Culture

Russian PBR & Other European Binge Drinkers

Curated by CLAI

RUSSIAN PBR? Pabst Brewing, owner of some of the most well-loved, all-American, blue-collar brews in the country, will soon be bought by a Cyprus-based beverage conglomerate that calls itself the biggest independent brewer in Russia. The iconic brand behind Pabst Blue Ribbon, the red-white-and-blue-canned lager founded in Milwaukee before the Civil War, announced late last week that it will be bought by Oasis Beverages, which runs breweries in Moscow, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Soon, none of these will be fully owned by American-based companies.

Soon, none of these will be fully owned by American-based companies. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

HEAVIEST EUROPEAN BINGE DRINKERS: Ireland is no surprise, but French binge drinking is one the rise. Other heavy drinkers include Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Finland, and Greece.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking in Europe

Prevalence of Binge Drinking in Europe (WHO 2010/WAPO)

40 years, 40 portraits, 4 sisters, & Hello Kitty’s 40th Birthday

Curated by CLAI

4 SISTERS, 40 PORTRAITS, 40 YEARS: Who are these sisters? The human impulse is to look for clues, but soon we dispense with our anthropological scrutiny — Irish? Yankee, quite likely, with their decidedly glamour-neutral attitudes — and our curiosity becomes piqued instead by their undaunted stares. All four sisters almost always look directly at the camera, as if to make contact, even if their gazes are guarded or restrained.

The Brown Sisters: Forty Years (Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie) 1975, New Canaan, Conn. (Credits: Nicholas Nixon, NYTIMES)

The Brown Sisters: Forty Years (Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie) 1975, New Canaan, Conn. (Credits: Nicholas Nixon, NYTIMES)

HELLO KITTY TURNS 40! Hello Kitty is celebrating a big birthday this year. In the time since the first simple coin purse was sold in Japan back in 1974, Hello Kitty has become a multi-billion dollar empire — $8 billion worth of products bearing her image sold internationally in 2013. The Japanese company that created the cartoon cat now oversees the production of products ranging from backpacks to lunchboxes to picture books.

Simone Legno's 2014 sculpture Kittypatra is on display at the Hello Kitty exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. (NPR)

Simone Legno’s 2014 sculpture Kittypatra is on display at the Hello Kitty exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. (NPR)

Portlandia & Norway: Desired by the Poor, Educated, and Criminals?

Curated by CLAI

“Young people are increasingly telling themselves, ‘I’m going to move somewhere and pursue my career,’ rather than, ‘I’m going to pursue my career and go wherever it takes me.’” That line stuck with me as many of my friends and colleagues move to other cities and even countries to live. Many young Americans now have the liberty and flexibility to pick up and move wherever our heart desires because we are not worrying about just food, water, and shelter, but are in search of meaning and passion.

With that, countries like Norway have such high standards of living – their prison cells look better than a lot of dorm rooms and apartments I’ve ever lived in. Our needs are all relative to our surroundings.

Portland, Oregon: Where Work is Optional (Kelsey Dake, NYTIMES)

Portland, Oregon: Where Work is Optional (Kelsey Dake, NYTIMES)

PORTLAND: People move to New York to be in media or finance; they move to L.A. to be in show business. People move to Portland to move to Portland.

  • Portland has taken hold of the cultural imagination as, to borrow the tag line from “Portlandia,” the place where young people go to retire.
  • The city has nearly all the perks that economists suggest lead to a high quality of life — coastlines, mountains, mild winters and summers, restaurants, cultural institutions and clean air.
  • According to the sacrifice measure metric, which essentially charts how poor a person is willing to be in order to live in a particular city: Portland is near the top of the list. Even when college-educated residents get jobs there, they earn 84 cents for the average dollar earned in other cities.
  • We’re not the hungry immigrant nation we used to be. We’re more into meaning, into jobs that find fulfillment. And at least some people are willing to accept lower pay to go somewhere they care about.
  • Portland’s paradox is that it attracts so many of “the young and the restless”, that it has become a city of the overeducated and underemployed — a place where young people are, in many cases, forced into their semiretirement.
Norwegian prison art (Trond Isaksen/ Statsbygg, WAPO)

Norwegian prison art (Trond Isaksen/ Statsbygg, WAPO)

NORWEGIAN PRISONS OR HOTELS? Norway’s prisons are overcrowded, but the Scandinavian country has found a simple solution: sending some of its prisoners abroad. Up to 300 prisoners could be sent to the Netherlands, which has so few criminals that it’s about to close 19 penal facilities.

The reality of Norwegian overcrowding belies the longstanding reputation the country has had for prisons that looked more like modern art museums than penal facilities. Some Norwegian cells look even more luxurious than student dorms.

Humblebrag: Faking Your Vacation

Curated by CLAI

Projecting an enhanced reality is nothing new. Paintings flatter their subjects like Napoleon Crossing the Alps did, presenting a better and rosier version of reality. Now, we just can do it faster and better on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While I don’t like to admit it, I, myself, am guilty of humblebragging. “Finished my master’s application on Waikiki!” Woohoo, look at how efficient I am when tanning on the beach! I crave that pat on the back that I did a good job – external support and approval. Nonetheless, it’s what makes us human.

Projecting a believable alternate is something new. The ability to use technology to manipulate what you see, so that everyone believes you are in one place while you are not. Check out the “Faking Your Vacation” story below.

HUMBLEBRAG:  Outright bragging expects to be met with awe, but humblebragging wants to meet with awe and sympathy. It asks for two reactions from its audience, and in so doing makes fools of its beholders twice over. There’s nothing new about false modesty, nor its designation as a form of bad manners. But the prevalence of social media has given us many more canvases on which to paint our faux humility — making us, in turn, increasingly sophisticated braggers.

  • “My emails send so slowly over here in Cannes! So frustrated!”
  • “Why do men hit on me more when I’m in sweat pants?”
  • “Mother of God. Tornado coming. Hide in my wine cellar or my theatre? Or my gym.”
  • “Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport from the flashes of the cameras… Go me.”
Faking your vacation to Phuket using your local pool and Photoshop

Faking your vacation to Phuket using your local pool and Photoshop (Zilla van der Born, NYTIMES)

 FAKING YOUR VACATION: We create an online world which reality can no longer meet. We filter and manipulate what we show on social media to distort reality.

  • She spent 5 weeks traveling through Southeast Asia and documented the trip in photos on Facebook. She posed for pictures while dining on dumplings, snorkeling among colorful fish in azure waters and visiting ornately decorated Buddhist temples.
  • In reality, she never left her home city, Amsterdam. Each photograph was expertly contrived through photoshopping local temples, restaurants, and a pool.

Geeks Win! CDs Still Reign in Japan

Curated by CLAI

What’s out may stay be in and what was out is now in. It sounds like fashion, but today we are talking about CDs and geeks.

The CD is still popular! In Japan. Maybe I’m nostalgic, but in such an intangible world of SnapChats and Vines, I love flipping through a book or admiring a CD cover (because someone actual put thought behind creating the art). It’s real and touchable. Though let’s see how long the CD will last compared to the cassette tape.

And geek culture is now in??? Movies like 21 Jump Street where Channing Tatum doesn’t get the girl and 17-year old millionaires who built and sold apps have made being smart and intelligent something to aspire to. Will magazines now start focusing on brains instead of brawn? Probably not. Sex sells.

GEEK CULTURE MAINSTREAM: Never before has the boundary between geek culture and mainstream culture been so porous. Becoming mainstream is the wrong word; the mainstream is catching up. Growing up, pre-Internet, possession of knowledge was such an identifier. That is no longer true; the Internet flattens things out. From gadgets to social networks to video games, the decision not to embrace the newest technology is a choice to be out of the mainstream.

  • With millions watching via computer, Tim Cook, the Apple chief executive, who has an industrial engineering degree, unveiled three versions of the watch, hoping to broaden the appeal of a fashion accessory traditionally worn by the calculus crowd.
  • With millions watching via computer, Tim Cook, the Apple chief executive, who has an industrial engineering degree, unveiled three versions of the watch, hoping to broaden the appeal of a fashion accessory traditionally worn by the calculus crowd.
Don't That Geek

Don’t That Geek

CDs STILL ALIVE IN JAPAN: Japan may be one of the world’s perennial early adopters of new technologies, but its continuing attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry.

  • While CD sales are falling worldwide, including in Japan, they still account for about 85% of sales here, compared with as little as 20% in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.
  • Japanese consumers’ love for collectible goods. Greatest hits albums do particularly well in Japan, because of the elaborate, artist-focused packaging.