Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Beers & Billboards project - test episode 0 (World Cup 2014)

As some of you may be aware I enjoy craft beers and was also home brewing beer. The interest was shared with my good friend and previously colleague JP in Singapore. Given we had a few evenings of enjoying craft beers we thought it would be a good idea to combine two of our interests, namely beer and advertising, into a podcast or video show.

We only recorded a few test episodes that weren't particularly well prepared (to say the least), though I still think it had some potential. I decided to leave Singapore and move back to Europe shortly after, and while we recorded another test via a video conversation (that I might publish as well), the idea has mostly been taking virtual dust in a corner of my hard drive.

I talked about it with JP and thought we might as well publish it and let people be judge of the potential for some kind of show, or lack thereof. Apologies in advance for the bad video quality, it's raw and was shot with a point & shoot camera. Plus batteries ran out in the middle of recording, we didn't realise until later and we only saved the early portion of it. I'm eating almost throughout - lesson learned, it's not recommended for recording video. Enjoy.

Video advertising credits (also watchable in better quality):

McDonald's World Cup "House Divided" 

Tiger UNCAGE: Joey Pang

Heineken "The Odyssey" 

Kona Brewing Company "Sad Hour"

Monday, 13 July 2015

Kidzania: innocent fun or capitalist wet dream?

I just spent some time in London for work, and a friend of mine who has a small child told me about this brand new theme park attraction called Kidzania, which sounded fascinating and terrifying in about equal parts. Shortly after I walked by their ad campaign in the tube and took a couple of pics. I became even more curious and looked it up.

Whatever I think of them critically, I'm a bit of a sucker for theme parks. I leave my critical thinking at the door when I walk in Disneyland for example. As a game, I spent one time in Disneyland Paris queueing with small children to get all the autographs of Disney characters in a notebook. I was younger than now though still taller than most of the kids at about 20 years old. I also love tabletop role-playing games, and while I did want to be helicopter pilot when I was 6 years old, once I found out I could also be a make-believe mischievous thief or a fire-ball throwing mage in tabletop games that sounded a lot more exciting.

Kidzania, originally from Mexico, and according to their website and Wikipedia page is a chain of family entertainment centres. Each one of their worldwide 16 locations features a fully modern albeit child-sized mock city full of law abiding, hard working playing kids. As I understand it from my friend's description, parents are encouraged to part with their child along with a substantial amount of cash for a couple of hours while they go and play modern hunter gatherers at the mall.

Once the kids are in the non-magical kingdom, they have the chance to train as model citizens of an ideal capitalist society, in other words they take on jobs and earn Kidzania money for it. Each new kid in there has a dedicated bank account, and can withdraw the local Kidzos currency from any of the citys ATMs. The website doesn't specify if or what the currency exchange might be if one child travels to a different Kidzania location. So apparently you have kids role-playing and dressing up in adult jobs like firemen, dentists, journalists, business men, cooks, air host(esses), etc. Altogether over 100 different roles jobs. Once they earn and learn by role-playing their jobs, they can spend their Kidzos on entertainment and items from the Kidzania shop.

'Zupervisors' are there to help the kids in their work play time and of course major brands are there to sponsor activities relevant to their field, hoping to make loyal customers of children at an early age, given when they're 18 years old they never listen to them.

Domino's Pizza, Coca-Cola, DHL, Sony, Nestlé, Danone, Unilever, etc already have branded booths where happy children can 'play work' using their branded products and working in their companies.

While I mostly find the idea of this corporate capitalistic ideal society for children frightening, I'm also ambivalent: it is true that role-playing is natural for kids, and imitation play is as well. Play in all its forms is to be cherished, mammals all learn through play, and we humans are no exception to that. I'm also not too sure the play should be this close to the 'real world' as we know it, and it feels way too close to training kids to being obedient corporate drones to work, earn, and then spend.

Or am I being too cynical..? What do you think?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Learning to drive

My first evaluation driving lesson was driving in snow!
I've been thinking about this post for a little while, just as I've been learning to drive (and still don't have my license) for a little while longer than expected.

Let us start with the fact that I'm a 35, soon to be 36 year old man, and still don't have my drivers license. I know I'm not the only one, but people can still be surprised at that. For a long time I had a canned and ready answer: my parents didn't have the money when I was 16-18 years old, and about that time we moved to the centre of Versailles, and Paris shortly after, I didn't need it living in a big city, and when I started earning enough to consider learning, I thought spending elsewhere would be a lot more interesting. I spent it on holidays instead, basically.

Thinking about it, I hadn't learned to drive all this time because truth be told I'm just not very interested. I've never cared much for cars, and driving seemed to be a hassle. I love to leave my mind to wander while I'm traveling in a vehicle, and to me that seems more important and worthwhile than having to pay attention to the road.

So far learning to drive had stayed in the department of unfulfilled good intentions, though moving away from Singapore to the South of France I knew I'd need to learn, and this was also part of the reason for the move back. I don't think I'll be a full time city-dweller my whole life so until teleportation becomes available cars unfortunately seem to be the best - or currently most popular - option.

I've written a few times in this blog that I've been enjoying learning new skills and trying out new activities in the past few years, such as Thai massage, scuba-diving, or home brewing beer. This year so far is about learning to drive, and it may well sound surprising if you've mastered that a long time ago, but for me it has been pretty tedious and difficult.

Early this year, I was with my little brother Morgan's car in the countryside lanes surrounding the vineyards, to try out and learn the basics. I sat behind the wheel and it felt pretty odd.

I put my hands on the wheel and said something like: "Wow this is weird, I can't remember the last time I was behind a steering wheel..."

Morgan looked at me, raised an eyebrow and replied: "You've never actually sat behind a car's steering wheel, have you..?"

"Well now you mention it... Nope..."

And then he taught me to start the car, and given right in front was an incline, spent time starting it again and again going up a slope - which I learned later isn't necessarily easy. At least I gathered that I could do it.

I began the official process soon after with a local driving instructor. The theory test was easy, that's comfy territory: learning stuff and regurgitating has never been much of an issue for me.

When it came to the driving lessons though it became a little tougher, and recently I've been talking with friends about why that might be, which was interesting. I realised I have a thing going on that I panic if I feel overwhelmed - particularly anything to do with physical coordination.

You can ask me to learn something by heart or type on my laptop while having 5 people yelling different things at me and I'll generally be fine. Add the same people and ask me to cook under pressure and I'm almost guaranteed to hurt myself (I'm a decent cook, just not a professional one).

Last week I burned myself making coffee because I was at a friend's place and unfamiliar with their coffee machine. I messed up making a first coffee, felt embarrassed at myself (no need for the 5 people), panicked somehow, and then burned myself making the second coffee...

In the past few months I've had a bunch of driving lessons, and improved enough to take the test in late May. I thought I was relaxed and confident before starting, and then failed spectacularly. I had all the best conditions for the test, including a really cool examiner, but accumulated mistakes. I've never stalled so much in barely 20 minutes. And apparently stalling in the middle of a busy roundabout is not acceptable...

While I was looking at what had happened, it's interesting to notice that the physical skills I've learned in the past few years more or less require slowly focusing on one thing at a time. It's not that I'm desperately clumsy (not that much, anyways!), though  if or when I feel there's too much pressure and too many things to coordinate at one time, I panic. And hurting myself or failing tasks then reinforces the idea that I'm awkward altogether as a truth.

I'm sure there's a part of talent, and driving is unlikely to ever be an area of expertise for me. That said at the same time it's allowing me to realise that it's mostly a question of practice - there's no particular physical reason for me to be worse than most drivers. In the end, identifying my panic reactions as they happen letting me catch myself in the act, relax when I realise it's silly, and get over it, lets me be present to what I'm doing - driving in the case of this story.

It looks like I won't have a new space to take the driving exam until September, I'll be in touch about the results of the next test. Cross fingers for me. If you have one, please send a 'Don't Panic' towel!