Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Page 1255

New York, New York

We’re back — with gifts from the Jersey mob, 33 reasons why birthdays are overrated, and music legends who can bend power-coated steel.

That’s right, we’re back — with a spankin’ new site domain. (Cue in glance at browser’s URL field.) And because right now we’re in the most un-New-York-like place in the world — Sofia, Bulgaria — we’re focusing on the random, smart, bizarre stuff that makes New York New York. Welcome to the New York, New York issue.


Let’s face it, this is the age of extreme consumerism. We define ourselves by what we buy, eat, watch, and otherwise consume. And now, we can define ourselves by the stuff leftover from our consumption.

New York-based artist Justin Gignac is selling fresh-picked NYC garbage. That’s right, junk. He scours the streets of the world’s most conspicuous-consumption-driven city for leftovers — metro cards, plastic cups, cigarette buds, newspaper, receipts, gum wrappers, you name it — then carefully arranges them in small (non-leaky, non-smelly) plastic cubes, each unlike any other.

For homesick New Yorkers and randomness-seeking hipsters alike, the cubes are anything from a sentimental piece of home to an artsy-fartsy piece of self-expression. (For us, they’re just garbage-filled plastic boxes, but we dig the idea nonetheless.)

The cubes even come in special limited-edition varieties: you can reminisce with junk from the last opening day at Yankee Stadium, New Years’ Eve ’08 at Times Square, and the final day at Shea.

Here’s to trashy taste.


And if you just realized you take garbage for granted, just wait until we consider tap water. Sure, NYC’s may not be the finest, but it’s drinkable — which is more than what a huge chunk of the world can claim. That’s why New Yorker Scott Harrison founded Charity Water, a — you guessed it — charity aiming to bring clean drinking water to people in the developing world.

The nonprofit was Scott’s version of a midlife crisis — after trading in his glitzy life as an NYC nightclub and fashion promoter for a humanitarian gig in West Africa, he came to appreciate the far-reaching (and often underestimated by the priviliged) power of driniking water, from basic convenience to serious disease prevention.

This week, Scott turns 33, so he’s out on a month-long birthday campaign: he launched Boring September, an effort to build 333 drinking wells in 33 villages across Ethiopia.

The idea: Scott is asking everyone born in September to do away with birthday presents and ask their friends and family for $33 donations instead. The goal is to raise $1.5 million for the 333 wells, which will greatly improve 150,000 people’s health and quality of life.

The best part: a few do-good companies are supporting the campaign and matching donations, making our regular contributions twice as powerful. Which is good news, since 1,100 regular Virgos and Libras have joined the movement so far — each contirbutor gets an individual birthday page, where friends can donate in their name.

So if you’re a water-spoiled September baby, suck it up and ask your mom not to give you that inevitable sweater you’ll never wear anyway — poor people score drinking water, you score one less dent in your street cred courtesy of mom.


Ok, ok, so we can’t get enough of David Byrne these days. So sue us. But the Renaissance man just keeps churning out the good stuff.

His latest: design work for New York’s CityRacks Design Competition. Besides submitting 9 designs of his own — among them “The Coffee Cup” in Brooklyn, “The Hipster” in Williamsburg, shaped like an electric guitar, and “The MoMA” right outside the eponymous museum — he was also recruited to be on the jury. (Come on now, fairness is overrated.)

Byrne, a die-hard cyclist himself, got down with the powder-coated steel like a pro, but didn’t make it as a finalist in the competition. Granted, some of those top designs are mad cool — we love Andrew Lang and Harry Dobbs’ “I heart NY” and the Kubrick-like geometric sculptures by Stephan Jaklitsch Architects.

Sure beats the way we do it in Philly.

via PSFK


Quick Brains-Up

A quick brains-up, because a heads-up is for the lesser people.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hear ye, hear ye.

Brain Pickings is taking a short break in preparation for some big and exciting changes. Ok, maybe not all that exciting — now that you’re picturing rainbows and unicorns and Chuck Norris, anything we do would be a let-down — but definitely big ones, and that alone is reason enough to get excited.

So stay tuned — the wheels are a-turnin’.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It Happened Today

It most certainly did.

It has arrived, and it is good.

Byrne and Eno redeem themselves from every musical sin they’ve ever committed. (Music for Airports, we’re looking at you.)

Starting today, download the full Everything That Happens Will Happen Today album in any digital or old-school format you desire, then get ready to tell all your friends that the new-age indie pop-rock oozing from their Boses is the musical equivalent of the As Seen On TV franchise.


Live Responsible is the New LIVESTRONG

We’re still astonished at how Lance and team managed to take a charity and transform it into a cultural badge, a fad of astronomical proportions, through the simple LIVESTRONG yellow wristband back in the day. Say what you will about the questionable motives of those wearing the wristband because of the fad, not because of the charity it stood for, but the fact remains: it all served its fundraising purpose brilliantly.

These days, the cultural concern du jour revolves around sustainability issues — a concern well-grounded in our increasingly warming reality. Which is why we have high hopes for environmental newcomer GreenLaces — a nonprofit aimed at promoting personal responsibility towards the planet through a simple badge: a pair of green laces.

The idea: you make a personal pledge to make one small, actionable change in your day-to-day MO that will benefit the environment. You then get yourself a pair of green laces, which serve as a constant reminder of your pledge and ignite the word-of-mouth engine as friends notice the (rather cool-looking) accessory on your kicks.

Founded by Swedish professional soccer players Joanna Lohman and Natalie Spilger, GreenLaces was originally promoted mainly through athletes. The laces and the cause, however, seemed to resonate with “the general public” and took on a life of their own. Barely 6 months after it launched, GreenLaces already has 1000+ people sporting the laces, plus over 50 Olympic athletes strutting them around Beijing.

Their goal is to get 1 million pairs on people’s feet by 2009. That’s 999,999,997 to go — we just bought 3 and vowed start making the 10-foot trip to the recycling bin instead of trashing everything under the desk. Join us, we can be lace buddies. Plus, trendsetting anyone? This has the potential to be the next LIVESTRONG, reaching critical mass with hipsters and posers alike.

But, as long as the environmental purpose is served, we won’t judge. Plus, the laces go great with our new Simples. (And we already know 34 scientifically proven ways of tying them.)


View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated