Sunday, 30 September 2012

Appropriation vs Inspiration

I have been thinking about something a fair amount lately, I wanted to share my thoughts with you. I'd be curious to hear what your opinions are, but no pressure. I need to share two little snippets of information with you in order for us to to get to The Actual Point, hokay? So bear with me.

Snippet the First:

About a year ago, a lot of controversy surrounded a line of Urban Outfitters merchandise that was based on Navajo designs/patterns/ideas.* Many people were upset by this blatant appropriation of Native American culture, and horrified by the cheap representation of meaningful symbols and designs on underwear, flasks, and t-shirts. It certainly didn't help that the CEO of Urban Outfitters is none other than a very rich, very White man. There is something very icky about someone who is so traditionally privileged benefiting from the appropriation and sale of Navajo-influenced pieces.

Snippet the Second:

At a recent visit to the Chihuly Glass Museum at the Seattle Center, I was reading a sign about some of Chihuly's earlier influences. It was very interesting to see from where he drew inspiration, and to note the designs that existed in nature and were replicated in his work. He has an absolutely stunning glass sculpture of sea life, for example, and another one of a whimsical garden. They are breath-taking. Before visitors reached this stage of the museum, though, we had the opportunity to view some of his work that had been inspired by patterns and designs he saw in Native American basket and blanket weaving. Unsurprisingly, the results were stunning in glass as well as in the wall of woolen blankets on display. The glass didn't exactly replicate the colours, designs, and patterns, nor did his pieces exactly mimic the shape of the baskets, but the influence was clear. He had been inspired by their art.

In the case for of the first example, hearing about and seeing the appropriation of Native American (specifically Navajo) art made me feel sick and sad. Since we ("we" the Europeans) first set foot on this continent, we have systematically destroyed Native American life and culture. We should be ashamed. We should be making amends. I include myself in this though I did not, of course, have anything to do with the earliest genocide of the Native Americans. A huge proportion of this country is White, living on land stolen from the people who were here first, who had (and have) a connection to this land that most of us will never understand. Doesn't it just seem to add insult to injury to start displaying their stolen culture on our review mirrors and thin cotton t-shirts (never mind on our underwear and flasks, for godssake)?

On the OTHER hand (and this is the one I can perhaps see as an argument, but don't actually agree with): Isn't fashion, to a degree, "art"? Now, I'm not saying that Urban Outfitters in particular is especially artsy or original, but just go with this idea with me. Clothing and household chotchkies are inexpensive, ubiquitous types of art. Not museum quality, no, but art nevertheless. Everyday art. And doesn't art always derive some of its influence and inspiration from the world around us? Of course Native American art is beautiful. I have never heard any debate over that. Isn't it understandable that designers (of clothing or anything else) might want to incorporate those designs?

And, after all, it is somehow acceptable (to me, at least), that Chihuly would use this inspiration in his art. Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that his use of the art is a "tribute" to Native American culture, I would at least certainly say that it respectful and not offensive.

So why do I see these as so different? Surely I'm not the only one, as there has been tremendous backlash over the Urban Outfitters merchandise, but not (as far as I know) over the Chihuly glass.

After all, they are both types of "art," are they not? More and less highbrow and meaningful for sure, but still art.

After all, they both profit financially from the creation and sale of these pieces.

After all, they are both produced by well-to-do White men.

And yet, one makes me super prickly, and the other does not have the same effect. Chihuly's art makes me think, but it doesn't raise my hackles in the same way.

While I recognise that other people have very different reactions to each of this situations, I can really only examine my own... at least, right now. I hope you'll chime in with your own gut-reactions or measured opinions.

*Urban Outfitters is far from the first, and certainly not the last, to be ridiculed for their appropriation of Native American culture. I don't think they are any better or worse than anyone else out there who has done this same thing, but they were the example I had on hand.

**ETA: I was at Jo-Ann Fabrics on Friday, and came across these fabric patterns (in micro-suede type fabric), wedged in between a whole bunch of different animal prints. Yep, you could get leopard skin, zebra stripe, cow pattern, and dalmatian (which... what? are we channeling Cruella deVille?)... or you could get "nebulously Native American." I'm letting this one speak for itself, in part because I am getting tired of throwing my hands in the air and stomping around, and in part because I'm very curious to see what others may say about it. (And sorry for the poor picture quality. My phone camera is not as awesome as I'd like!)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

New Experiences

With the mere click of a button, it is possible to go from Not Being in Debt at All (yes, I know, shut up already), to being in Significant Debt.

Oh, financial aid.

Oh, loans.

Oh..... education.

Monday, 24 September 2012


Have I mentioned recently that I avoid going to doctors and virtually all costs? Like, if my right arm were to fall off, I would probably seriously consider whether this was something I could fix myself. I would genuinely entertain the possibility that it might be self-healing. (I would, in this example, indeed go to a hospital. But I would do it under great duress.)

Anything less than a severed limb or cardiac arrest? I'm SO not going. I'll throw some ice on it, or take some IBprofen, or drink some herbal tea with honey. I remain convinced that nearly everything can be cured with herbal tea and honey. Nothing you can say, and no study you can point to, will convince me otherwise.

So I have band aids and honey... why would I ever need to go to a doctor?

Preventative health care, kids. They say it's important, and they aren't kidding. I went to the doctor the other to get a vaccination (I do accept that tea and honey will not ward off chicken pox), but before they would give me the vaccination they insisted on a Full Physical. Because, to be fair, I had not had one in over two years. BUT! STILL! So after I've been poked and prodded within an inch of my life, they gave me two vaccinations. In my left arm, I got the Tdap vaccine. In my right, I got the flu shot. Ok, ok, this is all worthwhile.

Then they brought out another needle, with the intention of retrieving enough blood from me to run a general blood panel, and find out if I'm immune to chicken pox already. I presented the inside of my right elbow, and after considerable astonishment at the size of my veins (smaller than the naked eye can see! almost), sufficient blood was retrieved.

Several days later, they called to tell me that my blood test revealed that I have an immunity to chicken pox already, left over from the vaccine I had at age 7.

Well, good.

Except that now I feel like I was tricked into going to the doctor.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Eggs, Pioneers, and Lunch

I just poached two eggs that I collected from the chicken coop this morning.

Yes, you MAY call me Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How to Determine Your Budget

I will absolutely, definitely not spend more than $150 on tickets to the concert. That would be crazy.

Unless, you know, the tickets are $200. But no more than that. Certainly.

Unless, well, what if they were $250? It should be a really cool concert. I really want to see her perform. And think of what fun we would all have, coming up with costumes and dressing up outrageously.

Ok, definitely no more than $250.

Unless... unless they are $300.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


I keep memories like some people keep teacups, or shoes, or cats. They gather, in various forms, in all of the corners of my life. I have photographs stuck into the space between my mirror and its frame, or wedged into a picture holder. I keep them in closets, in frames, stuck between the pages of a book. I treat them with a certain off-hand reverence. Though I feel no need to look at them regularly, or even organise them, I can't imagine ever getting rid of one. (The advent of digital photography was fabulous for me. I take thousands of photos, and scrapbook my life in explosions of sticker letters and cut out paper.) I keep posters from plays in which I acted, programmes of performances I saw, ticket stubs, meaningful papers of every kind. I even have the receipt from the first legal alcohol I bought (bottle of rose, in London). They collect dust, these memories, just as I collect them. On one wall of my bedroom is a map of the world, surrounded entirely by postcards-- those I have bought myself, and those others have sent me. We have a dance, these postcards and I; I stick them up, they fall down. We repeat the process.

We're not talking about anything outrageous, exactly. I don't have mountains of flimsy paper memories, waiting to crush me with not only the the weight of their Extreme Emotional Importance, but also their physical mass. I'm not The Crazy Memory Lady, not yet. I just... like to remember.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I realised why I do this. Other people are capable of having experiences without needing to document every moment or save every memento. Other people pull out their cameras rarely, never save ticket stubs, return their programmes to be recycled. I don't. I could. But I don't.

In the past 25 years of my life, I have resided in 8 different cities. I've lived in 12 houses and apartments and 4 dorm rooms. I've gone to two preschools, two elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and one divine college. I'll start graduate school in just a few days. This life thing... it goes by fast, guys. The places that are so important, the people who make your world, they aren't there forever. Well, that sounds morbid. I don't mean they all up and DIE (though, of course, we all do eventually. HA now it's definitely morbid), just that we don't spend all of our lives surrounded by the people by whom we would love to be surrounded. That's not tragedy, that's opportunity, and adventure, and growth... but it still means there is room for Memories.

I treasure my memories of my growing up years, and I don't need photographs (or postcards, ticket stubs, and receipts) to remember a lot of it. But some recollections come back even stronger when paired with a visual. I know this. Sometimes I look around at my life, the one I'm living right now, and think, "I'll miss this someday." It's not sad, it just makes the moment sweeter. Nothing lasts forever. That's good; it means we have to learn to appreciate everything.

Nothing lasts forever... except, I hope, my memories.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I'm keeping track this year

Total number of school days so far: 6
Total number of forgotten homework assignments (completed, but left at home): 3
Total number of trips I have made to the middle school to deliver these: 2*

*One assignment was left at home, but was remembered before we got all the way to school. Mad dash back to the house!