Thursday, April 30, 2009

Phillip Lim's zipper dress.

An old Threadbanger post made me near-giddy with this dress by Phillip Lim. Hemp, organic silk, and recycled zippers. It's pretty much perfect.

Unfortunately, this Kate Bosworth girl that's sporting it is a bit misled. When asked about the dress, she said she chose it because she wanted to show how one could make a design that's "100 percent green."

She didn't prove anything.

The problem is, when using words like "eco-friendly," "sustainable," and "green," it gives people the false impression that there is a neutral carbon footprint, when, in fact, there is almost always something you can't offset. You can move towards a point of your design being more "eco-forward" or "more sustainable," but sustainability in itself is almost impossible. You always need to weigh the pro's and con's when making a decision on which is "more green." For example, is it more green to wash and reuse zip-lock bags or to buy a new box? You have to consider the energy used to make the bags, the non-recyclable/renewable nature of the material, the energy used to make the cardboard box, the water used to wash the get the idea. You can drive yourself insane contemplating what decisions are better for the environment, and, in turn, for us as a species.

I think that it is really important to acknowledge that survivalist side of the "green movement." Certainly an affinity for the Earth is a great motivation for some people to evaluate their options carefully in everyday life, but preserving the Earth should also be about saving it for future generations. I know this is almost grossly overused when talking about sustainability, but I really think that the quote, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation" (Great Law of the Iroquois) rings true. Basically, we must think carefully about our use of resources and the directions we take in life so that the seventh generation will still have the same quality of life and the same Earth that we have (well, hopefully better on the Earth part!). That means ending wars, forging plans to preserve resources, improving the conditions of everyone in our country, and of course, making good personal decisions about resource management.

I think about this a lot, because even though I don't want to have children, I know many people who do. I remember growing up very angry at all of the things that my parents and their generation allowed to happen--how the free love movement devolved into cheap consumerism like everything else, how they let the importance of environmental protection fall to the wayside, how they elected representatives and presidents that were so corrupt it was sickening, how they were part of a huge counterculture movement, with massive change at their fingertips, and it all ended up being nothing. (I suppose studying history is kind of depressing.) I don't want future generations to look back and think that we blew it. As a species, we are incredibly powerful in shaping how things evolve for our children, and I think we should definitely not let the "green movement" go to waste!

However, I digress on my "100 percent green" point because really, trying to be more eco-focused is better than ignoring the problem altogether. I am also very excited that we have moved from a place of fatalism to positivism--just in a few years!--as far as environmentalism goes. Although I think we are misled to think that our classic consumerism can save us, I do think that the current state of affairs is a better place to be, in the very least. At least more positive than James Lovelock's gloomy (and then some!) prediction in a 2007 Rolling Stone article. Yikes. But. All of that for another time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Esprit Cabane.

I found this great site today called Esprit Cabane, which focuses on crafty and eco-forward projects. They have an awesome section for make-your-own paints and glues, with bases ranging from rice to potatoes. They have tutorials for projects big and small, but my favourites have to be these wire candle holders, fairy lights from upcycled egg cartons, and homemade herbariums! They are all such eloquent and simple projects! I am definitely inspired.

Crocheted leggings by Barbara Munsel.

I am really into these sweet crocheted leggings by clothing/fabric artist Barbara Munsel. My mom has an awesome collection of crocheted and damask tablecloths...perhaps one day they'll have accumulated too many wine stains and I will swoop in to upcycle them. ;)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Urban Renewal.

Urban Renewal is Urban Outfitter's line of one-of-a-kind, handmade apparel and accessories, with materials sourced from thrift stores and garage sales. I will be the first to admit that some of the pieces are ugly at best, but there are a handful of awesome designs. I'm also a fan of the cute illustrations that accompany each piece.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Terra Plana.

Terra Plana make the most fantastic shoes. The styles are diverse and lovely; the colours are perfect. Most designs have adorable, almost-kitschy stitching that make them all-the-more unique. The heels employ gloriously-thick recycled rubber pads on the bottom so you don't have to slip down a flight of stairs just because you wanted to wear cute heels (yeah, it's happened to me too).

But, best of all, Terra Plana's designs incorporate many eco-minded practices, such as vegetable-tanned leather, minimal glue, and local sourcing. And if you're thinking about your aching arches, consider this: Terra Plana also comforts your feet with recycled memory foam. Hooray! Many of their shoes are designed to be as light and "barefoot" as possible.

Some Terra Plana designs, like the men's loafer above, are made by unskilled, untrained African women in a project called the Soul of Africa, with proceeds benefitting orphans affected by the AIDs epidemic. I think that this is fantastic because in many parts of Africa, property is owned by men, so if a husband contracts AIDs and passes away, his property rarely goes to his wife, who is then left without food or a means to survive. This project is wonderful because it benefits both impoverished women and homeless orphans affected by AIDs.

Others, like these, recycle old Pakistani quilts. These designs have to be my favourites because they are so unique and so lovely.

It's okay, I'm in love too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

U Roads.

A few weeks ago, I was checking out the new shoes for men at Urban Outfitters. I clicked into a particularly promising pair of short boots, and was admiring them immensely. I was just about to click away from the page when I noticed a recycle sign towards the back of the shoe. My inner environmentalist always gets giddy when I see that sign, although it's shown up on the packaging and in the advertising of companies with less-than-green policies. Still, it sparked my interest enough to find out more about the company.

As it turns out, the company is called U Roads. They are a newish Italian shoe company who make the souls of their shoes out of recycled tires. They are hand-crafted and the leather is tanned using vegetable-oil, much more Earth-friendly than the typical aluminum/titanium process most commonly used commercially. U Roads shoes also come in 100% post-consumer waste packaging. And, well, they're adorable.

For U Roads at Urban Outfitters, click here

All-day rain.

Ohio in the spring means lots of rain. Today was one of those days when it was unnaturally cold and wet. I thought of this song by Jenny Owens Young, "Fuck Was I." Well, mostly, this video...I think for obvious reasons.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"After the Rain."

What a wonderful little video for spring, created by Karen Abad. Please click here for the bigger, more detailed version. Music is Dan Deacon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dorothy Smith.

Dorothy Smith's Standpoint Theory is one of those amazing theories that has made (and continues to make) so many academic disciplines take another look at their treatment of their own subject matter. It is one of those theories that, over 30 years since it was imagined, still blows my mind by how ground-breaking it was (and continues to be).

Simply put, Dorothy E. Smith, a social anthropologist from England, now living in Canada, began evaluating women's place in society. She realized that all of the discipline of sociology had been influenced by white, male, middle-class sociologists whose theories described the world from their point of view. Many of them were blatantly sexist, like Talcott Parsons, who explained in his grand theory (a grand theory is one that attempts to explain everything in one fell swoop. These attempts were later replaced by Robert Merton's middle-range theory, which instead tried to formulate several smaller theories to explain observations, hopefully empirically-testable hypotheses) that there are roles that must be fulfilled within society. Parsons was a structural-functionalist--he attempted to explain the workings of society as being very functional, like the workings of a clock. Interestingly, he and his fellow theorists came long after the Age of Reason. Anyway, so in the view of structural-functionalists, society is highly functional and well-orchestrated.

Parsons believed in society needing both expressive and instructional roles. In the nuclear family, he explained, the expressive role is always fulfilled by the woman. A mother must be nurturing and loving, whereas the father is instructional--disciplining and teaching. Parsons also suggested that a woman's role in the family was not exactly enviable, but someone had to fulfill it, so the job fell to females.

That may be an extreme example of anti-female theory in sociology, but beyond that, it is clear to see that there are few recognized female sociologists, especially before the feminist movement. Max Weber, a conflict-theorist who is well-regarded as one of the Holy Trinity (the three most acknowledged sociologists--Weber, Karl Marx, and Emile Durkheim), wrote several important books, including Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which explains capitalism through its proposed roots in Protestantism. It is also believed that his wife contributed to at least half of the book, yet nowhere is she acknowledged.

Even if male sociologists were not explicitly sexist, racist, or classist in their works, the fact still remains that the story of society that they are telling is noticeably biased. That is where Dorothy Smith's Standpoint Theory comes in. Smith noticed during her work in the 70's that the experience of women has been largely ignored throughout the course of history. In every academic discipline, from history to anthropology to sociology to biology to medicine (and beyond), women's voices are silent.

History books gloss over important events like the Seneca Falls Convention or Alessandra Giliani's use of coloured fluids to trace the circulatory system or even the Rape of Nanking. Much early anthropology is not as descriptive as it should be because researchers ignored how women interacted in the life of their town. Even the English language's use of "mankind" to encompass "all" people, when womankind would be much more apt (as it already contains "man" in it and is therefore not as exclusionary) all fell under the scrutiny of Dorothy Smith.

And wow, was it ever important to the development of so many fields. What is very beneficial, beyond the scope of women's issues, is that Smith also provided insight into the fact that many disciplines are very narrow when it comes to race and class, too. With her theory, Smith made the research of minority scholars so much more valuable. After all, how can we really open ourselves up to the full scope of anything without the important contributions of people who don't fit the male, white, middle-class model?

Every time that I think about Dorothy Smith's Standpoint Theory, I am just blown away by how much of the world I have never seen before. It is truly eye-opening.

So, for broadening my horizons, thank you Dorothy Smith.

This video brings me great joy.

Wolf Parade's song "Grounds for Divorce," wonderfully danced by a fan and overrun with kittens. Amazing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring break reading.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene had a lot of grand themes, like love, hate, and God, but it actually wasn't that good. Mostly it was about loss and hatred, but it did have a few very lovely redeeming parts. I guess books written almost entirely about hate and jealousy aren't really worthwhile reading to me.

I'm endlessly interested in Middle Eastern culture, so The Bookseller of Kabul by ├ůsne Seierstad was a natural read. Although the translation was a little lacking, it was still a really interesting portrait of a family living in Kabul. Mostly it was written about events that occurred in the everyday happenings of a Islamic family, but it was over much too soon. Once you were completely involved in the family's life, it was time for the epilogue.

Mmm, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Dad sent me a suggested reading list a few years ago with this novel on it, but I never got around to reading it until now. I know it's a classic, and it's a classic for a reason, but I was completely blown away nonetheless. It all tied up so neatly and I just loved everything about it. It is, on the surface, about war, but it is about so much more, encompassing the past, present, and future in Billy Pilgrim's life. For a while after reading it, I was echoing Vonnegut by finishing thoughts with, "So it goes." Fantastic.

The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang also blew me away. Mostly because I began to realize how very little I was taught about the Pacific limb of World War II in school. The Japanese invasion of the Chinese city of Nanking (at the time the capital of China) was incredibly brutal and devastating. Well-known German Nazis who were in Nanking at the time of the invasion wrote to Hitler, horrified by how terrible the events were. However, after WWII, China became communist which is apparently worse than fascism or something, because many of the Japanese war criminals associated with the Nanking massacre were let go, and even today in Japan, it is known not as the Nanking Rape or Massacre, but as the Nanking "Incident." Yikes.