Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Every January 24, Alasitas or La Feria de la Alasita, a fair specific to Bolivia and especially La Paz, commences. Though its origin is somewhat unclear (Spanish-language), for the next three weeks, the fair will draw Bolivians seeking material abundance ("Alasita" translates as "buy me" in Aymara) in the year ahead by buying miniatures at the fair of those things they want and giving them to Ekeko, the Aymara god of prosperity, represented by a small figurine (Spanish-language video) covered in all the goods the petitioner would like to receive. As with a number of cultural and culinary items of the region, there is some debate as to whether Alasitas is properly Bolivian or Peruvian (Google translation).
At Kidzania, the theme-park chain where children pretend to be adults, children from Mexico to Kuwait can learn about responsibility and citizenship by renting go-karts, making Quaker granola bars, delivering packages for DHL, cleaning up dog poop, making plastic gewgaws, and flying planes, but they may not be able to answer the important questions "Is it a school? Is it a nursery? Is it some devil-run thing that isn’t acceptable in our culture?"
Continuing the exposure of how "being poor is expensive," the Washington Post takes a look at rent-to-own purchases in its article, Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa. [more inside]
Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things. [more inside]
Joanna Piacenza tackles difficulties she sees in the American conception of Buddhism. She was spurred out of writing silence several months ago by Time Magazine choosing for the second time in a decade to sell their magazine with a consumerist representation of Buddhism depicted on their cover with an pretty and ethereal looking white woman. Today, she published an article in First Things on why she believes Buddhism can't be just "an add-on: an energy boost in your spiritual smoothie," but is a religion and the American attitudes that she sees as enabling this misconception.
"If the accessories are not expensive, the customer is not worth the effort of even a simple hello" In a paper soon to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Sauder marketing professor Darren Dahl lays out the findings of his research, where he looked at the correlation between the quality of customer service that a shopper receives in a store with their likelihood to return to make more purchases in the future. [more inside]
I write for SkyMall (SLTP)
Consumerism's petty liberties have made us inhumanly passive. We've forgotten what freedom is, and how easily it is lost.
2013 Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. The Miele Rotary Iron is a machine as old as the hills and used to be called a mangle. A mangle. For what it did to your fingers. I know, because I inherited one from my grandmother. [more inside]
A look at the post-war middle class, brought to you by the editors of Life, and Fortune Magazines.
Opportunties Unlimited (via)
Opportunties Unlimited (via)
Why we're not allowed to work less. Machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take -- by 2000 the average couple with kids worked 500 hours a year more than in 1979. This is the story of how the a few companies like Kellogg's at first bucked the trend, and the massive propaganda campaign against shorter hours that's nearly won it's battle to make capitalism synonymous with the “American Way.”
Digging up long forgotten memories for a generation who spent their formative years glued to the boob tube, Memorex is a veritable nostalgia nuke for children of the 80s. Endless beach parties, Saturday morning cartoons, claymation everything, sleek cars, sexy babes, toys you forgot existed, station idents, primitive computer animation, all your favorite sugary cereal mascots, and so much more. An ode to the hyper consumerism and sleek veneer of a simpler time. (previously)
This Is Why I'm Broke: not just jet packs and flying cars - you could locomote in a hot-tub boat, a killer-whale submarine, or a light-up monowheel; exercise on a rock-climbing treadmill; sleep on a convertible futon bunk bed; set the world on fire; or hold a zero-gravity wedding. Only in your dreams? Well, you can still fritter away your money on a flying radio-control shark, a turntable for your wall or for your cat, geeky iPhone cases (cassette tape - han solo in carbonite - ordisguise it as a leather book), a Batman snuggie or a pizza-wheel + fork or a flying fuck. All this and much more collected & curated for browsing, updated daily. Default sort is by popularity: can change to price or newest updates first. [more inside]
"I'm pretty happy. I think we've almost got our house together now. We just need, like, a coupla lamps, maybe a nice piece of photography to hang, and we'll pretty much be there. So, yeah. I guess we're gonna make some pasta now and watch HuluPlus."
"Before I gave up shopping, I bought a beautiful, pricey dress. I imagine it's made by a cute girl in Montreal who has to charge a certain price to keep herself in coffee, cigarettes & organic cotton.
Illustrator Sarah Lazarovic replaces clothes shopping with paintings and commentary on the dresses she did not buy.
Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, a new book by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF), is the conclusion of an unprecedented nine-year interdisciplinary study of the middle-class American home. A team of archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists studied the home life of 32 two-income, middle-class families in Los Angeles. What they found was a lifestyle struggling with consumerism, and a staggering accumulation of possessions:
“The first household assemblage we analyzed, of Family 27, resulted in a tally of 2,260 visible possessions in the first three rooms coded (two bedrooms and the living room),” and that didn’t include “untold numbers of items tucked into dresser drawers, boxes and cabinets or items positioned behind other items.”[more inside]
STUFF I WISH I’D NEVER BOUGHT. 'When I wrote about stuff I would buy with my own money it got me thinking about all of the buyer’s remorse I’ve had over the years, both with personal gear I’ve bought, and with things I’ve bought for Lensrentals. I’m a gearhead, so this isn’t about “things that weren’t profitable”.' [more inside]
How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did (excerpt from How Companies Learn Your Secrets (single page))
Now the future is a kind of attenuating peninsula; as we move out on it, one side drops off to catastrophe; the other side, nowhere near as steep, moves down into various kinds of utopian futures. In other words, we have come to a moment of utopia or catastrophe; there is no middle ground, mediocrity will no longer succeed. So utopia is no longer a nice idea, but a survival necessity. "Remarks on Utopia in the Age of Climate Change," from Kim Stanley Robinson. Previously.
The Light Bulb Conspiracy is a documentary about disposable printers, light bulbs and everything else, investigating the implications of the business model and industrial design philosophy of Planned Obsolescence that drives and shapes our economy.
Machisma: How a mix of female empowerment and steamy soap operas helped bring down Brazil’s fertility rate and stoke its vibrant economy.
Melt your brain into goo on an overdose of crass 80s consumerism and TV without the TV shows at 80sCommercialVault. Superbowl 19 commercials. Commercials from Jaws. Saturday morning commercials. Daytime / evening commercials. [more inside]
Under Suspicion at the Mall of America The Mall of America calls its counterterrorism unit RAM, or Risk Assessment and Mitigation. The unit is staffed with private security personnel. [more inside]
Comedian Louis CK on the Opie and Anthony radio show discussing consumers and commercialism: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3). [more inside]
The candy cigarette has found a rightful heir. KidZania, an international chain of family entertainment centers, invites children to be the adults in a simulated city-state. It claims to teach children about work and money, but its critics say that KidZania, full of sponsored and branded activities, is an early introduction to corporate consumerism. (via)
Bikram yoga, popularized in the USA by Bikram Choudhury, is criticized for being overly sexual and as subverting the traditional aims of yoga. The bacchanalian atmosphere at the training clinics held by Choudhury seem to confirm this view.
A Which? survey has found that supermarket deals actually offer a worse price for the customer. But to the vigilant folk of Flickr, this is old news. [more inside]
"Charity degrades and demoralizes." The latest RSA Animate adapts a lecture by Slavoj Zizek. Previously. Previously.
The Story of Bottled Water (direct YT link) - Annie Leonard (Colbert Nation; previously) narrates a new video about bottled water. World Water Day is March 22.
As if being rich and trashy weren't already enough work, now there's vajazzling, too. (NSFW)
Augmented Reality, You, Your Kitchen, and the Excellent Products You Will Buy Today. An architecture student films a Gibsonesque, banal-yet-vivid-and-colorful vision of the AR future; his half-dozen videos extend into different realms.
The Mineral Makeup Mutiny was founded to encourage consumers to buy indie self-made mineral cosmetics, instead of overpriced makeup that were repackaging wholesale micas from companies such as TKB Trading, or publishing contradicting ingredients lists and sending Cease-and-Desist Letters to unfavourable reviews. Miss K of Aromaleigh, founder of the Mutiny (and former seller of repackaged wholesale hues, which she's discontinuing in favour of original colours), demonstrates how mineral eyeshadows are made. [more inside]
34 industries, 62,000 stalls, 320,000 commodities for sale, 4 million square meters of selling space: welcome to the world-famous Yiwu Wholesale Market in the Zhejiang Province of China, "where Santa Claus comes to shop." [more inside]
The amazing products and lifestyles that would be at your fingertips if you lived 50 years ago and had a magazine subscription.
The Most Expensive Journal blogs about $4,200 computer keyboards, $2.7 million guitars, and $11 million watches.
Are we living in an age of "Mass Intelligence" or "Commodified Intelligence"? The Economist's Intelligent Life spin-off debates whether the masses are "wising up" rather than "dumbing down" or if, in fact, we have ended up consuming rather than appreciating culture.
Product Panic - Bruce Sterling on industrial design in the slump.
SighFilter: In light of other Black Friday tales of horror or posts urging a more sober consumerism, now comes this story of a worker trampled to death at Wal-Mart and a woman who miscarried in a stampede. They ought to have read FEMA's Black Friday Advisory.
Apropos on Black Friday, Charles, Prince of Wales addresses the Foreign Press Association with a comprehensive lecture on the dangers of unchecked consumerism and the need for an increasingly holistic worldview in light of the global social, economic and environmental challenges. The credit crisis is a side effect of a throwaway society and consumerism is no cure for depression, he says, and we need to question the concepts of "Modernity" and "Economic Growth" we take for granted.
We've discussed dead malls before. But did you know that the world's biggest mall is also its deadest?
Perhaps more widely known as the New York Times' "The Minimalist", Mark Bittman implores us to change the way we think about and consume food during his December 2007 talk at TED. The related NYTimes article. His NYTimes blog, "Bitten".