Elite Blogger: Rendezevous with Steve Levenstein

Steve has been on our elite list long ago before Deborah from Life In A Fast Lane could remind us of our missing him. We had always admired his writings over Inventorspot with little knowledge that he has started contributing on other renowned blogs well i.e. Weburbanist. Wish Steve could spare sometime for elitechoice also and breed his creativity here.

Hailing from Toronto, Steve is our first elite guest who is consciously aware of Japan’s economy in and out. Here, we managed to get more insight of Japanese culture from him and also, his take on other areas.

Read further to know more about this self-employed blogger:

• Steve, kindly introduce yourself to my readers and take us through your usual day at work.

Hi fellow Elite Choice readers! Let me first thank you for inviting me to be an Elite Blogger, it’s a great honor. As for my work day, I’m self employed so I get to set my own hours… which really isn’t as much fun as you might think. Being the boss AND the staff, I can’t goof off without the boss knowing what I’m up to. Seriously though, I don’t lock myself into a rigid 9 to 5 schedule but I do try to complete 3 major tasks every day. That way I feel I’ve accomplished something and I clear room for the next day’s projects.

• To what extent have blogs become an integral important part of the way people now access information? When did you sense an inclination towards blogging? Are you satisfied with the functionality of the blogging ecosystem or think there is a need for revamp?

It’s very exciting to be a blogger in this day & age. Getting in on the ground floor just a few years ago and watching the medium grow in so many ways is like having the window open as history unfolds around you. I’m convinced that the trend away from traditional sources of news and entertainment and towards dedicated blogs will only continue – and that’s a good thing! People who know what they like can go online and get it at their convenience, and those who don’t have any particular interest can browse the web until they find something that DOES interest them. Blogging is democratic in nature, universal in appeal and available to anyone with an Internet connection. One would hope the rest of the world follows down the peaceful path the Blogosphere has blazed.

• How different is Japan’s culture from countries that you have visited?

From my experience, Japan’s modern day culture is unique. Rising from the ashes of not just war, but nuclear war, Japan has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy while managing to keep much of its traditional culture and society intact. This is a cultural anchor that supports people and helps prevent them from getting swept away by rapid societal and technological change. Things are by no means perfect in Japan but in my opinion, the rest of the world can learn much from observing – even imitating – the Japanese model.

• Steve, you have been writing a lot about Japan and also international technology. How would you relate technology with luxury products? Do they correlate with each other?

In many cases technology does correlate with luxury products since many people are willing to pay more for something more technologically advanced. On the other hand, today’s technology may be surpassed tomorrow, yet with traditional luxury items like jewelry, gold and fine art there is an intrinsic value that will always be appreciated no matter what.

• While it is true that most luxury products are assumed elite, and most elite products as being luxurious, we think there is a difference. What do you think?

Well, it all depends on what market the product is intended for. Just like the old cliche goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

• Having seen Japanese culture up close, can you tell us why there are no evident signs of an economic recession that has clawed onto this country for more than a decade now?

The signs are there if you look in the right places. Unemployment and even homelessness are up but most tourists don’t visit Toyota City, where many auto workers have been laid off. Also, many full time jobs have been quietly replaced by part-time jobs – the trains may still be full but the commuters’ pay packets, not so much. There’s also been change in the retailing sector: “100 yen stores” (1 yen = roughly 1 dollar) and low-priced chains like Uniqlo have become more popular.

• We also hear that the Japanese government is issuing a ‘help allowance’ to those living in Japan to help pull through the hard times. Frankly, we have never heard of anything like this before. What’s your opinion — is it just plain bizarre or do you understand the psyche behind this step?

I understand what the government is trying to do: put money in people’s pockets and hope they’ll spend it but it’s more likely people will just save the money. Japan has a very savings-oriented culture. The amount of money being given out is also very small, only us$120 or so. Here in Canada, our provincial government will be giving people up to $1,000 so that’s something I’m in favor of… and very much looking forward to!

• Is it true to say that technology and gadgets are being produced at a rate that poses a tough time for the makers themselves considering the cruelty of terrorism age?

I wouldn’t say so; people have always looked to distractions from bad news and tough times. In the Great Depression, movies were a favored escape, at least for those who could afford to go. Today people distract themselves by playing video games, using their Wii, fiddling with some new cool gadget and so on – all these are more fun than reading the financial news.

• Tell us about your ‘must-read’ or favorite blogs?
I’m lucky to write for blogs like InventorSpot, WebUrbanist, Burbia and The Thinking Blog that also feature some really great writers and I’d recommend them to anyone looking for great reading, interesting information and something a little out of the ordinary.

I also read blogs like Japundit and News On Japan that specialize in Japanese content – not only do they cater to my interests but they’re also a source of great topics for my own articles. Last but certainly not least, my son’s blog, Yersys Technology Blog . He’s just 14 and High School is his main focus but in less than a year he’s managed to create a popular blog that features computers and news from the tech world. I really hope your readers will check it out; new bloggers need support but notwithstanding that, he’s done a terrific job and I’m very proud of him!

• Provide us with your five favorite posts you have written to date over at InventorSpot and WebUrbanist.

I’ll include Burbia and The Thinking Blog in the mix as I’m now a regular contributor there:

“The Top Ten Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks”

“Future Past: 173 Radical Retrofuturistic Directions in Design & Technology”

“Pirates Amok – Yo Ho Ho And A Sultanate Of Rum”

“Japan Tobacco’s Delightfully Disturbing ‘Smoking Manners for Adults’ Ads, Part 1” of an ongoing series

From The Thinking Blog: “Extinct Human Species Smarter Than Us?”

How would you like to be known:
• Explorer:
• Blogger:
• Technophile:
• Product Reviewer:
• Entrepreneur:
• Others:

Well, I’ve had a few different careers over the years but writing and blogging has been the most enjoyable. As far as being “known”, that’s one good thing about the Internet: it gives you a measure of immortality. If what I write is appreciated then it (and “me”) will keep floating around long after I’m gone.

Quick bites:
• Hours you invest digging the Net: About 6 hours a day, more or less. Usually more.
• Biggest blogging mistake you made: Not learning how to write for Adsense early enough.
• One hidden truth: Be nice to people you write about – they just might write about you one day!
• If asked to post only on one blog (not InventorSpot or WebUrbanist): Burbia , where I’m given the most freedom regarding topics and content.
• Advice you would have given yourself five years ago?: All blogs (and all bloggers) get off to a slow start but patience – and regularly posting good content – will pay off in the long run.
• If not a Blogger/Writer, then… That’s hard to say, because writer and blogging isn’t my first career, it’s only my most recent one. If I wasn’t blogging, I would probably be consulting people on how to be bloggers themselves.
• Life without Internet: I grew up without the Internet but it’s still hard to imagine living without it today. No single technological advance has changed people’s lives as much. If the Internet crashed for some reason and could not be resurrected, I think that would make the current financial crisis look very trivial.

• Which is your favorite social networking site? Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter or… There are so many social networking sites out there and they all have their pros and cons but I especially like a site called Fark. Posters submit actual news stories with headlines crafted to be humorous. Another feature of Fark is the Comments section, which is a real comedic goldmine.

• Whom would you recommend as my next EliteBlogger and why?


That’s a tough decision because there are so many great bloggers out there, but if I had to choose one I’d recommend Gerri Elder from Absolutely True. Gerri writes for and operates her own blog, is active and popular at sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, and she somehow manages to manage her family in real life. I think she sets a fine example for any new blogger who’s considering starting their own blog and/or getting into social media.

• Give us your views on EliteChoice.

Elite Choice is a very appealing site for those who want to seek out the best life offers from the comfort of their cozy computer chairs. Not everyone has the time to physically shop for luxury goods – an endeavor that requires much window-shopping due to the high cost of such goods. Why not virtually browse for the best, using your computer’s browser? A clever concept, nicely executed!

• You can ask me one question:

Thank you Zola. I see that Elite Choice is based in India and the language used is English. How would a non-Indian, English-speaking blogger such as myself gain wider access to the vast pool of young, educated, upwardly mobile Indian netizens? I think this is the one major problem bloggers face today – how to boost readership beyond their home countries. The Internet is International so let’s try and break down those walls!

I hear you Steve and understand your concern. With social media networking/ marketing evolving as a new culture, I believe all your worries would be dumped as it offers you not only international reach but widens your approach towards things. I am saying this out of my learning from my stay at networks like Stumbleupon, digg, twitter and others. Also, I believe that its word of mouth that can drive savvy readers to a blog. Hope that answers.

At last, I would like to thank you for your interesting shot of answers and Vlad and Saba also for equally remarkable questions. Steve, we wish to luck for your future endeavors.


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