Collect Them All

16 May '17  — Getting conned into mediocre pursuits

Chinesisches Haus: 18th century Chinoiserie, aka Disneyworld for adults

A picture may be more than a thousand words, but nowadays, experiencing a moment without a camera has become millions of words.

I revisited a few 'castles' in Potsdam last week. They're called 'schloss' which directly translates to 'castle'. They're more like palaces.

I didn't take that many photos. There wasn't a need to as there was in the past. I've become less neurotic about collecting images from different places.

During the previous times I've traveled, I felt compelled to take photos. It was more like the experience of collecting stamps at the supermarket. For every hundred, you earn 'free' cookware. Another similar experience is collecting McDonald's Monopoly stamps. Every paper cup, hamburger and fries included two stamps that represented a property on the Monopoly game board. Collect a series of colors to win a prize.

It was a chore for little gain that a bit of 'spice' to everyday life. But the overall satisfaction wasn't much. Whether it was the supermarket or McDonald's, I felt I was always on the cusp of winning--which never happened.

That one stamp you needed never showed up or the extra dozen of stamps to redeem for a frying pan wouldn't be earned until after the offer expired.

I've collected many images, but I've never felt like I've won.


Historical Restoration

10 May '17  — Maybe it's not necessary

A peak into Schloss Friedrichsfelde

I've always believed reconstructing old buildings was the right thing. Preserving heritage sounds so good and worthwhile...why not? Plus, it's in line with being resourceful, sustainable and socially conscious.

In Europe, there are a ton of old buildings. More often than not, the buildings require more money to renovate than to build anew.

But I've continued to hold the belief that it's better to reconstruct and rebuild.

All restored

A visit to Schloss Friedrichsfelde convinced me otherwise.

Reconstruction and renovation takes time and money, which most projects don't get. Schloss Friedrichsfelde was lucky to have funds, received from admissions after turning the baroque gardens into animal pens (similar to a zoo but more like a park with lots of trees and animals dispersed within). With the cash they restored the mansion.

I saw a few images of the building post war. The Soviets had taken over and the building was crumbling, at one point, the building was missing a roof. Now, it's immaculate, beautifully restored with a fresh coat of paint.

Walking in, I saw what became of the heritage site.

You might go in and first gasp at the painted walls and opulent columns, but one thing you can't avoid for long are the cocktail tables. So many high round tables meant for holding drinks and hor d'oeuvre are pushed aside. They're wrapped in a yellowy satin, off-white tablecloth.

It seems like a perfect place to host a motivational speaker or to run a company event.

There were several signs advertising the place for weddings and events.

Despite how pretty the walls and architecture were, there was no getting away from identifying the space as first and foremost an event space. An empty and souless space with no permanent purpose. The cocktail tables mock it's relevancy, it's mere existence.

Although I enjoyed the glamour of the oppulent details, it was eye opening to see an example of a heritage site preserved in a way that didn't honor the heritage. The awkwardness of its existence asked: 'what was the point of all this?'

Visiting the 'Animal Park'


Mini Feast

08 May '17  — Maybe one day, I can attend a weekly ritual

Today's visit to the Jewish Museum made me feel like I'm missing out.

Friday Shabbat. Anytime I hear someone going to one, I'm instantly jealous.

It's such a wonderful idea, a weekly occasion where you have to drop everything and break bread.

During a trip to Venice, my husband and I stayed at a hotel in the Jewish quarter. There was a restaurant a few doors down known for vegetarian kosher.

I went in Friday morning asking to reserve a table. Having passed the restaurant on previous nights and seeing the amount of people, we were convinced that it was worthy of a visit. Unfortunately, Friday is reserved for the Jewish community.

On Friday, early evening, we saw a table for thirty laid out on the walkway overlooking the water. Elegant white table cloth and candle holders were in place. Then, a variety of dishes were laid out. All vegetarian, the colors and scents were mouthwatering.

I regretted not trying the place earlier. It was our last night and we had to find another place for dinner. By the time we got back, the table was brimming full of life. The warm candles flickered across faces engaged in cheerful conversations, everyone seemed to be under the spell of food. There were children scattered in different corners. It felt very cozy and warm, a scene that seemed to only exist in a dream.

I've always wished such a celebration of food was part of my culture--like a mini Thanksgiving that happens every week.

Most likely the event is not as romantic across the world but we were in Venice, in Italy, where the food culture is heightened to extremes. It was the most perfect example of what I was jealous of.

Perhaps there'll be a day when I'll find a way to incorporate this practice into my life.


Berlin Botanical Garden

07 May '17  — Test driving a new rule

During this year's visit to the Botanischer Garten Berlin-Dahlem, I took far less photos.

I've figured a new rubric.

My mom just got on Instagram and she gets excited when her posts get likes and comments. Some are obviously bots run by people with real accounts who spam hundreds of posts with the generic: 'your feed is so awesome'. She cannot help but feel happy when she gets 'attention'. It seems like the beginning of the end, robots having the upper hand.

Only last year was I able to admit that I took photos so I could share and show people where I went. I did not engage in photo taking for the photos. I may not spend time on beauty or exercise, but I do engage in similarly vain activities in managing my online identity.

The activities may be small, from how I phrase a comment or how I write my posts, but there's a degree of vanity that goes beyond just creating something the way I want it. Just as in real life.

I wish there was a way out.

I might have a harder time controlling what I say or do in social situations, but in terms of posting online, I can apply my new rubric.

If no one will ever see the photo I'm about to take, would it still make sense to take it? Similarly, across any work: writing, making videos...if no one ever sees it, does it still make sense to make?

Why is this important...

There's a dread that comes with making things for others approval, despite the urge to be liked. I can't help myself, I want to get as many likes, accolades, etc. As I find tips and tricks to get more attention, I feel more rotten inside. I can't rationalize why.

All I know is that it's wrong for me. The attention provides a boost lasting no more than a few milliseconds, and the resulting self-loathing--eternity.

I test drove my rubric for the first time at the Berlin Botanical Garden. While I succeeded in applying the rule on photo taking, I failed when applying to video


Strawberry Sponge Cake

06 May '17  — Mrs Dalloway for a day

I made a cake a few days ago. It's not the best cake, but it was whipped up to serve a birthday. I could have purchased a store cake, but those don't come with the homemade feeling.

The video shows my last minute preparations before my mom arrives on her birthday.

A packed three hours


Unforgiving Enchantresses

05 May '17  — Unlearning a Disney lesson

All that glitters may at first look gray

Yesterday, it was raining all day. On my evening walk, I passed a girl huddled in a doorway. She looked as if she were newly homeless and didn't know where to go.

"In France, an enchantress, disguised as an old beggar, offers an enchanted rose to a young prince in exchange for shelter in his castle from the bitter cold, but he refuses. For his arrogance, the enchantress transforms him into a beast and inflicts a spell on the castle." - Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Is she an enchantress? My initial response was, 'oh no, she's here to me into a monster. Because why would I let someone random into my home.'

Why are enchantresses, with all their enchanting power, seeking shelter? They can turn anything into a house. Why are they going around punishing people?

There were magical characters in other stories I came across as a child who did the same. These characters would first appear disheveled, then they'd surprise everyone when they revealed who they were. People who helped them were handsomely rewarded, and the majority who didn't were punished. So much, that my initial reaction was to brace for my transformation into a beast.

I'm obviously effected by it. The policing mechanism of Disney stories still work but it's starting to become suspicious.

Can there be no joy in simply helping others? These lessons encourage people to be hospitable out of fear rather than kindness. It's taken me ages to consider the possibility that being kind can be a reward itself.

Listen to the post on Soundcloud or iTunes.


Contemporary Feminism

04 May '17  — Getting on par with men

An independent woman: 'I don't need no hands'

"The leaders of Hidden Champions are also more likely to come into power at a young age and are more often women than in larger companies." -

I was reading an article on what makes Germany's economy strong (it feels good to live in a winning country). Hidden Champions are companies that are mid-sized world market leaders, which Germany has a disproportionate number of. They're smaller than companies you hear of, but they're leaders in a specific industry, like manufacturing of a medical device.

This was another instance where I found women leading, naturally, without initiatives pressuring them into leadership as there are in Fortune 500 companies.

Everyday there are headlines on how women aren't getting paid equally, aren't on company boards, aren't in leadership positions despite tenure. The endless list is routinely presented. Each time, it reinforces the idea that women aren't equal.

'Let's look at all the places where there aren't as many women as men. Computer science. Formula 1. Boxing. Let's just list them all and show how much women lag behind men. Draw attention to where they should be, and say that's how it should be in a perfect world. In fact, let's create programs to help them get on the same page as men.'

How about listing all the places women are excelling where men aren't? Perhaps it is homemaking...or knitting. Is it too politically incorrect to highlight such skills? Is it such a threat to feminism? The whole movement reinforces the idea that the areas women tend to be good at are not substantial enough. The skills and positions women are predominant in are 'not-worthy' of being achievements.

Contemporary attitudes perpetuate the subordination of females. Money seems to be the measurement in determining which skills matter. I never thought feminism could be so entrenched in capitalism.


Traveling with Art

02 May '17  — My desire to be an enigma

A hand drawn tile pattern I named 'center of the universe'

I studied abroad with a guy who traveled with art. He brought five different pieces: a few in charcoal, one in oil pastel, and another in watercolor.

"You gotta have art."

I didn't understand.

He started to explain who the artists were, their background, how he met them...

My ears stopped listening as I dove into thinking how impractical it was. If I'd carried art, I'd be tired of looking at them before boarding the plane.

Instead of directing my attention back to what he was saying, I started day dreaming.

'I want to be a cultured person who travels with art. Wouldn't it be cool to say: "Yea, of course, I travel with art. You don't?"'

'Kate Winslet was traveling with her Monets and Picassos. And I'm sure she'd be traveling with that sketch by Leo.'

I could have listened to find out how someone enjoys art with a depth I didn't get. Looking back, there's no way anyone could have told me how self-absorbed I was. I didn't even know what it meant.


Opposite of the Secret

01 May '17  — Laser focused intention


Same obstacles, flipped different ways. Today's pattern inspired by India Mahdavi.

On my way home, I noticed a wall of gold and white balloons. 'Oh, it's La Raclette crying for attention, again.'

"Did you see that? 'au revoir La Raclette'" My husband pointed out a sign.

I felt guilty. Did I hate a restaurant out of existence? La Raclette is a nearby restaurant I pass by daily.

'What am I going to hate when this is gone?' I was surprised how much I relied on this institution.

Night after night, they'd set their tables on the sidewalk. Fresh bouquets on white table cloths lit by candles. The restaurant looks like a nice place for a date. Most nights, it's unappetizingly empty.

Outside Friday and Saturday, no one's there. Yet, they create a daily bottle neck on the sidewalk. Sliding tables out, you can't avoid their tablescapes.

One day, I spotted a bike parked at the end of the street, a block from the restaurant. Covered in vertical stripes of blue, white and red, there was an arrow pointing to the restaurant.

There aren't that many bike racks in the neighborhood. The restaurant claimed one for themselves.

I never tried the place but I didn't think it'd be a bad restaurant. After seeing the bike, I started to think they were struggling.

'Maybe it's not so good.'

I got stuck in the rain last year and took shelter in the covered driveway next to the restaurant. The video features a few shots of the flower and tables.

The following week, I spotted another bike. A second bike, painted with the French flag, was locked to the bridge.

'Wow. They really are desperate.'

The bridge is where everyone hangs out and has a drink. There's limited space for people to sit and look at the water. It's a place where no one locks their bike for longer than a few hours.

The following day, someone flipped the locked bike over the bridge railing. None of the details advertising the restaurant were visible. It feels good knowing others dislike what you dislike.

When I spotted a third bike on another rack, I felt a moral obligation to hate the place.

Everyday, when I passed the restaurant, I'd throw shade at it. I don't know if they're actually closing, but a secret part of me would like to think I targeted my hate in making the world a better place.

It seems to be a strategy many are using: hate something out of existence. Don't like a boss or president? Maybe if you hate it enough, it'll go away...

Although I find myself making fun of people who use such strategies, I'm guilty of the same. Perhaps it's a mechanism of identifying oneself as a 'good guy'. Good guys need villains.


Menu Making

30 Apr '17  — Dreaming

The excitement of flavors, colors, textures...

I created menus in junior high. For my future cafe. I thought, 'If I start now, at the age of 12, in 10 years, I'll end up with a real cafe.'

I enjoyed making menus. Drawing borders and planning meals, I spent hours considering food pairings and menu presentation. But that was the extent of the work I accomplished.

Did I need to have an actual cafe? No, but my imagination was limited. Only people who have cafes have the right to make menus! It made no sense to be a menu maker without a cause.

After creating several food videos, I've realized that I have my cafe. Food is served regularly in a space and format that fits me.

Why do I have to live out desires in the way others have?

There were many times I locked myself into thinking I needed to start a restaurant or cafe. I wanted to celebrate food in a way that reflected my appreciation for cooking, baking and different flavors. About ten years ago, I worked at the Cheesecake Factory. I needed experience to open a food business.

After three weeks of hostessing, I quit from boredom. I got a job at a pastry shop cafe, where I learned how much I disliked producing food in bulk.

The menu-making dropped off...sitting at a cafe in my early twenties, disillusioned

What is it about the cafe/restaurant industry that attracts me? Day to day operations were more than unappetizing. So much food is prepped and frozen to be reheated upon serving. The food industry is the opposite of what I thought cooking, baking and enjoying flavors were about. The colorful presentations of mouthwatering flavors, fresh ingredients, the comfort and enjoyment of absorbing calories in a nice, clean space...that wasn't the focus.

Working in the food industry made me question my interest. I like cooking and baking, but in small quantities. I like plating and presentation, but in small spaces. Color and mood is also something I enjoy playing with in setting a table. I find myself experimenting with similar concepts, lighting, color and mood, when I make short videos.

It's hard to understand a desire and figure out how it fits in your life. While people often say 'do what your heart desires', it takes a lot more consideration to figure out.