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Posts Tagged ‘trend forecasting’

The following article is from “the Economist”.  I feel that the generation that was raised with the automobile as center to their personal identity… ie the people that value their possessions, their car, their clothing brand, their house, as the statement of their identity and how they see themselves and compare/rate themselves to others….  well they are quickly being replaced by the next generation that doesn’t view themselves this way.  The next generations value things a lot differently.  This is in part due to the evolution of communication and the smartphone in particular.  Social interactions have replaced ego centric possessions as status to some degree… and it only appears to be accelerating.

SO here is the beginning of the article from the Economist… read more by clicking the link at the end.

The future of driving

Seeing the back of the car

In the rich world, people seem to be driving less than they used to

Sep 22nd 2012 | from the print edition of “the Economist”

 

“I’LL love and protect this car until death do us part,” says Toad, a 17-year-old loser whose life is briefly transformed by a “super fine” 1958 Chevy Impala in “American Graffiti”. The film follows him, his friends and their vehicles through a late summer night in early 1960s California: cruising the main drag, racing on the back streets and necking in back seats of machines which embody not just speed, prosperity and freedom but also adulthood, status and sex.

The movie was set in an age when owning wheels was a norm deeply desired and newly achievable. Since then car ownership has grown apace. There are now more than 1 billion cars in the world, and the number is likely to roughly double by 2020. They are cheaper, faster, safer and more comfortable than ever before.

Cars are integral to modern life. They account for 70% of all journeys not made on foot in the OECD, which includes most developed countries. In the European Union more than 12m people work in manufacturing and services related to cars and other vehicles, around 6% of the total employed population; the equivalent figure for America is 4.5% of private-sector employment, or 8m jobs. They dominate household economies too: aside from rent or mortgage payments, transport costs are the single biggest weekly outlay, and most of those costs normally come from cars.

Nearly 60m new cars were added to the world’s stock in 2011. People in Asia, Latin America and Africa are buying cars pretty much as fast as they can afford to, and as more can afford to, more will buy.

Til her daddy takes her T-Bird away

But in the rich world the car’s previously inexorable rise is stalling. A growing body of academics cite the possibility that both car ownership and vehicle-kilometres driven may be reaching saturation in developed countries—or even be on the wane, a notion known as “peak car”.

Recession and high fuel prices have markedly cut distances driven in many countries since 2008, including America, Britain, France and Sweden. But more profound and longer-run changes underlie recent trends. Most forecasts still predict that when the recovery comes, people will drive as much and in the same way as they ever have. But that may not be true.

As a general trend, car ownership and kilometres travelled have been increasing throughout the rich world since the 1950s. Short-term factors like the 1970s oil-price shock caused temporary dips, but vehicle use soon recovered.

The current fall in car use has doubtless been exacerbated by recession. But it seems to have started before the crisis. A March 2012 study for the Australian government—which has been at the forefront of international efforts to tease out peak-car issues—suggested that 20 countries in the rich world show a “saturating trend” to vehicle-kilometres travelled. After decades when each individual was on average travelling farther every year, growth per person has slowed distinctly, and in many cases stopped altogether.

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My friend Dan Sullivan (who I have named “the barometer of hip”) wrote me an email dissing brands and the surf clothing industry a while back…  It is a topic he and I chat about often… branding, trends, style, culture etc.   Here is what he wrote…(in one huge long single sentence with 17 commas… classic Dan style…) and it succinctly sums up what many people feel about the marketed “surf culture”  and “action sports”… or truly… about brands in general.

Dan wrote:

“Since ESPN and Orange County apparel and footwear peddlers coined the act of surfing, skating, riding a dirt bike, or snowboarding  an  “Action Sport”,  these activities, which use to be about fun, personal enlightenment and self challenge, have deteriorated to just another over-marketed activity that requires “specialized gear”, which  former surfers, skaters and snowboarders of Orange County, will gladly sell you, at inflated prices, even though the goods are the same quality as a a Wal-Mart garment, and sewn in the same factories in China, so they can live in faux Tuscan Villas, drive Range Rovers and keep their wives in shoes, handbags and sunglasses, purchased at South Coast Plaza.”

I love his comment.  Dan and I have been friends for many decades and have watched as surf culture was absorbed by large brands… and as action sports was born.  Indeed I am guilty of helping create the monster as creative director of the first “skateboard clothing” company: Vision Street Wear…. and via the  shoe brand I built Simple Shoes.(Full disclosure… Dan was marketing director for a while)

So I will just come out and say it… “there is no such thing as surf clothing”.  Surf clothing is a bathing suit.  That’s it.  Birdwell Beach Britches may be an authentic surf clothing company I suppose… all they sold was trunks back in the day… and pretty much only to surfers.  But the list is damn short after them…. a few Authentic Hawaiian shirt companies are authentic.  Everyone else in the category today called surf or action sports including me pretty much made up what we now call surf style or action sports.  These days there are even re-issues of classic (made up) surf style.  There are even re-issues of classic skate style from the 1980′s…  but it wasn’t original then… it was just made up.

Dan would say “it is all bullshit”.   And it is true… it was bullshit then… and it is now.

Think about it…. WHY ON EARTH should you PAY to wear somebody’s name on your shirt?  In all honesty… they should be paying you to wear their name.  Why pay to have a surf clothing company… or any company for that matter… on your shirt?  It is ridiculous.  But marketers have been making up stories about how the cool kids all wear  “X” and so if you want to be cool you have to wear “X”.  They pay pro athletes to wear “X” and or really incredibly beautiful girls to wear “X” and people buy it.  Over and over.

THIS IS CRAZY!  WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Why have we allowed ourselves to be defined by what we wear… what we drive… etc. It is NOT who we are.  It is a dream… a false reality.  You are not cooler because you drive certain kind of car.  You are truly just a sucker.  You are not cooler if you wear some branded article of clothing. Again you are just a sucker.  There on only so many hours in a day to work to earn money… don’t waste it on stuff you have been fooled into thinking will make you cool.

I suppose it has to do with fitting in… not wanting to be the outcast.  But when you think of the truly interesting and cool people you have known… did they wear branded merchandise and was that what you remember… NO WAY.  Does anyone give a crap what pants Pablo Picasso was wearing.

DEFINE YOURSELF somehow… you are not the sum of your possessions or your wardrobe.  The people with the cool new clothes from the cool new store are not cooler than you… they are sheep.

Trends are all born from trend forecasters who watch truly cool individuals doing things that are different than the norm.  Those different things… when they occur randomly… are noted by trend forecasters and photos are taken and various style trend books note the oddity.  These style trend books are then sold by the trend forecasting agencies to the fashion houses for HUGE sums of money… the fashion houses research the trend books accuracy by sending their designers out around the world to verify the trend within certain core constituencies and at a certain threshold of adoption amongst “alpha”  examples.  Once it is fairly obvious that a given trend is going to become mainstream enough for the fashion house to be able to sell this to the dept store, surf shop etc it is given the greenlight to go to production.  So they copy the idea and sell it and it is part of their “forward” collection at first… until it proves itself for a season.. at which time it then gets put into the regular line.

You will never see the truly cool people wearing the branded products unless they are being PAID to wear them.  Think about this.  Does the coolest person you know wear brand t-shirts?  Probably not.

Most brands are vultures preying on our lack of self confidence and our desire to be cool.  But truly cool people don’t wear brands.

Yes… there are some exceptions… where a company makes something that is truly useful or performs in a way that other clothes don’t.  Smartwool socks for example… They are warmer than cotton socks and they wear well.  But these are just socks… they are not surfer socks or action sports socks.  So if some surf brand slapped their label on wool socks would they be better… nope.

Branded clothing is probably less than about 150 years old.  Somehow we humans seemed to survive without wearing big logos on our chests for millions of years.

So be brave… be original… find a truly unique style that is your own.  Be the one that the trend forecasters take the photo of.

and yes I did design and sell action sports clothing… and action sports shoes… and am thus a hypocrite I suppose… The nicer amongst you will notice that I no longer sell fashion clothing or shoes though… and simply call me a sell out.  The very few of you left that haven’t called me a hypocrite or a sellout probably actually know me and will simply snicker quietly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry  Thoreau:  “avoid all activities requiring special clothing”

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Exactitudes is a site that cuts straight to the center of things.  Distilling various trendmongers down into clear and exact categories.  Sometimes with audio if you choose their “slider view”.

Everyone thinks they are being so different… yet we are all just conforming.  I dare you to be truly unique… it’s quite difficult.

“Technohippies” shown just below… circa 2005

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This is a really long post.  You may want to get a cup of coffee first.  You may actually not care at all…  but it would have been my mom’s birthday a couple of days ago… So I thought I would write about her… and the concept of the word “cool”.

Lucy… in Florence Italy… circa 1942

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In the early 1950’s, before I was born,  my mom Lucy ran a store selling metaphysical books, art supplies,  and jazz records.   It was decorated in a Zen style which in those days meant a red door, tatami mats on the floor, paper Japanese lamps hanging from the ceiling, cast iron candle stick holders, and rattan window shades you pulled up with a cord.   She usually walked or rode her bike to work… accompanied by her black standard French poodle…. Cobby.

Sales were not huge.  Mostly she just served coffee to her musician and artist friends, from a percolator no doubt, while they hung out and listened to Sarah Vaughan and Ahmad Jamal records and talked alternately about Buddhism,  Hinduism,  psychology or philosophy.  She wore cable knit sweaters, corduroy pants, wool socks and workboots bought from Giannini’s fisherman’s supply shop down by the harbor.  The neighbor lady’s Siamese cat “Salvador” was a fixture in the window.  (Salvador was one of those old fashioned fat headed Siamese cats from before cat breeders chose for skinny noses)  The coffee wasn’t espresso, it was just coffee,  Maxwell House most likely.

What I have left of this era are a cigar box of black and white photos shot with a wide angle lens by a grad student from Berkeley who’s name I have forgotten… of the characters that often inhabited my mom’s shop… and the stories.  Margaret Meads ex-husband Gregory Bateson  frequented the place.  Most of the beats had been in… as well as my namesake… Eric Barker… the Big Sur poet who could be found hanging out with Henry Miller at the bar of that new restaurant called Nepenthe’s on the land Orson Wells used to own.  Lucy also knew a fellow named Michael Murphy because they shared a common interest in moving to the Sri Aurobindo ashram “Auroville” just outside Pondicherry India.  Murphy later moved there… and eventually founded Eselen in Big Sur.

Lucy never moved to India… because my childhood doctor…BLESS HIS HEART!  Dr. Ekegren or Dr. Tedone… one of the two…I can’t remember… told her she was an idiot to take me, a five year old,  there.  I did get a Cholera shot that day… which was the reason for our visit to the Dr…. in advance of leaving the USA and which is the only part of that day I remember clearly.

Anyway… running a bookshop catering to pseudo beatnik artists seems like a pretty interesting thing to be doing in the early fifties from the rose colored hindsight of 60 years later.  I’m sure she decided to open it after visiting Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco and falling in love with his City Lights bookshop there.

The trouble was that she was in Morro Bay… then mostly Portuguese abalone divers and Swiss Italian dairy farmers.  Eastern Philosophy meant nothing to them… they could care less about Alan Watts, or the latest music… and that damned standard Poodle was best known around town for the time he stole somebody’s entire laundry line and tugged it and the clothes on it down Morro Bay Blvd.

——–

Within a year or so the shop closed.

Prior to the bookstore Lucy had lived in LA and worked for the Capital Records PR Department writing copy for many of the 1940’s jazz greats.  Earlier she had lived in London, Rome, and Madrid.  Her husband was a writer and reporter for the United Press who’s job it was to cover the Consular Core abroad.  He wrote and she bought a few modern paintings.  She drove a jeep.  She wore scarves.  She was tan.  WWII was a side note.

On vacation to Morro Bay one weekend they noticed a for sale sign on an ocean view redwood and glass house.     They stopped to have a look and a man was standing there with a large hammer in his hand laughing.  “What’s so funny?” Lucy asked.   “Well”, he said,”  I just finished pounding in that for sale sign about 20 seconds ago”.

Within a year the marriage would be over.  But that house would be Lucy’s home for the next 50 years… and Gerry, it’s architect, the laughing man with the hammer… would later become my father.

Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler had pioneered the modern “international style” of architecture in California 20 years earlier… but a modern house was still an unusual sight in 1954… and Lucy’s house really stood out.

Gerry Rupp was a mostly unknown modernist architect who alternately drove a Jeepster, a 40’s Chrysler convertible or an early 1950′s VW single cab pickup.  He called the VW “the old Nazi” and purposefully beat the hell out of it… as payback for his WWII war injuries I suspect).  This truck was later sold to another neighbor… and I was brought home from the hospital in it.    He wore leather sandals… corduroy shorts… and had a beard.  He had several medals from the war.  He had studied law… semantics in particular.

He lived in an A- frame he built in 1949.   This was the first modern  A-frame.  Another architect Gerry knew,  Mark Mills, built an A-frame home in Carmel by the Sea few years later.   A few years after that Nathanial Owings (of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architects) would copy Mark Mill’s  A-frame design when he built his (now famous) “Wild Bird” house on the coast of Big Sur in 1958.   Andrew Geller on the east coast would get credit for inventing the A-frame style due to his 1955 house on the east coast.  I showed photos and wrote about this in an earlier post.

Back on subject… and to put all this in context… when my mom was a kid… in the 1920’s…  The graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko was founding the Russian Avante Garde, Walter Gropius was building the Bauhaus in Germany,  the surrealist painters had published the first issue of La Revolution Surrealiste, there was New Orleans jazz music on the new “radio” and Ford was selling two million Model T’s per year.    I think it’s important, the context that is, because I am fairly sure that my mom was one of the first people that were truly “cool”.

In the 1950’s it was probably stupid to ride a bike to work to everyone except the core beat generation types… who considered it cool to be down and out. Somehow… the idea of being modern… and progressive… included being down and out… and my mom owning that (money losing) store… and riding her bike because her Renault  sedan(still pronounced “rehnahlt”  then here in the USA) was broken… all of this was good somehow.  Bad was good.  Add to that her history in Europe… the job writing copy for the jazz greats… well it just adds up.  She was cool.

And I mean this in the fifties Beat sense of the word… like when somebody said… “he’s cool”.  Well it acknowledged that not only did this “cool” person get the whole concept of modernism… he also was just as happy to have rejected anything mainstream and was a more accepting individual.  He was not likely to judge others for being avant garde or unusual in some way… more likely he would judge you if you were too normal.   The cool person was an insider… he knew the score… he wasn’t gonna call you out for whatever you had to hide.

Its really a fantastic evolution… from “calm and collected”, the previous definition.

My grandpa, born in the 1800’s, was of a different era altogether.   He was a telegraph operator in Indiana.   He lived a few miles from the train station on a small farm and he rode a bicycle to work.    During the great depression he often gave his lunch to the hobos and did without.  He was a respected member of several Fraternal Orders.  He went to church.   He remembered when they first got electricity.  He did not own a car.  Nobody he knew owned a car.  He was a good man.  But grandpa was not cool.

Somewhere between my mom and my grandpa… cool happened.

My first personal experience with the concept of cool came with the gift of a bike. (the more savvy among you will now notice the secondary bike theme)  It had been my mom’s bike in the 50’s.  A pre war skip tooth Roadmaster … she and I painted it purple with a spraycan. (Hey… it was 1970!).  It was “a stupid girls model” (said with the disgusted inflection of an 8 year old boy).  It also weighed about 40 lbs.

The other neighborhood boys all had new banana seat bikes usually called Stingrays.  They had a club called “Heaven’s Devils”… comprised of only banana seat bike owners.   I was not admitted to this club… as mine was not a banana seat bike….on top of this… mine was a girls model… horror of all horrors.   So evenings at my house were spent staring at the Sears catalog, or Boys Life… reading all that was then available to an 8 year old regarding bicycles.

The social pain associated with having an older model girls bike was quietly absorbed by me… as my mom was always poor as a churchmouse.  Mostly I knew this because I always had Sears Toughskins… and the other kids had Levi’s.

To my great surprise… the next Christmas Santa blessed me with a green “Free Spirit” model Banana seat bike(with a sissy bar even!).  Not quite as good as the “orange peeler” Schwinn that the neighbor kid had… nor nearly as expensive… but it did allow me admittance to the club… which by now had basically disbanded anyway.  In any case… I was no longer the dork on the old girls bike.

I was finally cool.

But the cool that I was…  upon reflection…(and I have given this a great deal of thought)  well it differed from the cool of my mom… whom at that time I didn’t realize was cool.  My cool was a marketed form of cool… primarily driven by advertising.  The boys in the neighborhood saw the newest items in various magazines… and the richer of these boys got them first.   Slingshots for instance… I had one… most kids did.  But Billy Warner got a “Wrist Rocket” model slingshot one day… and within the hour all other slingshots were not cool anymore.

Same goes for skateboards… I had a “Black Knight” from Thrifty Drug store… as did most of the kids in the neighborhood… yet when Jimmy Warner (Billy’s brother) got that first Hobie… well it was advertised in various magazines… and all the cool kids in the magazines had them… and suddenly the “Black Knight” seemed pretty uncool… and I basically felt second tier suddenly… when the day before I had been just fine.

So this Beat notion of “cool” was co-opted by advertising agencies to mean newer and better somewhere in the sixties.   Sure… the idea of new is better had been around for a while.. but this addition of cool factor really ramped things up and suddenly people everywhere were not as cool as they could be.  We as a society weren’t prepared for this status upgrade assault… and worst of all we fell for it hook line and sinker.   Last year’s style was uncool… the new version was much cooler.

The Beat meaning still stuck in certain cases but there was now this other marketing driven version of cool that had a status associated with it… and that status association was COMPLETELY different to the status associated with the beat generation meaning of cool.  It was in fact almost the exact opposite.  Nobody seemed to notice this insidious evolution but it has made a great impact on our culture.

Here was this other iteration of cool… more rightly now called “trendy” I suppose… and it has driven marketing ever since.  The cool (trendy) guy gets the girl because he has the cool (trendy) car… the cool (trendy) girl gets the guy because she has the cool (trendy) clothing from the cool (trendy) clothing brand… the cool (trendy) kid has the cool (trendy) bike… the cool (trendy) mom buys the latest cool (trendy) snack… blah blah blah.

Television and marketing now tell us what is cool.  It is very difficult to ascertain the truly cool anymore.  Is Lady Gaga actually cool… or is she only cool because her PR machine and her carefully marketed cynical attitude have fooled everyone into believing that she is making fun of things that are marketed… and therefore she is cool.    This is a devious and brilliant reverse marketing concept.  I truly don’t know whether she is actually beat cool… or whether she is just marketing cool.

Truly beat cool has a sort of cyclical relationship with marketed cool.  At first a beat cool theme is adopted by a prime mover, an alpha… Someone actually does something cool, or wears something odd cool, or uses something in a new cool way.  This might be a musician or a famous personality. Whatever. Next it moves to the beta’s… the group closest related to the prime mover.  Next people all over, usually young people, begin to adopt this theme or behavior.  Then that cool thing or theme is quickly glommed onto by marketers and advertisers… using this new cool thing to catapult their agenda or product to a larger audience thus making them cooler than their competition. Once the theme or product hits a certain saturation… the core group of users starts to reject the cool thing… the cycle ends.  Coco Chanel famously said, “fashions fade, only style remains the same”.  This is the difference between beat cool and trendy cool.

Thus the truly beat cool… are usually perceived as uncool by most folks at first.  Once understood… this is pretty funny.    There is an entire industry of trend forecasters that make a living prognosticating what is cool to corporations.  Their jobs are to watch for these odd new often uncool looking behaviors… and to then carefully track them to see if they lead to a trend.

—=—

It is interesting to note that the entire modern notion of “cool” really only goes back to about 1920.  My grandpa in 1910 had no notion of being cool other than it meaning “calm and collected”. I suppose that there was a concept of fashionable… or classy… or of character.  But there was no separate “cool factor” that transcended things.  A person was simply classy… or fashionable.  They were not “cool” yet.

So move forward to roughly the 1920’s… to those modernist movements… the Russian Avant Garde… also called “Constructivism”, De Stijl in Holland, Bauhaus in Germany, Modernistas in Spain etc etc…  All of these were design movements by intellectuals trying to advance quality of life for a wider variety of people…. To make things more than they had been prior to the industrial revolution.  To bring quality to the average man.  It was a time of great changes in art, literature, music and design of all types.  All the norms were being challenged.

Those people that challenged the norms were different than those that stayed within the old paradigm.  They were modern.  They were avant garde.  They were often outcasts and considered rebellious.   This also defined both the beat generation that was to come… as well as products and corporations that embraced the most modern concepts.

The concept of modernism separated those that accepted it from those who did not.

There came to be cool people… and then everyone else… although I am not exactly certain when cool happened.

In reality we got two different types of cool… and while they should be separate entities… they are not.   These two cools are not at all the same.  The term “cool “ doesn’t really allow for a distinction between the two.  But the two have wildly different  meanings and it is important to see the distinction.

As you may have noticed… I call one “beat” cool… and the other “marketed” cool.

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Today I would venture to bet that if you walked up to anyone on the street under the age of 80.. and asked them if they were cool… they would say… “yes… I’m cool”

But how can this be?  Surely not everyone is cool.  This defies the concept of cool.  Some of these people must be uncool.  But who then is the arbiter of cool?

The 80 year olds listened to Elvis… they knew Rock and Roll… they built hot rods… some were beatniks.  The 65 year olds knew the british music invasion… they were hippies… they took acid… they smoked pot.  Anyone under 50… well hell… they were raised under an aura of marketed cool.  Cool is ubiquitous to them.  Are they all cool?

——

Something funny happened to cool around 1990 or so.  Cynicism began to be hip.  First it was just a small group.… self made pundits analyzed and criticized everything cool… such that things which were not formerly cool became cool simply because they were uncool.  Reverse Marketing was born where brands made fun of themselves in order to look cooler.  This was not totally new… Doyle Dane and Bernbach Advertising (DDB) had done this in the 60’s with VW’s advertising.  But in the nineties it took on a whole new dimension… a truly negative cynical twist.

I was making shoes then… the brand I built was called Simple Shoes.   I had a hunch about clogs because I saw them on the feet of a couple of people I knew who hated everything cool.  They were purposely trying to be uncool by wearing clogs.

So… I went deep and started making clogs in a big way…on the hunch that these uncool cynics were actually the next wave of alphas… and that soon everyone would want to look uncool.  We advertised them in that DDB style… as “the ugliest shoes that you could buy”.  We told our customers to “hurry and buy them before they become trendy”.    At first the shop owners looked at me like I was a complete idiot.  “there is no way in hell I am gonna sell any of these… get them ugly things out of my shop” Steve Carlson told me at his shop “Central Coast Surfboards”.

I did get Steve to test them however… and they sold out to his most forward customers within a few weeks.  The next time I saw Steve… he was wearing my clogs.

It was not cool to look too cool.   But it was cool to look a bit uncool.  Very confusing.

Something troubled me about this.

I was simultaneously making a living by marketing consumer products by making foreward thinking people think they were cool… and growing tired of marketed products and consumerism myself.  This was an odd spot to be in.  It started to feel really stupid and dishonest for me to continue to convince people that they needed my brand over some other shoe.  In reality… I knew it shouldn’t matter what kind of shoe a person wears.  So I decided to sell the company… as it really wasn’t cool to be selling cool.

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Of late there is an even further evolution in cool…  I’m still not quite certain what to make of it.

A new era of critic has been born.  Critics of the extreme forward niche.  The Blog “BikeSnobNYC” is a perfect example of this. (note bike theme under-current example again… I’m a bike bike enthusiast… and will promote cycling however possible!  There can be no shame in that.) .  BikeSnob makes fun of the leading edge of bike culture before anyone else does.  This blog is truly funny.  Something can barely peak its head out of the new idea box… and Bikesnob will find a way to make fun of it.  This has made BikeSnob really cool somehow… even cooler than the coolest new things to hit the scene.   Somehow… belittling the most interesting new progressive ideas makes the the most fervent of bike geeks want something even newer still.  It is ridiculous… and funny.

There are larger bike trends… ie The 1970s “bike boom” when ten speeds flooded the market, BMX, Mountain bikes, fixies… etc etc.   Well amongst the bike cognescenti there are some fairly micro niches that most folks don’t know about or understand.… like the retro French randonneuring tweed ride (betcha never heard of that one), Dutch cargo bikes,  nervex lug collecting, NOS Campagnolo in the box collecting etc etc.

Bike Snob has called out the Cargo Bike trend by calling them “smug bikes”.  Mind you… that there are probably less than a few thousand Cargo bikes in the USA… and their owners tend to be the alpha amongst alphas of green consumers.  These cargo bikes are primarily bought because the owners of these rides are using them as a form of protest against the automobile… in order to show others that you do not need to use an automobile for most tasks.

BikeSnob is making fun of a group that most people don’t even know exists yet by calling them smug… which they are… but they’re still a radically forward thinking bunch that will eventually impact the balance of society… but by calling them smug years before they even have an impact… well… it is just funny…. And it somehow makes BikeSnob truly cool.

—=—

The last word is that cool isn’t really one thing… it is hugely multifaceted.  And just because something is cool… doesn’t mean you should like it I guess.  You need to research it… and why it is cool… and whether this cool thing is really cool or not is up for you to decide.  You shouldn’t let our “advertising and branding culture” define what is cool.  More than likely it is only cool because a lot of money is being spent to fool you.

True cool is rare.  It is to be treasured and studied.  It is not a new dress or something you saw on TV.  It is probably not today what it was last year either.  It is an evolution of thought… a nuance that you know is right but cannot describe.  Cool is that thing which most of us never really achieve.   We try to achieve it by buying crap… and or imitating things that used to be cool…

My mom was cool.  I miss her.  It would have been her 91st birthday today.

Eric Meyer March 1, 2011

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Note… this post is due to too much coffee running in my brain. Never have an espresso after midnight.

So I couldn’t sleep and lay there in bed at 4 am… thinking about what my buddy Mark Velasquez (a great photographer/artist and current contestant on bravo TV’s “work of Art”) had said  last night as we were deep in conversation about what creates ideas… and how to generate better and more creative ideas and get them through to completed projects.  Anyway… Mark was saying that he has all these tidbits of ideas floating around in his head all the time… and slowly they gel together to a more formed yet still not concrete idea… and over time they become a complete idea.  But this process takes a certain amount of willpower and patience.

I have similar feelings… because of my career in fashion and design… I am always trying to forecast where things are going… analyzing trends… keeping track of all sorts of wacky data sets and then comparing those data points to the various histories of design and art and architecture etc. and eventually the points all start to lead toward conclusions… but it begins very fuzzy…  like dust… and the dust then becomes grains of sand… and then the sand becomes dirtclods… and then the dirt clods eventually become little planets… each planet is a full idea.  They come together of their own accord.  As if the dust were pulled by gravity toward an answer.

Millions of these ideas come together in the little universe of my mind I would guess….but only a few of them are worth acting upon… so my brain is constantly adjusting and judging one idea “planet” against the next… and I then make decisions about only the ideas with the greatest gravity.. the biggest.  Many of my thoughts lead nowhere… they are too esoteric or mundane… but this process can be counted in milliseconds so I have plenty of time for crazy stupid ideas.  What blows my mind is that my brain keeps track of all the data of my life and eventually tosses out whoppers that I then act on.  The little bits that are meant to find one another… seem attracted to each other somehow… and the more I want this to happen… and the more I keep adding new data… the more it happens.

I don’t know… maybe it is magnetism somehow… or God kicking us in the pants… the dust particles getting together stage of this ideation process… it seems to happen with an almost gravitational pull.   All the new data entering my skull is constantly sifted through my experiential knowledge, training, and personal belief systems… toward a singular whole somehow.  It happens one way or another without me really knowing.  All my previous experiences and education is cataloged away so that my head can run the new data stream through it all and torture out random associations.  I think it is Quantum Physics or some sort of idea magnatism/gravity determining which things are important together.  Eventually enough stuff piles up in a given spot to form a planet “idea”.

Even this concept that I am trying to put into words right now… is the culmination of a lot of reading… a lot of stewing on things… and then slowly putting the ideas together over time…. the last bit is the planet being born… the “aha!”big bang moment at 4 am.

It is a bit like the creation of the universe.  All the various matter that exists today… existed then… but it took a long time to develop in the planets.. with atmospheres etc… and then maybe develop life… and that life to have become intelligent… well most planets don’t make it.  Much like most of the dust in my head doesn’t evolve into decent ideas.  But the more I torture my head to think about creating ideas… the easier it is to do.   The better I become at noticing the nuance of our world the greater my ideas become.

Matter… having formed itself from celestial atoms of dust into molecules and then chunks and then planets and water and then trees and animals and bicycles and dump-trucks… is always in motion.  It is always changing, evolving.  Evolution is always creating new things… and entropy is always taking things apart as fast as we or nature can build them.  The old saying that “the only thing that is certain is change” is key.  Change is energy.  Change is the conversion of stored condensed matter… into some other form… heat… light… whatever.  All the animals and plants and detritus of the planet either gets used up and converted into energy by some microbe or other animal.. or it seeps down into the soil and becomes carbon, oil, coal.

We humans dredge up all this carbon…and use it to power our world… etc etc.

SO it goes with ideas.  The old ideas pile up… and lead to newer ideas… many small ideas get swallowed up by larger ideas that use their original energy as component of the new larger idea.  The detritus of ideas gets mulled over and chatted about and opined over for centuries following the original idea.  The energy of ideas is Literature… music… the arts in general… inventions etc.   The creators of this “energy”… these ideas… move on then to making more mental decisions that lead to ideas that then creates more “energy”… more ideas.

So the faster we can make ideas… the more quantum energy we create.  The very act of creating ideas… and teaching others to make decisions that lead to ideas… the faster it goes… exponentially.  This is what is happening around us here on this planet… we are evolving ever faster and faster.  Our minds are expanding ever greater.  Of late it seems like I can actually feel my mind expanding.

The trick then is to learn to tap into the flow of this process.  realizing that it exists is a fantastic insight in the first place… but learning to cultivate the process takes challenging yourself and others around you to talk about it and challenge each other to take it up a notch.  Once you start… quantum physics takes over and directs your attention to the things you might be missing… you see things you need to see suddenly.

In order to tap in… you need to constantly add new data.  Constantly evolve your perspective.  Listen, communicate, teach.. do whatever you can to stimulate and fill that brain with new info constantly.

To stop adding in data… well that pretty much kills off ideation.  Things will not be the way they were… they will not remain the same.  They will evolve.  it is inherent in our brain, our ecosystem, on our planet and in our universe.  Dams fill up with debris and eventually fail… political systems and religions that refuse to evolve… eventually fail… most of science is eventually proven wrong… trees and animals die… everything evolves into something new.  You cannot stop it.  you cannot simply stop and will things to be the way they used to be… or wish for things to be the way they are right now forever.  They are going to change no matter what… so the key is to step into the flow and add your knowledge set to the data of the planet in someway… even in little ways by making somebody smile… or teaching them something… or letting them teach you something.

The energy is there and working … the magnetism… the gravity… the idea creation… it is a huge flow to tap into and utilize.

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