Taken over by tourists

“And the unsettling truth sinks in: Travel is oversold… Overrun by yappy guides, European capitals have become giant theme parks. Beset by swarms of tourists, the Acropolis looks more like an anthill than a Greek temple. Invaded by cellphones, Westminster Abbey feels like a playpen for tour groups rather than a revered place of worship. Now, even distant Asian destinations have a surreal cast, overbuilt with golden arches and accented by Starbucks logos. As tourism infiltrates the far corners of the globe, the juggernaut seems unstoppable — and increasingly unmemorable. Far be it from me to begrudge the benefits of the travel boom for the poor countries and rich corporations that depend on the hospitality industry. But why trek to an exotic locale that is so utterly westernized as to be eerily familiar?” Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star

The new strategy

“In a world where strategy is a commodity, creativity becomes the vital factor from which value flows. When everyone can think strategically about everything, the locus of value creation shifts from out-thinking everyone to out-creating them… Now, we see the hints of the revolution everywhere—from the death of mass culture/blockbusters, to the rise of free culture, to the exploding investment in innovation and design, to the flight of capital away from the US. I think it is going to create enormous challenges for firms—challenges which can’t be answered by thinking strategically; but can only be faced by thinking creatively.” Bubblegeneration

The hard questions

“GM boss Rick Wagoner’s statement about GM’s problems is ridiculous. He claims that labor, pensions, and health care are bigger issues than product. How can a car company deal with those issues if they don’t sell cars people want? How hard is this? Cadillac is doing great. Chevy needs to make rear-drive Impalas, Monte Carlos, and a new Camaro and drop the Cobalt an inch closer to the ground. Pontiac needs a GTO that looks like one, alongside the Solstice, and to never market a new model on “Oprah” again. Buick and Saturn need to disappear, and Saab and Hummer need to go somewhere else. If everyone reading this magazine already knows this, why doesn’t GM?” Motor Trend reader Joe Bernard, in a letter to the editors

Because you’re a winner

“Rule Number 4: If you see something you like, put it in your cart. You can obsess over it and discard it before you cash out. I recall vacillating over a beautiful green Italian bag, which I ultimately rejected because the handles were too short to wear over the shoulder. I put it back on the display table and by the time I had turned around, it was snapped up by the woman who had been shadowing me all afternoon.” Rita Zekas, on shopping at Winners, a retailer featuring discounted brand name and designer merchandise

Two billion people

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a serious scare about an imminent Malthusian crisis: the world’s rapidly expanding population was coming up against the limits of agricultural productivity… Earl Butz, Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, was despised by organic farmers, but he might not have been wrong when he said, in 1971, that if America returned to organic methods ‘someone must decide which fifty million of our people will starve!’ According to a more recent estimate, if synthetic fertilizers suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, about two billion people would perish.” Steven Shapin, on the cost of sustainably grown and locally produced organic food


“I had a bottle of water and an apple in my backpack that I gave to this one little girl, she might have been 5 or so. I think it was the first taste of clean water she had ever had in her life, and she didn’t quite know what to do with the apple. Had she ever seen a whole apple? Ever? I started thinking about what her life had been like, and how she must have felt about some foreign white guy suddenly showing up and giving her this crystal clear water and a fresh red apple. I cried. You would have to have been there I guess. I cried again that night, but much deeper. I realized how shallow life is for us fat Americans, and how something as simple as a bottle of spring water and an apple can be such a huge deal to someone.” $robert, on his ‘95 short-term missions trip to Guatemala

The rebel sell

“What we see in films like American Beauty and Fight Club is not actually a critique of consumerism; it’s merely a restatement of the ‘critique of mass society’ that has been around since the 1950s. The two are not the same. In fact, the critique of mass society has been one of the most powerful forces driving consumerism for more than 40 years. That last sentence is worth reading again. The idea is so foreign, so completely the opposite of what we are used to being told, that many people simply can’t get their head around it… simply put: books like No Logo, magazines like Adbusters, and movies like American Beauty do not undermine consumerism; they reinforce it.” This Magazine: The Rebel Sell


“The DRM mandated by the RIAA ended up giving Apple leverage. The industry had a choice - they could either agree to Apple’s terms, or drop DRM so that the iPod could play the music from a competitor. The third possible option - dumping Apple and going with a more cooperative company - wasn’t available because the DRM wouldn’t work with the iPod. In other words, the RIAA’s stubbornness in 2000 came back to haunt them five years later.” Baricom, Slashdot comment

Water world

“30 to 50 litres of clean water is considered the basic daily need of every human for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. Africans consume 37 litres of water a day on average; Americans consume 420 litres a day.” Social Studies, The Globe and Mail

DS Lite

“I had seen every picture of the new machine released on the web, watched every video, and I was still not prepared for this pygmy iteration of the device. What made the other one so big? I think this is a fair question. Is there a man inside? What is in there? Perhaps it is like one of those creatures that inflates when it feels threatened.” Tycho, on Nintendo’s new DS Lite

DS Lite