This poster caught my eye, as we walked down a street in one of Vienna’s younger, hipper districts, which had only really flourished from funky to cool in the last five years or so. I couldn’t figure our what it was about, so I asked my hosts, Sigrid and Astrid (Austrian women really do have great names). Turns out the place offers a free service where you can bring your drugs to have them checked out and tested. Tested for what, you ask? Well, to see if they are what you think are of course. Yup, if you’re not sure about that ecstasy your cousin hooked you up with last week in Amsterdam, you can bring it in for free analysis, in the hopes that people knowing what they’re taking will prevent overdoses, or worse.
Red results mean you’ve got rat poison in your cocaine. Yellow means it’s OK, but you didn’t get the good stuff. And white means you’re all clear.
Controversial? In our county, sure. It’s right up there with needle exchange programs for a topic that people are bound to feel strongly about. But Europe has always been more open about the fact that people will take drugs whether they’re legal or not, and about endorsing an approach that tries to keep more people safe, however possible. I’m not saying this is the best way to go, but topics like this remind me a little of that saying “If you can’t change your mind, are you sure you still have one?” By the way, how’s our war on drugs going? I haven’t been paying attention, what with all the other wars we’re fighting.
My weekend at the beach had Eddie Vedder’s music for the new film Into the Wild as its soundtrack. It was the perfect accompaniment to our vistas of pine forests, misty estuaries, and golden sunsets over crashing waves.
I’m looking forward to seeing the film — a thoughtful adaptation of the true story of one man’s fateful desire to get off the grid — which was released over the weekend.
I was hanging out in front of a local restaurant and noticed a cool bit of graffiti on its bright orange doorway. It was a sticker with Braille on it, tagged with another sticker that read “Braille Graffiti.”
I walked back into the office and immediately Googled the subject, a query that resulted in my finding out that one of Portland’s most infamous “public artists” was responsible for the work. It was the latest project by Scott Wayne Indiana, the guy we blogged about almost a year ago who’s best known for attaching toy horses to the century old horse-rings on PDX’s sidewalks. This latest project, peppered around the city last month, arrived just in time for Portland’s Time Based Art Festival, and raises the question: Why shouldn’t street art be enjoyed by everyone?
Click HERE to watch a video about the project and to find out what the Braille says!
It can be said that a city’s public transportation system is a window into its heart. New York’s subway is gritty and strained, but far-reaching, democratic and utilitarian. London’s Tube is a mix of history (world’s oldest), functionality (longest in terms of length) and design contributions (the font for the signage was developed in 1916 by Edward Johnston). Vienna’s modern U-Banh is only 30 years old, but its roots go back to 1898. And while it lacks the sweep of larger city’s networks, like the Paris Metro, the little touches around the Vienna system stood out to me. Take this steel ramp on the side of a flight of stairs I encountered. Anyone who’s ever had to carry their bike up a long stairway will appreciate this addition, allowing riders to push their bike up the flight with relative ease, and making the combination of bike and train trips that much more realistic as a transit option. While this may seem like a trivial bit of “design” to some, it stopped me in my tracks, and made me appreciate the person (or persons) who took the time to make sure cyclists were considered in the transit planning process.
Posted by Rick | September 18th, 2007 | Filed under Design
Designers, for the most part, are wizards behind curtains, creating graphic identities and telling visual stories without getting kudos from the people who they’re communicating with. For some, the desk or the cubicle is a safe haven. But Cut & Paste is trying to shed light on the creative process with a series of iron-chef style digital design tournaments that are taking place across the US as well as in Asia and Europe. To get a feel for the event, check out this Cool Hunting video from New York last year.
I recently had the chance to spend a week in Austria on a media trip focused on food, wine and design. Odd combo you say? Not really. Many Austrian chefs and wine makers are looking for, and finding, ways to merge the country’s rich culinary and viticultural history with its equally rich modern design contributions, but more on that later. While in Vienna, there was a lot to appreciate in regards to thoughtful design integrated into daily life. For starters, almost every light I encountered in non-constant use situations was on a motion sensing timer, reducing the amount of time lights were on without someone in the room. Also, literally every bathroom I saw had a low-flow toilet and motion-controlled faucets. Vienna also has a city bike program similar to the one recently introduced in Paris, and an extensive network of bike paths separated from car traffic.
The capper for me came one Saturday, when we passed this woman standing at the start of a major retail street in the city center. In case your German is a little rusty, her sandwich board is advertising the merits of compact fluorescent bulbs, and announcing that later that afternoon, you can bring your old incandescent bulbs back to the same location and swap them out for compact fluorescents, for free, courtesy of IKEA. Now that’s putting your PR where your environmental practices are.
Where do ideas begin? How does one inspiring idea or inspiring individual influence a series of additional ideas or people? I ask the question because I just received a phone call from a friend informing me that Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop and a major shit disturber (in the best sense of the term) just died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. I was utterly shocked and saddened to hear the news. But, Anita’s flame burned incredibly brightly. I knew and worked with her at The Body Shop. She had infectious enthusiasm and was absolutely relentless about wanting to change the world, in big, bold ways. She was a maverick thinker and doer; one of the first to demonstrate that business could actually be a force for positive change in the world. She will be remembered as a great activist, an impressive entrepreneur, a source of inspiration to women worldwide and as a person who wasn’t afraid to take a stand in the face of difficult looking odds. Her ideas and her inspiration live on. I can’t help but think, for example, that Nau wouldn’t exist if Anita hadn’t done the early pioneering work that she did. Thanks Anita. You will be missed but your spirit carries on. And Gordon, please know that I’m thinking of you, Justine and Sam.
When we launched The Thought Kitchen it was our aspiration to make it a venue for robust dialogue and conversation. Well, a few months ago, as a result one of my posts, I began an online exchange that subsequently turned into a telephone exchange with Deron Triff and Alex Hoffman, the founders of Changents. Deron and Alex are inspired and inspiring. Changents is a recently birthed (alpha stage) socially progressive media company that is providing a forum for people who are “asking tough questions about society and demanding a platform for their voice and expression.” They’re definitely our kindred spirits, particularly given that they’re into showcasing inspiring stories of positive change within a social networking community and closing the loop by providing tools to take action. I harbor a strong suspicion that we’ll be hearing more about these guys and their emerging community, but in the mean time I encourage you to take a peek for yourself.
This Saturday, Portland Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is putting on a paddle-out in the mighty Willamette River. The intent of the event is to raise awareness of the watershed, specifically the impact of pollution from Portland finding its way into the ocean via the Columbia Rivermouth. Surfrider Portland and other guest speakers will be discussing their programs and highlighting legislation that will benefit river and coastal water quality. Bring your surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and maybe a hazmat suit… Joking! Events like these will hopefully prevent us from ever having to wear body condoms in our beloved rivers and oceans.
Surfrider’s Paddle Out Portland will be held at noon this Saturday, Sept. 8 on the public dock under the SE side of the Hawthorne Bridge.
The Sweetpea blog is on our blog roll because Natalie, who makes the bikes, and Austen, her partner and the guy who rides behind her, are our friends. Besides, we love what they do and how they do it. Apparently we’re not the only ones. I’m not sure how, but Hewlett Packard just discovered them and produced this short little video that tells their story. Check it out.
The Thought Kitchen is our effort at collective inquiry and its power to effect change. Have you ever noticed how the party is always in the kitchen? There are more walls to lean on and people are energized by the proximity to food and drink. Well, welcome to our kitchen, where we hope to tap into everything we love about that feeling—community, vivacious exchange, food for thought.