Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘activism’

25 FEBRUARY, 2009

GOOD Magazine: The Real Stimulus Package


How the best magazine around got better, or why taking a slight financial hit can get you an intellectual grand slam.

We love GOOD Magazine. Always have (well, at least since their launch party in Philly’s Reading Terminal in 2007), always will. And now we have yet another reason to.

goodsub Initially, an annual subscription to GOOD used to cost $20, all of which went to your choice of charity from their list of nonprofit partners — great already. (Ours went to WWF.) But imagine our delight to discover that GOOD is now pushing the innovation front with a pay-what-you-want model – you can subscribe for anything from $1 to $1,000, all of which still goes to a charity of your choice.

Your choice of subscription also gets you various tiers of perks: Anything over $20 gets free admission to Choose GOOD parties (and good they are, take our work for it), $10o or more gets your name immortalized in the magazine, and if you have the good will and appropriate pocket depth to afford the $1,000 subscription, we’re talking lifetime subscription to the magazine, lifetime free admission to Choose GOOD parties, your name printed in the magazine, and a signed, limited edition bound copy of GOOD.


We’ve seen this sort of approach in the music industry, with acts big and small, from Radiohead to Jill Sobule, redefining the traditional business model. But we’re all the more excited to see it in print publishing, an industry struggling to stay afloat in the digital ocean of content.

More importantly, it’s a particularly good metaphor for the broader concepts GOOD stands for: Cultural contribution. Empowerment. Freedom of choice.

choosegood We can’t recommend GOOD enough — they go so far beyond “good enough” in every respect, from the compelling content, to the fantstic design and art direction, to their sustainable choice of paper stock. So go ahead and get your subscription to GOOD — it’s a solid investment, in both your personal growth and in your contribution to causes larger than yourself.

16 JANUARY, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Word-of-Mouths


Salt mines, German sanatoriums, and how a social media rescue mission saved one lovable photographic underdog.

JPG logo Print is dying. You hear it everywhere. And over the past couple of years, a number of excellent publications have indeed folded. (Business 2.0 and JANE, we’re looking at you.) But the latest title to be kicked into a publishing coma, JPG Magazine, ended up as a weird ray of light for the relationship between traditional and new media.

Here’s the story in a nutshell.

JPG Magazine In 2005, husband and wife duo Heather Champ and Derek Powazek set out to found a magazine where the content was completely user-created and voted on by other users, so that the best of the best ends up in the print publication. (Published photos receive $100 to stash with their pride and glory.) A truly democratic magazine, if you will.

A magazine that brought us the alphabet in the sky…

type in the sky

…and the aerial wonder (yep, we’re going at it again) of Utah’s salt mines…

Moab salt mine

…and the beautiful decay of an early 20th century German sanatorium.


Unsurprisingly, JPG amassed a significant base of dedicated loyalists over the years — people passionate about both photography and the idea of an inclusive arena for photographic excellence open to more than just the handful of professional photographers circulating all the other photo pubs. A place for up-and-coming talent to truly showcase their work.

But in late 2008, something left JPG supporters utterly distraught: Editor Laura Brunow Miler announced the magazine was folding under the pressure of funding.

Issue 19: Faith That’s when the social media rescue mission started. Supporters quickly launched and unleashed a flurry of Twitter and Flickr buzz that eventually landed JPG several big-time acquisition offers. As a result, the magazine was resurrected and just launched into a new future with the latest issue, appropriately titled Faith.

And while we love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, we must admit there was one wonderful upside to the temporary downside of JPG’s existence: One motivated fan, Derek Steen, put together a comprehensive PDF archive of every JPG issue ever published — 223.4MB of free goodness — so grab yours and start catching up, or head over to the Faith issue and see what all the fuss was about.

via Photojojo

14 JANUARY, 2009

The Story of Stuff


How much a $4.99 radio actually costs and what 7 football fields are doing in the Amazon jungle.

If you think you “get” the concept of sustainability, are you willing to bet your favorite gadget on it? Let’s start with an easier question: Do you know where that gadget came from and how?

storyofstuff_logo Instigator Annie Leonard spent 10 years traveling the world, tracking where our stuff comes from and where it ends up — essentially dissecting our “materials economy” to reveal the very real crisis it’s in. She then partnered with a couple of sustainability advocacy groups to produce The Story of Stuff – a part-educational, part-revelational, part-mobilizing 20-minute film that sucks you in, preconceived notions of sustainability and all, and hurls you into the nitty-gritty of it, all through delightful animation and a refreshingly fast pace.

The film reveals the fundamental brokenness of our consumption model — we’re using a linear production-consumption-disposal system, but running a linear system on a finite planet is, well, ludicrous.


Without stealing too much of the film’s thunder, we’ll just say that it busts a number of sustainability myths that even the most eco-conscious of us hold, pushing us to delve far deeper into the issue than the superficial nature of the “green” fad. (Hint: Recycling doesn’t help nearly as much as you’d like to think, so stop buying those I Heart Recycling shirts.)

government The Story of Stuff explores issues of government and corporations as they relate to sustainability, probes political, cultural and commercial principles of consumerism, and really makes us question how it’s possible for RadioShack to sell a radio for the laughable price of $4.99, which doesn’t even pay for shelf space.

For us, the pinnacle of how deformed our culture is came from a quote of the famous post-war economist Victor Lebow’s frightening advice to the Eisenhower administration:


It’s not surprising, then, that we live in a world economy where those who don’t own or buy a lot of stuff simply don’t have value. Which explains why the Third World is being exploited, why natural resources are being pillaged from those who have inhabited them for generations, why that capitalist sense of entitlement is really humanity’s greatest downfall.

newsystem The film ends on a hopeful note, suggesting a more realistic solution in a new system based on sustainability and equity, where millions of us intervene with small contributions all along the system, so that our cumulative impact makes a real, tangible, literally world-changing difference.

And it all starts with seeing the big picture like you’ve never seen it before.

So go ahead, see. The Story of Stuff is easily the best thing you’ll do for your global citizen conscience this year.

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