Issue 302: Gift Guide + Secret Project
Weddings, Sticker Empires, Spotify Wrapped, and Some Good News
I’m writing this from a diner in Santa Barbara before a friend’s wedding. This city gets up early. I’m used to the only people at breakfast around 8am to be families and old people – not so in ol’ SB.
There was a welcome dinner last night and I saw so many people I love. I’ve attended two other in-person weddings since the start of the pandemic, a life-long family friend’s during the month-long ‘hot vax summer’ before Delta, and another a few months ago where I knew fewer people but still had an amazing time. This wedding, too, has felt like a reunion.
There’s something more special about weddings in a post-Covid world (post- the introduction of the virus, not its defeat). I find myself looking around and really being aware that these are the people I’ve chosen to spend my brief slice of Anthropocene with – and they’ve chosen me. This realization and the celebration of a wedding stand out more during a time that feels so bleak. When Heather and I were deciding if we wanted to have a wedding, someone told us there are two times everyone in your life comes together: weddings and funerals. At funerals, seeing people you love is the silver lining. At weddings, it’s the whole experience.
On the walk from my hotel to this diner, I passed a kayak rental and I have to tell you I am strongly considering a morning kayak. TBD.
Anyway, it’s a pretty full newsletter this week — so, enjoy! Or… don’t! DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, DAD!
HERE’S AN IDEA
In 1975, the owner of a gift store in Sausalito, CA asked a graphic designer friend to create some red heart stickers for their Valentine’s Day packaging. The friend, Andrea Grossman, cut a simple but elegant heart out of construction paper and sent it to a label printer. Weeks later, a large carton arrived — but, instead of being printed on flat sheets as requested, the printer had mistakenly printed thousands of tiny red hearts on rolls, like ribbon. They were a surprise hit — with customers buying dozens.
Andrea designed more stickers and introduced ‘Stickers by the Yard’ at a stationary show. Less than two years later, she had fifty employees and ‘Mrs. Grossman’s Stickers’ began a national sticker craze.
It’s time for a documentary about Mrs. Grossman’s. How they started, grew overnight, fought off corporate takeovers, were revitalized by the scrapbooking boom, were early adopters of sustainable business practices, hire developmentally disabled adults, dabbled with making wine labels, and more.
There’s a huge audience for feel-good nostalgia docs on streaming platforms and the sheer joy of these stickers is something nearly every 80s and 90s kid remembers. Add in manufacturing porn and talking-head interviews with craft-loving celebrities and you’ve got a documentary feature (or series?) that really sticks the landing (sorry).
(PS: If you take this idea, please bring me on to *at least* consult. Also, two tv pitch ‘here’s an idea’ in a row? Yes, sorry. Don’t worry, I’ve got a diatribe about how to reform to-go coffee cups brewing for a future newsletter.)
I attended a DGA screening of Adam McKay’s upcoming Don’t Look Up last weekend and it blew my mind. There are a couple of tricky things that this movie threads very well, and ultimately strikes an inspiring (to me as a filmmaker) balance of cartoonishly far-fetched and absolutely believable at the same time. I really don’t want to hype it up (because that’s the best way to make a movie suck for someone) but I’d put it up there with Dr. Strangelove.
Blair Imani is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram. Her posts take seemingly complex and multifaceted issues like race, class, gender, and disability and somehow package them into digestible bite-sized info dumps. Her new book, Read This To Get Smarter is an extension of her work as an educator, and I can’t put it down. Lots of stuff I didn’t know, and many things I knew but didn’t have the language to reinforce. I’ve already bought two more copies to give as gifts.
I’ve never read John Green’s bestselling novels (he wrote The Fault In Our Stars) but I recently became familiar with his wonderful podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed. Green reviews – on a five-star scale – aspects of ‘the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity.’ Entries include a specific hot dog stand in Iceland, the QWERTY keyboard layout, Gingko trees, orbital sunrises, and so many more aspects of human existence. Green finds a poetic humanism in each entry is at once trivial and profound.
TAKE MY MONEY
Sometimes I put a few things here that I want to buy. Instead of that, I’d like to present the Jacob All Trades 2021 Gift Guide – a curated list of a few dozen items I think are awesome.
Spotify’s end-of-year wrap-up / ingenious free advertising campaign is in full swing and I’m perennially in awe of it. I love seeing data – especially personal data – displayed in a way that’s aesthetically beautiful, and also uniform across an indefinite number of people. I can see what my friends post and immediately know how to understand it. It tells me something about them and often begins a conversation.
If you haven’t seen them on social, or aren’t a Spotify user, here’s what they look like:
But, every year, I also think about how creepy this is. Would we eagerly share a reminder from Facebook of the personal data they’re collecting on us? Instagram? Why is Spotify different? Partially, it’s brand loyalty. I also suspect it’s because Spotify is completely focused on one medium/experience (audio) and the user experience is mostly solitary. Rather than share with friends every day, we’re more likely to share a big wrap-up at the end of the year.
I was glad to see this spoof that Day Laborer Network re-posted:
The original poster already had its image removed after Spotify threatened legal action. Never mind that this fully falls within parody law — most social platforms will immediately shut things down if a huge corporation threatens them. Remember free speech doesn’t apply on social because it’s a company’s platform, not a public space.
I don’t know how to do it, but I think we need to have a larger conversation about what it means when things are ‘free.’ Someone in the supply chain is paying the price, and it sure as heck isn’t massive corporations :(
SOME GOOD NEWS
In a world with bad news more accessible than ever, I want to introduce a new section of my newsletter: SOME GOOD NEWS. Today….
After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the Anti-Defamation League began a years-long legal process to hold the organizers responsible… and last month, they won. This is huge and will hopefully set precedent for hate-mongers to be held responsible (financially if not criminally) in the future. Click here to learn more and support the ADL’s work.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Years ago — in this newsletter — I joked about starting a podcast called Jacob Reed and Me where I track down and interview the many other people named Jacob Reed. Well, I’ve been working on a pilot episode since the beginning of the pandemic, and I just finished a sequence I’m excited to share.
In the pilot, I’m looking for an artist named Jacob Reed who painted a popular wall decor painting. There’s no info available publicly, so I ask all the big companies that sell his work if they’ll give me his contact info.
And… if you know anything about pitching podcasts or have an in with anyone who buys them…. lmk 🙏
Alrighty, that’s it for this week. Feel free to leave a comment or share the newsletter using the links below.