Category Archives: culture

Why drink alone when you can drink with your pet?

Cat wines are the latest manifestation of a growing trend of pet owners treating them like people.

Over the past 15 years, “the pet market has been transformed by humanization of pets,” said David Sprinkle, the research director at marketresearch.com….“The term ‘pet parent’ has increasingly replaced ‘pet owner,’”

Mr. Sprinkle said. Cat products and supplies make up 30 percent of the $40 billion United States pet market, excluding services, he said.  This has to be a sign of a decline of western civilization.

Maybe there’s more that brings us together than you think

I love this

It’s easy to put people in boxes. There’s us and there’s them. The high-earners and those just getting by. Those we trust and those we try to avoid. There’s the new Danes and those who’ve always been here. The people from the countryside and those who’ve never seen a cow. The religious and the self-confident. There are those we share something with and those we don’t share anything with.

And then suddenly, there’s us. We who believe in life after death, we who’ve seen UFOs, and all of us who love to dance. We who’ve been bullied and we who’ve bullied others.

Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying

This is discouraging

Mr. Trump understands that attacking the media is the reddest of meat for his base, which has been conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem.

For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

The news media’s spectacular failure to get the election right has made it only easier for many conservatives to ignore anything that happens outside the right’s bubble and for the Trump White House to fabricate facts with little fear of alienating its base.

Unfortunately, that also means that the more the fact-based media tries to debunk the president’s falsehoods, the further it will entrench the battle lines.

During his first week in office, Mr. Trump reiterated the unfounded charge that millions of people had voted illegally. When challenged on the evident falsehood, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, seemed to argue that Mr. Trump’s belief that something was true qualified as evidence. The press secretary also declined to answer a straightforward question about the unemployment rate, suggesting that the number will henceforth be whatever the Trump administration wants it to be.

He can do this because members of the Trump administration feel confident that the alternative-reality media will provide air cover, even if they are caught fabricating facts or twisting words (like claiming that the “ban” on Muslim immigrants wasn’t really a “ban”). Indeed, they believe they have shifted the paradigm of media coverage, replacing the traditional media with their own.

In a stunning demonstration of the power and resiliency of our new post-factual political culture, Mr. Trump and his allies in the right media have already turned the term “fake news” against its critics, essentially draining it of any meaning. During the campaign, actual “fake news” — deliberate hoaxes — polluted political discourse and clogged social media timelines.

Some outlets opened the door, by helping spread conspiracy theories and indulging the paranoia of the fever swamps. For years, the widely read Drudge Report has linked to the bizarre conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who believes that both the attacks of Sept. 11 and the Sandy Hook shootings were government-inspired “false flag” operations.

For conservatives, this should have made it clear that something was badly amiss in their media ecosystem. But now any news deemed to be biased, annoying or negative can be labeled “fake news.”

Is the Met Museum ‘a Great Institution in Decline’?

According to the New York Times

The bad news had been building for months at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Even as crowds poured into shows on Hellenistic kingdoms and high-tech fashion, the Met’s deficit was approaching $40 million and had forced the buyout or layoff of some 90 employees. An expansion into a satellite building cost millions of dollars more than expected. A new Met logo and marketing plan were rolled out at great expense — and greeted with ridicule. Then, last month, a new $600 million wing was postponed by several years, frustrating the Met’s efforts to become a serious player in the competitive field of Modern and contemporary art.

Tension inside the Met, the country’s largest art museum, is running so high that when curators and conservators recently wrote a letter protesting compensation cuts, the museum’s leaders chose not to show it to trustees for fear of leaks and bad publicity. Those who wanted to see the document had to go to the office of the Met’s general counsel and read it under observation.

After enjoying boom years, one of the most pre-eminent cultural institutions in the world is now struggling with missteps and the perils of overreaching at a time of uncertain resources. While many museums face financial and competitive pressures, the Met’s troubles are magnified, given its stature on the world stage.

How can a behemoth like the Met, the thinking goes, possibly stumble? Some curators and trustees have zeroed in on Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director and chief executive since 2008, as well as the board that has backed him. The anguish can be intense, given the love that all involved have for the Met.

“It’s a tragedy to see a great institution in decline,” said George R. Goldner, who in 2014 retired after 21 years as the chairman of the Met’s drawings and prints department and has since served as a consultant to the museum. “To have inherited a museum as strong as the Met was 10 years ago — with a great curatorial staff — and to have it be what it is today is unimaginable.”

Several people inside the museum, most of whom spoke anonymously for fear of losing their positions, said the Met under Mr. Campbell had tried to do too much too fast: overhiring in the digital department; overspending on an additional building, the Met Breuer, and on rebranding; overdrawing from unrestricted endowment funds to cover costs; emphasizing Modern and contemporary art at the expense of core departments; and pursuing the new wing before the financing was in place.

Parents lose minds when toy doesn’t fulfill child’s emotional needs on Christmas morning

Parents plan to sue because toy didn’t work right

For many people, Hatchimals just went from being the holiday season’s hottest toy to being one of the most heartbreaking presents around. 

Dozens of parents are now speaking out about malfunctioning Hatchimals after their children unwrapped the toy and realized they could not convince the robotic critters to hatch. 

One of the things that made Hatchimals one of the most in-demand presents this holiday season is the hatching process. Hatchimals are sold still encased in their eggs. Users have to play with and nurture the egg for up to an hour, listening to the cooing Hatchimal inside as it pecks its way out of the shell. 

However, according to many parents, the hatching never occurred — and at least one is now threatening to sue the maker of Hatchimals.

Nicole Kijurina, a mother in Canada, told Business Insider that she purchased three Hatchimals. She kept two for her daughters, and donated one to a family in need. 

“Of course no good deed goes unpunished,” Kijurina told Business Insider. “To my surprise both of my Hatchimals for my girls did not hatch. One just kept [flashing] red eyes [through the shell] and the other wouldn’t spin or move. I ripped the eggs open as requested by both my girls who were crying and heartbroken, because let’s face it, the hatching is the best part.”

If Spin Master — the creator of Hatchimals — does not respond to Kinjurina’s email asking for assistance by January 3, she says she plans to file a class action lawsuit against the toy maker seeking compensation.

Kinjurina isn’t alone in her struggles. The toy maker’s Facebook page has been flooded with angry comments. 

“The gift was given and excitement raged… excitement turned to depression and sadness,” reads a comment from one disappointed buyer. “My granddaughter tapped and turned upside down her egg for hours. She followed the steps and after half a day it would not hatch… I was devastated. Had waited forever to see her smile and instead was greeted with a frown and a ‘it won’t hatch Papaw.'”

Excuse me for having no sympathy.  I bought Wendy a well reviewed tablet this Christmas with an integrated keyboard.  The touch screen didn’t work so I did what I thought any normal person would do, I contacted the company’s tech support and they processed a warranty return (the retailer is sold out of them so we can’t do an exchange). 

Others said that their Hatchimals did hatch — but only after a long effort. 

“It’s bad! My nephew went to bed crying last night about his hatchimal that we have been trying to hatch since Christmas day!” one Facebook user said. “It just was sleeping in the egg, we hatched it ourselves this morning and it’s still just snoring and not doing anything else.”

Toys break.  Technology doesn’t work well.  At the end of the day, you return the product to the store and you exchange it.  Stop using social media to whine about it and we need to stop covering this as news.

The 501® Jean: Stories of an Original

Levi’s made a short documentary film about the history and cultural impact of the brand’s signature 501 jeans.

We trace the 501 Jean’s roots as a utilitarian garment for coal miners, cowboys, industrial workers, all the way to the creative workers who continue to wear it today.

Also: Just to troll the NDP, there is a lean consultant in the video.

The Clocks at Grand Central Station Are Permanently Wrong

… and they’re that way on purpose.

The Clocks at Grand Central Station Are Permanently WrongThere is very little to be done about all this when space is limited, crowds are large, and humans always — always — put things off until the last minute. But Grand Central, for years now, has relied on a system meant to mitigate, if not prevent, all the crazy. It is this: The times displayed on Grand Central’s departure boards are wrong — by a full minute. This is permanent. It is also purposeful.

The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they’re about to miss can actually be dangerous — to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains’ posted departure times. That minute of extra time won’t be enough to disconcert passengers too much when they compare it to their own watches or smartphones … but it is enough, the thinking goes, to buy late-running train-catchers just that liiiiiitle bit of extra time that will make them calm down a bit. Fast clocks make for slower passengers. “Instead of yelling for customers to hurry up,” the Epoch Times notes, “the conductors instead tell everyone to slow down.” 

You might call this time-hacking; you might call it behavioral engineering; you might call it comical. Regardless, it seems to be working. Grand Central boasts the fewest slips, trips, and falls of any station in the country — quite a feat given how many of its floors are made of marble. And given how many of the passengers treading those floors are, despite their grace period, cutting it this close to missing their trains.

How Snoopy killed Peanuts

As Kotaku sees it.

But near the end of the 60s and well into the 70s, the cracks started to show. Snoopy began walking on his hind legs and using his hands, and that was the beginning of the end for the strip. Perhaps he was technically still a dog, but in a very substantial way, Snoopy had overcome the principal struggle of his existence. His opposable thumbs and upward positioning meant that for all intents and purposes, he was now a human in a dog costume. One of his new roleplays was to be different Joes — Joe Cool, Joe Skateboard, etc.

None of this had any greater, narrative payoff, or ended with Snoopy realizing he was a dog. It was always a pure visual gag, and it lacked the subtlety, pain, and vision that had previously been the strip’s trademark. In short, there was no balance. It was just a series of Snoopy in new costumes, almost as if Schulz was anticipating merchandise demands. Cuteness had replaced depth in a strip that had always celebrated the maturity and adult-like nature of precocious children. And since the strip had become globally, universally loved, there was little impetus to revisit the darker social commentary of years past.

Snoopy even passed for a human in many circumstances — Peppermint Patty referred to him as the “funny-looking kid with a big nose,” and took him to her school dance. And thus, the ‘humanizing’ of Snoopy also meant that the real kids were used less and less. Snoopy filled their roles, and eventually, many human characters were discarded altogether. By the 80s, Shermy and Patty, who started the strip with Charlie Brown and Snoopy in 1952, were gone, or reduced to brief cameos. Violet and her high bred snobbery were gone. Frieda, who used to challenge Snoopy more than any of the other characters, was also gone. Instead, we got more strips of Snoopy in cute costumes.

A little known fact is that my first stuffed animal as  a kid was named “Noopy”.  Apparently I didn’t’ pronounce “S” well.

Japan has so many centenarians that the gov’t can’t afford to give them gifts.

From the department of cutting back.

Japan’s government will no longer reward its centenarian citizens with a silver sake dish worth ¥8,000 ($64), saying the growing number of long-lived Japanese are putting a strain on the country’s budget.

The Japan Times reports that the government will find a more frugal gift in time for the country’s annual celebration of the elderly on Sept. 15. Last year, the government spent ¥260 million ($2 million) on the program, which provided dishes for more than 29,000 centenarians. Japan expects as many as 38,000 more people to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2018.

To  be honest, with Japan’s demographic time bomb ticking away, this could be the least of their worries.

The Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Station

From Untapped Cities

Like the rest of Grand Central, the Campbell Apartment serves as a testament to the grandiosity of another era. But this testament is one that can be imbibed. If appropriately attired, enter a room resplendent from paraphernalia of the past and sip on cocktails from the fin de siècle in this virtual museum to the opulence of New York’s high society of the past.

Though it did have a kitchen and butler, this was once the office, not apartment, of tycoon John C. Campbell. President of the Credit Clearing House, Campbell rented the space to be closer to the hub of the New York Central Railroad (Cornelius Vanderbilt’s train empire), of which he was a major stockholder. Rumor has it that he used to sit behind the massive desk (that to this day takes up much of one side of the gorgeous 25 by 60 foot room) half nude, as he detested wrinkles in his trousers. The Campbell Apartment deteriorated drastically after its namesake vacated it in the ‘50s, and like everything else in the terminal, it fell on hard times. Metro North claimed the space as first a signalmen’s headquarters and later a police station, temporarily detaining criminals in what was once Campell’s wine cellar and storing their firearms in his curio cabinet. It was restored to its original glory in the late ‘90s, and is an excellent place to get a real taste of the decadence of Grand Central’s past.

Grand Central Station also holds a tennis court, a top secret room, and a secret railway line that is only used when the President is in town. 

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

From the BBC

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.

It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.

Why?  As one Finlander says

My partner Milla and I were living in London when we had our first child, Jasper, so we weren’t eligible for a free box. But Milla’s parents didn’t want us to miss out, so they bought one and put it in the post.

We couldn’t wait to get the lid off. There were all the clothes you would expect, with the addition of a snowsuit for Finland’s icy winters. And then the box itself. I had never considered putting my baby to sleep in a cardboard box, but if it’s good enough for the majority of Finns, then why not? Jasper slept in it – as you might expect – like a baby.

We now live in Helsinki and have just had our second child, Annika. She did get a free box from the Finnish state. This felt to me like evidence that someone cared, someone wanted our baby to have a good start in life. And now when I visit friends with young children it’s nice to see we share some common things. It strengthens that feeling that we are all in this together.

Okay, I love this idea.

The Twilight of the Indoor Mall

The Awl looks at the death of the mall

In the nineteen fifties, people with money began leaving the cities in unprecedented numbers. They were getting married, getting jobs, starting families, and buying houses—they were moving to the suburbs. A Time Magazine article in 1954 observed: “…since 1940, almost half of the 28 million national population increase has taken place in residential suburban areas, anywhere from ten to 40 miles away from traditional big-city shopping centers. Thus, to win the new customers’ dollars, merchants will have to follow the flight to the suburbs.”

They did, and the suburban shopping mall was born.

But the original idea for the mall was not just about retail. Victor Gruen, the father of the suburban shopping mall, envisioned something much bigger. He wanted outdoor areas, banks, post offices, and supermarkets; he wanted to give the suburbs a soul, one inspired by the public squares of European cities. But that never happened. Instead malls were faceless, sprawling. Gruen was so disappointed with what malls became, he gave a speech in 1978 in which he said, “I refuse to pay alimony for those bastard developments.” Malls turned out to be the very monoliths of soullessness that Gruen had tried to overcome.

It’s not just that there are better malls than Collin Creek in the Dallas area. It’s that there are so many malls; Dallas has more shopping centers per capita than any other city in the United States. And according to some estimates, fifty percent of indoor malls nationwide will die over the next two decades—partly because some shoppers are opting for newer, better malls, but also because, as a recent Guardian article put it, “the middle class that once supported” mid-market malls is dwindling. Or, put yet another way, by retail consultant Howard Davidowitz: “What’s going on is the customers don’t have the fucking money.” Which, of course, wasn’t always the case.

As these old malls die off, they’re being replaced more and more by upscale, outdoor shopping centers—with lofts, grocery stores, offices, public meeting areas, and day cares. At least four have popped up in Dallas within the past ten years, and they’re always packed. Sixty years after Gruen’s ideas were bastardized by short-sighted developers, they are finally seeing their day. Inklings, maybe, of the suburbs finding their soul.

To counter this, maybe there is some life for malls in winter cities.

You can hardly blame the Finns for wanting to shop in giant, self-contained malls. After all, winter tends to start early in Finland (like, November) and end late (say, in April). Temperatures in Helsinki, which is at the nation’s extreme south, with a relatively mild maritime climate, rarely get above freezing in the coldest months, and have been known to go as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. In late December, the sun in Helsinki doesn’t rise until well after 9 a.m., sets soon after 3 p.m., and stays low in the sky — only getting to about 6.6 degrees above the horizon on December 27, for instance (compare that to New York, where it reaches an altitude of 26 degrees on the same day).

So it’s no surprise that the idea of walkable urban centers are a hard sell in Finland. Still, some in the nation are calling for Finland to rethink its love affair with the shopping mall.

Yet recently I have been shocked at how quiet Confederation Mall is (a ghost town), Lawson Heights Mall, and Midtown Plaza is when I am in there.  Then you look at how busy at the same time other places are.  Maybe we are growing tired of malls as well.