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The Uncommon Life

Material Matters: The Beauty of Brass

May 2, 2017

From prized carousel rings to shiny Sousaphones, brass is a storied substance with many contributions to material culture. This alloy of copper and zinc combined in 60 official formulas has a long history. The Chinese may have made it by accident in the 5th century BCE. They melted down zinc-rich copper ores and—presto—brass. More deliberately, the Greeks and Romans combined the two elements to form brass through a process that remained the industry standard through the late 19th century. Continue Reading…

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the Top Trend?

April 17, 2017

From powdered wigs to Beanie Babies, trends come and go. And when they go, they tend to go in one of two directions. Trends that stick (e.g. blue denim pants) become classics, while trends that don’t (e.g. hunkerin’) are relegated to the quirky realm of fads. Either way, who can keep up? It’s almost like the cycle of trends is constantly spinning. At this point, an etymologist might exclaim, “exactly!”

Since the late 18th century, trend has described popular but fleeting phenomena and, apropos to it’s cyclical nature, the word hails from the Old English trendan—to rotate or spin. Trendan, in turn, is a cognate with the Middle High German word trendel, which came to mean a spinning disk or top. If trendel sounds vaguely familiar, that may be thanks to a classic Hannukah toy: the dreidel, possibly related to trendel through the linguistic mash-up of Yiddish. Both trendels and dreidels may trace their ancestry to the teetotum, a top-like gambling toy introduced to Europe through the Roman Empire. So the term trend itself might be based on a popular diversion that was once all the rage.

Desktop Helicone | $65

The Uncommon Life

Dad Jokes & Dancing Spiders: An Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

February 22, 2017

Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

Common knowledge. You know, the sort of stuff you’re supposed to learn in the school of life—like don’t put your tongue on the flagpole in December. Uncommon knowledge, on the other hand, is a more elusive matter. It’s the kind of facts that might make you lose a little sleep wondering why, how, or even what the heck? Our designs often inspire such tantalizing trivia and these Uncommon Knowledge highlights illustrate those quirky connections. And to keep things extra-uncommon, we’ve added a fresh batch of bonus facts. With this uncommon knowledge in mind, any of these goods are conversation-starters.

 

How Romantic is the Animal Kingdom?

Snoozing sea otters holding hands, penguins proposing with pebbles, and puppies that believe in chivalry—the animal kingdom is full of aww-worthy stories. For humans, romantic inspiration can be as simple as a walk through snowy woods. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Male peacock spiders really know how to bust a move in their efforts to woo females. Their courtship dances include fancy footwork, rapid vibrations, and a rainbow abdomen flap that they raise like a flag.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Does Cupid Get the Lead Out?

February 6, 2017

Christmas has its jolly old elf, Easter has its hopping bunny, and Valentine’s Day has Cupid—a chubby, winged toddler wielding a bow and arrow. When you stop to think, this mischievous child taking aim at one of our major organs (sometimes blindfolded) is a formidable, even frightening ambassador for an otherwise lovely holiday. Nonetheless, a heart pierced by one of Cupid’s arrows has become shorthand for being in love, gracing many a middle school desk and lovers’ favorite tree. But is that arrow always friendly fire? Turns out that love’s archer has two types of ammunition: the familiar gold arrows that make people fall head over heels, and lesser-known lead arrows that put people permanently in the “friend zone.” In the story of Apollo and Daphne, Cupid used one of each, making Apollo forever hot for Daphne, and the nymph forever giving him the cold shoulder. Hit by Cupid’s lead arrow, Daphne even had her father (Peneus, the river god) turn her into a tree to make herself permanently unavailable. Talk about barking up the wrong tree.

Faux Bois Mug Set | $72

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Aren’t There More Mid-November Babies?

January 30, 2017

First comes love…then comes marriage…then comes a below-average birth rate. With all the candlelight dinners, slow jams, and suggestive gifts, you’d reasonably assume that Valentine’s Days might lead to Valentine’s nights full of procreation, resulting in a surge of births nine months later (mid-November). Turns out that that time of year is a low point in birthday popularity. Several factors may counter Cupid’s arrows on February 14th, including the fertility-reducing factor of romantic holiday anxiety and natural cycles that discourage births right before the coldest months of the year. But of course, highly effective modern birth control methods also mean that celebrations of love don’t necessarily bring baby showers. So what’s the month that welcomes the most babies into the world? September, with the majority of statistical top-ten birthdays. Nine months before that? Mid to late December, meaning that mistletoe might be a more effective aphrodisiac than chocolate roses.

Zodiac Babysuit | $24

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the Biggest Animal in the Big Apple?

December 27, 2016

 

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A supersized pigeon in Bryant Park? Nope. A giant rat terrorizing Hell’s Kitchen? Not even close. New York’s biggest resident by far is a humpback whale seen recently roaming the Hudson River and New York harbor. Nicknamed “Gotham” by whale watchers, the solitary cetacean has been spotted north of the George Washington Bridge down to the waters around Liberty Island. His friends have been spotted in increasing numbers south of the Verrazano Bridge, but Gotham seems to be the only adventurous visitor to the Upper New York Bay and the Hudson.

Gotham’s New York residency seems to be thanks to thriving populations of one of his favorite foods: menhaden (“bunker” to fishermen), a small foraging fish that humpbacks down in gulps of hundreds of pounds. Cleanup and conservation efforts in the Hudson have helped menhaden populations thrive, making New York waters an all-you-can-eat humpback buffet once again. And the good news for these majestic ocean mammals goes well beyond the Big Apple: long endangered, humpbacks in nine of fourteen population segments have recovered to the point that they can be removed from the U.S. endangered species list.

No word on how long Gotham will continue to enjoy New York’s seafood, but one thing is for sure—if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere.

Wherever We Go | $30 – 46

 

The Uncommon Life, Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How do Flip Books, Films, and Kinegrams Move?

December 12, 2016
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Our beating heart clock combines elements of art and science in a kinegram, a manipulation of still images to convey a sense of repetitive motion.

 

Remember the simple flip books you made as a kid? A few drawings stacked in sequence, bound, and when flipped, a cartoon hero seemed to run across the page. What was this wizardry that brought crude line drawings to life? It was thanks to an optical phenomenon called the persistence of vision, where the breaks between ‘frames’ go unnoticed because of the inherent lag in how fast our eyes update visual information. On a more grown-up level, the same principle makes the magic of television and movies possible. In fact, films are sometimes called flicks because of the flickering nature of how they work: at least 24 frames per second race before our eyes to make the illusion of continuous motion.

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Design

Bringing Home the Baseball Beanie

November 14, 2016

Editor’s Note: Our first Kickstarter project was a major league success! Tokens & Icons, a long valued partner of UncommonGoods, brought it all home with their amazing MLB Game Used Baseball Beanies. Baseball fans couldn’t wait to get their mitts on the beanies, and our goal was reached in just one day! Though the campaign has ended, you can still rep your favorite team and get a beanie of your own. Read on and watch our video to learn more.

About the Project

Back in 1969 when the New York Mets won the World Series, UncommonGoods founder Dave Bolotsky, then six years old, got a cherished jacket from the underdog team. He’s loved his home team and the sport itself ever since. There’s nothing else quite like the nostalgic feeling sports memorabilia creates—a feeling that goes way beyond their materials.

A baseball story of a different stripe, this handcrafted beanie from Tokens & Icons and UncommonGoods is knit from three continuous wool yarn strands found inside MLB authenticated, game-used baseballs.

Baseball Beanie - UncommonGoods

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