A Floor Made of Pottery (Literally)


During my last trip to southern Japan I tripped across a really unique place: a pottery shop called Maruhiro. I’m not usually all that into pottery, but what jumped out at me was the design of the place.

After you walk in, the majority of the shop floor is elevated–on a base of imperfect ceramics! Located in Nagasaki prefecture, Hasami has been a pottery town since the middle of the last millennium (well over 400 years). Several centuries of pottery production means millions of pieces sold–and thousands of rejects. So rather than trash them, Tokyo-based designer Yusuke Seki came up with the idea to turn them into an elevated floor–about 25,000 pieces in total, set in concrete.

Have a look…and make sure to drop by to see for yourself when you have a chance!

Maruharo 1

Maruharo 2

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Hasami’s location in southern Japan


IDportland: As Portlandia Highlights, This City Is a State of Mind


We’ve given you some examples of it before in this space, talking about its Public Isolation Project and longstanding Saturday Market, but Portland is truly a unique place. And what makes it unique is that people don’t just accept culture as something that descends upon them. Instead, they choose to take a first-hand role in creating their culture from the ground up, organically (this is perhaps the most definitive single word in Portland’s cultural scene, in so many ways), and the world has started to take notice.

Portlandia is a sketch comedy show that satirizes the hands-on culture that makes Portland special. So special, in fact, that Portland has both attracted new residents to this sleepy industrial outpost in the rainy Pacific Northwest and also inspired a hipster movement across the country (Austin, anyone?). I highly recommend the show to learn more about this city, as well as for a great laugh, and I wanted to share with you a great article I found from the end of 2010, just before Portlandia was to debut.

Oh, and if you don’t believe me about Portland’s cultural influence, the city was the focus of a recent Simpsons episode, which mocked the city’s quirky ways (ironically enough, guest-starring Portlandia’s two main characters, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein).

The following article was written by John Rambow for Fast Company’s Co.Design…enjoy! I am including one video clip that I found that is available to my audiences outside the USA (most of them were blocked outside of the US), however, if this doesn’t work, just exercise your creative web sleuthing skills and do what you do to find a few Portlandia clips. You will learn about Portland, and you won’t be disappointed.

Creative Destinations: Portland’s Artisan Culture Is in Full Bloom


Whether it’s due to the weather, the wealth of natural beauty, or just a self-fulfilling prophecy, Portland’s DIY ethos continues to define the city.

In Brews to Bikes, published this past fall, author Charles Heying, an associate professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University, makes the case for Portland exceptionalism. He lays out the ways in which a longstanding culture of “localism without parochialism” has been expressed through boutiques, craft stores, microbreweries and custom shops of all sorts.

And come January, even TV won’t be safe: that’s when IFC’s Portlandiapremieres. The sketch show, written and starring Fred Amisen (formerly of Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney) is a satiric look at the foibles and obsessions of Portland’s most earnest of citizens — foibles and obsession that are starting to look a lot more universal every day.

At least in Brooklyn and Austin, perhaps the most envied facet of Portland life is its bike culture. The number of Portlanders who commute to work via bike is about 17,000 — over 6 percent of its workers. This is the highest rate for any of the 50 most populated cities in the U.S. Forget getting takeout by bike — in Portland, you can even get your Christmas tree delivered that way.

And all the Portland cyclists who were unsatisfied with the usual mass-market brands have helped make Portland a center for bespoke bike shops that will craft high-end models from the ground up — Renovo Bicycles, for instance, will make you one out of wood and bamboo, while cycle maestro Sacha White gets rock-star attention for his Vanilla Bicycles.

In one bike-filled part of town, the Northeast’s Alberta Arts District, galleries vie with restaurants and bars to attract the pedaling masses. One popular place for recharging is the unprepossessing Tin Shed, a spot that’s as famous for its brunch as it is for its high tolerance for dogs (they’re allowed on the patio, and several menu items are meant for them).

Of course, Portland’s microbreweries make its locavore food culture seem like a Johnny-come-lately. Suds culture extends back at least to the 1980s, when it was launched through the help of two enterprising brothers, Mike and Brian McMenamin. It was then that they started putting together what’s now a hotel, restaurant, and bar empire of over 50 properties in Oregon and Washington.

By using rundown or defunct buildings for their businesses, the McMenamins have also become facto preservationists, finding new uses for structures once used as a retirement home for Masons, a poor farm, a mission house, or a brothel.

One of the company’s standouts, also in the Alberta area, is McMenamins Kennedy School, a former elementary school from 1915 that’s now a hotel. Each of the 35 rooms are in a former classroom, where the chalkboards remain in place. By adding academically themed art and treating the space creatively (turning the school’s boiler room into a bar, for instance), the hotel manages to be more than just a clever repurposing — it also honors the building’s history.

Those who want to do a little repurposing of their own can head to Hand-Eye Supply, which opened this summer in Old Town. Begun by the same people behind the design sourcebook Core 77, Hand-Eye stocks gifty items that wouldn’t look out of place in an art museum gift shop. That said, its main focus is on things to help you make other things: safety glasses, work aprons, and bicycle tools are all laid out here like a boutique’s wares. Many of the items, such as the line of Klein bags, walk the thin line between flash and substance.

It’s hard to see Portland’s love for heavily curated coffee, hand-rubbed bicycles, and backyard cuisine going away anytime soon. If anything, it’s spreading beyond the city’s borders; the Ace Hotel, example, has expanded from its hometown into Seattle, New York, and Palm Springs. The only thing Portland needs is an anthem: Today, the city feels like more that just a place. It’s a bona fide state of mind.

Five Steps for Drinking With Koreans


If you’ve ever so much as hung out with a Korean person, you know that they can match drinks with anyone. I didn’t even have to go to Korea to first learn this, as I got plenty of education even in the U.S. on what the phrase “Johnnie Black” means to Koreans. We gave you some advice for drinking with the Chinese, and since each culture in Asia has its own strict drinking rules, we thought we’d do the same in case you find yourself drinking with Koreans.

Without further adieu, here are your five steps to drinking with Koreans:

  1. Never, ever, under any circumstances pour your own drink: Just as you are supposed to be looking out for those around you to make sure their glasses are never empty (please, re-fill them if they are), they will be doing the same thing for you. Play along.
  1. Use two hands: When someone does pour your drink, hold your cup with both hands. This rule actually applies to anything given to you in Korea, and while you will probably be given a pass if you don’t do this out of unintentional ignorance, better to impress your hosts.
  1. Turn your back: I’m not sure that I agree with it, but Korea is still an incredibly hierarchical society. When drinking with someone who is considered a superior—a boss, older person, etc.—you should drink while turning your back from them when you take your sip.
  1. Eat when you can: Very rarely do Koreans drink with only one type of alcohol, and it can be considered rude to turn down a drink (also not sure I agree with this). Generally speaking, a night out will involve the traditional Korean vodka-like beverage of soju with dinner, beer with tasty Korean snacks like fried chicken at the next stop (hint: this is where you may want to load up—on food), a stop at another place for more beer, a trip to a karaoke place where you may end up drinking anything, and finally a trip to a club, where you also may be drinking anything. Food won’t be available everywhere, so to soak up your mixed liquor, eat when you can, even if this requires a quick stop by one of the delicious street food vendors selling tasty treats like ddokpoki in between venues.
  1. Selective amnesia: Depending how many people you’re out with, someone is going to drink too much. On a good day, this will just mean that he or she passes out at the table you are drinking at, in which case you will just see to it that he or she gets into a taxi safely. On a bad day, this will turn into a meaningless fight for no reason at all. Either way, this isn’t necessarily considered shameful in Korea, since it is expected to happen to the best of them at times, and simply means you’re making a noble effort to keep your drinking skills up. But when it does, a true gentleman will never mention it again. You’ll hope someone extends you the same courtesy when it’s you who is sprawled out on the floor of a Korean bar.
Listen to this advice when you're having dinner...

Listen to this advice when you’re having dinner…

...because this is to follow...

…because this is to follow…

Yes, that says 4pm to 9am....

Yes, that says 4pm to 9am….

It isn't going to slow down...

It isn’t going to slow down…


…so eat that chicken when you can…


...because there is more of this to follow...

…because there is more of this to follow…

...with no shortage of options...

…with no shortage of options…

...you're likely to end up doing some karaoke...

…you’re likely to end up doing some karaoke…

...and then at a club

…and then at a club

Cut some slack to whoever looks like this first...

Cut some slack to whoever looks like this first…









Keeping the Drinks Flowing in Brasil’s Nightclubs


One of my greatest pleasures of traveling comes from picking up nuances from each culture that just seem to make sense. I imagine picking a sort of “all star team” of ideas from each country to create a utopian society, which exists, of course, only in my head.

However, one of the tidbits I’d take home from Brazil would be how their nightclubs keep you hydrated (or, if you actually want to be scientific about it, dehydrated). When you first enter, you hand your ID to a clerk who inputs your information into their database and proceeds to hand you a card, as shown below, that resembles a credit card. Each time you order a drink at the bar, you hand the bartender your card, which he or she scans, and returns it to you. At the end of the night, you bring your card to a cashier, who calls up the record of each of your drink (or food) orders, including any applicable cover charge, and, upon receiving payment, gives you a receipt that you can hand to the bouncer to leave the club.

This drove me mad at first. I thought it was so stupid to actually have people queue up to leave a club. But after a few more visits, realizing how much more quickly bartenders (who do not earn tips, by the way) can serve patrons without having to worry about handling cash and credit card slips, I changed my mind. In the States, it would be unthinkable to be at a popular club on Saturday night without having to wait at least a few minutes for a drink, but the same clubs in Brazil get your glass from empty to full in 30 seconds or less, or so it seems. And while having to line up to leave the club at 5am may not seem like an ideal situation for someone who’s had too much to drink and can’t wait to get home, the fact that they have to wait a few extra minutes to make that decision of exactly how they will get home is not necessarily a bad thing.

So please, give me my card and keep the saquerinhas coming!

I should mention that a similar system is commonly used at bakeries and small supermarkets, although I’ve yet to see the real value it adds in those places.

You won't want to mess with this guy...

You won’t want to mess with this guy…

He'll only let you out once you pay!

He’ll only let you out once you pay!


IDnyc: MoMA’s Free Fridays!


When those unexpected little pleasant surprises come around, it is important that we reflect for a moment to appreciate the little blessing we received. Well, one of the greatest museums and collections of art in the world is free for all to see, for at least four hours every week. Generally regarded a the most influential modern art collection in the world, New York’s Museum of Modern Art is worth every penny of the $25 admission fee. But thanks to Target, it can be experienced for free every Friday between 4pm and 8pm. If you happen to be in the City on a Friday, take advantage!

Enjoy the images below of some recent Free Friday attendees…

SKK_7533 SKK_7540 SKK_7547 SKK_7554 SKK_7580 SKK_7582 SKK_7590 SKK_7594

IDuae: There IS Culture in the Middle East After All!


The Middle East, or at least the parts that anyone not from there actually gets to see, is not known first for its organic culture. While it does have a culture that goes back thousands of years, and some places even manage to keep that culture somewhat in tact, the term “Middle East” probably conjures up a different image in the minds of most of us. Whether it’s the gleaming skyscrapers of Dubai or the Bush-inspired desert battlefields, other images probably supercede the wooden dhows and trading villages that date back to ancient times.

There is a breath of fresh air for culture lovers, though. And it’s not in Dubai, but a few kilometers up the road in neighboring Sharjah. For the tenth time, the Sharjah Art Foundation has opened its doors to the world with the Sharjah Biennial, which is on display from March 13th through May 13th at the Sharjah Art Museum. Long regarded as a key grounds for artistic experimentation in the region, there is an authenticity to the Biennial that is noticeably absent at the competing Art Dubai down the road. It is ironic that with the United Arab Emirates boasting huge tourism investments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including the current construction of a Louvre and Guggenheim in the ladder, it is the lesser-known Sharjah that has the artistic influence. Perhaps that is to the Biennial’s advantage, then–the contrast of a modern, contemporary display by 119 artists from 36 countries, juxtaposed against the Sharjah Art Museum’s majestic Arabian architecture, which certainly lends itself to more of an authentic experience than the ballrooms of faceless 7-star hotels, or the ultra modern layouts of the big names soon to open in Abu Dhabi.

With such a focus placed on the arts scene, it is refreshing to find a place in the Middle East that had the foresight to emphasize the development of art, rather than maintain a strict focus on oil and building a playground for the rich. That is exactly what Sharjah has done, and its next step is to continue to quell the notion that Emiratis buy, but don’t make, art. International though it is, Sharjah’s Biennial already features an increasingly local flair, which will only continue to grow as the rest of the region starts giving increased attention to the arts.

Race and Football in South Africa


We’ve talked before about South Africa’s love of football, digging into the rivalry between the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. But while that illustrated the country’s passion for the game, today we will discuss the particular importance of football to the nation’s primarily black population.

While cricket and rugby are also popular games here, those sports have been historically white in this country, and even with the abolishment of apartheid in 1994, have remained predominantly white. While some blacks and colored people have started a rise to cricket or rugby notoriety, football still remains the clear king among these groups. For many of these people, South Africa’s proudest moment to this day is winning the African Cup of Nations in 1996. This post will expand a bit upon the South African football world, giving you some nice information to break the ice with next time you find yourself in a social situation with a South African.

We have already discussed the Kaizer Chiefs—essentially the New York Yankees or Manchester United of South African football—and their rival Orlando Pirates. However, there are other South African clubs that have earned popularity since the nation’s Premier League inked an international broadcasting deal in 2007, generating funds (it is now the seventh-wealthiest league in the world) to attract more talent. Some of the most notable include the Mamelodi Sundowns (also known as the “Brazilians”) and SuperSport United—both based in Tshwane/Pretoria.

As far as competitions go, the regular-season Premier League is the biggest prize, but there are several others. The MTN 8 is an annual knockout tournament featuring the top eight Premier League finishers from the previous season, while the Telkom Knockout Cup is similar but extends invitations to all 16 Premier League teams. There is also the Nedbank Cup, which is an annual tournament that gives lower-division clubs a chance to compete with (and sometimes defeat) Premier League squads.

Of course, there is also the national team, affectionately know as Bafana Bafana (“the boys”) and Banyana Banyana (“the girls”). Bafana Bafana’s aforementioned 1996 African Cup victory was a shock following the nation’s failure to even qualify for the 1994 edition, and a huge windfall for the national psyche in the fragile post-apartheid era. The club also put on a formidable showing as host nation of the 2010 World Cup, kicking the tournament off in fine fashion with a brilliant strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala in the opening match. Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, has consistently been one of the top clubs in Africa.

Bafana Bafana's Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

Bafana Bafana’s Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

IDlondon: British Journalism as Entertainment


Few forms of reading are as entertaining than that offered by British newspapers. While every country has their tabloids, featuring off-the-wall stories (often fabricated) about celebrities, this type of content seems to always find a place in even the most reputable newspapers produced by London daily. From The Sun to The Guardian and everything in between, more emphasis seems to be placed here on uncovering the latest football wife-and-girlfriend drama or the accidental private part flash by a busty blonde on her Ibiza getaway than things happening in those less important issues, like, oh, national politics or human rights.

But before you journalism purists get bent out of shape about it, just relax…and enjoy it! I’m always entertained no matter what I’m reading—even coverage of football seems to revolve more around hurt feelings and dented Bentleys than game strategy—and it has certainly made many a long commute via Southwest Trains and the Tube go by in a snap. One that comes to mind was in the wake of  football club Chelsea’s historic Champions League victory in 2012—the biggest accomplishment in the club’s 107-year history. Rather than focusing on some of the hundreds of newsworthy subplots, much of the next day’s coverage revolved around the hurt feelings of striker Fernando Torres, who felt “more humiliated than he had ever been” because he was relegated to coming off the bench rather than starting the match. He still played a significant amount of time, including the decisive conclusion, but somehow had the gall to let his personal ego outweigh a once-in-a-century team accomplishment. And the newspapers ate it up, comically (perhaps just as comically as seeing a gaudy Torres at front and center of the team’s victory parade through West London the next day).

British newspapers are more comedic soap opera than journalistic integrity and I, for one, actually prefer it that way!