Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recycling for Weirdos

Why is it that so few of those "green living" tips on the nightly news suggest using empty water bottles for street performance art? Here's a primer on how to do it.

Recycled/Reborn with Glimpse from Green Thing on Vimeo.

Do As I Say...

New research published in the journal Psychological Science (I read about it in Science Daily) suggests something you may already have suspected. (Don't most psychological studies do that?)

The rich and powerful are more judgmental when it comes to the ethical choices of the less powerful than they are for themselves.

"According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behavior, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions," said Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at the Kellogg School.

Through a series of five experiments, the researchers examined the impact of power on moral hypocrisy...In all cases, those assigned to high-power roles showed significant moral hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviors themselves...

In contrast, a fifth experiment demonstrated that people who don't feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed "hypercrisy." The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

"Ultimately, patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy perpetuate social inequality. The powerful impose rules and restraints on others while disregarding these restraints for themselves, whereas the powerless collaborate in reproducing social inequality because they don't feel the same entitlement," Galinsky concluded.
Photo credit: Steve Rhode / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Broke Music of the Day: Appetite for Consumption-Timbuktu and Chords

Another Ramen Noodle Recipe

Consumerism Soviet Style

Thanks to Bitter Wallet for sharing this clip of commercial breaks from the 1980s Soviet Union. While Ronald Reagan was talking about the Evil Empire, communist TVs were apparently using totally awesome synthesizer music to push high tech portable cassette players to be shared by two. (Great for jogging!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Culinary Creations and the Resourcefulness of Poverty

Most of our favorite traditional dishes owe their existence to a combination of creativity and scant resources. The BBC today has a story on the origin of the humble and ubiquitous British food, fish and chips.

"Oddly enough," the article says, "the chip may have been invented as a substitute for fish, rather than an accompaniment. When the rivers froze over and nothing could be caught, resourceful housewives began cutting potatoes into fishy shapes and frying them as an alternative."

Read the entire article here.

Poorman's Feast

Another video from Great Depression Cooking with Clara

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handker-
chief of her own sewing. . . . It is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent."-RALPH WALDO EMERSON, ESSAYS, 1844

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is That Fair? Depends, How Much Are You Paying?

A new study, discussed in Science Daily, shows that:

...when it comes to distributing resources, people's ideas about what's fair change depending on what's being handed out. If it's something that has its own intrinsic value -- in-kind goods such as food or vacation days -- people are more likely to see equal distribution of such items as fair.

But if it's something that is only valuable when it's exchanged -- such as money or even credit card reward points -- ideas of fairness shift to a more market-based attitude. In that case, the thinking is that people should receive according to what they've contributed.

This study furthers a great deal of psychological research that suggests that when you bring money into the equation, it has a social distancing effect.

I discovered too many studies to mention all of them in a chapter that deals with the phenomenon in the book Broke is Beautiful, so I'm pleased to have the opportunity to share some of this material here.

The moment money enters into the equation everything changes. Researcher Kathleen Vohns conducted a series of experiments to gauge the influence of money on social obligations. In one experiment, she and her team invited subjects to take part in a "get acquainted" conversation. The experimenters met by a desk with a computer running a screen saver. One screensaver had fish swimming, the other was a blank screen and the third showed a shower of money. The people exposed to the money screensaver put a significantly greater distance between their own chair and that of the experimenter. Next they asked subjects whether they would want to work alone on a task, or with another person. Of those exposed to the money screensaver, 72% chose to work alone, compared to 16% of those who saw one of the other screensavers.

Sitting near a poster of money has a similar effect, another experiment showed. Those seated near the money poster chose solitary activities from a list of what they would most like to do. People sitting under a floral poster were more likely to choose social activities.

In yet another test, research subjects had to unscramble phrases, some of which involved money, and others not. On the way out of the lab, participants were told that the University student fund was requesting donations, and there was a box outside if they'd like to contribute. Those who had been subconsciously prompted to think about money donated less.

In a 2004 experiment, researchers James Heyman and Dan Ariely asked three different groups to perform a simple menial task, dragging as many circles across the computer screen as they could in five minutes. Each of the three groups was offered something different for performing this task. One group was told they were doing this as a favor to the researchers, the second was told they would get 50 cents, the third $5.00.

The group that performed the task as a favor dragged the most circles across the screen, more than the $5 group and significantly more than the 50c group. People seem to be willing to work as a volunteer, and to work for a fair wage, but when they believe they are being underpaid, performance really suffers.

"It seems that our brains activate this concept of 'money,' suddenly we look at the world around us and prioritize things differently," wrote psychologist John M. Grohol, "It appears to make a person more self-interested and more socially isolated."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things You Can Do When You're Broke: Big Pictures with Small Budgets

I learned about this one through the blog of director Chris Jones who I interviewed for The Indiefest a while back (and whose own short film, Gone Fishing, is mentioned in the forthcoming Broke is Beautiful.)

This film, with a running time of less than five minutes and a budget of less than $300, earned its director a Hollywood contract to make a $30m film. Read more about it by following the link above or on the BBC News site.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Implications of being "Born in a Manger"

Another Broke and Beautiful Money Free Guy

The Sun today ran a story on Mark Boyle, another member of the "living money free club." Boyle lives rent free in a caravan at a farm commune washes in a stream and keeps himself warm with a stove that's held together by scrap metal and fuelled by wood from nearby trees.

He joins Heidemarie Schwermer and Daniel Suelo, previously featured here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009