Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Am Not A....

Guillble Consumer.

I don't get this bag. Designed by Anya Hindmarch, it has become the $5 fashion must have for Hollywood and fashion victims everywhere. The bags sold out during its UK launch in 90 minutes. Lines marched down several blocks when it went on sale at Whole Foods in New York. I see many UES-types marching around the city proclaiming thier faux-environmentalism on their arm.

Makes this former-vegan, largely pacifist girl want to punch someone.

Come on people, wake up! It's a marketing gimmic conceived by a very clever handbag designer. It's not really meant to change consumer behavior or raise awareness. It's an experiment to determine who amongst our society are expendable should human sacrifice return to vogue in the next couple of years.

I'll admit that it's sort of cute in that faux-homey, "I was made in China but don't I almost look homemade" sort of way. But it doesn't really do a good job of serving it's designated function - replacing grocery store plastic bags. It's not an exceptionally big bag. Not nearly large enough to carry any meaningful amount of groceries in it - I doubt a single box of cereal would fit comfortably inside. I once saw a woman put her ipod in it. So one ding for utilitarianism. It's not widely available - so it's not actually meant to be used by the masses as an alternative to plastic.

In the FAQ on the Anya Hindmarch site, it states that the company feels the bag launch successfully generated publicity around the use of alternative, reusable packaging. Now there is no way to actually gauge this and there is no way to know if anyones behavior has changed due to the bag but given the fact that I saw a girl the other day laden down with plastic grocery bags in one hand and the "I am not a Plastic bag" in the other - I don't think it's working.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Learning" American Culture

There has been a lot of controversy of late about various supposedly "non-American" cultural charter schools opening up around the country. The two schools currently at the center of the hullabahoo, the Kahlil Gibran school in Brooklyn and the Ben Gamlan school in Broward County, Florida (Yes, THAT Broward County), are being accused of everything from training terrorists (KG) to violating constitutional seperation of church and state (BG).

There's much for me to comment on (the role of xenophobia and anti-sematism in this controversy, ignorance of the difference between culture and religion, the fact that people seem to forget that Kahlil Gibran was an Christian-Iranian immigrant and also an American citizen) but I'm going to address a tangential argument that critics of these schools seem to bring up. Several critics argue that American schools should only teach "American culture" and English and by introducing other cultures and languages children will have a diluted sense of allegiance to America - thus creating an army of enemy-partriots who will take over the country and spawn a generation of free-love, pro-homosexual marriage, pro-choice, stem-cell researching biracial babies...but I digress.

I don't know about all of you, but I don't have any recollection of being formally taught about "American Culture". It's not like every Wednesday afternoon at the pre-school was America Day where we all ate apple pie and dressed up like Ben Franklin. No, I learned what "American culture" is (if there is such a static, singular thing) by just turning on the TV, seeing a movie, walking down the street, and buying groceries. Everything that I'm exposed to in my day to day life reinforces "American culture", or in my case New Yorkified American culture. A young girl in this country can't get through public elementary school without reading books by Laura Ingalls, EB White, Judy Blume, or Beverly Cleary. And if those books don't provide a healthy does of "American Culture", I don't know what does. American culture is all around us and you can't avoid it if you wanted to. Although my parents put up a heroic battle, their efforts to instill some semblance of Koreanness in their daughters failed miserably. Two parents and a small band of Korean grandmothers are nothing compared to the glamour of Hollywood movies and Saturday morning cereal commericals.

Okay, so then if American Culture is pervasive and unavoidable, a critic might still argue that by emphasizing other cultures in school, you create division in the community and diminish the cohesion created by shared experience. Now, I gotta ask you - how much shared experience do I have with an upper-middle class Southern boy with divorced parents, raised in the suburbs, sent to private school, and ivy-league education? Beats me but J and I seem to be doing a pretty good job of getting along despite how dramatically different our childhoods were.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm not skeptical about these schools (really, what is the value-add of a school that only teaches ONE alternative language - and a language that a VERY small percentage of the world speaks - and never as the only language they speak) but I am saying that a lot of the people critical of the Kahlil Gibran and Ben Gamlan seem to be underground racist xenophobes who are using the schools as an opportunity to express their racism in a safe forum. It's kinda like how SARS became a good excuse for all those Asian-hating people to get their ya-yas out without being labeled an ugly racist.

Monday, August 13, 2007

People Can Be Mean

So J and I were out on Saturday night having dinner at the pork heaven that is Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village. As we were leaving the resturant and heading towards a free production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, some random dude walked right by and in a very theatrical whisper sort of way, said to us "You could do A LOT better." We weren't entirely sure who the comment was directed towards and if the guy was even talking to us or into a cell earpiece thingy. It just seemed like a terribly rude thing to say to two happy people walking down 2nd Ave. Was he offended by our happiness? Was he a recently scorned man who wanted to put a damper on our togetherness?

It was just plain mean and rude. J took it in stride. J could tell that I was a bit more put off by the whole thing. To put my nervous temperment at ease he turned squarely towards me, looked me in the eyes and said "I've never been more happy with anybody then I am with you. I love you and you know that."

Sigh. He always knows what to say.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Sometimes I amaze myself. Yesterday was one of those days. Just a scant five weeks ago my weekly mileage was a big 0 miles. I hadn't run for 7 months. Nada, zilch, nothing. The new running shoes I purchased in mid-November still looked disturbingly clean and spiffy.

My first attempt at running was in Portugal with J. My lungs hurt, my legs hurt and I only ran a mile before I had to quit. Ugh. I saw the 2007 New York City Marathon quickly slipping out of my grasp. But through weeks of slowly increasing my stamina, my lung capacity, and conditioning my legs I rebuilt my foundation.

Yesterday, I ran in the NYC Half-Marathon...and I finished!!! And I ran the whole thing. Didn't stop. And my time was better than I was expecting. Given how much pain I was in during and after a 10K run on July 14th, I was pretty sure I'd completely punk out during the half-marathon. But I surprised myself.

Ran at an overall 11:12 pace with two miles (miles 8 & 9) at an 8:20 pace. I was pretty wiped out afterwards but I'm up and about today and the only reminder of yesterdays event is the mild soreness in my quads - an odd pain considering that it wasn't a tremendously hilly course. The knee felt superb.

Anyhoo, here's to the miracles of he human body!!!

I've now got 3 months to prep for the marathon. Upward and onward!