What Is It About Americans and Excess

We are a country of selfies and self-loathing, lottery tickets for the poor and mega mansions for the rich.

The Deli Person’s Mistake

I look at the deli sticker that the woman who apportioned them out had placed on them and realized she missed a decimal point and charged me for four POUNDS of chicken wings—not four chicken wings.

Our Hoarding Tendencies

On a level of 1 to 10, how much of a hoarder are you? At Nautilus, David Wallis examines our tendencies to hoard, and how it has “taken on full-fledged disorder status in the DSM-V handbook”:

This year, for the first time, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM—the bible of psychiatrists and insurers—listed it as a distinct disorder. It is also one with serious consequences, with the potential to ruin relationships, result in evictions, and fuel lethal fires. And according to the American Psychiatric Association, 2 to 5 percent of the United States population suffers from it.

After all, we are being pushed to consume. “Contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per household than any society in global history,” explains Jeanne E. Arnold, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2012, Arnold and a team of sociologists and anthropologists published a book, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, based on a four-year study of 32 middle class, dual-income families in Los Angeles. The authors found that 75 percent of families banished their cars from garages “to make way for rejected furniture and cascading bins and boxes of mostly forgotten household goods.” Superstores like Costco, they argued, have increased our tendency to stockpile food and cleaning supplies—and the result at home is stress. Women who described their homes as cluttered had higher cortisol levels—a sign of stress—than those who didn’t.

Why We Save Garbage

My first thought: “Oh, no no no. You don’t deserve this.” And I bent down, pulled it off of the branch, and cradled it in the palm of my hand.

My second thought: “I will save you.” And I zipped it into my coat pocket.

My next thought: “What the hell was that?” I’d just picked up trash from a dirty Brooklyn sidewalk and put it in my pocket. Worse: if my dog likes peeing on those trees, I’d bet the other dogs in the neighborhood do, too, which made it a probable urine-soaked piece of trash. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

Brooke Borel has a post on The Last Word on Nothing (a really terrific blog maintained by science writers), about why we develop feelings for garbage (like, actual things people have thrown away—not terrible people who have treated you not-so-well). Borel says the main reason she saved the garbage she found was because it had human features, and when you see something that looks like a human, you develop empathy for it. Basically, this is The Carrie Diaries, but for Hoarders.

Photo: Brooke Borel

How Shakespeare Did Money

About his prosecution, Ms Archer told the BBC: “It’s one of the things that we’ve forgotten about Shakespeare.

“As well as writing for people who were experiencing hunger, he was exploiting that need himself.

“He was using his role as a playwright and the public playhouses, gathering coin, in order to take advantage of the market when it’s at its most profitable, and selling food at inflated prices to secure the long-term future for his family.”

Over the course of 15 years, William Shakespeare bought and hoarded grain, malt, and barley so he could resell it at inflated prices to his neighbors, which researchers say he did to ensure that his family would not go hungry. [via]

Previously: Karl Marx

Places I Have Lived: A Lady Hostel, a Live Show, and That Fireplace

We have all lived in some places. Where have you lived, Julie Bee?