Friend in a Box

sonyon Sonyon: weird, melancholy, awesome Korean toys.

“We were trying to imagine a boy in the future,” says founder Kim Bo-min, “and all the things that boy would hold in his imagination.”

“People who dream would most enjoy the brand,” adds Lee Joo-eun, Kim’s business partner.

“You could say Sonyon is analogous to Peter Pan.” But without the Disney-fied sheen of eternal happiness; Sonyon is still, after all, Korean. “When you walk around Seoul, you experience both happiness and sadness in the things you come across. Likewise, Sonyon lives somewhere between a happy place and a sad one.”

Via Theme Magazine.

The New Oakland

San Francisco magazine cover I’ve been an unabashed Oakland booster for at least the past ten years (after having relocated here from Palo Alto about fifteen years ago).

All the same I tend to be skeptical of glossy magazine covers that talk about the “new” anything – mostly I think it is new people discovering something that was already pulsing along on its own merry way.

Still this month’s San Francisco magazine had a ton of writeups on some of the grassroots cultural scene that is on the rise here in Oakland, and it was great to read. (Don’t mind the irony of this being reported in – ahem – San Francisco magazine)

Check out the lead article; there are other pieces on the Art Murmur*, newish restaurants and nightlife. The print edition’s got some ace photography in it as well.

Onward Oakland!

* I can confirm firsthand the Art Murmur is a tricksy little fiesta.

Reaping The Whirlwind

I’ve never been busier with work than I have been this past month. Also never felt more engaged, in the flow, or more excited about work than I am now.

I’m a few posts behind where I’d hoped to be so for now some bits of the zeitgeist in advance of molto bloggo presto:

  • Much blog love for the 400 million Firefox download milestone.
  • Ditto for Firefox Campus Edition.
  • I switched over to a MacBook Pro yesterday and holy crap it’s fast. I weep for the lost hours of productivity (balanced against Timexesque reliability) spent over the past two years with my beloved G4.
  • The O’Reilly Women in Technology series rocks.
  • Investing against the Singularity. I’m simultaneously intrigued and unsettled by the thesis.
  • Amazing interview with one of my heroes, William Gibson – quick hit truths on politics, the information/surveillance society, and the shape of things to come.

    “When I wrote ‘Neuromancer’ ” almost 25 years ago, he says, “cyberspace was there, and we were here. In 2007, what we no longer bother to call cyberspace is here, and those increasingly rare moments of nonconnectivity are there. And that’s the difference. There’s no scarlet-tinged dawn on which we rise and look out the window and go, ‘Oh my God, it’s all cyberspace now.’ “

Korea Fighting!

PapertainerSometimes, explaining Korea, where I was made and born, is hard.

I was born in Seoul. We moved when I was one to Guam (that’s another story, for another time). We settled in L.A. when I was nine, and I’ve lived in the Bay Area since I came up here for college.

Explaining Korea is hard here in the US because it doesn’t have the broadly spread pop-cultural or economic reference points of Japan or China.

Korea as a meme is getting more play, certainly here in Silicon Valley — cf., Cyworld, Samsung, fiber to the door, pro Starcraft leagues — but in the West, Korea is to Asia as The Silmarillion is to The Lord of the Rings: vaguely familiar, and known best only to those with an itch to dig into the culture.

Enough setup.

Over the weekend, Nicholas Reville invited me to a get together for Miro, where I met two folks who dropped new science on me about Korea and the Internet that’s worth sharing.

Jake Shapiro runs the Public Radio Exchange, an online marketplace for the distribution of public radio programming. Jake also plays guitar in a band called Two Ton Shoe. Two Ton Shoe formed in 2000, gigged on the East Coast, but didn’t break through in the US. In 2005, after the band had gone on hiatus, Jake was pinged by the owner of a Korean record label.

The record label owner wanted to release a CD of Two Ton Shoe’s greatest hits in Korea.

In the years since the band had gone on hiatus, they’d become, thanks to filesharing over the Internet, “a talisman for teenagers bearing black wool caps and guitar bags, tired of what they hear on the radio.” They planned a tour, and started negotiating a new album deal in Korea.

I’ve summarized most of the above bit from a wonderful Economist journal entitled “Flash memory and fetishism“, about a trip the author took to Seoul with Jake.

Among other vivid snapshots of Korea, circa 2007, is this excerpt, which manages to combine a language lesson, a shout out to Metallica, and a brief reference to growing up across cultures:

The guitar player, James, rips into something very like “Happy Birthday”. James, son of a Korean diplomat, grew up in a suburb of DC and had to learn his native language as a teenager when his family returned to South Korea. Among other jobs, James translates during the Seoul visits of Metallica, a heavy-metal band. When he is finished I can only repeat the phrase I’ve learned: “Chu gun da” – “That kills”.

I’ve written before about yearning for bridges between the online experience and meatspace. Jake’s story is about as happy an example as I could imagine about this happening.

I also learned from Rebecca Masisak, the co-CEO of CompuMentor, about The Beautiful Foundation, based in Seoul. They’ve created something called “The Happy Bean.” It’s a web app running now on Naver, Korea’s top search engine, that lets non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up blogs about their work and lets individuals in turn donate to NGOs they learn about through Happy Bean. I don’t have a ton more info than this, but Rebecca told me that a couple of the projects at this year’s Netsquared conference were building services similar to The Happy Bean.

Aside: The Happy Bean. I just love that name. It’s got to be good.

I haven’t blogged much about Korea before. Lots more to share before and during my trip back to the motherland in September.

If you only have three minutes to spare, and want to get a quick dose of Korea FightingTM, check these out:


Text and Bugs and Rock and Roll

It’s been a long while since I’ve been in any sort of regular concert mode. I’m trying to get my concert legs back this summer.

July 17, Katya and I will be heading out to catch The Polyphonic Spree at the Great American Music Hall with friends. The GAMH is hands down one of the most beautiful venues to see music in San Francisco.

polyphonic spree

August 24, I’m solo but will be hooking up with Seth Bindernagel and John Slater for the Wilco show at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.

wilco

Looking forward to a great summer for live music. Friends at and outside Mozilla: come along for the ride! The water is fine.