Category elsewhere

Skateistan

I grew up skateboarding and more than anything else it taught me self-empowerment.

When I wanted to play I didn’t need to find others to form a team, I could skate by myself. I didn’t need a court or a field… America’s love of concrete gave birth to an endless canvas to skate. I could also make use of empty pools or make my own ramps. When my board broke I could fix it easily.

Growing up my dad taught me a ton… so did my skateboard.

That is why I love this video.

The idea of exporting skateboarding to the middle east makes me smile. The idea of empowering girls to skate in places like Afganistan… makes my day.

With all the turmoil in the middle east… here is a flower.

Clearing landmines via massive rolling tumbleweeds

Supposedly it was Plato who said “necessity is the mother of invention.” 

I think the invention below is a near perfect fit with that phrase. The inventor lost his father to a land mine in Afghanistan, was smuggled out of the country and designed the below from his base in The Netherlands.

Genius design; requires no power; decreases the cost to clear a single landmine from $1,200 to around 40 Euro; can be deployed by locals; can clear multiple mines; powered by the wind.

Another galaxy lands in Beijing

The Galaxy Soho, a project by Zaha Hadid Architects, was unveiled in Beijing earlier this month.

Stunning.
The word “moonscape” comes to mind.

The above photograph by Ben Lepley captures the spacey vibe, clean colors and flowing lines. A plethora of other photos can be found on the architects site here.

What I love beyond the organic forms and shifting landscape is the fact that the entire complex is only 15 stories high. It’s approachable even by pedestrians.

It’s hard to make a statement in a city unless you go up and odd. Yet many of the taller projects are hard to truly grasp and/or appreciate unless you have a very specific vantage point which isn’t crowded by other, competing projects.

Smaller projects somehow seem more human-scale. I love this complex and look forward to the day I can see it in-person.

Great little video below as well. It’s wonderful to have this spoken about by locals living in and around the construction and project. Wild juxtaposition between new and old… which has become a quintessentially Beijing attribute.

Congolese rumba mashup

The more one listens to sounds from other geographies the more they hear the threads that hold all musical forms together.

Below is a song from the late 1960s mixing African, ‘er Congolese approaches with a Cuban rumba beat.

Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr. Nico Kasanda smash the Caribbean into the Congo.

40 years before Vampire Weekend was born the tap root to their sound was alive and well and living in Africa.

Fresh.

The cacophony of 1784 tech

When I think of technology I think of a person’s finger’s hitting a keyboard… I think of the hand-crafted element connected to the creation of code.

It’s not that far of a stretch for me to see the segue from past technology platforms to the current ones. From Eli Whitney’s massive leap ahead with a mechanical cotton gin to Linus Torvalds similar large leap ahead with open-source linux platform… these two milestones are very much connected in my mind.

But what I didn’t really see… was the difference in sound. This is a beautifully shot overview of the mechanical elements connected to making a single British, John Smedley sweater.

I love the cacophony of 1784 tech.

John Smedley – Representing Great Britain from Crowns & Owls on Vimeo.

Has America lost it’s will to innovate?

I was having lunch with an SAP-buddy the other day. Our conversation skipped stones across various topics. We filled each others must-read-book list, tried to make sense of various trends around the globe and then he paused to ask the question:

Has America lost it’s will to innovate?

It wasn’t a random question… we had been talking about trends connected to upcoming generations, the stagnant state of seemingly everything on both sides of the political aisle and the oddly-geocentric pools of innovation in Silicon Valley (and the myriad of smaller tech-oriented regions around the US).

The question, as hard as it was to hear, is a logical extension of where it feels like our country is today. It feels like American culture has lost the will to commit to innovation. With the exception of the tech sector (which granted, is a massive exception) we act like we can jump to the enjoyment of success resulting from innovation without taking the actual risks inherent to innovation.

We think we can arrive without taking the trip.

James Dyson failed 5,126 times before finally succeeding with a new vacuum design. Now, as if he’s some kind of cultural change agent, he’s being tasked with changing the culture of England. Good luck with that… is there a harder task than changing a culture? At least they gave him some props for the Everest-Sized task… he’s been knighted, he’s now “Sir James Dyson”.

It seems like there is a “death of failure” associated with the United States. We’ve lost the will to risk. It feels like we currently believe that “failure = waste of time” instead of “failure = one step closer to success.”

The story of Solyndra offers a metaphor for this blog post. Americans talk about jobs and the economy… meanwhile China’s share of the U.S. solar panel market jumped from 8 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2011, and has risen further since. Why is this? It’s because we don’t invest in innovation the same way and at the same rate their government does. Instead of understanding that investments in evolving technologies need to include an appetite for risk, failure and innovation, our government, media and pop culture bandies the Solyndra story around like as a political hot potato.

We are literally (and tragically) branding investment in innovation as a political (thus highly divisive) tactic.

If we want to understand why we’re losing ground let’s look in the mirror… we’re all to blame here when we buy into the short-sighted, election-cycle jousting. Meanwhile… we (Americans) all lose. Innovation further shifts offshore.

Nothing new comes easy. Innovation takes commitment, will, drive and bad-hearing. Bad-hearing comes in handy so you don’t hear the endless chorus of people telling that you what you believe in won’t work and that you should give up.

When we call new products and services an “overnight success,” we are almost always incorrect. Overnight success is a myth.

  • Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game
  • Pinterest had “catastrophically small numbers” in their first year after launch
  • WD-40 is called that because the first 39 experiments failed

This video, while not focused on innovation per se, speaks to these same issues.

If we are going to stay a leader in innovation, it’s going to take a will and the courage to do so.

So bad it’s good

There is something to be said for something that is so bad that it becomes good.

I realize that’s not logical and doesn’t make sense… but its true.

In a way Napoleon Dynamite and Spinal Tap are like this… except that they built as a parody.

The cover to the left reaches the “so bad it’s good” threshold.

Sure, maybe the art director knew what he or she was doing… but I don’t think so.

So bad it’s good.

More “worst album covers” here.

Kites as a social network

A few months back I was deep in the heart of Rocinha, the largest favela (slum) in Brazil, when one of the locals pointed out the kites.

In a near vertical slum of an estimated quarter million people there are small kites, 12″ paper squares, flying everywhere.

When we reached our destination, perhaps 3/4 of the way up to the top, I noticed the larger picture regarding the kites… they were interacting.

The kids, like the one to the left, stand on the roofs of their houses (which are DIY structures, concrete blocks, sans rebar and five to seven stories tall). The houses themselves could be the subject of a long series of blog posts.

But this post is about the kites.

Kids stand on the roofs of their homes and fly self-made kites about 100 feet up.

And they dogfight.

To make things more interesting they embed crushed glass into the string of the kite… so they can cut one another’s string.

What hit me watching tens… maybe sixty kites in the air was the social interaction going on. These kids had created their own social network. It had norms and expectations, loosely coupled and tightly aligned.

If it feels like I’m reading too much into this… I don’t think I am.

The term social network may sound new but the concept has been around since the dawn of man. There are high school cliques, college fraternities, millions of special interest groups, family ties, etc.

It was wild to see a social network a hundred feet above my head, created from… nothing… and capturing the imagination of a whole lot of kids with very little access to modern life, let alone Facebook.

Series 1

Go ahead, try and point to another vehicle this utilitarian, I don’t think there is one.

Sure you could point to a Unimog, (original) Hummer, a pared down CJ or pickup. As much as I love those… I think they all fail. The Land Rover Series 1 (the first in the Series 1, 2, 3 models) is as much of a utility vehicle as is possible.

They started production of the Series 1 in 1948, a few years after the war ended. Fifty years later a stunning 70% of all vehicles created are still in use.

Me gusta.

Post modern flag for Europe

In 2001, when Brussels became the center of the European universe, architect Rem Koolhaus was asked to come up with a flag design for the newly formed union.

He delivered “the barcode” to the left.

I adore it.

A unique element of the flag was that it was designed to change, morph, and evolve. As new Member States of the EU came online their colors would be added without space constraints.

Brilliant.

Of course we also know the design which was chosen. I’m fond of this one as well.

Simple, elegant and timeless. The color pallet that suggests a historic stature.

The member state issue (adding stars when new members join) wasn’t taken into consideration. The twelve stars mirror the twelve founding members. Also interesting this flag was created in 1955, a full 30 years before the European Union came into existence. More on that history here.

Both designs have their merit but the Koolhaus design is… perfect.