Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Flew Hello Kitty

One of the most coveted tickets on the Taipei-Tokyo run is the Hello Kitty plane. And I flew on it.

Those of you without young children may not be familiar with Hello Kitty, but she is a cute, saccharine character that is unavoidable in Japan. She has conquered most of Asia and is making steady inroads into the U.S. My own daughter owns a stuffed toy, a pillow, and a few other items.

But she is not only popular with children, but also adults. Which is why Eva Air has festooned one of the planes with the character. But she is not only on the fuselage. Oh no. There is Hello Kitty music as you get on the plane, the stewardesses wear Hello Kitty aprons, the desert is in a Hello Kitty shape, the cocktail napkins have Hello Kitty, and so on. Pretty much anywhere and everywhere she can be, they put her there. I think Eva charges extra for all of this.

My Israeli traveling companion had never heard of her, and the best I could explain it is that we were on the equivalent of the Micky Mouse jet. Only lamer.

I wasn't surprised to seen grown men and women jumping down in exceitement about going on this plane. I even saw several business men in suits taking pictures of their rare opportunity to fly this special plane (okay, I was taking pictures too but it was for blogging).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Monet in Tokyo

I had a morning to kill before catching my flight out and was quite thrilled to discover that there is a major Monet exhibit going on in Tokyo right now. Over 90 of his works are on display at the National Art Center, so I made my way over to catch it first thing when the museum doors opened.

There was already a line of people waiting to get in (I was the only gaijin in line), so I was worried that the place would be too crowded to enjoy. However, the Japanese were true to form and had to do the experience "right". They all ran into the museum and got one of those audio tour phone-things and ended up all bunched together around the first painting as they followed the audio tour. There must have been 50 people all clustered together. They didn't have audio guides in English - and I wouldn't have used one anyway - so I just went to the next painting and ended up enjoying the exhibit by myself by staying one or more paintings ahead of the group.

The exhibit is divided up into sections that cover different aspects of Monet's technique: color, light, reflection, and so on. Then in each section they have side galleries of other modern artists which punctuate these themes. For example, in the "Brushwork" side-section they had a Pollock (didn't he splatter more than "brush"?) and in the "Light" side-section they had a Seurat (another artist I enjoy).

They had several of his Haystack, Waterloo Bridge and Cathedral series, which individually don't do anything for me, but taken together (as they are meant to be) convey the differences in light and other nuances he was trying to capture. I don't remember seeing a series like this at the Musee d'Orsay, so I either missed it, don't remember, or they don't have enough to exhibit this way (the exhibit is taken from several collections, including the d'Orsay).

I tried to pick out my favorite in this exhibit and it was a hard call. There were dozens that moved me and which are true masterpieces. If you have a few hours to kill in Tokyo the exhibit lasts until right around the U.S. July 4th holiday, which must be why they have this painting:

Oh, wait. Those are French flags, aren't they?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shadow Boxing

I have never met him. I don't know his name. But I know he exists. Taiwan, Japan, Korea, our trails keep crossing. He isn't a very worthy adversary, although that will be proved by who wins the most accounts.

The competition isn't direct. We don't sit in the same room and debate our respective products. Rather the debate is indirect, done through the customer. So I might hear: "I understand that your product has some delays?" Or, even lamer: "Your competition claims that he is the only vendor approved at our major customer, Nokia. What do you say to that?."

Of course I must respond, countering first with a block: "Don't be preposterous, Nokia NEVER single sources anything." The customer smiles, nodding in agreement. He deals with Nokia and understands their business. Then comes the counter punch: "But do keep in mind that we are the only profitable, public company selling this technology. The competition is private and has no revenue. Who do you think is going to be sitting in front of you a year from now?"

It's all about FUD: Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt. That's what sales guys do at accounts to assail the competition. I get to hear about my FUD, leave FUD about him. It is an interesting game to play. The combat is never direct, always through the customer. I like to leave different FUD at different accounts, keeping my competition off balance, not knowing what the next customer is going to say. In contrast he keeps saying the same things at all the customers. That lets me address my FUD in the opening presentation, getting the objections out of the way before the customer even asks a question.

Of course winning the FUD game is just the beginning of winning an account. I still have to negotiate and close the deal, with the "back-up" waiting in the wings in case I screw up. But at that point the customer is mine to win or lose.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Okay Friday

"Meetch, in Japan we are born Shinto, but we die Buddhist."

I am still searching for the deep meaning in my friend's statement. I think he is talking about the malleability between the two major Japanese religions, although this could be one of those Zen statements without an answer. At any rate Christianity really doesn't come into play here, at less than 1% of the population.

This is in stark comparison to South Korea, which seems to have more church steeples than Rome. Fully a quarter of South Korea is Christian and growing fast.

Monday, April 02, 2007

One Word: "Plastics"

I don't have anything against the Amish, but I thought their whole deal was not to use modern technology. When I saw this picture I was amused since apparently that prohibition doesn't include polyurethane plastics used in Igloo lunch boxes:

I would have pictured quaint hand-made baskets made from reeds. I think a few of the kids' shoes look pretty modern as well, so I'll have to go re-check my source of Amish culture: Witness.