Culture

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.

History of Eggs and Jeans

Curated by CLAI

BLUE JEANS: The nation’s devotion to denim is wearing thin. Sales fell a significant 6% over the last year after decades of steady growth since Marlon Brando’s 1950s.

  • Sales of yoga pants and other active wear climbed 7% in the same period. Everyone wants to look like they’re running to the gym, even if they’re not.
  • Blue jeans’ fade could also be due to a lack of new styles since brightly colored skinnies hit the market several years ago.
Levi's didn't even call them "jeans" until after James Dean wore them. Would he have preferred stretch fabrics and elastic waistbands?

James Dean in Jeans (AP)

WASH EGGS: About a 100 years ago, many people around the world washed their eggs. But there are a lot of ways to do it wrong, so the method got a bad reputation in certain parts of the world.

  • By 1970, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had perfected the art of the wash with the help of fancy machines, and it required all egg producers to do it to prevent salmonella.
  • Meanwhile, many European countries were prohibiting washing, as egg-laying hens are vaccinated against salmonella.
  • Asian countries never got on board with it. The exception was Japan, which joined the egg-washers after a bad spate of salmonella in the 1990s.
To refrigerate or not to refrigerate? It boils down to bacteria, aesthetics and how much energy you're willing to use.

Refrigerated v. room temperature eggs (Robert S. Donovan; Flickr / Alex Barth; Flickr)

The Truth about Travel and Vacations

Curated by CLAI

THE MORE YOU TRAVEL, THE MORE YOU LOSE SIGHT OF WHO YOU ARE

  • Because you realize that the more you spread the breadth of your experience across the globe, the thinner and more meaningless it becomes. You realize that there’s something to be said to limiting oneself, not just geographically, but also emotionally. That there’s a certain depth of experience and meaning that can only be achieved when one picks a single piece of creation and says, “This is it. This is where I belong.”
  • The self is highly adaptable to its external environment, and ironically, the more you change your external environment, the more you lose track of who you actually are, because there’s nothing solid to compare yourself against. With frequent travel, so many variables in your life are changing that it’s hard to isolate a control variable and see the effect everything else has on it. You are in a constant state of upheaval.
  • Because uncertainty breeds skepticism, it breeds openness, and it breeds non-judgment. Because uncertainty helps you to grow and evolve.
Castillo de San Felipe in Cartagena, Colombia

Castillo de San Felipe in Cartagena, Colombia (Christine Lai)

WHY DON’T AMERICANS TAKE VACATION? Many people chasing the American Dream are working long hours and skipping vacation to reach it. Most employees strongly believe, compared with people in other countries, that hard work pays off in success. Americans who work over 40 hours a week are more happy than those who work less – so are they happy being overworked? Europeans, on the other hand, are different – they seem to value leisure time more, and accordingly those who work over 40 hours are less happy than those working less.