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Holiday Economy Examined

What our present economy has to do with 165,300 bathroom visits and 67 million dead large birds.

tree2008 has come and gone, as has the drawn out celebration of excess, consumerism and gluttony known as the “holiday season.” A time when love and appreciation are exchanged between family and friends, they say, but really a time when money is exchanged between various cogs in the great big machine of Capitalism.

Courtesy of the ever-brilliant GOOD Magazine, this month’s GOOD Sheet neatly sums up exactly how much was exchanged during holiday seasons past and present, putting The Big Spend into perspective.

GOOD Sheet: Holiday Economy

In case last night’s debauchery has left you too lazy to click and see for yourself, some noteworthy numbers from the holiday season’s economic footprint:

  • $19.8 billion spent on computer and video game console and accessories during November and December of 2007. (And with the epic build-up for Grand Theft Auto 4, Resident Evil 5 and Rock Band, we bet the numbers would be much higher for 2008.)
  • 67 million turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • $9.3 billion in jewelery sales during November and December of 2007
  • $474.5 billion in retail sales during holiday season 2007, almost $100 billion more than 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation

turkeySure, after a certain point, numbers become meaningless. We stop seeing the difference between “huge” and “really huge.” (Really, how much do you care if it’s $30 billion or $300 billion or $500 billion? It’s not like you’ll ever truly “experience” either kind of money anyway.) So here are a few handy yardsticks for contemplating the bigness of those numbers:

  • You’ll go to the bathroom roughly 165,300 (read “sort of big”) times in your life.
  • You’ll breathe around 400 million (read “huge”) breaths in your lifetime.
  • The U.S. national debt (read “really huge”) is $10.6 quadrillion (or billiard, if you’re European) — that’s $10.6 billion with three more zeroes — and growing by $3.37 billion per day.

Got the “a-ha” moment yet? We thought so.

Now go, we’ll leave you to your “sensible financial planning” New Year’s resolutions and trying to figure out what to do with all the idiotic holiday presents Capitalism, disguised as Santa, grandma or that Pollyanna-driven colleague, slipped down your chimney this year.

And remember, ain’t no shame in regifting.

via GOOD Magazine


Catch of the Day

Preservation the surfer way, or why farmers’ markets are now selling condoms.

We’re suckers for clever guerrilla campaigns. We’re also suckers for sustainability. So, naturally, we’re all over this campaign for environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

Catch of the Day: Condoms Fillets

From condom “fillets” to styrofoam “bites” packaged like something you’d find at Whole Foods, the Catch of the Day campaign is a visceral reminder of how pollution both stifles wildlife and ultimately ends up on our plates.

Catch of the Day: Styrofoam Bites

The junk is all 100% authentic, hand-picked from various beaches across America, from Galveston to South Padre Island to Venice Beach.

Yep, the condoms too.

Catch of the Day: Plastic

The campaign positions littering as the antithesis of the true surfer spirit of bonding with nature, respecting it, and appreciating its raw beauty. Because nothing puts as big a damper on that appreciation as having a cigarette bud stick between your toes while walking on a wild beach.

Catch of the Day: Butts & Bits

Best part: Packaged in (we hope post-consumer) plastic to look like seafood, the stuff is offered at real farmers’ markets across the coasts. Talk about authenticity and stride-stopping impact. Genius.

Catch of the Day: Aerosol

Out of Saatchi & Saatchi, LA.

via TreeHugger (Thanks, Teddy)


A Library of Human Imagination

Human imagination, cataloged and numbered, or what James Bond and King James have in common besides the James.

If VH1 did a Fabulous Lives Of episode about the geektelligencia — today’s literati — it would no doubt include a grand tour of über-geek and web entrepreneur Jay Walker‘s private library. Because Jay Walker’s library is no ordinary lavish and gratuitous showcase of knowledge porn. (Although, OK, it is that too.)

It is a Library of Human Imagination.

Jay Walker's library

Fascinated by the breadth intellectual property, the infamous entrepreneur (of Walker Digital and fame) decided to build and curate a “library”of humanity’s intellectual and creative progress with all its artifacts — from an authentic Gutenberg Bible to an original Sputnik 1 satellite to the chandelier from Bond flick Die Another Day — hosting over 5,000 years of human imagination.

Jay Walker's library: Gadget Lab

Jay Walker's library

The library’s design, spearheaded by Walker’s wife, is a creative and intellectual feat of its own. The 3-story-high building, computer-controlled and brilliantly lit to change colors, is like the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only concerned with something much sweeter and more addictive than chocolate — pure imagination in all its scientific, artistic, technological and undefinable forms. A glass bridge, suspended in space, stretches across the library — so you can literally take a leap of human imagination as you marvel at the world-changing artifacts surrounding you. Even the floor layout is designed like an Escher print. Before the grand window lies a custom-commissioned, internally lit, 2.5-ton Clyde Lynds book sculpture with the mind on the right page and the universe on the left — the embodiment of the library’s spirit.

Jay Walker's library: Gadget Lab

And by “you,” of course, we mean Jay Walker himself an a small set of guests selected even more carefully than the objects in the library themselves — because the private library has remained just that. It was only unveiled to the world earlier this year through Jay Walker’s inspired TED talk, where the conference organizers somehow talked him into decorating the TED stage with objects from the library. A few months later, a Wired reporter became the first press member to enter the library while writing a must-read exposè on the cultural hallmark.

Ultimately, the library is Jay Walker’s attempt to answer the simple yet profoundly difficult question, “How do we create?” His stab at the answer:

We create by surrounding ourselves with stimuli, with history, with human achievement, with the things that drive us and make us human — the passionate discovery, the bones of dinosaurs long gone, the maps of space that we’ve experienced, and ultimately the hallways that stimulate our mind and our imagination.

While we love the idea of a centralized collection of human intelligence and imagination, we’re torn between loving what the library stands for and wondering whether or not it “stands” in all the right ways, being privately owned and pretty much the artifact antithesis of a Creative Commons license.

Doesn’t “human imagination” belong to everybody, the Ukrainian schoolchild as much as the TED elite? And isn’t the greatest gift of imagination the boundary-spanning, all-inclusive propagation of brilliant ideas?


A Little Awkward

How to socialize the hipster way and get a discount at Starbucks along the way.

iPod earbuds on, passing people by without eye contact, drifting through the metropolitan maze in your own little bubble. Sound familiar? It’s the Large City Syndrome, and we’ve all got it to some extent. So how do you de-strangerize and rekindle that “social being” side of your existence?

A Little Awkward logoA little awkward is a quirky, inspired, distinctly hipster project that aims to encourage interaction between strangers in the city, coordinating low-key meetings between those who want to meet new people in urban environments.

The project is the work of two students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Alex Abreu and Stella Kim, for the annual students’ ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) show.

The way it works is brilliantly simple: To create a meet-up event, you specify the expiration time — could be 30 minutes, could be 3 days — and give a quick clothing description. Then, the system matches you up with someone else in your area who’s looking for an encounter at that time and each of you gets a text message with the nearby location of the meet-up (which the system picks out for you), the time you have to get there, and the other person’s clothing description so you can spot them right away.

How It Works

Besides the undeniable cool factor and good times potential of the project, the founders are also contemplating some interesting marketing partnerships — namely, hooking up with specific venues in an area to sponsor the project. In return, A little awkward would push people to those venues for meet-ups, offering users perks like coupons or other exclusive discounts at the local partner hangouts.

50% off a Starbucks Chai Latte in good company doesn’t sound like a bad plan for a Sunday afternoon.

We just dig the idea of jolting people out of their urban routine and allowing them to surrender to chance and uncomplicated fun and all those things that somehow gave way the grown-up reality of work and rent and mandatory Friday night dinner parties.

via 3-Minute AdAge


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