Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Kikkomans to Bullet Trains

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

A few days ago, I heard an obituary radio announcement. Japanese designer Kenji Ekuan has died. The name didn't mean anything to me then, but the announcer went on to explain that he designed everything from Kikkoman's red-topped bottles to Japan's bullet train. That extra information was jarring.

Kenji Ekuan via US News

As a writer, I know that design is everywhere, but here was a person who was able to work at all levels, from the smallest condiment containers to the largest people transporters. It's humbling to realize how much a mind can accomplish, if he dedicates himself to it.

Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan and his designs: the Narita Express, the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, Yamaha VMAX and the Komachi bullet train Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Further research yielded other gems. Ekuan was a monk with a philosophical bent, who said, "Everything has a soul." He came to work every day in a green wheelchair he designed. He never married, saying instead that he was married to design.

Here's a great description of his impact over at the Independent.


Never say never

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

It's February and I'm only now getting back into the swing of 2015, but if there were something I had to remember all throughout this year, it's to never stop trying.

Yesterday, I was part of an amazed audience, watching as the New England Patriots snatched the Super Bowl championship from the grasp of the Seattle Seahawks. At the waning moments of the game, I'm sure everyone had given the victory over to the Seahawks---everyone but the Patriots.

During the last play, an unknown player Malcolm Butler intercepted the opposing team's game-winning pass, turning the game's resolution on a dime. It was Butler's first career interception. Never before has he ever intercepted a football for his professional team before this.

Life often plays us the same way. We stand before an opposing force, individual, or situation and we think, "They are obviously going to win." And unconsciously, we give up the fight. We lose our fighting spirit. Yesterday's Super Bowl shows us, that isn't the way to go. Even in the last waning minutes of a losing game, things can still take a turn for the better. The key is not to give the opposition the win, before the game is decided.

It's difficult. I agree. I've been faced with many situations where my logical mind races to the conclusion and conceded defeat. But this year, it will be different. It will take a measure of self-confidence, security, and a sense of my worth, but until midnight rings on 2016, my goals will remain my goals, no compromises.

What are your New Year's resolutions? How resolute are you?

Here's a clip from last night's Super Bowl, if you need a little inspiration.


We can afford...better gifts

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I love the holidays. The cooler air, the smell of pine, and all the food in family gatherings, but what I don't like as much is the strange pressure to purchase little trinkets or large, grand gifts so our loved ones know they're remembered.

Giving is a great feeling, but don't you ever find yourself wondering if spending for stuff that people might not even need is the best way to show your appreciation? If all the things we spend on are really worth it?

Those questions, and many others about our current culture of consumerism, bubbled to the surface while I was leafing through Los Angeles artist Bonnie Ebner's "We can afford better" at the Ooga Twooga's Artist’s Books and Cookies event early this year.

Ebner paired a commercial quality natural photographs with tired marketing slogans we're constantly exposed to and the result is pure provocation. These marketing call to actions to buy, to gratify, are turned on their heads because of the beautiful, pristine images in their background. Ebner's book was beautiful and tragic at the same time.

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

So, this holiday season, instead of taking out our wallets and succumbing to what sociologist Marcel Mauss identified as the threefold nature of gifting (or what I call the gift's vicious circle)--in which gifting involves an obligation to give, to accept, and to reciprocate--let's figure out what other immaterial gifts can result in happier, more precious holidays, whose memories will last long after the last trace of pine waft out of our living rooms.

In case some of you are interested in copies of Bonnie's book. Please get in touch with her using her website's contact form.


How the Dutch got their amazing cycling infrastructure

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

We have two bicycles in our apartment. It sits comfortably on a bike stand indoors, but only one ever makes it out on a regular basis. Why? Because despite the many strides in alternative transportation in Los Angeles, cycling is still a scary prospect, especially for those who aren't proficient bikers.

I'm one of the former. My husband is the latter. On the tight cycling paths, I find myself wobbling and imagining gruesome deaths by swooping cars just inches to my left. The city is getting better at promoting cycling, however, as I write this they're overhauling a small 0.5-mile path just outside my home to make room for a wider cycling path and next year, much to my excitement, CicLAvia, a popular car-free event in the city will be coming to my neighborhood! No need to take the Red Line to wherever CicLAvia has opted to set up. Despite these good news, I still find myself wishing for a more secure, segregated bike paths that are physically separated from the cars, but I'll take what I can get.

In the meantime, I shouldn't lose hope. Change comes not because of one event, but multiple confluences. In Netherlands, their amazing cycling culture was borne out of an cramped city infrastructure that couldn't handle a large motorized vehicle volume, an oil crisis, and also an alarming surge of cycling deaths. This gave rise to citizens who clamored for change and kept at it.

Here's a great video found via Root Simple:

Many cities might share the same problems, but the lesson here for me, is that without political will coming from the people themselves, there can be no change. In Los Angeles, we are building that political will. It has already resulted in major strides in pro-cycling and pedestrian policies, but we still have much more room to improve.

But, if the Dutch can do it, so can any city right? All we need is to want it and to say it, loudly and consistently.


Layered Histories in Kreuzberg

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Until now, I find myself looking back at the moment I found this in Berlin. It wasn't a Cold War era building or a classical government structure, but it was something better, I thought. It was signs of life.

Berlin is a strange city, filled with so much character. On one hand, it is ground zero for much of Cold War era politicking. Yet, it is also the sandbox of creativity thanks to low, low rents and a young creative population. It was the latter that fascinated me and also the latter that eluded me.

Here, in these layered posters, I saw clues that something came before. Epic nights occurred and once-in-a-lifetime memories were made. In reality, they were just concert posters plastered one over the other in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, but I saw more. I love the beautifully curling of paper pasted upon paper, much like memories layer over us again and again, creating a unique whole.


Beautiful Ruins

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

We are all in pursuit of a kind of perfection, but there is also beauty in imperfection, perhaps even more. A walk around St. Andrew's in Scotland confirms that.

In St. Andrew's so many remains of buildings can be seen, a skeleton of its former glory, framed in the windswept Scottish sky--nature's glory juxtaposed with the crumbling work of man had. It was breathtaking, to say the least. It was poetic, a timely reminder, that we may do all we can to uplift our standing in life, but inevitably all that fades away.

St. Andrew's Cathedral
The arched entry to the Cathedral Priory
More of St. Andrew's Cathedral with the gardens growing around it
St. Andrew's Castle. Its brick and mortar growing around green.


Edinburgh's Castles and Churches

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I noticed that in Edinburgh, their big monuments aren't pristine and perfect. Like the city, it's worn and obviously loved. The stones aren't white or beige; they look as if they've gone through a bit of fire. Or is that centuries of water build up?

Either way, its rough and tumble majesty reminds me a lot of the city itself. It's beautiful, in a wild way. As if it had gone through centuries of triumph and tribulation and it's still standing.

The Scotsman Hotel was the first thing that caught my eye as we got out of the train station. It's been around since 1900. It was the home for a newspaper operation and then turned into a hotel.
The Edinburgh Wheel and the Edinburgh Castle behind it.
St. Giles' Cathedral and its recognizable crown spire

Get updates via RSS