Archive for September, 2009

Brave New World

Posted in One to Ponder on September 25, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

2050 image

A talk about what life might be like in 2050 was held this week, bringing together experts from the 21st Century School, Wired and Intelligence². We are now in the last era of youth, by 2050, life expectancy is predicted to reach up to a Star Trek-like 250 years. We won’t have kids until we’re 80, resulting in ‘bean pole’ families where 5 or 6 generations live together. Longevity will become the new global inequality, overruling race and class. Whilst in the West we will expect to live to 150 years or more, people in developing countries will hope for 50. The social challenges facing us by 2050 will be not how to eliminate poverty, but how to give everyone the same long life.

‘Bioliberation’ versus ‘biothreat’ was the most controversial topic of the evening. An experiment where genes from a glowing jellyfish were used to create a fluorescent rabbit was described. The science behind this was transferred and used in developing a glow-in-the-dark human embryo. It was destroyed so that it couldn’t grow into a luminous baby.

This raises lots of ethical questions about the implications of harnessing genetic modification, taking qualities from nature and combining it with humans. For example, could we develop a way to see in the dark like a cat, or exploit the jellyfish genes and become a luminous race, helping to solve the energy crisis simultaneously – we would never need electric lights again. Today’s ‘frankensciences’ could be tomorrow’s sustainability solutions.

There was also a key discussion on the science of happiness. Scientists have discovered that happiness is linked to biology, rather than a person’s circumstance. With gene technology it might be possible breed happier, less greedy, more generous human beings.

Stephen Hawking also believes our survival depends on using GM to make us less aggressive. “I think the biggest challenge we face is from our aggressive instincts. In caveman days, these gave definite survival advantages and were imprinted in our genetic code by Darwinian natural selection,” he says. “But with nuclear weapons, they threaten our destruction. We don’t have time for Darwinian evolution to remove our aggression. We will have to use genetic engineering.”





Posted in Miscellaneous on September 25, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

whiffle image

There’s a little-known way to address people whose name you can’t remember, you can call them shaggledick. When she’s not being a diva, Aretha Franklin practices tyromancy, the expression for predicting the future by watching cheese curdle. These are among the bizarre, rarely-used words in the English language that feature in a curious new book called The Wonder of Whiffling. We also like Growlery (a place to growl in, often applied to a sitting room); Blatteroon (a person who will not stop talking); and Badonkadonk (buttocks of exceptional quality and bounce). The author Adam Jacot de Boinod, describes himself as a “linguistic bowerbird” (a person who collects an astonishing array of – sometimes useless – objects). He hopes the book will make people more articulate. The author sent us his favourite words:

Adam Jacot de Boinod’s wondrous wiffle:

gulch (Newfoundland English 1895) to frequent a sheltered hollow for sexual intimacy

exhibition meal (Hobo slang) a handout eaten on the doorstep: the madam wants the neighbours to witness her generosity

spanghew (1781) a cruel custom among lads of blowing up a frog by inserting a straw into its anus; the inflated frog was then jerked into the middle of the pond by being put on a cross stick, the other end being struck, so that the frog jumped high into the air

noop (Scott: Heart of Midlothian 1818) the sharp point of the elbow

grille-peerer – one of a group of clergymen in the 1940s who used to haunt the stacks of the London Library to look up the skirts of women browsing above

handbags at ten paces (US slang 1991) a verbal spat, usually between athletes on the field of play

feague (slang b1811) to put ginger up a horse’s fundament, and formerly, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well

witches’ knickers (Irish slang 2000) shopping bags caught in trees, flapping in the wind

cochel (Sussex dialect) too much for a wheelbarrow but not enough for a cart

ostrobogulous (1951) unusual, bizarre, interesting

petrichor (1964) the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell

juck-cum-peng (Jamaican English 1943) imitating the sound made by a wooden-legged person walking


Thanks to Ellie for this story. Ellie is a self-confessed Pozzy-Wallah, (someone who is inordinately fond of jam). Her particular favourite is rhubarb and ginger on not too crunchy toast.

The It Bird

Posted in Culture on September 25, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

the good life

Chickens are the new must-have pets, according to The New Yorker, which describes them as “a perfect convergence of the economic, gastronomic, environmental and emotional matters of the moment”. If Chihuahuas in handbags symbolised credit recklessness and pet as designer accessory, then chickens in back gardens are the recessionary pet, offering (eco) style and sustenance. “Chickens are certainly in vogue at the moment. I think people are beginning to realise that there is something wholesome and good about keeping one,” says Joe O’Gorman, the managing director of Whitakers Hatcheries.

Martha Stewart originally helped give the poultry-keeping industry an image makeover after publishing photos of her pet hens, making them seem like companions rather than livestock. There is now a growing pet chicken industry.

Backyard Poultry magazine has seen its circulation climb to over 100,000 in the past few months. ‘Hencam’ has arrived, a service which broadcasts live coop action to a following of 15,000 avid chicken watchers per month. You can treat your hens to a luxury Eglu, a contemporary chicken coop from Omlet, a UK company specialising in products for chickens. And a sign that chickens really are the new Chihuahuas is the invention of the chicken diaper, which comes in a range of 5 patterns and colours.



Live Fashion

Posted in Branding on September 25, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

There is a generation of young people whose fashion inspiration is coming entirely from the internet. They see fashion shows and shoots streamed live, read collection reports uploaded moments after the shows have finished, discuss them in web forums, and buy clothes online before they even get to the shops. Their experience of fashion is instant access and live. This is what SHOWstudio has set out to explore with the new Fashion Revolution exhibition, the highlight of the show being a live fashion shoot by Nick Knight. “We are in the midst of a revolution in fashion imagery,” he says. “Moving away from illustration and stills photography, we are now entering the restless world of interactive, self-created, digital-imaging: accessible, downloadable and constantly changing.”

My Wonderful World of Fashion, by illustrator Nina Chakrabarti is a really dear colouring in and activity book for fashionistas. As well as being a lovely book of illustrations in itself. There are pages which show you how to turn a napkin into a headscarf Grey Gardens-style, a game to match pairs of cowboy boots, and how to make a tiara from some twigs. It’s very Katie McKay.


Thanks to Lucy Johnston for this story. Lucy wants a pair of digitally enhanced shoe-boots with in-built camera.

How Kids see Technology

Posted in Digital on September 25, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

how kids see tech image

Children are growing up with a different understanding of everyday technology and innocently renaming devices. Laptops are referred to as ‘phones’ by many kids who have never known a world without Skype (which has 246million users). A TV was called ‘music’ by one child because his Mum plays music to him through an Apple TV box (as observed by trend bigwig Piers Fawkes). Other anecdotal evidence we have collected includes a 5-year-old girl who, having grown accustomed to Sky+ when watching the football at home, asked her Dad if they could pause a live match so she could go to the loo. Perhaps the next generation won’t refer to mobiles as ‘phones’, but as computers or MP3 players, because that’s how they are generally used. And in that case, might iPods become the new TVs as they become a more common way of broadcasting? The convergence of technology and digital divide might mean different ways of marketing and naming the same product to different audiences.


Thanks to Sara Tate for this story. Sara’s mum still doesn’t understand what a strategist does. She thinks Sara does the voiceovers.

Objects of Co-Dependency

Posted in One to Ponder on September 18, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

shoes for one to ponder main image

We’ve just discovered a daft but dreamy up-and-coming artist called Keetra Dean Dixon. (If you like The Virgin Suicides, Charles Anastase and Lula magazine, you’ll love her work). Her latest project Just Between You and Me, transforms functional items designed to be used by one person into dysfunctional romantic “objects of co-dependency”. These include a lung cancer-friendly fag entitled ‘Every Breath You Take’; two pairs of ‘Just keeping an eye on you’ conjoined glasses; and our favourite, tandem shoes, which she calls ‘I’ve got your back’.

Just between me and you
balloons one to ponder blog

Every breath you take

An unexpected spark

Significant Spooning

Just keeping an eye on you

I could talk to you forever

In your eyes
binocular things

Thanks to sarah rabia for this story. sarah wants to make friends with Keetra Dean Dixon. She really likes this quote by the artist: “I have an odd relationship with my settings. I have a crush on this lamp post – I SWEAR it flirts with me – flickering occasionally as I walk by. I am sure it affections are not only mine, but this is a comfort. I hope the fluttering light brings a flush to someone else’s cheek. Blushing is pure joy.”

lamp post


Posted in Miscellaneous on September 18, 2009 by Something for the Weekend

We’re a bit over flash mobs but Oprah’s warrants a mention as our viral of the week tied with Denmark’s weird accidental sex tourism ad. To promote the 24th season of her talk show (the longest-running daytime TV show in the US), fans were brought together to surprise her in the world’s largest synchronised live mob dance. The dance began with one woman in the centre of the audience randomly jigging and gradually grew to a record 21,000 people, with live music from The Black Eyed Peas. The event was produced by Michael Gracey, who was also responsible for the T-Mobile flash mob dance in our local Liverpool Street station earlier this year.