Are you prepared for a possible apocalypse? No not spiritually, but fiscally, or most importantly physically. Prepare for the worst, right?
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy and the many blizzards of 2015, my household contents include a hand crank radio, gallons of clean water, Jesus candles, and a substantial first aid kit. While procuring the first aid kit, I became readily aware of the vast survival market capitalizing on the fear and terror surrounding catastrophes. It is no wonder with today's news savvy society, it is only a matter of time before Fox News makes their own subscriber survival kit. God only knows what that look like, complete with a Bible and handgun.
Recently while out to dinner with friends, two very dear friends admitted to catastrophism. This fear of a catastrophe is commonplace in mainstream culture. Whether watching the local news or the Walking Dead, notions of the world's demise surround us. Although this is nothing new, especially seeing nuclear fallout signs walking down 16th Street in Manhattan, one can't but help think of their catastrophe contingency plan?
Apparently people enjoy being entertained by the fear of the world ending, while many are also captivated 24hr news channels reporting it live. As for my plan; I'd bike or walk from Brooklyn to Richmond Virginia to meet up with my family. Google maps says it would only take 37 hours on bike and 113 hours walking.
It is this thought of "what if" where popular and material culture capitlize. You have television and movies, along with products. The products are the most captivating. So while looking for the ideal first aid kit, I also discovered that Costco sells a 1 year supply of food for 4 people marketed at $3,499.00. If you think of it, thats a hell of a lot cheaper than feeding a family of 4 for a year. It is curious that people haven't taken up this for a daily use. This product is advertised as “With over 5,000 servings and many foods with a shelf life of up to 25 years, this package will give you variety, nutrition, and peace of mind."
While there are a million different variation on meal replacements, but for a mere $45,000 you can buy you very own fallout shelter. Once again it's not surprising people are buying these instead of homes. But if you're looking for a more economical route, buying a bunch of school buses like Bruce Beach of Horning Mills Ontario. Simply embed them into the earth and cover with cement. Voila, DIY shelter of your own like Ark Two Shelter. Now why anyone would drop a nuclear bomb on bum fuck Horning Mills beats me. Also clever name Mr. Beach.
The real question is whether or not a lifetime supply of food and a bomb shelter will actually provide you with peace at mind. Will you be able to rest better at night knowing you have food and shelter? Or will you fears continue to manifest such as the shelter properly sealed or is your food contaminated? Will your family turn on your or can you finally kick back and relax, ready for the apocalypse and fallout shelter selfies?
When the clock strikes midnight across the world people cheers to the New Year and kiss their loved ones. Idealy this is your signigigant other who you're deeply in love with and are thrilled to spend eternity with.
However today's dating world is an something else. Whether you are in a city or a rural countryside thanks to online dating you have access to more people than you ever did before. This can create psychological disorders. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting the range of alternatives. So since we have a variety of choices, choosing a life partner inhibits your ability to date freely thus creating a Never Never Land mentality. You never have to grow up and there is always a younger, better looking, more successful, and more compatible mate out there.
Dating today manifests itself in apps such as Tinder purely based on looks and social connections, then you have Speed Dating, Ok Cupid, Match, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, and many many more. For the gay dudes there is Grindr, for Jews there's JDate, for married people there is Ashley Madison, and for the 50+ population there is OurTime. It seems like there is an online dating site out there for everyone. But somehow more than half of the US population is still single. These apps allow you to judge a perfectly good stranger based on their profile, pictures, height, weight, pets, income, race, religious beliefs, and ability to write. You no longer have to go to the bar or get set-up on blind dates. Its now as easy as swiping left for your sudo Prince Charming or Mrs. Right, and swipe right to never see them again. Finally premeditated breeding.
Having dated for what seems like eternity the dating pools is littered with workaholics, sex-aholics, narcissists, trust-fundees, exhibitionists, stalkers, psychopaths, hoarders, radical religionists, and druggies. I once dated a guy who had a giant free roaming tortoise in his New York City apartment. And another boyfriend ended his proposal with smoking DMT and jumping overboard from a giant ship. Luckily he's fine today, but this only goes to show you love is battlefield. Dating in particular brings out the very best and worst in people, but somehow we keep pursuing it in an attempt to create our very own happily ever after and to get that beautiful kiss at midnight.
The idea of newness inspires hope. Whether it’s a New Year, new job, or new TV they each embody mankind's optimistic ambition. This is a phenomenal attribute where looking forward to a new day get’s people out of bed. Turning a new leaf is a fresh new start to a brand new day. The only thing that is constant is change, and this is a vital and successful marketing strategy.
With the holidays behind us, many of us received and purchased new stuff to replace old stuff. Most of us procure stuff on a daily basis, from fresher fruit to a new iPhone. Whether it is want or need, shopping has become a necessary for survival. Besides obtaining food, shelter and clothing, humans buy a lot of superfluous stuff. Take for example the reinvention of the everyday object from kitchen appliances to fashion. In the kitchen you have microwaves, artichoke steamers, sharper knives, seltzer makers, coffee pots, and so much more where back in the day you only needed a sink, stove, and fridge. Or for instance fashion, pants go from skinny to bell bottoms to boyfriend fits, and underwear is no longer briefs but thongs, G-strings, boy-shorts, and grandma panties. Then there are new religions, new cars, new houses, new babies, new Presidents, new legislation, and new puppies. Based on sheer newness, consumers let go of the past and embrace the future. This is prevalent with technology, take for example flat screen televisions where seemingly overnight all older models were discarded and replaced. It is only after seeing a street littered with old TVs you begin to wonder.
There is also the idea of newness when it comes to a life where at some point in everyone’s life they consider cashing in their chips or do so by embarking on a new adventure. Whether you’re nun in a convent or a stripper in the mid-west, there comes a moment in your life where you wonder what am I doing? What does it all mean? People throw in the towel with their jobs, cars, houses, spouses, and even kids. Affairs are had and Porsches are purchased. This idea of newness is exhilarating but sometimes leads to a let down, where the grass is always greener and you can be haunted by relics of the past. Whether it is a moment of temporary insanity part of living is questioning.
Whether it is trading in your spouse or TV for a newer younger model, newness is a social norm. Whether it is need or want, newness is a necessary part of development.
"There is no such thing as natural beauty," Truvy from Steel Magnolias. Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybeline. Will eliminate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Will make your lips plumper or your lashes longer. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately advertisers and society may beg to differ. My friend recently told me after seeing Bobby Brown of Bobby Brown cosmetics speak, she stated that there is no cure for aging nor is there a product that will make you younger. So no matter what the packaging says, regardless if your regime involves diamond face lotion or simply sunblock, there is not fountain of youth. Times have changed where older generations are no longer revered to only be replaced by toothpick thin teenage models.
Most people do something to potentially make themselves look younger. Whether it’s applying make-up or working out, society no longer accepts the concept of aging gracefully. Beauty is capital. And like Bourdieu’s theories of capital, he failed to recognize how far goods looks can take you in this life. Take for example the concept of mail order brides or Kardashians.
With under eye creams, wrinkle removers, face lifts, Botox, exfoliators, liposuction, face peels, lash extensions, lip plumper and so much more people will never know your age. While many may say age is just a number but in reality it depend on how you feel. While some are content with what's given them, others feel the pressure to preserve and change.
First it may start off as a simple choice in face lotion or anti-wrinkle serum. Then there's make-up, under the eye cream, poor shrinker, skin firmer, exfoliators, followed by lip plumper and eye lash grower. While these products rely heavily on chemicals, it isn't until you undergo an actual chemical peel you truly commit. It is odd that you look younger after you singe off the upper level of your epidermis. Although a little touch and go for the first, as a result you've never looked younger with a bright red seemingly sunburned face.
Now if you really can't stand the way you look there's plastic surgery. Take for example the entire Jackson family, where apparently nobody in the family liked their nose and enrolled in having the same doctor redesign it. The consequences of hopping on the rhinoplasty bandwagon too early is ending up with one hell of mess. Unfortunately no amount of surgery or money could rectify Michael's nose. While it’s easy to judge when you have a decent nose and confidence, but if you've inherited an overly endowed honker society makes it that much more difficult to accept what God’s given you.
The same can be said for height and weight, basically every body part. More and more people are taking plastic surgery to the next level having their stomachs stapled, getting breast and penile implants, followed by limb lengthening. Sure some are less intrusive, they still however take lives take for example Kanye West's mother. All for vanity's sake, both breast and penile implants succumb to society's whoas. In China a man sued his wife for misleading him by birthing ugly children and withholding her $100,000 worth of plastic surgery. Most shockingly he won. Even though most of these surgeries are elective they seem rather torture some. Limb lengthening consists of broken bones and growing 3-4 inches of bone in between the fracture with a horrid metal contraption. It is amazing what lengthens we'll go to to for beauty. While bothersome, it is a natural human instinct to respond to beauty and although sad but true survival of the fittest whether self-inflicted surgery or sheer genetics will prevail.
Today's world is build on convenience. Most people would rather do less, even if that requires more money and fewer take aways. Once we become adults we no longer have our sibling whom we can force or persuade into doing our chores. Unfortunately part of growing up is paying bills, cooking dinner, doing laundry, etc. But thanks to the the internet and an open market we no longer have to grow up.
Take for expample laundry, most people don't consider this a fun activity and most people don't enjoying it, especially if you have a huge family and or lack a washer/dryer. From dry cleaning to wash/fold services, it is highly likely if you live in the US you've participated in outsourcing your laundry. Sure this might not sound that bad, but when you wind up with someone else's underwear or the dry cleaner destroy's your $500 Bergdorf dress you begin to question hanging your dirty laundry out to dry. It is pretty common for kids to wind up at college with little or no laundry knowledge. Not only is this sad but it creates a viable market for apps such as Washio where they pick up and clean your dirty laundry. With quick fixes like this we could perpetuate a lifetime of never doing laundry. But more importantly there is no longer the idle time wasted in the laundry mat, where college students mingle and find love, where you discover Kafka isn't so bad, or are simply turned on to the New York Times cross word.
This idea of idle time can also be applied to wandering a book store or library and stumbling upon the greatest novel. Today you can pretty much outsource everything from having your home cleaned to finding a taxi. Sure it is sometimes difficult to find a taxi in Manhattan or Brooklyn, especially if it is raining. But is it worth the added mark up of 3 to 5 times the original cost. Take for example a $10 taxi ride ends up costing you $50 when you could have gone out on the street, thrown that arm in the air, trudged through the snow, and voila found a face value priced car service. This not only teaches you the value of a dollar and time, but how to haggle. Arguing with a tremulous taxi driver is the best cure for timid newly relocated or traveling tourist.
As for cooking, the Post recently published an article stating that one New Yorker spent $11,000 on take out (Seamless), where the delivery guys not only know her name but can predict her order. What the spender is missing out on is the joy of cooking. While it can be messy and infuriating, there is nothing more gratifying than making a meal and enjoying it (alone or with others) plus it is a pretty bonding activity. There is also the app of Blue Apron where you meals are chosen for you and they send you the recipe and ingredients. While is absolutely fantastic and significantly broadens your recipe repertoire, the draw back is freedom. You loose the freedom of having a hankering for something along with choosing your own ripe seasonal and on sale products.
Whether or not you're into cooking, cleaning, hailing a cab, or outsourcing is becoming prevelant. If only they had apps for all the things people dread doing; such as exercise, phone calls with your family, tech support with your boss, or texting with your girlfriend. Luckily the last one's been solved, BroApp sends messages throughout the day with your babe so you don't have to. Other outsourcing ideas include Fiver where you can suggest anything you need done for as low as $5 bucks. Kutoto, Task Rabbit, and Sooqini are other apps where you post a task and a freelancer can choose to help you out. So whether it is visiting you great aunt in her retirement home or mowing the lawn there is now a way to avoid all activities. So cheers to the couch potatoes, the world is not your oyster of outsourcing opportunities.
The Chinese have been wrapping gifts since 2nd Century B.C. although it is most commonly and ironically associate with modern day Christmas. These wrapped gifts were distributed to the royal Chinese court and government officials. While the original paper was made of rice and bamboo paper, today the Chinese use mass produced papers of red denoting luck. It wasn't until Christmas of 1917 when Rollie Hall marketed French papers used as envelope lining to be reinvented as wrapping paper. It is estimated that over 10 tons of wrapping paper refuse is generated on Christmas day alone.
While it is more common to recycle wrapping paper and purchase recycled paper, it is interesting how this custom came to be. The social conventions of American society prevent givers and consumers from simply handing unwrapped gift. Japan experienced these same customary pressures but eventually reinstated their historic Furoshiki. Instead of wrapping gifts of paper the Furoshiki is a decorative cloth bag for gift giving.
Now if you've ever wrapped a gift you immediately understand the effort and energy that went into the presentation of this present. It is not fun nor easiy. While the present may have only cost $1.00 with beautiful paper and a lovely ribbon the gift can easily ascends social statuses. Take for example a stores packaging such as Tiffany & Co. blue and Hermes saffron, these gifts need no wrapping. While for the common gift giver there is a desire to hide the interior, prevent the receiver from automatically visualizing and identifying the gift. For example once as I child I received concert tickets but it wasn't until I dug through box after box to discover bricks and rocks, and fortunately later the greatest tickets ever.
So tonight or tomorrow as you tear your way to tears, don't forget the effort and energy that sent into the wrapping. All the while please recycle.
Aside from death and taxes, it is inevitable that you're going to loose your shit. Whether mentally or physically, there's never been a human besides maybe Jesus who hasn't. From day one babies drop socks, pacifiers, hats, and toys where there parents are too tired and negligent to collect. Then come adolescence when you quickly learn that loosing your retainer means digging through your high school cafeteria's dumpster. And if you've ever lost a pair of glasses or a contact it means never being able to see the TV or blackboard again. While all of this is less memorable than loosing your virginity, most people commonly loose their wallets, cell phones, keys, purses jackets, scarves, luggage, homework, and more often than not socks and gloves. But where does it go? Nobody knows.
While you retrace you steps, check your pockets, and search through you car and at the bar, you'll soon realize you never want to do this again. Good news, those days are done! For $30+ you can purchase the Tile which attaches to your keys, wallet, and/or TV remote. This this miniature tracking device designed to defeat the "lost & found." By logging into your computer or cell phone to can track your crap via Bluetooth and a map. There are a million other similar devices on the market too, such as the Duet for keys, Smead Stick-N-Find stickers for anything, or ProTag for your wallet. Smead seems to have the best approach, well that is until the stickiness wears off. But ProTag is the easiest concept of resembling a credit card that simply slips in your wallet. It's only a matter of time before you strap on of these devices to your kid's retainer, glasses, and may them themselves.
While most of these are water resistant you can't drop your keys in the bottom of a lake and expect to find them. The real question becomes which items should you apply these too? Will people go bazerkers and apply them to everything? Will this further encourage reckless behavior? Although these devices are brilliant, they don't necessarily bring your shit back. If someone robbed you, their probably going to toss the Tile first thing. But if "you are your own worst enemy" then it will take some will power to fire up the old cell phone or laptop to conduct the investigation. While tracking devices like the Tile do create serendipitous scenarios, it takes a bit of resilience to crack the code. They can't necessarily bring back your stolen identity, great great great grandparents, dignity and brain cells lost at that last party, along with your most recent lover; but they do create a fortuitous future, free of loss and full of freedom.
Have you ever hung out with 50,000 people? Maybe at a music festival or at a Red Cross Shelter during a catastrophic tragedy, oddly some folks pay money to do this. I on the other-hand try to avoid it. This may sound odd coming from someone living in NYC/Brooklyn, but being surrounded by people is my greatest fear. If you've ever been to a Phish show or been evacuated because of a hurricane, you'll soon realize the similarities in such activities. Both events require there to be no functioning facilities, food and water are scarce, mud is everywhere, while everyone acting like a raving lunatic. Now if it's an actual disaster, most people are suffering from pure shock and unbridled terror and loss. While if it's Bonnarroo it's most likely overly intoxicated individuals coping with terrible music and hordes of people.
When I was a teenager my mother brought me up from Richmond Virginia to watch the ball drop for New Year's Eve. I had never been so thrilled, terrified, and cold in my life. Beside watching people pee into a top hat, this was not the place for a 15 year old girl. Then I took the liberty of selling grill cheeses to the masses at Bonnarroo only to realize how vast Tennessee is. This fizzled after having lived in NYC for over 10 years, where you soon realize that Friday and Saturday nights are the worst nights to go out, and at any given moment you're surround by thousands of people. Are we getting too old for lines? Well worth it for the recent Cooper Hewitt opening, not so much for Bang On's Halloween Bonanza.
Anyway, this past weekend was the douche-st of douche events Santa-Con. It boggles my mind that 10s of thousands of folks pour into the city every year, dressed like a saint ready to drink like the devil. Bill Murray couldn't even keep up. So with this event comes commerce with bars making millions, but the price of a Santa-Con spiced cider doesn't even compare to need to be quarantined afterwards. Sure the idea of having Santa-Con proceeds benefit a charity but does that matter when the outcome is an idiot convention featuring binge drinking, vomiting, urinating in public, deification in public, homophobia, rape, fights, ticketing, and anything coming close to a riot. Sure having to remodel your bar's bathroom because Bozo went bananas barfing doesn't seem that bad, but what is next? The New York times recently wrote about how it might best if we ban this event all together, but shockingly enough Police Chief Kelly praised Santa-Con saying it's what keeps New York, New York. Either way I prefer to kick back some cocktails with a few of my closes friends, not the entire city of Hoboken or the entire student population at Ohio State University. Either way it's a nightmare, almost a national disaster.
Before preparing for bed most folks disrobe and put on some comfortable clothing, their pajamas,PJs, or pajama jammy jams. Then they crawl into bed, insert ear plugs, mouth guards, headgear, put on sleep masks, moisturizing sleep gloves and maybe lubed up booties too. Then they turn on a humidifier and ambient noise machine. This whole process can take upwards of an hour, with some mixing in a warm bath, rub one out, drink a glass or red wine, and/or pop a sleeping pill or two. Last they turn out the lights, close their eyes, and wait for the Sandman. Before entering this reoccurring state of altered consciousness, people count sheep, take deep breaths, make lists, remember all the shit they need to do, and stare in infinate darkness.
It's estimated people 1/3 of their life sleeping, constituting of 8 generous hours every night. It's as essential as breathing and with out it people go insane, their bodies breakdown, and could lead to death. Sleep is measured by various levels of REM rapid eye movement. Dreaming and out of body experiences occur in deep stages of sleep. As for the freakish feeling of falling and the jolt jump, this could be attributed to switching levels of sleep. Unfortunately it is estimated that 150 million people worldwide suffer from sleep problems thereby effecting 17% of the populations in developing countries. Fatal Familial Insomnia is when someone literally can not sleep. Although it is difficult to gage, it is estimated a person could go 6 months without sleep, and oh what a shitty 1/2 of year this would.
A suggested cure for sleep disorders is sensory deprivation. Although naturally occurring, it wasn't until 1954 when John C. Lilly a neuro-psychiatrist invented the sensory deprivation tank. His initial tests involved the use of psychedelicalics, specifically LSD, however with or without drugs sensory deprivation is a form of mind-expansion. Sensory Deprivation is when a body is cut off from their senses such as sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. A sensory deprivation tank is essentially a coffin-like black hole filled with water. You enter a pitch black chamber completely naked and wearing only ear plugs. The salt water allows you to easily float on your back. Although 100% creepy it only costs $90 for an hour.
Whilst floating in the dark, it is not uncommon to think of death, and there is only one documented death reported where some idiot took a bunch of sleep pills and drowned. There is the fear you may simply fall asleep and drown or you could be locked in this thing forever. More commonly people do it to hallucinate, it's much like sleeping and stare at you eyelids, only to discover all sorts of things. Some see faces, ink blots, light-up squiggles, and fuzzies. You inner subconscious is unleashed, much like automatic drawing therefore allowing thoughts and visions manifest. Before entering the tub one must be free of all perfumes, make up, locations and beauty products, participants shouldn't be freshly shaved or tanned, while people with abrasions and menstruating women are not permitted. So if you're looking for a little mind altercations, just rub a dub dum in the sensory deprivation tub.
There is nothing more American than Walmart, a mega-store filled with your every need and want. Sure their employees are underpaid and most of their wares end up in the garbage, but for just one hour you can be supremely entertained immersed in a carnival commerce. It's like an amusement park for capitalism and consumerism, where an adult comes alive, like a child in a candy store. Otherwise known as the Supercentre, Big Box Store, and Super Store these places have coined their last name as "category killer" by basically eliminating the quint essential mom and pop store. There are now fewer and fewer butchers, baker, and candle stick makers, replaced by big business.
This uncontrollable spiral of conspicuous consumption starts as an empty carton of milk, transpiring into a quick trip to the grocery store. Walking down the isles of some mega-store you'll think of how creative or un-creative you are, where influenced by merchandise you'll soon adopt new hobbies such as archery, scrap-booking, beading, and quilting only to never touch the stuff again. Then as a result of advertising and a need for newness you confronted with the the fact your appliances have never seemed more outdated. Like upgrading your computer software, you can update your stuff to satisfy desires you never knew existed. So by modernizing your appliances from the hair dryer to your sprinkler systems and George Foreman grill, you can rest assured you'll fit in. Now if you're traveling with children their incessant need for everything will become apparent, soon enough toys and clothing won't cut it and you'll have your 5 year old pointing at a box of condoms or tampons going "gimme." Ultimately you end up with a cart full of crap, have acquired everything but an aquarium full of fish. It's like you're end goal was to see how much money you could spend or rather save (wink wink) in an hour. If only you had stuck to the grocery isles, you would have potato sacks full of chips and a lifetime rice from the ethnic aisle.
If Walmart's breadth is too wide and you're nostalgic for a category why not pick outdoors such as Bass Pro Shop. Sure Walmart carries camping equipment, but BPS has variety. You never knew there were hundreds of sleeping bags to choose from, nor that a mini-handgun existed in Breast Cancer awareness pink. If the great outdoors isn't for you, maybe the organizing the indoors better suits you. At the Container Store you'll find discover a new realm of Tupperware, organizers for the organizer. For the consumer who's too cheap for Walmart, there's always the dollar store. While the Dollar Tree's philosophy is keeping it real cheap, you'll discover there are things there more than a buck. Big Lots, T.J. Maxx and Marshall's theory is to buy from a variety of vendors, boutiques, brands, manufactures, store cancellations and store closures. They're essentially the bottom feeders of mega-stores and although unpredictable, they add the element of competition and surprise to the mega-store amusement park. It seems as though even the drug stores are getting into the super-center game where in addition to fill prescriptions and giving flu shots, you can get groceries along the way.
While seemingly convenient, most of Europe and the rest of the world still operate in the old way, where they know their local fish monger by name and their baker comes to their holiday party. As the saying goes, too much of anything is bad and if you go without it, you're more likely to appreciate it. So if you're somewhere in suburbia and the only fun thing to do is to hop on the Walmart Supercentre roller coaster take a look at the admission price, as in some instances bigger isn't always better.
100 Objects of Popular and Material Culture is an blog exploring the manifestations of human consumption and commodity-ization. The purpose of this experiment is to explore material and popular culture in contemporary society by using objects and concepts to prompt wider questions and reflections. So by emulating The British Museum's and Neil MacGregor's format of A History of the World in 100 Objects I plan to satirically analyze and reinterpreted 100 material culture objects over the course of 2014. Material Culture is the study of our culture's consumption of stuff; namely the manifestation of culture through material productions where people's perceptions of objects is socially and culturally dependent. With this, objects reflect conscious and unconscious beliefs on the the individuals who fabricated, purchased, or used them, and by extension the society where they live. So examining materiality, cultural truths and societal assumptions may be discovered. As anthropologist Arjun Appaduai states "in any society the individual is often caught between the cultural structure of commodity-ization and his own personal attempts to bring a value and order to the universe of things." Objects and commodities make up a much larger symbolic system consisting of want and need, socio-economic status, fashion, etc. Often times form follows function whether the commodity, market, and or consumer forever evolve around one-another. Philosopher Pierre Bourdieu's theories of capital flow full circle; where regardless if you are a minimalist or a hoarder the world is made up of things and everyone will leave their footprint on the earth. So by humorously analyzing marketed objects and concepts, hopefully this blog will provide further incite into ideas of over-consumption, a disposable society, consumerism vs. anti-consumers, planned obsolescence vs. sustainability, as well as the greater good of mankind and future generations.