Tuesday, January 08, 2008

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.”

Winston Churchill

This quote is so appropriate at this moment. The deficit is growing. The dollar is falling. Gold is at its highest. The mortgage lenders are being sued left and right. Our current president is trying to start a war with Iran.

But in New Hampshire, they are running out of ballots. Let's hope we are not too late.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One of the things that has always bugged me is that high school never teaches real economics. Sure, you get one semester of macroeconomics, but that's about it. Well now everyone in America is getting a lesson on how the economy really works. The housing market is really starting to collapse. This is affecting money supply so the Federal Reserve is pumping more money into the economy. This is only adding to the problem of creating more debt, and it's getting to the point that a lot of debtors can't pay back their loans. Ever wonder why the bankruptcy laws were recently changed? Here's a great video that explains how money really works. Debt is all that money is these days. And more debt means more money. But an economy can't grow debt exponentially forever. So what does the future hold for us? Cory Doctorow predicts, in this wonderful piece for Forbes, what the world might look like in twenty years. Better learn how to actually make or do something.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A prayer for the dead.
Over in the Onion online shop, they have these really cool gift boxes. Nothing says "I love you" like a subscription to Salt of the Month club!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Now the robots are stealing our music!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Over at Freakonomics they have added short little videos that explain the process they went through to discover some of their findings. Interesting viewing. I also like how they splice in a montage of old clips.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"So you see son, someday you could grow up, become a meme, and have people laugh at you for fifteen minutes. Then, when you think it's all over, someone will make a tribute video about you."
It's interesting how history repeats itself. The current craft movement is taking off. But it was during a very similar time over 100 years ago when another craft movement took off. Arts and Crafts flourished between 1880 and 1910. It was in revolt to the industrialization of work that had been the realm of the master craftsman. It was about humanizing created objects. Today's movement is very similar. With most consumer goods being made by unknown people in a far away land, a sense of connection to objects is difficult at best. That is unless they are humanized and individualized. iPod cozies, resized clothes, and a plethora of recycled items all attempt to reconnect the human to the mass produced objects that fill our everyday lives. And all allow the cultural rebellion of individuality.

During the Arts and Crafts movement, focus was on the mastery of the craft and the rights of the craftsman. Guilds were formed and socialism helped influence the expectation of workers. Today the focus is on individuality more than mastery. Six billion humans and a Western culture conditioned for mass consumerism of bland goods leaves the individual with few choices for uniqueness. A single Spencer Tunick photograph expresses this lack of physical uniqueness in humans. Along with the obvious protection from the elements a nude body gains, clothing gives the wearer the ability to be visibly unique. Lately, that uniqueness has been corrupted by an aggressively invasive culture industry that replaces objects with actual content (your father's vintage sweatshirt) with slightly skewed soulless clones (distressed A&F hoodie.) But with self made items, fashion becomes unique and personal. A boring refuse from the corporatocracy is transformed into a unique symbol of individuality. A new identity is born within the boundaries of the existing schema.

Ironically, the latest technological innovation empowers the movement. While the Arts and Crafters of old fought against the evils of industrial technology, modern crafters embrace it. The Internet has allowed communication between crafters throughout the world. Complete How-to's for almost any craft are readily available for anyone access. This is in contrast to the classic mass media that is distilling into demagoguery and infotainment. And while the entertainment industry has taken to copyright litigation of it's own customers for profit, many crafters are following the ideals set forth by the open source and creative commons movement to share their techniques openly. The guild of old is now all of humanity. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can learn, discuss and transform any craft technique into personal art. So in a way, the progressive dream of an egalitarian craft movement is finally succeeding.

Crafting is also about recycling. With the billions of packaged goods produced each year, thousands of tons of waste are added to our landfills. Many crafters are using this refuse as raw material for imaginative solutions and installations. It's certainly not a complete solution to the waste problem, but it is at least a recognition of the value these objects still contain.

Due to economic restraints, most crafters are hobbiests. Mass production has almost eliminated scarcity in crafted goods. Because of this, hand crafted objects have difficulty competing with imported goods, even with an aesthetic premium attached. There are some that have been able to make a living, but by and large most crafts are made by people in their spare time, as a diversion from the usual television viewing or web surfing. But even the hobbiest can take their turn at shop keep. Sites like Etsy and Ebay allow crafters to easily sell their works to a global market. The returns may not make them millionaires, they do at least help support the habit.

And perhaps this is crafting's higher purpose. In a time of media inundation, telling us which clothes, music, hobbies, politics and beliefs we are supposed to have, the simple act of crafting allows a quiet defiance to prepackaged, homogeneous culture. A rebellion not so dissimilar to the khadi of Gandhi . A rebellion of the simple ideals of liberal democracy upon which the modern West has been built; individual freedom and equality. A rebellion of making your own things.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The new ugly is really about robot domination...of fashion.

(Updated to repair a link)
I am going to work harder at keeping this thing up. I read about so many interesting things and get great ideas, but they never seem to make it here. So be patient while I learn some new dance steps.