- Buddhist leader tests Asustek e-reader [SF Chronicle] – Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen, 73, leads Taiwan's largest charity of 120,000 volunteers and teaches Buddhism on her television show. Add to her resume product tester for Asustek Computer Inc.'s e-book reader. "Because of her patience she can do a better job testing than most," said Jonney Shih, chairman of the Taipei computer-maker and honorary board member of Cheng Yen's Tzu Chi Foundation. "Some ideas were a little bit different from normal usage, but I asked my team to sincerely accept that advice." The charity is testing e-book readers for its Buddhist scriptures and to record donations, said Shih, whose company donated land next to its headquarters for Tzu Chi's Taipei office. Cheng Yen, who gives daily sermons on Tzu Chi's TV station in traditional robes and shaved head, founded the organization in 1966. The reward for Tzu Chi's help will be a final version of the product tailored to the charity's needs in the next 2 months, at least 3 months before the commercial release.
Without donuts being part of the plan when I travel, they seem to show up with some regularity. While Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts seek to provide a consistent experience across geographies, there are also very unique experiences available in the very same category. The notion of donut is rather broad and is reinterpreted in some engaging ways. There’s something about the pure pleasure of a donut that also invites a fun approach to all aspects of the experience: the flavors, the environment, the presentation, the messaging.
Here’s a few I’ve documented. Please leave recommendations for other donuts-shops-to-experience in the comments.
Randy’s Donuts, LA (Amazing site, donuts are pretty good)
Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland, OR: Rex Diablo and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (fun to choose, less to eat)
Murciano in The Marais, Paris (the best thing I’ve ever eaten)
Fractured Prune, Washington D.C. (didn’t get to try it)
Roti Donat, Bali, Indonesia (definitely not good)
Mister Donut sign and exterior, Taipei, Taiwan
Mister Donut Simpsons promotion, Kyoto, Japan (I don’t remember what I got but it was good!)
At the market in the basement of Taipei 101, I ordered a fresh juice from a juice stand. The young man who was making the juice rapidly measured and assembled the ingredients in a blender. As he was blending the fruit, he began to pour in honey. After a moment, he grabbed a long spoon, stuck it in what was becoming my drink, tasted and took a taste. Then with one hand he threw the spoon in the sink and with the other he added more honey.
Fruit, of course, is inconsistent. If you want to prepare food to a certain sweetness (or other taste attribute), and the ingredients aren’t exactly the same, how else can you do it without tasting?
In the west, at least, fast food is typically based on sourcing consistent ingredients and building a trainable process so the staff don’t have to use subjective judgments like taste in order to prepare a good product. As well, we don’t expect that people preparing our food would be eating it. In this case, the spoon was clean and was disposed of right away, so there was no chance of contamination, but the whole concept that this person consumed something and then gave me the rest was just so unfamiliar.
Yet another standard that I hadn’t even questioned until I saw it play out differently in Taipei.
Sign from Intellectual Property Office, Ministry of Economic Affairs, in the Taipei airport
The sign reads:
Post only authorized images, music, videos, or writings on your blog, or you could be blogging your way into court! Today’s user is tomorrow’s right owner. Respect others’ intellectual properly rights.
Even before clearing immigration in Taipei, there’s an intellectual property warning for bloggers. Is this really such a big problem? I’d expect them to worry more about CD and DVD piracy first.
Die Hard 4.0 poster, Taipei
It’s not news that movies are released with different titles in other markets. Still, it was curious to see a familiar product under a slightly different brand. Live Free or Die is an American slogan, and so outside North America, perhaps Live Free or Die Hard doesn’t work as well as a title (perhaps the American-ness is not as appealing, or there is less recognition of the reference).
IMDB lists the different titles (and working titles) around the world.
Die Hard 4.0 Australia / Denmark / Finland / Japan / Netherlands / Sweden / UK / USA (working title)
Duro de matar 4.0 Argentina / Mexico / Peru / Venezuela
Die Hard 4 USA (working title)
Die Hard 4: Die Hardest USA (working title)
Die Hard: Reset USA (working title)
Die Hard: Tears of the Sun USA (working title)
Die hard – Vivere o morire Italy
Die hard 4 – Legdrágább az életed Hungary
Die hard 4 – Retour en enfer France
Duro de Matar 4.0 Brazil
Jungla 4.0, La Spain
Poly skliros gia na pethanei 4.0 Greece
Smrtonosná pasca 4.0 Slovakia
Smrtonosná past 4.0 Czech Republic
Stirb langsam 4.0 Germany
Szklana pulapka 4.0 Poland
Umri muski 4.0 Serbia
Vis libre ou crève Canada (French title)
Visa hing 4 Estonia
Zor ölüm 4.0 Turkey (Turkish title)
It’s fascinating how most successful products lead to an ecosystem of supporting products. The Crocs fad has provided the fan-base to support charms, little decorations that attach to the holes on the shoe’s surface and let the wearer further establish their individual identity within the trend of people who have established a unique identity by wearing Crocs in the first place.
Acknowledging that following a trend has a very different meaning in Japan, we bring you the Crocs family, who we saw on a bus in Kyoto, each with their own charms.
In addition to aftermarket personalization, many trends also generate a safety backlash meme (iPod muggings, anyone?). In Taipei, it’s dangerous to wear Crocs on escalators.
Manufacturers like Apple are very savvy about creating/controlling their aftermarket, but I wonder about the backlashes. Are PR people planting those stories or doing damage control or not realizing their significance?
Update: Karl Long on the Crocs backlash (safety and others) here
The KFC store in Taiwan also featured this mascot for a spicy chicken sandwich, with fiery hair and just a bit of drool. Are Western characters allowed to salivate in advertising? I wish they were.
Although we were dazzled by the array of Asian cuisines available in the food halls at Taipei 101 we observed the biggest (and most eager) crowd at the KFC. We were further surprised to note the Air Canada promotion (amusingly inaccurate translation here including surprising use of the word urine) where, to honor the culture and flavors of Canada, they’re selling a traditional Chinese egg tart drizzled with maple syrup. We passed, thanks (we had hoped it was a traditional Canadian butter tart, but no luck).
The outside of the KFC stand was decorated with retro Americana and historical brand imagery.
The American Road Trip promotion at TGI Friday’s
Around the corner was TGI Friday’s, with an American-themed promotion, throwing together states, highways, and foods that might believably (in Taiwan, I guess) carry a geographic association: Kansas Cinnadunker Donuts, Illinois Mushroom Steak, California Shrimp Martini, Missouri Chicken Parmesan, Texas Dragonfire Chicken, Arizona Cape Cod Shrimp Louie, and New Mexico Tortilla Tilapia.
Check out the press release for this promotion.
Movie lovers must have seen car chase scenes on American inter-state highways, the most notable of which is the No 66 Highway. The new menu features characteristic foods of the eight states through which the No 66 inter-state highway runs. That would include Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California.
Start spreading the news
Although not a food venue specifically, it’s worth pointing out the New York, New York shopping mall, noted for the presence of American brands.
It’s a curious part of the experience of being a foreigner — in addition to noting the things that seem strange (and some of those will be appearing here eventually), in our global world we are likely to encounter things that we expect to be familiar, yet through someone else’s lenses they are very very different.
Shot this video the other day in Taipei. I love the animation of the “it’s okay to walk” guy and how it changes when time is running short (and the pedestrian is encouraged to hurry).
I’m waiting for France. If they love you in France, then you’ve really made it!
Mike Press, a professor of Design Policy at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, the University of Dundee gave a lecture at the Southern Taiwan University of Technology, and it seems I was mentioned
as an innovative example of a researcher in this field who covers all the e-bases: foreign groceries museum, flickr photo archive, blog, fresh-meat e-newsletter, and somewhere out there there’s his bog-standard website too. Never met the fellow, but he brings fresh and surprising insights to design.
Edited from this story
With Taiwanese youngsters increasingly drawn to Western hamburgers and fries, government researchers are trying to lure them back with something more traditional – sort of: rainbow-colored rice.
Yellow rice gets its hue from curcumin, an herb that’s a spice in curries and is believed by some to be an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer. Green rice comes from the nutritious bitter gourd, often used in Asian soups and stir-fried dishes. Pink comes from tomato, and purple from a mixture of vegetables.
The colored rice will likely cost about twice as much as plain rice.
Besides the obligatory “wow aren’t they weird in Asia” reaction (which is ridiculous, because didn’t green ketchup start in the US, after all?), it seems like the story is equal parts science and technology, culture, marketing, fashion, and of course economics (2x for healthy rice? nice price!).