Hipster Healthcare

doctor_jpI heard Dr. Jay Parkinson give a rapid-fire presentation about his new healthcare start-up called Hello Health last Monday at a Pecha Kucha gathering. Basically it’s the way healthcare should be…well, at least for people like me who are pretty healthy for the most part, hardly ever go to the doctor, and aren’t working for The Man. For a low monthly fee of $35, Hello Health lets you book an appointment online w/ a web-savvy doc who actually gets back to you when you email him questions about that pesky rash. A routine doctor’s visit only sets you back $100, which is like what most New Yorkers pay to get their dogs walked! $100 per visit may sound like a lot if you’re already getting great insurance from your employer, but if you are in “non-traditional” employment and pay for your own health insurance like I do, that’s a way better deal than shelling out $350-$450 a month for something you may hardly ever take advantage of over the course of the year. Obviously, you’ll still want catastrophic insurance in the event that you get hit by a speeding fixed-gear bicycle on the dangerous streets of Williamsburg on your way to see your hipster doctor.

zoclogoAnother healthcare 2.0-ish thing I used recently and quite liked was ZocDoc.  It’s like a Facebook/Yelp for doctors, which is fantastic for judgmental people like myself who like to sum people up in one photograph.  Nah, I’m just kidding!! Sort of.  Anyway, ZocDoc (beta) provides not only a profile photo of each registered doctor, but also features a ratings system that allows all patients who have booked a doctor through them to leave an experience rating and comment. I absolutely love, love, love the transparency. Especially because the existing system of finding doctors/dentists/accountants/lawyers/brokers is so, so, so broken. There’s still a tremendous amount of resistance to this kind of transparency because it makes doctors a lot more vulnerable to attack. But we’ve been familarizing ourselves with crowdsourcing for more than a minute now and I think we can safely say that it’s a largely self-regulating system. In the long run it will be an efficient way to weed out the bad from the good and raise quality standards overall by increasing accountability. Plus, it is so nice to be able to see a doctor’s schedule online and book a time without picking up the phone! Hello Health has that function too, and for that alone I tip my hat!


Our Thoughts on Twitter Exactly

At the expense of offending all of our Twittering friends, I had to share:

Oh come on!  It’s really funny, no?  Besides, chances are Twitter will end up taking over the world and I’ll still be here barely updating this blog once a fortnight so you’ll all have the last laugh anyway!  As Liz Smith recently said after being taught how to send emails by her young staff: “I would still be writing with a feather if they’d let me.”

Mamachas del Ring in Buenos Aires

mamachas11SUITE 2046 amigo, Betty M Park, will be premiering her ass-kicking documentary Mamachas del Ring in Argentina this week as part of the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente.  The workaholic Park’s labor of love tells the story of Carmen Rosa, a cholita wrestler who battles discrimination, sexism, poverty, and backstabbing (among other setbacks) while trying to make it in the male-dominated world of Bolivian lucha libre.  Chock full of eye-opening shots like braided indigenous women dressed in petticoats body-slamming each other, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.  This awesome doc also features Christophe Lopez-Huici‘s labor-intensive stop-motion animation.  Big clay thumbs way up!  Keep an eye out for a stateside premier, and become a fan on Facebook.  Thanks for inspiring us to keep on truckin’!

Take That, Chinet & Dixie!

Japan’s been on a serious Traditional + Modern = Awesome design kick the last few years, as witnessed by the wa-modern renovation of Claska hotel, the entire 3rd floor of Tokyo Midtown, and the punk rock kimonos of Tsukikageya. On my recent trip back to the motherland I was introduced to WASARA, a stunningly gorgeous line of disposable tableware inspired by traditional Japanese pottery design. Apparently the same people behind the Higashiya confectioners in Nakameguro (that “hip” neighborhood the NYTimes has just now discovered) are responsible for these beauties…which makes sense given that the sublime package design for Higashiya’s wagashi is enough to make one weep.  JUST LOOK AT THIS:


My reaction to WASARA came in three distinct steps.  First, aesthetic delight at seeing the beautiful lines & curves of their bowls and plates. Second, a creeping skepticism about how anything disposable could possibly be eco-friendly. Third, salvation upon realizing that it’s made from reed pulp and sugarcane waste — all biodegradable and highly renewable resources that are in no danger of running out.  I’m usually not a fan of disposable products but we all know that when you’re having a party in a small apartment you’re gonna have to bust out the fugly Chinet anyway!  I led a trend expedition on the topic of Eco/Sustainability last year in Tokyo and one of the main insights was that the Japanese approach to eco is pretty much “No Compromise.”  That means that just because something is eco-friendly or organic it shouldn’t be ugly or taste bad.  As a shameless aesthete, I wholeheartedly second that emotion.  Attn: MoMA Design Store buyers, if you’re reading this, please begin importing WASARA immediately.

e38186e381a4e3828f2As this second volume (Nov 2008) of the Discover Japan mook (as in, “magazine + book”) series indicates, Japan takes pottery very, very seriously.  The cover reads: “Nippon: Land of Serving Vessels.”  Tell me about it!  My mother spends more time plating food on her extensive collection than she does on actually cooking.  I love that WASARA brings the same sort of aesthetic appreciation to something as banal as paper plates.  That Bambu stuff from a while back was a nice attempt but it doesn’t exactly make your heart skip a beat, you know? And don’t even get me started on what I think about Phillipe Starck’s plastic partyware

Lion & Eagle

Meikyoku Kissa LionI’ve been back in Tokyo for the last couple of weeks and was finally able to check out Meikyoku Kissa Lion, an ancient cafe lurking in the shady back streets of Shibuya’s love hotels district.  The Lion, which was first opened in 1926, is what’s known as a classical music cafe — something that used to be fairly common in Japan back in the Showa era but is now borderline extinct.  These are places where the music takes center stage — so that means a serious record collection, gigantic speakers, a minimalist menu, and absolutely no talking.  It’s a strange sight to behold.  Men and women of all different ages sipping drip coffee in silence while sitting in dusty velvet train seats facing a huge set of speakers cranking out Beethoven.  Not having your cell-phone on vibrate could result in deep shame if not instant ejection and eternal damnation.

There are also jazz and rock equivalents.  The “jazz kissa”, where people who are similarly banned from speaking sit around listening to the owner’s selections on the hi-fi, is supposedly unique to Japan.  At least that’s what Masahiro Goto, the “master” of the revered jazz kissa Eagle and author of several books on Japanese jazz culture told me recently.  While jazz is obviously a Western import, as is cafe culture in general, Goto claims the phenomenon of sitting in silence to listen to records together is uniquely Japanese.  It makes sense if you think about how densely populated Tokyo is and how that limits how loudly you can listen to music at home, or even how much music you could acquire in the first place given there’s such little space. It’s also a natural manifestation of Japanese attitudes towards privacy and personal space within a deeply group-oriented society.

Perhaps for the same reasons I prefer watching movies in the theater with strangers than in my own distraction-filled living room, I’m attracted to places like Lion and Eagle where I know I can really immerse myself in a private experience while still taking part in something inherently social.  There aren’t enough spaces like that in today’s world.  Everyone is in their own little iPod-climatised bubble and there are fewer and fewer opportunities to connect with people in meatspace through a shared non-verbal experience.  There’s also something really great about being told to turn off your gadgets and shut the hell up.  It occurred to me while looking over the list of restrictions outlined on a sign outside of the Lion’s door, that having to follow rules can be a beautiful thing.  As social mores around civility and decorum are increasingly dismissed as stuffy and antiquated, it’s oddly refreshing to be given a clear set of expectations up-front.