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The results of the Subverting Overconsumption holiday poll have been painstakingly tabulated (all 36 votes). Here are the subversively underconsumptive holiday gifts you’d most like to receive:

1st place tie: Homemade foodstuffs and Homemade/crafted gifts (9 votes each)
2nd place: No gift necessary (6 votes)
3rd place tie: Charitable donation on your behalf and Dinner out together (3 votes each)
4th place tie: Products bought used and Re-gifted items (1 vote each)
5th place: Screw off! I want a real gift (no votes (due to some technical difficulty with the suvey itself that I was too lazy to resolve))

Thanks for taking part! For some other sweet suggestions, check out the reader comments on my pre-holiday post.

So how did Christmas Day proper pan out on the underconsumptive gift giving/receiving front? The family members that spent the day together had a $10 price limit for gifts, which took a lot of the pressure off and made things fun (I recommend it). Here’s the debrief:

Gave:
– More enlarged original photographs in thrift store frames
– Souvenir from Thailand that I’ve been hanging onto since the spring
– Door prize I won in the fall
– Purchased foodstuffs (definitely cheating)

Received:
– Cash
– Bath stuffs
– Puzzle game for the “stressed executive” (I guess that’s me)
– Slippers
– Calendar
– Organic fair trade chocolate bar

So there we have it. The most overly consumptive part of the year is almost over, and I’d say that my holiday efforts to underconsume were, for the most part, successful (though I won’t even touch my consumption of shortbread and perogies, neither of which were moderate).

Happy almost 2007.

xox n

Awesome headline, right? For those of you who’ve been following Subverting Overconsumption, you may recall my mental hurdle to buy used socks, and the ensuing dialogue about what would happen when the time came for new (or at least new-to-me) underwear.

It seems that buying someone else’s socks is one thing (I’m shamelessly wearing my thrift store socks as I type), but that recycling panties has whole other connotations. Though in recent years I can admit to cheerfully buying the odd second-hand bra, slip or vintage bathing suit, when it comes to the generally quiet lingerie aisle at Value Village I generally steer clear, and I never browse the panties.

That aside, the used undy question makes for interesting conversation. A favourite uncle sent me an email (subject heading: “dead man’s underwear”) that read: “So I hear you are going to buy nothing new for a whole year, what a great idea. Sometimes I find new underwear at the sally-ann, but I think they may have been a dead man’s pair and he just never got to use them.” I also had a chat with Stonehead about the dilemma, on both his and my blog.

All that said, I guess I’m as much disappointed as relieved that the underwear dilemma has been resolved before it even became a problem. Turns out my mom “couldn’t bear the thought” of me not buying new underwear for a year, and so intervened by buying* me four shiny new pair for Christmas. And so my passable underwear collection is now even better, and the debate can likely be put to rest for the remainder of the project. Thanks mom! (But I have to wonder how much more fun it would’ve been to play it out the other way!)

*Passing through Calgary (my hometown and the current Canadian hub of overconsumption) on her way to Saskatchewan for Christmas, my mom stopped at the iconically Canadian and newly American-owned Hudson’s Bay Company to buy a pair of pants. It happened to be Scratch and Save, and she happened to scratch an unheard of 45% savings on all merchandise in the store. So instead of buying a single pair of pants at regular price, she made the most of her savings by spending several times what she originally planned to on all manner of products (including my brand-spanking-new ginch). She then went home and passed the savings card to a friend, who went and bought a ton more stuff that she would have otherwise not bought. Talk about viral consumption…I’m not sure what kind of human would be completely immune to it.

xo n

Check out the press release for Global Orgasm for Peace Day below, and the delightful science behind why mass synchronized orgasm could change the world at www.globalorgasm.org/demo.html and noosphere.princeton.edu. And don’t forget to celebrate the event on December 22! I can most certainly think of worse ways to act for peace.

Anti-War Activists Plan ‘Global Orgasm For Peace’

(CBS/AP) SAN FRANCISCO Two peace activists have planned a massive
anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.

But they don’t want you marching in the streets. They’d much rather you
just stay home.

The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

“The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after
it,” Reffell said Sunday. “Your mind is like a blank. It’s like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.”

The couple are no strangers to sex and social activism. Sheehan, no relation to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, brought together nearly 50
women in 2002 who stripped naked and spelled out the word “Peace.”

The stunt spawned a mini-movement called Baring Witness that led to
similar unclothed demonstrations worldwide.

The couple have studied evolutionary psychology and believe that war is
mainly an outgrowth of men trying to impress potential mates, a case of
“my missile is bigger than your missile,” as Reffell put it.

By promoting what they hope to be a synchronized global orgasm, they
hope to get people to channel their sexual energy into something more
positive.

The couple said interest appears strong, with 26,000 hits a day to their
Web site, http://www.globalorgasm.org

“The dream is to have everyone in the world (take part),” Reffell said.
“And if that means laying down your gun for a few minutes, then hey, all
the better.”

xo n

(Note: Snyder family be advised that reading further will give away your Christmas presents.)

With only a few days left till Santa, my attempts to subvert holiday overconsumption have been moderately (if not wildly) successful. I haven’t been in a mall or a big box store, and it feels great. But unfortunately I haven’t been magically moved to create innovative underconsumptive gifts either. The moments of inspiration have been few.

Fortunately I’ve managed to manifest at least one decent series of gifts. The idea came way back in the summer, when I came across a snapshot of my great grandparents in 1910, standing on the prairie with a boxy storefront in the background. Neither of them could have been older than 25, and they look happy.

I love this picture. I love the sense of history and place it gives me. So I went and had 8″ x 10″ enlargements made, put them in frames, and sent them to every family member on that side of the family. Father, grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousins.

Snyders in Wainwright Alberta (1910)I think it’s a good present. But talk about putting all my eggs in one basket! As the box travels west and north I find myself feeling insecure on a bunch of different levels. For one thing, I’m not sure if or how far photo development falls outside my guidelines for subverting overconsumption, and after worrying about that for a while the photos didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted anyway (the photo dude cut off the giant prairie sky, which is a big part of what makes the original photo so cool). For another thing, hiking out to Value Village to buy recycled frames meant that I had to take what I could get, even though it meant settling for some fairly ratty looking frames. On top of that I didn’t buy wrapping paper – instead I did a bit of a hack job wrapping them in old magazine pages and recycled velvet and lace ribbon.

Then of course there’s the problem of them being my only gift…what if they just seem lame?

Why is it that despite sparing myself the holiday stress of the malls and consumption, I’m still managing to worry that I’m going to come off like a cheap twit to my friends and family? Two months in to this project (today is Subverting Overconsumption’s two month anniversary!) I realize I still don’t feel quite secure underconsuming in a culture that associates how much we buy with how much success, love and gratitude we have. I wonder when that’s going to wear off. I really want it to wear off dammit!

Subversive season’s greetings to you and yours,

xo n

Are humans smarter than yeast?

This may be the most relevant question of our times. Peak Oil expert Richard Heinberg posed this ridiculous sounding and deadly serious question at a recent lecture he gave in Regina, entitled “Peak Oil: Challenges and Opportunities at the end of Cheap Petroleum.” Check out the logic:

“Yeast growing in grape juice provide a good example of overshoot and collapse behavior. The yeast go after the sugar in the juice and in the process of metabolizing that sugar, they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. As they consume the sugar, they also reproduce and their reproductive rate is dependent on the availability of food. Within a few days, at room temperature, the yeast population soars…But, the alcohol is a pollutant as far as the yeast are concerned and as their population rises, so does the level of alcohol. If there is enough sugar in the juice, the yeast will eventually produce so much alcohol that they start to die off rapidly and as the sugar reservoir is depleted, their reproductive rates plummet, leading to a total collapse of the population. So, in turning the juice into wine, the gluttonous, know-no-restraint yeast do themselves in.” (from “The Human Population System”)

So is gluttonous, know-no-restraint humanity any smarter, or will we continue to consume oil like yeast scarfs down sugar? The by-products of our immoderate consumption are fossil fuels, which (like alcohol for yeast) are poisonous to us. Can our human arrogance handle the possibility that we may be no more capable of surviving our own compulsive appetites than are unicellular fungi fermenting themselves into oblivion? Thanks for asking, Mr. Heinberg.

With the number of shopping days till Christmas counting down, I still haven’t developed my Buy Little-to-Nothing Christmas strategy. This week found my house (and life) moving into high gear for the holidays, but I’m still lagging behind. If anything, I should have starting thinking about Christmas earlier than the average consumer, but instead I’ve put it off and am now about to fly into a panic!

So far my attempts to subvert overconsumption this holiday season haven’t been all that successful.

First hurdle: Tree. My roommate really wanted a tree. I also love having a tree. I’ve always had a real tree. I couldn’t decide whether having a real tree was in any way justifiable under the Guidelines for Subverting Overconsumption. I tried to find a Freecycled tree (posting once myself and responding to two posts) and failed. My roommate finally bought a brand new artificial Christmas tree from Wal-Mart or Liquidation World (I can’t remember which). Shit.

Buy Nothing Christmas PosterSecond hurdle: Gifts.

(Warning: if you are a relative or close friend, you may wish to stop reading this posting now (unless you’re more interested in the process of Subverting Overconsumption than you are in being surprised by what present you get from me).)

I seem to have several gifting options, which I could also mix and match. But so far I’m not feeling overly inspired, and the clock is ticking. I made crabapple jelly in the summer (but at the moment it’s several hundred kilometres away). I could probably find some good used books online. My roommate found a recipe for homemade bath salts in Martha Stewart Living. In the past I’ve made mix CDs, but this year I’m not sure what to do about buying (or rather, not buying) CD-Rs. I thought of personalized storybooks, but that’d be a frick of a lot of work. I won a door prize I could re-gift.

I’m sure I’ll figure something out, but how about some help! Cast your vote on the Subverting Overconsumption Holiday Poll (top left of this page) for a chance to win a subversively underconsumptive gift from yours truly (well, not really, since voting is anonymous…but if you leave a really great comment we can talk!).

xo n


It’s 11 days and counting since the cable was shut off. We have zero channels, and as a result I haven’t watched the TV at all. Specific initial outcomes of the experiment include:

  • Borrowed first DVDs from public library (Truly, Madly, Deeply and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
  • Went out every night for a week (totally unheard of)
  • Walked outside more (despite the incredibly harsh Regina weather)
  • Read more than my combined total for the past six months
  • Discovered that the only program I actually miss is Survivor
  • Discovered that I actually really miss Survivor (damn)
  • Discovered that Survivor is available online on the Global website (with fewer ads than on TV)
  • Joined the Teleban (group of blogs lobbying (playfully) for a Ban on TV)

General outcomes include:

  • Increased/improved social life
  • Increased sense of productivity (unclear whether this translates to actual increased productivity)
  • Improved well-being

Overall, the results seem to indicate that not watching TV is great for me, and that not paying for cable is absolutely appropriate to this project. Unfortunately, my love affair with a TV-free life might be shortlived.

My roommates miss TV! The roommate who felt productive and engaged the weekend the cable was cut off now tells me that not having TV makes her feel isolated, and that she doesn’t want to spend time at home.

I was really sad to realize that not everyone thrives on a TV-free existence the way I seem to. And unfortunately, if my roommates do decide to get cable again, I don’t think it would be cool for me to opt out, so that puts me in a tricky situation.

As mentioned in The revolution will not have cable, if the TV is there I will watch it (I’m the kind of creature that requires a healthy environment to actually be healthy). And regardless of that, it would feel pretty tacky not to chip in if both my roommates really want it.

Another possibility is that we get an antenna, which would get us two or three channels for free (though then I’d be buying that, which would still be outside the guidelines…dammit!). The other possibility is that I move out, but I’m not sure the goal of Subverting Overconsumption is to isolate myself from the world so that I can perfectly control my environment. Or maybe it is…arghhh.

What it seems to come down to is that it’s hard to make significant lifestyle downshifts towards reduced consumption and increased sustainability when the people around me aren’t necessarily making similar changes. Of course I dream to changing mass consciousness by putting my own values in full practice, but the idea of preaching (e.g., “Oh come on, don’t you feel like you’d be a more engaged, happier, human human if you never watched TV again?”) feels much more like a nightmare.

So obviously I haven’t struck a balance with any of this. But if the roommates want TV, I don’t think I can and/or will make a giant fuss over it.

xo n

Flickr Photos