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Flying with the Future while Mooning the Past

Air-fueled taxicabs, conspiracy theories, a very special fly, Ryan Seacrest, what L.L. Bean has on Budweiser, the world’s most expensive Phil Collins record, hypersonic travel, and butts. Welcome to The Flying-with-the-Future-while-Mooning-the-Past Issue.

DRIVING ON AIR

Brace yourselves, people, for this may be the best thing to happen to the planet since Al Gore.

A rather Jetsonian new car that runs on nothing but air was first conceived in 1993. Inventor Guy Nègre, who previously designed F1 engines, at French R&D company Moteur Developpement International spent the next decade on research, development, and funding hunts for the yet-to-be-produced miracle machine. But without factories built, the project couldn’t even take off. After some press buzz in 2000, things took a turn for the worse: in 2001, a Swedish investigative journalist called the whole thing a scam and, in 2003, MDI was practically bankrupt.

But persistence, like buying Google stock circa 2004, always pays off in the end. MDI has just signed a 5.5-billion-dollar deal with Tata Motors, India’s largest motor companies. Under its terms, 6,000 air cars are slated to hit the streets by August 2008.

Okay, time for Oz to come out. How does this whole shebang really work?

It’s true, it does run on air. Compressed Air Technology is the name of the game, the same stuff power tools have been running on for decades. The engine has 4 cylinders, like a regular car engine, but because there’s no combustion at all, 90% of it is made out of lightweight aluminum, the lower melting point of which prevents it from being used in a normal combustion engine. The cylinders themselves are made from carbon fiber, which, unlike the metal used in regular cylinders, doesn’t shatter into shrapnel in crashes and accidents. The air car can run on one tank, which only takes 3 minutes to refill at a compressed air station, for almost 2,800 miles. That’s a trip from New York to L.A., plus a few spare miles to drive around West Hollywood gawking at the trannies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmqpGZv0YT4

That’s all neat and all but, really, let’s ask the most important marketplace questions: how much and how fast?

The final models are expected to max out at 69 miles per hour. Not exactly street racing fare, but perfect given they’ll be urban vehicles, mostly taxis, dwelling within city limits. And how much? They’re expected to start at $15,000. But get this: a regular gas car costs about $60 per week to fuel, a hybrid sets you back by $30, and an air car is just a few dollars. So they’re smarter than Smart Car, and don’t look nearly as ridiculous.

conspiracy.gifAnd speaking of, we’re tempted to spin a conspiracy theory, oh maybe something involving a Mercedes-Benz desire for US market domination maybe, as to why this clearly brilliant, pollution-reducing, cost-efficient concept is receiving hardly any press and certainly no billion-dollar deals on the oh-look-at-us-we’re-so-green US scene. But we’ll refrain.

THE PRODUCT LAUNCH THAT REALLY LAUNCHES

While we’re on the subject of Jetsonian stuff, the latest from Virgin entrepreneur (no, not in that Harvard Engineering guy way) Sir Richard Branson’s latest move on the much-hyped awhile ago project Virgin Galactic is as futuristic as they come. After signing a deal with NASA earlier this year, Virgin Galactic has finally chosen a winning design for its first 100,000-square-foot spaceport set to begin construction in 2008. Both the spaceliner, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, are to be completed next year as well.

The $31-million spaceport will be built in New Mexico’s Mojave desert. Where, for those of you concerned with petty things like safety and, um, life, an SS2 prototype exploded on July 26, killing 3 people and injuring another 3. But that would too rational a concern for those willing to shell out an Ivy League education ($200,000, to be exact) on boarding the craft and aimlessly floating in ether for a bit.

Still, we’re not having too much trouble seeing the “cool” factor — imagine casually mentioning at your next dinner party that you’ve been on a hypersonic vehicle traveling five or more times the speed of sound. Which seems to us is the only real appeal anyway, given the folks at Virgin maintain that their 3-day pre-flight training program fully simulates the experience. So, um, if you can experience in 10 square feet what you can experience in a 200-grand getaway, why go?

Eh, but who are a few cheap bastards like us to stand in the way of progress and reckless spending? Make your own call.

We’ll give it this though — from a mail-order record retailer to a space travel agency, Virgin has gone a long way from selling the Dark Side of the Moon for $18.98 a pop to putting a $200,000 price sticker on it.

UNTRIVIA

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With ever-growing online spending, it’s no surprise the fashion segment is sucking up some major e-dollars. Here’s a snapshot of how the top 10 big online guns in apparel and accessories are doing and (of course) why it matters:

1. eBay: $2.98 million total apparel and accessories sales in July, $35.83 average spend per shopper. Doesn’t hurt that they own some of the most powerful e-commerce tools — PayPal, Skype, shopping.com, and more.

2. Victoria’s Secret: $663,000 total, $177.74 average spend per buyer. But before you roll your eyes like we did and think it’s a bit much to spend on undies while at the same time welcoming a sign that less people are foregoing those, keep in mind there’s more to Victoria’s Secret than lingerie: after dumping Express and The Limited, the brand still includes Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, C.O. Bigelow, White Barn Candle Co. and La Senza.

3. J.C. Penney & Co.: $568,000 total, $68.65 per shopper. That’s a 17.4% growth in online sales for Q2, making a smartly entrepreneurial someone reach around his shaved-but-really-bald head, pat himself on the back, and feel the love.

4. Chadwick’s: $305,000 total, $62.15 per spender. Small wonder given they’re owned by French conglomerate PPR, the mother ship for Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta. The folks at Chadwick’s anticipate to have sold 750,000 dresses once summer wraps up. (Nope, not an inflated ego case — they were at about 500,000 end of August.) Let’s see, that’s 2 and a half dresses (kinda like two dresses and a skirt) to every 10 American women. Or a dress for every 2 1/2 out 10 American women. Kinda like a dress for every two women and Ryan Seacrest.

5. L.L.Bean: $271,00 total, $122.40 per shopper. With the exception of the underwear people, that’s an average spend per person almost double what the other top-fivers can claim, and more than triple (closer to quadruple, really) what top player eBay scores. Oh, and these folks give top online players even outside the apparel industry a run for their money — llbean.com gets over 2.3 million U.S. monthly unique visitors, half of what TV Guide’s massively promoted website boasts. (It also happens to be the exact number must’ve-been-hammered Anheuser-Busch execs anticipated for Bud.TV, only to end up with just 6% of that a mere month after its launch.)

6. Lands’ End: $263,000 total, $76.48 average spend. After being acquired by Sears in 2002, the retailer grew from the 100-products-plus-buncha-essays-and-travelogues it was in 1995 to a full-blown online shopping destination. Even so, they’ve got quite a bit to catch up with main clicks-and-mortar competitor L.L.Bean. (In 2000, actually, Lands’ End and L.L.Bean were the top two online apparel retailers, respectively, separated by less than one point in Forrester’s rankings. Way to drop the ball, Lands’ End.)

7. Coldwater Creek: $259,000 total, $182.71 per shopper. Seems like these folks (and their bottom line) were so happy with their ever-climbing online performance (how’s a 10% increase since last quarter?) that they sucked up the mind-blowing expenses of operating a store in Manhattan and just opened their first, sticking their flag on 15,000 square feet at Third Avenue and 68th Street.

8. Lane Bryant: $253,000 total, $60.50 average spend. Acquired by Charming Shoppers Inc. in 2001, the retailer’s online home seems to be doing just that. And in a plus-size category where fashion and fit must be like Starsky and Hutch, their smart new Right Fit technology seems to be, once again, just that with shoppers.

9. QVC: $204,000 total, $98.89 per spender. Named after terms out of a Marketing 101 textbook, these folks have managed to put a tangible, hefty price sticker on intangibles quality, value and convenience. And if you think of QVC as an outlet for washed-up celebs’ jewelry lines (we’re talking to you, Paula), reconsider: they carry Bradley Bayou, Pamela Dennis, Bob Mackie and Diva By Dana Buchman for apparel, and Dooney & Burke, Maxx New York, Etienne Aigner and Michael Michael Kors for accessories.

10. Kohl’s: $200,000 total, $84.26 average spend. And we’ll keep an eye on this one — unless you’ve been living under a brand rock, you know Vera Bradley signed a deal with Kohl’s awhile ago. Her Simply Vera line just kicked off to an understated but fourfold-outperforming-projections launch last week. And we’re pretty sure it’ll make competitors drop down the rankings like hemlines at this year’s Fashion Week.

Get the full scoop from the pros at Women’s Wear Daily.

But here’s why we care: turns out, some 15% of consumers are responsible for 1.5 billion brand impressions per day. Each of these 32 million “conversation catalysts” mentions a brand 184 times per week, on average. They dish out on a wide range of topics and industries, with media and entertainment getting the most tongue time at 16 mentions per week. But get this: fashion and retail get over 10 weekly mentions. And these WOM moguls are not your expected chatty herd of 20-somethings: 37% of them are boomers.

So, combined with the fact that WOM is more likely to move women to action than men, it’s starting to dawn on us that, perhaps, a large portion of the business on the above retail fat-cat websites, who in reality sell more to women than to men, is driven by a small percentage of middle-aged consumers. Kind of helps make sense of why the whole ooh-let’s-make-a-Sears-brand-island-in-Second-Life platform that’s been the trend this year is only populating the virtual world with ghost towns creepier than Harry Potter doing erotica.

BACKLESS COUTURE GOES SOUTH

And speaking of erotica, while we’re still (sort of) on the too-much-(for)-underwear note, there’s hope for those who want to reconcile their love for fine lingerie with their desire, well, not to wear any.

If expensive thongs are too much of a trip back to grade school for you (bully takes lunch money, bully gives wedgie, you end up broke and uncomfortable), there’s an alternative. Thanks to N De Samim, a lady (or Ryan Seacrest) can shake her tailfeather without the aforementioned discomfort. Yep, it’s buttless underwear.

Inspired by 16th century France, when wearing undergarments was considered indecent because of how it accentuates the anatomy, designer Nona de Samim decided to give this concept a buttlift, although we suspect indecency was not their primary concern. In their own words, it “creates a private world. One that creates a passion, to provide an experience, [sic] only few can imagine.” Eh, we’ve imagined those anatomical features before. And they go on to promise “…a whole new way of seeing…more, a way of being.” We’ll give them the seeing more part.

But at 95 Euros (or $131.85, at today’s rate) apiece, we ask the obvious question: isn’t it easier, cheaper and more cost-efficient to just go comando? Be your own judge, if you can squint through what we’re now convinced is an optometrist-sponsored sea of 32-point Edwardian Script ITC.

FLY OFF THE WALL

And on a less offensive note, let’s check out one guy who makes art out of dead pest.

Nicholas Hendrickx, a recreational macro photographer and general creativist from Belgium, takes one dead fly where no dead fly has ever been. With a little bit of photo equipment (a Canon EOS 350D plus various accessories) and a whole lot of patience, Nic has created The Adventures of Mr. Fly, an astonishing photoessay of miniature brilliance.

From Mr. Fly’s wonderfully retro portrait, to his laid-back chill-out moment, to our personal favorite, his stint as a professional bum, the project is a testament to the power of a little bit of spare time and a seriously creative mind.

Nic also does other macro stuff, some of it just as fascinating and all of it just as unexpected. Like the case of Larry, who’s hotter than Ryan Seacrest finds a shirtless Chuck Norris.

BP

Big, Tall and Pushing the Other Dimensions

Flat world, 1 million stickies, food that serves itself, mummies, how to pimp your ride Philly style, what virtual reality has to do with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and why parsley is the new Iron Maiden. Welcome to The Big-Tall-and-Pushing-the-Other-Dimensions Issue.

TIME FOR POP CULTURE TO POP

A few centuries ago, people believed the world was flat. Today, just visual media producers do.

Thing is, as audiences, we’ve become so accustomed to being entertained by the flat little people on our screens that this whole 2D experience is starting to feel a whole lot like devolution. Yep, we’re going back to the whole flat-world thing. And as the time we spend with screen media progressively increases (we now rake up 3,530 hours a year on average), we’ll soon be stumbling out the door into the real 3D world, flustered and tripping, not sure how to navigate it, falling into black circles that turn out to be manholes with…gasp…depth! It’s an epidemic waiting to happen.

WOWzone Luckily, there are folks out there ready to battle it. Folks like those at Philips, who just released the latest addition to their WOWvx technology: WOWzone (yep, it’s a Windows Vista lawsuit waiting to happen), the world’s first major 3D TV screen. Although it’s more “major” than “TV screen.” At 132 inches, it’s more like a multi-screen TV wall. That’s a 3×3 setup of 9 42″ Philips 3D displays, making it pretty much as immersive as it gets. WOWzone is also the full package: the 3D screens come with a mounting rig, media streamer computers, control software, 3D content creation tools, and pretty much everything you need to get the ball (not the flat circle) rolling. Although we don’t quite see it taking American living rooms by storm just yet (plus, it’s not commercially available until 2008), it sounds pretty killer for public space stuff like presentations, events, even retail. We won’t ask about the price sticker. If you’re curious, check out the technology in action; you may have better luck than us understanding how exactly you’re supposed to experience 3D on your dinosaur 2D screen.

Meanwhile, you can train for your new sense of media space by checking out the King Tut Exhibit at the Franklin Institute — the After Dark program features the pretty cool IMAX film Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. And as eternal as all those Egyptian marvels are, they’re only in Philly until September 30, so get your B.C. fix now.

And speaking of marvels in 3D, there’s now a whole new way to explore travel icons. Thanks to The New 7 Wonders, a collection of panoramic photographs by top-notch photographers across the globe, you can take a 360-degree interactive tour of the 7 world wonders (plus a few more iconic tourist attractions) and, well, marvel.

The brain child of Danish commercial photographer Hans Nyberg, The New 7 Wonders is intended to warm up the general public to immersive panoramic photography, a.k.a. VR photography (VR stands for “virtual reality.”) The relatively young medium has been hot in professional photography circles for some time, but it seems like with faster Internet connections and a booming tourist industry, the time is right to take it to the mainstream. To us, it’s fascinating mostly because you can’t experience VR photography on the printed page, which makes it a timely epitome of truly “new media” beyond your grandmother’s 2.0 definition.

JUICE COUTURE

Lately, we’ve been really into packaging, especially the kind that uses heavy, tactile materials (glass, wood, metal) in traditionally disposable CPG categories. Bonus points if the product in the package is actually smart and innovative as well. And even more points if it indulges our health freak side.

Which is why we dig Wild Bunch & Co., a brand of super-premium 100% organic juice. Okay, nothing too groundbreaking in this proposition. But the ultra sleek packaging and the novel fruit/veggie blends are a whole other thing.

With juicy medleys like Beet It (beets, carrots, celery), Pineapple Zinger (pineapple, ginger), Iron Maiden (spinach, carrots, parsley), Easy Peazy (carrots, peas, parsnips), Red Dragon (dragonfuit, beets) and a ton more, we think they’re fine cuisine in a bottle. Plus, they have shots like wheatgrass, horseradish and pumpkin. There’s a drinking problem worth picking up. Check out the entire summer menu for the full line of juice couture.

And while they’re so premium they don’t do retail (p-hsshhh…), the wild bunch is meant for more experiential outlets like spas, resorts, bars and restaurants. The juicy goodness is also available for event catering and office/home delivery, although we imagine the latter is mostly targeted to the 90210 zip code. With a price sticker like $300/month (and it’s not like you’re gulping gallons, you only get a single 250ml a day), it’s another product we don’t see hitting Middle America just yet.

Still, Wild Bunch & Co. remains in our good graces. Especially after we noticed it was run by fellow Maccies — their entire site is hosted on the dot-mac domain and the clear product of iWorks. How’s that for a tall glass of Apple kool-aid. Mm-mmm.

UNTRIVIA

brainiac.gifTrust. One small word, so many big payoffs.

It can make or break a spokesperson’s value as a brand ambassador. It can make the difference between your mom searching under your mattress for porn and her letting you take those long “showers” without question. In politics, it’s the currency that wins elections.

The most recent American Pulse study by BIGResearch asked Americans to weigh in on the trustworthiness of various public figures. Here’s their answer to the simple “Who is more trustworthy?” question:

American Pulse Survey

We could, although we won’t, make a comment about those delusional Middle-American 14.2%. Instead, we’ll focus on what we find far more fascinating: bloggers get more respect than members of Congress and members of Senate. Combined.

So if you’re brewing up your next spokesperson, think more Jorn Barger than Senator Barger.

AUTOMATION NATION

Technology is booming. Machines are replacing humans. Convenience is the new capital. If you’re having flashbacks to, say, 1781, you’re right. It’s the second Industrial Revolution. And automation is its Che Guevara.

All over the world, machines are popping up with value propositions only humans had been able to offer until now. Except this time, the commercial is rubbing elbows with the social and the cultural.

Take the old vending machine, a convenience revolutionary in its own right. In Japan, the hallway standby is now dispensing charity causes. Though the fruit of a quintessentially commercial global tree (hello, Coca-Cola Company), the project is still helping propel social causes in local communities, such as the White Ribbon Campaign by the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning. (And, speaking of, we’ve all seen the condom vending machines that are now practically a staple in bars and hotels.)

Then there’s the higher-concept stuff, like the decade-old but still hip Art-o-mat, conceived by artist Clark Whittington in 1997 and now dispensing the work of over 400 artists from 10-plus countries at various museums, galleries and other cultural centers in 24 states.

And let’s not forget the functionally inspired. Like Nike’s soccer ball vending machine at Pier 40 in New York, where soccer players at the nearby recreational facility frequently mis-kick the game centerpiece into the Hudson River.

But perhaps the ultimate automation comes from mechanizing the most human of industries: the service one. German entrepreneur Michael Mack has managed to take the human element out of the restaurant industry by introducing the world’s first waiterless grub joint, ‘s Baggers. At the self-described restaurant of the 3rd dimension, the entire ordering procedure is fully automated. Each table is equipped with a touch-screen display connected to the kitchen upstairs, where meals are made fresh and sent back to the table via metail railings. It’s all also connected to the main sever in the basement, which keeps track of supply stock. If you’re having trouble believing, check it out in action.

The bistro’s state-of-the-art technology also extends to their kitchen, where it allows them to prepare traditionally fat-laden dishes (pommes frites, anyone?) with significantly less fat while keeping the flavor. And it doesn’t hurt they use mostly locally grown and organic ingredients. Plus, their tapas-like small portions make for none of that supersized crap. How’s that for fast food that’s real fast and real food?

WHAT THE OTHER GUYS ARE DOING

Sure, we’ll give it to Bogusky: looking to other advertising for inspiration is constraining, narrow and bound to produce it’s-been-done-before work. But there’s some good work out there, work so aspiration that it’s stripped of the label “advertising” and thus, well, inspirational. So with this thought, we bring you two such bits of pure good work from across the globe.

From South Africa comes a killer stop-motion out of agency MetropolitanRepublic/JDR and production house Wicked Pixels, aimed at repositioning local mobile carrier MTN as younger, hipper and, um, cool. Call us easy, but we think it does just that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs3P6QTmwtQ

The 75-foot Sticky Man himself took 19, 865 Post-Its to build, but he had to be moved and reshot across 14 locations. So the whole 60-second spot ended up taking 1 million Post-Its, 3 miles of 35mm film, 96 314 digital photos stored on 2.5 terabytes of space, a cast and crew of 300, 3 weeks of of editing (that’s what happens when you shoot 2 hours of footage but can only use 57 seconds) and 83 hours in Flame. Well, that bad boy better sell some cell phone plans. In any case, we enjoyed this tribute to imagination and man-hours, if only for the sweetly nostalgic trip to MTV Europe spots of the 1990’s and early Fatboy Slim videos. Ah, the days.
Then on a less commercial note, Serviceplan/Munich brings us this to-the-point guerrilla campaign for AOK, Germany’s largest insurance company.

Serviceplan/Munich for AOK

The graphic glass lungs were installed in front of public buildings like hospitals, swimming pools, and restaurants in Southern Germany, as well as the AOK headquarters. And while we’re not big believers in using scare tactics for social cause campaigns, this one seemed to work: in the first day alone, 6,167 people in Munich alone visited the campaign website, which features empowerment tools to help smokers quit. (In case you don’t sprechen Sie Deutsch, the URL translates to “i-will-become-a-non-smoker.”)

ONLY IN PHILLY

Yep, your fix of random as-seen-in-Philly oddities and curiosities is back. From the streets of Philadelphia to you, via Brain Pickings, you get a sampling of local quirk and creativity.

This week, we pay tribute to Philly’s pride in being a bike-friendly city. With bike lanes aplenty and the country’s largest connected parks system for killer trails, it’s clear Philly has lofty bike standards. Spotted this week: a neat DIY project, or a clever collage of bike thefts. You decide:

bike.jpg

Okay, we’ll give it lofty. Standards? Eh. Not so much. But who cares, it’s still pretty damn bad-ass in our book.

BP

Special

(in the occasion way, not the euphemistic person way)

BRAIN PICKINGS SALUTES…

…the icon, the legend, the extraordinary talent: Freddie Mercury.

Today, The King of Queen would’ve been 61. He brought us many a music anthem, the makings of a cultural revolution, and the ususpected power of a man, a dress, and a vacuum cleaner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArbARCeam3I

For these reasons, we salute him by taking a trip back to one 1985 July evening at Wembley Stadium, where his performance of Radio Ga Ga at Live Aid, complete with ass-tight acid-wash jeans and a white life- partner-beater, was just about the most electrifying, goosebump- inducing live act we’ve ever seen (on YouTube.)

Indulge in his incredible alleged 8-octave vocal showcase at the end (which is really a still-impressive 4 octaves, as an 8-octave range is superhuman and the talent of ululating whales and whimpering dogs, neither of which has nearly as magnetic a stage presence), marvel at his effortless command of 72,000 people, or just nostalgically recall the days before fake acid reflux and lip-syncing.

BP

Sex and Sensibility

18th century hoaxes, Al Gore’s favorite shopping portal, the U.S. vs. Bulgaria, why we need a brain appreciation day, the world’s most digital fabric pattern, and, oh, hot sex. Welcome to The Sex-and-Sensibility Issue.

HUMAN VS. MACHINE: CHECK-MATE

In every sci-fi movie we’ve seen, androids always seem to come short on something, be it intellectual flexibility, or social skills, or adaptation capacity. This seems to be the quintessential problem with artificial intelligence: it just can’t fully replicate the mind-blowing capabilities of the human brain.

Enter Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an extremely smart yet not recognized nearly enough concept that aims to reconcile human and machine, solving the biggest shortcoming of 2.0 services.

First, the brilliant name. The original “Turk” was a mechanical chess-playing automaton invented by Austrian-Hungarian baron Wolfgang von Kempelen. The machine, a life-sized model of a human upper body complete with a black beard and grey eyes, was so good it went on to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte and our very own Ben Franklin. Which must’ve made them all the more infuriated, especially after they found out it was, you know, a hoax. You see, our boy Wolfgang had a real human chess master pretzeled inside the machine, operating it. The point: human intellectual mastery is always king.

So Amazon decided to tackle the intellectual shortcomings of complex software applications by introducing “artificial artificial intelligence,” reversing the traditional relationship between humans and applications wherein the human gives a command and the application executes it. Instead, the Amazon Mechanical Turk allows applications to send requests to real humans and have flesh-and-blood brains complete tasks. The said humans are, of course, paid to go to the website, search for tasks and complete them.

Yeah, well, who cares? Most businesses and web developers (a.k.a. “requesters”) do. Or should. Because the Amazon Mechanical Turk allows them to do what they used to do the traditional algorithm-driven way in a smarter, higher-quality, more cost-efficient one. The service can be used for anything from precise image search filtering to hardcore search child safety. To ensure quality and make sure they’re not getting ripped off, requesters can approve HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) before they pay for them. Amazon also keeps contributors’ records over time to make sure the human machinery involved is top-notch.

Yep, it’s a brilliant concept, but it’s also a lot to digest. So take some of Amazon’s Pepto on the subject and give your own human brain an appreciative pat on the occipital lobe for being such a brilliant, unsurpassed piece of intellectual machinery.

DOLLAR, MEET THE OTHER GREEN

In the midst of all the campaigning and finger-pointing as to who exactly is responsible for global warming, it’s easy to forget it’s less about culprits and blame and gripes, and more about simple, daily ecological sensibility. So any effort to make that whole sensibility thing a bit easier is refreshing and commendable. Which is why we dig Spring.com, a portal of sorts where you can shop for all things green.

spring.png These folks have sifted through the retail world, online and off, for the greenest in food, fashion, beauty, home, and lifestyle products. You can browse by conveniently narrow sub-categories (such as Finance, Tech, Kids, and Pets, among others, all within the Lifestyle category), and you can sort products by price or by “type of green” (waste-reducing, vegan, sustainable, organic, recycled, and more). And, of course, you can always search.

But what makes Spring.com more than a shopping site is the little (or, in this case, a lot) extra stuff. Like their instructional, informative, or merely entertaining videos on anything from how to cook a chef-level organic meal, to who the latest green movers and shakers are, to how to sport the best organic home bar.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that their slogan is “Sexy people are into green.” Kind of reminds you that the green movement isn’t run entirely by balding, middle-aged, overweight politicians. There are, in fact, some rather hot (not in an environmentally harmful way) people involved, people like this ecological Indiana Jones.

REAL TIME, REAL SCARY

While we’re at it, in this age of global competition, why not apply all the mine-is-bigger-than-yoursing to the subject of global warming? That’s exactly what Breathing Earth is doing by providing a snapshot of each country’s carbon footprint via carbon dioxide emission crossed with a real-time animation of birth and death occurrences to illustrate birth and death rates. The US, of course, tops it all at 1000 tons of CO2 emitted every 5.4 seconds (with a person dying every 12.8 seconds and one being born every 7.5). Just for comparison, Bulgaria emits those same 1000 tons of CO2 every 12.5 minutes. (Yes, minutes.)

map1.png

So being the data geeks we are, we have our reservations about it. While most of the data come from legit sources (World Factbook, the UN, the US Census), some of it, such as data on the smaller countries for which there are no stats available, is merely an estimation (based on their economy, population and neighbors, so maybe an educated guess rather than a shot in the dark, but still an estimation.) Still, the concept, the slick visual and the real-time cool factor earn the project some serious Brain Pickings kudos.

Breathing Earth is the brain child of Polish-born, Australia-dwelling multimedia design student (yes, student) David Bleja, a.k.a. StillWater. Based on his other work, he seems just like the kind of talented, socially-conscious young chap that initiates and inspires real change. (Unlike, you know, the latest celebriho endorsing a mandatory post-jail face-saving cause.)

UNTRIVIA

brainiac.gif In this culture, and especially in this business, it’s hard to deny the impact of powerful sexual imagery. But not all erotic stuff is created equal. So the thoughtful (and by now probably very, very horny) folks at the Nerve Film Lounge have partnered with the Independent Film Channel to bring us The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema.

We’re pretty sure you’ll opt for their presentation, complete with visuals and video, over our plain-spoken one. But, just in case, here’s a round-up of the top 10:

10. Madeline Kahn’s intense, innuendo-driven, one-liner-for-foreplay encounter with Frankenstein in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974)

9. The unlawfully steamy exchange between Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy (1987)

8. The climax of the mentally and sexually charged relationship between Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader in Secretary (2002)

7. Daniel Day-Lewis’ passionate yet romance- driven affair with his Pakistani business partner in My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) at a time when society’s acceptance of gay rights was a far cry from the Brokeback Mountain critical acclaim

6. The opening scene of French movie Betty Blue (1985) in which Beatrice Dalle and Jean-Hugues Anglade flirtatiously open a 2-hour nudity fest

5. Tereza (Juliette Binoche) taking nude photographs of her lover’s (Daniel Day-Lewis again) wife Sabina (Lena Olin) under sexually charged silence in Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

4. Tom Cruise’s semi-delusional (ed: so that’s when it all started…) sexual encounter with Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business (1993)

3. The impromptu yet mind-blowingly intense makeout-leads-to-more between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001)

2. Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen’s violent stairwell sex in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005)

1. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland’s voyeuristic interstitial collage of lovemaking in Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973)

And since we’re not ones to give you any of that don’t-try-this-at-home crap, please do. By all means, do try this at home if, and whenever, you’ve got the opportunity. Just don’t get too cinematically inspired. Because we all know where those home tapes always end up.

DONATELLO COULDN’T PULL THIS OFF

We got to wondering whatever happened to plaid. So we decided to bring it back with the help of a Burberry-for-geeks effort called Tiny Plaid Ninjas. Part arbitrary entertainment, part foray into delightful flash animation, this digital weirdo even has its own gear store.

Tiny Plaid Ninjas The whole thing, along with other similarly borderline idiotic yet incredibly amusing projects, is the doing of a mysterious University of Michingan Computer Engineering grad who wouldn’t even reveal his name, but would reveal the fact that he has sold a Plaid Ninja thong on June 4th, 2005. We dig his (or her?) irreverent approach to, well, everything, plus we feel compelled to root for villain-or-underdog-depending-on-how-you-look-at-it Argyle Ninja.

BP

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