a mad scientist at work

October 29, 2007 at 5:12 pm (Uncategorized)

I wonder what would happen if all the Abercrombie & Fitch clad youths read this article. How would they react if they knew that the mastermind behind their favorite brand is a raging lunatic? Would they even care?
With help from Benoit Denizet-Lewis, I saw Mike Jeffries for the mad scientist that he is, striving to create his monster, the ideal male “all-American” youth. He embodies the persona of a Greek architect sculpting the musculature of some athlete or warrior from marble. And his motto “casually flawless” isn’t really casual at all. He wants his models to look as if they just rolled out of bed, threw on some Abercrombie & Fitch clothing with their eyes closed, and went to class looking fantastic but with that effortless and apathetic attitude. Ironically, there’s a lot of effort behind the “effortless” look. All the shirts are wrinkled and faded, appearing to be “vintage” while the customer bought it fresh off the shelf. I also never understood the ripped jeans-why would you pay someone to rip your jeans for you? Are you incapable of doing it yourself?
What surprised me was this ideal that Jeffries produced that he doesn’t even fit into (similar to Hitler and his obsession with blonde hair and blue eyes while he was a brunette!). He’s obsessed with the young generation, yet he’s 61 years old! He’s one of those sad older people who can’t accept their aging and instead, try to work against the clock and remain young. His “dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips” makes me shudder. I envision him as this obsessive artificial person, and the more I read, the more repulsed I became. How did this man get so far? He’s very driven and dedicated to his work, but it’s his mind that’s corrupted. I was in disbelief when he said that he was only promoting to the “cool kids”. Who says that? It’s true that clothing labels usually always advertise with attractive people, but who actually comes and says that they only want to market to “good-looking” people? What a selfish and horrifying statement! To me, Jeffries sounds like one of those kids who just had to be in with the “cool crowd” to feel accepted, but was never allowed entry. His conformity is displayed through his wearing Levi’s all throughout high school, and his statement that if you weren’t wearing them, you were “weird” supports his complete insecurity. He never had the typical “all-American” high school experience and is now trying to do so, at 61 years old. Abercrombie & Fitch is geared towards an exclusive customer, yet as Denizet-Lewis says, it has a “mass appeal.” For those customers who don’t fit that body type and character, how would they feel knowing that they’re not meant to be wearing those clothes? Apparently all that matters to Jeffries is the target consumer and if that rare group of people is satisfied, then that’s all that matters. So then why does everyone else keep buying those clothes, even after prices have increased to ridiculous amounts? Everyone wants to personify that flawless youthful being, which only a few possess. While Jeffries wants to only appeal to the “all-American youth” he can relate more to everyone else adding to his profits who are just like him and want to fit in.
Denizet-Lewis knew what he was doing when he ended his article with Jeffries consumed with the appearance of his mannequins. His meticulous concern over the size of the male mannequin’s crotch and how low his pants should sag until they were almost falling off was quite comical, even though I’m sure Jeffries’ brows were furrowed when contemplating such an imperative issue. His statement, “Let’s get them as low as we can without them falling off. We don’t want him looking like an old guy,” supports his complete fear of aging. Overall, Jeffries really irked me. I found it especially disturbing that someone that old should be so fixated on the sex appeal of such a younger generation.

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let the product come to you

October 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm (Uncategorized)

The world of advertising always seems to amaze me. At first it seems so simple-big name labels look at the statistics and figure out who their target audience is and then they begin their campaign. In this case for soda companies, African Americans annually bring in $1.26 billion to $8 billion alone. What really captivates me is the creativity of marketing. Besides just inserting a few Coke and Sprite ads here and there in a magazine or up on a billboard in hopes that people, specifically blacks, will see them, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. actually takes its products to its consumers. What the company considers is that some of its target audience may not access magazines frequently or have billboards in the area. In “Urban Warfare” Team Classic, representing Coca-Cola Bottling Co., went to Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods where the majority of the residents were African Americans. I completely agree with MacArthur and Chura when they stated that a product takes on a different feel when it comes with a street theme. The monster corporation out to strip your wallet is nowhere in site, and instead, you can enjoy a refreshing and thirst-quenching Coke or Sprite coming out of a van blasting music.
However, there’s more to the method than distributing free soda. In order to gain respect and to appeal to the target audience, African Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old, Coca-Cola Bottling Co.’s advertisers take on the hip-hop lifestyle that is easily relatable and enjoyed by most blacks. So instead of just a van pulling up dishing out free soda, the car is decorated with recognizable name brands, murals of landmarks of the city, and “mirror-shaking hip-hop music” thumping out of the full sound-system hooked up in the back. Besides the van, the promoters too have to embody this image by wearing familiar name brands.
Advertising is right behind our constantly changing society, always updating its techniques to fit our lifestyles and giving its products, which usually have been around years, a new modern twist. I was really impressed with Mr. Jackson and his philosophy on marketing. He said that for someone to sell a product, one needs to understand where the consumer is coming from- Mr. Jackson spoke in street dialects to possible customers, gaining their trust immediately. A company is also truly successful when it has onboard such loyal advocates, such as Mr. Jackson, who only drinks Coke and Sprite and has even fired employees for drinking Pepsi!
What I found an interesting concept to grasp, in relation to Kalle Lasn’s article “The Cult You’re In, was that consumers need someone to tell them that something is “cool”. I believe it’s a conscious effort when people actually purchase the product on their own, in contrast to Lasn’s thinking that it’s an unconscious effort, but it’s companies’ ways in advertising and marketing that give birth to that idea of “cool”. Why else would we buy certain products and clothing if we didn’t hear or see about it first? When Coca-Cola Bottling Co. rolls down the street in a red and green van blasting hip-hop music handing out ice-cold Cokes and Sprites (for free!), who wouldn’t associate that with “cool”? It has been tested and proven true that what appeals to African Americans is hop-hop culture, so why not enforce that in poor neighborhoods where you know the residents won’t be attending fundraising banquets and the works? Even when you don’t think you’re being influenced by a product, all you have to do is look to the results when after walking out of a store, you have a little more baggage in your hands and a little less money in your wallet.

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cult member

October 24, 2007 at 3:50 pm (Uncategorized)

I admit to being a member of this “cult” that Kalle Lasn speaks of, however, I have a question for him. How can one escape the obsession of name brands and shopping? I understand that some take it to the obsessive level and barely think for themselves, but some things people need. What about when someone just wants to buy a reliable dishwasher? Does this mean one is in the cult, because instead of washing and drying dishes on his or her own, this person would rather employ a machine to do it? And then what about dishes? People don’t need to eat off of ceramic or china plates, or even plastic plates for that matter. Who needs electricity or plumbing? People have survived without it in the past. I realize that this is different from the constant urge to keep up appearances and wear the latest articles of clothing by the latest designers, but this is our culture.
As much as I don’t want to admit to it, however, Lasn is completely right in his description of this cult. Despite this though, I disagree with his idea that people didn’t consciously choose the roles and behavior patterns they were recruited into. I think people know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not as if everyone sits in front of the T.V. or opens up a trashy tabloid and becomes suddenly brainwashed with images. There’s an effort in our society to be members of this cult because people want to feel that they belong to something and share a common interest with others. There’s awareness about being sucked into this cult that no one admits to but everyone is still apart of it.
I’m not sure about Lasn’s answer “Not really” to his question of “Are we happy?” For those who pride their entire lives on keeping up with this cult, I can understand how despite their constant shopping sprees and obsessions with the newest items, they are never really satisfied. Their goal in life is to keep acquiring whatever is being projected out of sweatshops and factories across the world, however, this cycle never really has an end. For the rest of the human race, Lasn depicts us as if we were all robots obeying orders. His use of the second person gives the piece a more personal tone that can be easily related to. Most works that use “you” go down an amusing and entertaining direction, but with “The Cult You’re In” Lasn excludes himself from the cult and takes on a judgmental tone. He makes a good argument but by excluding himself and offending his audience, how can he hope to gain the respect from his readers?
Furthermore, to say that our consumerism overrides our family ties is pushing it. Yes, it’s a race trying to keep up with what’s fashionable, but in the end, we can go back to our friends and family. Despite our sudden craving for what’s up on the billboards or in a magazine, there’s more to life than that. I’m not denying that everyone is a consumer-I think that’s a vital part of every human life and our economy, but I do think there’s more to people than just the urge to spend money.
What seems like a lot of bashing of Lasn by me is also balanced with the truth in his argument. What our society has in common is the dream of “wealth, power, fame, plenty of sex, and exciting recreational opportunities.” But honestly, who doesn’t want a few of these things? It’s absolutely normal to value them, because even though they’re out of reach, who doesn’t have fun imagining what life would be like with them? Lasn speaks as if being part of a cult is such a negative thing…who is he to say that? If most people are happy, what’s the harm?

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on being palestinian

October 5, 2007 at 1:03 pm (Uncategorized)

After reading Edward Said’s “States”, I realized that I have nothing to say in comparison to his experiences. I am one of those “normal” people that Palestinians live among: my country, my family continuity, and my society are all in tact. My lifestyle is considered out of reach of Palestinians, as if it were atop an extremely high pedestal. My lifestyle. What I had always deemed as just a seemingly mediocre average lifestyles is actually someone else’s dream, something that somewhere out there, people are striving to achieve. And not just one person, but many. There is proof of my existence and it is untouchable. For Palestinians, there is nothing for them to call their own-no homeland, no links between the past and the present. I take my identity for granted while Palestinians are constantly in exile, trying to grab onto anything that they can claim as their own, any part of their culture that is slowly vanishing. Said describes himself and other Palestinians as always being aliens no matter where they are. In one line he says, “There are no Palestinians. Who are the Palestinians? ‘The inhabitants of Judea and Samaria.’ Non-Jews. Terrorists. Troublemakers. DPs. Refugees. Names on a card. Numbers on a list.” To the Arab states, Palestinians are Arabs but each country is selfish in its nationalization: Egypt is for Egyptians only, Iraq is for Iraqis only. Israel is out of the question because they aren’t “Jews.” So where does that leave Palestinians? Here I am, comfortable in my country and of that feeling of acceptance, while Palestinians are in exile.
The fact that Said questions the evidence Palestinians have proving their existence is as if they are a group of people that is becoming extinct. They are not acknowledged for any contributions made to the world, they are not welcome anywhere and therefore have no place to go that will accept them. Their attempt to unify their life and culture are failed attempts at trying to bring back something that rightfully belongs to them yet for some strange and unknown reason, they are not entitled to. That shocked me. The fact that their history in these encampments was underground knowledge, that any hint of improvement was tolerated but once signs of development began, it was forbidden. These people were and still are human beings, but for some reason I can’t comprehend, they were blamed and punished for having human being tendencies. Without their history, Palestinians have nothing to call their own. Without history, it’s as if they were never really there to begin with. It’s an odd and terrifying concept to think that there are some people who are trying to deny your existence, would rather have you gone, would even pretend that you were never there anyway, just to avoid sharing the earth with you. When Said stated that to everyone else, the Palestinians are a lingering people that just won’t leave, that really hit me that they are seen as outsiders, wondering in a world that doesn’t want them, that wouldn’t miss them if they suddenly vanished. If the world doesn’t want you, where else is there to go?
And what I found really sad was the acceptance of all this from the children of Palestinian refugees. Said describes it as if they skipped an essential step in childhood, that they missed out in enjoying their youth and matured too quickly. The fact that they have accepted their unstable, undocumented, and unaccounted for life is not something that they should have to do. This mentality has become the norm for them, which shouldn’t be a requirement of children, let alone anyone at all.

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embracing contact zones

October 3, 2007 at 5:23 pm (Uncategorized)

It truly amazes me that some things in history can just go unnoticed for centuries or even thousands of years. How can people get away with this? I kept asking myself this question as I read Pratt’s essay, and yet I know the answer, I’ve known the answer. This erasure of history has been occurring for ages. When Pratt said that Guaman Poma’s New Chronicle and Good Government circulated in Paris 25 years after its discovery and Western scholars finally had access to it 350 years after, I was shocked. Here was this valuable piece of information that wasn’t acknowledged until so many years later. The fact that it took that long for such an important document to reach the public…it just amazes me that there are some people that are so close-minded to other perspectives that they cling to the only thing they know, which could be very incorrect. I realize that people don’t want to accept the truth and discard everything they were taught, or, perhaps the misinterpretations that were created to cover up the truth.
I think also that the really remarkable thing about Poma’s letter was his interpretation of Christianity. He traced the religion back to Adam and Eve and claimed that one of the offspring of Noah was Amerindian. He replaced the city of Jerusalem with Cuzco, making the Andeans the privileged culture over the Europeans. Poma used the Spanish genre for his own purposes. At first, I wondered who was Poma to change history. But then I asked, who began history anyway? What is history except for the borrowing, stealing, and influence of other cultures and peoples? Also, who said that Europe has to be the center of everything? Why is this Eurocentric idea of everything sprouting right from European soil the dominant theory? History is just a few facts with a lot of room for interpretation, which is exactly what people have done, interpreted.
People, countries, and cultures enter Pratt’s “contact zone” everyday. Historians are scared of this “zone” and try to pretend that there is none, that clashing and grappling amongst different people never happens. Or rather, they know it exists and they just do their best to avoid entering it, which they’re been pretty successful at except when documents suddenly surface, such as Guaman Poma’s letter. This idea that some people don’t even believe in “contact zones” is the influence of a society dominated by a hierarchy of power that then smothers everyone with its beliefs, leaving no room for other perspectives. I think it’s a far reach to believe in “imagined communities” where it’s the assumption that everyone is united under the same mentality. As Pratt said, “it is assumed that all participants are engaged in the same game and that the game is the same for all players.”
This part of history, the truth of the Spanish conquest of the Andeans, didn’t even exist until the discovery of Poma’s letter. Pratt’s essay made me grasp the idea that all the history ever documented makes up only a small portion of everything that has happened in the past. The bits and pieces, and in some cases, large chunks of history that have been left out either accidentally or purposely are still a mystery, or worse, have been distorted to glorify one party.
Her analogy about her son and his schooling made me realize how my education in the past years has always been about conforming my ideas to fit that of my teacher. Recently, my Introduction to Africana Studies professor brought up the notion of the set-up of the classroom and how he didn’t agree with it. All the seats face the front where the teacher lectures. They are attached to the ground and students can’t move their chairs to join groups or even turn around in order to listen to another student’s comment without twisting and contorting their bodies into uncomfortable positions. The classroom was supposedly designed for the purpose of education. But what is education without understanding all the different and possible perspectives of things, which is acquired from interacting and conversing with others? I agree with Pratt in that the classroom should be viewed and used as a contact zone. With contact zones, the natural outcome is one of rage and pain, but people are also able to grasp and understand a new concept, something that many in this world, unfortunately aren’t open to.

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