I spotted Indexed, another blog-turned-book success story, in the Chronicle Books store the other day. Indexed represents two great ideas: first, it’s a novel use for index cards (other than, say, Getting Things Done with a Hipster PDA or other office applications), and it’s also an inspired concept for a blog. ThisIsIndexed.com is one of those brilliant ideas, like the Million Dollar Homepage — simple, clever, and enviably unique (which translates into lucrative).
Every weekday, author Jessica Hagy — copywriter, doodler, and philosophical statistician — publishes a diagram or an equation that succinctly captures an insight into modern life. The index card doodles range from the trivial to the thought-provoking, most often amusing and challenging in terms of how fast you can "get it." Hagy covers topics as diverse as shelter-versus-purebred canines, drifter cuisine, the boggling math of emotion, and undergoing water torture (both voluntary and involuntary). Hagy includes larger, more complex figures in the 5×7 section.
Kindred spirit Hugh MacLeod, author of gapingvoid, also admires Indexed. Chronicle Books published a couple of companion products, the Indexed book of postcards — (because, go figure, index cards are the perfect size for postcards!) — as well as the Indexed notebook.
Posted August 13, 2009 by Mariva in arts, blog-turned-book, books, business, entertainment, fun, gifts, humor, innovations, media
I realize that advertising represents (and sometimes causes) many of the ills of our society, but I can’t help it — as something of a pop culture aesthete, I love me a good commercial. I think this is because I appreciate good design, clever concepts and creativity in any form. For better or worse — whether subsidizing theater companies and museums or hiring the best illustrators, writers and cinematographers — corporations have become the new patrons of the arts. I’m often astonished at how compelling the commercials for Volkswagon, Apple and Coca-Cola are.
And so, having said that, I sheepishly admit to admiring the recent Kaiser Permanent "Thrive" television commercial, which shows a montage of what modern society could look like in a utopian future:
- A man in a diner reads a newspaper with the headline "Remembering Obesity: A Look Back."
- A teenager in a museum of antiquities looks inquisitively at packs of cigarettes in display cases.
- A vending machine is filled with a variety of organic apples.
- A man pulls his car up to the drive-through window of a restaurant that serves neatly packaged "Mini-Size Me" fast food.
- An intimidating bouncer guards the velvet rope in front of a hot nightclub, above which the marquee displays "Yoga Nite."
- A young woman sits on the grand stairs of a large building, reading a book. Above the front entrance is a sign that says "Public Library," and above that is a neon sign that says "Open 24 Hours."
- An overhead view of bicyclists pans out to show a rush hour of nothing but bicycles on the freeway.
- The final scene is narrated with the slogan "Change — and the world changes with you."
One irony, of course, is that some people apparently feel that Kaiser has done the exact opposite of helping its customers "thrive." (In fairness, though, other Kaiser customers seem to have no problems — at least not yet.) Another irony is that the future may more likely look like this.
Still, though, good commercials generally do what they’re supposed to do: make me feel warm and fuzzy (or, more specifically, optimistic and connected) for thirty seconds.
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Posted March 22, 2006 by Mariva in arts, business, entertainment, health, innovations, movies
Remember "The Future"? When our environment was supposed to have become so technologically advanced that machines would do virtually everything for us, leaving us with many hours of free time to pursue various leisure activities? It turns out that the exact opposite happened, and so we’re left with less time for accomplishing the basic tasks of maintaining our lives, let alone for leisure.
Paradoxically, those with free time often use it to cram more work into their lives, inspired by the growing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement. (Granted, it’s work that’s taken on by choice — as opposed to the DIY work we’ll supposedly be doing after the post-peak oil crash — but still work nevertheless.)
Today’s Your Call radio program, "The New DIY", focused on this phenomenon, interviewing the editors of Make (purchase here) and ReadyMade (purchase here) magazines (both said to overlap techie and crafty interests, although Make focuses a bit more on the techie side) and addressing the practical questions of avid DIYers, which the program host referred to as a "growing community of punks, greens, anticonsumerists and Martha Stewart wannabes." The show addressed everything from the ubiquitous home improvement television shows and networks to crafts (especially knitting, which has developed an inexplicable "cool" factor among young women) to modifying high-tech electronic and mechanical devices.
The host of the show, who admitted to being less than technically savvy, successfully made the Go-Torch soda can stove. The show’s producer attempted to make "Mousey the Junkbot" — and found that while the results weren’t successful, he enjoyed focusing on the journey, not the destination, and developed a better understanding of how electronic things work.
I happen to have copies of both Make and ReadyMade on my desk, and I have to admit that I find myself a bit more fascinated with Make — not that I would actually consider making a cigar box guitar or a LEGO PC myself. But the editor’s description of Make‘s mission to help readers "liberate devices and bring functionality that was deliberately left out by the manufacturer" — or transform landfill-bound electronic appliances in novel ways, like turning a VCR into to an automatic cat feeder — seems almost revolutionary to me. Of course, some projects from the magazine and the Make Blog, like the pliers food chain or the AOL CD dodecahedron, seem ridiculous and remind me of the giant replica of the Golden Gate Bridge that some Silicon Valley programmers had constructed from empty soda cans and paper clips during the absurd excesses of the late ’90s dot-com boom.
Having said that, however, I am amused by the surprisingly numerous iPod-and-mint-case projects, which transform candy containers into a digital audio players, and vice versa. For a few examples (in order from easy to challenging), you can make an iPod Shuffle case from a Tic Tac box, an Altoids case made from old iPod Shuffle or an MP3 player out of an Altoids tin.
If this stuff intrigues you, here are some resources mentioned on the program and that I’ve found as well:
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Posted March 21, 2006 by Mariva in arts, crafts, education, fun, gadgets, innovations, resources, social
So many paper crafts, so little time. If you’re cutting paper (or even cloth!), you can — safely — get clean, straight lines with a Fiskars rotary paper trimmer (available with a 12-inch or a 24-inch cutting board), which is surprisingly affordable for quality home office/crafting equipment.
Perhaps the best part is the available assortment of rotary blades, including blades for scoring paper (for easy bending without cutting), perforation (for easy ripping along predetermined lines) and decorative edges (pinking, scallop, wave, tiara, Victorian, deckle, squiggle).
Posted March 16, 2006 by Mariva in arts, crafts, fun, gifts, innovations, resources
Sometimes the perfect thing to say has already been said by someone else. Lunch Mail has encapsulated this concept in an attractive product designed to uplift and inspire. Each Lunch Mail pack contains a set of thirty colorful business-card-size "surprise" messages. (Think fortune cookies or Cracker Jack prizes without the calories.) Created by the National Education Association, Lunch Mail was conceived as a special treat to include with children’s lunches, but I’ve seen them used for various grownup purposes, such as ice-breakers for cocktail parties, classes and business networking mixers.
Another creative company that showcases pearls of wisdom is quotable, which produces notecards, magnets, journals and other stationery products that feature memorable quotes. Especially notable by quotable (ha!) is the Truth Be Told card pack, which contains "48 calling cards to give to your friends or enemies." Personally, I could imagine handing someone "nice to meet you" or "you rock" more than, say, "enough already" or "you need a mint" — but that’s just me.
As they say, though, words are cheap, so if you’re feeling crafty, you can create your own cards and gifts from the sayings of various wordsmiths. One of my favorite inspirational quotes, featured in the movie Rushmore, is:
When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.
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Posted March 15, 2006 by Mariva in arts, books, crafts, education, fun, gifts, innovations, social
Thank goodness Fats Domino was found alive and well after the Katrina disaster in his native New Orleans. He was found in his home in the Ninth Ward, although some say he was actually found on Blueberry Hill. Domino is 78 years old, and despite losing his home, he’s in good spirits and still making music. He’s donating the proceeds from his latest album, Alive and Kickin’, to the Tipitina’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the music culture of New Orleans. On NPR’s All Things Considered, Domino demonstrates the rhythmic and tempo difference between rhythm and blues and rock and roll, a shift that occurred in popular music during the ’50s.
Posted March 14, 2006 by Mariva in arts, community, entertainment, music, news
If you’ve ever read the scandalous classic Peyton Place — now in its fiftieth anniversary — or seen the movie, you’ll no doubt be fascinated by the backstory. The death of author Grace Metalious seemed similar to that of Jack Kerouac. As long as they shared that tragic ending, it’s too bad she didn’t meet up with the Beats while she was alive; perhaps their own penchant for producing salacious works may have made her feel a bit less like an outcast, or at least a total outcast.
One thing that struck me about the movie (other than the horrifying stuff, of course, which is still shocking fifty years later) was the abundance of stock footage of nature scenes inserted abruptly — yet not displeasingly, and often accompanied by voiceover narration — throughout the movie. Did the filmmakers not have a budget back then to pay a guy with a camera to romp around the woods, capturing bucolic scenes of ducks on lakes and snow-blanketed towns? Or was it more a matter of color correction?
Posted March 13, 2006 by Mariva in arts, books, entertainment, movies
In the spacious but homey split-level basement of Cody’s Books, I always find myself drawn to the tables displaying the Cavallini & Co. stationery products. I can’t seem to keep my eyes off the passel of varicolored notebooks, notecards, carte postale (postcards), flashcards and magnets and accessories, among other products.
Many of the designs embody a neo-Victorian aesthetic, reminiscent of decoupage and Beatrix Potter books, whereas the frames have a distinctly Italianate flavor. Whole maps feature prominently in Cavallini’s collection of gift wrap, making the paper itself a gift. (With Cavallini map gift wrap, I don’t use tape and I advise the recipient to open the package carefully without tearing the paper.) The file folders are works of art, almost too beautiful to kept in a drawer.
Posted March 9, 2006 by Mariva in arts, books, decor, gifts, home
Oh, man. With all due respect to Crash, Reese Witherspoon and, um, Three 6 Mafia — Brokeback Mountain, Felicity Huffman and Dolly Parton were robbed. Oh, Oscar, I wish I knew how to quit you.
Also overlooked — by critics and the Academy alike — was Memoirs of a Geisha. While visually stunning in its cinematic narrative, Geisha may have made the critics happier if the screenplay had been bookended by (warning: spoilers — you may highlight the following white text if you’ve already seen the movie) scenes of New York City as the novel had been. I believe this would have made the story more cohesive and satisfying — especially to those who hadn’t read the book. But heck, what do I know.
The movie may not have inspired critics, but it did inspire Geisha fashion, renewed popularity of the Maiko Barbie Doll, and — from Fresh, makers of my new favorite scent — the "Memoirs of a Geisha" beauty collection.
Posted March 6, 2006 by Mariva in arts, beauty, books, fashion, gifts, movies, music