sxswhhhaaat?

Sorry…not many photos to share since I was busy working most of the SXSWi with @Spedfast.

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One of the only outdoor, walk-in welcome vendor tents provided by 3M. They used their translucent films to create a geometric domed structure which housed their latest innovative products.

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Free tacos (bbq brisket) from new Austin food truck, The Peached Tortilla. Delicious!

SLR-3-2015_52You can’t go wrong with a simple floral bouquet in your store front. 2nd Street district newbie Lacquer finished just in time to welcome the crowds.

 

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San Francisco: Street Art, July 2014

SF_07_123-sm[above] This was one of my favorite works of street art, directly across from a Blue Bottle Coffee outpost on a tiny Hays Valley alley that reminded us a lot of Tokyo.

SF_07_231-smSF_07_024-smSF_07_193-smSF_07_101-smFrom the bus

SF_07_102-smFrom the bus: colorful wall enlivens a low-income neighborhood

fence-art Mission-FamCntr

SF_07_096-smMaybe not technically street art, but architecture-art…
SF_07_132-smkiss_streetartsource: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/listen-to-this-wall
source: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/listen-to-this-wall%5B/caption%5D

sxsw2014 review #1

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IMG_3_023-smLots of site-specific murals designed for the week.

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IMG_3_026-smGraeme found his people.

IMG_3_032-smLife-sized tea pot? Yes, please!

IMG_3_036-smIt wasn’t too cold for a few cocktails on the lawn of the beautiful new Hotel Ella.

IMG_3_042-bandsFeeling like a 14-year old girl.

IMG_3_044-VSQOne of my favorite acts of the festival: Vitamin String Quartet @ Spotfiy House.

IMG_3_038The subject of great controversy, still a great lineup (around the block and musical artists). This W Hotel is next door to our apartment, which means great people watching and hearing the after parties.

 

Japan: The Most Relaxing 24 Hours in Hakone

After a busy four days of shopping and running around Tokyo, Amanda had planned a relaxing 24 hours in this small resort area outside of Tokyo called Hakone. Hakone is known for their natural hot springs and the area has tons of hotels built on top of these springs with world renowned spas. Sounds good! The setting was beautiful, the service was impeccable and we have since been remarking that it was one of the best 24 hours of our lives.

Hakone train station

The station with the beautiful foliage

Kai Hakone

Lobby, with espresso machine. I came here to ponder life’s mysteries when Amanda took a lot longer in the spa.

Kai Hakone

The old mixed with the modern


Kai Hakone
Kai Hakone

Upon arrival, the concierge led us to the lobby seating in order to present us with our hot towels (for hand washing) and our welcome drink. After an appropriate amount of solitude, the concierge returned to complete our check-in, confirm our dinner and breakfast reservation times and process Amanda’s “no raw fish” request (she kept saying sesame instead of sashimi…they finally resolved the translation error).

During our stay we had to be in uniform (yukata) at all times. When we arrived they gave these robes and slippers to wear. The robes were nice, but I found the slippers to be uncomfortable, mainly because there was no real way to discern what was the left food from the right. I still don’t know if there was an answer, or if the slipper was designed to be available for either foot and comfortable to neither. Also, when you arrive at a hotel in Japan they send a little friend with you around your room for like 10 minutes showing you everything you could need. “Here is the kettle, here is the wall outlet, here is the bed, here is the toilet, here are your towels, this is the phone, this is the button you press to ask us questions should you have any after this 15 min walkthrough of your room” etc. It was kinda charming at first, but not so much after you’ve checked in to 3-4 places in the past 8 days.

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The more you look at them, the less sure you are as to which one is for which foot. A zen exercise perhaps?

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The shogun assesses his kingdom.

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[vimeo 82459767]

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In the basement of the hotel was the reason we came here: the spa. Natural hot water, a sauna and a cold water dipping pool. The Japanese love their baths, and I am now a total convert. When Amanda and I build a house we are totally going to make a big bath in the basement. And as with everything there is a set ritual for the bath–or at least there was for the guys side. I’m sure it was similar on Amanda’s side of the spa. You come in, disrobe and go to this little shower room and sit naked on a little stool and clean yourself off with a shower-head and bucket. Once you’re clean of all of life’s dirt you are ready for the soak in the bath. And it was glorious. Half-inside, half-outside with the crisp fall air around you while you are submerged in 100 degree water, floating around with small woodland creatures looking in at you. Awesome.

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My little sakura blossom


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The next day we had to leave, which was sad. This hotel had a long windy driveway, and when our hostess put us in the cab we watched with sadness as the hotel slowly wound out of our sight. But during that 45 second climb up the hill, our hostess did not cease her bowing to our cab and we rolled away. Japanese hospitality rocks!

Japan notes: the toilet

One of the things that surprised us about our trip, was how much we’d be talking about the toilets upon our return. We love to remember those warm seats, a strange yet wonderful extension of Japanese hospitality in pretty much every public and private facility you’d enter. And we’re not the only ones who love these toilets. A colleague of mine who’s married to a Japanese woman tried to procure one of these magic toilets for his Austin home after a number of visits to her homeland. His electrician and plumber finally talked him out of it… 

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A bit intimidating at first, we soon looked forward to our brief rest stops throughout the day. The buttons usually had enough symbols to instruct you on proper usage. But, alas, sometimes you just had to experiment. So, what all do they do? They can do anything from: heat the seat, play water noises, emit white noise-cancelling sounds, automatically flush, offer washing & drying cycles and even call for emergency help! Brilliant!

Japan: mark making

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One of my first learnt lessons in design school has its roots in ancient calligraphy practice: in making the first mark on the page one must be focused yet relaxed, strong yet graceful and full of purpose. Though there’s a plan, one also yields to the will of the paper, the ink, the dexterity of one’s body (calligraphy is often done kneeling or upright—with gusto!). It is meditative and relaxing. There is a start and a stop. Practicing drawing ancient characters one cold, windy evening in a traditional Tokyo studio gave us a glimpse into an ancient cultural tradition, a rich experience we will never forget. Thank you, Ten-You for your patience, gentleness and hospitality. To learn more about Ten-You, check out her site!

Tokyo is not the best place to buy calligraphy, paper or stationery supplies, however it is supposedly much less expensive than in Kyoto. In Kyoto one finds many traditional craftsmen still committed to paper-making and calligraphy and the city was flush with cozy shops selling goods for both the amateur and professional. I aim to continue my practice and so I procured a brush, ink tray and ink block in a small Kyoto shop a few days later. Finally, I selected some rice paper on which to inscribe one of my favorite Japanese phrases that I’ve spent much of these last few weeks pondering, Ichi-go ichi-e.

lines-on-paperWe made lines for about 15 minutes before we could move on to circles.

JAP_11_0136-smReviewing the ancient characters, Kodai-moji,  from which the modern Kanji is based.

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JAP_11_0137-smEven mixing the ink was meditative: small, deliberate circles, with slight pressure until we had enough to make our marks

JAP_11_0142-composite-smThe final creations: Graeme drew the character for “deer”. Mine is “bread”

JAP_11_0146-smI’ve learned that this is true Japanese style: group photo at the end of a workshop