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Buddhist Bottle Temple

Beer, Buddhism, and $100,000 worth of world-changing photography.

Heineken WOBOIn 1963, Alfred Heineken traveled to the Caribbean, where he got a bright idea for a two-birds-with-one-stone solution to the region’s littering problem and the lack of affordable building materials. He contacted Dutch architect John Habraken and the Heineken WOBO was born — a beer bottle that can be reused as a “brick” after the bacchanalia.

Great idea. Except it never reached critical mass.

Half a century later, Thai Buddhist monks have resurrected the idea with the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, built entirely out glass bottles. Over a million of them.

Bottle Temple: Inside

Every minute detail of the temple is made entirely from bottles, from the roofing to the washrooms to the crematorium.

Monks first began using bottles to decorate their shelters and the temple’s murals in 1984, which inspired people to donate more bottles, eventually amassing enough to build entire buildings like pagodas and ceremony halls.

Buddhist Bottle Temple

We think the temple is a stunning reminder of the pressing need for recycling, repurposing, and rethinking our global drinking problem. After all, it takes 700 years for a single plastic bottle to even begin decomposing, and at a consumption rate of 30 billion plastic bottles per year, the we need more than prayers to move towards a more sustainable relationship with water. (Remember Blue Planet Run?)

Speaking of, the winner of the £53,000 Prix Pictet photography award was just announced — this year’s theme was water sustainability. Check it out.


Blooper Troopers

Droops, bloopers and what geeks, babies and whales have in common.

Coolness often comes down to how well you handle the uncool stuff that inevitably happens. On the intertubes, that stuff is known by one infamous, universally hated number: 404. Today, we look at those coolest error pages that manage to inject some irreverent fun into all the frustration.



This lovable big droop extracts an “awww” from even the most cynical and web-raged of us, making us wanna hug him and tell him it’s okay.



Who can get mad at an awkward know-it-all geek? Okay, plenty of people. But this one aptly walks the fine line between know-it-all self-righteousness and it’s-all-in-good-fun self-derision.


In terms of “personality,” Mixx has long been our favorite of the social bookmarking platforms. Their irreverent humor comes through here with both the clever pun and the sheer hilarity of the video.


Twitter Error Page

Most of us have been hit with the dreaded “Twitter down” message. And, come SXSW time or another major live blogging event, we’ll no doubt be hit again. (And again. And again.) But nothing softens the “Grrr!” like a simple image of serene empathy. Bonus points for using pastels to dampen the reds and yellows you’re feeling.


This one goes all the way with a flash animation. Watch this little guy as he jumps around, wiggles a reprimanding finger at you, then finally gives up on your obvious idiocy and stomps away.

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There you have it, a cool error page can make the difference between “ugh” and “heh,” and works wonders for fostering that elusive devil’s-in-the-details emotional connection we have with our favorite sites.

We’re actually quite disappointed with the lack of clever 404 pages in some of our favorite, should-know-better web dwellings. (Wired, PSFK and Creativity, we’re looking at you.)


Best of Election Season Innovation

Private confessions, citizen voyeurism, a shot at redemption, why it pays to have famous friends, and how graphic design changed politics forever.

In the year of the YouTube election, innovation in political communication spanned virtually every medium. As the big day is upon is, we look back on an incredibly tumultuous political season with our selection of the smartest, most revolutionary election-related ideas.


In a political climate where the “get out and vote” message seems to be spewing out of everywhere (and rightfully so), it’s worth taking a step back and asking ourselves the simple question: Why are we voting today?

That’s exactly what design studio Gershoni did with their experimental sayHear project, which assigns a toll-free number to each of the 4 voting options – Obama, McCain, 3rd party, and non-voter – and invites people to call with the reason for their choice, then displays the results in a neatly designed interface.

You can hear all the confessionals on the project website, ranging from the fully serious to the giggles-in-the-background prank calls. Listen to one particularly funny one here.

>>> via BoingBoing


The best documentaries record monumental events that change the course of history. That’s exactly what The New York Times is out to do with their Polling Place Photo Project, the first-ever nationwide experiment in citizen journalism.

Polling Place Photo ProjectThe project aims to create the largest photographic archive of the actual battleground of every presidential election — hum-drum polling places — capturing the richness and complexity of voting, a visual record of human behavior in that final stretch of choosing our political destiny.

You can already browse photos from this year’s primaries and caucuses, or upload your own. So don’t forget your camera today.


Slacker Uprising DVDNotorious filmmaker and whistle-blower Michael Moore made movie distribution history this year with his latest political documentary, Slacker Uprising, which became the world’s first feature-length film to launch as a legal free release.

The film, covering the filmmaker’s failed attempt to save the Democrats from themselves in the 2004 election by rallying people to vote with a grassroots tour of 60 cities in the battleground states, is above all a call to action in hope for redemption this time around.

(We covered it in detail here.)


After Barack Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech in January, artist of the Black Eyed Peas got overwhelmed with the desire to prevent the “unfair, backwards, upside down, unbalanced, untruthful, corrupt” process of the last election. So he called up a massive lineup of celebrities to produce a revolutionary music video based on Obama’s speech. (We first covered it here.)

The video became the most-watched election-related video on YouTube, with over 30 million views across its various uploads, and set off an avalanche of buzz across the social web. It inspired an equally moving spinoff, the HOPE.ACT.CHANGE. project, which invites Obama supporters to upload images of themselves and rebuilds the video into a gloriously designed multimedia mosaic of them.


Shepard Fairey's Obama Poster

In January 2008, artist Shepard Fairey did what he does best to show his support for Barack Obama – he designed a poster.

Little did he know the 350 limited-edition PROGRESS screenprints would sell out in minutes, the HOPE print would go on to become part of the Obama camp’s awareness campaign, and the posters would become the most iconic images associated with this presidential campaign.

Here’s to the power of supreme graphic design and art direction.

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There were, of course, a ton of other tremendously innovative efforts. A few more of our favorites included the Obama social network; the efforts to give voice to those who are impacted by the American election but can’t vote, like the nation’s 29.1 million home-owning, tax-paying legal aliens or, you know, the world; the clever and tremendously amusing Things Younger Than McCain site-turned-book (which is funnier if you skip back through the archives); and the Field of Hope crop circle in Pennsylvania.

But what we really hope is that all this innovation is indicative of a greater cultural hunger for change. And as the 11th hour of this grand race is upon us, we can almost taste it.

So get out and vote today — and enjoy it. Your children will read about it in the history books.


Geek Mondays: Dating Data Art

Why 1.7 million people yearn to have their balloons popped every day and what the MoMA has to do with matchmaking.

Jonathan Harris, of We Feel Fine and The Whale Hunt fame, is one of our all-time favorite data artists working in what we like to call “information aesthetics.” His ability to take pure information and transform it into pure visual magic is the epitome of modern concept art. And his last project is nothing short of that.

I Want You To Want Me explores our quest for love in the now mainstream world of online dating, which draws over 1.7 million web romantics every day. The project, commissioned by the MoMA, dissects the personal dating profiles, which themselves are meticulously curated presentations of how we’d like the world to see us and what we’re looking to find in it.

The interactive installation is displayed on a 56″ high-resolution touch screen hung vertically on the wall of a dark room. Visitors can control the weather on a digital sky, where hundreds of balloons float. Each represents a single dating profile and is coded for gender and age by color (blue=male, pink=female) and brightness (bright=younger, dark=older). Inside each balloon is one of 500 video silhouettes, showing a solitary person engaged in a particular activity listed in their dating profile — yoga, air guitar, jumping jacks, you name it. Viewers can move the balloons inside the sky at different speeds, activate thought bubbles for the people trapped inside them, and even pop them.

Movement: Snippets

The installation pulls data every few hours from dating profiles all over the world. Each movement highlights a different facet of online dating: Who I Am explores the revelation of the self, Taglines takes the taglines of people’s profiles and puts them in a DNA-like helix symbolic of human identity, Matchmaker offers a “resolution” of sorts by algorithmically matching people based on data from their online profiles, and Breakdowns offers insight into larger population trends from the world of online dating.

The project aims to offer us a glimplse of ourselves as we peep into the lives of others — a quest for self in the quest for love. It was installed at the MoMA on February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.

It is part of the brilliant, brilliant Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition curated by the ever-amazing Paola Antonelli.


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