Posts Tagged ‘Bangalore’

Happy Diwali, Everyone !

by Phil

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We found this incredible poster, advertising exploding caps for toy guns, on an afternoon run across state lines to Tamil Nadu to buy loads of cheap, volatile fireworks for Diwali. We drove back into Karnataka with a trunkload of combustible cargo that would have made Hunter S. Thompson nervous.

The fireworks shops spring up at the border this time each year, packed tightly, several deep and out into the distance as far as the eye can see. It’s truly over the top. And the merchandise itself was well beyond the pitiful stuff we see in the States. These places are fully stocked with serious Roadrunner-vs. Coyote ACME firepower.

But firepower was not what held my attention: it was the packaging. Boxes with utterly random combinations of elements: princesses, swastikas, explosions, cartoon characters, movie stars, porn starlets, Hindu gods… Hopefully we can post some samples soon. And the promotional posters were fantastic; I asked the vendors if they could spare any, and they looked at me like I was insane to want such trash. This one has now been framed and is hanging on our wall :)

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Phil Speaks

by Phil

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I spoke at this event called Design Fridays last week. It’s a long-running, subscription-based, quarterly event produced by Ray+Keshavan, a premiere international branding firm here in Bangalore. The event consists of a presentation by someone noteworthy from a given creative field, followed by Q&A, followed by dinner, cocktails, and enlightened conversation. Attendees are a nice variety of people from many creative disciplines, lively and engaged. Pam and I had attended the previous one as guests, and had a really fantastic time.

My talk was called “Desire and Digital Design.” My intention was to examine the differences between design/designers in India and design/designers in the west, and to spend some time looking at the evolution of UI design as a distinct discipline over the last 15 odd years. The juxtaposition of India and the U.S., as seen through the lens of design, is actually a very interesting subject, one I grapple with and reformulate every single day here. My working theory at the moment entertains the notion that desire is a fundamental component of the act of design; and that desire itself has been systematically bred out of the culture here for thousands of years. That’s just the top level; there are many other forces in play: politics, education, history, geography, literacy, language, religion, and more. Each has a distinct role in suppressing desire, and in turn, design. There is reason for hope, there are green shoots – I closed the talk with an examination of one particularly inspiring story – but India’s cultural model is the stream against which aspiring designers here are all swimming.

I’m pretty sure I managed to offend some in the crowd, regardless of my academic intentions. I know because they told me so ! Engaging men and women, architects, photographers, journalists, typophiles… We had fantastic talks about what India truly is, how I may have misperceived, and when we might dine together properly and have a *real* conversation :)

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To Be Fair

by Phil

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These adverts are ubiquitous in India’s cities and on TV. Creams, lotions, wraps, anything to make the skin “fairer.” Fair skin is so desirable one will occasionally even see women here in fair skin makeup (see character “Mango Dolly” in the recent movie release “Quick Gun Murugun” for an example). This look seems goofy to me, as the dark brown Indian skin is so gorgeous I cannot imagine wanting to change it or cover it up if it were mine.

This ad, for a fair skin cream for men, made by Garnier Fructis, is everywhere too, and the face belonging to the man in the ad peers out from every corner. Or as in this case, he smiles down over the entire Hypermart parking lot. This billboard is three stories high; you can see the relative importance this fair skin advert is given compared to, say, the consumer electronics ads at right.

A small, confused, crowd gathered as I was shooting this photo. Our driver, Moustaq, too, was nonplussed. I explained to him as we made our getaway that this was ironic, funny to me: back home, white people pay good money for similar creams that make us all darker. So the grass is always greener: light people want to be dark; dark people want to be light; nobody is happy the way they are!

Moustaq thought this was the funniest thing; he laughed for a very long time, and made me repeat and clarify.

“Really?” he kept saying, wiping tears of laughter out of his eyes. “Really?”

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Essence Of Bangalore

by Phil

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Nothing captures the essence of Bangalore like this massive Infosys building, in South Bangalore, looking as if a giant spaceship just crashed like Dorothy’s house right on top of what was once a rural village. Or like it violently pushed its way up from an underground city. It certainly is massive; the real scale of it is hard to capture in a 35mm frame. The raw and real juxtaposition of this behemoth futuristic structure in the background (it’s further away than it appears) against the village shacks and shops in the foreground provides a jarring illustration of the impact that the swift IT boom combined with a real lack of municipal planning has had on Bangalore.

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Pamdemic

by Pam

The H1N1 virus, a.k.a. “swine flu,” is all the rage here at the moment. India, like the rest of the world, is subject to media-driven hysterics, so I didn’t think twice about ignoring well-publicized preventive recommendations (such as avoiding crowded and enclosed spaces) and took an overnight train from Kochi to Bangalore, visited a crowded temple, and rubbed my eyes after pushing a shopping cart.

When the fever came, I passed it off as just another unbearably hot twenty minutes in India – followed by an unseasonably cold twenty minutes in India. The sneezing just felt like allergies; I thought maybe a cat had walked through the neighborhood, and the aching muscles were just a natural reaction to not being able to get my ass out of bed to exercise.

Whatever the opposite of a hypochondriac is, is what I am. I assume that physical ailments are the result of character flaws, or not trying hard enough, or being a bad person; not biology. I can’t help it, it was the way I was raised. So my normal reaction to feeling under the weather is just to notch up the self-loathing and avoid actual medial care. But, considering the times, and the current swine flu fear epidemic, my normal reaction just seemed nothing short of self-indulgent.

I decided to be a responsible citizen and take myself to the doctor.

When I arrived at the clinic they wouldn’t even let me thought the front door. A huge banner listing all my symptoms – fever, sneezing, headache, aching joints, etc. – was hung ten feet from the entrance, with a big red arrow directing people like me to go around to the side of the building. There, they’d set up a triage unit to deal with the incoming sniffling masses. Only a few people were seated in the four rows of chairs, and everyone, except for me, was keeping their germs to themselves by wearing face masks.

When the doctor saw me, there were no tongue-swabs or blood tests, just a reiteration of the banner questions: Fever? Yes. Sneezing? Yes. Headache? Yes. Aching? Yes. Appetite? No. Basically the same symptoms as every head cold I’ve ever had. Because of my pre-exisitng asthma condition he sent me packing with a box of Tamiflu, a surgical mask, and instructions to not leave the house for ten days – although I suspect he was either just playing it safe or playing the race card. The last thing India wants is a white lady to die of swine flu on Indian soil.

From what I can tell, the Indian medical system is one of the few things that actually works in this place, which is good because my immune system is worthless here. Every Indian germ is a new opportunity to take me down. I’ve been to the doctor more times in this past six months than I have in six years, and I’m beginning to think that India has cured me of my fear of doctors.

They say that India is bound to change a person. It seems to be true: thanks to four bouts of food poisoning, I can finally zip up my fat jeans. I figure if I add a little exercise to this routine, then by the time I go home I might also be able to fit into my skinny jeans. Or, a small body bag.

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Cobra Baby

by Phil

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Yesterday, some cute little neighbor kids and their parents were playing in the backyard and came across this little terror – and they immediately came to get us, so we could admire their prize.

After taking photos and poking it with sticks, we asked them: What now?

They grabbed a long branch, hooked the little guy, and tossed it into the empty field next door. Problem solved.

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