Sugar and Smiles: That’s How I Roll

The smiley face. The smiley emoticon. They’re all over my offline and online world. I spotted these cookies at a Noe Valley cafe this morning. I just had to capture them and share them with you. If you do a Search for  “happiness” or “instant gratification” or #American I think you may just find these. The sweetness and comfort of sugar and the warmth and power of a smile generates the Pollyanna state of mind that we need to keep us buoyant in this weird world.

These smiley cookies are labeled as “Holiday Cookies” and convention dictates that we should try to be kinder, gentler and happier during the Holiday Season. Shouldn’t we try to be that way all the time? Or at least project that? I’m trying. See, that’s me in the photo below during SantaCon San Francisco. I’m smiling. 🙂 SantaCon is an annual event inviting hundreds of people to dress up in Santa like costumes on a Saturday in December. In San Francisco, the masses first congregated at City Hall and then walked up to the Polk Gulch/ Russian Hill neighborhood for a pub crawl. It was a fun experience. Find out if it happens in your city. Or just start one.

 SantaCon San Francisco 2011

So that’s how I roll. Armed with a cookie and a smile. That’s my dual weapon of hope for the New Year. What’s in your arsenal of hope for Twenty Twelve? 2012 –> 🙂 🙂 :-] :-}

 

 

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Love and War: Genocide, Human Rights and Angelina Jolie

I’m excited to participate in the San Francisco private screening tonight of In the Land of Blood and Honey as there will be a panel afterwards featuring speakers from the Global Fund for Women and the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley. It’s a film re-living the Bosnian genocide of the nineties and tells the story of two Bosnians from different sides of a brutal ethnic conflict. There is a lot of press surrounding the event because of the face associated with the production. This is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut and I believe she also co-produced and was involved with the writing. She’s all over it, but not in it. Here’s an interview with Angelina Jolie by Charlie Rose in YouTube format. The interview appears to be broken up into different videos so this is just ‘Part I’ and you’ll have to follow “screamingangie11” if you want to continue with this channel sequence. I think the beginning of the interview which also includes a trailer of the film will provide you with a good sense of why she embarked on this project.

I’m also excited for tonight since I get to see my friend Karen who was out of town for the Holidays. She’s very passionate about human rights in the Middle East and Taiwan. I  look forward to participating in one of her Amnesty International events in a couple of weeks – another screening featuring My Tehran for Sale.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film in a real movie theater setting. And the subjects for “In the Land of Blood and Honey” and “My Tehran for Sale” sound very compelling. Film, Human Rights, Foreign Lands, Culture and Politics in San Francisco. Not a dull blend.

Wanderlust Part I

Wanderlust grips me. Is it because of the New Year? New Chapter? The ballads emitting from my Sarah Mclachlan radio? (Thanks, Pandora Radio) But where to?

My friend Liz just posted on my Facebook wall that she will be coming back to San Francisco in a couple of days. A total surprise. Serendipity. She went back home to London during the Holidays and I wasn’t sure she would be returning. I like London and the UK but I think my heart desires a place in the World that is different.  Lately, I’ve been dreaming of somewhere in South America and the Middle East…..

Here’s my little red suitcase. It encourages me to travel light. 😉 If you could only bring eight possessions (translation: irreplaceable and no duplicates on the trip) on this international journey what would they be? Here’s my list:

(1) I feel like my Smartphone is embedded in the palm of my hand.

(2) My MacBookAir (light and functional, my fingertips just dance on the keyboard!)

(3) My Canon camera which was a birthday gift from my brother.

(4) A pair of sunglasses (sun protection, averting eye contact for moments of uncertainty, and for those non-glamorous no eye makeup days…..)

Possessions (5) – (8) to follow on Wanderlust Part II, and ….What inspires me to chase a glamorous South American holiday or dream of the souks on a Middle Eastern sojourn?

Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price)

…..cont’d from

Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Do Not Listen To Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price) People do care about Design. Mr. Kawasaki believes that it is about the “skin” of the product and not the algorithm. He learned this at Apple. Put simply, looks matter. Apple product owners have a sense of emotional pride from being an Apple product owner. They believe in the value of beautiful products.

This sense of emotional pride also reminds me of the luxury market. Think Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, etc….People buy luxury products because it provides a sense of status and equips them with emotional pride. Some would argue that a Toyota runs just as well as a Mercedes, or even better. Some would argue that a $100 handbag functions just as well as a $5000 handbag. So why do people make such purchases when the function is clearly met with a less expensive alternative? Emotional pride. People buy what they want, not what they need. Such high-end purchasers also believe that a luxury product delivers a superior quality compared to a non-luxury product. Price is not important to luxury consumers because they will pay for the Best, or the perception of the Best.

So off to a semi-tangent here…..Consider this photo below of a designer handbag I took from the December 2011 issue of Vogue. On a purely design level, some may consider it attractive, beautiful, cool, awesome, etc…..Others may consider it…..well, ugly. Why would I want a handbag with holes? Why would I want a handbag with these vulgar logos emblazoned all over it? But that’s not the point. These Brands such as Apple (for technology) and Louis V. (for luxury) have become the arbiters of good taste and the authorities for cool in their respective niches. So the irony is that consumers may initially be drawn to a universally accepted “beautiful product”, but the Brands evolve into tastemakers which tell the consumer what they need to buy. They also develop the power to declare what is desirable.

So back to Lesson Four. Design trumps Price. Looks matter. Beautiful products beget emotional pride. Emotion wins. Don’t forget what it means to be authentically human.

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

…..cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots and Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work. This seems to be in line with conventional wisdom. In the same vein as, “What Won’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger” this could be filed in the ‘Character Building’ box of Life. Mr. Kawasaki believes that if you provide the challenge, employees will rise up. They will rise up and bulid something quite revolutionary, perhaps. As an entrepreneur, how would you motivate your team members to perform with excellence?

I also believe that Freedom Begets Creativity which Begets the Best Work. If an individual feels totally free and uninhibited it becomes an opportunity to create magnificent work. Some people feel that Apple products are a result of creative genius. What products do you possess that are a result of creative genius?

Everyday is Halloween in San Francisco

I took this picture on New Year’s Eve in Union Square, San Francisco:

The Sparkly Rainbow Guy was out in full force in Union Square. He seemed to be hustling for attention for a while until this lady approached him. San Francisco is full of performance artists. Whether you want to dress up or dress down, whether you want to dress in full regalia or or simply play a role, whether you are crazy or non-crazy, all are welcome in this town. You are free to express yourself.

2011 was an explosion of self-expression all over the digital landscape. Social media is about self-expression and we witnessed major political change globally through this medium and because of this medium. And I believe you will see more acts of self-expression committed by citizens of nations trying to make institutional change in 2012 and beyond.

I remember meeting a New York transplant who told me that his friends back East call San Francisco full of “crunchy” types. I look at it this way. New York has New Yorkers.  Paris has Parisians. And San Francisco has people who understand the value of self-expression to change the world.

2012: The Art of Serendipity

There are no coincidences or accidents. Just serendipity. Serendipity is hard to define but I think you’ll know it when it happens. It’s when something pleasant or even magical happens to you when you least expect it. From the day I found a home in San Francisco to the very end of Twenty Eleven, I have been blessed by serendipitous events. I was led to my current residence by the kindness of a stranger in Huntington Park who has also become my neighbor, and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with absolutely no plans except a somewhat random decision to head to the Fillmore District near the Western Addition neighborhood. And after finding a parking spot in less than a couple of minutes (serendipitous parking karma on NYE!) and venturing not more than half of a block, we spotted a place that looked stylish and appropriate for the evening:

1300 on Fillmore

      ‘Happy New Year !’

The restaurant/lounge presented a good vibe and friendly staff. The atmosphere felt more like rat pack supper club or swanky jazz club, rather than the sleek San Francisco affair that one would envision with the trendy SOMA set.  After pleasant conversation with new friends and some dancing we rang in the new year with the proverbial champagne and sparkly disposable accessories. It was a good night. I would like to return to try out their dinner menu, or for drinks after a performance at Yoshi’s.

It was a beautiful celebration. Very serendipitous. How many times have you experienced that space in time when things just work for the best without trying? I look forward to many more moments of serendipity in 2012. Planning can be good but perhaps life can become more interesting when you stop figuring out the details. Try living differently in 2012. Stop being such a control freak.