Thursday, January 30, 2014

Will the NY Islanders Move to Brooklyn Hipster-fy Hockey?

For years, I've been telling everyone how hockey will become a widely popular sport and receive the attention it deserves on network television and in the media, mainly because I wanted more friends to watch games with me (...). Although football and basketball fans still outnumber hockey by a stretch, a recent article states that the NHL is selling out more arenas than the NBA this season. Yes those numbers might be skewed by the NBA's performance, but there are other signs that hockey might be growing in popularity; for one, I've been seeing occasional San Jose Sharks photos in my Facebook and Instagram feeds from unsuspecting west coast hockey fans, and two, Apple decided to include the LA Kings in their newest iPad Air commercial.

Apple approves of ice hockey.

But the true tipping point of my hockey popularity theory will be its adoption by hipsters. In 2011, I sensed the hipster hockey trend as the NHL and Versus' (now owned by NBC) aggressively marketed to hipsters in Williamsburg. Now, with the impending 2015 move of the New York Islanders to Barclays Center in Brooklyn--the hipster-fying of hockey is inevitable. Who wants to bet Pharrell will be sporting a throwback hockey jersey at the 2016 Grammys?

Will Hipsters ruin hockey?
The thought crossed my mind this Monday when I attended an Islanders/Bruins game at the current Nassau Coliseum venue out in Long Island. Stepping inside the Islanders arena was like stepping back into time, as if the arena hasn't changed since the 80s. Of all the NHL hockey games I've attended, this was the first time that prior to the game there was a moment of silence for an original season ticket holder who recently passed away. That and the rowdy Islanders fan section felt pleasantly intimate.

Sean and I are smiling because the Bruins won 6-3
Will the history, family-like atmosphere and camaraderie disappear at Barclays? I hope not. The move has received mixed feelings by Islanders fans, but my hope is the move will inject energy into the franchise while still preserving all its quirks and traditions (like those Ice Girls!).  In many ways, hipsters and hockey is a destined combination--eclectic warmup music from techno to country, beards and swearing. I have high hopes that Brooklyn, NY Islanders fans and hipsters can make it work.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Does It Mean to Be 'Real' and Why Do We Care So Much About Retouching?

American Eagle's new Aerie REAL campaign for its womens underwear line has made headlines for featuring un-retouched models (SHOCKER, Dove did this back in 2008). On my office block, where American Eagle's Soho store is located are city-block length billboards featuring teenage-looking girls in neon cotton undies with the headline "THE GIRL IN THIS PHOTO HAS NOT BEEN RETOUCHED." SHE'S JUST PERFECT RIGHT? I applaud American Eagle for not masking the true beauty of these models and showing them as they would look in real life, but are models real? Not "retouching" makes a great PR story but the actual credit should go to choosing an ethnically diverse set of no-name models.

Many mass brands talk about the importance of reaching the growing population of multicultural youth--African American, Hispanic and Asian consumers make up 40% of Millennials--and are gradually diversifying the models they use in their ads; however, often this diversity effort is short-lived and only seen in campaigns but not throughout the brand experiences such as the website. 

The Aerie website shopping experience features the same multicultural models such as Amber and Hana modeling all the products. Additionally the "Bra Guide" shows you what the bra would look like on a model with the same cup size. Accurately, a 32B gave me the Asian-mixed model Hana who, of the models, is someone I relate to best.
While I truly believe beauty has no ethnic boundaries, Hana who is probably hapa (half white, half asian) is a familiar body type and face of many girls I grew up with in Hawaii and seeing her model the clothes strangely does make the shopping experience more personal.
With its REAL campaign, Aerie has established a brand distinction from its competitor Victoria's Secret PINK, as the underwear brand for the American girl next door (whether she be Caucasian, Hispanic, African American, Asian or Mixed), while PINK lives in its parent's model identity of being aspirational (see beautiful PINK models below).

Yes, American Eagle's efforts to create a bra shopping experience for young women that is more accurate to what it would look like to try on the bra in the store will help more consumers shop online. But "aspiration" can still be very appealing and may be more desirable than plain utility. Only time will tell.

As for America's obsession with retouching (the recent fuss over Lena Dunham's VOGUE cover), I think people need to remind themselves that models make up 2% of the population and celebrities are paid to look good. When women like Lena Dunham and Kate Upton make the cover--and perhaps an Asian American soon--we should celebrate their fresh perspective and personalities, which is more important than a few strokes in photoshop.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Heat and Homemade Pasta, Living the "Casalinga" Life

I just finished reading Bill Buford's Heat, a detailed account on how Buford, a former writer and editor of The New Yorker, quits his job to become an amateur cook in Mario Batali's Italian restaurant Babbo and travels to Italy to learn how to make pasta and butcher animals. Being that I'm newly Italian-by-marriage (Zeny Picone!) and a person who loves cooking, I soaked up every kitchen secret, tip and recipe that Buford revealed about making handmade pasta, short ribs, linguini with clams and tortellini the authentic Italian way.

Casalinga, which means homemade or "made by hand" in Italian, is a consistent theme in Buford's book which promotes the culture of "slow food"--the idea that food made by hand with better ingredients is more precious and delicious. The last couple of years I've embraced this idea of slow food, spending hours prepping and cooking large meals for dinner parties. The most recent a 10-person Chinese dinner consisting of my grandma's signature recipes.

Here's some pictures of my first time making homemade pasta with some friends, and as the pictures depict, our first time was pretttyyy dang awesome:
We found a basic fresh pasta recipe on Pinterest which called for equal parts semolina and flour.
Lesson learned, use lots of flour when rolling out the pasta.
We made linguini two ways--1) Carbonara and 2) with Wild Mushrooms


2013 was a reflective year--a year where I finally thought, "I'm grown up."

This post is hard for me to write because I wanted the first post of 2014 to set the tone for my blog From A to Zeny as it enters its fifth year in existence.

A lot has changed over the past year:
I lost my grandmother.
I married my soul mate.
And, I blogged a lot less.

I blogged 22 times in 2013 (5x less than 2009 when I started the blog) and it makes me sad because blogging was a creative exercise for me--a way for me to catalog events, ideas, trends, adventures--literally there was nothing I would not blog about like my sister's love for emojis or every drool-worthy meal I had in Asia. But in 2013, I made a decision to internalize a lot of the personal changes happening in my life and focus on my career. In other words, I was growing up.

Although I have a new last name and an evolving outlook on life, I still constantly seek inspiration and stimulation. My goal for 2014 is to talk about that difficult in-between age closely reminiscent to your teenage angsty years, but with better hair, also called your late 20's--to tell stories about pursuing personal passions, leaning in as a lady at work, our rapidly progressing and somewhat scary digital world, marriage (eek!), foodie adventures and occasionally ads or campaigns that get it.

My blog is only as good as the people I meet, so I invite people to share with me their stories or connect with me on Instagram and Twitter.

Cheers to the future,