Monday, January 31, 2011

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Monday, January 24, 2011

cultural differences

some lonesome train station from while I was at L'Abri in 2006

"British Rail was having a bad day. We crept a mile or so out of the station, then sat for a long time for no evident reason. Eventually a voice announced that because of faults farther up the line this train would terminate at Stockport, which elicited a general groan. Finally, after about twenty minutes, the train falteringly started forward and limped across the green countryside. At each station the voice apologized for the delay and announced anew that the train would terminate at Stockport. When at last we reached Stockport, ninety minutes late, I expected everyone to get off, but no one moved, so neither did I. Only one passenger, a Japanese fellow, dutifully disembarked, when watched in dismay as the train proceeded on, without explanation and without him, to Manchester."
-p.238 Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I am sure that I have been in similar situations before and have been the Japanese guy. When in strange circumstances, I revert to the safety of black-and-white thinking and follow rules. When no one moved, I would just assume (contrary to all reason) that everyone on the train was a train employee and was going to the train employee lot after the line terminated and where I would be stranded and glared at.

i love this male model

junya watanabe, from thesartorialist

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Well, I can imagine him beyond the world, looking back at me with an amazement of realization - "This is why we have lived this life!" There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.

-- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
"I told them, If you want to inform yourselves as to the nature of hell, don't hold your hand in a candle flame, just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul.
They all did ponder a good while, and I did, too, listening to the evening wind and the cicadas. I came near alarming myself with the thought of the loneliness stretching ahead of me, and the new bitterness of it, and how I hated the secretiveness and the renunciation that honor and decency required of me and that common sense enforced on me. But when I looked up, your mother was watching me, smiling a little, and touched my hand and she said, "You'll be just fine."
How soft her voice is. That there should be such a voice in the whole world, and that I should be the one to hear it, seemed to me then and seems to me now an unfathomable grace.
She began to come to the house when some of the other women did, to take the curtains away to wash, to defrost the icebox. And then she started coming by herself to tend the gardens. She made them very fine and prosperous. And one evening when i saw here there, out by the wonderful roses, I said, "How can I repay you for all this?"
And she said, "You ought to marry me." And I did.

-- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Sunday, January 16, 2011

photo by Ditte Isager
side note: Ditte Isager shot the photos for a cook book that my brother picked up over the holidays called Noma: time and place in nordic cuisine about a chef who is creating food that incorporates elements of the food's natural environment. For example, mushrooms are put along other food items that would be found in the immediate environment were mushrooms grow - like twigs and grasses and birds.

Like a Kid in a Grocery Store

I work at a small chain grocery store, one that specializes in "fashion foods" (as my manager told me during my training). As such, it serves a mostly upper-middle-class clientele (which is the same socio-economic group that i have in my youth group), and so, as a true fake ethnographer, I get to see my target in another environment: shopping.

I guess there are many different things I could comment on, especially after pondering the 'To the Best of Our Knowledge' podcast on consumerism a couple weeks ago ("Lost in the Supermarket: Consumerism"). Upon further reflection of consumerism and after observing the ritual of shopping for 4 months, I have come to see how much shopping is really a heart activity.

One piece of evidence I see to support this is how kids acts towards their parents inside the grocery store. I have seen kids, practically from the time they can walk freely, approach their parents innumerable times with something to buy. As an employee this is curious because that is precisely my job. I am to approach customers with things that I think that they might like. We don't work on commission by any means but we are kind of a hands-on grocery store with our customers. So the first time I noticed what was going on was when I started to realize that the kids are doing my job for me.

I am trying to see it from the kid's angle: what are they getting out of this? The parents are usually harried, on the phone, distracted, and a little peeved. By pointing out different items for their parent to buy, the child is requesting that attention be paid to them, but this is valuable attention. If the kid succeeds in their parents buying whatever they just pulled off the shelf to offer them the parent is putting money (and therefore value) in the child and what the child wants. This feels good. Besides the attention and confirmation, let's not forget that the child is actually getting the food item that they wanted as well.

There is also some commentary about capitalism tapping into our need for love and approval that needs to happen here. In college I took all classes that had to do with pop culture, cultural studies, etc. In one of them we were assigned the book Can't Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne. In the book she highlights how advertising poses their products as the perfect lovers, satisfying what human relationships fail to do. It's convincing.

The back of the book reads: "Many advertisements these days make us feel as if we have an intimate, even passionate relationship with a product. But as Jean Kilbourne points out in this fascinating and shocking expose, the dreamlike promise of advertising always leaves us hungry for more. We can never be satisfied, because the products we love cannot love us back."

Which puts it all squarely in the category of...idols. Of course! We behave the way we do about products - with greed, obsession, discipline in saving, recklessness in not saving - because we are worshiping them. It feels like it, anyways. So what does this have to do with the kids in the grocery store?

Kids connect the products they are persuading their parents to buy with the love that we all associate with those products - obsessive idolatrous love. The kids want to get a piece of the action. We are so in love with the products that we buy that kids sense that there is love to be had there. It's still a good thing to be hit in the cross-fire of love between a parent and a product than to miss out on it all. And also there is a nice feeling of control when the child has influence over the direction of the parent's love. Greed is good when you feel loved by it, the feeling says. And this love for products may be one of the most powerful expressions of love that we observe in a such a capitalistic nation...or at least the most predictable.

Monday, January 10, 2011

this is from the blog 9 eyes by the artist Jon Rafman. I read about it in the article "Global Entertainment" by Rob Walker. Jon Rafman compiles beautiful and bizarre images from Google's Street View and posts them on his tumblr. Amazing.

Oh, and I also don't know how to shrink images i get from the internet on blogger. help?

intel presents: the sartorialist

thoughts that ran through my mind
1. kind of funny that intel sponsored this. especially that since i was just listening to a 'to the best of our knowledge' podcast on the way home from work on consumerism. a columnist from the new york times, Rob Walker, was on talking about his (somewhat obvious) observation that companies advertise in ways that have nothing at all to do with what they are actually selling. this is one example. by intel creating this short (7 minutes) film, I think that they are stylish and am reminded that they exist and write about them on my blog (that 4 people read...hah! stick it to the man!)
2. i wonder how scott actually earns enough money to fly to all the fashion weeks he attends. advertising and side projects certainly cannot foot the bill...or can they?
3. he is a very good-looking man
4. he's from the midwest!! omg!! maybe he's from st. louis!! (Jonathan Franzen is - new discovery). no....wikipedia shot down my dreams = Indiana.
5. waaaay cool to see him actually approach a person to ask them if he could take their photo. i always wondered how they (all street fashion photographers) did it. i've had to approach strangers before to ask them to do a favor (sign a petition, etc.) and it's HORRIBLE. but i guess he's actually paying them a compliment so they like it in some way. i'm sure he has amazing stories of people cussing him out and getting all paranoid. yes. scott is now on my "dream dinner party" list. along with all the hosts of Globe Trekker. they must have great stories too.
6. ahhh! they show the girl who was wearing the dansko shoes! i have that exact pair and i wear them to work and secretly think they're awesome looking but feel slightly 40 years old when i try to wear them outside of work. suck it, world! the sartorialist and a hip new yorker girl think they're awesome!
7. i kind of wanted to write down word-for-word what he said at the end about the world becoming more homogeneous with the internet but it would take forever and he was really just talking about blogs. he did make the point that the internet has not completely made the world homogeneous, as milan and paris and new york are all still themselves but the internet allows us all to access the super-fashionable people there. i don't know about that. i am in st. louis and dress the way i do because of a lot of reasons but i am extremely influenced by the sartorialist and his girlfriend garance. i am positive that i am not alone. doesn't that make the world more homogeneous? how can the internet not have that effect?

(*also, thanks to Allie for posting this on my fbook wall)