Friday, February 26, 2010

Obsessive Consumption

A few years back, long before No Logo, before the Battle in Seattle, before American Apparel's proud declaration of "Made in L.A." rallied hipsters everywhere...before anyone by the ILO and Ms magazine paid any attention to labour rights, I watched an episode of Dateline which traced a pair of $20 pants from the discount store where they were sold to the country where they were made.

They went to the factory and spoke to one of the garment workers.

She liked her job. She felt lucky, when in reality, her life was pretty tough, her salary was paltry and the deductions seemed unjust.

They brought her to the States, to the store where her pants were sold. When they found them, they showed her the price.

In a horrible display of schadenfreude, the host told her what the exchange rate was, and I remember the look on her face as she did the calculations.

Anyway, this isn't supposed to get all preachy. I know enough economics to know that there are a lot of factors at play in these issues. I'm just telling you this because she thought that we were greedy for wanting to buy the pants that she'd made for such little money that she wasn't being paid a living wage.

That's all.

Which brings me to this: does anyone order anything from "SkyMall"?

The SkyRest travel "pillow"? This is an inflatable wedge the size of a banker's box which you place on your lap so you can lean into the seat in front of you and sleep. Sort of a "drape and drool". So, not only are you creating discomfort for the person in front of you and maybe claustrophobia for the poor soul trapped in the window seat beside you, you're also gulping down all the oxygen on the plane to inflate the monstrosity! Whither courtesy?

A 2250 cd storage rack. Honey, if you have that many cds, your name is probably Rick Rubin and odds are that you're not buying your storage through SkyMall, though I would note that it does come in a surprising array of colours. Who knows. Maybe you are. (Sorry, Mr. Rubin.)

The Roll-up Electric Piano. What is the practical application of this? "Jeez, I'd love to play that tune for you, bu there's no piano here..." "That's okay! I've got one here in my bag!"

Who buys this stuff?


That garment worker thought that we were greedy. Maybe so.

But the people in the factories who make this stuff must think that we're crazy. And they're probably right.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Call of the beWILDered...

A few years ago, my friend David said to me that he thought that cell phones were the death knell of planning. This was after we had set a rather general meeting place, which turned out to be jam-packed with people. Whoops. And to make matters worse, I only knew his phone number by the word that it spelled out on the phone keys. Oh dear. My cell phone doesn’t have letters on the number keys. (Note to RIM – please create a screen where we can see the old keys, with the ABC, DEF. Pretty please?)

David seemed mostly annoyed that it was more crowded than we expected so I just rolled my eyes, and told him that he was being cranky, but after trying to establish a specific meeting point with someone who was cell-less, recently, I realized that he might be right. (And I hate it when he’s right.)

I rarely set up a time and place to meet anymore! My friends and I just triangulate as we go. And this can sound a bit Kafkaesque, actually.
Friend – What’s up? Wanna get together? I’m in your ‘hood.
Me – Sure. Where are you?
Friend - Corner of North&Damen. Wanna meet? Where R U?
Me – Me too. I’m at N&D now! Er, I don’t see you. Which corner?
Friend – Not there YET. Hang on.


Of course, if I used that iPhone stalker app which tracks your friends (!) then I would have known from the GPS signal that she wasn’t there, yet.

Another friend recently told me that she thought that text messaging was sounding the death knell for dating. That the guy she was dating was substituting text messages for actual communication. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that 145 characters is the basis for a meaningful relationship. Maybe it is. How should I know? I’m no expert. (By my reckoning, it might actually improve things for some people.)

All I know is that if this is the case, we’re going to have to stop using grown-up words, or come up with a whole new set of acronyms for use in relationship-texting: EU = emotionally unavailable, NC = non-communicative, or is that non-committal? INYIM= it’s not you, it’s me.

And really, what does a stony silence sound like on text message?

I still like the telephone. Don’t get me wrong. I love to text message and I send PINs. I e-mail and tweet, but if you said to me “Great. I’ll talk to you later,” I expect a phone call. And if you don't call, then INMIY!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm on a mission...

I remember a few years back when Smith magazine came out with a book called “Not Quite What I Was Planning” which was a collection of six-word memoirs. Oh, wow. I think I remember hearing about it on Q. I also remember thinking about the axiom, “If I’d had more time, I would have written something shorter…” and knowing that I would never be able to create a memoir in six words. That. Is. Hard.

Well, the other night, I got “Not Quite”, along with two other collections of six-word memoirs, and I’m a woman obsessed. So much so, that not unlike Tweeters who’ve started to think in 160 characters, I have started to think of six-word phrases that form a complete sentence to describe my life:

Talking faster than I can think.
I’m usually so happy-go-lucky.
Bad luck: I sat in paint.

And I’m getting pretty good at it. But then my friend Luci one-upped me. Today, she came into my office and said, “I was thinking that I need a mission statement. A personal mission statement. Just three words that sum it up.”

What. A. Great. Idea. She’s brilliant.

So now I’m trying to think of three words that sum up my personal mission – how I’m living. Not what I lived! As anyone who’s done any kind of strategic visioning will tell you, though, creating a mission statement is a big job. So I’m still working on it. Right now, I’ve got a few ideas, but they’re pretty rough. Ideas welcome.

Knitting more socks.
More. Cake. Please.

Like I said, they’re pretty rough.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

You say "tomato", I say "I'm sorry."

Well, my secret’s out. I see that the Trib has published my blog address in their story, "Yo, Canada!" Thankyouverymuch! (Oh, wait, a minute - is this my fifteen minutes of fame? Um, can I put in for a different one?)

Getting a call from the Chicago Tribune (Holy sh!t! The Chicago Tribune?) to ask me about being a Canuck was a nice change from all of my Canadian friends asking me what it’s like to live in the U.S of A. But it’s no easier to put my finger on. And I do think about this All. The. Time.

And I still had to come up with some concrete stuff for them. What could a Chicagoan do to live as a Canadian for a day? I don't know! What could a Chicagoan do to live as a Canadian for a day. Tough one! I seriously don’t know.

I mean, I don’t really think that my way of life is any different from my American friends’ lives. I put maple syrup on my bacon. I eat All-Dressed chips. I order rye-and-ginger at Schubas and then have to specify Canadian Club lest I get that "Rock-and-Rye" junk (What is that!?) And I obsess over whether or not I made the wrong impression by being impolite to a total stranger who was rude to me first. Don’t YOU?

But then I really started thinking about it. Apart from the obvious, which is the need to embrace snow sports (unless, that is, you're in Vancouver for the winter Olympics where it won't snow at all this year. Oh, the snow is a fickle friend!) and the apologies (I do hear myself saying “Sore-ee” on the El a lot more than my fellow passengers – even when they step on MY toes), there are the subtler differences. Canadians, it seems, consider most things as a shade of grey. Is this from living with February? I don’t know. But I can tell you that every time I came up with something that was “Canadian” to me, I would hear from a friend that this wasn’t true and why...

Still, I was having a really tough time referring the writer to “typically” Canadian activities or food in Chicago. Not just because Canadian companies keep selling their products to American firms (MAC, Imax, Molson) but because being Canadian is not about what you do or eat or wear.
I think that being Canadian is a state of mind. And that mind is warmed by a toque. And powered by poutine!

By the way, Trib: don’t think I didn’t notice that you swiped my logo! Yeah, that's okay, I guess. But for the record - Adam August was the designer. Thanks, Adam. “It’s beautiful. I love it!”

p.s. You forgot the U in "honour" and "neighbour"!