Sunday, August 30, 2009

How companies are going green

GREEN IS ALL THE RAGE. With mounting fears of global warming and the heightened popularity of planet-friendly products, even the biggest companies are racing to jump on the bandwagon. Here's how some businesses are "greening up" their products and images. 

STARBUCKS: coffee now grown with solar energy

MOTOROLA: : Employing only Third World workers, who consume vastly fewer resources than Americans

CHARMIN: Toilet paper 100% recycled

COCA-COLA: Now with real, natural cocaine

YOUR LOCAL USED CAR DEALER: Selling 100% used vehicles

PROCTER & GAMBLE: Removing up to 10% of the toxic, caustic chemicals from its personal-care products

POTBELLY SANDWICH WORKS: All employees crazy baked

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Introducing the "New Urbanist" shopping mall

JUST FOUND THIS while Ixquicking (that's my new term for Googling) "Faux New Urbanism."
In a misguided attempt to inject some classical urban charm into the North Conway, New Hampshire location of Lowe’s, someone thought is would be a good idea to build-in a pretty hilarious row of fake second-story windows on their otherwise completely suburban box-store.

But how about the "New Urbanist" suburban shopping mall? This one in Burr Ridge, Ill. (not far from where I live) is the reason I was Ixquicking "Faux New Urbanism" to begin with.

The nostalgically named Burr Ridge Village Center boasts a "vibrant main-street setting." (They don't mention it's built right next to an interstate highway.) And yes, the buildings do attempt to mimic the homes-over-storefront look of real classic town centers. But instead of the variety of a real town (like Homewood, IL* , a rail-centered south suburb of Chicago), where on a typical block you might have a gas station, a corner grocery store, local mom-and-pop coffee shops, taverns, pizzerias and ice cream parlors, local banks, civic buildings, and locally owned hardware stores, every store in these fake company towns is a shiny clone of a national chain.

Rather than living quarters for shopkeepers and other normal people, the "apartments" above the Banana Republic and Starbucks in the Burr Ridge Village Center are high-end condos. In short, it's a mall disguised as a small town.

No doubt a candidate for "localwashing": "Shop Local! All your favorite hometown shops here — from Starbucks to The Gap!"

*I couldn't find any good photos of downtown Homewood, but thanks to Google and the U.S. government's scary satellite technology, you can just go to Google Maps  punch in "Ridge and Dixie, Homewood, IL" into the address bar, zoom all the way in, and you'll get the street view in downtown Homewood. You can zip up and down the streets to your heart''s delight.

Or try Hinsdale, Burr Ridge's neighbor to the south, also with the advantage of commuter rail. For Hinsdale, punch in "Garfield and Chicago, Hinsdale, IL."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Michael Jackson died for our sins

WAS I A FAN of Michael Jackson? For a child of the late '70s and '80s -- and an African-American to boot -- that's like asking: "Are you a fan of the sun?" "Are you a fan of the earth's rotation?" C'mon. But some distinctions are in order.

There was Michael Jackson the man: flawed, weak, vulnerable -- the one who danced with death, and stumbled.

Then there was Michael Jackson the natural talent, the consummate professional, the phenomenal songwriter, singer, dancer and all-round flawless perfomer.

And there was Michael Jackson the public persona, the mystery, the symbol, the "icon" -- the idol.

I felt for the first MJ and I hugely respected and enjoyed the work of the second. I don't care much for the third MJ since, as a believer in God, I don't really do idols.

Folks who don't worship a higher power, find lower powers to venerate instead. It's unavoidable, part of our makeup. In practical reality this makes for messy situations. A god here, a god there, a god everywhere. Thousands of gods, endless ladders and hierarchies and taxonomies of deities, often in conflict -- is it any wonder their worshipers are forever in conflict, with each other, with themselves? For example, people whose God or ultimate authority is the state are have maimed and killed others in the hundreds of millions in the last century, simply because their respective state-gods commanded them to do so. It's the same mechanism that leads people to believe Michael Jackson was superhuman. 

But it's evident that like many idols, Jackson himself had a complex, tortured relationship with his status. Arguably, it's the idolatry that killed him.

The ancient Incas had a tradition of taking a servant and elevating him to deity for one day.

Then they sacrificed him.

In exchange for his a brief time as a god, Michael Jackson went to his Maker long before his proper time. Yet like the slave-king -- or perhaps, like most kings down through history -- he wasn't really in charge. His status as god-for-a-day was cynically milked by those who surrounded him: the industry, white-coated drug pushers and other assorted hangers-on and enablers who profited from him as long as they were able. They rode him until finally the ride was over.

What a tragedy for the man sacrificed to provide others not only with entertainment, but for meaning for their otherwise hollow existences. What a tragedy for a family. And what a trauma for a culture. Will this serve to jar us awake, close a chapter in American history, break the spell of celebrity silliness and allow us to be grown-ups again? Will it help us shut down this out-of-control star machine that chews people up and spits them out -- often, into a waiting grave? 

Will it help nail shut the coffin of celebrolatry, at least for a few of us-- allow us to go back to letting God do his job, and entertainers theirs? 

Or will we remain a Michael Jackson nation, alternately stroked and traumatized, so at the mercy of forces beyond our control we feel the need to retreat into a cocoon of magic kingdom make-believe?

LEFTOVER THOUGHTS: About the pedophilia rap, I still don't know what to think. We know the guy was warped. We know he had an interesting porn collection but porn -- or, let's say, a nude and partially-nude art collection -- but contrary to popular rumor, it was not kiddie porn, according to the evidence released by police.* We know he loved children, but it's not clear that he loved children that way. Part of me wants to believe that his thing about children owed to the fact he was in a very real way a child inside -- for better and for worse -- and in that sense, was only preferring the company of his peers.

I HOPE ALL aspiring and working young singers will avail themselves of the selection of live Jackson footage going back to the Jackson Five, and watch their flawless, professional performances. That's what performers are supposed to do.

* Update Aug. 2010: This site runs down all the "porn" found in Jackson's collection that police bothered to make public. The general finding was that none of the images constituted child pornography or anything else illegal.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google + ADD = ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

THIS IS HOW IT WORKS. You start out searching for info on the heart chakra -- which takes you to someone's MySpace, which triggers another Google search, and you end up watching "Young Cheezy: The Fred Fredburger Remix."