STREET ART: The Many Sides of Do Not Enter

October 6, 2013 § 3 Comments

Street art, the rebellious younger brother of the classical European art was out in full force yet again during my annual Europe trip last month. This time it took form in the “Do Not Enter” sign. The sign sits at the entrance of one way streets, nonchalantly denying drivers passage of entry. The seemingly mundane and predictable sign quickly turns into something unexpected and delightful for observant passersby.

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Using the traffic sign as a template, the artist (Clet Abraham, is that you?) uses its original element to create a completely new symbol. The new symbol detracts the traffic sign’s original purpose and takes on a new meaning.

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Defiance

 

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How the bird feels about people telling him what to do

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This guy is painting over the white bar

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do not entered becomes a pillory

Street artists are like ninjas, how i the world do they put everything up without getting caught?

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Ciao Bella | Firenze

July 1, 2012 § 3 Comments

Church of Santa Maria Novella

All the stress and tension that has been building up in my body from the months of unbearable overtime melted away the second I stepped foot in Italy. The sun was shining and the weather was impeccable; 75 degrees and clear blue skies each day.

Anyone that’s been to Florence can’t possibly question why Forbes ranked it one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The rich  history, art and culture oozes out of every corner. Everywhere you look is a visual feast for your eyes.

One of the 1231254 pictures i took of the duomo

Firenze is a city flooded with tourists. In fact, it felt like tourists outnumber locals by 1:5, easily pinpointed by the DSLR camera around the necks and city maps in their hands. The locals must get tired of all the visitors all the time.

Enjoying all the street art as usual

In addition to taking a million pictures of all the famous sites such as the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, I also spotted some cool street art along the way. As always, I love seeing the new urban art settling in and coexisting with all the classics.

Impressive Mona Lisa

V – I spotted this behind a street vendor’s booth!

Inspired by the Classics?

It was probably the weather, but the colors of Firenze were so vivid! Everything appeared so sharp and bright. Taipei doesn’t quite emit such radiance (it’s been mostly grey and rainy).

Beautiful colors

beautiful Ponte Vecchio

If you plan on going to see Michelangelo’s David, please remember to book ticket in advance or pay a visit early in the morning. I neglected to do either and ended up waiting in the longest line ever. One hour later and a bitch mood to boot, I was still flabbergasted when I set my eyes on David. A lot of masterpieces aren’t really that amazing in person (ahem, Mona Lisa) but it really is worth seeing this in person. It’s unbelievable that a man can create such a masterpiece of a sculpture, without forgoing the intricate details. You can see the veins in the thighs and the tension in the face.

I snuck a picture of David’s butt

Distant view of Michelangelo’s David

Hiking up to Piazzale Michelangelo and watching the sunset was by far my favorite part of the Firenze leg (Pisa, San Gimignano, Pienza and Orvieto pictures will come shortly!) The atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful, everyone seemed happy to be there in the moment.  Lots of people brought snacks and a bottle of wine. If you forgot to pack something (like me), there are food vendors selling sandwiches and a variety of alcoholic beverages. What more could you ask?

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo

The sun setting over Firenze

I wonder what it’s like to live in this city, with such beauty around all the time. Do people ever get tired of it?

Observing Europe – Part III (Amsterdam)

March 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

Going to Amsterdam was a spontaneous decision. The Netherlands wasn’t part of my (poorly planned) Europe itinerary and now that I think back on it, I’m not sure why.

It was a freezing cold Saturday and my dad was  already in hibernation mode and firmly entrenched on the sofa. I could barely see his face as he was submerged under a rather impressive  mound of blankets.  Trying to coax him to get out of his nest and to drive us 2+ hours to Amsterdam was like trying to separate a fat kid from his half-eaten chocolate cake. Fortunately for me, I mastered the puppy eyes as a young child and my mom perfected the “she’s-only-here-for-two-weeks” speech. Between the two of us, we managed to guilt trip my dad to abandon his blanket cocoon and into the driver’s seat.

the beautiful canals

During the drive up, my eyes eagerly embraced the lush green pastures, a variety of farm animals, and quaint countryside. Once we left the border of Belgium, windmills began to slowly emerge into the view. The numerous pictures and travel shows I’ve seen all my life slowly developed into something real and tangible, as those same images began to unfold in front of my eyes. It was exhilarating.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Amsterdam. Friends who have visited before, bring back stories of getting high, tripping out on shrooms and watching tons of (unforgettable) sex shows. I have a great relationship with my parents, but I have no desire to watch any sex shows or do any form of drugs with my parents. It’s bad enough when nudity comes up when you watch a movie with your parents, I can’t imagine how awkward it would be to watch a sex show in Amsterdam. No doubt it was going to be a rated PG trip.

One of my marketing projects during college was to write a marketing business plan. My group somehow decided that we wanted to sell bicycles in the Netherlands since apparently everyone owned a bike. Turns out we picked a severely competitive and mature market to try and enter (hence the low marks) but I was attracted by the idea of a bike-friendly environment. I never lived in a city where bikes were the primary form of transportation, so I was pretty intrigued to see how the city would look.

i have never seen so many people on bicycles in my life

Tempted to buy a bike myself!

i love how bike-friendly this city is!

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Observing Europe – Part II (Luxembourg)

February 28, 2012 § 102 Comments

Luxembourg is often considered the stuff from fairy tales, with the abundant castles, the picturesque valleys and the romantic atmosphere infecting everyone that steps foot into the tiny country. I almost cried when my dad causally brought up that we should just skip Luxembourg and head straight to Germany.

it was love at the first sight

Sunday is probably the worst days to travel in Europe since everything is closed. I was disappointed that nothing in Luxembourg city was open that day. Not only was nothing opened, it was freezing and no one was in sight – a hint of resemblance to a ghost town. The only perk was not having to deal with hoards of tourists squawking about. After a while I became used to the stillness and I refocused my attention to the elegant architecture and stunning scenery. Luxembourg sits on precipitous cliffs, which suddenly drops into deep valleys and circled by two rivers. It was clear that the city was built at a place of strategic military significance. The old walls and towers still surround the city, making it almost too easy to imagine the bustling city life during the middle ages. It’s so different from Asia where everything was built in the last century or so.

I would love to live in one of these houses 🙂

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Unexpected Surprises

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

the corner

You never know what unexpected surprise may be lurking in the corner…

Taipei: The Stimulating City

March 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s been about a month since I’ve moved back to Taipei. Although Taipei is technically my home city, the amount of time I have lived abroad far outweighs the time I’ve spent living here. The culture shock is always there when I come back; the small apartment-style houses, the sheer amount of people and the fact that people immediately pinpoint me as a whitewashed Asian foreigner. When I came back from the States about 10 years ago, I thought it was dirty and cramped. If you didn’t watch your step, you might unexpectedly set foot on a fresh pile of dog poop. The humidity was unbearable during the summer and caused buildings and things to erode at light-speed. As a result, the buildings always looked dirty and old.

The first few weeks back, I spent a lot of time just walking around the city and paying my due to various bookstores and Starbucks. It was a nice change to not have to drive anywhere and walk a few steps to get to a 7-11. After the first few days, I started getting adventurous and took long walks to nearby neighborhoods.

Coming back now, I got the feeling that the city is hungry for an aesthetic makeover. Everyone is on the market to find the hottest new apartment buildings. Bookstores are stocked with architect and interior design magazines. All around the city, new fancy buildings sprout up from nothing. This change didn’t occur overnight but these thoughts seemed to have spread like a virus in the past decade.

The biggest change however, is probably my mental attitude. Instead of constantly comparing Taipei to other metropolitan cities and focusing on its faults and blemishes, I started focusing my attention on the differences and characteristics that sets Taipei apart from the other cities. Looking at everything with a fresh set of lens and taking pictures along the way. Not taking for granted each details and structure but in fact, thinking about why they’re there and how these things are reflective of the culture here. Like people watching, I put together the pieces of my observation and created short stories of what Taipei is about.

Here are just a few of the pictures I have taken:

I’m rather impressed with the street art I’m seeing around the city. 10 years ago, you might see the occasional tags that weren’t very exciting. Now I find hidden gems in the narrow alleys around the city:

my slightly failed attempt to create a panoramic photo of the alley graffiti i found

Temples in Taiwan are rarely treated as a sacred holy site. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why the temples weren’t more beautiful and isolated but now when I think about it, I prefer them the way they are now. Visually, it’s quite bizarre to see them next to a KFC but when you think about it, the temples are really integrated into the people’s daily lives. People don’t have to travel far to connect with their gods. Isn’t that kind of what religion is about? Having God with you at all times? A place of comfort within a few steps away? You see temples and shrines of all sizes everywhere in the city.

a KFC next to a temple. of course

 

 I never understood why people willingly put metal bars on their windows and doors. It looked like everyone in Taiwan lived in a bird-cage. However, I learned that people have those metal bars not just to keep thieves out but to buy themselves a peace of mind. In the past, theft was a real problem and people didn’t feel safe in their homes. The metal bars aren’t a cage per say but a protective barrier.

the cage

 The newer buildings don’t have cages anymore so slowly, these will probably disappear from the city.

 When I went to Beijing 2 years ago, I saw a lot of these ‘forbidden signs’ everywhere. It seemed quite unnecessary for me since it never occurred to me to litter or spit in public. I realized quickly that I was probably the rare few that didn’t need the reminder. People spit like crazy over there! Trash was also everywhere on the streets. 

I see less ‘forbidding’ signs in Taiwan but when I do come across one, I find them hilarious. They get really creative with how they represent different prohibited actions, that’s for sure! Guess it never hurts to remind people that they need to clean up after their dog…dog poop was always a big problem. Though, I think it’s not because owners don’t pick up after their dogs but because there use to be a huge stray dog problem in the past. That’s another story though.

these types signs are everywhere...when nature calls...hehe

 

During one of my walks, this building stuck out among all the other apartment buildings. I loved the colors and just snapped the shot on the spot.

unexpected building, stuck between a cluster of apartment buildings

 

I tried to come up with a word or a phrase to sum up Taipei but I haven’t been able to a suitable one yet. So right now, I just dubbed it “The Stimulating City” because it’s such an oddball place of sights, smells and sounds. It’s not uniformed nor can you easily categorize it as one thing or another.

But for right now, it’s home and it’s good to be back.

The Power of a Rainbow Graffiti

January 7, 2011 § 3 Comments

If I’m not unloading my miseries onto my friends when I’m having a bad day, I’m probably sitting in front of my computer, pouting at the screen. The internet is my go-to place to escape reality and just immerse myself with the endless (and mindless) flow of data, images and videos out in the virtual space. It’s distracting but in these cases, a distraction I welcome.

These awesome rainbow graffiti’s have been showing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico:

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