I stopped wearing cosmetics a few months ago, after about half a year of using the stuff only sparingly. I started weaning myself off makeup because I had come to hate the hassle of applying it, and because I hated fretting about my appearance. I was also beginning to think of makeup as old-fashioned, an antiquated ‘modesty’ that inspires shame in one’s true appearance. The longer I go without a cosmetic product on my face, the more I believe that makeup needs to go the way of the girdle. The restrictive, uncomfortable, needless, obsolete girdle.
How many undergarments are you wearing right now? I’m guessing two at most. Likewise, I only wear two small undergarments below my clothes, even on the most formal occasions. Interview? Presentation? Class? Wedding? A bra and underwear are always adequate.
Since I’ve never had to wear more than two undergarments, I find it staggering that women used to wear massive bras, high-waisted underwear, girdles, pantyhose or stockings, garter belts, slips, and camisoles.
I often wear less than that as a full outfit. Anyone who knows me in real life can confirm that I regularly step out in leggings and a t-shirt (plus two small undergarments beneath). I don’t say this to titilate, just to illustrate, because I suspect my bare-bones attire is quickly becoming the norm. I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses- big and small, public and private, Jesuit and blessedly godless. Everywhere I’ve seen legions of women and girls decked out in equal or greater states of undress than my own. Gone are the girdles.
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I caught this video on the Daily Dish. It is a compilation of excerpts from numerous infomercials. This excellent editing of a string of disasters that suggests the need for one more infomercial offering this bit of free advice: Slow down; quit being such materialists; simplify your life and quit acting so recklessly. Excellent humor and anthropology, “kickintheheadcomic“!
I suspect we’ll soon be hearing a new soundtrack on this clever video, unless the creator has his use rights to the Beatle’s “Help” nailed down . . .
I had to work late tonight, and as I got into my car I was a bit frustrated that I was not able to get home earlier, so I could spend more time with my daughters. Poor me.
As I put the key in the ignition, however, it occurred to me that I was fortunate that when I turned a little key in the ignition, my cars engine fired up. I was lucky to be able to drive quickly home in a car that actually worked on a cold winter night. Not only does it work, it has a radio. As I drove through the streets of the city of St. Louis, I appreciated that there were well marked streets and that the people driving home around me were doing so carefully. I passed a Walgreens on the way home, and it occurred to me that I am lucky to live in a society where you can get quick relief for many medical ailments. Many people in the world have no access to aspirin when they get headaches. I shouldn’t ever take that for granted.
When I got home and saw my beautiful children, it occurred to me that I should always consciously appreciate how lucky I am when I get home and I find that my children are safe. When I see them smile I should give thanks for that too, because there are many people who don’t have a safe place to spend time with their smiling children. I could go on and on, of course. I live in a wealthy society where I can turn on lights with the flick of a switch, and where the interiors of our houses are usually comfortable. I live in a society where a magic Internet gives me easy access to more information from more diverse groups of people than I could have ever imagined. I live a life of luxuries that could make a King jealous.
As I dictate this short post, I am eating a delicious bowl of soup, sitting in a comfortable chair, knowing that my children (and now my wife) are safe and healthy and sleeping soundly upstairs. I am free to walk out of my front porch and stare up at the sky. I can somehow see one big round object that is a quarter million miles away, and I can see hundreds and thousands of stars. Because of the scientific work of many who have come before me, I know I live on a huge orb and that underneath my feet, way down past the Earth itself, there are billions more stars.
I am awestruck by the thought that several trillions of cells have somehow become highly coordinated to an extent that “I.” exist. The body is so complex that I don’t wonder why it sometimes doesn’t work–rather, I revel in the fact that it works at all. How is it that 10 billion of those cells have become self-aware? Indeed, how is it that this 3 pound brain is capable of generating endless representations of the real world inside of my own head? How is it that I am able to think about conversations I had it work while I sit home alone at home? this is all too amazing to understand.
Yes, we live in a world where many things could be better than they are, but I try to remember (though not often enough) that I am an extremely fortunate person living among extremely fortunate people, and that there should not be any whining in a place like this. And just after I had reminded myself about how wonderfully mysterious life is, I stumbled upon this YouTube video featuring Louis C.K., who passionately summed up what I I have been feeling tonight.
Monbiot.com points out what “progress” has come to mean for government:
Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions which sustain life. Governments are deemed to succeed or fail by how well they make money go round, regardless of whether it serves any useful purpose. They regard it as a sacred duty to encourage the country’s most revolting spectacle: the annual feeding frenzy in which shoppers queue all night, then stampede into the shops, elbow, trample and sometimes fight to be the first to carry off some designer junk which will go into landfill before the sales next year. The madder the orgy, the greater the triumph of economic management.
Related topic: Down with the GDP!
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has again won a major advertising award. A month before winning the presidency, he won Advertising Age’s annual “Marketer of the Year” for 2008. Now, his campaign manager, David Plouffe, has won Brandweek’s “Marketer of the Year” for 2009. What better commentary on the state of contemporary American society could there be? Our president is a master marketer, or more precisely, employs a team of master marketers. In a society that is dedicated to worshiping at the altar of consumerism, perhaps it’s unsurprising that this is the case, but it still is shocking to me. Once I began researching for this article, I really was surprised at the extent to which “Brand Obama” has penetrated our national consciousness.
His logo and posters have become iconic. His slogan, “Yes we can” is everywhere– it’s also a marketer’s dream. It’s devoid of any clarity or substance, and yet it makes you feel good, possibly empowered. “Just do it”, anyone? Actually, his campaign beat out the Nike campaign (and even Apple!) for top honors. You can go to mybarackobama.com and sign for immediate updates from Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, and several other web 2.0 services. You can get Obama on your mobile phone by texting “hope” to 62262– it’s just as easy as voting for the next American Idol! The media is relentlessly focused on what Michelle Obama is wearing next, and there is at least one blog offering daily updates on her clothing choices (“Follow the fashion of Mrs. O.:What and Whom she’s wearing”). For those who are tuned-in, you can even do Ecstasy tablets shaped like Obama. One wonders where does politics end and the cult of personality begin?
Today I took my two daughters to a movie. The theater was located in a large suburban shopping mall in Southwest St. Louis County, “Crestwood Plaza.” I had not been to this mall for several years, and I was shocked at what I saw. Approximately 40% of the stores have been shuttered and the entire place was like a ghost town. A lonely security guard told me that the stores have been rapidly failing over the past two years. That comports with my recollection. Two years ago, this mall was a packed and thriving shopping area located in a solidly middle-class community. Crestwood Plaza is not an isolated story; shopping malls are failing all across America.
[I've posted a gallery of today's images many of these shuttered stores along with this post. If you don't see that gallery, click the title to this post to go to the permalink, where you will see those thumbnails.]
I sometimes get snarkish when someone tells me they’re going to a shopping mall. I sometimes ask the Intrepid shopper to do me a favor and buy something practical for me, “Could you please buy me a hammer.” I usually get the same reaction, a puzzled look accompanied by a response “They don’t sell practical things like hammers at shopping malls.” Now I’m not denying that malls sell clothes or that we need clothes. Most mall clothes are for far more than staying warm or covering up. They are much more often than not, for impressing others.
For that reason, I’m not shedding tears for the shattering of dozens of mall stores at Crestwood Plaza or anywhere else. The failure of most of the stores means that we won’t be buying things we don’t actually need. Because Hallmark no longer sells its commercial greeting cards, we might be “forced” to create and send our own personalized cards and letters to each other. Now that Libby Lu gone, our pre-teen daughters can get back to being children rather than obsessing about their sex appeal. In my mind, many of these store closings are mostly good things, although I am saddened by the thought that so many people have lost their jobs due to these shutdowns. See these terrific videos by Josh Golin of CCFC regarding the dangers of turning our children into rampant consumers.
Another silver lining is that the mall owners have been forced to do something different with their space in order to survive (assuming they do survive). What they’ve done at Crestwood Plaza is to lease out many of the “store” spaces to art galleries, educational facilities, community theaters and other arts and crafts workshops for children and adults. In other words, it appears that the mall owners are opening up their malls for people who want to develop their minds and skill-sets rather than simply their pocketbooks.
I’ve repeatedly written about Geoffrey Miller based on the many provocative ideas presented in his earlier book, The Mating Mind. (e.g., see my earlier post, “Killer High Heels“). A gifted and entertaining writer, Miller is also an evolutionary psychologist. His forte is hauling his scientific theories out into the real world in order to persuade us that we didn’t really understand some of the things that seemed most familiar to us.
In his new book, Spent, Miller asks why we continuously buy all that stuff that we don’t really need? Miller’s answer is twofold. Yes, human animals have been physically and psychologically honed over the eons this to crave certain types of things over others to further their chances at survival and reproduction. That’s only half the answer, however. We must also consider “marketing,” which is
The most important invention of the past two millennia because it is the only revolution that has ever succeeded in bringing real economic power to the people. . . . it is the power to make our means of production transform the natural world into a playground for human passions.
Is the modern version of marketing a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is yes.
On the upside it promises a golden age in which social institutions and markets are systematically organized on the basis of strong purple research to maximize human happiness. What science did for perception, marketing promises to do for production: it tests intuition and insight against empirical fact area market research uses mostly the same empirical tools as experimental psychology, but with larger research budgets, better-defined questions, more representative samples of people, and more social impact.
Here is a July 2009 interview of Geoffrey Miller by Geraldyne Doogue of the Australian Broadcast Network:
Most of us are quite familiar with the downside of marketing. It encourages us to buy things we don’t really need. But marketing doesn’t merely clutter up our houses and garages; it corrupts our souls:
Here’s how Zacharek’s bottom line regarding Shell’s book:
The wealth of cheap goods available to us doesn’t make our lives better; instead, it fosters an environment that endangers not just the jobs of American workers but the idea of human labor, period.
It turns out that Shell is not only picking on Wal-Mart. She’s talking about those mass-farmed shrimp, as well as trendy stores like IKEA. “We no longer expect craftsmanship in everyday objects; maybe we don’t feel we even deserve it.”