Monday, August 31, 2009

Agency. On it's knees.

I am reminded how lucky we are. I am worried about school and being too busy to pay proper attention to my cats and house. Then I hop from "susies big adventure" to a blog she reads, Coolred where a woman is desperately trying to buy tickets for her and her family to come to the US. She was finally able to divorce her husband and obtain custody of her children. Horray right? Oh, wait, it was because she found out he was abusing her daughters. Not what I would call a lucky break. This is a woman who has been down, been out, but is still willing to stand up for herself, and use what agency she has to bring her family together. Her story is sad, and the only silver lining is that she is now seeing a possible end. I may be in school, I may have gotten laid off. I may not have all the clothing I want, love, and dream about. But I am safe. I am loved. I am fed emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I am home. So I sent her some money to get her there too. This is not the same situation as the prince of nigeria that e-mails you every week. This is a blog which has been running for years, and she finally has a chance to be happy. If you feel like you need a jolt of perspective, even if you have no money to spare, pop over to her blog and wish her well. Please feel blessed when you look at your life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just Came Home From Camping!

Ha Zah! I return from Jasper, ready to take on new school heights. I am sharing some photos which I have edited to mimic some of the 70's-esque over exposed photography which is becoming more popular. Please provide feedback wether this endeavor is positive or icky. Be blunt! I love feedback!

I got an e-mail inviting me to participate in a self directed class where another student and I problem solve a bit with a real problem: nurses in the OR who get chilly, and how to keep them warm with textiles products without putting their patients in danger of cross contamination, etc... maintaining comfort within a technical construct! My brain is whirring a mile a minute!

But that was after Jasper. Jasper was pure tranquility. Perfect weather! Delicious home made food! Wonderful company!

I missed my little cats. But it definitely put the end of the month on a high note, I am in high gear to get back to school!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hipster: Friend or Foe?

OK. So these pictures have NOTHING to do with this entry. I just like them.

My main goal in my Human Ecological journey....
No. Scratch that. My pipe dream when I'm done school is to work for some awesome forward thinking Canadian design company (I lean towards technical outerwear, but anywhere awesome would be amazing). After a few years I would like to open my own store, based around the idea of clothing for good people- clothes that don't suck. Ethical, environmental, stylish, and fun. That may or may not include designing a line myself, it may simply be finding a few lines which make me smile and offering fit tailoring and a personal shopping experience with the price of the goods. (To clarify: I think most "sales associates" are worthless, I think a personal shopper trying to meet your needs and be your slave for an hour is priceless).

Since Fashion is kindof a big part of having a clothing store, I feel the need to address the idea of Hipster. A friend of mine (Clever Monkey... my special special friend who I love and adore but often disagree with) has recently blogged about how she bites her thumb at the hipster trend. The style (bright, eclectic, geek chic, ironic, scarf laden, and weird) that goes with the attitude (pretentious, haughty) is what she addresses. She also mentions that most are in vehement denial of being a hipster.

Flashback: Im 18, I've just come back from South America and mended fences with one of my best friends "L" who was sad at me for leaving her behind.... In my absence she has become this shellacked version of herself: the blonde is blonder, the flared pants are tighter, the belly piercing is still fairly fresh. And she utters the words "I'm not a Choch, I dress like a Choch, but I'm nice."

Choch was the late 90's Hipster... it was the dressed like J-Lo, clean cut favorite Friends character look. The application of a label to the popular style of the time is inevitable. With it, there is usually the generalization of the attitude carried by the worst and (sadly) most "popular" people who adhere to this style. As such, people who find themselves drawn to this style feel the need to distance themselves from the application of that label.

Who wants to be judged by appearances alone? Hipster= buying rich and weird clothes+expensive messy hair+ nasty attitude... It doesn't add up. A person is not contained solely in their clothes. I know that the people I go to school with who dress as "hipsters" are for the most part really awesome people. And I know that my dear friend L was and always will be an amazing girl, Choch or not... Why should someone eschew all popular convention just to impress upon the public that they are a nice person? Most people feel like the odd one out. Many do not have memories of being the cool kids in school, and the negative feelings of being on the other side of the fence tend to make people view trendy clothing as a signifier of not belonging, of how they differ from the crowd. So I think for many, popular=negative because of previous experiences with 'the cool crowd'. I disagree. Those who dress as hipsters are doing so 1) because they like the clothes 2) because the clothes help accent their personality 3) because most stores are trafficking clothes which qualify as hipster. Sometimes you buy what fits, what is available, and hipster is here. It's the Hannah M.ontana brand in, and everywhere from Urban O.utfitters, XXI, A.ritzia, it is difficult to locate a store which is completely void of Hip... (unless you go into places your Grandma thinks are cool). My theory is that a large population of hipsters are just trying to avoid nakedness....

The fear that the homogenized label will take away from a persons personal choice to express themselves causes many to delve as deeply as possible into the image- striving for wider and weirder breadth of Hipster. Because as the old adage says- go big or go home! In Orange County that refers to pool or breast size. In the 80's it refered to Flock of Seagulls hair or your lapels or pants pleats. In the 90's it referred to your rave pants, or how low your hiphuggers were. Now its thick geek glasses and skinny jeans. Instead of throwing stones, why not address ones own image and try to accent it to the max? Why not indulge in your appearance everyday? Why would you not want to appear the utmost YOU that YOU can be? Who doesn't want to belong, to mesh well with their chosen crew of friends? I honestly don't think its fair to take issue with the hipster because it is only a label, and the semiotic link to a negative attitude perception is really assigned by the viewer. If only reviewing the label of 'hipster' as a reference to the clothing style, then you are challenged to judge the person as a person... Like your mom would want you to. Additionally, since prejudging the hipster as a nasty group of rich trendsters is not very nice either, isn’t the whole concept a bit... hypocritical? What if they see you as a WASP, a jock, or a hipster wanna-be (ie: oh gosh you own a scarf). Why can’t we just all get along!?!

I have one pair of slim (not skinny) jeans, a few cardigans, and many scarves. My husband wants to buy some thick rim geek chic glasses. If that makes us hipster, or trendy sheep, or whatever... I can’t say I’m disappointed. I’m not heartbroken by it, because it means I am attuned to the current undercurrent of fashion, and I hope that I stay that way, since my livelihood depends on it. I think anyone who disregards an entire gaggle of people because of perceived attitude is absolutely absurd and prejudiced. People all fit into a genre, even if you buy into an alternative vein- be it Goth, Rock n Roll, or boring old Eddie Bauer chic, you fit somewhere, and to deny others the right to fit somewhere without a fair shot at being a nice person is absolute bullox. I dress for the most part in t-shirts and jeans, and thats not likely to change until I’m done school. I am drawn to many different avenues of appearance- I love the clean lines of J. Crew, I am an avid camper so cargo pants and tanks are also up my alley. I like tattoos and piercings and the punk look. I also think the hipster look is fun and eclectic, and easily achieved with second hand clothes... which I love! Perhaps I need to do a social experiment and track peoples behavior in each of these looks, and define myself by how much disdain or love I receive from people. Heaven forbid I be afforded the right to wear what I want to when I want to, and be awesome all the time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I love design in teams.

I love to design in teams, unfortunately, you don't always get the chance. Talking with some girlfriends today we discussed how having someone to work off of is really important. They will call you on your rotten ideas, and help suss out your great ones. Or, as is the case for me, they will bug me to get to work because I procrastinate way too much. I just think team work is really important for making functionality or success of a project well rounded, not just catered to the very whim of the designer... What do you think?

I got to design a project FOR someone recently, and it was an eye opening experience. Making sure communication was clear (I drew plans, she got to build it) was really quite difficult. Her project did come out really clean and fresh, I'll see if I can get some pics to post of it, but it was tricky.

Additionally, here is my latest design portfolio peice... It's all due tomorrow, but I actually like this project. Since I love teams and feedback, feel free to get me into a frantic jig fixing things if you have any commentary.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Brevity. Project Photos. Horray!

This post is just to prove I can be brief. Here is some logo stuff I have been working on in my Design class. I have a LOT of work to do, but this stuff so far was fun.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So we're not all Doc Brown...

The term inventor conjures images of gurgling heated pyrex, large blinking lights on daunting ray-gun shaped apparatus, and the mad scientist hovering in his secret underground lead-lined lab.

As delicious as that concept may be, it is unfortunately quite far from the truth. Inventors are people who see a problem, and find a solution. Often the invention is not even a product in and of itself, but a bridge between the user and the original solution which often has a very difficult interface. Not everyone realizes that simple problem solving is the same as invention. This can be a lucrative endeavor, spiritually, emotionally as well as (hopefully) economically. Even if no money is made, your spirit will be exercised by the simplification of things in the world. Work towards good. Make things better. Not that hard! (right?)

Human Ecology touts invention as a centrifugal force behind bettering ones environment. I think part of what makes an inventor is the unification of self: if you have control of your mental, physical, spiritual, and social environments, you will be better able to integrate your whole wealth of knowledge and find solutions to share with others. Even going back to the historical figures of Human Ecology, Ellen Swallow Richards put forward the idea that "no Board of Health can separate the physical nature of man from his moral and intellectual parts." (Human Ecology: A View of the Issues, xiii) If you replace "Board of Health" with anything really- no business, no philosophy, no external framework....(blah blah). I think that it goes without saying that although this seems like a common sense statement, this is not how most of the world approaches problem solving, not to mention life, and leisure. When you unify your self, you can accomplish more, by thinking like a full well rounded person.

I am not sure what I think about this to the full extent, because there's so much that people do which is counterintuitive to this, which could be perceived as successful or not. For instance: people skip their spiritual attention when on vacation, or simply because they choose to eschew all spiritual intelligence, mistaking spiritual awareness with a need to be religious. When pampering themselves physically or emotionally, or working a lot, many people allow their spiritual selves to be ignored for convenience sake. Conversely, when trying to grow spiritually, many different belief systems tout fasting to allow for clarity or attention to only the internal self, shutting out the physical realm. While working the grind, people put their personal lives aside, their social life is forgotten because they choose to exert that effort into career development (which is likely subject to the law of diminishing returns). This career commitment is often revered by management (although not usually echoed by them, shocking....), but often the actual monetary rewards are negligible for the individual, and without extensive career advancement being possible, this effort may not be beneficial.
But I digress... Theres just so much to think about!

Back to Invention:
Needless to say, I like to be a problem solver. I think everyone has that potential. I have included lists and links of things which I think prove that we are all capable of bettering this world.

Things that prove that everyone desires to invent/problem solve:
The natural good feeling you have when you clean your house top to bottom
The number of things you can do with a rubber band
The vast number of paperclips which are not used for their intended purpose (80%)
The amount of things shown on DragonsDen that actually make sense

Solutions which make me happy:
Silver infused cleaning products which allow me to clean without chemicals (go Norwex!)
My uncles bent handle knife which allows arthritic seniors to butter their own bread (way to go Neil!)
Clothing drafting processes which standardize shape/fit so that everyone can design things
Ipods, computers, and all the engineering that helps me not break them into pieces with my rough treatment

Solutions which make me laugh:
All those weird infomercials selling bra strap do-hickeys or hair lifting apparatus'
Plug in Lawnmowers (how long did it take them to think of the battery charged kind?)

"Solutions" which make me sad:
Dumping things into the ocean
Not recycling
Cultural segregation and misinformation

Ok. I've said enough. (A couple of times). Try to think of something which needs to be solved, and how you can think about it outside the box... not necessarily solve the problem, even just pass it along to someone else who might have the agency to bring about a solution...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I don't always understand.

A year after apologizing for our ill treatment of first nations people, Canada's government continues to ignore simple requests for adequate facilities.

Does anyone else find this yucky, y'know... if you have a heart?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And I will take door number....

Making your choices in a manner that benefits you.

Agency. The final frontier. The ability to feel in control of your situation to the point of knowing how to take steps to adjust your path if needed.

Agency is a huge issue in poverty, policy, fashion, career choices, living situations.
The woman who is in an abusive relationship thinks she cannot stand on her feet without him.
The employee who attempts to institute fresh ideas who is impeded by the old-boys club mentality.
The family on welfare (or a tight budget of any kind for that matter) buys all canned and frozen groceries from Wa.l -mart because they can buy clothes and other things there also, and don't want to take a separate bus to a market with fresh food.
The clothing industry produces most garments in the third world in questionable factories.
Overweight people who eat poorly because they like these foods, or don't exercise because it's hard.
People work jobs which take them far from their loved ones, far from their passion, in order to provide the standard of living they believe is necessary for "happiness" (the 2 days they're home every two weeks).

All examples of people who HAVE choices, but really feel like they are stuck.

I live downtown. I am surrounded by examples of people who feel like they have no agency over their situation.
The homeless sit on the street begging, and people say "there are so many organizations developed to help them". And there are. Institutions ready to give a hand up to someone willing to make change. They assist agency. So why do the homeless remain an issue at all? The homeless man feels embarrassed at his appearance, angry at his inability to control his addiction, proud that he can at least self sustain by begging rather than becoming dependent on someone else's charity. Or, sadly, some don't want to end their addiction, or it's grasp is just too tight.

But why throw stones. We all have things we like or dislike about ourselves.

It seems like the more you think about it, the more you realize- there's help out there for everyone, if you really want to change things in your life. I mean- reality television is full of self help, as long as you're willing to subject yourself to a bit of humiliation too (see Pretty Wicked on Fashion. Those girls have PROBLEMS). If not, there's hope for you yet, even if that help only comes from adjusting your attitude:

I felt like I did not have control of my academic understanding of human ecology. I have started a blog to review it's relevance in my life. In addition, it allows me to share some of my best (and worst also, I'm sure) moments with people I know.
I felt like I did not have control of my food consumption, my allergies were beginning to control me. My husband and I now eat home made food every day, and I buy groceries on the weekend and prepare a big Lunch Soup for the week. This also made it a lot easier to budget as we stopped buying takeout from school and work.
I felt like I was not being active, both socially and from a physical perspective. I set up a weekly coffee date with some of the truest friends I have ever known, even if we had lost touch. I got rid of my downtown parking space, and now park down a giant hill which I walk up and down every time I need my car. This makes me acknowledge what an amazing greenspace Edmonton has in the river valley, and also makes me consider how much I need to use my car a lot more carefully. (Walking is Rad. My view of the city parks is amazing).

I find that the more I take control of little things that matter to me, the more I am exposed to additional perks and benefits that are just along for the ride. The JOY of being at ease with who I am, and that at least in little ways I am attempting to better myself, learn from things. It makes accepting my flaws that much easier.

I want to make a lot of my own clothes; I find I put it on the back burner, because the rest of life has me busy busy busy. I know that would make me a lot more at ease with the ethical clothing issue. One course last year had us watching a documentary about a little chinese 14 year old girl who snipped threads off jeans for less than a dollar a day. I sometimes discuss with friends as a joke, "oh, little Bei Lei didn't finish my jeans, she only gets $0.06/hr now". And then my laugh turns into a wry smile and my stomach churns, that my western culture has progressed to where a $10.00 shirt is more important than someone else's living situation. Yes, they are across the world, but I am the one supporting that notion, because I am cheap and I am not taking agency over my stance on the issue. I am part of the problem.

So maybe that will be my next endeavor for personal change. If I didn't sew it myself, or buy it from a second hand store, it should be ethical. I know NICE (New, Innovative, Concious [eco], Ethical) clothing exists! American Ap.parel produces in America and pays decent(ish) wages, so I'm on board. Sure most company's have an ethical standpoint on their website, but it usually reads like a plausible deniability smoke screen. "we strive to ensure our workers receive adequate pay and appropriate benefits, upholding the labor laws of the specific country in question" ("strive" means when they visit and talk to the workers, if they say they get paid "X" and get "X" days off, it's all roses even when employees know they're forced to lie or be fired). This bothers me so much, I subscribed to e-mails from a global union support website newsletter which advises what factories are really up to, which country governments are in cahoots with manufacturers to try to discredit or destroy unions. In some situations (more often than I'm comfortable knowing about) people die for the right to get paid enough to live. What a disgrace! Go to to learn more about the insane things which occur in the name of a cheap sports bra.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to change this world we live in? Does boycotting certain brands you know have breached your personal limits do anything? What about letter writing, or do you think people should show support through monetary support of NICE clothing to get their message across?
What about places like
They rescue sheep and make clothes that are sooooo cute.
Barring me being allergic to wool, I would absolutely love this clothing.
Should we all start to think, live, eat and play NICE, and the corporations will follow?