Nice Apps! Top 5 for Earth Day

Next Sunday, April 22, marks the 42nd Earth Day. But, get your eco-pants ready, because beginning tomorrow, it’s Earth Week.

Over its tenure, Earth Day evolved from a 1970 American creation to an international holiday celebrated in more than 175 countries. In fact, Earth Day Network cites that the billion people who celebrate the holiday account for it being the largest civic observance – worldwide.

Keep in mind that Earth Week isn’t just for recycling, but for implementing a range of lifestyle changes that benefit the planet and its current and future inhabitants. While every day is a good day to recycle, use this week as a catalyst to begin your new focused practice.

And, while going green is a humble tribute to the environment, it’s admittedly good for your wallet, too. Sometimes we call this phenomenon “congreenience,” but feel free to experience all of the benefits – earth-related and otherwise – that these Earth Day-specific apps will provide you.Saturday March 31, Earth Hour 2012 kicked off Earth Week activities, engaging a billion people in more than 5,000 cities and towns worldwide.

iRecycle (iPhone and Android)
Earth911 brings us a way to follow, participate in and promote sustainable Earth practices. Pulling from its nationwide recycling center directory, it’ll provide you the nearest site (approximately 800,000 in total) where you can recycle or dispose of potentially harmful materials (e.g. batteries). After you find your spot, you can talk about it and share your experiences via social networks. And to ensure you’re in the know, this app aggregates environmental news, too.

Meter Readings (iPhone and Android)
Pay closer attention to your energy [in]efficiency! No, really. All of those times your dad scolded you for leaving a light on in the other room, or neglecting to turn off your bedroom overhead fan, perhaps he knew a thing or two about eco-friendliness – in addition to frugality. Despite being a monthly expenditure, your electric meter is also a ticker that keeps track of your environmentally-facing behavior. LivingGreenChannel reports that those who watch their meters save an average of 10 to 20 percent on their electric bills. This app tracks your meter, effectively allowing you to monitor your energy consumption.

Carbon Footprint (iPhone)
Tracking your energy use is one thing, but what about all of the other crap that contributes to an inefficient planet? Riding the bus or bike versus driving to work/school every day can certainly make a difference – one that you can track, too. With this app, you can monitor your carbon footprint through GPS-enabled technology, and set monthly emissions goals to monitor and ensure your progression toward overall efficiency. You enter your data – date and time of gas fill-up, how much you filled – and will track your fuel usage and emissions for multiple cars. Data it provides includes miles per gallon, dollars per day of driving, projected carbon dioxide emissions per year, percent difference from average American C02 emissions, total carbon emissions to date, etc.

The Green Gas Saver (iPhone)
Who knew that Speed Racers were risking more than their safety while weaving through traffic and taking quick corners? In fact, driving behavior largely affects your fuel economy. Meaning, habits such as putting the pedal-to-the-metal once the light turns green, accelerating up hills, and driving over the speed limit can suck down your precious and expensive gasoline supply. This app will sound an alarm once you’re engaging in these bad practices, making you aware of your gas-guzzling behavior. To track your progress, you can follow the scores and projections it gives you.

Good Guide (iPhone and Android)
Behavior is only part of the battle when trying to eco-ize your life. Yes, it’s important to monitor, track and improve your habits – especially those that harm the planet, and thus many others, in addition to yourself. However, there is only so much due diligence before the issue is out of your hands. While you can choose to carpool, turn the lights off and recycle paper, plastics and batteries, you should also monitor the products you purchase and the sustainable practices and principles of the producing companies. With this app, take a photo of the product’s bar code and find its ratings based on environmental, social, and health impacts, along with an overall rating.

Who’s on First? The Week in Sports

Guillen in hot water

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is no stranger to controversy. However, his recent comments have stirred emotions far beyond the baseball diamond. In an interview with Time magazine, the Marlins skipper reportedly said, “I love Fidel Castro,” and went on to say that he respected him for staying in power for so long. Yes, the same Fidel Castro who is a Communist dictator and has been accused of killing tens of thousands of Cuban citizens. Predictably, Guillen’s comments created a firestorm in Miami, the hub of Cuban culture in the United States.

Guillen’s remarks set off a round of protests at the Marlins’ ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, as well as calls for Guillen’s immediate dismissal. Reacting to the mounting pressure, the Marlins suspended their skipper for five games on Tuesday. Later that day, the Venezuelan manager apologized to Cuban-Americans at a press conference as well, saying, according to the Associated Press, that he is “very sorry about the problem” and “will do everything in [his] power to make it better.” Guillen admitted his mistake, but also insisted that the comments he made were misinterpreted and didn’t come out the way he intended. The Marlins’ decision to suspend their manager after just five games was, in all likelihood, an attempt to quell the unrest in Miami, but it may not be enough.

When asked about Guillen’s comments, Cuban players around the league did what Guillen probably should have done: they kept their mouths closed, or offered the equivalent of a “no comment.” The controversy comes at a particularly bad time for the Marlins, who, despite a 2-3 start, had been riding a wave of good feelings from opening a brand new stadium and signing a few big names in the offseason.

Petrino shown the door at Arkansas

When it was reported on Apr. 1 that University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was involved in a motorcycle accident, the immediate reaction was one of concern for the coach’s well-being; few people were aware of the chain reaction Petrino’s accident was about to unleash. It was first reported that Petrino was the only individual involved in the crash. However, it turns out that Petrino was riding with a 25-year-old Arkansas employee named Jessica Dorrell, who had been given a $55,000 per year job by Petrino just days before the crash.

Details emerged indicating that Petrino, who is married with four children, had been carrying on a sexual relationship with Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player, for some time. Sports Illustrated reported that Petrino misled Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, insisting that he was riding alone. What started out as a motorcycle accident quickly blossomed into a scandal, and Long responded by firing Petrino on Tuesday. According to the Los Angeles Times, Long’s investigation revealed that Petrino had given Dorrell $20,000 on top of her recent job. Yahoo! Sports says Long fired Petrino due to his “conscious decision to mislead the public” and to what Long called a “pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior…both before and after the motorcycle accident.”

In a statement released on Tuesday night, Petrino said he was sorry for his actions and added, “I have no one to blame but myself.” Petrino’s disgraceful exit ruins what had been a successful tenure at Arkansas, as he led the school to its first Bowl Championship Series appearance in 2011 and a 21-5 record over the past two seasons.

Bubba masters Augusta

Let’s face it: golf has a reputation as being an elitist sport, and most professional golfers are stuffy, boring, and vanilla. And then there’s Bubba Watson, who started a boy band with some colleagues, has a YouTube account with videos of him smashing vegetables, owns a “General Lee,” and took the golf world by storm when he won the Masters, golf’s most prestigious tournament, in a sudden-death playoff on Sunday.

Watson’s dramatic hook shot onto the green earned him a tap-in for par, besting South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen to give the 33-year-old the first Major championship of his career. Despite the loss, Oosthuizen actually hit one of the best shots of the tournament: a double-eagle, also known as an “albatross,” which is a two on a par five, on the second hole of the final round. Watson’s win has led to “Bubba Fever” around the sports world, and his endorsement deals are expected to skyrocket. Some pundits are claiming that the fun-loving Watson’s success will be good for golf as well, as his laid-back style may influence kids to pick up what many consider an older man’s game. Bubba Fever has already led to a surprising color popping up on the links: Watson, who used a pink driver in the Masters, has inspired golf supplier Ping to make 5,000 Bubba-style pink drivers available to the public. Let’s just hope Bubba’s success hasn’t inspired others to adopt the shirtless overalls look…

NHL playoffs kick off

Only 16 teams remain, and the battle for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup in June began with a three-game slate: first, the Philadelphia Flyers will visit Pittsburgh faced the Penguins in the most recent incarnation of their fierce in-state rivalry. Adding fuel to this series’ fire will be one of the team’s most recent meetings, in which Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere thinks he was injured on purpose and Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette climbed onto the boards to shout at Pittsburgh’s coaches.

Later on, Detroit visited Nashville to kick off their series with the Predators, and the Los Angeles Kings traveled to Vancouver to face the Canucks, who will be without Daniel Sedin, still sidelined with a concussion. Four series started last night: the defending champion Boston Bruins, who will be without Nathan Horton for the remainder of the playoffs, welcomed Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals to Boston; the Ottawa Senators traveled to Manhattan to take on the New York Rangers; the San Jose Sharks headed to St. Louis to take on the resurgent Blues; and the Chicago Blackhawks took to the desert to face the Phoenix Coyotes.

Finally, the eighth and final series will start tonight night, when the New Jersey Devils head to the Sunshine State to take on the Florida Panthers. The scheduling is a bit funny when one considers that the Panthers, who haven’t been in the playoffs in over a decade, are the last team to start the postseason. Someone at the NHL has a sense of humor…

Oil Canada! We Stand on Gilded Knee

Over the past few months, the Keystone Pipeline has dominated energy dependency news through the battle between transnational company TransCanada Corporation, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the Obama administration.

But the 2,147 mile path the pipeline will leave across the Midwest seems miniscule compared to the political battle erupting over its construction.  If completed it will have a diameter that is 30-inches wide and will carry upwards of 590,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

According to BusinessWeek, the average retail price of regular gasoline in the U.S. was $3.84 a gallon as of March 20, up about 17 percent since January. With gas prices rising at the pump, and unemployment rates high in the Midwest, many argue that the pipeline could bring down gas prices, at the very least.

Unfortunately, sources call out that claim as false.  According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the pipeline will actually increase the gas prices paid for by Americans by up to $4 billion a year.  It will increase prices in the Midwest.

“Rather than providing the US with more Canadian oil, Keystone XL will simply shift oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, where much of it can be exported to international buyers – decreasing US energy supply and increasing the cost of oil in the American Midwest.”

Paying to kill the environment

In an article for the Huffington Post, Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned of the environmental impacts. Including the link between fuel efficiency and tar sands usage, price decrease, and the false hope of improving fuel efficiency standards with the pipeline.

The pipeline is a proposed transport system for crude oil spanning eight US states and three Canadian provinces. Four phases make up the construction of the pipeline. The longest branch begins in Alberta, Canada and ends in Wood River, Illinois, was completed in July, 2010.

While supporters in the United States claim benefits for Americans, some believe the winner would ultimately be Canada.  The maple leaf country would potentially be able to open more markets for oil exports.

But the final, disputed phases face obstacles over environmental and geopolitical controversies.

The pipeline was initially developed in a partnership between TransCanada and US company ConocoPhilips. TransCanada is now the sole owner after buying out ConocoPhilips for $550 million. The final phases of the extension, known as the Keystone XL, were proposed in 2008.

US Congressmen Wasman and Rush have targeted the Koch Brothers as beneficiaries of the right-wing financiers. House Republicans tried to advance a bill that would have expedited review of the pipeline to force the President to make a decision in early November.

The political tug-of-war over the benefits, transparency, and impacts of the pipeline leaves Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tight-lipped over his country’s’ plans to diversify its oil exports.

Since the specific part of the pipeline controversy doesn’t cross an international border, it doesn’t require permission from the U.S. Department of State as the entire project did. Construction could technically proceed.

But, Environmentalists have majors reasons to oppose Keystone XL extensions. To name a few:

-The destruction of a boreal forest the size of Florida
-The destruction of the Sandhills, Nebraska ecosystem, covering over a quarter of the state
-The effect on the crucial Ogallala Aquifer in the event of an oil spill. This aquifer spans eight states, provides drinking water for two million people, and supplies 83 percent of Nebraska’s irrigation water. All proposed routes still pass through areas above the Ogallala, where the water supply is vulnerable to the impacts of an oil spill.
-Clean energy. Since when are oil sands “green energy?”

 

The Wildcard

President Obama. After anti-pipeline activists flooded social media outlets, the airwaves, and eventually, the area around the White House, President Obama announced that “the decision on the pipeline permit would be delayed until 2013.”

After re-evaluation and a political showdown with Republicans in late November, Obama stepped away from the decision. In January he denied a permit for Keystone XL to bring in oil sands from Canada, citing environmental concerns.

The Now, Obama has reviewed a  new, moderate route to circumvent polarized arguments from both sides of the aisle. On March 22nd, Obama announced his administration’s decision to expedite the construction of  the Cushing, Oklahoma branch of Keystone XL.

Naturally, both sides of the aisle are incensed. Activists currently await new developments from the President, who has remained silent on the issue at the recent week’s North American Summit. Construction on the project could start in June.

Mad Men is TV like no other

After a 17-month hiatus, this is the longest gap in the broadcast history of Mad Men so far. With the wait finally over and the much anticipated fifth season underway, the hit show will be sequentially catalogued, along with the previous four seasons, on the information superstructures of On-Demand, Netflix, and the like. This would mean little to the story on most other shows (especially a crappy network sitcom where they would waste the time gap on a few jokes and then never mention it again), but it resonates strangely well with Mad Men. The show has had broad leaps in time – well over a year passed at the outsets of seasons two and four.

Creator Matt Weiner signed a deal to keep the show running for six seasons, with an expected seventh season to follow, although in an interview with The Huffington Post, he said he was open to change.

“You know, if I decide at the last minute to do another season, it won’t be for money, but that is the plan,” said Weiner to The Huffington Post. “I mean, to ask somebody on mile 18 of a marathon, ‘Do you want to run 30 miles instead of 26?’ Seven seasons feels like the show, but I’m not being a politician or anything like that. That is what I think the end of the show should be. That’s what the plan is. If I get there, and a I change my mind, everyone can say I’m an idiot, but right now that’s how I feel about it.”

With clashes over the show seemingly in the past, Mad Men seems to be out of the woods.

Now, into the fifth season, we’ve been sucked in yet again. The deft story and dialogue infuses such weight into what’s not shown, the gaps of time in between, and you can feel something that happened a season ago…or perhaps will happen a season in the future.

Mad Men deals with time very interestingly. Not only does it add remarkable weight to moments in a way TV shows rarely can, but ideas of time are used to reveal quite a bit about characters.

Don Draper has an incredibly complex relationship with his past. The first season revealed the violent origins of Don’s illusive identity through war flashbacks. This may seem like a pretty standard dramatic device, but the show only gets more inventive from there. In season three, Don has regular hallucinations about his early life, his life as Dick Whitman with his drunken, abusive father. These Depression-era inputs lucidly capture Don’s wrestling with his past. But he is not the only character bringing the past into the present.

Betty’s father, Gene Hofstadt (known as Grandpa Gene) is shown in season two to be suffering from dementia. He mistakes Betty for his late wife, Betty’s mother. By season three, it has advanced into full-blown Alzheimer’s. He has to move in with Don and a pregnant Betty, where he finds it hard to adjust to an African-American housekeeper and wakes up the house in the middle of the night because he suspects a booze raid and doesn’t realize Prohibition had been repealed 30 years before. I’m not even going to get into the problematic memories and feelings that might be pulsing through Betty’s head during all these events. Needless to say: palpable.

A season four example is Roger’s hostile attitude towards the Japanese businessmen from Honda that re-ignites his WWII memories of navy buddies who were killed at the hands of Japanese forces. He romanticizes his past with them and then, when Joan confronts him professionally about it, he romanticizes his past with her.

But as much as characters are troubled by the past, the future looms with a nearly crushing anxiety. Betty’s psychiatric sessions in season one shows her struggle with contentment in the most commercially comfortable civilization in history. And Don’s complete erasure approach to the past (“This never happened. It will shock you much it never happened.”) can appear in disturbing ways. Like his “inspirational” speech to his employees about how to treat their copy for American Airlines, which had recently suffered a devastating plane crash (it killed Pete Campbell’s father, and Pete still went ahead with courting the account). There is an addiction to the future for people like Don and Pete.

The show is exhausting, existential, and slow. But then again, so is life. The character’s impatience with the coming future and their loaded relationships with personal and cultural histories mirror our own. Wiener has repeatedly claimed Mad Men is not about the 1960s, but us, the people who enjoy this elaborate and poignant recreation of the 1960s. He has done something really clever in placing his show in the turbulent ‘60s. Changing times pressure issues about the past and the future out into conflict, externalizing them into great drama.

Someday soon, the broadcast history of Mad Men will be just that; history. And in the world of Mad Men, which is really the world of us, the past clearly has the ability to return in unexpected and sudden ways.

Giving Back: It’s Easier (And Cheaper) Than You Think

Philanthropy for millenials in a barely post-recession economy doesn’t mean throwing our non-existent wads of cash at problems. For these two young philanthropists, it’s about changing perceptions of issues and creating a culture of charity. And that doesn’t mean you need a lot of money to get anything done. Quite the contrary.

Christian Elliott.

Originally hailing from Ithaca, New York and currently studying at McGill University in Montreal, Christian has been involved with philanthropic efforts in Haiti for a few years now. Living the normal student life Christian was hit with an existential crisis: this couldn’t be it, he had to be destined for something more extraordinary then the daily grind of studying during the day and, um, “studying” at night.

Christian thought hard about what talents he had to offer, banded together with some friends, and began Developing Pictures Media, a nonprofit organization which provides media services to grassroots organizations in developing countries. DP sends filmmakers to visit on-the-ground NGO’s, films what they do, produces and publicizes promotional videos in hopes of recognizing important- and otherwise unrecognized- development work. And, according to Christian, all it took was an idea about, “What skills do I have to offer? How can I get involved? And what I can do to inspire change in communities?”

For Christian, philanthropy isn’t about the money; it’s about the prospect of meeting new people and forming deep emotional connections with them. “Mentorship, relationships, and how changing a community begins by changing how one person feels and thinks- that’s what philanthropy is all about.”

Justin Abrams.

For this native of New York City, music was always in his blood- he grew up two blocks from Lincoln Center. Instead of focusing on philanthropy in the developing world, Justin always had a more personal, immediate relationship to philanthropy.

First and foremost, he grew up receiving multiple scholarships and awards which fostered the beginnings of his musical career; Justin is now one of the most preeminent students of cello in North America. “If it wasn’t for the generosity of those donors growing up, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had, which shaped who I am as an artist today.” Justin began to give back by using his skills, in the only way he could at a young age- by giving musical performances at event after event after event, a celebration of his ability which, were it not for philanthropy, would not be as developed as it is today.

“Giving back is about giving opportunities to people to help them develop their talents, who they are as people. It’s the most rewarding thing to know that you’ve helped shape excellence in another.”

Facebook Timeline Pages: Discover Your Favorite Brands’ History

Facebook recently released Timeline for Pages back in February and a couple weeks ago, all Pages adopted the new Timeline format. Pages are the Facebook profiles brands and businesses use to tell their stories on Facebook.

Timeline was originally released for users back in September and brought in a new way for people to tell the story of their life. Timeline allowed users to post status updates with a date in the past, establish milestone events in their lives, and use many new applications to help tell their life story. I’m sure many of you are now using Spotify, Rdio or many other applications which hook into your Timeline.

We dug around Facebook to find some of the best Timelines from Pages to help paint a picture of what is a good Timeline. A good Timeline should be visually captivating, tell the history of that business and demonstrate the business’s personality. Here are some of our favorite Timelines with these criteria in mind:

Old Spice

Old Spice has a rich history, being founded in 1934, but has reinvented its brand lately to be funny and outrageous. Their Timeline goes all out on being funny and outrageous from its first Timeline photo of a one-eyed Australian ninja leopard to mentions of how oldspice.com was created in 1973, decades before the internet. This is the best example of a brand using Timeline to show their personality. No one comes close to Old Spice in creativity and humor.

Saturday Night Live

SNL took to Timeline to demonstrate the rich history of sketches the show has produced as well as the amazing cast that has come from SNL. The posts of old Wayne’s World skits and landmark sketches help illuminate how impactful SNL has been on culture. The team at SNL took a considerable amount of time going through the NBC video archives and history books and putting this together to tell a great story.

Burberry

Burberry’s Timeline is full of history about Burberry and their transformation from a manufacturer of well-made coats to a high-end fashion house. The Burberry team found great images and press clippings from as early as 1856 to tell this story. There’s even a piece of Casablanca trivia!

SportsCenter

SportCenter’s Timeline is unique since it not only helps tell the story of SportsCenter, but they also took the time to document the major sports winners of years past. This is a good example of a brand identifying that their Timeline can be used to show the history of their industry, or in SportsCenter’s case, what they report on.

Some other examples of great Timelines are adidas Originals, Red Bull and Urban Outfitters. Let us know in the comments if you have any favorite Page Timelines of your own!

Facebook Timeline Pages: Discover Your Favorite Brands’ History

Facebook recently released Timeline for Pages back in February and a couple weeks ago, all Pages adopted the new Timeline format. Pages are the Facebook profiles brands and businesses use to tell their stories on Facebook.

Timeline was originally released for users back in September and brought in a new way for people to tell the story of their life. Timeline allowed users to post status updates with a date in the past, establish milestone events in their lives, and use many new applications to help tell their life story. I’m sure many of you are now using Spotify, Rdio or many other applications which hook into your Timeline.

We dug around Facebook to find some of the best Timelines from Pages to help paint a picture of what is a good Timeline. A good Timeline should be visually captivating, tell the history of that business and demonstrate the business’s personality. Here are some of our favorite Timelines with these criteria in mind:

Old Spice

Old Spice has a rich history, being founded in 1934, but has reinvented its brand lately to be funny and outrageous. Their Timeline goes all out on being funny and outrageous from its first Timeline photo of a one-eyed Australian ninja leopard to mentions of how oldspice.com was created in 1973, decades before the internet. This is the best example of a brand using Timeline to show their personality. No one comes close to Old Spice in creativity and humor.

Saturday Night Live

SNL took to Timeline to demonstrate the rich history of sketches the show has produced as well as the amazing cast that has come from SNL. The posts of old Wayne’s World skits and landmark sketches help illuminate how impactful SNL has been on culture. The team at SNL took a considerable amount of time going through the NBC video archives and history books and putting this together to tell a great story.

Burberry

Burberry’s Timeline is full of history about Burberry and their transformation from a manufacturer of well-made coats to a high-end fashion house. The Burberry team found great images and press clippings from as early as 1856 to tell this story. There’s even a piece of Casablanca trivia!

SportsCenter

SportCenter’s Timeline is unique since it not only helps tell the story of SportsCenter, but they also took the time to document the major sports winners of years past. This is a good example of a brand identifying that their Timeline can be used to show the history of their industry, or in SportsCenter’s case, what they report on.

Some other examples of great Timelines are adidas Originals, Red Bull and Urban Outfitters. Let us know in the comments if you have any favorite Page Timelines of your own!

From Our Partners In Crime

Welcome to our weekly column: From Our Partners in Crime – a collection of people, products, activities, and trends that are adored by our generation. Enjoy!

TNGG Loves: Rick Santorum Claims California Universities Don’t Teach American History

Rick Santorum again with his zany ideas! In Santorum’s latest anti-college argument, he claims that American History has apparently been forsaken by those crazy hippy liberals in California. The only problem with his argument is that he completely made it up. [PolicyMic]

TNGG Loves: Facebook Bought Instagram…Now They Should Buy These Companies

Apparently Facebook eats smaller social media sites for breakfast. First Gowalla and now Instagram! If Zuckerberg is throwing around $1 billion like there’s no tomorrow who know’s who’s next. Or maybe they’ll just buy Myspace for $6.99. [College Candy

TNGG Loves: Advice from a Recent Grad: Avoid My Job Search Mistakes

The game has changed so don’t necessarily rely upon your parent’s wisdom on your post-graduate life. Gen Ys are slowly realizing the a college diploma doesn’t mean a whole lot in the way of getting a job. What does matter is hustle, and learning from your mistakes. Here are four to avoid. [YouTern]

TNGG Loves: 5 Excuses I Give For Looking At The American Apparel Website At Work

If you’ve ever spent a day in Los Angeles or really any major city you’ve probably seen American Apparel’s soft-core porn advertisements. Their website is really not that much different. Here’s a fun game you can play with your friends: split into teams and see who can find the raciest photo in five minutes. You’ll be surprised how far you’ll end up going. [Hello Giggles]

TNGG Loves: Fear and Trembling at the University of Pittsburgh

There have been 45 bomb threats received at the University of Pittsburgh since mid-February. Parents and students are panicked, frustrated, furious. What’s the deal? [Good Men Project]

DISCLOSURE: TNGG has not been paid by any of the products, companies, or people mentioned in this article. All opinions stated here belong solely to the author.

Photo courtesy of College Candy/AndroidAuthority (Top) and Hello Giggles (Bottom).

Haute & Dangerous: How to Shop at Forever 21 Without Wanting to Die

They say that good things come to those who wait. This cliche is perhaps best exemplified by the popular cheapie fashion retailer Forever 21 and the fact that if you can keep your cool long enough to keep your shopping spree from turning into a killing spree, you can walk out with a bunch of cute clothes for dirt cheap. Here are a few tips to help you keep your cool before the racks (and racks) of inventory begin to close in all around you….

Plan

Harvey MacKay (whoever that is) once said, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” This past weekend, my impromptu pilgrimage to the massive four story Forever 21 shopping mecca on Newbury Street in downtown Boston inevitably ended in a planned failure on my part. Rather that the Spring wardrobe essentials I had planned on purchasing, I emerged 2 1/2 hours later with more cheap jewelry than the entire cast of Toddlers & Tiaras combined, and a wolf T-shirt guaranteed to convince everyone I have contact with on a daily basis that I buy all my clothes at Midwestern truck stops. Had I planned ahead I would have sufficiently perused the Forever 21 website, made a careful list of items to purchase based on figure, complexion, and life situation (cute sundresses and summer sandals for the office instead of neon yellow… anything). In these situations, it’s best to behave like Santa: make a list, check it twice, buy outfits for when your’e feeling naughty and nice!

Try Stuff On

It can be incredibly tempting to eyeball a pair of jeans and a few tops and say, “Eh, close enough!” especially when the line for the dressing room is comprised of a massive hoard of sulky pre-teens armed with an armful of short shorts and tee shirts with sayings like “Weekend Warrior” and/or “I’ll be your girlfriend if you buy me a 30 of Coors Light” (That last one was a joke). Regardless, your’e always better off trying clothes on, especially at a retailer like Forever 21 where the cut isn’t exactly haute-couture caliber.

Be Clique-y

Does this color look good on me? 

Do I really need this?

When am I ever going to wear this sequined bandeau top/Will I look like a loser?

These are important questions to ask yourself while shopping for clothes. At the same time, it’s just as important to ask yourself how/why you’re buying. Just like all other arena’s of life, it’s important to shop with a group of positive-minded individuals whose opinions you trust and respect. At the same time, if shopping in a group is too much of a distraction, it’s completely fine to go it alone. Lone wolfs are the bees knees (as for individuals with lone wolf T-shirts, I’ll have to get back to you on that one).

Think About the Future

Yeah that cropped suit jacket with padded shoulders is super cute in it’s present state — on an inanimate, plastic, size 2 mannequin in a perfectly lit store window. But how well is a $30 blazer going to hold up after a few wears? It’s only a matter of time before you’re left with faded rags and a hefty dry-cleaning bill. One of the most important lessons of style is the one that says that splurging on better quality investment pieces (blazers, great denim, the perfect little black dress) is always the cheaper option.

There’s Always a Way Out

No, seriously. If you become sufficiently stressed by the blinding halogen lights, thumping club tracks, and overly-competitive fashionistas ready to shank you with a hanger if you steal the last pair of metallic leggings, just get up and leave and take an Auntie Anne’s break. Given the sheer volume of inventory in a Forever 21 location at any given time, the fear that all the clothes will be gone by the time you get back is about as justifiable as an ongoing paranoid delusion that the Loch Ness Monster is going to steal your boyfriend.

Interest Rate Increase Fires Up Student Loan Borrowers

Should student loan interest rates double next July, college-aged Millennials squatting inside academia’s ivory tower could find themselves entombed, indefinitely.  Passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress five years ago, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, that reduced the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate to 3.4 percent, faces eminent demise should the current Republican majority decide not to intervene. However, that hasn’t deterred the tens of thousands of concerned students preparing for the fight of their adult lives.

If an increase does indeed occur, Kathryn Angleton, a senior at Florida State University studying economics, has already attributed it to several factors; namely our recuperating economy, and the budget battles being waged by state legislatures fighting record deficits.

“Policymakers constantly change the rates or specifics for loan qualifications as a short term solution, not taking into consideration the long term externalities that both the government and each individual student are faced with,” Angleton observed. “[W]ho’s to say policy makers won’t simply continue to increase the interest rates, thus keeping graduates stuck in a cycle of perpetual debt?”

On Tuesday, March 13, more than 130,000 letters from college students saturated the Capitol, pleading with congressional leaders to not return to the original subsidized Stafford loan interest rate of 6.8 percent; a rate that hasn’t applied to federal student loan borrowers beginning college after 2006.

In a report issued by the Dept. of Education last September, data indicated that of the 3.6 million student loan borrowers beginning repayment in 2009, nearly 9 percent – 320,000 borrowers – defaulted within the first two years. Compared to the record high default rate of 20 percent the Dept. of Education reported in 1990, these recent figures aren’t as extreme. However, there are indicators those numbers are on the rise again as more student loan borrowers, unaffected by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act’s passage, struggle underneath the burden of higher interest rates.

In a study released last March by the nonprofit Institute for Higher Education Policy, as described by reporter Tamar Lewin of the New York Times, two borrowers begin falling behind for every borrower who defaults. The five-year study, Delinquency: The Untold Story of Student Loan Borrowing, monitored approximately 8.7 million student loan borrowers – and their nearly 27.5 million loans – that entered into repayment between Oct. 1, 2004 and Sept. 30, 2009. Other key findings of the report revealed that roughly two out of five borrowers – about 40 percent – are delinquent at some point within the first five years of repayment. Consequently, those delinquencies – and eventual defaults – jeopardized the Dept. of Education’s efforts to recollect $11.6 billion of student loan aid.

Congressional critics of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act though charge that the federal government shouldn’t have assumed the authority to originate and disburse student loans to start with. Seizing upon estimates from the Congressional Budget Office that the interest rate deduction has cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $6 billion annually over the last five years, opponents to a continued decrease, such as Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), criticized congressional Democrats for planting a “ticking time bomb” five years ago.

“[S]imply calling for more of the same is a disservice to students and taxpayers,” said Kline for the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) have reiterated Pres. Obama’s assertions from the campaign trail that a sustained 3.4 percent interest rate upon subsidized Stafford loans could potentially help 7.4 million borrowers save, on average, $1,000 each over the lifetime of the loan.

“A college education is key to success in today’s economy, but for many students, the spiraling costs of higher education are creating an immense barrier,” Courtney declared Tuesday, March 13 at a rally organized by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), Rebuild the Dream, Campus Progress, and college students throughout the nation on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. “At a time when Americans owe more in student-loan debt than credit card debt, it is critical that we prevent interest rates from rising further. We cannot allow a de-facto tax increase on middle- and low-income families to exacerbate this problem, especially as we work to continue our economic recovery.”

Both elected officials have collaborated to introduce a Student Loan Affordability Act (S.2051/ H.R.3826) into their respective chambers, preserving the 3.4 percent interest rate level. However, its fate still seems uncertain going into these next 100 days as fiscal austerity looms heavily over Capitol Hill this election year.