If I’m shot by a poison umbrella dart in an airport, this article will be the reason.
As a sister article to my piece on World War I propaganda in the US, it seems fitting to examine the crowned king of government advertising, North Korea.
Outside of government propaganda, there’s almost no commercial advertising in North Korea. It’s considered capitalist and therefore shunned. However, with loosening restrictions, some ads are popping up in Pyongyang, although they are very controlled, and still ooze propaganda.
Outside of these one-offs, you can travel the entirety of North Korea without seeing a single ad, which produces a very grey tone, particularly against the brutalist architecture:
It’s first important to understand the underlying conditions that facilitate this alternate reality. North Korea sits at the very bottom of the press freedom index:
The list is ranked by basic indicators such as transparency, pluralism (The proportion of opinions that are given by journalism versus the state media), and abuse scores (level of abuses towards independent journalists).
One of the primary goals of journalism is to critique and question those in power. It is fundamental to freedom.
Where you see independent journalism declining, you often see a rise of propaganda and other unchallenged media distributed by the government. This is part of the reason that countries at the bottom of the press-freedom index report such low Covid-19 cases — North Korea denying any cases and China claiming only 4000 total deaths, despite being the epicenter of the outbreak.
Propaganda, in its purest form, was practiced by many countries, including the US, during WW1. This “fake news” was viewed as a necessary evil and was demonstrably over-the-top.
In the decades that followed, most countries moved their messaging back to a place of (mostly) factual news. North Korea, from 1948 to the present, hasn’t slowed down on the opposite trajectory. You’ll see two key themes:
1. Promote the sacred status of leadership. Portray the public as blessed with their benevolence.
This is propaganda, by definition (non-factual, idealized messaging), because of North Korea’s well-documented poverty. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the leader is one of the only overweight people in the country.
There is a decent amount of artistic effort in the ads. All models are depicted as attractive and smiling:
Godlike status is regularly attributed:
All messaging is designed to keep power with the state, which is solely run by their leader.
2. Depict forces that oppose the government in the worst possible light
At the core of all propaganda, is a need to create an “us versus them” fight. Assign motivations (envy, imperialism) as mechanisms and then depict the foe as monsters.
This will never be more evident than at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities.
Within it, you’ll find paintings depicting US Soldiers committing acts that never actually happened.
It’s a museum that most schools are required to bring students to. It’s rarely shown to outsiders and is intended for internal propaganda, although journalist Travis Treppen was given a private tour:
Most fictional literature from North Korean libraries will promote the state.
Even romance novels often depict a male and female lead who, despite being beautiful or otherwise attractive, win each other over by making some sort of sacrifice for the state, volunteering for the military or working in the farms.
Every form of media, no exceptions, is required to point fealty back to the leader. Even if it’s dinosaurs — you’d better have a “Thank you to the great leader for giving us dinosaurs!” somewhere in there.
A Sunny, Beautiful Trip to the Hermit Kingdom
North Korea also practices experiential marketing, in effect.
If you were a journalist, you could actually take a trip to Pyongyang. However, you would be accompanied by a minder, who escorts you everywhere you go, carefully guiding you to prop areas of the city, such as eery staged church services:
All of this is designed to promote an image of a North Korea that is less harsh on human rights than they actually are. On occasion, journalists have seen people reading bibles with blank pages.
Minders will stop you from taking lots of photos of certain places. For example, these images are banned captures:
Most North Korean streets remain empty (few cars) and local children can be seen playing on them during off-hours. It’s illegal to take pics as it depicts the city as underdeveloped.
Or this image of a family who is shown having access to technology, yet it’s obvious their monitors have no power:
This next pic was banned for obvious reasons —the people appearing impoverished:
During a visit, you’ll typically be presented with the most polished, healthy people. They’ll be notified that outsiders are in town and be ready for presentation. The people you see in the capital are the top 1% of society and rural areas are mostly off-limits.
The above pic is a grey market, part of an informal economy that North Korea has loosened restrictions on.
Here’s a more nuanced example of a banned photo:
This image was banned because of the sideways hat and the depiction of soldiers in a casual setting. Soldiers can only be shown if they are in proper formation or at attention, primed for the camera.
Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, you’ll see billboards, with the leader pointing the happy, perfect complexioned people, towards a promised land.
In the ad, note that everyone seems to have a work outfit on and is gainfully and happily employed.
North Korea is flexing its own twisted form of product marketing — show the best features of the product, but not what the product does 99% of the time.
North Korea remains a sobering reminder that, despite our own media industry becoming a circus-like embarrassment, they’re still able to speak truth to power.
The moment we start locking up journalists and treating leaders as sacred from criticism is the moment you should take notice. That door leads to a much darker place.
In 2013, Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen quietly released a mobile game called Flappy Bird.
It was a simple but extremely addictive app that involved navigating a cartoon bird through a series of neverending obstacles. The objective was to keep the bird afloat as long as possible.
According to Rolling Stone, Nguyen built it over the course of a holiday weekend. It wasn’t his first game, but rather another project in a long line of flops. He didn’t expect this one to be any different, and for a long time, it wasn’t.
Then, one day, fortune struck. For months, Flappy Bird’s small collection of players had been rage-posting their high scores on social media. The game was designed so that all the progress you’ve made can be wiped out with just one wrong move, which made making mistakes especially painful. And when players lost, they turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent, or on rare occasions, celebrate.
Eight months into Flappy Bird’s launch, these passionate social media posts reached critical mass, catapulting the game to viral status. Not “viral” in the casual sense, but viral, as in 50 million-plus downloads and worldwide, chart-topping prestige.
Its success earned Nguyen a jaw-dropping payday. Monetized via in-app ads, Flappy Birds brought in a staggering $50,000 in revenue per day. The most amazing part? Aside from a single social media post announcing its launch, he had spent zero effort on marketing.
This is a true underdog story, especially for someone who came from a poor family, like Nguyen. But if you’re tempted to chalk his success up to luck, you’d only be half right.
The truth is, whether it was conscious or not, Nguyen built Flappy Bird on a foundation that stacked the odds of virality in his favor. Let’s take a look at how.
What Made Flappy Bird Special?
Here are four key takeaways.
1. Simplicity is addictive
In his interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen traced Flappy Bird’s inspiration to the Nintendo games he played growing up — specifically, their simplicity.
Struck by how complicated modern games were, he set out to build a game that could be played with one hand. The result? To play Flappy Bird, you only needed to do one thing: tap the screen.
This is a lesson that appears over and over again in business. Whether it’s a video game, online store, or consulting service, the key to attracting customers is to make their experience frictionless.
The easier your product is to use, the more customers will want to return to use it again.
2. Free is contagious
Free breeds virality.
The easier it is for users to access your product, the more likely they are to share it with their friends and get them on board. This, in turn, raises your chances of going viral.
In simple terms, Flappy Bird’s free-plus-ads model made it easy to acquire users. Who’s going to say no to downloading that app all your friends are talking about when it costs nothing to check it out?
This is the same model email newsletters use to build massive subscriber bases. Most newsletters gladly send out their editions for free. Once they’ve built an audience, they can monetize through multiple streams, including ads, sponsorships, and premium tiers.
3. Nostalgia sells
Nguyen isn’t shy about the fact that Flappy Bird’s visual design was influenced by the early Nintendo era. But take a step back and you’ll realize it’s much more than just the Super Mario pipes and pixelated graphics.
Really, everything about the game is reminiscent of Nintendo, from its ridiculously simple playing style to its catchy sound effects. These were critical components to its success: in an era where games are built on futuristic graphics and complex gameplay, Flappy Bird succeeded because it fulfilled a desire for the good ol’ days.
According to marketing genius Gary Vaynerchuk, this is the same reason throwbacks like sports cards and Pokemon are making a comeback. Nostalgia is a powerful motivator for consumers and must be taken seriously as a brand strategy.
4. Good products market themselves
Finally, the common thread that ties all of these elements together is that quality is the best form of marketing.
Without a good product, all the marketing tricks in the world won’t help you sell. But make your product the best in the industry and your customers will do your marketing for you.
The fact that Nguyen spent $0 on marketing is exhibit A on why this works. He simply created a superior game, then gave it away. Because it was so sensationally addictive, the product marketed itself.
You may have noticed everything in the first section is worded in the past tense. That’s because Nguyen deleted Flappy Bird several months after it went viral, citing concerns about his family’s privacy, as well as ethical concerns that the game had become too addictive.
(Don’t worry, he’s still making money thanks to those who downloaded it before its demise.)
While some view this as tragic, I think it’s a net win for Nguyen, who no doubt made enough money during the game’s apex to be financially set for life.
Regardless, the real value here is the nuggets of marketing wisdom. One man showed everyone the power of simplicity. In a world filled with increasingly complex technology, that might be exactly the marketing angle your business needs to stand out
What the American Idiot has done to America is to make it an impoverished country. Not just any kind of poverty — what you might call deep poverty. Let me explain.
New Zealand has zero new cases of Corona. In America, they’re spinning out of control. One way to think about it is to say that your chances of dying of this lethal pandemic are now…infinitely higher in America than in New Zealand. Compared to Europe and Canada, they’re about a hundred times higher.
That’s a kind of poverty, too. A poverty of public health. Americans have spent decades being impoverished of public health by the American Idiot — the kind of person who votes against better healthcare for everyone, including themselves, their kids, their parents. What the? What kind of idiot does that? A very, very large number of Americans.
The result of that attitude was a society poor in a gruesome and strange way — poor in public health itself. What I mean by that is that American life expectancy is the lowest in the rich world, and plummeting, that Americans have the highest rates of all kinds of preventable chronic diseases, from diabetes to obesity to heart disease. You can see it on American faces, in fact: a society poor in health is a society of unhealthy people.
We expect much, much poorer societies to be impoverished in public health. It’s a strange concept to have to think about precisely because we don’t expect it of a rich country. Perhaps one of a poor one, that’s never really developed at all. This is a syndrome unique to America — a form of poverty that Europeans and Canadians struggle to understand, because, well, they’ve mostly eliminated it. But in America, health poverty is endemic.
So endemic that you can see America’s gotten shockingly poorer and poorer in health — right down to the resurgence of old, conquered diseases, from measles to mumps. Again, that’s the work of the American Idiot — the kind of person who won’t vaccinate their kids, which is an idea that in the end takes society right back to the medieval days of endemic smallpox and polio.
So what was going to happen when a society impoverished in terms of health met a pandemic? Utter catastrophe. America’s mortality rate and infection rate are so high precisely because America was a time bomb of failing public health waiting to go off.
What then are the results of creating a society impoverished in public health? Well, Americans face a gruesome choice that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rich world, even in much of the poor one: your money or your life. “Medical bankruptcy” is the result — I put in quotes because it’s a notion that scarcely exists elsewhere.
How did all that happen?
Americans are culturally impoverished, too. The American Idiot has turned American culture into the one of the world’s regressive, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and, well…idiotic. Literally the tiniest shreds of decency and sanity come under a murderous, withering barrage of denial and false “debate” — from things as simple as wearing masks to ones as large as educating Americans about how the rest of the rich world and even the poor one now has vastly better functioning societies.
Huge chunks of American culture are so hateful, foolish, or bizarre that they’d be either illegal, laughable, or bewildering in much of the rest of the world, from Canada, Europe, or Asia. “Debating” whether the answer to school shootings — which happen nowhere else — is to arm teachers? The idea that billionaires are somehow good for society, or that things like healthcare, retirement, pensions, income, and safety aren’t human rights? That money is all that should matter? Nearly everyone else in the world finds such notions jaw-droppingly foolish by now, which is how the American Idiot made his country a laughingstock the world over.
The point of a Culture of Idiocy, of course, is to create idiots, and American Culture is the cradle and mothers’ milk of the American Idiot. From Tucker Carlson to Bill O’Reilly to Ancient Aliens, an impoverished culture keeps Americans ignorant, pliable, submissive, and frightened.
Tucker will fill your head with misinformation, and the reality TV will make it seem normal to be an idiot. The result of cultural impoverishment, though, is that Americans they stay poor in more visible, visceral ways — like poor in healthcare, in equality, in power, in money.
But also poor in time. That’s my next dimension of poverty. Americans can’t do much to change their society — not nearly enough — because they’re time poor.They work harder than anyone else in the rich world, by a very, very long way. Taking a vacation in America is something that mostly, you’ll get fired for. Commuting three hours a day? That’s your problem. Americans have no time — and they don’t quite understand yet that that’s a deep form of poverty. Because when you’re always running out of time, when do you save, invest, educate, reflect, or just have a decent life? You don’t. You’re always weary, tired, panicked, on a hair trigger, and eventually, you go numb.
That brings me to the next kind of poverty — emotional poverty. Americans live severely impoverished emotional lives. America consistently ranks as a much, much unhappier country than Scandinavia, and falling. It’s among the angriest place and most stressed out place in the world.
Backing all that up, rates of depression have soared way, way past global norms, suicides are skyrocketing, and hopelessness and despair are endemic, too.
Imagine that you live a life of financial poverty, time poverty, and public health poverty, like most Americans do. What kind of life is that, emotionally? A poor one. It’s full of nights where you can’t sleep, wondering how to pay the bills. It’s riddled with anxiety and panic. Uncontrollable thoughts race through the mind. Pretty soon, you’re like, well, most Americans: angry, stressed out, depressed. No matter how hard you work, you never seem to able to make ends meet. You never have enough time to spend with your loved ones — or just relaxing, or learning something new. But those are the greatest sources of happiness of all. Is it any wonder Americans are miserable and furious, mostly, then?
The American Idiot made all that happen, too. Who votes, again and again, for no real mental healthcare? In America, you can get medicated— the lowest cost answer, or you can get “therapy.” But getting proper mental healthcare, the way you can in Europe or Canada — careful, long-term psychotherapy? That doesn’t exist at all in America, outside maybe a handful of major cities.
The American Idiot responded, instead, to life becoming a nightmare of dystopian stress, misery, and anger, with something else. With rage. With hate. With the cruelty and brutality that have made America a laughingstock the world over. Why does the American Idiot deny everyone — including themselves — better incomes, healthcare, retirement, pension, more time to have a decent life? Because they’ve internalized the notion that nobody has any intrinsic worth. And therefore, everybody must be a vicious competitor, fighting everyone else off, for a morsel of basics, whether jobs, healthcare, pensions, and so on.
But these are things that when people cooperate — as they do in Canada and Europe — they can simply give each other.
Never mind. The American Idiot — led off a cliff by greater fools, like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump — believes that the only way out of an abusive society is to be a bigger, hungrier, more vicious predator.
But all that happens that way is that society implodes into a spectacular orgy of self-destruction, and becomes an unlivable place, because unbelievable cruelty to the rest of the world becomes the norm — like letting kids be shot at school, in indifference to life which culminates, ultimately, in the mass death of a virus.
All that brings me to another kind of poverty: one we don’t yet have a good name for. A poverty of trust, of goodness, of decency. Americans are impoverished in this deep way, which I can put most simply and accurately by saying that they seem to genuinely hate each other. It’s not nice living in a society of people who hate each other. A society of hateful people can’t ever cooperate to accomplish anything, whether beating a deadly pandemic, or creating a better future by investing together in schools, hospitals, ideas, research, accomplishments.
Now, I don’t mean that you hate anyone. I mean it in a more technical way, one that’s almost invisible in America, because like air, it’s just the atmosphere that surrounds everyone. What else, though, can it really be called, when some large number of Americans deny, over and over, everyone else the right to have healthcare? An education? A job with decent standards? Free time? A rising income? A democracy?
You only do those things if you hate people. Yes, really hate them. I would never deny you healthcare, goes the sentiment in Europe and Canada, where even the hard right wing isn’t against basic public goods. American Idiots will deny their own kids and parents decent lives, though.
The only accurate word to describe such a sentiment is hate — because when you deny someone the basics, like medicine or retirement, you are also hurting them badly, and in very real ways. They are going to suffer much, much worse lives — whether measured in longevity, happiness, income, or relationships — as a result of that denial.
The American Idiot is an abuser. He abuses everyone he can, right down to his own loved ones — and think that’s sanity, compassion, goodness. It’s not: it’s only a recipe for self-destruction. Because a society of people — enough of them — hell-bent on abusing everyone else, right down to their loved ones — can only implode into ruin, bitterness, hardship, and suffering.
That brings me to my final form of poverty. If I deny you the basics — healthcare, education, and so on — what am I really doing? I am destroying your human potential. And that is America’s truest and deepest form of poverty.
Americans now live lives of sharply limited and circumscribed possibilities. Go-nowhere, dead-end lives. You can see that, too, in basic statistics, like the death of upwards mobility, the loss of hope in the future, the fact that young people can’t afford to move out and start families, that half of all jobs are now “low-wage service work.”
In America, your life is going to be much, much poorer than in any other rich country. Elsewhere? You can probably get an education — a much better one — and not be crippled by debt for life. There are more better jobs, with better standards. There’s more free time, to have a family, to form bonds, to love. There are better social protections, which mean you spend less time anxious and stressed out. All of that doesn’t just add up to less depression and suicide and more happiness — happiness is facet of an even greater thing, human potential.
There you are, a young person in America. What are your options? Most industries have now imploded, from news to media to education. That’s why half of jobs are now “low-wage service work,” which is polite pundit’s way of saying: being a servant.
You end up driving an Uber, delivering an Instacart. Doing gig work. Pursuing your side hustle when and where you can. What the hell? You’re educated. You have a long collection of degrees and diplomas.
And yet you never become the thing you could have. The one that would have benefited everyone. That scientist, researcher, novelist, journalist, professor, musician. Who can? Nobody can make ends meet. Nobody has time for anything but to be exploited and abused, in the name of trying to make ends meet. So what is there left over in time or money to invest in one’s self?
One dimension of human potential is what you make of yourself professionally — and you realize, one day, terrified, that you will never amount to what you wanted to, but be a glorified neo-servant for much of your life. But another is relational — what you make of yourself socially. And as an American, now, you can’t even afford to start a family, have a home, develop a lifelong relationship.
That’s how badly your human potential has been destroyed. That’s how poor you are in human possibility. You won’t not just be that scientist, researcher, journalist, novelist — you also won’t be that dad, mom, grandparent, husband, wife, loved one.
You will work, for a pittance, and then die. You’ll make billionaires trillionaires — and demagogue dictators — along the way. But you?
You’re expandable, disposable, nobody.
That’s thanks to the American Idiot. He’s a person so breathtakingly foolish to the rest of the world he’s made America a laughingstock. Precisely because he believes nobody’s life has any intrinsic value — beginning with his own, extending to his loved ones…all the way to you, to everyone. If he’s happy to abuse himself — having internalized the lesson he’s been taught all his life, that only brutality matters and cruelty counts — why wouldn’t he abuse everyone else, too?
America’s become unlivable. Sure, you can live there, and you’ll be OK. But you’ll be poor. Poor in ways that are strange and hard to comprehend because they’re both old and new. You’ll be poor financially, of course, like someone living in a collapsing society — but that’s just the beginning.
You’ll be poor in terms of public health, like someone from medieval times. You’ll be poor in terms of time and power, like a peasant from pre-war times. You’ll be poor emotionally, like someone living in a country with no hope. And you’ll be poor socially, politically, and culturally, like in a country turning fascist-authoritarian. All that adds up to the coup de grace — you’ll be poor in terms of human potential. You’ll never become what you’re capable of being — not to the same degree as elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong. Humanity has lived through a lot. Plagues, wars, collapses, implosions. Life doesn’t come to an end. It goes on. But you know what the point of all those things was? Not to repeat them.
That is the most minimal definition of what progress is. And so far, America has yet to meet even that. Maybe, then, that’s what the truest kind of poverty is, too.
In 2018 a quite curious but interesting phenomenon occurred. Until that point most people probably didn’t believe that a fast-food chain could run out of food. That year UK branches of KFC suffered major losses because a new contractor was unable to supply the high level of consumer demand in the UK.
For the first three months of 2018 over 80 KFC branches in the UK were shut down because they did not have chicken. There were even small riots from outraged customers craving KFC chicken.
A Cause With Useful Information
What’s interesting is that the marketing team found some very valuable information about the consumer base within the United Kingdom: Their consumers were absolutely in love with their chicken.
How do you calm down a crowd that is craving for chicken?
They knew that creating a new supply chain would require some time, especially with the high demand, so the marketing team got creative.
When companies have problems, many try to hide the fact. But admitting to a mistake is a sign that you respect your customer base and, most importantly, the best way of retaining those loyal customers craving for KFC.
In other words, KFC has messed up this time.
The second thing that the marketing team started working on was a new advertising campaign to help the customer base go with something new until the supply chain problem would be solved. It was time to try and move the customer base towards vegan choices that did not require actual chicken, in order for them to remain open for business.
This may not sound so good for a person who craves for KFC but they offered us this:
A vegan burger, it looks the same and according to the reviews, it pretty much tastes the same, but customers were still aware that this wasn’t chicken, so they weren’t getting what they wanted. Or to put it more clearly, they weren’t getting the value they wanted from KFC.
With all the hard work and the incredible marketing that has been done to save KFC UK branches, you cannot simply change the customer’s perception about something. This is a valuable lesson for all the marketers out there.
As much as you can try to change the customer’s perception of the value a product offers, 21st-century customers are more aware of all of these things. It isn’t the 90s, when you could just shift the value perception of a customer in an instant with a supposedly better line of products.
However, I want to credit the way that the marketing team tried to work with the customer base, not only by offering them what I consider the best alternative in the situation, but also by being truthful which shows their loyalty towards their customers.
The story ended three months later when a new supplier of chicken was found that could handle the high demand. Sadly KFC has lost many customers in this period of time. However, after reopening all branches they have boomed, making their losses back.
I hope that you’ve identified the critical importance of the marketing team when a company is in a situation as difficult as that of KFC’s. The marketing department is the first line of defense when a company is in trouble or has made a mistake.
When the supply of something is low, to the point where it cannot be found, give some thoughts to the alternatives. Especially in these times, we have to be more thoughtful.
The amount that some people can consume without hurting them is sometimes staggering, but there is no other person in history like Tarrare, the man who could eat anything. Tarrare was born on 1772, in Lyon, France. When he was 17, Tarrare weighed 50 kilograms and could eat a quarter of a cow a day. The amount would have been equivalent to that of his body.
During that time, his family realized that they could no longer afford to feed him. Banished from home, Tarrare traveled with a gang of thieves and prostitutes begging for food. Finally, he met a Frenchman who decided to use Tarrare’s appetite to get the crowds’ attention.
From Rocks to Glass and even Metal
He could start by eating things like stones or glass stoppers, then he would start eating a whole basket of apples, and in the end, he would eat live animals altogether, without chewing them first. In 1788, he suffered from intestinal obstruction as a result of this regime.
He was taken to the hospital and given a huge amount of laxatives. He recovered quickly and offered to eat his doctor’s pocket watch and chain to prove his abilities. Tarrare had a normal appearance except for his unusually largemouth, and his teeth were extremely sharp. It is said that the skin of his stomach was so long that he could wrap it around him when he was not eating.
When the wars of the French Revolution began, Tarrare joined the French army, where he was soon hospitalized because he could not function with the food ration provided to the soldiers. He was assigned a quadruple food ration at Soulz Hospital. Not finding them appetizing, he began to eat the medical instruments. Fascinated by what they saw, the military doctors decided to perform some experiments.
A use for this special talent
During the experiments, he consumed food allocated for 15 workers, his ration including 15 liters of milk. He also ate a puppy, a live cat, and snakes to amaze the doctors. The man stayed in the hospital for a few weeks, after which he returned to the army. Here the military found a way to use his talent. He was carrying secret documents in his stomach. To prepare for this task, Tarrare initially swallowed a wooden box of documents inside.
After defecating the documents intact, he was granted the position of a spy. His first mission was to carry a message to a colonel who was being held captive in a Prussian prison. His mind, however, was not as strong as his stomach, nor was he told how important the message he was carrying was.
The colonel was to send information on the movements of Prussian troops. Tarrare was eventually captured and searched. Initially, he did not disclose his mission, but after a few hours with Prussian agents, he confessed. The officers waited for the man to clear the message, but when they read it they thought Tarrare was trying to fool them.
After this incident, he gave up the spy position, and the doctors tried to treat his condition. Nothing worked, and Tarrare was often caught stealing dead animals to eat or trying to drink the blood of other patients. He was released from the hospital several times after being caught at the morgue while trying to eat corpses. However, when a child disappeared, Tarrare being the main suspect, he was expelled from the hospital.
In 1798, he presented to a hospital in Versailles in poor condition. Doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis. He died a month later.
Isa Bredt is a 22-year-old illustrator based in Tilburg in the Netherlands, who happened on the brilliant concept of “Pet Disneyfication” after participating in a project on Reddit where she could offer free art to people in order to hone her craft. As a superfan of Disney’s classic films starring animals with a particular knack for drawing pets, Isa found the project to be a perfect fit for her talents and her interests, and as word got out and commissions began to pile up, she was able to turn her skills into a business.
She also uses her art for good, Disneyfying adoptable pets in various shelters on “Shelter Sunday,” “Take Me Home Tuesday,” and “Foster Friday,” as well as making an effort to feature hard-to-adopt animals by bringing out their lovable qualities with a little bit of Disney magic. To see more of Isa’s Disneyfications (including of some famous animals you might recognize) follow her on Instagram or support her work on Patreon.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…they’ll tear a car apart.
This story starts in the massive country of India, with a population of over 1.35 BILLION people, they are the 2nd most populated country in the world, right behind China.
Tata Motors, for those that are unfamiliar, are the 2nd largest Indian car manufacturers. They’re the equivalent of Perodua in Malaysia. In India, the majority of commuters ride motorbikes and public transportation to work, despite the fact that the Indian economy is rapidly improving, most just can’t justify purchasing a car. Although, with a population of 1.3 billion and an ever expanding middle class, it was obvious that there was still a lot of potential for a car company to produce a cost-effective vehicle. Up until this point, Tata Motors have gotten a lot of things right, which is what makes this story such an unfortunate occurrence, but one we can all learn from.
So, Tata Motors began by attempting to bring a car to the market that would be affordable and one that would appeal to the middle-class consumers. They focused on streamlining all of their technology and research in order to reduce the cost of the car without affecting its quality.
Then came the time to reveal the car to the country, here it was.
The press being the press, followed the production of the car for years, so understandably, there was a lot of hype and excitement. Many assumed that the Nano would be the most popular car in India on release. Furthermore, the hype surrounding the car was able to generate a decent first wave of sales with over 200,000 pre-orders coming in. The Nano was even able to pick up a couple of awards in the design, fuel efficiency, and weight categories.
However, in the blink of an eye, everything suddenly shifted the other way, from tens of thousands of units being sold, to just a few hundreds.
So what went wrong?
The Nano was positioned as a safe, efficient and agile car that was built for the bustling streets of India. Those promises were mostly delivered, however, in the few months post-release, several of the cars would catch fire and randomly burst into flames, not only tarnishing the brand, but bringing unwanted media attention along with it.
Then came its other promise, affordability, the Nano was priced at a “sounds too good to be true” one lakh(100,000 rupees) price tag. For reference, that is approximately RM5,616, sounds like a steal if you ask me. However, that was a partial truth, because that price tag was only for those who pre-ordered the Nano, which means those who wanted to buy it later had to pay more, almost double the pre-order pricing, at two lakh.
Despite all that, Tata Motors, worked hard to hold on to what they had, first, they started increasing safety standards, then, they tried to keep the price from growing too much. The Nano might have been saved if it wasn’t for one mistake that wiped all that hard work away.
The blunder came from Tata’s marketing team, when they decided to position the Nano as “the cheapest car in the world”. At first glance, you might not think there was anything wrong with it, especially when you consider the cost-sensitive market we live in today. Dig deeper however, and you’ll find that those five words were a death sentence.
Although Indian consumers are indeed cost-conscious, there are powerful cultural factors surrounding the “cheapest car in the world” slogan that makes it so insulting.
See, Indian society has lots of pressure around class and status. For many buyers, to be seen owning “the cheapest car in the world” was essentially the same as being seen as poor, which is a very sensitive word in India.
Those with new money were excited to be able to spend their earnings to project their achievements and status. As such, they opted to spend a few extra bucks for slightly a nicer car with a better reputation.
The irony of it is that the marketing position of the Nano was for more disastrous than any of the fires that came before it. Middle-class Indians could deal with minor safety concerns, but not the perception of being low-income. How curious…
This financial disaster didn’t only demonstrate the poor marketing research that went into it, it was without justification.
We’re not talking about a foreign brand from Europe trying to break into a new, unfamiliar, Indian market. This was an Indian-led, Indian-employed company that was firmly entrenched in the culture of India. They should have done better.
Today, the Nano is no more, it was discontinued, in their last month, it resulted in only three cars being sold. To add salt to the wound, not only did sales do terribly, but the Nano cost Tata Motors hundreds of millions in lost R&D, production, and marketing dollars. The brand also took a significant blow as Indian media outlets were merciless, as they often are.
The lesson here is, study your audience, make sure you understand what they want and why they want it.
Hawaii is one of the 50 states that make up the United States of America. Made into an official state in 1959 Hawaii wasn’t always under the control of the United States. For a long time before the discovery of the islands by the Americans the small island chain was independent and was ruled by a monarch.
This would all change when Liliʻuololoku Walania Kamakaʻeha, Hawaii’s last monarch, ascended to the throne in 1891 after her brother’s untimely death the same year. What followed were three years of struggle between the incumbent queen and the United States and its supporters who sought to bring the island chain under the control of the union.
Before the crown
Before becoming the Queen of Hawaii, Lydia (Liliʻuololoku’s first name after her christening) worked closely with her brother, King Kalākaua, to rule the country. During his 1881 world tour, Lydia acted as the Queen regent to the throne and ran the country while he was away.
This would prove to be an especially turbulent time for the island chain as a smallpox epidemic was spreading among its population most likely being contracted from Chinese contractors who were working on the islands. She would initiate a lockdown of all ports and quarantine the affected areas leading to the spread to be minimised. By the end of the epidemic 789 mainly native Hawaiians were infected with 289 succumbing to the disease.
After this first regency, the princess would also serve as an envoy for Hawaii most notably to the United Kingdom where she represented the king at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Here they would receive a warm welcome and attend the ceremony among other royals from across the world who travelled to the United Kingdom to take part in the event.
Downfall of the monarchy
The downfall of the monarchy started under King Kalākaua through the Bayonet Constitution of 1887. This marked the beginning of the transfer of power from the native Hawaiians to the Americans. This revolution of sorts was mainly fueled by the plantation owners of Hawaii as they saw the King’s authority as a threat towards their profits mainly because of the tariffs that were placed on the island by the US. The new constitution gave more power to the American’s including handing over control of the famous Pearl Harbour.
The king’s health kept declining during these years until 20 January 1891 when he suffered a stroke during a trip to the United States, leaving Lydia as the new ruling monarch of the island. The McKinley Tariff, a tariff placed on Hawaiian sugar, made the European and American plantation owners very angry with the monarchy. Many thought that by overthrowing the monarchy and joining the United States the tariff would be removed leading to the plantation owners making large profits once again.
This disdain towards the monarchy grew to a boiling point on January 17, 1893, when a coup d’état was initiated by the United States citizens and foreign residents residing in Honolulu. As well as the locals, US marines also “took part” in the coup as they were sent in by the US to “protect their assets” on the island. The coup succeeded and the perpetrators shortly established the Republic of Hawaii leading to the removal of Queen Liliʻuololoku from power
The Republic of Hawaii
Lydia’s official abdication wouldn’t come until 1895 when a pro-monarchy coup was started by some of her supporters leading to the provisional government putting the queen under arrest and imprisoning her in the Washington House. After the coup, Lydia was forced to abdicate her throne to save those who participated in the coup.
After the failed coup was crushed, the queen was placed on military trial and sentenced to 5 years hard labor which was later changed to 5 years of house arrest. On October 13, 1896, Lydia was given a full pardon by the Republic of Hawaii after which she left the country for America living in Brookline, Massachusetts until January 1897.
What followed was many years during which the queen would spend most of her time seeking justice for what she perceived as an illegal coup, even after America’s annexation of the island chain in 1898. Lydia went as far as taking the United States to court citing the Fifth Amendment as her reason for the lawsuit. The lawsuit would be unsuccessful due to the US court invoking an 1864 Kingdom Supreme Court decision over a case involving the Dowager Queen Emma and Kamehameha V as their reasoning for the annexation.
Although her legal pursuits were unsuccessful, she would be successful in getting herself a pension of $1,250, a much smaller sum than she initially wanted. The rest of her life would be spent seeking justice for her people until 1917 when she would die in the Washington House on November 11, 1917, at the age of 79 marking the end of the life of the last Hawaiian monarch.
Our universe is beautiful, vast, and empty all at the same time.
Growing up as a kid, even as a young adult, the idea of space and the universe beyond was always too daunting of a topic for me. I was how I suspect many of you still are, in which the topic sent my head into a kind of overwhelming frenzy. But as I matured and my curiosity in life grew, I started to have an interest in what the hell is going on beyond Earth. The more I’ve learned, the more fascinated I become of the topics of astrology, cosmology, and such. But I’m no scientist, and I still struggle with the distinction between these two areas of study and profession. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll keep the technical aspect out of it and go with the less scientific, more average Joe type terminology such as “space” and “the universe.”
Anyways, with this growing fascination, has come frustration and confusion. I’ve begun to realize that much of the world has great misconceptions about the universe and our place in it.
In my educational experience, the topic of space was generally limited to just our solar system. To the point where many individuals don’t know much at all beyond our solar system and some even think that’s all that space is. Therefore, my goal for this piece is two-fold. On one hand, I wanted to share some crazy facts about space to create more awareness but also to capture curiosity. On the other hand, I’ve found that a deeper understanding of space can create a greater appreciation for the Earth we live on and the fragility of life.
With that being said, let’s get into some facts about our planet and our universe:
1. More than 1,300 Earths would fit inside Jupiter
Jupiter is only the biggest planet in our solar system, but compared to other planets found in our galaxy, it’s not even close to being the biggest. I don’t know about you, but I take some comfort in how small the Earth is in relation to what’s out there. Life and the world we created here on Earth are something special, but at the end of the day, we’re merely a small spectacle in the vast expanse of the universe. Whenever any given moment becomes too big, stressful, emotional, what have you, I think back to this fact and it’s a quick way to put life into perspective.
2. Mercury is the fastest planet in our solar system… A year on Mercury is equal to 88 Earth days, whereas a day on Mercury is approximately 59 Earth days long
Sorry for twisting your mind up into a pretzel there, but take a second and reread that until it’s clear to you. Crazy, right? The difference in time as it pertains to Mercury and Earth is astonishing, especially considering they obviously share the same sun. What jumps out at me is the malleability of time. The concept of time here on Earth is rigid, unwavering, and foundational, but go beyond our planet, and the consistency of time goes out the window. Time changes from this constant, structural concept, to something much more distorted and variable. It makes you wonder about this concept in which much of human life has been formed around and lives by. There’s all kinds of material out there about the concept of time, whether it’s real in space, worthwhile, etc., so I won’t even try to get into it here. The point I wanted to make is the rest of space and the universe don’t play by the same rules we do here on Earth.
3. The universe has never stopped expanding
The Big Bang was only the beginning, the universe has never stopped expanding in the 13.8 billion years since. In fact, the very discovery of expansion is the greatest piece of evidence to support the Big Bang Theory. The rate of expansion is still up for debate, but recent studies suggest that the rate could be far greater than we ever imagined. Either way, we may never know the true size of the universe or if there is an actual size at all, as some believe it could be infinitely large. The point is that the expansion is very real and has legitimate implications on future space travel, as well as the observable universe for us humans.
4. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, modern humans are 300,000 years old
It should be said that the statements I make here, especially in this section, come from a scientific and evolutionary point of view. Again I’m no scientist, and I suspect some will disagree with this, but personally I’m a believer in science and evolution. Take these statements as you will.
Anyways, let me lay out the general timeline like this:
The Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago
4.5 billion years ago Earth was formed
Most believe the first evidence of lifeforms on Earth dates back to around 3.7 billion years ago
The first animals came around some 700–800 million years ago
The first “humans” were believed to originate in Africa some 2 million years ago
The arrival of the modern-day human, homo sapiens, aren’t believed to have originated till some 300,000 years ago
At this point, your brain might feel like it’s about to explode. But bear with me! Just take a second to let that timeline sink in. Remarkable, isn’t it? The egos we have on Earth, yet what are we really in the history of the universe but a mere speck of dust? Let alone our history on planet Earth. I find this timeline to be incredibly humbling. If we one day reached a global consensus on this, I wonder how we might change our approach to the place we have in this universe, as well as how we approach life here on Earth.
I also suspect this fact might make you wonder about life beyond Earth… in that case, the next point should blow your mind as it relates to potential life in the universe.
5. There are likely at least 1 septillion stars in the universe (numbers will forever be up for debate)
Now… I know I said these are facts, but counting the number of stars in the universe will never result in a factual number. All we can do is make our best estimates. The one I mentioned above is likely to be considered a moderate or even minimum estimate at that. But the generally agreed upon average number of stars in a galaxy is around 100 billion. Now, if we then took a very moderate estimate of there being about 10 trillion galaxies in the universe, that leaves us with 1 septillion stars in the universe, in the American number scale, or a 1 with 24 zeros following it.
The crazy part is I’d imagine most scientists would argue that number is likely far lower than the reality. The grand scale of our universe has also led to many different theories, one popular one being the Multiverse Theory, in which we’re instead part of some larger entity with other universes, instead of one complete one. Who knows, but the possibilities are endless!
Again, thinking about things like this only helps to put life in perspective for me. Perhaps next time you’re stressing out over your train being a minute late or the traffic on your way to work, you can think about the fact that Earth is just this tiny little planet amongst a universe of 1 septillion stars, then ask yourself, is that one extra minute waiting for the train really a big deal?
I’ve just attempted to overload your brains, and in the process have likely lost some of you and for others, only presented trivial facts. Whichever group you fall under, I’m glad you’ve made it this far.
In writing this piece, I had a few messages I wanted to get across. From my experience, some of the facts I mentioned here will be a shock to a good deal of people. However, I think facts like this should be as mainstream as the knowledge of our solar system. The universe is so much more than our solar system, it’s time education makes that clear for the new generations. A lack of doing so has led to endless misconceptions of what lies beyond our planet and I think that’s a real problem. We should look to expand the curiosity of the young, not box it in.
I’m also in no way an expert or even a big science person, as I’ve tried to make clear here. I couldn’t even begin to explain the math and data behind the facts presented here. Which also proves my next point, in that you don’t need to be a scientist or necessarily enjoy science to find a curiosity in space. Scientists of all sorts have done an amazing job of painting an understandable picture of our universe, the problem is only a select number of people actually listen to them. The points outlined above barely scratch the surface of fascinating information available.
We must understand that the topic is daunting because we continue to avoid it. I felt the same way, but once I pushed myself to get past that feeling, it quickly changed from feeling uneasy to feeling excited and extremely curious. If we want to continue to progress in modern life, we need a much better understanding of our place in the universe, across the board. We may differ in our beliefs and our spirituality, but we need to find common ground when it comes to space.
Finally, I hope readers, not only leave this piece with a greater curiosity towards space but also a greater appreciation for Earth. Let’s continue to build a greater appreciation for our place in this universe, but in the process, let us not forget the fragility of life on Earth. I’ll end this piece with a quote from an Apollo 8 crew member, William Anders:
“When I looked up and saw the Earth coming up on this very stark, beat up lunar horizon, an Earth that was the only color that we could see, a very fragile looking Earth, a very delicate looking Earth, I was immediately almost overcome by the thought that here we came all this way to the Moon, and yet the most significant thing we’re seeing is our own home planet, the Earth,”
Fashion, whether you care for it or not, is a form of expression. It’s uniquely important to every single individual as what you wear says something about you. Especially in today’s day and age where individuality is such an important factor for a person’s self-image, fashion has and still is a massive part of our culture.
Today, American’s purchase 68 pieces of new clothing every year. That, in large part, has to do with “Fast Fashion”.” What is Fast Fashion?” you may be asking, and it’s exactly what it sounds like, it is inexpensive clothing, produced at a rapid rate. They make garments quickly, they take ideas, designs, and concepts from the runway and put them into a see now, buy now retail setting. It focuses on making trendy clothing for a low cost, within a short time frame.
There are many fast fashion retailers, and more likely than not, you own a few articles of clothing from them. Companies such as H&M, Zara, Fashion Nova, and TopShop are examples of fast fashion retailers. Fast fashion became so popular by knocking off designer brands on a large scale. They look for trends and quickly, within days pump out new styles that match the trends.
The only retailers that can sustain our need to shop so much are the brands that can release new clothing lines in just 48 hrs. Over the last 15 years, fast fashion is the only sector of fashion that has grown. Fast fashion companies are overtaking companies like Levi, Gap, and others. This is due to the fact that companies such as Levi often release new clothing lines every few months following a more traditional “seasonal” release.
Huge brands release new clothing lines in seasons, a couple a year. They spend months, designing, sourcing, manufacturing, and distributing and all that takes over 21 months. Whereas Zara uses one technique: Quick Response Manufacturing. When they see trends pop up, they quickly design, manufacture, and distribute it. They take ideas from designer stores and quickly make knockoff versions of them and sell them for a lot less.
You may be wondering, is it even legal? Well, Zara is still up and running, so the obvious answer is yes, based on the fact that knockoffs are not counterfeits, people often confuse them for one another. Counterfeit’s purpose is to have the same symbols as the designer brand. Counterfeits are typically illegal, but knockoffs merely resemble the original. Knockoffs are in fact, legal.
Now, these brands are producing new content every single day. Scouring through social media to find new trends, then producing them in a large quantity. Stores like H&M receive new items every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturdays. When most people have 4 seasons a year, fast-fashion retailers have 52 seasons.They have something new coming in every week.
Compared to 20 years ago, we are only keeping clothes for half as long. We all agree that fast fashion is cheap, it is trendy and it looks good, but what about the downsides? All of this is coming at a massive cost. Most of us know of the awful working conditions of factories, we’ve heard about the uses of children making the clothes we wear daily. Yet we are closing our eyes to a much more detrimental effect on the environment. In 2015 textile production has made more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. That means that the clothes you pack for trips are more damaging to the environment than the actual flight itself.
The issues begin from the production of the clothes and stretches all the way to when we eventually get rid of the clothes. To begin with, the production costs are absurd, for example, 10,330 litres of water is used to produce one cotton jacket, that is 24 years of drinking water for 1 person. Synthetic materials don’t fare much better. Nylon, polyester, spandex, use almost 342 million barrels of oil per year.
That is just the process of producing clothes. There is still the dumping. The average person is throwing away 36 kilograms of clothing a year. 87% of all clothes made end up incinerate or in a landfill. Everyone out there is putting out a claim to not eat meat, don’t fly, stop driving, don’t use straws, and now you can’t wear clothes? That’s not what I’m saying, you don’t need to give up fashion, just look at it differently. Wearing your clothes for 9 months longer can reduce your carbon footprint by 30%. If every single person bought one used item a year instead of new, it would have a huge cumulative impact on the planet.
We need to change the way we shop. We cannot keep going, we can’t afford to keep doing this to our planet. We need change.