Category Archives: Urban Life

FOOD AS DECOR: THE “WALL OF DONUTS” MAKES US “HANGRY”

Do you ever see something really yummy when you’re hungry and get “hangry”? “Yes,” you say? Yes, you do? We knew it! Sometimes we do, too. Often times it’s while we hard at work at our office, super busy with barely a moment to spare between meetings to even think about grabbing lunch.

We had this experience recently when we saw the “Wall of Donuts.” Well, “Wall” might be too generous a term. It’s more like a “Rack of Donuts,” though, so really let’s call it a “Wall-like Rack of Donuts.” This mini-architectural novelty is one that turns the donuts into a decorative object, but n object that serves a very important function, too. You can walk right up to the Wall/Rack and pull the donut of your choice off and starts soothing you hangry hunger pangs immediately. It’s essentially a donut buffet.

The Wall/Rack was set up by a media company during a recent promotional visit to our advertising agency offices. Media and production companies, various third-party vendors large and small, that provide services to advertising agencies and their clients often pay visits to the agencies to pitch their offerings. They usually bring swag — caps, tees, pens, etc., branded with their logos — which are “take or leave it” and often in the “leave it” category. More importantly, they also often bring food, which is usually in the “TAKE IT!” category.

The food is usually unremarkable: Take-out food from the local Thai joint, spreads of soft-taco ingredients (also from a local joint), sandwiches and salads from Mendocino farms, pizza (from a local joint), that sort of thing. It can feel routine and is easily taken for granted.

But the Wall/Rack of Donuts distinguishes itself. It was a massively welcome change from the vendor food-swag routine. Of course, it’s gimmicky. But the donuts were delicious!

GOING BIGGER: “LOVE BERTO” DOMINATES FAUX-URBAN LANDSCAPE IN L.A.

Here’s another one of these abstract, geometric murals by the artist Berto, who usually signs his work “LoveBerto.” His massive street-art works seem to be everywhere in Los Angeles, though his work can be found all over the world, including in New York, Berlin and in Sydney, Australia, where he first started putting up murals. The artwork pictured here is at the The Row, a new urban concept shopping, office and restaurant complex developed by re-purposing the old American Apparel factory buildings and the spaces around them in Downtown Los Angeles.

GUILTY PLEASURE: TERRACE HOUSE

We’ve stumbled upon a new obsession the past few months. This in addition to those our other obsessions regular readers may be familiar with: Surfing and espresso. What is this new vice? It’s a Japanese reality television show called Terrace House.

You may have heard of Terrace House. If you have Netflix you may have seen it as a “tile” in the queue on your Netflix dashboard. The show is akin to American reality shows like Big Brother and MTV’s Real World. On the surface, it more closely resembles the latter, but with a distinctive Japanese cultural twist.

The premise of the show is as follows. Six total strangers, mostly twenty- and thirty-something Japanese, are selected to live in a beautiful house set up in a beautiful or fashionable locale. The six housemates go about their usual daily lives — work, school, play — and interact with each other at the house as they cross paths in their routines or as house members go on outings together. Often the main stage of interaction is a six-person dining table next to an open kitchen. There is, as the show reminds us in its upbeat intro, “no script at all” (or so they say). Cameras are set up everywhere in the house and follow the members around to capture the action and then edit footage into some kind of distilled weekly narrative.

Each episode covers a week of life at the house. From time to time, the shows cuts aways from the action in the house to a studio panel of Japanese celebrities and comedians who then comment and analyze what we’ve just watched. Sometimes this panel is more interesting than the events transpiring in the house itself.

One observation often heard about the show is that “nothing happens.” But that’s not true. Rather, compared to many American or Westen reality T.V. shows with their elaborately staged set-ups, hyberbolic personalities, and moments of emotional outbursts or enraged “acting out” (plus the occasional table-flip moments a la Real Housewives), it only seems like not much is happening. This is a byproduct both of the cultural context but also the the way the show is set-up. As a result, small things, minor faux pas or actions that deviate slightly from the expected social norms are emphasized and magnified out of what might seem reasonable proportion. A house member leaves their towels on the bathroom floor and it becomes the cause of much tensions and consternation that takes on a life of its own.

So how did this show wind up on Amercian T.V.?

When Netflix began to expand in the Japanese market in the 2010s, it scooped up a lot of Japanese T.V. programs or partnered with producers (in this case Fuji Television) to create original Japanese shows to offer on the company’s growing streaming service.

Via Netflix’s enormous global platform, shows like Terrace House suddenly found new, massive international audiences. Terrace House (or “Tera-Ha” how its sometimes called in Japan) eventually reached viewers in some 190 countries including the U.S.

The show has completed five seasons, three of which are available in the U.S. The word “season,” however, is a bit inaccurate. It’s better to think of the show in terms of locales and years rather than seasons in the traditional T.V. sense. The first two “seasons” each lasted a year and were set in a popular beach town south of Tokyo called Shonan, and these aired in Japan prior to Netflix’s picking  up the series. It was a massive phenomenon and culminated in a feature film with members of the house continuing their journey to a point of logical closure. (Spoiler: The girl gets the guy, and so on.)

Subsequent seasons include Terrace House “Boys and Girls in the City” set in Tokyo, followed by “Aloha State,” where the locale is for the first time outside Japan, in a suburb of Honolulu, Hawaii. The show returned to Japan for “Opening New Doors,” which is set in the small, mountainous countryside town of Karuizawa about two hours by train from Tokyo.

A new season set in Tokyo debuted last week and will likely be available in the U.S. this summer. We can’t wait. Because addiction.

DIGITALISM: LACMA LAUNCHES A NEW WEBSITE AND IT’S ABOUT F***ING TIME

Seriously, it took a while, but here it is, the new website of the esteemed Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a.k.a., LACMA, the crown jewel of the L.A. art world.

It’s a much-improved site. The obvious biggest change is its design. Yhe user-interface ( UI ) design and its “look and feel” have been updated and dramatically in terms of color and style. Where once the site was white, clean and spare, much like many art museum and gallery websites, and much like the white walls of a gallery, the new site is dark, with a black background.

The new look and feel is at once bolder, though restrained and sober without feeling austere or aloof. The spareness and minimalism are still here, if not more so in terms of functionality, but the site feels friendlier, easier, less uptight, and clearly designed for our contemporary multi-device, multi-screen world where we access web content via iPhone, laptop and tablet.