Thursday, April 30, 2009

Procrastination Methods

I am going to start sharing additional procrastination methods as a further procrastination strategy. It is my hope that in so doing I will get so bored with procrastinating that I will actually get to work!

1. Google the author of a book you have recently enjoyed, find his/her facebook page and write them a message. The book in question is the graphic novel Arab in America by Toufic El Rassi, a Beirut-born American. Excellent. Haven't heard back from Toufic yet :)

2. Take photographs of the dandelions in your lawn and get yourself totally pissed off that people would actually have the gall to poison their lawn and kill them. How sad for them and the dandelions. What is so awful about dandelions?

3. Besides checking facebook and updating my status way too many times a day, I have been working so I have no more procrastination ideas to share. I imagine there will be more to come. Or, if you the reader have any that you would like to share...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Political Consumption in a Bottle

To continue with with my procrastination maneuvers, I am going to share the bottled water that I discovered yesterday. The company is Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company which sells bottled water with different labels on it so that your water consumption can have a political message to it. According to the website, the label and the owner, the water bottling company started in 1998 as a response to the cyanide leach gold mining that was taking place in Okanagon County in Northeast Washington State. The idea was that "water is more precious than gold." An extra twist is that after you consume the precious cyanide-free water that was actually bottled in Oregon not Washington, you can send a message in a bottle to your favorite representative in the other Washington, D.C. The website shows you step by step how you can drink your water down to the last drop, write a message, roll it up, put it inside the bottle, place stamps and mailing labels and send. According to the label, purchasing this water is POLITICAL ACTION. By buying bottled water you are helping ensure clean water, according to the branding.
Starting in 2003, consumers were also able participate in the peace process and send a personal bottled message to the President of the United States. The description of this product on the website is just beautiful:

Much care was taken in designing the Water for Peace label. We learned from developing the Water More Precious Than Gold label that words are powerful. Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan describes in his book Messages From Water how water responds to that which surrounds it. By photographing the crystalline structure of frozen water, Dr. Emoto demonstrated how music, words, pictures, and intention actually changed the quality of the water inside the container. Positive words on the label create "high vibration water" within the bottle. We decided to create a totally positive, inspirational and beautiful water label to enhance the already delicious spring water we are using.

The "Si se puede!" water was launched in December of 2007 and supports reforming current "immoral immigration procedures." If the purchase is in Washington State, one dollar from each case of water will be donated to Washington Community Action Network (CAN!) Washington CAN!, a statewide, grassroots lobbying organization that works on immigration among other issues.

I am torn. I love the creativity and good intentions behind the water bottling effort. I also appreciate the call to political action through the letter writing. But as a friend on facebook explained, "There has got to be a better way to spread messages than selling cheap goods." I agree. I met the owner at the World Rhythm Festival and expressed my concerns. He said that he looked into using bottles made out of corn but that the corn used in these bottles was genetically modified. Sometimes he wonders if he should just give up. I shrugged. I didn't have an answer to that. He may be encouraging others to be more politically active, or not.

I have been asking myself how the political efforts of the Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company differ from the Ethos Water campaign. For each bottle of water purchased, Ethos Water, which is owned by Starbuck's, will donate $ 0.05 to their goal of providing $10 million in humanitarian water relief efforts throughout the world by 2010. What bugs me so much about the Ethos Water campaign is that the privatization of water is one of the reasons there are water shortages throughout the globe. Buying a commodity that should be available to all but has been privatized in order to provide water to those whose water has been usurped is hypocritical. Water is a right, not a commodity.

We live in a consumer culture and we all navigate within it. But marketing commodities as a means of creating political and social change makes me very uncomfortable. While the Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company may ask the consumer to write a letter after buying and drinking the water, the route is circuitous. Consumers don't need to buy bottled water to write a letter or donate money to Washington CAN. They may even be able to donate more than $1 per case. This type of consumption is passive and perhaps even cowardly. And I am not even discussing the waste. I will leave that to Chris Jordan:

Plastic Bottles, 200760x120" Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

Partial Zoom

Detail at Actual Size

Clicking Away

I am in Seattle for the World Rhythm Festival. While I do not have any musical ability, my sweetie does. So while she drums, I have been trying to work on a paper. I say trying because I have managed to do everything but. It's been a really lousy few weeks and just getting away and being in a city for the weekend is so much fun. We took a bus ride to Ballard to have Oaxacan food and found myself clicking away. I often wander over to tiny red's blog and wonder why her images are so much more colorful than mine. I have decided that the urbanscape has something to do with it. My photos at home are beautiful in their own way. They usually suggest space and isolation with spare color just like the landscape.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Visitor

I saw The Visitor last night. It's a good movie, very sad. I'm still struggling with how it ended. It painted a realistic depiction of my country's flawed immigration policy. At first I thought the film was reaffirming U.S. exceptionalism, but now I think not. It got me questioning whether the U.S. is really such a wonderful place to live for immigrants as well as for those born here. A happy Statue of Liberty moment contrasts with a giant U.S. flag at the airport.

Further thoughts on the film posted a bit later in the day:

I can't get the main character, Walter, out of my head. He is a financially successful tenured white male professor at what appears to be a prestigious university in Connecticut. Walter has been in a funk for the past 20 years. He is forced to attend a conference on his supposed specialty, globalization and the "third world." Everyone at the conference looks just like him- a statement on who makes world economic policies. At first I resented the fact that the film focuses on Walter. Tarek has a much more important story, in my opinion. However, the more I think about it, it makes sense. Walter, like many in this country, are living in a numb stupor and are politically disconnected from others in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. Walter is the perfect metaphor for what many including Marita Sturken in Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero would call, apolitical and disengaged innocence. I'll have to write about Sturken's book at some other point. The book is excellent.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I haven't been doing any real writing on here in awhile. I am not even sure what my readership is anymore. My life has been wonderfully busy with my work, my class, my girlfriend, and my cats. I put the "wonderfully" in here, which surprises me, because I have also been a bit stressed trying to balance all of these aspects of my life, especially school. Jumping into a class with a bunch of PhD seekers has been challenging but also very energizing as, so far, I have been keeeping up!

This renewed sense of self may have had an influence on me and therefore may have indirectly contributed to the wonderful words that a coworker said to me the other day. She said that I have an "unedited voice." I was surprised because alot of editing occurs before I speak, including at (perhaps even, especially at) work. I called her on that fact and she acknowledged my very honest attempts at diplomacy. "Perhaps I should say "your brave voice, that will say what it believes no matter the consequences," she added. OK. I'll take that.

I hope that is true. There are days when I worry I have turned into the mainstream commodity consuming and paper pushing bureaucrat that I criticized during my youthful years.

I will keep speaking what some consider "unedited" and what for me is just what needs to be said. I also encourage you to do the same.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Way to Go!!

Congratulations to Helem are in order for being the 2009 recipient of the Felipe de Souza Award given by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) for their work on LGBTI rights in Lebanon. Helem was the first LGBTI organization in the Middle East and they have been working hard to ensure human rights for LGBTI friends in Lebanon. Thanks Helem for your hard work and thanks IGLHRC for recognizing it!!!