All in the mind

American Diaries

By Suhashini Sarkar
  • Published 15.09.18
Mirror, mirror on the wall

The pop-up museum scene in New York is, well, popping. Several temporary exhibitions have cropped up, centred around a single theme whether it is pizza or ice cream. The latest addition to the mix is the Museum of Illusion. What is better, it actually exists. The international exhibit has travelled to ten different locations around the world including Germany and Croatia. It will now land in the Meatpacking District on September 20. Guests can view a collection of more than 70 installations surrounding science, math, biology and psychology, but with fun interactive games and puzzles.

Some of the exhibits exclusive to the New York iteration include a sensory trick called the "Thermal Grill". When one presses his hand against the "grill," it feels like the hand is getting burned, but it's only an illusion. Guests can roam through the Mirror Room, let themselves go in an infinity room or resist the laws of gravity and size ratios.

Along the same theme, "Dream Machine", which was on display in Brooklyn till September 9, sold $2 million in tickets since opening in April. The $28 experience took guests through a surrealist reverie, including technicolour neon lights and a room to make visitors feel as if they're at the bottom of a giant swimming pool. Paige Solomon, Dream Machine's co-founder said "I actually think it's a crime to call these pop-ups 'museums'. I don't even know if I consider myself an artist. I'm more of an experience designer."

Kneeling and dealing

Football season is back and Nike is making headlines again - although probably not for the reasons one would think. Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, featured in a new and controversial Nike ad with a tag line, "believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything". Kaepernick has become a polarizing public figure for his decision to kneel during the national anthem when it's played before games, a protest he believes has caused him to be blacklisted.

Kaepernick sparked activism in the National Football League, leading to a wave of on-field protests that have continued since 2016, which is when he began kneeling during the national anthem. This has been interpreted by political conservatives as being disrespectful to the American flag and the military. Video clips of people burning their Nike socks and shoes went viral. "Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts," Trump wrote on Twitter last week. While calls for a boycott across social media did drag down the company's stock after the news broke, share prices have since regained. Nike understands its target market, demographics and the social trends. It took a calculated risk, but this isn't the first time the company has advocated for a cause or pushed for social change. Previous ad campaigns have taken on AIDS, gender inequality, disabilities, religion, and other cultural flashpoints.

Fashion statement

Summer is coming to an end, but designers and supermodels are just getting started. The first day of the Spring 2019 New York Fashion Week kicked off amidst sweltering heat and humidity. Even though the fashion industry is focused on the runway, it has not turned a deaf ear to what is going on down in the Hill. Alongside the Fashion Week events are unfolding the controversial "Kavanaugh hearings" in Washington.

As the Senate holds confirmation hearings for the judge, Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Americans across the country have been protesting the conservative judge's appointment. The protests made their way to Fashion Week, with the designer, Jeremy Scott, making a powerful statement. The designer took a bow wearing a white t-shirt reading, "Tell Your Senator NO On Kavanaugh". The shirt also provided a phone number for showgoers (and viewers at home) to exercise their civic duty and call the local senator.

Scott's t-shirt wasn't the only statement-making piece either. Jackets and sweaters covered in neon words like, "RESIST", "PEACE", "REVOLT", and "HOPE" were worn by models on the runway. From protecting the ACLU to planned parenthood and immigration policy, the last few seasons have seen many American (and even European) designers make the show a platform for statements of protest and activism.

A taste of the machines

There is a robot in California quietly doing a one-hour lunch shift every day, flipping roughly 300 burgers. Flippy was created by Miso Robotics to work at CaliBurger in Pasadena. Using a combination of thermal imaging, visual recognition and artificial intelligence, Flippy can tell when a raw burger is ready to be flipped; when it is cooked to the proper temperature; and when it can be taken off the grill. Flippy will set a restaurant back $60,000 plus an annual 20 per cent recurring fee for learning and maintenance. This is a steep price for an employee that only works the lunch shift, but Miso says companies can earn that back through decreased wait times and less food waste. Moreover, robots can create a more consistent product, won't call in sick or need a break. Miso Robotics has fixed the problems and said to expect fifty more Flippys by 2019.

In addition to Flippy, Zume has a pizza-making robot, Cafe X has a robot barista, and Bear Robotics has Penny to carry food and dirty dishes. Looking ahead, Sony recently teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University to work on food robots for the future.


Move over Sherlock. Now one can get a personal private investigator at the tip of one's fingers. A new app, Trustify, starts a client off with a free consultation with a case adviser, who then connects the user with the most appropriate PI in the area. Rates are on an hourly basis, charging $99 per hour with no retainers at a $50 service fee. While every case is different, cases are usually closed in between 10 and 15 hours. It can be used to send a sleuth behind an ex or even to conduct a background check on a co-worker.