Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Article: Consumer group doesn't buy notion that new is better

San Francisco Chronicle BAY AREA

Out of the Retail Rat Race
Consumer Group Doesn't Buy Notion that New is Better


Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, February 13, 2006

John Perry and his son, Ben Perry-Picciotto, shop at a Sa... Scrap, a San Francisco scrap yard, sells ribbon and fabri... Kate Boyd, a teacher, shops at Scrap with her friend's so...

While many people will spend countless hours this year lining up at Wal-Mart and maxing out their credit cards at Nordstrom, a small Bay Area group has declared it will do just the opposite.

About 50 teachers, engineers, executives and other professionals in the Bay Area have made a vow to not buy anything new in 2006 -- except food, health and safety items and underwear.

"We're people for whom recycling is no longer enough," said one of the members of the fledgling movement, John Perry, who works in marketing at a high-tech company. "We're trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world."

They call themselves the Compact. They have a blog, a Yahoo group and monthly meetings to reaffirm their commitment to the rule, which is to never buy anything new. "I didn't buy a pair of shoes today," said Compacter Shawn Rosenmoss, an engineer and a San Francisco resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They were basically a $300 pair of clodhoppers. But they were really nice and really comfortable, and I haven't bought new shoes for a while. But I didn't buy them. That's a big part of the Compact -- we show that we're not powerless over our purchasing."

Compacters can get as much as they want from thrift shops, Craigslist, freecycle.org, eBay and flea markets, as long as the items are secondhand. And when they're in doubt, they turn to their fellow Compacters for guidance.

"We had a little crisis when Matt and Sarah had to replace their shower curtain liner and we said no," said Perry, who lives in Bernal Heights. "But we put the word out and someone found one for them. It's like the Amish -- we help each other out. We raise a barn every week."

The Compact started two years ago when Perry and a group of his friends, who were tired of devoting so much of their time and money on items they don't need, vowed to go six months without buying anything new.

American consumerism, they say, has led to global environmental and socioeconomic crises, and the only way to reverse it is to stop buying into it.

The Compact -- named after the revolutionary credo of the Mayflower pilgrims -- proved immensely popular and quickly increased its membership.

Then one couple remodeled their house and couldn't find used drywall. After that, "it all started to unravel," Perry said.

But after a breather, the group decided to recommit and try to expand its membership.

Kate Boyd, a drama teacher at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, said she enjoys the extra time, money and perspective that a consumer-free life brings.

"It's just a relief to get away from the pressure to always have new clothes, gadgets and other things we don't need," she said. "And I find that I have more money to spend on the dried cherries for my Manhattans."

The Compact is part of the larger trend of consumers beginning to "tread gently on our planet," said Peter Sealey, adjunct professor of marketing at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

"It sounds marvelous. It's a wonderful example for all of us," said Sealey, a former chief of marketing at Coca-Cola and Columbia Pictures. "It's a crystal-clear statement about what can be done to get us away from being a disposable society."

The boom in green building, Oakland's recent crackdown on fast-food litter and the surge in biofuel-powered cars are all part of the movement toward more responsible consumerism, he said.

Northern California is often at the forefront of environmental and social trends, and the Compact is likely to garner a devoted following, he said.

"Will the Compact ever become mainstream? I don't think so, but it's an excellent way to bring attention to the reality that we need to be more gentle with our resources."

One especially appealing aspect of the Compact is its social component, members say. Fellow Compacters offer advice, moral support, help locating needed items and partners for thrift-store runs.

One couple, Matt Eddy and Sarah Pelmas, met through the Compact and got married six months ago.

But the main advantage of being in a group is "you can brag to someone," said Boyd.

Perry agreed.

"After a while you get this bravado. You want to brag more and more," he said. "I found a Razor scooter for $15 at Thrift Town. That was great, but it doesn't top the free sewing machine I got on Craigslist. The stakes just keep getting higher."

Perry, who said he loves to shop, went into withdrawal the first few weeks of entering the Compact. For many people, shopping is a recreational and social activity that almost transcends consumerism. Boyd described it as an urge to "line the nest."

"But after a few weeks the buzzing in your head subsides," Perry said. "Although if I continue to shop crazily at thrift stores, is that any better?"

He thought about it for a moment.

"I think it is."


For more information

Here are some Web links to the Compact:

groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact

sfcompact.blogspot.com

E-mail Carolyn Jones at carolynjones@sfchronicle.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Busy lives don't need balance!

I thought this article tied-into "Take Back Your Time" and many of the balance of life/time issues that we are striving for. Or is it balance that we should really be striving for??? Read on!


The Inside Out Solution
Balancing Home and Work Won't Bring Peace of Mind, Says a Therapist. Getting Your Inner and Outer Lives in Sync Just Could

By Douglas LaBier
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 14, 2006; HE01

A Washington couple recently consulted me in my psychotherapy practice. He's an executive with a large trade association; she's a lawyer with a big firm. They told me how hectic it is trying to meet all their responsibilities at work and at home. They have two children of their own plus a child from her former marriage. Dealing with the logistics of daily life, to say nothing of the emotional challenges, makes it hard just to come up for air, they said.

Similarly, a 43-year-old man from Bethesda came for help with his career. But he quickly acknowledged that he's worried about the "other side" of life. He's raising two teenage daughters and a younger son by himself. He's constantly worried about things like whether a late meeting might keep him at work. He tries to have some time for himself, but "it's hard enough just staying in good physical health, let alone being able to have more of a 'life,' " he said. He recently learned he has hypertension.

It's no surprise that these people, like many I see both in my psychotherapy practice and my workplace consulting, feel pummeled by stresses in their work and home lives. Most are aware, at least dimly, that this is unhealthy -- that stress damages the body, mind and spirit. Healthy People 2000, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states things starkly: 70 percent of all illness, physical and mental, is linked to stress of some kind.

A lot of the stress I hear about derives from struggling with the pressures of work and home. The problem seems nearly universal, whether in two-worker, single-parent or childless households.

The reason it's so common? My experience suggests that it's because people are framing the problem incorrectly. There is no way to balance work and home, because they exist on the same side of the scale -- what I consider the "outer" part. On the other side of the scale is their personal, private life -- the "inner" person. I encourage clients not to think about balancing work life and home life, but to balance outer life and inner life.

Let me explain. On the outer side of the scale you have the complex logistics and daily stresses of life at both work and home -- the errands, family obligations, phone calls, to-do lists, e-mails and responsibilities that fill your days. Outer life is what's on the daily planner, Palm or BlackBerry.

On the other side of the scale is the inner you: private thoughts and values, emotions, fantasies, spiritual or religious practices, the capacity to love, a sense of purpose. Our culture does little to acknowledge or nurture this aspect of our lives. You probably keep much of your inner life hidden from others, even those you are closest to. You may even keep it hidden from yourself.

The good news, as I see it, based on my observations: Reframing your challenge from trying to balance work and home to balancing your inner and outer lives will help you deal with all aspects of life -- and build overall health and well-being.

The Other Balancing Act

As I have often observed, when your inner and outer lives become unbalanced, daily functioning is affected in ways subtle and profound. When operating in the outer world -- at work, for example, or in dealings with your spouse or partner -- you may struggle with unjustified feelings of insecurity and fear. You may find yourself at the mercy of anger or greed whose source you don't understand. You may be plagued with indecisiveness or revert to emotional "default" positions, such as submissiveness or rebellion, forged during childhood.

Even if you are successful in parts of your outer life, neglecting the inner can be hazardous. With no sense of your inner life, you lose the capacity to regulate, channel and focus your energies. Typically, stress mounts, personal relationships suffer, your health deteriorates and you become vulnerable to looking for stimulation from the outer-world sources you know best -- maybe a new "win," a new lover, drugs or alcohol. I've seen this again and again in my work.

And that pulls you even more off-balance, possibly to the point of no return. The extreme examples are people who destroy their outward success with behavior that reflects a complete disengagement from their inner lives -- corporate executives led away in handcuffs for indulging in ill-gotten gains, self-destructive sports stars overcome by the trappings of their outer-life successes, political leaders whose flawed personal lives destroy their credibility, clerics who are staunch moralists at the pulpit but sexual predators or adulterers behind closed doors.

When your inner life is out of balance with your outer, you become more vulnerable to stress, and that's related to a wide range of physical and emotional damage. Heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, a weakened immune system, skin disorders, asthma, migraine, depression, anxiety and musculoskeletal problems -- all are linked to stress. Together these things can shorten your life.

Servicing your inner life, on the other hand, can restore balance. It builds a state of self-awareness and wholeness. With a robust inner life you feel grounded and anchored, knowing who you are and what you're truly living for.

Finding the Gaps

I recently spoke with a man, relatively underdeveloped in his inner life, who was dealing with a classic inner-vs.-outer dilemma. He was debating whether to leave an out-of-town meeting early, which would be difficult, to be home for his daughter's 18th birthday. I asked him the simplest question: Which choice would he be more likely to feel good about at the end of his life? He immediately saw that it was being at his daughter's birthday. But he was troubled that he'd been trying to rationalize away what he knew he valued more deeply.

He was suddenly able to see the gap between his values (his inner self) and the choice he was about to make (in his outer world). A good initial step toward awakening your inner life is to identify the gaps between what you believe in and what you do. We all have those gaps.

"Building Your Inner Life," below, has suggestions for developing your personal side. Here is an exercise to help you learn about the relationship between your inner and outer lives.

· First, make a list of what you believe to be your core, internal values or ideals. Perhaps it's raising a strong, creative child. Maybe it's having close friends, or developing a talent that's important to you. It could be increasing your spiritual connections. You may want a healthy marriage or partnership, or to give back some of the fruits of your good fortune to others.

· Next, make a parallel list for each item on your list, describing your daily actions relative to those values : How much time and energy do you spend on them? What are your specific behaviors regarding each? Be detailed in your answers -- note the last time you took an action aimed at nurturing that creative child, building your marriage or giving some meaningful help to the less fortunate. Do not be surprised (or ashamed) if you find that very few of your daily activities support those key values.

· Assign a number from 1 to 5 measuring the gap between each value and your behavior -- 1 representing a minimal gap; 5, the maximum.

· Identify the largest gaps. Now think about how your inner values could redirect your outer-life choices in those areas. What would you have to do to bring the inner you in synch with the outer you? What can you commit yourself to doing?

· Write it all down and set a reasonable time frame for reducing your gaps.

Work vs. Life Revisited

Strengthening your inner life can change how you behave in both parts of that old work-life equation.

In the work realm, you might reexamine what you're doing -- whom you work for and with, and what your work contributes to the things you value. At the most radical end, you could change employers or careers, or go out on your own to pursue a dream. Or you can seek new assignments with your current employer that align with your personal values and goals.

In your home and personal life, a stronger inner life might lead you to give some time to help others, say through volunteer work. Or get involved with a social or political cause you believe in. You might decide to take that music appreciation course you've considered for years, or finally build that backyard garden you've seen in your imagination.

As you develop your inner life and balance it with your outer, you'll be likely to find that the old conflicts of work vs. life don't cause you stress or even dominate your thoughts anymore.

In fact, you may find they disappear. ·

Douglas LaBier, a psychotherapist and business psychologist, heads the Center for Adult Development in Washington (http://www.adultdev.org) Comments on this article: health@washpost.com. Join author Douglas LaBier for a Live Online discussion today on inner life/outer life balance at 2 p.m. at www.washingtonpost.com.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Che Cachet

This sounds like an interesting exhibit and I love the part about capitalism appropriating revolution. It really brings home the excellent job that companies do with marketing and branding everything into a profitable business.

The Che Cachet An Exhibition Traces How the Marxist Revolutionary's Photo
Inspired an Army of Capitalists
By David SegalWashington Post Staff
WriterTuesday, February 7, 2006; C01


NEW YORK Just look at what they have done to Che.
The glowering visage of the Cuban comandante and ur-Marxist pops
up everywhere -- in art, on the cover of magazines and, more blasphemously, on
lighters, wallets, coasters, T-shirts, hoodies, key chains, tissue packs,
nesting dolls and something called Red Cream Soda.


It's always the same shot, the one where the man born Ernesto Guevara stares into the middle distance with fiery resolve, a military beret perched on his head, a leather jacket zipped up to his neck, hair rakishly blown by the wind. Rifle-wielding freedom fighters
around the world have revered this image the way Christians revere saints. But
entrepreneurs love it, too. One company slapped the likeness on a frozen treat called Cherry Guevara, vanilla ice cream on a stick, wrapped in chocolate and cherry-flavored sauce. "The revolutionary struggle of the cherries was squashed as they were trapped between two layers of chocolate," reads the copy on the wrapper. "May their memory live on in your mouth."

Cherry Guevara and other examples of what could be called Che abuse are now on display at the International Center of Photography in midtown Manhattan for an exhibition titled "¡Che! Revolution and Commerce." (The show runs until Feb. 26.) It's the story of a single photograph and its flukey journey from contact sheet to
international ubiquity and then into the farcical maw of commercial kitsch. Shot
by a onetime fashion photographer named Alberto Korda, it might be, according to
the show's curators, the most reproduced image in the history of photography.
The exhibit works, too, as an object lesson in the power -- and on some level, the formidable beauty -- of market economies, which can absorb and commodify anything, even their bitterest enemies.

Today, there are dozens of Web sites selling stuff with Korda's Che shot emblazoned on it. Places like Thechestore.com and Fidelche.com mostly target young people who, one assumes, aren't actually gearing up for armed insurrection. "Our other big seller is
beer pong shirts," says Shayn Diamond, a college student in London, Ontario, who
a few months ago started selling Che-wear with some friends at Cheguevarashirts.com. "He's a rebel, and along with rebel comes the cool factor and trendiness." Translation: Viva los fashionistas!


The beginning of all this was more dignified. Korda took the shot the day of a rally in Cuba, organized to protest an explosion in Havana harbor of a ship loaded with
ammunition. More than 100 people died in early March 1960, and many Cubans
believed it was a CIA-orchestrated crime, not an accident. The following day,
maximum leader Fidel Castro turned a mass funeral into a mass protest and Korda,
on assignment from a newspaper called Revolucion, was there to capture the
event. Che didn't speak that day, but he showed up briefly on the podium to
gaze at the crowd. Korda squeezed off two quick shots with his Leica. The image
first turned up publicly in April 1961, in the pages of Revolucion, to promote a
conference where Che was the star speaker.

Yes, fittingly enough, "Guerrillero Heroico," as Korda called his photo, started off as an advertisement. Then it just spread. Korda never kept a grip on the copyright, and the shot eventually turned up on the cover of magazines and newspapers in Europe and across the United States. National Lampoon published a satirical version in 1972 with Che taking a pie to the face. Madonna did a variation for her "American Life" album
in 2003. When Taco Bell used a Chihuahua in a Guevara-like beret to promote its
"revolutionary taco," the company took incoming from Cuban exiles in Miami. The
vice president of the company said the ads were intended to represent revolution
"generically."

Artists have long played with the iconic power of the image. Among them is Pedro Meyer, who created "Five Dollar Bill," which is in the ICP exhibit and features a blowup of the U.S. fiver, with Che's face where Lincoln's ought to be. "The U.S. has always had the ability to appropriate rebels," says Meyer, on the phone from his studio in Mexico. "It's a cheap way to deal with your urge to be rebellious. You buy a T-shirt and you don't have to do anything more."


Korda, who died in Paris in 2001, apparently never earned any
royalties from his most famous portrait. He did, however, win an out-of-court
settlement in England against Smirnoff after the company ran an ad with
"Guerrillero Heroico," along with the words "A complete flavoured vodka," a riff
perhaps on John Paul Sartre's claim that Che was "the most complete man of his
age." "I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the
promotion of products such as alcohol," Korda is quoted as saying, "or for any
purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che."


Why Che? How did this Argentine doctor with a bad case of asthma acquire such astounding worldwide cachet, not to mention enduring commercial appeal?
The hunky looks don't hurt. Actually, they help, quite a bit. And few doubt the man's sincerity, even if his sincerest wish was a dreary, centrally planned bummer. "Even his
ideological foes admire him because he represents the great virtues it takes to
be a revolutionary," says Jon Lee Anderson, a New Yorker writer who penned the
biography "Che: A Revolutionary Life." "Bravery, fearlessness, honesty,
austerity and absolute conviction. Those are the prerequisites to carry others
into what is actually quite a miserable existence. He lived it. He really lived
it."


After he helped to overthrow the Batista government in Cuba, he headed
to other countries, including the Congo and Bolivia, to try to foment revolution
there. Adding to the mythology, he died a martyr's death in 1967, captured and
executed at the age of 39 as he battled U.S.-trained troops in Bolivia.
Reportedly, his last words to the soldier who shot him were "Shoot, coward,
you're just killing a man."

And, it seems, creating a brand. He's lionized by insurgents around the world, according to Anderson, in places as varied as Burma and Afghanistan. Last month, the new president of Bolivia asked for a moment of silence at his swearing-in to remember, among others, Che Guevara. The Cuban government, meantime, has tapped heavily into Che-mania, presenting Guevara to tourists as the public face of the island ever since the Russians withdrew financial support. Che T-shirts are among the first things you'll see after landing at the Havana airport.


But at least the Cubans know whom they're glorifying. In the United States, Che's life story and ambitions seem beside the point, or maybe they've just been reduced to caricature. The guy's face is shorthand for "I'm against the status quo." He's politics' answer to James Dean, a rebel with a very specific cause. And since very few people know anything about the cause, or the rebel -- besides the basics -- the Che shirt has about it the whiff of inside info. It makes you part of the thrift-store intelligentsia, even if your real focus is beer pong.


This, in brief, is why capitalism won. It's the only system that understands that we'd all like to change the world, but we are way too lazy for that sort of thing. Especially if
there's ice cream around. When you get done with a Cherry Guevara, you're left
with a wooden stick with the words "We will bite to the end!" stamped on it. If
there are nails in Che's coffin, this, no doubt, is what they look like.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hunger and Human Rights: a virtual Conscious Consuming Event!

I have been thinking about the impact of my food-purchasing decisions quite a bit lately. Now I'll be experiencing and thinking about these things in a whole new way - at least I anticipate that being a result of my participation in the exercise outlined below. Read on and join me!

Azalia, one of my co-workers at
Grassroots International has just developed a Resource Rights Curriculum - "Land and Hunger: Making the Rights Connection." She has piloted everything except the "call to action" at the end. The movement from education to action is a crucial element of Grassroots' effort to build social movements so that's where I, and perhaps you, come in.

Below are three possible “Challenges” that will bring home the connections between land, hunger, poverty and the globalization of the food industry. Choose one or more of the following three challenges and try them for 5-7 days anytime in February.

I will be doing options 1 and 3. I'm going to start next week and I'll incorporate daily updates into the comments section of this blog post. If you want to participate, please update us using the comments section of the blog or send me a summary email.

1. Boston on $2/day
Challenge yourself to eat on $2/day for a week. The idea for this challenge is to look at how poverty and hunger are related. This amount does not include transportation, labor, rent, gas, electricity or any other inputs needed. You must use $2/ day (not $14 in one lump sum). Keep track of what types of foods you eat. Track whether or not the quality of food you eat changes drastically. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2/day including expenses for heat, housing, etc. That is almost half the world’s population. This widely used figure has been adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

2. Eat Locally
A big concern is the globalization of the food industry and a lack of information on where food is from, produced and what’s in it. Challenge yourself to eat only locally produced food for a week. Keep a log and answer some of the following questions:

  • What foods you are able to eat?
  • Is the quality of the food that is available comparable to food that is not locally produced?
  • How much does it cost in comparison to what you would normally spend?
  • Where do you have to go to purchase local food?
  • Are you forced to travel a longer distance?
  • Is there a farm near that sells local products?
  • How far do you have to travel to get to a local farm that produces and sells food?
  • Does buying locally produced food affect planning of meals and time?

3. The Global “Foodshed”

Challenge: Like water flows through a watershed, our food flows from producer to consumer. How far does your food have to travel to get to your table? Keep a daily food log tracking the country of origin of every item you eat for a week.

  • What is the food item?
  • What is the city and country of origin of the food item?
  • What company makes the food item?
  • List the ingredients of the food item and write down any ingredients that are unfamiliar to you.
Will this be easy? Probably not. Will it be fun? Possibly. Will it be an interesting experience? No doubt!

I'm starting on Monday February 13th. Care to join me???

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Better World Club

Speaking of cool alternatives, the Better World Club is a great alternative to AAA. They do the same roadside assistance, maps, and other services, but in an environmentally-friendly mindset. You can even get roadside bike assistance!

Leave a comment with your experiences with Better World Club.

Monday, February 06, 2006

In praise of green choices

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a great tool to help you make environmentally-conscious decisions about home improvement, saving energy, and other daily reminders that Americans have choices on how to live sustainably. Read past e-newsletters and sign-up for monthly electronic Greentips.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Slaves to Fashion: The Sweatshop-Sportswear Connection

THE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF BOSTON
SUNDAY SPEAKERS FORUM presents

Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 11:00am
Superbowl Sunday
ROBERT J.S. ROSS:
"Slaves to Fashion: The Sweatshop-Sportswear Connection"
at Community Church of Boston
565 Boylston St. (Copley Square)
www.commchurch.org


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Robert Ross is professor of Sociology at Clark University, where he is director of the International Studies Stream and among the founders of the program in Urban Development & Social Change. Since the 1980s he has worked on the political economy of urban development and analysis of global capitalism. He still writes occasionally on the social movements of the 1960s, in which he played a role.

In 1995, Prof. Ross began to study the resurgence of sweatshops in the U.S. and global apparel industry, and he has lectured extensively on the issue. His work on this has been published in The Nation, Foreign Affairs, Dollars & Sense and a number of edited collections of research on globalization. He wrote Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004).

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SHARE THE MORNING WITH US

10:00am Social Action Committee
11:00am Sunday Speakers Forum
12:30pm Luncheon

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COMMUNITY LUNCHEON

After the Sunday Speakers Forum we share lunch with one another, prepared by Luis Alonso Guzman. We ask for and appreciate your contribution, which helps cover luncheon expenses.

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DIRECTIONS/PARKING

The Community Church is located at 565 Boylston Street in Copley Square, between Dartmouth and Clarendon Streets. Parking is available on Sunday mornings at the Back Bay Garage (entrances on Clarendon Street or St. James Ave.). We can provide a sticker to affix to your parking receipt and
you will be charged only $3 until 1:30pm.

By public transportation, take the Green line to Copley or take the Orange line to Back Bay station. Community Church is a 2-4 minute walk from either station.

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A PEACE AND JUSTICE CONGREGATION SINCE 1920

The Community Church of Boston is a free community of human beings united for the study and practice of universal religion, seeking to apply ethical ideals to individual life and the democratic and cooperative principle to all forms of social and economic life.