Milan Furniture Fair 2009

All eyes have been on the Salone, the world's biggest and most important furniture fair, held in Milan. In the first of two films, Sarah Balmond reports from the sprawling Rho exhibition halls and the city's many design hotspots.


Kristen Bell | Randall Slavin photos

These photos are from Randall Slavin's shoot a while back during her Veronica Mars days. Check out Slavin's blog thisphotolife for more.


Blackwater is now Xe: seriously

Blackwater Worldwide, the world’s largest private security company, made the wrong kind of headlines in 2007 when Blackwater contractors allegedly shot and killed 17 Iraqis in a crowded square in Baghdad. This resulted in protests, congressional inquiries and the Iraqi government refusing to allow the organization to operate there. As a result, Blackwater is changing its name to Xe (pronounced ZEE).

Most organizations declare that a change in name is necessary to allow a company “better define” what it does, or “clarify” a shift in services, and this is often in tandem with a repositioning of services or a shift in core competencies. Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for the company, explained that Blackwater was changing its name because “the idea is to define the company as what it is today and not what it used to be.” I'm pretty sure it's still a company that gets paid to kill people. Not really sure what's changed over the past few years.

The Blackwater name has being expunged from all of its business units: Blackwater Airships (which offers surveillance services for intelligence gathering) has become Guardian Flight Systems. Blackwater Target Systems (the unit that develops and builds targets) is now being called GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center has been named the U.S. Training Center.

Not everyone agrees with Tyrrell. RJ Hillhouse, a national security expert and author of the blog called The Spy Who Billed Me, said the company is “obviously trying to distance itself from their image as reckless cowboys that’s etched into the world’s mind from the…shooting.” With a new name, “there are a lot of people who probably won’t connect the dots,” she said. “In a year or two, people won’t remember that’s Blackwater.” And she's right. The American public is stupid as shit and this terrible logo and rebranding should throw them off the Blackwater scent.

When asked about the name change, Robert Passikoff, president of the New York marketing research firm Brand Keys, Inc. offered this: “There’s an old saying about brands: ‘When you can’t change the product, you change the packaging,’” he said. It’s common for companies to rename in an effort to distance themselves from bad publicity, but in Blackwater’s case, things have gotten so bad that the company had little choice but dump the brand.

Tyrrell disagrees. She countered that Blackwater’s past was only one of several factors involved in the decision. “The company leaders came up with and considered several new names,” she said. “Xe had the best potential for brand identity but has no special meaning, she added.”

No special meaning indeed. The same can be said for the identity, which is a bizarre cross between a bad rendition of the old Xerox logo and the logo for Xena: Warrior Princess. As a result, the only X this rebrand deserves is for a new identity that has gone terribly, terribly wrong. This logo seems better fitted for a lame tech company, not a murder for hire outfit.


Caps force Game 7

Caps take Game 6 in OT 5-4. Watched about 10 minutes of this game and I have to say.....these two teams are not very good. Sloppy. It would be nice to have the Capitals make it to the Cup so I can watch the Red Wings defend Lord Stanley in person.

So go Caps. Beat the Penguins and keep it going.


Megan Fox is comfortable with her role

"I don't want to have to be like a Scarlett Johansson — who I have nothing against but I don't want to have to go on talk shows and pull out every single SAT word I've every learned to prove, like, 'Take me seriously, I am intelligent, I can speak.' I don't want to have to do that. I resent having to prove that I'm not a retard — but I do. And part of it is my own fault." —Megan Fox on not wanting to be like Scarlett Johansson

and now pictures

Megan FoxMegan Fox
Megan FoxMegan FoxMegan Fox show off her body in new issue of Esquire magazine - Hot Celebs Home


2009 AIA Housing Awards: Highlights

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently announced the 17 recipients of the 2009 Housing Awards. The AIA’s Housing Awards Program, now in its ninth year, was established to recognize the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.

The jury recognized projects in four award categories: One/Two Family Custom Housing, One/Two Family Production Housing, Special Housing, and Multifamily Housing.

All of the following are from the One/Two Family Custom Housing category. I wasn't too interested in the rest of the winners. You can check them out at the link above if you're so inclined.

Chuckanut Drive Residence – Bellingham, Washington
The Miller | Hull Partnership

This 1400 square foot main house and guest house/ garage is located on a heavily wooded cliff site with views out over the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The plan orients to major views south down the coast line and west out to the islands while being careful to stay outside of the drip line of the dominate Douglas-fir trees.

Laidley Street Residence – San Francisco, California
Zack / de Vito Architecture

The goal of the project was to create a modern, eco-sensitive, urban retreat that was kid tough and kid friendly. Materials, details and connections are visible expressions of the design and construction. This is exemplified in the intricate staircase where water jet-cut steel stringers support translucent acrylic treads and risers. The house was designed and built using sustainable design principles. Energy efficiency, low consumption and low toxicity were key ideas.

Montecito Residence – Montecito, California
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

Montecito Residence is a single-family home set in the fire-prone Toro Canyon. The owners wanted a house that minimized its use of scarce natural resources and recognized the challenging environmental conditions of the area. The raised roof functions as an umbrella to shield the house from the sun, while the long central hallway allows naturally cool offshore breezes to move through the space. The hallway also creates an axis dividing the private from the public.

Low Country Residence- Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Frank Harmon Architect

The long, one-room-deep floor plan gives each room windows and porches overlooking Shem Creek. A modern interpretation of Charleston’s historic shutters provides protection from harsh weather and summer sun. Operable windows provide natural cross-ventilation and lighting. Approaching the house under a canopy of moss-draped live oaks and up a gentle ramp, the view of the marsh appears like an element in a Japanese painting.

700 Palms Residence – Venice, California
Ehrlich Architects

The objective for this eco-friendly residence in Venice, California was to: design a high-performance home that dissolves the barriers between indoors and outdoors; utilize raw, honest materials appropriate to the bohemian grittiness of the surrounding community; and have the smallest carbon footprint in balance with lifestyle. The house design takes full advantage of the local climate such that a net zero energy building is obtained.

House at Sagaponac – Wainscott, New York
TsAO & McKOWN Architects

A significant issue was how to root the house to the earth; the nearly flat site in a young growth forest offered no footing. By reshaping the topography, the architects were able to establish the first level slightly below grade and sculpted the surrounding terrain into a gentle rise. The house functions on multiple levels - as much an intimate retreat for two (or one) as an accommodating host to an extended family (or numerous guests).