Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.


Archive for September, 2010

What are we doing with technology?

If technology is supposed to make our lives easier and better, what did this accomplish?

Is it the lack of empathy? thought? foresight?

This is a cute example, but you can imagine that similar gaffes could happen at a larger scale with graver consequences. Are you really accomplishing the change you want to see in the world?


What do you communicate with your greeting?

The French practice the bisou bisou, a form of greeting where the the two participants touch cheek to cheek twice, once with the right cheek and once with the left cheek, while making a fake kissing noise with their lips. This is often done amongst acquaintances, usually between men and women or women and women, but sometimes done between men and men and between colleagues. The Italians practice something similar, and like hugging in many other cultures, it is a way to communicate affection.

In the US, there is the custom of shaking hands, often between men but not always in the business context. This custom is spreading around the world through international cooperation and collaboration, and it is a way to communicate trust. You’re exposing and handing over your most important appendage to the other person and receiving the same in one fluid motion. There is a famous assassin cartoon character in Japan known as Golgo 13 who never shakes hands with anyone because he doesn’t trust anyone but himself.

In the far eastern cultures, people bow to each other, both casually (similar to a nod) and formally (full 90 degree bend). Students are often taught at a young age, and it is a way to show respect to someone else. In Japan, classes in school usually start with the students bowing to the teacher as he or she enters the room.

How do other cultures greet people, and what are they trying to communicate? What about the high-five?


The Gap between reality and nostalgia – 現実とノスタルジアのギャップ

Below are two trailers from movies based in 1950s Japan. The difference is that one of the movies is shot in the 1950s while the other is shot in the 2000s.

Ikiru – 生きる

From Wikipedia: “Ikiru (生きる, ‘To Live’)  is a 1952 Japanese film co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film examines the struggles of a minor Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The film stars Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe.”

Ikiru is one of Kurosawa’s highly regarded yet lesser known films. I fell in love with the movie for its depiction of Japanese society in a time I was not alive. There is one scene I adore that shows the chaotic nightlife of Tokyo infused with western influences yet distinctly Japanese.

Always 3 choume no yuhi – ALWAYS 三丁目の夕日

From Wikipedia “Always: Sunset on Third Street (ALWAYS 三丁目の夕日,  Ōruweizu: San-chōme no Yūhi)  is a 2005 film co-written and directed by the Japanese filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki, based on Ryōhei Saigan’s long-running manga  Sanchōme no Yūhi. It was chosen as Best Film at the Japan Academy Prize ceremony.”

Always: Sunset on Third Street is a film set in the 1950s post-war Japan that evokes a sense of romanticized nostalgia. I found the film to be cute but stylized and somewhat formulaic. I nevertheless found it enjoyable.

Do you see the differences in how society is depicted in these two movies? There is something intrinsically human about how we want to remember the past, even if that may be in stark contrast from how reality was. How will we remember now in 50 years?

I highly suggest watching both movies if you enjoy films beyond Hollywood. They are both entertaining on their own, and if you don’t mind a movie marathon, watch them both in succession.


Start with the who, not the what

Most startup companies start with an idea, an idea for a product or service. The idea is then materialized through hard work and funding, either from friends and family or venture capital. If the idea is good, then people buy the product or use the service and the company becomes successful.

Note that within the idea, there is an implicit assumption that there are users who will find value in the product and/or service and pay money for it.

That is not a trivial assumption.

Instead, I suggest starting with the user. Start with a certain group of users, and maybe a product or service direction, and discover the right idea for those people. The assumption here would be that there is a meaningful idea for a certain group of people.

That seems like a much safer assumption than the earlier one.

Of course it sounds like a crazy idea to try to raise funding by proposing an under-served user group and a direction for a product or service. At the same time, venture capitalists always talk about funding the team rather than an idea, so why can’t you raise funding with an awesome team of designers and doers?

I think it’s a much safer approach than the shotgun venture capital approach that seems so prevalent now. Does anyone want to try it?


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