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Artist Spotlight: Alice Wang

What Isaac Asimov has to do with your body image and why your friends would rather you got 8 hours of sleep.

Every once in a while, we come across an artist so innovative and conceptually brilliant that we have the compulsion to stalk them. This, however, gets kinda hard if they’re halfway across the world, which in most cases they are. So we just spotlight them instead.

Today, we take a stalker’s stare at Alice Wang, a Taipei-born, London-educated, is-gonna-be-big-take-our-word-for-it product designer. We’re obsessed with Alice because her work isn’t just an aesthetic: it’s informed and inspired by genuine insight into human behavior, cultural taboos and sociological patterns. In other words, the Brain Pickings mission materialized.

Her Audio Sticks project explores how digitization will change our complex relationship with music. In Pet Plus, Alice projects the way we treat our pets as human surrogates onto products like the pet wineglass set that live in the extremities of the human-pet relationship.

She looks at the complex issue of body image through the prism of Asimov’s First Law — the idea that artificial intelligence can never harm a human — and the weight we place on that number on the bathroom scale.

Three different scales challenge the absolutism with which we think about body image.

White lies allows you to manipulate the weight reading depending on where you stand on the scale’s surface. Half-truth shows the weight reading to your friend or partner, who can choose the level of truthiness in relaying the number to you. Open secrets texts your weight reading to a friend’s mobile phone, binding said friend to share the results next time the two of you hang out. (“Hey, Anna, you brought suntan lotion, right? Oh and by the way, you’ve gained 5 pounds.”)

And then there’s the tyrant alarm clock. It hijacks your phone and starts randomly dialing one of your contacts every three minutes until you get out of bed and make it stop before your social circle has shrunk to the size of a sleeping pill.

Wang’s work is sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheeck, and always thoughtful. Just the way we like it.

BP

Power to the People

Because nothing spoils the national pastime like a grumpy old man in plaid.

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Yeah, yeah. There may be a bit of product placement going on here. (Gee, ya think?) But these days, this seems to be the price tag on good entertainment — and that’s what we’re getting here.

Two of MLB’s top power sluggers. A driving range. Grumpy old men in plaid. Mad long balls. Can it get any better?

“Somebody oughta call somebody.” You said it, old dude.

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BP

Friday FYI: Happy Place

Unicorns found in Denmark and why grandma is always right.

HAPPY PLACE

At times of existential crisis, we’ve all been on the verge of throwing in the towel, packing our bags, and booking that one-way ticket to California / Hawaii / some place other than Denmark, thinking we’d be our happiest there. Well, we were all wrong. Fresh data from University of Michigan’s 2008 World Values Survey found that, based on factors like economic prosperity, stability and democratic government, Denmark provided its citizens with the kind of environment most conducive to happiness.

In other words, Denmark is the happiest place on Earth.

The U.S., the world’s richest nation, ranked 16th out of the 97 countries indexed in the study — count on astronomical research grants to prove trite old adages. Like grandma used to say, “Money ain’t never gonna buy you happiness.”

As for the rest:

Top 10 Happiest Countries:

  1. Denmark
  2. Puerto Rico
  3. Colombia
  4. Iceland
  5. N. Ireland
  6. Republic of Ireland
  7. Switzerland
  8. Netherlands
  9. Canada
  10. Austria

Top 10 Most Miserable Countries:

  1. Zimbabwe
  2. Armenia
  3. Moldova
  4. Belarus
  5. Ukraine
  6. Albania
  7. Iraq
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Georgia
  10. Russia

There there, chin up now. On the bright side, this year’s World Values Study also found that overall levels of happiness in the world are rising. Out of the 52 countries for which there was data dating 17 years back, the happiness index rose in 40 and fell in just 12. And while the growth was inevitably tied to economic reasons (India’s index is the most rapidly-growing), the research found it had more to do with people’s freedom to live their lives the way they want to than with the mere financial bottom line.

So wherever your situation, consider the fact that you always have options. You have the freedom to screw it all any day you wish and go do whatever. That thought alone should sprout a rainbow.

And if that doesn’t work, just head over to Priceline and book that one-way to Denmark.

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BP

Carriers Rethought

Groupie paradise, FedEx vs. Donald Trump, why Earth is getting shrink-wrapped by strangers, and what TV show has an official couch.

What do vehicles, plastic bags, shipping containers and coffins have in common? They all carry their contents from one place to another. And they can all be rethought in ways that may well outsmart, outcool and outweird the original purpose.

BETTER THAN THE VAN

Couchsurfing has been around for quite some time now. And just like anything that’s become really, really big really, really fast, it was only a matter of time until it niched out. Enter Better Than The Van — a niche stay-for-free community designed specifically for bands and artists on tour. Even the search function is niche-level particular: you can narrow down your results by age range, weekday/weekend preference, and host’s relationship to music — consumer (a.k.a. fan) vs. producer (a.k.a. in a band).

We suspect the majority of couch-offerers would end up being in a band themselves — simply because nothing breeds empathy like having had the same miserable, sleep-folded-in-half-on-the-back-seat-with-drummer’s-protein-bar-wrappers experience.

Plus, we think it’s a great way for up-and-coming bands to make new friends, for up-and-coming music fans to discover new bands they dig, and for artists to meat each other and possibly sprout some killer collaborations.

QUIK HOUSE

No matter how many CFL’s we swap for incandescents, our homes remain environmental Big-Foots. Luckily, going residentially green doesn’t have to mean settling for a hippie shack in the Ohio outback.

It may, however, mean inheriting the living space of a FedEx box.

Enter Quik House. You know those “bed in a bag” things at department stores? We’d call Quik House a “house in a box”… except it is the box. It’s a prefabricated “house kit” made from recycled shipping containers. But don’t be fooled — the 2,000-square-foot dwelling includes 3 bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. It assembles in less than a day, so it should be less than 3 months between the time you order it online and your housewarming party.

You can further greenify the already super tiny-carbon-footed house with the optional solar and wind energy sourcing available. And speaking of customizing, you even have the option of getting your Quik House tagged by local graffiti artists.

At $125-$165 per square foot, including everything except the land, this isn’t just a smart investment in the planet’s future, it’s also a pretty good real estate deal.

MUSEO AERO SOLAR

If this kind of static environmental statement isn’t your thing, how about one in flux? Museo Aero Solar makes you reconsider what you choose to carry your groceries in. Thousands of plastic bags compose the “flying museum,” a hot air balloon propelled solely by solar energy. It travels from country to country and whenever it makes a landing, more bags are added, increasing both its size and the next flight distance.

Since its inception several months ago, Museo Aero Solar has toured three continents. Upon each landing, the local community gets to add to the quilt and shape this ever-growing flying canvas.

We like the idea of calling it a museum: it’s a visceral exhibition of our excess, constantly growing to reflect our never-ending consume-produce-waste cycle. The irony, of course, is that with an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags consumed annually worldwide, most of which end up in landfills, it’s virtually impossible for the museum to run out of resources. If the project carries on and continues to increase in size, it could eventually cover earth’s entire atmosphere.

How’s that for a global warming wake-up call? We hear shrink-wrap makes things even hotter.

COFFIN COUCHES

On a brighter note, Coffin Couches: corpse carriers repurposed into living room furniture.

Apparently, there’s some sort of government regulation (gotta love those) that prevents funeral homes from reselling unused coffins to the general public. So the guys behind the unorthodox venture approach said funeral homes with a recycling attitude and snag 18-gauge steel coffins with minor flaws, sculpting them into an impressive array of leather and vinyl couches.

We’re pretty sure those new media and interactive technology gurus couldn’t possibly outdo the “immersive TV experience” of watching Six Feet Under on one of these babies.

BP

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