Conversations in Place at The Rancho Los Alamitos recap

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On Sunday I visited The Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach to check out an installment of its Conversations in Place 2014 series. The topic of discussion was “Should Our Future Cling to the Past?” and in addition to my friend, Imprint’s own Julia Huang, there were professor of urban planning and author Joel Kotkin and ¡Ask a Mexican! columnist and author Gustavo Arellano on the panel. Providing expert context and moderation were Alamitos regulars Claudia Jurmain and D.J. Waldie.

After housekeeping was tended to and introductions were made, Julia kicked off the program by sharing her experiences and insights as a transplant in terms of geography and culture who has not only made a home but an impact on Southern California. She humorously described the advertising world’s uncomfortable entry into the Asian market (KFC translating “finger lickin’ good” into “we’ll eat your fingers off” or Pepsi trying to reach the “new generation,” which meant zombies in Chinese) and recalled that she knew she could do better than that. Of course, interTrend has indeed done that and more, and she described how the company is weaving itself into the fabric of Long Beach as well.

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Professor Kotkin took the podium next, and talked about how Southern California must meet its present challenges by revisiting its strengths from the past. In his estimation, Los Angeles flourished because it didn’t try to be Manhattan. These days, though, he suggests that the vision of spread out and diverse neighborhoods, backyard barbecues, and a thriving middle class must be made possible by established immigrants instead of big industries such as oil, agriculture, entertainment, and aerospace (which have all peaked out) or iron-fisted civic leadership (a thing of the past).

In the second half of the event, Waldie guided a conversation about ways Southern California can continue to function as a cultural Mecca, commercial center, and, perhaps most important, liveable home for its residents. Arellano began the discussion by saying that in his opinion Southern California is not on the verge of dystopia; its culture is more awesome and diverse than ever and unlike anything anywhere else in terms of human resources and energy.

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Kotkin and Arellano debated whether the ascendance of cities like Houston symbolizes Southern California losing luster among commercial kingpins and immigrants alike. The former painted an image of Greater Los Angeles that is in the process of losing its identity and its livelihood; the latter countered that anyone would still rather be in SoCal, which has always had a knack for bouncing back and redefining itself. Meanwhile, Julia shed more light on her experience of not only growing a successful business in Long Beach but also being allowed to purchase the second-oldest building in the downtown area to secure and expand on its position in the community.

While there was a playful underlying debate over ethnicity, immigration, and class struggle, everyone seemed to agree that evolution and the mixing in of new cultures is not only inevitable but necessary in a multifaceted location such as Southern California. It also makes for better eating. When Jurmain cited the shifting of the multicultural American Dream from the Melting Pot to the Salad Bowl and pondered the importance of keeping one’s identity, Arellano went a step further with his Bowl of Nachos analogy. On the top layer, the pieces are distinct and easily identifiable but, toward the center, it becomes a gooey-but-awesome mess.

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Arellano continued by touching on the importance of Mexican food making it into the American mainstream–the subject of his book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Kotkin described sushi dates with his daughter and Julia added that the best sushi in Long Beach happens to be in a mini mall across the street from Costco. It is that unassuming but real interconnection of food, culture, and people that touches on the what makes Southern California unique and great. The topic of food and its importance to Southern California will definitely be revisited at the next talk which features the Pulitzer Prize winning writer and friend of Imprint, Jonathan Gold.

What a cool series and what a gorgeous venue tucked between the Cal State Long Beach campus and the San Gabriel River. I look forward to attending more events there–especially if my wife and I get to meet a favorite writer like Arellano. More reasons why I personally love living in Southern California and don’t plan on moving any time soon.

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Find out more about the Conversation in Place 2014 series of talks at rancholosalamitos.com and follow Imprint Culture Lab via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more articles, events, and announcements…

8 Questions with: Chris Romano/Toonlets Animation

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I knew Chris Romano in college way back in the ’80s and then ran into him a few years ago at a Kings hockey game. I’ve discovered that since then, he has gone on to become a director and visual effects artist. He has directed such high-profile pieces as the ArcLight 50th Anniversary opener and in-theater live opening segment, but of course I wanted to ask him 8 Questions as they relate to his newest labor of love, ¡Monstro!, for Side Effects Software.

Tell me about ¡Monstro!
¡Monstro! is my latest work. It’s an original 10-minute animated short film. I’ve been calling it “A love story. A horror story. A ribald comedy.” It’s an homage to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and I think of it as my love letter to stop motion.

I created a number of shorts over the last 10+ years, but most are mainly commercial length. I found myself at a point where I wanted to make another film and I wanted to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But then I had a little girl and my time was totally disrupted. I knew I couldn’t make a film alone.

The stars aligned and I saw an opportunity to pitch a film to Side Effects Software. I called up Kim Davidson, friend and CEO, proposed teaming up, and he went for it: A short film using Houdini software and Side Effects interns.

Then I sat down and started writing.

What has it been like taking it on the film festival circuit?
The festival circuit is an interesting experience and I’ve already changed a lot because of it. I’ve learned a lot.

Each festival is run by its own group of people with their own likes and opinions and agendas. It’s their party and I’m just crashing it. There really is no second-guessing why something gets accepted or rejected. I just try to roll with it as best I can.

With stars in my eyes after first completing ¡Monstro!, I wanted to shoot for an Academy Award. I wanted to aim really high and see how far I could get.

There are two ways to qualify for Academy consideration. You can rent a theater in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks, play two shows a day, and charge admission. Or you can win “best film” or whatever at particular, pre-qualifying festivals.

¡Monstro! has been very well received at comedy and horror festivals, which is really great. I am excited to play anywhere and everywhere, and I enjoy meeting enthusiastic people. But the film has been categorically rejected at every Academy-related festival that’s reported. I can’t even get past the bouncer!

So, you know, my expectations have forcibly changed. I’m probably not getting my shiny trophy. It’s a terrible injustice.

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Did you want to be an animator when you were a kid?
When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was eat Entenmann’s cookies and play video games.

I grew up on Looney Toons and Tom and Jerry, and my first real want was to be a painter. Like James Rosenquist or Ed Ruscha. I studied fine art at both UCLA and then Art Center in Pasadena, and much of my work was rooted in pop art and comic books.

After college, I fell into computer animation by chance, and when I soon realized I could make my own movies using computers, I changed focus. Looking back, I kind of wish I went to CalArts instead.

Making my own films is not unlike being a painter. I’m still making my own work. Films are a lot harder than paintings. But they take up far less space in the garage.

You’ve seen the art form and scene change a lot since the Spike & Mike era. Anything you miss about the old days?
You know what… No. I mean, the old days that I might miss were way before I was born. The original Tom and Jerry is amazing. Violent, absurd, hilarious, no dialog, action-packed, and top quality. I miss that. Like Wile E. Coyote, to a lesser extent.

Things have only improved since Dreamboy played Spike & Mike. Plus, I’m not a 2D animator… 2D is a whole other world and I’m more like watching it all happen from the outside.

When Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy first aired, I think he reset the bar and cartoons have been getting better and more interesting ever since. I watch Regular Show. I watch Bravest Warriors. I still watch random anime. I sat down and watched every episode of The Mighty B with my daughter and I really like it. It’s too bad it only had two seasons.

That’s probably the best change… On demand. I get to re-watch a lot of older material with Milla. She’s seeing it for the first time, and I get to enjoy it all over again with her.

As a random shout out, because you and I have daughters that are about the same age: I showed Milla Oban Star Racers. It’s not well known. It’s like Star Wars pod racing (but much better) with a female lead, and Milla absolutely loves it. It’s a finite story filled with drama, action, and romance. Totally under-rated.

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Everyone knows how much painstaking time it takes to animate. Any awesome aspects that no one thinks about?
Well, it was wonderful getting the chance to work with a group of enthusiastic talent. The animators from Side Effects were fantastic, and it was wonderful getting their contributions. I made a point of opening myself up to the ideas and suggestions of the team, and there was a lot of great feedback from them. Fabian Johnston is awesome. Cinthia Fujii is awesome.

On the last leg of the film, Sarah You was like my right arm, helping me get everything buttoned up and ready for the big screen. When the film was done and her internship and visa ended, she got shipped back to Seoul and it was really a bit of a shock. It felt like heartbreak. She worked tirelessly on my silly film for over a year of her life and now it’s all done and she’s gone. It was awesome getting to work with someone like that. Our friendship was a very unlikely one.

Outside animation, where do you find inspiration?
The morning sunrise in Topanga Canyon. And I pay attention to what Milla and her friends are in to. I’m a big people watcher. I like deconstructing everything and looking for hidden meaning. I follow a lot of people on tumblr.

Are you reading anything cool at the moment?
I was on a pretty good run and read Metro 2033 and Roadside Panic. But then I made the mistake of reading The Road, which was riveting, but so fucking depressing I almost lost sleep over it. And like a deranged masochist, I started watching the film and all of those bad feelings came rushing back. I had to stop. Now I’ve got Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds and a Satoshi Kon’s Tropic of the Sea waiting for me. Hopefully one of them will make me feel better.

What’s your favorite post-work destination?
Aw man. What does “post work” mean?

Well, what is it you’re looking to do next?
Well, obviously, I’m looking to do more. More films. More creative. ¡Monstro! is my latest, elaborate calling card and I’m always pursuing more director work. I want everyone to know about Toonlets Animation and the look and style and process I put together. I promised myself I’d focus on promoting ¡Monstro! for about 8 months straight, but spending that precious time promoting versus writing and drawing is a hard one for me. I need to get back to the drawing board.

I’ve got a handful of projects on deck. Some web cartoon stuff (maybe crowd-funding?). A show I’ve been developing for a few years. Feature material. I just finished a few bumpers for a client and I’m budgeting out another small commercial. There’s so much to do and so many distractions. With elbows out, I need to barrel my way through the mosh pit of creative competition, keeping my head up and eyes open for the best route. It’s too easy to lose focus and just get lost and get trampled.

Upcoming screenings of ¡Monstro! include:

September 20-21: Golden Orchid International Animation Festival (Pennysylvania State University)
October 2-5: Feratum Festival Internacional de Cine Fantastico, Terror Y Sci-Fi (Tlalpujahua, Mexico)
October 9-18: Spooky Fest 2014 (Washington, D.C.)
October 10-12: Sunscreen Film Festival West (Los Angeles, CA)
October 14-23: Screamfest (Los Angeles, CA)
October 16-18: PollyGrind Film Festival (Las Vegas, NV)

Check out Toonlets Animation at vimeo.com and follow Imprint Culture Lab via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more articles, events, and announcements…

Camp Edison

We’ve well and truly settled into our temporary DTLB digs here at Camp Edison, so maybe it’s a good time to share some more content around the incredible Aaron De La Cruz mural we’re lucky enough to work in front of here at the office. In addition to having Aaron and his assistant Mike fly down from SF, we also had talented creative Brandon Shigeta on hand to document everything. Brandon is an accomplished photographer, amongst other impressive skill sets, and he is best known as one of the top contributors at style magazine Hypebeast.

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Your Brain on Coffee

Ever drink too much coffee and just hit a switch that takes you to beast mode? Conversely, ever not get enough coffee and turn into Mr. Grinch, sloth style? We’ve all been there at one point or another and probably have no idea from a chemical level the type of madness that is going on in our bodies. AsapSCIENCE – which I must say by the way has some of the most awesome educational videos – explains what happens to your body from a scientific perspective when you drink that daily dose of pure addiction.

Lightning Shot

I’ve been posting lightning photos on my instagram every storm I catch ever since I purchased the Sony RX-100 a few years ago. With the growing audience of my photos I have had a lot of people asking how I take them. As a self-proclaimed amateur fanboy of photography at best, I believe everyone can shoot cool photos with right steps.

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These photos were taken this past storm that we had in NY. I have a pretty good view from a 7th floor window.

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I suggest using a small tripod or just stack some books on your window sill. Get comfy -you’ll be standing there for the duration of the storm or until you quit. So below I have outlined the basic settings for the RX-100 that I use.

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When you’re set you can start shooting; hold down the shutter for about three seconds and then start another shot right after and repeat. And remember, if you have the shutter button pressed and you see lightning, don’t let go till it’s over. It takes a bit of practice and you’ll be kicking yourself in the butt when you get tired and miss a shot. But the results are well worth it.

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Spot Check: Downtown L.A.’s Piñata District

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Visitors often complain about how Los Angeles is sprawled out and there’s no transportation system that takes everyone everywhere easily. They’re right. But I love that I still discover neighborhoods and areas that are new to me decades after moving up from behind the Orange Curtain. That happened this weekend when my wife and I checked out the unofficial Piñata District in Downtown L.A.

Not far from the Fashion District and Flower District, it takes up a few blocks on Olympic, mostly on the west side of So. Central. You can’t miss the festive signage and papier-mâché figures decorating the streets. Or the cranked-up sound systems and plentiful street food. You go to buy party supplies there but, really, the entire street is like a party.

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The district’s namesake craft is all over the place. The colorful hollow sculptures stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidewalks, hang in formation from wires under canopies and in shops, and pile up in the corners of warehouses. It would have been an interesting place for Borat or the guys from Jackass to visit with a baseball bat. Most of the supply meets demand by resembling Disney characters and superheroes. I really liked the Spider-Man and Hulk with Sharpied webs and abs, respectively. Although there is something creepy about beating up one of the sisters from Frozen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or any other character that kids adore, smashing the shapes of hard liquor bottles makes a little more sense to me.

We surveyed six or eight shops and most of them charge 14 bucks for a large piñata. A few went for 12. One place was rather uptight with signs everywhere reading “no photography” and “don’t touch” but most were a lot more casual and friendly. After all the pieces started to look the same, we settled on a short-armed-but-happy monkey that was hanging by a doorway. A clerk found two in back that were less likely to be sun damaged, and we chose the one whose tail wasn’t falling off. It was explained to us that there are no secret slots or trapdoors, and we’d have to slice openings into the thin areas on the back of the head or shoulder to insert goodies. The piñata itself is a bargain; filling it up is what is what costs a lot of dough.

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All of the shops also offer excellent selections of my favorite Mexican candies–chili-covered watermelon, mango, and corn pops. There are rows and rows of everything from cotton candy to gummi candy to Japones peanuts, not to mention unending shelves of cheap toys and trinkets. And even more rows of disposable plates, tablecloths, goodie bags, and other party supplies decorated with any theme you could imagine. The only thing we couldn’t locate were strings of papel pecado. They only had vinyl versions, which don’t look as cool as paper but surely last longer. I guess we’ll have to go to Olvera Street for that traditional stuff.

Everything costs way less than it would at The Party Store or Target, and we paid cash and weren’t charged tax. But on top of that we had a great time working our way through the hot, crowded sidewalks while being tempted by handmade tortillas, grilled elotes, and vats filled with aguas frescas on a Sunday morning. I’m totally going back next time there’s a party to plan, or just to have lunch and walk around.

Check in on Imprint Culture Lab via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more articles, events, and announcements.

8 Questions with: Angelyn De La Garza/Kumquat

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I have a disclaimer: Angelyn is my sister and my wife Wendy and I have helped her develop fabric patterns for designs. Our daughter wears Kumquat gear roughly every other day. But while there is bias in my asking Angelyn our 8 Questions, there is also honesty and awareness. I really dig as well as understand what she is doing with Kumquat.

When Ang started her indie baby and little kids clothing company back in 2001, there weren’t a lot of cool clothes for youngsters. Even rarer was finding gear made in the U.S. Somehow, she has been able to not only survive and evolve as a one-person brand (and now shopkeeper) but also become a mainstay in the community of Eagle Rock, where she lives, runs her business, and sends her kids to school.

How would you describe your job?
I design kids clothes for cool kids. I also run a kid’s shop that originally just featured my designs, but now I also sell other lines that are locally designed and made.

What does your average workday look like?
Because my shop doesn’t open until 11, the first thing I do is help out at one of my girl’s schools, do house stuff, or run around downtown either sourcing new fabrics or working on getting my line made. I hope to add going to yoga to that list soon!

Once I’m open, if it’s a good day, I’m busy with customers. My people skills have gotten a little better, and I’ve gotten really good at gift wrapping! Between customers, I clean up, organize, pull and pack web orders, check inventory, source and order new products for the shop, design, work on QuickBooks… I do everything.

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What part of the production cycle are you currently working on?
Since I don’t do wholesale sales anymore, I don’t have to design a half year ahead. I manufacture in L.A., so I am able to produce stuff relatively quickly. I feel like I am already behind, but currently I am working on getting the fall and holiday lines made. Luckily, it’s hot in L.A. for a while still!

The kids clothing industry seems bigger than ever. What are some ways you’ve seen it change since you started?
There are more lines out now than ever. I remember going to the trade shows and feeling so small in my 5′ x 10′ booth. I bet those shows are massive now. As a buyer, I don’t feel like I need to go to any of those shows. I can find everything I need online.

Outside of fashion, where do you find inspiration?
In a way, I think music sparked my interest in fashion. I was always into clothes growing up, but I think when I went to college and immersed myself into a music scene, clothes became a part of my identity more than before. I think in some ways, perhaps even subconsciously, this will always find a place in my design aesthetic. Now, I still really love music, and I go to shows when I can, but as you can probably imagine it’s a bit tougher to hang out at the Echo until 2 a.m. and then wake up the next morning at 7 a.m. and get the kids ready to go to school!

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As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A ballerina. I think it’s almost every little girl’s dream. I actually took dance classes from kindergarten through college! During college, I was introduced to the world of kids’ clothing via a part-time job and have been deep in it ever since.

Are you reading anything cool at the moment?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to read. I was never a morning person, and now with kids and their school, I have to be. So I conk out shortly after they go to bed. Lately, I have been reading a Beverly Cleary book with Lucia, who is 7, but I’m not sure it’s age appropriate for her! I might put that box set away after we finish this one.

What’s your favorite post-work destination?
If I’m lucky, I get to go to an in-store at Amoeba with my girls, Carlos, you, Wendy, and Eloise! Last month we got to see The Muffs!

Check out kumquatbaby.com  for more information about Angelyn’s gear and shop, and check in on Imprint Culture Lab via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more articles, events, and announcements…

THE SAND STORM (沙尘暴)

I’ve become quite the Ai Wei Wei fan over the last couple of years, having fortunately been exposed to a lot of the “dissident” artist’s work during my time here at Imprint. If I’m totally honest, I think his rebellious/punk-rock attitude appeals to me at least as much as his thought-provoking artwork does. He evokes something of a modern-day Socrates, an enigmatic figure constantly reminding society of its ethical shortcomings, even if no one wants to hear it. If you have a spare 10 minutes at some point today, perhaps you’d enjoy his latest project, a “low-fi sci-fi” short called THE SAND STORM which premiered at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival recently. Initially launched as a Kickstarter project from Jason Wishnow (the filmmaker behind the Peabody Award winning TEDTalks video series), the short has been described as, “one of the most successful short films in Kickstarter history.” In an interesting and thoroughly confusing twist, back in April, Ai Wei Wei sent Jason Wishnow a letter denouncing the usage of his name & image in said Kickstarter project. In spite of the controversy, the short is out, gaining buzz, and earned the coveted Vimeo Staff Pick status in the process. Being something of a sci-fi fan myself, I’m quite impressed with both the cinematography and the production quality.

#imprintpresents Jan Chipchase at the Downtown Independent recap

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Imprint’s Jeffrey Ng introduced Jan Chipchase as a guy who specializes in gathering impossible-to-get information for clients. Chipchase is famously able to extract data from the most insular communities around the world, ranging from the very richest to the most poor. His #imprintpresents talk at the Downtown Independent on Tuesday, August 26, was a rare chance to see him in a casual, non-conference, non-corporate setting.

Although the Bay Area-based expert researcher, nonstop traveler, and founder of Studio D Radiodurans (named after the world’s hardest-to-kill bacterium) is contractually and ethically unable to share his actual findings, he gladly shared his techniques with fellow researchers and open-eared listeners. Start with the basics: What do you do, who is on your team, and what is your learning curve? After figuring those out, it’s time to get to work.

The first step described by the outspoken-but-camera-shy presenter was to define a surface area. What can you do with how much you have? Then, gather a local crew to supplement your team. For every eight new people he gathers, Chipchase typically wants to fire one of them. Five will do the job. The final two will provide information that he never even thought about asking for. They are keepers. When it comes to assigning tasks, he likes to let the newest team members choose first. With this “upside down” order, more experienced contributors are pushed out of their comfort zones and stay fresh.

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Chipcase also stressed the value of setting up pop-up studios (for both living and working) in a nontraditional spots, from guest houses to treetops. He also described his preference for using bicycles and motorcycles to get around and reach the people who are being researched. Often, he leaves the bikes for the locals to keep.

There are moral considerations, too. How does one reconcile having a project with a daily budget that equals any of its subject’s monthly expenses (or more)? Just because you are able to get information, should it be shared? He makes sure that local researchers approve everything that is reported to the client–corporate, government, or other–so they won’t be exploited.

The former Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog design (where he lead the firm’s global research in mainstream and emerging markets) calls it a “beautiful challenge” to discover financial information in a place like Myanmar, where much of the commerce takes place under the table. Similarly,  he considers Egypt, the Ukraine, and Thailand “places of change” where he has the privilege of seeing and measuring human behavior at its most heightened.

Thanks, Jan, for the engaging talk with additional thanks to the Imprint audience that we appreciate very much. Look for Chipchase’s full thoughts on pop-up studios at the Studio D Radiodurans site and other resources at the D-Rad Store. Keep an eye out for the James Bond-like SDR travel bag that he alluded to there, too!

And check in on Imprint Culture Lab via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more articles, events, and announcements…

 

How a french Supermarket dramatically reduced food waste

It’s a sad but hard truth that we all waste ludicrous amounts of food, reportedly to the tune of 300 MILLION TONS every single year. Most restaurants/diners/bakeries throw out their leftover food due to liability issues, consumers let food rot too quickly or buy more than they need, and supermarkets only buy what is most presentable for sale. One French supermarket however decided to address this problem in unique fashion and actually got their customers to not only listen but also purchase deformed vegetables and fruits that would typically get thrown out.