Time for Pirouette’s ritual year end review. Below we have a look at – Technology & The Way We Live -Film & Culture – Travel & Adventure –  Kids & The Cosmopolitan Family – and more…! I hope you’ll enjoy going through our overview of the highlights of 2013, as seen from Pirouette’s point of view. Thanks to all of you who have sent your input from different parts of the world!

Technology & the way we live

If the Industrial Revolution marked the transition between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it’s the technological revolution that has marked the watershed of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Our children will grow up to be much more wired than our parents ever were. We already take technology for granted in much of our daily lives. Imagine that the smartphone in your pocket has a processor that’s more powerful than the computer that put the first man on the moon! And yet, a number of technological milestones stand out in the year that’s drawing to a close.

We’ve had hybrid cars on the road for years now. The Tesla S electric car however, has shown that green can be fun, high performance, and cool.  3D printers are real. Individuals and businesses can try things out and make physical what they could only imagine before.  To get things started – businesses, projects, charities – the internet has enabled people to harness the power of social networks. Social networks have enabled wired societies to exploit latent capacity by connecting owners with users, buyers with sellers, or capital with ideas. Witness the early successes of Kickstarter getting products sold before they are even produced – in teaching us how to use crowd funding in 2013. All of which also points to new ways of using what we already have. Car sharing, apartment and home exchanged, even talent exchanges like Mechanical Turk are exploiting peoples’ assets – their time and effort included – that might otherwise have been sitting idle.

As technology becomes an ever more pervasive aspect of our daily lives, Education will have to follow suit. It’s early days yet, but with President Obama calling for required high school coding classes, tech skills are increasingly becoming mainstream. But why start in high school? New Education agendas are being pioneered by parenting networks like My Kidsy, proponents of coding at 5, yoga at 3. And MOOCs – massive online open courses – are putting more education resources at the fingertips of the inquisitive. Ask yourself, how many videos have you watched in 2013 vs 2012? Pocket technologies bring the classroom and the cinema to you, for ideas and inspiration to share with friends and family. Two of 2013’s most inspiring? How about Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity”, streamed live from orbit to earthbound viewers, or the “Happy” un-choreographed soloists of Pharell Williams 24-hour video?

Of course, we can now create much of this inspiration ourselves. Digital Super 8 for example appeared this year. It’s great concept, as it utilizes the housing of the classic super 8 film cameras while incorporating digital technology. That way the cameras won’t become obsolete, and getting footage from the camera to the editing software in the computer less agonizing.

In fact, with the proliferation of apps for smartphones of all types, our handhelds and other devices are becoming ever more powerful toolkits for the way we live, including ways of monitoring our physical activity with techno-jewelry like Nike Fuelband, or the Tellspec handheld device, which scans your food for nutrients, calories, allergens, chemicals and toxins. It then analyzes the information and sends it to your smart phone. Some things are simply being improved. Nest, a company that made a very interesting thermostat before, is now making a smart Smoke Detector. They are taking everyday object and updating them to be used better, and jointly with other objects and devices. We’ve read a lot about Google glasses. Wearable technology is well on its way to becoming a fact of everday life. At least for Gamers.

Part of that improvement relies on technology that is also changing our lives in less visible ways, with iBeacons and low energy Bluetooth are starting to connect the physical world to the digital in an inexpensive way. The era of Big Data has arrived. Information has proliferated, but finally our power to analyze it is starting to catch up.

Kids & The Cosmopolitan Family

Although it feels like LEGO has been around forever, the toymaker continues to innovate and evolve its line. 2013 saw the addition of several kits in Lego’s architecture series, including a splendid Villa Savoie. It remains the case that amateurs to architects continue to use it for the fanciful and fabulous, the practical and pragmatic.

For younger families, the introduction of YOYO by babyzen marked the year. This easily foldable, super compact, light and stylish stroller is the only one in the world that fully complies with current airline regulations for carry-on parameters. It makes life of families on the go so much easier as you can have your stroller 100% of the time with you and carry it super easily either in the plane, on a train or in the subway.

Many of us also fell in love with the idea of these two mothers who launched In’box, a free delivery directly to your home or school of fresh, fun and well balanced meals for healthy, active kids. For serving it, you might consider the organically inspired tableware of Food on the Table.

And for families with older children, Chalk & Wild a new website and creative platform, has done interesting work focusing on pre teen and teen years in a refreshing, realistic and artful way.

Cinema & the arts

And even as technology has put the cinema in our pockets, it’s still stimulating, even indispensable, to get out and about for the occasional cultural fix. 2013 offered many opportunities, which no single post could hope to do justice to. Here are just a few events and creations that stood out for us and for our friends at Pirouette.

Wherever you are reading this, there’s a chance that in your head you will be humming a tune by Daft Punk and associates. ‘Get Lucky’ is one tune that went to no 1 all over the world, bringing the masked marvels back to planetary prominence after an absence of 7 years.

In Theatre and Dance Londoners were struck by Matthew Lloyds moving production of Listen We’re Family at the new arts centre in North London. And also by Political Mother, the Choreographers Cut by Hofeseh Shechter at Sadlers Wells.

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would be writing for Television, as one famous thespian recently remarked. High caliber TV has been around for years, and yet 2013 saw the launch of the excellent House of Cards and Top of the Lake, and gave laggards among us a chance to catch up with past episodes of the gripping Game of Thrones, Borgen, Forbrydelsen, Broen and Rita and Homeland series, among others.

In UK Cinemas, we had the delightfully didactic Project Wild Thing, a meditation on how and why we might do more to get our children away from the screen and onto the green, to spend more time in nature. It was an artful polemic, artfully done.

And for French audiences, Belle et Sebastien took us on a nostalgia trip through the French Alps. This charming tale will appeal to family audiences whether or not they recall the original TV series on which it is based. The fabulous panorama tracking shots, the soundtrack, the costumes are all wonderfully rendered. It puts one in the mood for a trip to the mountains.

More mainstream yet mentioned multiple times, Gravity has fascinated most of the people who have seen it, for its incredible technological performance as well for its atmosphere, so free and claustrophobic at the same time.

Travel, adventure & the wider world

Speaking of travel, Pirouette readers and their families continue to comb the globe for experiences and stories. Here are a few that we’ve picked up along the way in the last year.

Travel is one area where we have really felt the presence of community in 2013, a community of like-minded families and individuals looking for a refined, targeted, niche travel experience, and whose voyages have been made special by services like Kid & Coe and Behomm, a home rental targeted to families who want to travel in style with their kids, and an exchange program between people involved in the creative sector – both very much targeted at the cosmopolitan family.

We can sometimes travel by staying put, another thing that technology has made easier. One example that really stands out for us is the work of photographer Brandon Stanton for Humans of New York. His work highlights “regular people” on the streets of NYC with extraordinary stories and insights. It really showcases that we all have a story, we are all special in our own way, and that is what brings us together. His work has inspired similar profiles in cities all over the world.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes. The bicycle continues to be a great way to get around. In 2013, New York City started a cycle sharing scheme, the largest in the US, and was soon joined by the Bay Area, Forth Worth, Colombus and other US cities, catching up with similar set-ups in Europe and Asia. It’s great to see the bike still rolling strong.

Having said that, it also felt like the public rather lost sight of the ‘green agenda’ this past year, which was marked by a slowdown in carbon free energy urgency, in part due to the price of natural gas being so low, and the pressing concerns of a lasting economic downturn in Europe.

Nevertheless, social media has made people more aware of smaller causes, and given them a way to help and respond. We can find a way to immediately reach out and help by setting up sites for donations. One such story about a blind man and his seeing eye dog potentially being separated after surviving being run over by a subway prompts people to donate funds to keep them together within hours of airing. Or check out these self-adjusting and affordable eye glasses for people in developing countries.

Where have you travelled and what have you seen in the last year that really stayed with you? We’ll mention just two sites here. The Salina Turda Salt Mine is an awe-inspiring example of site rehabilitation, how a defunct salt mine in Transylvania has been turned into the world’s largest museum of salt, once upon a time as important as oil in making the world go round. And Absolute Towers, Toronto
 by MAD architects.


Fashion Iris van Herpen’s Crystallization for Daphne Guinness (showstudio.com/project/splash). Two films to be released about Yves Saint Laurent in 2014. One by director Jalil Lespert, with Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne, the other by Director Bertrand Bonello with Gaspard Ulliel. Pink is the new black (in Paris!).

Photography The continuing democratisation of photography via apps and accessories allowing/imitating SLR functions on a smartphone.

Design Phonebloks modular smartphone concept aiming to reduce electronic waste. I’d love to this think this will take off 

Art Swoosh art tumblr. Classical paintings juxtaposed with the contemporary and universally recognised logo.

Videos 188.7 million people in the US watched 46 billion online videos in September 2013. The average American spent more than 20 hours watching online video in that month alone. Video has also invaded our homes, as we like to share the most interesting with family members and friends. Here’s one that really stayed with me

Science (which really fascinates me at the moment) The discovery of the Higgs Boson, which shows how long it can take (over 50 years!) to gather the evidence to prove something that we already know exists. It is quite good news for other fields such as Psychoneuroimmunology and Epigenetics.

Special thanks to Michelle Marshall, Frederique Thomas, Peter Gabriel, Ashlyn Gibson, Marion Leflour, Jane Wilson & Josh Cooper, Gena Gerbier (YoyaMart), Paul Chevreux, Romas Viesulas.