Website of the week
Once upon a time, in the 1990s, I was a salegirl at Contempo Casuals. I actually really loved working there--my love of shopping translates pretty well into helping others shop--and, as you could imagine, my coworkers were a rather colorful bunch of characters. Everyone really looked up to our store manager, who was tall, thin, beautiful, and pretty smart as far as Contempo employees go, and when she returned from a trip to Milwaukee to visit relatives, we all gathered around to hear her stories about visiting Mecca, a.k.a. the Contempo superstore in the Mall of America. Now, I've never been to the Mall of America (shocking, I know), and I think it would be okay if I never went, but I will admit to be somewhat fascinated by the place. Roller coasters! Hotels! 400 stores! So I was intrigued to read about artist Rosemary Williams who, in an effort to combat her shopping anxiety, decided to create an installation with a shopping bag from every store in the mall. However, she found that stores wouldn't just give her a bag; she had to buy something at each store. And hence began a long cycle of buying and returning (and keeping the shopping bags), which she has documented at her website Rosemary Goes to the Mall. The interesting thing is that her whole process kind of became the art (there is, in fact, a shopping bag installation; it's been exhibited in a gallery in Dumbo as well as in London), so every other week, Rosemary releases a new podcast detailing a particular shopping trip--and the cultural mores and personal hangups that accompany it. The podcasts are on the long side (typically 40 minutes to an hour) but are both entertaining and thought-provoking. I recommend listening to at least a few--you'll probably find yourself laughing, cringing, and maybe even pondering why you shop.

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