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May 2009

Running the Numbers

Artist Chris Jordan has developed an amazing body of work in his collection, Running the Numbers: an American Self Portrait.

In it, he looks at American culture - specifically, the magnitude of our consumption - through the lens of statistics, portraying a specific number of products we consume in a given time frame. He assembles thousands of small portraits into larger, more intricate works, in hopes that the images representing these quantities will be more impactful than the numbers alone.

And they are:

Plastic Cups, 2008
60x90"
Depicts one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours.
Plastic cups

And the close up:
Plastic cups close


Cans Seurat, 2007
60x92"
Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.
Cans Seurat

And the close up:
Cans Seurat Close

The works are amazing and really do make you think, just as the artist intended.

See Jordan's full collection or find out how to purchase his prints by visiting his website.

[via @johngonnella]


Quorn Meat-free Products

This one's for all my health-food friends.

Many of you know that after reading The Source a few months back (great guide to healthy living, BTW), I've been trying to eat healthier on a regular basis. This includes consuming less red meat and processed foods and more chicken/fish/tofu and fresh fruits & vegetables. The Source actually provides 21 days' worth of recipes to make it easier, and many of them are so good they've become staples in our diet.

So when I received word from BzzAgent that they were launching a campaign for Quorn meat-free products, I took notice. Historically, I've avoided items in the "meat-free" and "meat-alternative" aisles at the grocery store, assuming they'd be tasteless or just plain gross. I tentatively started eating tofu after reading The Source, and still struggle with it bit thanks to the consistency (the only way I really like it is sliced thin and fried in a coconut milk & curry paste, per one of the book's recipes).

But given my newfound resolve to eat healthy, I decided to give Quorn a whirl. And I'm glad I did.

Quorn products are made from mycoprotein, a member of the fungi family (like truffles, morels, and mushrooms), which gives them a tasty, meat-like texture. Mycoprotein is a good source of protein and fiber, and contains less fat, calories, and cholesterol than meat products. Apparently, a diet rich in mycoprotein can help reduce cholesterol and manage the risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Quorn There are 11 different varieties of Quorn products in the frozen food aisle at the store; I went with the Cranberry & Goat Cheese Chik'n Cutlets, figuring the fruit & cheese would offer more flavor than say, the plain Chik'n Cutlets. We popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes and ate them a couple of side dishes. DELICIOUS. 

On my next trip to the store, I purchased the Naked Chik'n Cutlets and the Gruyere Chik'n Cutlets. I cooked the former one morning before work and sliced it into a whole wheat wrap with cheese and mango salsa. YUM. We ate the latter another night after a long day at work, along with some fresh vegetables and potatoes. YUM.

So now I'm sold, and Quorn products are a staple in our diet. I realize we're heading into Memorial Day Weekend - traditionally the domain of steaks, burgers, and hot-dogs on the grill - but give Quorn a try. They are really tasty, and easy to cook - in the oven or on the grill!


Polyvore

While catching up on my marketing reading - specifically, on turning your customers into your product - I came across this social shopping site, Polyvore.

Billed as the "best place to discover or start fashion trends," it's a combination social network, clipping service, and ecommerce site that let's visitors assemble "Sets" of their favorite items. Here's one Set that caught my eye, from user MyChanel:

-


What's nice is that Polyvore provides a clipping tool that you simply drag to your browser bookmarks so that as you're surfing the Web, you can "clip" images of items you want to add to your profile. Besides the image, the Clipper pulls in the source data - including web site URL, maker, and price. Then, when you create your own Sets, viewers can click through to purchase the individual items. It's brilliant!

Here is my first Set...not as impressive as some of the creations on Polyvore, but I'll work on it :)

Feeling Blue

R.I.P., Domino

I was saddened to receive this postcard in the mail last week:
Domino

Dominomag Domino was my favorite shopping & home decor magazine; I read it religiously and was a big fan of its Inspirations column, where they found ideas for room decor based on a painting or favorite outfit.

I guess I missed the news of its demise which broke back in January; not surprisingly, the magazine's ad sales plummeted on the heels of the housing market crash and subsequent economic downturn.

Visits to http://www.dominomag.com now redirect to Architectural Digest, billed as a "home to inspiring photography, helpful design resources, tips and interviews with top architects and designers," and decidedly more high-brow than my beloved Domino. As Cassandra LaValle of the home decor blog Coco+Kelley noted in the Times article, “What Domino did that none of the other higher-end magazines did was to make décor more accessible.” 

Mediabistro reported earlier this week that staffers of the now defunct publication organized a tag sale in Greenwich Village to sell leftover props and shwag that had accumulated in their storerooms and closets.

While I look forward to my new issue of Glamour, it just won't be the same.


TripAdvisor (and FlipKey!) on Chronicle

Tripadvisor We were excited to see a segment on TripAdvisor in Tuesday night's episode of our local news program, Chronicle.

In it (starting at minute 3:53 in the clip), Founder & CEO Steve Kaufer explains how the user reviews supplied by everyday travelers have made TripAdvisor a premier online destination for people planning trips, and gives a peek inside the TripAdvisor offices.

Kaufer

Flipkey But the best part was when host Mary Richardson (at minute 6:37) gave a nod to TripAdvisor's newest feature: the ability to rent individual homes...thanks to its partnership with FlipKey, vacation home rentals with real reviews.

Richardson

Great press for two great companies. If you want the backstory on FlipKey, read my earlier posts about their launch and their one year anniversary

And then go book a vacation rental!


Carpentaria

Carpentaria Knowing how much I love to read (and blog!), the good people at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster sent me  an advance copy of Alexis Wright's second novel, Carpentaria

Wright is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers, and an Aboriginal activist. Her book depicts life of these indigenous Australians via the story of a community of people in the coastal town of Desperance in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Specifically, she introduces us to Norm Phantom & family of the Westend, his rival Joseph Midnight of the Eastend, and the vague "white men" from the neighboring Uptown who threaten the land, traditions, and heritage of the Aboriginal people.

It's a lengthy tome - clocking in a 516 pages - and although I received my copy in mid-March, I just finished it last week after taking it with my on our trip to Puerto Rico.

Carpentaria book Truth be told, I had trouble getting into the story. It's a mystical narrative, starting with the creation of the rivers and flow of the tides explained by an ancient serpent that slithered over the land, creating the serpent-shaped water flows and taking huge breaths that cause the tides.

The writing is beautiful, with rich descriptors, like this passage about one of the main characters:

"He possessed such an enormous voice, the pitch of it could reverberate up and down the spinal cord, damage the central nervous system, and afterwards vibrate straight up the road to the town and hit the bell so hard, it would start ringing its ear piercing peal." (p. 97)

But I found the early pages confusing, with odd characters whose stories seemed truncated and disconnected. It wasn't until the second third of the book that a central narrative really presented itself, and it was at this point that I got pulled into this complicated community where legends and ghosts live side-by-side, including fisherman Norm Phantom who straddles life between his family and the sea, and the mysterious Elias Smith, who seemingly straddles life between Heaven and Earth (or, the spiritual and physical realms).

There is a constant juxtaposition of traditional Aboriginal life in Desperance with the modern "conveniences" of Uptown: Norm has a taxidermy shop where he preserves fish (and legends) for all time (yet loves his transistor radio that brings news of changes to the ozone layer). His wife Angel preserves things as well: found objects from the town dump. Son Will protests the land grab and business practices of the neighboring mine. The entire family seems intent on resisting advancement and maintaining life as they know it. 

Elias is the one character who seeks change, and he suffers a dark fate. Norm continued to fish, while "Elias had become misguided like a fool into the politics of Uptown. He was far too busy to go fishing, too busy for the sea. He abandoned the lot, everything he knew, just for Uptown."

In all, it's an interesting, thought-provoking story if you can stick with it. And Wright does have a unique - at times beautiful, at times complicated - writing style. But maybe not a light, quick beach read :)

Check out additional reviews or buy the book at Amazon.com.


In Defense of Twitter

"If Twitter were a person, it would be an emotionally unstable person. It would be that person we avoid at parties and whose calls we don't pick up. It would be the person whose willingness to confide in us at first seems intriguing and flattering but eventually makes us feel kind of gross because the friendship is unearned and the confidence is unjustified. The human incarnation of Twitter, in other words, is the person we all feel sorry for, the person we suspect might be a bit mentally ill, the tragic oversharer."

Thus writes Meghan Daum in her recent LA Times column, Do only twits tweet?

TwitterI'm a Twitter user, but I found her column humorous - criticisms and all. She's spot on in her description of how many people use the medium (e.g., to update the world on mundane moments in their days, like "I'm heading to the kitchen to make a sandwich").

But here's the thing: who cares what people tweet? If you find it boring and mundane, then don't follow it. I think most of the critics are harping on the wrong thing - blaming the content that is transmitted via the channel on the channel itself.

Jb_recon_telephone_1_m Here's what I mean: think back (if you can) to the early days of radio, or the telephone, or the home computer. When these new technologies came onto the scene, very few people had access, nor did they truly recognize the long-term value that the technology could provide. Take the first phone call: Alexander Graham Bell said to his assistant, Thomas Watson, "Mr. Watson - come here - I want to see you." Pretty boring, right? Not enticing enough to make you want to follow his feed?

But fast forward 133 years, and no one would debate the value of the telephone.

I'm not saying that Twitter is as revolutionary as the phone call, but I am saying don't confuse the medium with the message. And don't be so quick to judge something that's still in its infancy. There are numerous individuals and companies that find value - and enjoyment - from Twitter. If you're not one of them, then simply go elsewhere.