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Oh, Conan

Life rule #387: always do as Conan says.

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Apparently, late-night comedy doesn’t pay enough.
[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1488717/celtics_paul_pierce_2008_nba_finals_mvp_on_conan_obrien/[/metacafe]

Bottoms up, kids.

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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.

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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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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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