow storm any day.

As I watched the snow blanket my entire street, I could only think about one thing: Hot Pot (火鍋)! It’s a delicious Chinese winter tradition similar to Japanese Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ).

During my visit to Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to dine at a local chain restaurant called the Little Sheep (小肥羊). I know the American image of “a chain restaurant” is the stereotypical fast food burger joint like McDonald’s, but the Little Sheep is not your ordinary franchise. Because of the nature of hot pot dining the raw food has to be fresh, and the Little Sheep doesn’t disappoint. Marinated beef, skewered shrimp, fish balls, and… omg… the mutton!

I'm getting hungry just blogging about it. I need to find some hot pot to warm up my buddha belly.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lowboy and Black Blizzard

Lowboy Cover Art by Adrian Tomine

NEW YORK, February 4 – In a promotional event for his new novel, John Wray conducted a book reading and discussion at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn.

Lowboy, Wray’s latest novel, is centered on a paranoid schizophrenic teenager who’s recently escaped from a mental institution. Interestingly the narrative of the novel is told through the eyes of a boy suffering with mental illness, and the story frequently blurs the line between reality and fantasy.

After a brief reading, Wray was joined by Adrian Tomine. Tomine, a popular cartoonist, did the illustrations for the cover of Lowboy. Using a set of prepared questions as a jumping off point they discussed a variety of topics including possible movie adaptations, the creative writing process, and their collaboration on the novel’s cover art.

Adrian Tomine and John Wray

Towards the end of the night, I had an opportunity to talk with Tomine, and we got into a discussion about manga. He mentioned that he had just finished editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s (辰巳 ヨシヒロ) Black Blizzard (黒い吹雪). It’s a follow up to Tatsumi’s critically acclaimed graphic novel A Drifting Life. He described it as Tatsumi’s attempt to incorporate elements of film noir into his manga. As an avid reader of Tatsumi’s work, the news of a new graphic novel was very exciting.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Yumi Kori's Wind and Lightning Installation

NEW YORK, February 4 – Yumi Kori, an artist and architect, held a small gallery exhibition at The Robert Lehman Gallery (Urban Glass) in Brooklyn. The exhibition is titled Matsukaze (Wind Passing Through the Pine Trees), and it consisted of six handcrafted glass vessels. Each vessel had filaments attached to both ends which effectively turned each glass sculpture into light bulb.

In Kori’s glass pieces, the electricity arced across the entire glass vessel creating an interesting electrical display. The variation in brightness and pattern were controlled by switches that regulated the voltage. Each piece had a unique pattern of dancing electrical current, and the variations were subtle. The artist admits that her control over the electrical patterns were very limited.

In order to enhance the light installation, the exhibition space was pitch black except for a soft powder blue glow that emanated from Kori's glass work. After my eyes adjusted to the low light levels, the lighted glass sculptures seemed brighter and more transformative of the dark space.

As an architect, Kori had worked with glass as a building material for larger structures. However, the current exhibition had allowed her work with the glass on a more intimate level.

Yumi Kori said that she was always interest in the qualities of glass as a material, but this was the first time that she has played with the medium directly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Please Help Support Giant Robot Magazine

Times are tough for print in general. In order to maintain a high quality and independent magazine, Giant Robot needs your help. They have done the math, and an infusion of $60,000 (hopefully more) will ensure another year of full, unfettered operation with no strings attached to a shifting media paradigm, advertising climate, sketchy distributors, and the economy. If you have been affected or inspired by Giant Robot, help however you can. All support, both through finances and spreading the word, will be appreciated and make a difference.