Category Archives: history

Humans need to dance together more than ever

The demise of clubbing isn’t just a cultural loss, it’s an existential deprivation for generations who are coming of age.

In 2006, there were reckoned to be 3,000 nightclubs in the UK. By the end of 2019 there were less than half that number, and late last year, the figure was put at only 1,068. The reasons for this decline are partly about what has happened to our cities, and the mindset of many of the people who run them: a story of rising rents, authoritarian councils, and the kind of gentrification that involves people moving into bustling urban locations and then having the brass neck to complain about the noise. Of late, clubs’ finances have been made even more impossible by the effects of the pandemic, and colossal rises in running costs. But whereas last week’s budget saw Jeremy Hunt announcing a freeze in beer duty that he called the “Brexit pubs guarantee”, the fate of clubs is not something politicians really talk about.

‘New American,’ ‘Fusion,’ and the Endless, Liberating Challenge of Describing American Food Right Now

“New American” got its start in Berkeley, California, in the ’70s at Chez Panisse. At the time, the cuisine it described didn’t have much to do with pulling flavors from around the world. Chef Alice Waters and her peers drew from the same tenets that were informing French culinary movements around that period: simplicity, freshness, and an attention to sourcing local ingredients. Eventually, the New Yorker suggested that Waters had invented at least part of “New American” cuisine, one where the farmers market dictated the meal.

The term came at an ideal time. American food was expanding and evolving, and writers and diners alike were looking to mark a change from the meat and potatoes midcentury food that you might have seen in Leave it to Beaver or Mad Men. In 1984, Jeremiah Tower, who had worked as the chef of Chez Panisse, picked up what Waters was doing and ran with it. His cooking pulled from the canon of classic American cooking, then added something—like, say, a Cajun remoulade or a ginger cream. At Stars, Tower’s restaurant in San Francisco, he served dishes like local grilled lamb with ancho chile sauce, avocado salsa, and cotija cheese. The restaurant was a smash hit, and became a who’s who of A-List celebrities and fawning food critics. In 1986, Tower published his first cookbook, New American Classics

The Great Boomer Bottleneck

Boomers, who were for a long time the largest generation in global history, are entering their twilight years. And as they ride off into the sunset, they’re leaving behind an economy that isn’t really built to accommodate the demands of the 21st century. Boomers have spent the past few decades shaping the world in such a way that has made the current crunch more painful and sets up future generations for continued deprivation.

“Far Away” as a luxury signifier keeps evolving

The ideological framework of “far away” has been used as a luxury signifier over the last few decades as externalities around it have changed. Its meaning has implied a sense of “global access” and “entitlement”. The water category is a prime example to see how these signifiers have evolved over the decades and face new challenges today as the idea of “far away” creates new cultural dissonance. Changes began to take hold after the recession in 2008 as a shift to guilt and localism began to replace global as having a more potent social currency for luxury.

From the 1980s when sushi became a signifier of that global access. The history of sushi’s rise in the United States has a lot to do with making the supply chain meet that desire. How can I eat raw fish “far away” from its source? You can if you are willing to pay for it. It becomes the signifier of 1980s aspirational luxury.

Today that idea of global access and entitlement has more complicated problems. Growing inequality and the pandemic have made the idea of “far away” more complicated. We see luxury signifiers shifting to a more “escape pod” ideological framework. From space tourism to luxury bunkers and the metaverse as well.

A student in Analyzing Trends pointed to the Space Perspective package being sold, so you can be a passenger on a balloon-borne pressurized capsule scheduled to make its first test flights early next year. A $125,000 temporary escape pod.

Douglas Rushkoff wrote about tech billionaires who are buying up luxurious bunkers and hiring military security to survive a societal collapse they helped create. And there is an article in The Atlantic that points out how we are already living in the metaverse.

Dystopias often share a common feature: Amusement, in their skewed worlds, becomes a means of captivity rather than escape. George Orwell’s 1984 had the telescreen, a Ring-like device that surveilled and broadcast at the same time. The totalitarian regime of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 burned books, yet encouraged the watching of television. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World described the “feelies”—movies that, embracing the tactile as well as the visual, were “far more real than reality.” In 1992, Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash imagined a form of virtual entertainment so immersive that it would allow people, essentially, to live within it. He named it the metaverse.

A retro hobby for the end times

Interest in canning started to spike in 2020 when a combination of supply chain disruptions, extra time at home, and unrelenting anxiety got locked-down Americans into DIY food. Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, started noticing an upswing that summer, when the arrival of seasonal produce coincided with the waning of the early-pandemic sourdough trend. Google searches for “canning” and “Ball jar” — by far the most popular vessel for home preserving — shot up in August 2020 to far above their pre-pandemic levels. Sales of the All-American Pressure Cooker, a popular pressure canner, skyrocketed as more consumers learned to preserve soups and stews at home.

Lapis Lazuli and the History of ‘the Most Perfect’ Color

Ground lapis lazuli was increasingly used by painters during the 13th and 14th centuries to make ultramarine and Cennino Cennini gives instructions on how to prepare this pigment in his “Book of Arts.” But it was not until the second half of the 16th century that large objects carved from lapis began to appear in Italy. The first center of production was Milan where the Miseroni brothers, Gasparo and Girolamo, became famous for their mastery of working this challenging material. Half a dozen of the pieces acquired by Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici are on show here, including the “Cup in the Form of a Shell” referred to in a letter of 1563.

‘BlackBerry’ – Exploring the Cautionary Tale of the World’s First Smartphone

Johnson co-wrote BlackBerry with Matthew Miller, based on the nonfiction best-seller Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. Miller also produced, alongside Niv Fichman, Fraser Ash and Kevin Krikst.

“We show the entire culture of the company as news of the iPhone breaks, and what happens in the months after that, but we don’t go into the moment when stockholders realize that they are going to zero and this company is going to be destroyed,” Johnson explains about his narrative focus in BlackBerry.

We used to get excited about technology. What happened?

The goal of consumer tech development used to be pretty simple: design and build something of value to people, giving them a reason to buy it. A new refrigerator is shiny, cuts down on my energy bills, makes cool-looking ice cubes. So I buy it. DoneA Roomba promises to vacuum the cat hair from under my sofa while I take a nap. Sold! But this vision of tech is increasingly outdated. It’s not enough for a refrigerator to keep food cold; today’s version offers cameras and sensors that can monitor how and what I’m eating, while the Roomba could soon be able to send a map of my house to Amazon.

Legacy brands need to reset for a relevant future

by Marie Lena Tupot and Tim Stock

So many legacy brands are having the most difficult time finding their place in today’s fast-paced world. They’re either looking to other brands to jump in on the relevance of the other brand, or they are looking inward in the worst way and retreating. Missteps are obscured by relatively diverse image campaigns that keep the brand afloat for a fleeting span of time. But take away the latest campaign…and what have you got? A brand still stuck in the mud with no path forward. Think Tiffany’s & Nike.

Old souls are good, but successful old souls are required to be wise and show us a way forward.

Consider Burberry. “Prorsum” paired with a charging equestrian knight is not the way forward for the times we are in, nor should it be the way forward for Burberry. In 2022, not happy with the direction its brand was going, Burberry returned its creative director role to a Brit, Daniel Lee. The choice of Lee makes perfect sense. At Bottega Veneta, Lee “found his own language making industrially-inspired garments in unexpected and even confounding fabrics.” This is the kind of reinvention Burberry needs to take the brand back, beyond the Chav style that rose during the realm of Christopher Bailey and past the influencer IG-inspired design of Riccardo Tisci, back to its original pre-20th century legacy of a draper toying with gabardine, of explorer culture.

What does not make sense is the return of the 1901 logo. We can look at that through a Culture Mapping lens in which we look at the language of the logo in relation to how society is expressing itself through time. If we apply this Culture Mapping lens to the equestrian knight, the equestrian knight falls squarely into a residual social construct. A “ruler” brand at a time when the tradition of rulers seems to be playing itself out. Understood, that Lee’s intent was to bring the brand closer to its Britishness. However, one must ask what is Britishness today? The beauty of Britishness is not in the eyes of “The Ruler.” The beauty of Britishness is in the evolving diaspora making its impact.

That said, deconstructing a brand calls for meaningful purpose, not the in-group bias of a designer profoundly returning home. Nor, should deconstruction fall into the quick Monday morning quarterbacking of an analyst — but we can attempt to begin to see what’s going on here.

Consider, the cool, calm, collected – effortless and empowered – performance by Rihanna at last night’s Superbowl. It was coordinated, well-crafted and real.

Rihanna knows who she is, and chooses what she relates to.

For her 13-minute Super Bowl LVII performance, Rihanna chose Loewe, Alaïa, Margiela and Salomon.

Jonathan Anderson of Loewe crafted the molded leather breastplate Rihanna wore under coveralls meant to symbolize flight. Craft is the essence of Madrid’s Loewe, founded in 1846. Inviting discovery, it lives in an emergent, innovative space. 

Pieter Mulier for Alaïa custom-made the leather coats, padded red leather bolero and red leather robe. Azzedine Alaïa, himself, refused the honor of being named a Knight in France’s Legion of Honour. He did not value decorations. To date, Alaïa remains a celebration of womanhood. It was never about Alaïa. This too is emergent behavioral code. 

Rihanna’s sneakers were a collab by MM6 Maison Margiela and Salomon. Margiela, founded on ideas of nonconformity and the subversion of norms, is also about process. Salomon is a French sports collective dating back to 1947. They’re all about establishing new vocabularies. Again, emergent traits. 

Authenticity is emotional and can be experienced. And, those narratives can be mapped through the linguistics of culture, mapping natural language discourse.

How FILA Took Over The Culture in the 80s & 90s

If you grew up in the 90s, you remember FILA. If you couldn’t afford Ralph Lauren or Tommy, you could still sit at the lunch table in peace with FILA on — but be cautious. Past the year 2000, you’d be risking ridicule.

That said, today’s piece is about how FILA became one of the top clothing brands of the 90s and how it’s making its resurgence today.