Category Archives: Culture/Pop Culture

Watching the wheels turn, literally

I’m an unlikely fan, albeit a very casual one, of skateboarding. I’ve never been on a skateboard nor do I have any desire to be. But of the few people I follow on Facebook, Shaun White is one. He’s an obvious choice and frankly, I’m not sure I can name any other famous skateboarder other than Tony Hawk (I think that’s his name). I follow Shaun because he amazes the hell out of me; to stay so dominant for so long is quite a feat with so many youngin’s nipping at his wheels. He snowboards too. The funny thing about him is he kind of presents like a typical Californian – this is a guy who played “air guitar” on the podium one year while the National Anthem was being played at the Olympics – and yet he is clearly so driven and skilled. He posts unbelievable photos of himself in action – how is a human being doing that?! – and is funny and charismatic as well in his comments. (He also is the “Zelig” of the sports world; he seems to be everywhere and know everyone. I would not be surprised to see him in a photo op with the pope, doing “rabbit ears” over the man’s head.)

Back in high school I liked a guy who skateboarded. The skateboard was incidental. I just mention it because that’s really my only personal acquaintance with skateboarding in general. I don’t even remember watching him skateboard. I did know he was a member of the skateboarding club at school but I couldn’t even tell you what the guys in the club actually did. Did have they have competitions? Merely get together and try to learn new tricks? I couldn’t say. The main reason I remember that at all is because there was a photo in the high school yearbook of the club, where they were all holding their skateboards and one of the guys (not the guy I liked) was giving the finger to the camera (while smiling of course). I knew who that guy was and I’m sure it was deliberate. How the picture was allowed to be printed in the yearbook I don’t know. Here we go. It’s not the clearest but still.

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Tasteful no?

My community built a skateboard park ten years ago. It’s a nice looking spread with a “low bowl” and a “deep bowl.” It attracts an assortment of people including little kids, tough looking guys, and even adults. They held a fancy skateboarding exhibition way back when it opened and I went. There were talented guys plus there was free pizza. That part I remember well. I’ve mentioned this before but I once read that if a cat jumps up on a counter and finds food by happenstance, it’ll jump up on the counter a hundred more times on the off-chance it finds food again. I can appreciate this. Although it’s ten years on, I remember getting free pizza.

The park stays in my mind for another event too. I don’t remember this event as well but it was another kind of exhibition and I stopped by. A woman I knew showed up and sat with me while we watched. Then a guy I also knew sat down on the other side of me. Although they may have previously exchanged a word that day, I introduced them properly. Well, next thing you know, they are kind of having a conversation “over” me; like he was asking her questions and such. It wasn’t quite like I wasn’t there but if I’d gotten up and left I don’t think anybody would have minded. I mention this because afterward they started dating and in time got married. The funny thing was I wasn’t match-making (not that I matchmake ever) and wouldn’t have put the two together. So what do I know?!

So this past weekend the park had an anniversary exhibition and free pizza was advertised yet again. Yay! I would have wanted to go anyway but a little extra incentive can’t hurt right? It was billed as a two hour event but apparently most of the show took place in the first hour so I didn’t see too much when I showed up at the second hour. The event wasn’t well attended and there was a lot of pizza so I got lunch out of it. It was delicious – I make my own pizza and very rarely eat any other because frankly mine is damned good and healthy to boot – but this was a novelty. I was so content. The weather was fine; I had food to eat and skateboarders to watch. Just the relaxation I needed.

I don’t watch football, basketball, or baseball but I sure like watching skateboarders. The wheels make an appealing whirring sound too which I’m not I sure I realized/or remembered. (Whereas the sound of kids slamming their boards up and down in a parking lot and bouncing off curbs – which they do here despite the park in spitting distance – is irritating.) Enjoying the skaters at the exhibition I was thinking how much of the sport is in the knees; lordy they must take such a pounding.

A woman passed by me with her young granddaughter who was asking about the skaters and how you could get like that. The grandmother responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” I didn’t say it out loud but I thought, “Or you can eat pizza and watch.”

Whoooooo?

I was perusing the weekly newspaper coupons when I saw what appears to be a creepy-looking owl in a cheap suit sporting a monocle and peddling allergy medication.

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Here he is in a second ad.

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This picture is more disturbing with that outstretched hand no longer holding the product.

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In case you’ve forgotten or are uncertain, this is what actual owl “hands” look like. Owl hands are for grasping unsuspecting or slow-moving prey. They don’t look like moldy used gloves. Mr. Owl’s hands in the ad copy are peculiar because they aren’t quite human hands and they aren’t quite owl talons. I mean he’s not even going to be able to pry his way into the surely vault-like packaging on all such pharmaceutical products, the kind that might be assisted by a decent pair of talon-like hands.

Even if we get past the bizarre outfit (used car salesman suit and monocle) why would an owl hock allergy medication? Not because owls suffer from seasonal allergies surely. Because they’re “wise”? Perhaps if I saw a TV ad for this product some of my questions would be addressed. Then again… Whoooooo indeed.

Walk this way (or that way)

A couple years ago I heard something about women’s shoes that really stuck with me. I don’t even remember where I heard this, maybe on a TV show. Anyway it was that in a bar men know the women in practical footwear are not there to get laid. True enough if you were to find me in a bar (you won’t but let’s just pretend) I would not be in stilettos or any kind of high-heeled, impractical, painful-to-wear shoes. I would also not be looking for a stranger to go home with. No doubt there are women that defy this theory but maybe not so many as uphold it.

I never did wear stilettos but earlier this year, in what felt like an act of defiance, I even got rid of my last two pairs of dressy pumps (for those readers unfamiliar that is a shoe with a block heel, not a skinny stick heel, one that still adds height of varying degrees). Maybe it’s a middle-aged thing. You kind of have a handle on who you are and what you like and what you don’t. I never liked uncomfortable shoes, no matter how cute. I remember awful times of being so wretched stuck in a pair of painful shoes. By the end of the event or the day all you can think about is getting out of them. This is why so many women take off their fancy shoes when they hit the dance floor at weddings. Let’s not even talk about how said shoes ruin women’s feet and give them physical problems later in life.

It really isn’t like me to ditch something when I don’t have an alternative but I did. In lieu of my last two pairs of dressy shoes, I am not sure what I am going to do when I next need “good” shoes. Before you suggest I get some kind of “walkable” dress shoe, I should interject that one of the pairs I let go of was indeed supposed to be a “comfortable” type. It wasn’t. Here’s the thing. I am tall. I don’t really need height. Isn’t that the point of a heel? Height? (Yes, I know too how a high heel is supposed to rearrange a woman’s posture thereby throwing her butt out to look more sexually provocative. I don’t remember any shoe doing that to my person – although some did make me feel like crawling.)

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on cute shoes. Oh no. I like cute shoes. I don’t want to go around in boring, practical shoes with the sex appeal of drywall. Somewhere out there the not-too-expensive, wearable dress shoe of my dreams exists. It doesn’t have a substantial heel, it doesn’t have a pointed toe (MY FEET DON’T COME TO A POINT), it doesn’t have no support whatsoever, and it doesn’t make me think about it constantly because it’s causing me pain or makes me afraid of twisting my ankle or falling. It just walks around and looks good.

As my dressy shoes have gone by the wayside, my collection of inexpensive, cute sneakers/tennis shoes/athletic shoes (whatever you want to call ’em) has been building. These shoes make me happy. Let’s take a look shall we? (With a nod to Kate and her post.)

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Several years ago Payless had a promotion where if you filled out an online survey you could get a freebie item or discount (I’m a little fuzzy now on the details) so I kept filling out surveys and going in for free laces. It took awhile for the right shoes to turn up in my discount haunts but bam these look good.

 

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Picked up these co!orful and dainty Danskins for a buck at a big indoor yard sale last year.

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Laces again!

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I got these on Amazon two years ago. I REALLY wanted a pair of fun high-tops. They are a brand you/I never heard of. They also had neon green but these cost less so easy decision. They came with black laces but I switched to these; much better.

 

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Another no-name brand I found on Amazon for $6.50 this year. I was crazy about the design. Love florals against black.

What’s a post on shoes without a little modeling?

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American quality you say?

I bought a new pair of cheap, skinny jeans yesterday. I like skinny jeans because I can move freely in them, I don’t have to worry about the legs being long enough, they look great with boots, and in winter there’s no chilly breeze up-drafting from the ankles. The pair I found was a brand I’d never heard of (brand name concerns me not a bit; a low price and attractive fit do).

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American Quality Denim ay? Are you sure?

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Yep, more evidence. But are you REALLY sure?

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Hell yeah they’re sure! They even have a little flag!

But wait. What’s this now?

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See. I just don’t get this. Who are they marketing these jeans to??? Americans? Chinese? Somebody else? I certainly am aware the ubiquitous phrase “Made in China” has a bad rap. But “Made in America” isn’t exactly a stellar one by most objective standards. And what is “American quality” denim?? Particularly if said denim was made in China. It’s a cultural koan! What if instead of having “American Quality” slapped all over it the jeans prominently said “Chinese Quality Denim? If I’m being honest, that might give me pause, but they’re still the same jeans, and had I checked out these theoretical pants, I’d have seen just what I did: reasonably well-made jeans (finished off seams, no weird miscellaneous hanging threads, legs of equal length, a metal zipper that lays flat and slides easily, and so on). They are decent quality. But whose decent quality?! I am confused on a new level.

Hide the knives

I  saw this in a store ad. There’s something very “Brides of Chuckie” about them.  If I was a child and one of these dolls was in the room, I’d sleep with one eye open.

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“We just want to be your friend.”

Color me Glamour®-less

When I was younger I read Glamour® magazine (which, according to Wikipedia had a total U.S. circulation‎ of 2,300,854 in 2013). I aged out of it and the occasional times I took a look at the magazine in more recent years the tone didn’t quite work for me. In large part I felt swamped by all the emphasis on buying crap.

I recently got the February issue as someone’s giveaway. It was an issue specifically written and produced solely by women as a nod to recent events. If you don’t know the magazine, not only are there ads but the articles themselves routinely list things to buy, usually with their prices. In fact a standard feature is a small-type page in the back of each issue listing all the products mentioned by page number and where they can be bought. There was something I wanted to do: count all the items – most of it beauty/fashion related – advertised in the magazine.

On my count I found 47 “regular” ads, that is pages or partial pages bought and paid for by advertisers. However, within the actual articles I found 183 specific products mentioned, most with prices. These included a $2600 necklace, $725 shoes, $161 earrings, a $180 top, a $425 purse, and a $13,300 skirt. Mind you, I didn’t go hunting to find pricey stuff; these were typical costs, and not cited as being splurges or luxury buys either.

It happens that I saved old issues one year and have the February 1994 issue – 23 years older – for a comparison. That issue had 88 “regular” ads in contrast to 2017’s 47, that is advertisements that were clearly advertisements, bought and paid for by companies. However, there were a mere 88 (as opposed to 2017’s 183) specific items mentioned/advertised for sale in the articles themselves.  I knew, simply from general observation that they were hawking a lot more products but that’s quite a jump on inserting products into articles and features.

Clearly the magazine is not meant for a middle-aged, thrift store-shopping bargain hunter like me. I get that, I do. What’s bothersome though, is the message being sent – even in an issue dedicated specifically to women – one which focuses heavily on spending money on fashion and beauty products, even to those who surely can’t afford it. It normalizes extravagant buying, to an impressionable market.

Further, it makes clear there are many things wrong or minimally in need of improvement in women which can be remedied IF they buy these products. Even a reasonably confident, accomplished, attractive person could fall victim to doubt in the face of such an onslaught. And this is just one issue! This isn’t groundbreaking information I’m giving you but what’s significant to me is how much this has become, as I already said, normalized.  Even I, who am aware of things like marketing ploys and a culture which on whole  routinely undermines women, in ways small and behemoth, was surprised by my ad count. I will not look at the magazine again.

The 1994 issue was more interesting to me even today over the 2017 copy and seemed to be more rounded, covering a broader range of topics affecting (young) women’s lives. It was kind of more fun too. If that magazine was still available, I might be interested.

I understand that print journalism is in trouble and magazines and newspapers need to fight to stay relevant and afloat. (Side note: if you have an interest the 2011 documentary Page One: inside the New York Times is a worthy look into what newspapers are facing and how a leading one in particular fought to remain viable.) But if selling their souls to special interests and marketing is what’s required to stay in business,, I’m not sure I see the point. At least don’t pretend you’re other than some corporation’s sales people and mouthpieces trying to part women from their money.

Short Thought 177 (celebrations)

Looking at the grocery store ads this week with their many offerings for Super bowl fare, it occurs to me all American holidays and special events are celebrated by eating junk and/or overeating. There are no days traditionally commemorated en masse by consuming salad. Or fresh fruits and vegetables.