Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lock your knees.

I've been going to Bikram Hot Yoga once a week for 3 months now.
Before this surprises you, let me assure you that no one is more surprised than myself.

People do yoga to get in touch with their soul, to unwind, to meditate etc. I do hot yoga simply because I want to eat junk food. See, to justify eating like a pig, I need to exercise. And hot yoga is the most passive exercise I've ever encountered in my whole life.
You attempt some impossible positions in a small, bright room of 38 - 40 degree Celsius with a 60% humidity level (I assume hot yoga is simply referred to as 'yoga' in India) along side 50+ people for 90 minutes. Even if you don't participate and lie down on your back, you're still sweating. It's the perfect 'sport' for me.

The first time was terrible. It felt like long distance running and I had to take a cab home.
The second time around, I was yawning in class. Not because it was too easy; my brain was lacking oxygen and I passed out on the floor 10 minutes later.
Now I have the energy to walk out of the room and straight to Grill'd  to destroy a burger. I still can't perform 50% of the poses. I can't even lock my knees. But I'm maintaining my weight without giving a crap about what I eat.

There is definite physical improvement in terms of lung capacity and flexibility (just like how getting smashed repeatedly by a chair would improve reflexes and durability). After 3 months my knuckles are touching the floor, and I noticed that arguments with the girlfriend has gone longer than before. I also sleep really well after each session (maybe not because of yoga but more from the arguments). I guess in the end, we all need something we can own and build upon. Even if that 'something' involves inhaling sweat germs from strangers. 

One common misconception is that yoga is for hot girls. Well, the reality is that for every hot girl in the class you get 3 chubby ones, 3 who are so skinny that the spine is poking out like a fossil, and 3 hairy men in speedo trunks. Tip: if you ever need to bet on who're the experts, always go for the chubby ones. Maybe this is why I kept going back, to piss off the beautiful people by doing the back bend while they sit down in defeat. (Ok that last part is not very in tune with the Bikram teachings, but fuck the beautiful people right?)

In short, Bikram Hot Yoga is simply simulated torture. Sure they try to sugar coat it with inspirational quotes and 'mind over body' bullshit, but it is not any different from signing up to a gym. (They got me hooked on this Staminade drink and want to charge me $100 for having my own matt. It's still about the money.) It's not mysterious; it's just another activity, like training for marathon or golf. And with every activity comes a bunch of douche bags trying to make it bigger than it is (oh you need to try to Nike Yoga wear, it's uh-mazing). 

You just need to find your own poison. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sushi Ginger.

First of all let me say this: Twenty and Six espresso is a nice place. I've been there a few times with different people and I get it. Besides looking like a place with hipster-theme halloween party going on everyday, they serve good coffees. They have the Josef M Brockmann book on Grid Systems on their table for viewing so they're definitely in my good books.

And what I'm about to discuss isn't happening only at Twenty and Six; it is merely the first example I can think of.

With that out of the bag, here goes:

The dish above is the Tokyo Sumo Salad. I think it costs around $20 and it is essentially a salad dish made of soba noodles, grilled chicken, coriander tossed in sesame oil dressing with Japanese pink ginger garnish.

There is something wrong with the dish.

It is the big pile of pink ginger.

Pink ginger, (or Gari as the Japanese call it) is usually served with raw sashimi.
The function is to cleanse our palette in between the different sashimi's and some say the antiseptic acidity in the Gari can prevent salmonela.
Natural pickled ginger is yellow in colour, so the pink ones we see from our local Chinese sushi chef is made from our good friend, Mr. Artificial Colour E124. It is ok to take them in tiny moderation (say one thin slice with each sashimi / sushi); not in the size of a tennis ball as seen on the beautiful picture above.

So my point is this: The dish above doesn't make sense.
There is no raw fish in it. It's a chicken salad.
I'm sure the Gari was simply there to look good and make the sell as a healthy salad. It is not.
Melbourne (can I say Australia?) is so ignorant about Asian food that'd we pay twice as much for style over substance. It is the equivalent of eating an 'Aussie' dish in Singapore that is smothered with Keen's mustard.
I may sound like a food snob, but if you're charging $20 for a salad, at least keep it real.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The neutralisation of TVC.

This week I was back freelancing for a couple of days in an agency. This post has nothing to do with that experience, just that it reminded me that I haven't been writing about advertising for quite some time. So here goes:

Television commercial is dead.

At least, that's what the industry has been debating about since the first agency pitched this low price, high reach thing called the banner ads and proclaimed themselves as 'digital agencies'. And whenever a new smart phone is introduced (yup it's really dead now) or the new iPad is released (last nail on the coffin, that is), the same argument keeps popping up.

Do these industry experts watch TV? I do. And this is the general trend of TVCs in Australia:

1. A person breaks the fourth wall and talks to the viewer.
2. The person describes a deal, a product, a benefit. (ok, multiple deals, multiple products, multiple benefits.)
3. The person provides you the call to action.
Don't believe me? Try these:

Who are these people? Why do I need to listen to them? What makes the brands(or agencies) think these promoters are convincing enough to represent the brand?

You know what they remind me of? Radio commercials. Perhaps these people don't matter after all.
In radio ads we have voice overs; now on TV we have voice overs with a face. 

TVCs aren't dead. They've just been reduced to walking, talking version of brochures and junk mails. 
What's really in the coffin is the theatrical and entertainment value of the commercials. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

Oishinbo: The challenge of deliciousness.

I'm doing this thing recommended by Austin Kleon's book to map out a 'creative' family tree.

Basically it's to find out who or what inspired the artist who inspired you, so in the end you end up with a big tree that's inter-related and you have your very own 'school of influence'.

I blogged about the manga about wine a few weeks ago and last Friday I stumbled across another manga about food: Oishinbo.

In order to compile the 'ultimate recipe book' the main character Shiro with his female side kick Yuko has to explore all around Japan to reveal the secret of Japanese cuisine. The villain? Shiro's elitist father, Yuzan, who's an artist, actor, food critic, and founder of the 'Gourmet Club'. He trained Shiro since young but later had a fall out when the wife died out of exhaustion and they've been crossing into each other's path since then.

It is no doubt that Drops of God refers to Oishinbo every way in terms of plot and characters (The kind and poor aiding people in need against the tide of rich evil tyrants). The main difference, is perhaps the style between the manga artists. Oishinbo was published since 1983 (7th longest running mango to date) and it had a heavy Tezuka-influence while DoG is more prone to the modern 'early Takehiko - Shojo' style we see in the early 00's.

Once again I'm humbled by the educational value of Oishinbo. The manga teaches us not only about wine like DoG, but also the preparation of Japanese, Chinese, French cuisine, the ingredients, the state of the agricultural industry, and the history behind the food. So far, I've learned how to spot a good sushi chef from an average one, how to tell if a tomato is good enough without cutting the flesh open, and how to cook a double-sided egg without flipping the egg, why certain plates or dishes are used during kaiseki, and why you should leave the restaurant if you know the chef smokes.

I guess the more I venture into genre-based manga, the more I respect the research and dedication that went behind creating a manga series. Sure any hipster with money to spend can travel to France and blog about their experience with mediocre writing skills. But to be able to tell a story based on the culinary experience AND illustrate it AND captivate an audience AND be educational, I don't think any other artists around the world can do that. (Pixar comes to mind, but they spend millions of dollars on research; a manga team consists of 2-4 people.)

Viz Media picked the 'best of the best' among the 104 books of the original series and compiled them into a 'easy for white people to understand' 7 book series, titled Oishinbo: Ala Carte. Each book has a theme of 'ramen', 'sake' or 'miso' but the stories won't make any sense chronologically, so think of it as watching a sitcom re-run.