This Los Angeles

Muse Magazine

This image has no alt text

Sex and drugs(?) and smoking and trying to read a book in my Micky Mouse sweater and pouring water on the ground and Lindsay Lohan and falling asleep and getting drawn on and some disco ball I found and intense sexy music and more smoking, oh, and Channel stuff…

It’s not literally sex, but I suppose it sells. Another example of the fashion industry’s tight-rope walk along the ‘porn’ line (which I’m not necessarily against). The shoot was directed and photographed by Yu Tsai exclusively for Muse Magazine.

I admit, I kind of like it, but that just might be the partial nudity. After re-watching it I find it pretty hard to take seriously. I don’t know if it’s Lindsay Lohan, or that some of the stuff they’re doing doesn’t make any sense (ie no logical order of events, and some of the events themselves are pretty out of place). Apparently the shoot was inspired by Kate Moss and Johnny Depp’s romance in the early 90’s. Have a look for yourself.

Three uncluttered activities you can do on a lazy Saturday

All along the east coast of the U.S. today, we’re getting blanketed with snow. As a result, I’ve declared that I’m not leaving the house unless it catches on fire. I’m spending the day in my pajamas, nursing this awful fever-cough-runny-nose ick I’ve caught from my son, and taking care of some unfinished items on my home’s to-do list.

Three of these to-do items are great tasks to complete on a day you’ve decided to stay at home. From my home to yours, I bring you three uncluttered activities you can do on a lazy Saturday:

  1. Sort through your magazines and catalogs. Curl up on a comfy corner of the couch, pull out your giant stack of reading materials, and take an hour to read and then recycle all of these materials. Any articles you want to keep, rip out of the magazine and then scan them to your computer. Farewell, July issue of Vanity Fair!
  2. Backup your home computer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — There are two types of hard drives: those that have failed, and those that have yet to fail. If you’re not regularly backing up your hard drive, you’re tempting fate. Open up an account at and securely upload all of your important data. In my opinion, a non-backed up hard drive is clutter because it’s a distraction to your life the same way dirty socks are in the middle of your living room floor.
  3. Clear the clutter from your laundry room. I’m not really sure how it happens, but laundry rooms are clutter magnets. There are piles of loose change, random receipts and pony tail holders pulled out of pockets, errant socks, used fabric softener sheets, and three bottles of partially used detergent haphazardly strewn about the room. Go through the items in this area and create a more organized system. The more you enjoy being in this space, the more likely you will be to keep up with your laundry chores. A nice drawer organizer can be repurposed to hold buttons, safety pins, and change. And, a large plastic shoe box can become the permanent home for your detergents and fabric softeners.

Now you all know how I’ll be spending my Saturday at home. What uncluttered items are on your to-do list for the day?

442 – Distilled Geography: Europe’s Alcohol Belts

It matters where we are, for it helps determine who we are. Or, as the quote often attributed to Napoleon states: Geography is destiny. That destiny extends to drink, as demonstrated by this map. Where we are determines to a statistically significant degree what kind of alcohol we prefer. Or is it the other way around: the kind of alcohol preferred is determined by the place where it is produced?

This map shows Europe dominated by three so-called ‘alcohol belts’, the northernmost one for distilled spirits, a middle one for beer and the southernmost one for wine. Each one’s existence and extension is determined by a mix of culture and agriculture.

The Wine Belt covers the southern parts of Europe, where wine has historically been an important industry and an everyday commodity: the whole of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Montenegro, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova and Georgia; all but the northwestern zone of France; and significant parts of Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania.

Either through effects of climate change or renewed viticultural enthusiasm, grapes and wine-making have in recent years been introduced in areas to the north of the traditional Wine Belt, in southern Britain and the Low Countries, creating an overlap between Wine and Beer Belts. That overlap is often ancient rather than recent; the introduction not rarely is a reintroduction. And indeed, southwestern Germany, for example, has an ancient and unbroken tradition of wine-making.

The Beer Belt comprises areas where beer has been the alcoholic beverage of choice since times immemorial: Ireland and the UK, the Low Countries, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Albania; most of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Romania; and significant, western parts of Poland. Beer production requires the cultivation of cereals, so this is a climatic-agricultural precondition for the Beer Belt.

An interesting co-explanation for the prevalence of beer in southern parts of this belt is the relatively weak cultural influence of the Roman Empire on these places. The Wine Belt indeed conforms to a large extent with the territory formerly occupied by Rome, with notable exceptions in areas with large Slavic or Germanic migration (the Balkans, southwestern Germany, northern France respectively), where beer predominates (although often overlapping with wine).

The Vodka Belt occupies what’s left of Europe, to the east and north: Scandinavia (except Denmark), Russia, the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine and central and eastern Poland. There is a climatological imperative to the Vodka Belt: freezing temperatures make grape cultivation impossible (except in southernmost Russia and some areas of Ukraine). So there’s almost no overlap possible between the Vodka and Wine Belts. For cultural reasons, however, the Vodka Belt has been losing ground to the Beer Belt. Scandinavians tend to drink more beer than before (although possibly this doesn’t mean they drink less wodka). Maybe this is due to the perception of beer correlating more with ‘core European’ behaviour (as it is the preferred alcoholic beverage of Britain, Germany and other influential and centrally positioned countries). That might explain the emergence in Poland, some years ago, of a Beer-Lovers’ Party (which actually won seats in the Polish Parliament in the early 1990s). Beer has since surpassed wodka as the most consumed type of alcohol in Poland.

Many thanks for this map (found here) to Leszek Jan Lipinski, who is Polish, studies in Denmark and currently resides in Liechtenstein, and therefore can “confirm from everyday practice that the theory [of alcohol belts] seems quite relevant, not in terms of concrete consumption numbers (Poles currently have 4th highest beer consumption per capita), but in terms of cultural reverence, drinking patterns, festivities and role of pubs in the culture,” even though this map might not be entirely accurate: “[The] Balkan area division is highly disputable and Western Poland does not have the beer culture inherited from the Germans.”

Another version of Europe’s alcohol belts (cf.inf.) is found here; more detailed, but, gathering from anecdotal knowledge, also not entirely accurate.

These maps bring to mind Terry Pratchett’s witty remark that Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it. And grapes, grain and potatoes.

Europe’s alcohol belts are reminiscent (and up to a point co-occurrent) with its religious, cultural and linguistic divides, as discussed earlier on this blog (#12, #24).

links for 2010-01-29

Dunny Fatale trading party posponed

E’ stato spostato a domani pome 30 gennaio il party per il lancio della nuova serie Dunny Fatale. Appuntamento quindi alle 15,30 da Atom Plastic in Via Volta, Milano!

Dunny Fatale trading party posponed

Ask Unclutterer: Messy mail

Reader Sandra submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Could you please do an article on how to keep mail organized? I considered myself pretty much clear of clutter, except for my mail. It’s driving me crazy. Even thought I toss everyday the junk, some how I have not been able to follow a good system to get rid off my mail clutter on my desk (these are payed bills, insurance stuff, etc). Now it’s taking over my son’s desk. Please help. Love your blog!

Sandra, I love your question!

I want to start by saying that I have every system imaginable in place to handle mail — and there are still times when it all falls apart and I find mail on my dining room table. It’s the constant incoming stream that makes it such a difficult issue for the home. I hope that the following advice, however, keeps these breakdowns in your system less severe and less frequent.

First, start by reducing the amount of mail that comes into your home. Sign up for services like Precycle (formerly GreenDimes and Mailstopper), which stop junk mail before it ever arrives at your door. Try to get as many utility and monthly bills as possible switched to automatic electronic payment. If mail doesn’t come in, it can’t pile up on any desk.

Second, create and use a mail processing station near the door where you get your mail. It should include a trash can, shredder, recycling bin, and pen/pencil. Each day when you come inside with the mail, immediately shred any items that include personal information that might be tempting to identity thieves (a few seconds of shredding can prevent weeks/months/years of fighting legal battles). Toss into the recycling bin any junk mail and mail you only needed to read once (announcements, etc.). And throw into the trash anything that can’t be recycled.

On the items that still remain, write actions on back of envelopes (Pay by 2/10, Complete and return by 2/05, File in Tax Forms folder) and disposal dates on the fronts of catalogs and magazines (Read before 3/1/2010). Nothing should come into your home that doesn’t have a specific to-do note appearing on it somewhere.

Third, since you live with other people, you will also want to have mailboxes of some kind for the other people in your home. These can be cubbies, pockets, baskets, or even file folders. If the mail isn’t for you, you need a place to store their correspondence so they can easily find it and process it themselves.

Fourth, once you’ve put away all of your other items and set things so that they’re ready for the next time you leave (keys on a hook, coat hung in closet, lunch bag out of briefcase), pick up your mail and head straight to your office. Immediately schedule to-do items on your calendar. Store magazines and catalogs in a place where you will read them before their disposal date. File documents that need to be filed, and take care of any action items that can be completed in less than two minutes. Treat your mail the same way you handle your other work.

This routine might take you five minutes from start to finish, but handling your mail in this way will keep you from turning your son’s desk into a mess. Remember that everything in your home needs a place to live — and that includes each piece of your mail.

Thank you, Sandra, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Workspace of the Week: A simple study

This week’s Workspace of the Week is IJMFlickr’s home office:

The simplicity of the desk, well-organized storage, and cable management instantly caught my eye in this office. Definitely check out the additional photos in the set of the media armoire (an impressive setup) and other views of the room. I especially enjoyed the description IJMFlickr provided for why this specific desk was chosen for the room:

The worktable is relatively light and easy to move, making it simple to turn my office into a guest bedroom by moving the worktable to the side and inflating a raised air mattress.

Thank you, IJMFlickr, for submitting such an inspiring workspace to our pool.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Preview of the next show

Mike Kerr has been busy getting the artwork ready for his upcoming show in UPPERCASE. When you set out to create a show based on the alphabet, you automatically have your work cut out for you! Here are some pictures of his work-in-progress and a finished piece below. Click here to view more images from the upcoming show. (We’ll be putting all the pieces in the online shop, so that link will be posted following the opening next Thursday.)

Wooden Bird Coat Hanger

Appendino corvino disegnato da Ingibjorg Hanna di Beyond the Valley. Disponibile qui.

Wooden Bird