A few days ago, Solid Gold Creativity had a very moving post about The Big Issue. I hadn’t heard of the magazine before, but it is published by a not for profit organisation that supports the homeless and marginalised. It is sold by homeless and disabled people who earn income from the sales.
A recent issue in Australia included Christmas wishes to readers from some of the people who are selling the magazine on the streets. The messages are simple and beautiful—full of thanks and good will and completely devoid of selfishness.
Hearing these kinds of sentiments from some of the poorest people in society was both inspiring and disturbing. What made it disturbing was that I had just returned from the US where the twelve days of Christmas seem to last about twelve weeks. Any altruistic sentiments were totally lost in the retail extravaganza of Black Friday and the non-stop playing of tacky Christmas carols on radio, TV and in any public venue.
On the plane on the way home, in a suitably festive mood as you can imagine, I started to flip through the complimentary magazines and found out some of the exciting things on offer in the gift and technology department this year. I usually never look at those magazines because I get nervous when I think that the kind of people they seem to be intended for might actually exist.
This time was no exception. The gifts and technology wow factors on offer were truly scary. It was a little confusing because interspersed among real things you can buy are effusive descriptions of new technologies that are on offer to make our lives better. The question is not whether you would want some of these things. The question is why anyone would want them.
I kept the magazine to show people when I got home and had another look at it after reading the post about The Big Issue. Talk about a sobering thought. The gap between the world of the people selling The Big Issue and the intended market for the products in the magazine is, for lack of a better word, obscene.
1. Backyard Television.
For those who consider a television in every room too pedestrian, you can now have an entertainment system installed in your back yard. The centrepiece is a 201 inch (that’s almost 17 feet!) screen that “stores itself underground.” Also included is a library of over 300 movies and concerts.
The price tag for the system is from $1.5 to $2.6 million, presumably depending on how hard it is to hide the TV when it’s in the ground. I guess if you can afford to lay out that kind of money on a TV in the back yard, you can also afford to live in a place where the neighbours aren’t going to be bothered by a 17 foot TV screen in the back yard. But then again, if you have that kind of money, wouldn’t you and your friends have better things to do than sit in the back yard and watch TV?
2. Pillow speakers.
Yes. A pillow with built-in speakers. As the blurb says, “It’s perfect for you if you hate tangled wires in bed.” Think about that. Non-stop sensory stimulation has become so normalised that someone has come up with a solution to tangled wires in bed. The blurb also says, “If you’re [sic] teen loves to hear music, it’s a fine gift this Christmas.” Better parenting through technology—always a winner
3. Carriage Bed
A company called Posh Tots offers a bed that looks like a Cinderella carriage. For a mere $47,000. The blurb says it all: “Treat the little princess in your life like just that [sic]. This carriage-inspired bed is the perfect sleep and play station for making dreams come true.”
I don’t know where to start so I’ll just mention the use of the words “sleep and play station.” Something for the kid to enjoy until they grow up and spend time at their work station?
4. Zero Gravity Wedding
For $18,000 you can go up in a plane that dives and simulates weightlessness and get married at the same time.
5. Hover Bike
Now this one is pretty good, but impractical. It is a James Bond type helicopter/bicycle. You can’t buy one because they are still testing the prototype but you can put your name on the list to buy one for $46,000. It has several good, practical applications but because it can fly at 170 miles per hour a few feet above the ground they are probably not going to be widely available to the average commuter.
6. Last, but not least, the iPad Baby Seat.
Called the “Apptivity Seat,” this infant rocker includes an iPad holder. And don’t forget the ‘iPotty’ which is a toilet training seat with an iPad holder. The idea is get the kid to sit there long enough. How has the human race survived?
I don’t know about you, but I think that before we run out and book a zero gravity wedding we should think about the lady in Australia who thanked the people who tipped her when she sold them a magazine because “I get my hair done and buy new clothes.”