Design a monitor for house plants that measures the amount of moisture in the soil and the amount of sunlight the plant receives. The monitor could communicate with a smartphone app called Plant App that would allow the plant owner to check its plant’s stats, upload jpegs of the plant and play games together (like a Tamagotchi). Also, if your ficus is getting a little dry, the monitor would send a signal to the Plant App which would leave an audio message on your phone about your ficus needing to be watered. The voicemail could be very emotional and maybe sound like it was from a man in the dessert dying of dehydration: “Water. Please. Give me some water. Arrrggahagh…” The Plant App could also allow you to connect with other people’s house plants profiles. You could share photos of your flora, send other user’s plants encouraging messages and momentarily distract yourself from your abject loneliness.
Since air travelers spend a good deal of time on planes praying (for safe landings, not dying during turbulence, having a vacant adjacent seat, etc.), harness that solemn energy by creating a non-secular airline company. The business could cater to various faiths by having many religious airline subsidiaries (there could be a Buddhaflight, JewAir, etc.) For JetJesus, each flight would commence with the captain making announcements after reading a passage from the Bible. Flight attendants would all have a theology degree and would serve communion bread and wine for refreshments. There would also be a confessional booth in the aft galley but it would need to be clearly labeled so as not to be confused with the restrooms.
What happens when Mario dies in Super Mario Bros? From the player’s perspective, Mario is resurrected at the last starting point of the stage (unless there are no more continue’s) but in the reality of the game, what happens? Why can Mario continue to be restored to life if he is dead? Is Mario some sort of undead vampire? Does he inhabit some sort of Groundhog Day-esque purgatory? Is it all a dream? Does he have a time machine? Are there Mario clones?
Hugh Everett III, world renowned physicist and father of Mark Everett, the lead singer of The Eels, was the first to develop a theory in the 1950′s that explains that all possible alternative histories or futures are equally real but cannot coexist. Everett’s Many World’s Theory explains that an infinite (or nearly infinite) number of “worlds” or “universes” are continuously branching off of the reality in which we exist. These timelines could be very similar to the one in which we inhabit (for example, in a branching universe, you chose to eat a muffin for breakfast instead of oatmeal with apples on top) or they could be drastically different (for example, the meteor which caused the last dinosaur extinction never hit the earth causing dinosaurs to evolve into an advanced species instead of humans).
Using Everett’s Many World’s Theory as an explanatory vehicle, re-make Super Mario Bros so that when Mario dies, he wakes up in a new universe. This new dimension could be very similar to the pre-existing stage in which he died, except that some small detail may be different (for example, the coins are replaced by dollar bills. Or the green mushrooms cause Mario to hallucinate instead of giving him a +1Up. Or the stage could look entirely different – like a whole new game and Mario’s appearance is altered as well). Instead of avoiding it, death becomes the means by which Mario can travel between universes. Sometimes it will be crucial for Mario to avoid death to progress in a level but other times dying will be necessary in order to reach a higher level. The only consistency throughout the game would be the controls and the goal. Instead of saving the Princess, Mario’s new goal would be more multi-universal. Perhaps the goal would be to reach the lynch pin of all universes (like in The Dark Tower series) or it could be to kill God (like in the His Dark Materials series) or it could be to give up all desire by reaching enlightenment (like in Buddhism). In each new stage, or universe, the player would need to determine what to do (what do I need to accomplish in this universe to help me reach my goal?). As the game progresses, Mario could acquire items or tools that would allow him to travel more freely throughout the worlds instead of having to use death as a gateway. There would be other characters (both good and bad) that can also travel between the universes. Maybe the soundtrack could be composed by Daft Punk? Nintendo, call me!
Create an edition of Settlers of Catan for the city of Minneapolis. Instead of being pioneers, players would act as small business entrepreneurs that would acquire and trade resources (such as used clothing, local food, bandwidth, coffee beans and craft beer) to construct coffee shops, cafes and bike paths throughout Minneapolis. Instead of knights, eateries would be protected by regulars against shoplifters and in lieu of an ocean, the terrain would be surrounded by suburbs. The first player to gain 10 MSP points wins!
Note: I am collaborating with coffee/Catan guru, Sam Stewart, to create a mock-up of the game. Stay tuned for play-testing opportunities.
Create a performance art piece that draws on obnoxiously loud car radios stopped at intersections. Setup: gather an eclectic group of dancers who each specialize in dancing to a particular genre of music. Each dancer would dress in a costume that personifies their musical style. For example, there would be a line dancer dressed as a cowboy who would dance to country music, a hipster draped in hipster attire to portray indie and alternative rock, a hip-hop dancer for rap and hip-hop, etc. This music genre performance super-group would wait together on the corner of a busy intersection and when a car playing loud music stops at the red light, the performer representing the genre of music blaring from the car’s stereo would do an improvised solo dance routine until the light turns green.
Design a board game that simulates the thrills of working in a call center. The game would come with four headsets. Each player takes turns being the supervisor and draws a card that represents an issue that someone would call customer service to resolve. The other players all write down what they believe is the best solution to the problem and the supervisor chooses their favorite response. The player with the most positive customer feedback wins! The game would also come with “on hold” background muzak, energy drinks and muscular atrophy.
Create a coffee table photo book that documents kid-made couch forts from around the world. The book would feature interviews with the “architects”, types of forts (burrows, fortresses, etc.) and also highlight structural features (like flying buttresses, dungeons, etc).
Create a book series that that teaches the feminine/masculine gender articles of the Romance languages. On each page there could be an image of a vocabulary word, and then to burn into the reader’s memory that the word is either feminine or masculine, a friendly vajayjay or peepee could be attached to the picture. Note: the genitalia could have accessories in order to engage reader’s interest. Note: you can support this project on Kickstarter.
The biggest problem plaguing coffee-shops with unisex bathrooms is that if you use the restroom and a previous patron left it in a state of disgrace, then it is your responsibility to clean up after them, otherwise the next customer will think that you are the inconsiderate jerk that left a wreath of pee drops and pubic hair on the toilet seat. Invent a machine that will gently guilt bathroom patrons to “leave no trace” after they do their business through repetitive shame-laced announcements.
Create a simplified cookbook that only uses pictures to give step-by-step instructions for recipes. It would be like a lego-manual but with food. The cookbook would be ideal for usability researchers, non-English speakers, visual learners or the illiterate. How about it Paula Deen, you beautiful behemoth?
Invent a real-world Choose Your Own Adventure game that gives participants a better appreciation for their neighborhood by becoming immersed in a decision-based story where they are the protagonist. To play, players read a passage posted on a street corner telephone pole. After reading the narrative, participants must choose between two options to continue the story, which will lead them to a different block in the neighborhood. A dozen alternative endings are available which ensure countless hours of walking.
Note: Maybe as a reward for finishing the adventure, participants can go to a local cafe and receive a complementary pudding cup.
Design a smartphone app that builds community awareness by giving local issues real world context. When users are out and about in their community and near a geo-tagged ‘hotspot’, they would receive a notification on their smartphone about that location. The notification would link to local news articles to give more information about the issue and also link to government officials and community organization websites if the user wants to take action. There could also be a web version that allows users to scan ‘hotspot’ locations via google maps. How about it Mr. Mayor?
If you are riding public transit and you are bored or in need of attention, take out a notebook and begin to feverishly scribble complex formulas and any math symbols that you can remember from junior high school. It will help pass the time and anyone looking over your shoulder will think that you are a genius on the brink of solving the world’s hardest equation. Note: Throw in a few ancient Greek letters to add to the mystique.
I imagine the most frustrating part about being a werewolf is that when you morph back into a human, you’re naked. Apart from the risk of catching a cold and being embarrassed, wearing your birthday suit in public is also illegal. Public nudity remains on your permanent record and making light of it at a job interview can be a challenge.
Unless you are a werewolf with enough foresight to strip prior to shape-shifting, you are going to shred your pants. Pants are expensive. They also are a hassle to shop for because you have to try them on at the store.
As a werewolf, you need a pair of pants with an elastic waistband and tapered ankles that will stretch and expand to fit your human body as well as your lycanthropic man-beast body. What you need are Zubaz. Zubaz for werewolves could come in many flashy patterns and also have a flap in the back for the tail to poke out.
There is nothing so revolting as watching a person eat a muffin. These mushroom-shaped pastries are designed in such a way that any attempt to consume them in a graceful manner inevitably leads to a crumbly mess. Morsels break away when biting into the muffin-top lip, forcing the consumer to lift their free hand in a vain and ham-fisted effort to catch the falling bits and then discretely shove them into their mouth like some sort of crumb burglar. It’s disgusting.
Create an imploded muffin-top that allows the consumer to chew around a pastry ring rather than a muffin-top lip. This dish shape would channel any muffin fragments into the dimple of the muffin rather than onto the lap of the consumer.
During the month of November many men sprout mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues in a month-long charity event known as Movember. It is a brilliant concept but what about the people who are eager to be directly involved but can’t grow facial hair — like [most] women, children and me? What about us?
Establish a charity event where people grow unibrows during the entire month of February. The event would be called FeBROWary and could be used to raise funds and awareness for a disease that affects both sexes – a unisex disease. Each participant would act as an ambassador for the charity while sporting a home-grown fuzzy caterpillar below their forehead.
Construct a dream house where you could live later in life with your family (if you have one) – maybe somewhere temperate like in the Pacific Northwest but not near any hippies.
In the front yard there would be a long winding road flanked on both sides by a peach orchard. When the peach trees blossom, neighbors would stroll by and mutter “wow, those are nice blossoms.”
In the basement set aside a storage room stocked with a six month supply of food, water, household amenities and survival gear. If there was a war, epidemic or a natural disaster, it is good to be prepared because you will be on your own.
Note: Become independently wealthy but not have a regular 9-to-5 job (maybe marry someone wealthy whose dream house idea is identical to mine).
Things that I want in or around my dream house:
- A gently-flowing stream
- A water mill that generates electricity from the gently-flowing stream
- A trampoline
- A fireplace and hearth area
- My aging parents to reside in a guesthouse and they would tend the vegetable garden, orchard and beehives to help stave off dementia
- An old school Nintendo with the original Tetris
- Solar panels on the roof
Things that I don’t want in my dream house:
- Old people who walk around with their mouths open all of the time
- People with big bulgy eyes
- Dead plants
Things that I want to have in my dream house but probably should not have in my dream house:
- A bathroom decorated like a truck stop men’s room (with a urinal, graffiti, faux-urine stains on the walls)
- A room with oversized furniture so it seems like you are small
- A throne
Instead of using boy balls/ball girls at tennis matches, train and breed a stock of giant centipedes to retrieve the balls. It would help to improve the image of our scuttle-bug neighbors while helping to eliminate sports-sanctioned child labor. How about it Wimbledon?
This holiday season send decorated letters of the alphabet to loved ones as a crafty and clever alternative to the traditionally tedious “Christmas letter.”
Note: You could also send Hanukah letters adorned with menorahs and dreidels or New Years letters covered in noisemakers, champagne flutes and regret.
Promote your new album by creating a walking adventure using QR tags and a smartphone. Note: this idea is best for local musicians that have a concept album. How it works:
1. Compose an album and put it online on a site like bandcamp.
2. Select a trail or street in your city that relates in some way to your album.
3. Code and print QR tags which link to individual tracks on your album’s website, so if someone with a smartphone takes a picture of that QR tag, they will be able to download that song for free from your band’s site and listen to it then.
4. Hang the QR tags along the trail in the order that the tag’s linked songs appear on the album.
5. Distance the tags (songs) along the trail based on the length of the preceding song. For example, if the first song is 3:00 minutes long, then the distance to the next tag would be about 792 feet away (based on an average person walking at 3 miles per hour).
6. Invite listeners and fans on a musical journey by having them locate the first QR tag. They will then download the first song on their smartphone and begin their promenade along the path that you established. By the time that the first song is finished, they will reach the next QR tag, which will enable them to download the second track of the album. By the time they finish listening to the album, they will walk away with a unique music listening experience.
Note: You could plant various objects along the trail, that would help invoke a sense of the song. Also, provide a map with a detailed description of the project on the band’s website because this is terribly confusing.
Invent a baby-stroller which can attach to the pusher’s muffin-top. This will free up the user’s arms — allowing for a more fluid stride, and at the same time apply pressure to their lower belly roll — constantly encouraging the user to keep jogging.
Note: if the user exercises too much and reduces their spare tire to such a degree that the muffin-top stroller handle is rendered inoperative, various attachments (semi-flabby tummy handle, 6-pack micro-brew abs handle) can be outfitted to fit the user’s current stomach condition.
Footnote: This is an adaptation of my sister’s idea: the uterus stroller.
Taking advantage of Japan’s confectionery-obsessed culture with the joy of sitting around a small table and making your own food, start an ice-cream okonomiyaki* dessert house. Instead of grilling their food, patrons could mix and mash premium ice-cream flavors with a variety of toppings and sweet fixings on a cold stone. It would be like Cold Stone but different for legal reasons.
Pro’s: Big potential market. Japanese women would sell their own for a scoop of sherbet.
*Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese savory pancake that can be filled with a variety of ingredients like cheese, spring onions, kimchi, shrimp or what-have-you and topped with mayonnaise, fish flakes, and brown sauce. It can be bought on the street at festivals or at okonomiyaki restaurants – where customers sit around grill tables and cook their own okonomiyaki, which, when finished, is served in slices. It’s like a pizza but with brown sauce.
Establish a presentation series similar to TED Talks or Pecha Kucha but whose structure is inspired by James Burke’s Connections series. Connections was a nerdy and brilliant British documentary series made in the late ’70′s which explored invention history through the lens of “an alternative view of change.”
What Burke meant by an “alternative view of change” was that modern inventions were more than just the product of geniuses tinkering away in a laboratory; they were also the result of a series of events and technologies, which allowed for that invention to be brought to life. For example, in the episode “Death in the Morning“, Burke explores the creation of the atom bomb by first connecting the nuclear weapon to ancient Greece with the birth of a monetary economy – which then spurred trade in Persia and the Mediterranean – which eventually lead to the construction of the Royal Library of Alexandria – which housed the first star charts – that were later used in naval exploration – and up and up and up – until making a final connection with ‘Little Boy’ – the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.
In this fashion, create a gestalt-themed presentation series, where prior to the event, each presenter is given two topics (they could be an invention, or person, or event, or song, or what have you). The two topics would serve as a point A and B, where throughout their presentation, the presenter would have X number of slides to draw a relationship between the two topics while indulging in everything in between.
The progression of the presentations could be very linear (like in Connections, where A + B + C = D) or they could be a little roundabout (where A + Y + M = D). Also, each presenter would be unaware of the previous and next presenter’s topics. So for example, if Presenter A’s topics are Sex and and The Bubonic Plague and Presenter B’s topics are The Bubonic Plague & Furbies, neither would know that their presentations are ultimately drawing a connection between Sex and Furbies via The Bubonic Plague (and many other links). By the end of the event, the audience and presenters will have leapt-frogged from topic to topic, learning about historical invention, forming new relationships and hopefully having a lot of fun along the way.
The album would chronicle a hero’s journey based on the archetype themes from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Each artist would be assigned to create a track in the record that reflects a specific leg in the quest archetype. For example, Band A begins the narrative by composing a song based on “the call to adventure”. Then without having heard Band A’s track, Band B would then continue the story by writing a song derived from the next step in the hero’s journey.
This process would continue with various bands until the record/story is complete. For the sake of continuity, a rough profile of the main character would be provided to all of the musicians but they would have artistic freedom to fill in the details of the narrative.
If you are a musician/band keen to collaborate on an exquisite album, then have your people call my people (me) and we can make music history.
Establish a fitness center that seamlessly combines cardio, aerobic and resistance training with touching adorable animals. All weights would be replaced by cute critters of various weights and sizes. You could press and pet a potbellied pig or curl and cuddle with a cottontail. There could also be a juice bar where you can feed the pets food pellets while you sip on a banana smoothie. Note: have all of the animals’ anal glands and legs removed.
Update: This idea was selected as the winner for GOOD’s hand washing contest.
Doctors and nurses are not washing their hands as often as they should, which causes the spread of infections that lead to thousands of deaths each year in the United States. You can read more about it in the N.Y. Times blog (via GOOD). Here are six methods to get medical professionals back on the clean hand bandwagon:
Design a side-scroller computer game that uses websites as the setting. A 16-bit Megaman-esque character could bounce from page graphics and text platforms collecting cached search terms while fending off viruses and spambots. A variety of websites could be levels in the game and when you die, you go to a 404! purgatory. There could also be a hidden bonus level on a porn site, but before you are allowed to begin, you would need to enter your date of birth.
Maybe the hero could be Asian because there are not many Asian video game heroes.
Invent a condo or apartment complex built from Tetris-shaped modular units. Each unit could be easily customized and transported. Combine various residential “blocks” to create a home. Multiple units could be stacked together to create interlocking communities. Furniture and furnishings could be universally interchangeable to allow for module rotation. Maybe the original Tetris soundtrack could be piped into the elevators and the music could speed up as you go to higher floors?
Side note: since the time I first penned this idea in my idea-book several years ago, many Tetris-inspired design projects have materialized. For example: this and this. My idea does not seem so terribly original anymore but it goes to show how many people around the world love Tetris.
If you marry someone who is a fan of Lord of the Rings, make sure the engagement ring has an inscription on it that is visible only when heated. If your future spouse is also a fan of Star Trek the Next Generation, then maybe the inscription could read “Engage!” ?
Propose to your loved one in style using corn. The Plan: Charter a hot air balloon ride and determine its flight path. The night prior to the ride, use a two-by-four to stamp out a message in a corn field. Get your lover into the balloon (crucial!). During the ride, tell him/her that you think you see some deer to get them to spot the proposal. When they turnaround, there you will be on one knee, with a ring.
Note: If your lover declines your hand in marriage, it will be a long ride back, so be prepared. Prior to boarding, tie a secret safety line around your waist and if they turn you down, start sobbing and then jump off the hot air balloon. Your lover will rush to the edge thinking that you have fallen to your death but there you will be, dangling from a rope and flipping them the bird a la Alicia Silverstone from the music video “Cryin“.
Write a comic book that chronicles the life of a struggling product designer or architecture grad that turns to designing weapons, vehicles and secret bases for super-villains to make ends meet during the Great Recession. As the series progresses, the character struggles with dealing with finicky clients, budgetary demands and the stress of designing doomsday devices while trying to maintain his creative integrity. He could also have diabetes.
Side note: Much of my childhood (and also recently, my adulthood) was devoted to reading comic books. Although I was completely enamored with the stories, super powers and artwork of comic books, I had a difficult time coming to terms with who built all of the products and who designed all of the buildings used by the characters. Beast and Forge crafted much of the technology used by the X-Men but what about the villains? Did they hire contractors? How were they funded? Was there a project manager for the team that built Asteroid M?
Open a hair salon where the hair dressers give lectures while they cut hair, since many stylists have degrees in fields unrelated to hairdressing like sociology, international business and English. As a customer, you might learn something and also won’t feel obligated to talk to the person cutting your hair.
Create an armature that would support the weight of hors’doeuvre trays and could be worn inside the uniforms of banquet servers. This idea is stupid, isn’t it?
Invent coverings that would shield your normally tanned body parts from the sun while the rest of your body tans. The trappings would be worn on your leg, forearm, head, neck and genital areas and would help to ensure an even tan.
Promote the acquisition of new employees at your business by creating an advertisement for a bus stop bench. It will be like a press release but boring in a different medium. You could also take a picture of the bench and send it to clients in an e-marketing email.
Create a mascot that would inform the public of the fact that water they use to wash potatoes can be recycled! Potato water is full of nutrients and can be given to house plants. The mascot could be a pair of sweatpants because sweatpants are like the “potatoes” of fashion. They go with everything. Note: Maybe the mascot’s name could be “Starchy” and his catchphrase could be “make plants grow with tater flow” or something more concise. Statchy’s name could also be stitched onto the butt of the pants.
Side note: Originally this idea was a submission to GOOD’s Reduce Our Collective Energy Consumption mascot contest. I realized after the fact that I didn’t really read the guidelines (or the headline) for the project very closely as my submission had nothing to do with energy reduction. When I read “pick an issue” and “create a mascot” in the contest description, I just sort of ran with it.
When I die, I would like three things to happen:
1. My handful of friends and family gather together and throw a beach funeral party (plenty of chips, plenty of dip).
2. I would like to be cremated and a small portion of my ashes be used as stuffing for a hackey sack (see idea #11). Place the hackey sack in a lacquered box and give it to my nephew.
3. I would like to have a viking burial.
The Viking Burial: In my 9th grade science class I had to build a cardboard boat capable of navigating the perimeter of the school’s pool without sinking. Over the course of several weekends, my team and I worked in a garage alongside old lawnmowers and hockey equipment. When completed, the boat spanned four meters in length, weighed over 180 kilograms (400 pounds) and resembled a barge bedecked with nude Barbie dolls and graffiti. It didn’t float. While I’m not sure what I was supposed to learn from this assignment, it did instill in me a great appreciation for cardboard boats.
At my funeral party, my guests are to craft a boat out of biodegradable cardboard. The vessel must be able to float 30 meters from shore without sinking, be able to burst into a glorious (yet tasteful) inferno when struck by a fire arrow and also metaphorically transport my soul to the netherworld. Ideally, this a fun team-building exercise.
After the funerary ship is seaworthy, guests are instructed to create grave goods out of construction paper and markers. These mementos will provide my soul with nourishment while on its journey to the afterlife. Ideally, they hold a special meaning for the people making them or are just things that I liked when I was alive. For example: smooshed Hawaiian bread, bicycles, dinosaurs, Star Trek the Next Generation memorabilia, soft licorice, history dioramas, etc.
Lastly, the grave goods would be placed alongside my ashes in the boat which would then be pushed out to sea. Once the ship is a safe distance from the shore, a professional archer would ignite it with a fire arrow and it would burn.
Note: If any women would like to volunteer to join me in the afterlife and be sacrificed alongside my body, then I guess that would be alright too. No fatties please.
This is the bathroom. This is where you can put your coat. Here’s the bedroom.
Produce an apartment audio guide so you wouldn’t need to waste time giving the same tired old tour when new friends come over. Discreetly lead guests to things that you want to show them instead of waiting for them to notice your interesting belongings. Note: have your audio tours narrated by Sir Ian McKellan or Sir Patrick Stewart or your roommate. Each track would correlate with a numbered sticker marking a point of interest. Also, there could be a brochure.
Create a memorial statue in honor of the best LOST character — John Locke — the orphan parapelegic cubicle jockey turned knife-wielding island guardian. He is awesome.
As a way of commemorating Locke and his great deeds, a statue would be erected in a city park. Then it would probably be torn down because it is illegal to place statues of fictitious characters on public property without permission first from the city.
The statue would bear the inscription “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.”