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Changing the Conversation to Poverty

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Once a year, BlogActionDay.org gets thousands of blogs big and small to unite and talk about one issue. This year's conversation is on poverty. Because mental_floss has a soft spot for smart guerilla marketing campaigns (and especially those with a social bent), I thought it might be interesting to showcase how various ads have forced people to confront issues of poverty. Here are a few of my favorites from Ads of the World.

1. Garbage Pail Art

poverty.nutrition.jpg pov.bobbin.jpg

I know I rarely think about street-side trash bins doubling as food sources for those in need, but this silverware setting and the nutrition facts label are such smart and simple ways to recast things we take for granted in a different light. Staring at both of them made me want to raid my pantry and give to a food bank.

2. Grate Food

pov.israeli food banks.jpg The Israeli Food Bank spotlighted the issue of homelessness in a similarly unique way, by placing dishware in sewer grates. While the print campaign used plain dishes, the ones actually used on Israeli streets were printed with messages. Apparently, the campaign confronted citizens with the issue and forced them to rethink the staggering numbers of homeless in Israel in recent years.

3. Putting the Spotlight on the Homeless

pov.testcard.jpgWhile the first two sets of campaigns definitely talk around homelessness through the hunger issue, the one here is pretty direct. I'm not sure whether confronting clientele in this country with a tabletop tent (left) and such a startling image of abject poverty would be good for business, but it certainly got the point across in rich coffee shops in Mumbai: that poor children are inhabiting places you can't even imagine.

pov.tent3.jpgPerhaps one of the most effective campaigns in terms of getting a reaction to the homeless issue was this one in France, which we've written about before. Here's the recap: In late 2005, distributed 300 tents to destitute Parisians sleeping outdoors. Equipped with the rapid-deploying tents (which didn't require poles or pins), the homeless gathered in small groups of eight to 10 along the Quai d'Austerlitz and the Canal Saint-Martin. The prefab shelter, which bore the Médecins du Monde logo, drew immediate attention to the number of homeless people in the area and provoked such incredible public outrage that the city was forced to act. A rare off-season government session was convened, and officials admitted that Paris' homeless shelters were vastly overcrowded. They immediately announced the allocation of nearly $10 million for emergency housing.Médecins du Monde

4. An Ad with Legs

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As hard as the table tent campaign was to look at above, I found this one even more heartbreaking. The group, Jaipurfoot, helps indigent people who've lost limbs or had amputations get artificial limbs and prosthetics at no cost. The innovative signs always start from the shorts up and are placed on trees and poles around the city.

5. A Campaign for Change

mccann-domund-postcard.jpgI thought this Peruvian ad to get people to contribute to a hunger campaign was absolute genius. The whole goal of the campaign was to collect small change from people at grocery stores, so while they were waiting in line, clerks would hand them these scratch off cards. (The cards show a scrawny stick figure, and when scratched off make the person full.) But once people had the coins out, they figured they might as well donate them to the cause. According to McCann, the 2-day initiative in Peru achieved the biggest donation amount in the entire history of the Domund hunger fund's existence.

Of course, if you're looking to make your own small contribution in the fight against poverty, BlogActionDay has a few ideas, including donating to Kiva.org, the microloan institution where you can make as little as $25 loans to small businesses around the world. The goal is for them to pay you back with interest, and then for you to reseed that cash into another small business, if you're willing.

If you don't have time or cash to spare, John Breen has miraculously made that possible as well through his webpages TheHungerSite and FreeRice.com. While the first simply has you click a button to contribute food (the cost is covered by the advertising banners on there), the second is a trivia game that helps build your vocabulary as you win rice for the needy. It's an ingenious concept, and all of the rice is distributed through the UN's World Food Programme. In any case, all of this is more to make you think about the issue than anything else. I know just looking up all of these ads has made me want to give; I'm curious how the day will change others.

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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travel
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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