Wednesday, August 31, 2005

song of the day | august 31, 2005

Lots Of Lovin' - Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth Listen

forum VI

This is a vintage photo of the former Forum VI in northwest Greensboro. The 280,000-square-foot mall was originally concieved as an upscale, enclosed counterpart to the open-air Friendly Shopping Center, which is adjacent to its site at the corner of Northline Avenue and Pembroke Road.

Set into a hillside, the innovative building featured three levels of parking and a two-level mall, with office space located in an upper level. It opend in 1976 with Montaldo's clothing store and K&W Cafeteria as anchors but succeeded only briefly. The addition of a food court and a renovated interior during a mid '80s upgrade did nothing to help the mall's fortunes.

The combination of uncomfortably upscale retail, a fortress-like exterior and an accute lack of space for expansion or larger, more popular tenants led to the slow but sure demise of Forum VI, which closed to the public in 1997 (save for K&W Cafeteria) after Montaldo's went out of business and its replacement, Coplon's, relocated to a freestanding space a couple miles away.

In 1998, Forum VI was gutted, refaced and reborn as Signature Place, an office complex that replaced the mall with office space for such companies as UBS, First Citizens Insurance, Novartis Animal Health and, strangely enough, Tanger Factory Outlets. In its present form, it's substantially more successful, though pretty damn ugly.

vanishing funky signs

This the last sign I know of with the 1970s/1980s logo for Leon's Style Salons, a chain of beauty salons in Greensboro. Leon's still has locations all over the city, but they converted most of the locations to the newer, boring logo from 1990. This salon was opend circa 1987, so it was too new a sign to throw away, yet it's still outdated. Bad for them, perfect for retro sign fetshists. :-)

Looting in the Big Easy

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- With much of the city flooded by Hurricane Katrina, looters floated garbage cans filled with clothing and jewelry down the street in a dash to grab what they could. In some cases, looting on Tuesday took place in full view of police and National Guard troops.

At a Walgreen's drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.

When police finally showed up, a young boy stood in the door screaming, "86! 86!" _ the radio code for police _ and the crowd scattered.

Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, stood outside and snapped pictures in amazement.

"It's downtown Baghdad," the housewife said. "It's insane. I've wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not."

Around the corner on Canal Street, the main thoroughfare in the central business district, people sloshed headlong through hip-deep water as looters ripped open the steel gates on the front of several clothing and jewelry stores.

One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was asked if he was salvaging things from his store.

"No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store."

Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by.

Mike Franklin stood on the trolley tracks and watched the spectacle unfold.

"To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society," he said.

A man walked down Canal Street with a pallet of food on his head. His wife, who refused to give her name, insisted they weren't stealing from the nearby Winn-Dixie supermarket. "It's about survival right now," she said as she held a plastic bag full of purloined items. "We got to feed our children. I've got eight grandchildren to feed."

At a drug store on Canal Street just outside the French Quarter, two police officers with pump shotguns stood guard as workers from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel across the street loaded large laundry bins full of medications, snack foods and bottled water.

"This is for the sick," Officer Jeff Jacob said. "We can commandeer whatever we see fit, whatever is necessary to maintain law."

Another office, D.J. Butler, told the crowd standing around that they would be out of the way as soon as they got the necessities.

"I'm not saying you're welcome to it," the officer said. "This is the situation we're in. We have to make the best of it."

The looting was taking place in full view of passing National Guard trucks and police cruisers.

One man with an armload of clothes even asked a policeman, "can I borrow your car?"

Some in the crowd splashed into the waist-deep water like giddy children at the beach.

If the shoe fits ...

Be unique down to your toes by designing custom footwear online.

The Orange County (CA) Register

The newest story in sneakers is the development of design-your-own-shoes features on Web sites by Nike, Converse, Vans and the like.

Vans pioneered the idea in 1966 when it was a small Orange County company. Customers could bring in fabrics and have a pair of shoes made. Spokesman Chris Overholzer recalls a favorite company story about the divorced woman who made shoes from a fur coat her husband had given her.

As the company grew, that kind of customization became unwieldy. Now, on the Internet, it's easy. Click-and-paint features give you myriad ways to customize Old Skools or Slip-Ons.

Nike and Converse offer similar options.

And while you're at it, create your own T-shirt, too. Type "design your own T-shirt" into Google and see what pops up.

One person's story
I was excited to read about how Converse had set up a Web application where anyone could design his or her own Chucks. Intrigued by the possibility, I decided to give it a try.

The first dilemma was figuring out which unisex size was right for me. There were simple instructions on the site, but that did not calm my fear of having a personally designed wall ornament if the shoes did not fit.

I found the experience to be downright fun. I had a flood of ideas, but also a nagging feeling that I might come up with nothing more than expensive power-line fodder.

My design was inspired by rockabilly music, so the final touch was a personalized monogram for the heel that reads I IV V - the basic musical structure for most rock 'n' roll. It seemed to be more appropriate than my name or initials. I figured those who know will understand.

I placed the order, and roughly 4-1/2 weeks later I received my designer Chucks. They fit and look great ... to me. I will definitely do it again for myself or as a gift.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

my neighborhood | shopopolis

Shopopolis, Consuming the Future, and other post-Malling of America observations...

This is the blog of William Severini Kowinski, author of The Malling of America, one of my favorite books.

help in a time of need

Please support the American Red Cross efforts to provide relief to disaster-stricken regions of the U.S.

Hurricane Katrina has taken its toll on the Gulf Coast region and South Florida, and its life-changing aftermath is devastating. To make a donation online, click here.

Federated Completes Merger With May

Note from Steve: how fitting that this would happen on my birthday.

Chain Store Age

Cincinnati - Federated Department Stores announced it has completed its merger with The May Department Stores Co., forming a company with more than 1,000 stores and $30 billion in annual sales.

“Two great organizations have come together and we see tremendous opportunity ahead,” said Terry Lundgren, Federated’s chairman and CEO.

Federated said it will operate all of May’s stores under their existing nameplates at least through the end of the year. Next fall, it plans to convert most May locations to its Macy’s banner. The company reiterated a promise that there will be no job cuts or layoffs before March 1.

The company also added an additional seven stores (in California, New York and Massachusetts) to its previously announced list of 68 stores that it plans to divest. Together, the 75 stores identified for divesture accounted for approximately $2.1 billion in 2004 sales.

this is me, then | the collection

In honor of my 30th birthday, I published a picture from each year of my life to the blog during the first month of 2005. Amazingly, I was able find a picture for every year but 1984, 1992 and 1994. Now that I’ve completed the project, here are the pictures:

1975 - newborn
1976 - hair!
1977 - young Newt Gingrich
1978 - clothes dryer
1979 - seriously rocking

1980 - bored
1981 - party
1982 - Easter
1983 - ironically stylish
1985 - forever the stud!
1986 - orange
1987 - fat gut
1988 - madras!
1989 - all-vertical

1990 - stripes
1991 - bad contrast
1993 - prop suit
1995 - rather stunning
1996 - piñata
1997 - very 'chill'
1998 - college
1999 - loveseat

2000 - a slightly different pose
2001 - LMW
2002 - burgundy and gold
2003 - Chuck E. Cheese
2004 - cap on my head

song of the day | august 30, 2005

Rock With You - Michael Jackson Listen

It was a hard choice, considering how many songs I've heard over the years, but this is probably the closest to being my favorite song ever that you'll find.

Monday, August 29, 2005

everyone says "happy birthday"

I am gratified that I have such wonderful friends, both online and offline. Here's just a sample of why I love all of you out in Steve-land:

Happy birthday Steve! I always think of you as being about 26, but I guess you WERE about 26 when I met you. Anyway, you don't look 30ish , more like 26!!


Happy 30th, my friend. It's hard to believe that 12 years ago almost to the day, we started at Virginia Tech, dropping our X-Acto Kinves on the floor and trying to diagram the sound they made when they hit. Today, we are old and bitter (well, I was always bitter). Happy Birthday.

Todd M.

I got a story. When I was liking Ed Helms (of The Daily Show) , people on this improv board would wish him a happy birthday, and this had been going on for a couple of years, and evey year, this guy would reply on the board with:


So there's my story.


Happy 30th Man, and many more!!!
Have a great birthday....ENJOY!
If I lived nearby, I'd meet you somewhere!!!!

Bryan R.

are you going to be 30?
If so, Damn your old.

Johnny K.

So you're gonna be 30 tomorrow? Live it up!

Happy Birthday!!!

~Carrie =)

Happy 30th Birthday Enjoy your day, be good!!!

Don't do anything, if you have the chance of getting caught(legally).

Cindy S.

Happy Birthday Steve! You don't look a day past 20... well, in the 1995 picture anyways. ;)


What a truly selfless and civic-minded way to observe this dubiously important milestone in your young life. You are a model citizen. Now go out tomorrow and drink your self into a blubbering, self-pitying mess.

Happy Birthday!!!


Happy Birthday, Steve! I hope you have a great 30th birthday!


Hey steve, its the Big 3-0!!! Congrats buddy. May the good lord bless u with many more years of joy, contentment, style and good taste. Drink up, this rounds on me :)



Happy birthday!! Any plans for the big day?

Derek M.

Happy B-day you old son of a bitch, I hope you do something exciting or do someone exciting.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! Hope you have a good one. I sure miss you and hope we can all get together for dinner one evening. Take care and have a real good Birthday.


THE BIG 3 0!
Happy Birthday man, I hope you have wonderful Day.
What will your choice of cake be?
Angie, Charlee or Ashley?

We can throw Rachel in as a bonus.................................

Todd R.

Happy birthday old man. You do realize that it's all down hill from here. I hope it’s a good one.
Take care,

Happy Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Derek H.

my kinda town

Note from Steve: I'm not trying to offend anyone with this, and if anyone is offeneded, please just take my sincere apology now and don't send hate mail. This is seriously a town in Austria. (48' 03"N 13' 51"E). I was laughing my ass off.

The second sign (below) carries the hilarity even further: "Bitte — nicht so schnell!" is German for "Please — not so fast!" (Evidently this type of sign is a commonplace reminder in those parts for drivers to keep their speed down to protect children, but the unintended double meaning in this case is particularly amusing.)

When you think of Austria, no doubt you think of such cities and towns as Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg. But there is another one. And because of its name, tourists steal the signs. The name? It's Fucking.

Agence France Presse and Britain's Sunday Telegraph report that the residents of Fucking(pronounced Fooking) are quite perturbed with British tourists who think the name of the town is so hilarious they want to take a piece of it home with them. So they swipe the signs. There are only 32 homes in this charming Austrian village with breathtaking views of lakes and forests and none of its residents understand why their signs are so popular. In fact, sign stealing is the only crime in Fucking.

The good people of Fucking have wised up. They have embedded their signs in concrete. Try stealing one now! We quote. Directly. Exactly. This is what police chief Kommandant Schmidtberger told the Sunday Telegraph: "We will not stand for the Fucking signs being removed. It may be very amusing for you British, but Fucking is simply Fucking to us. What is this big Fucking joke? It is puerile."

Interestingly, it is only the British who seem to have such a fascination with the name of this little town. A local guide told the Telegraph that the Germans want to see the Mozart house in Salzburg, while the Americans only care about the area around which "The Sound of Music" was filmed. The Japanese just want to see Hitler's birthplace in Braunau. The British are different. A woman who runs a guest house told the paper, "Just this morning I had to tell an English lady who stopped by that there were no Fucking postcards."

These Austrians may be on to something about the Brits. The BBC News reports that a Northamptonshire secondary school in Great Britain has had such a problem with its students swearing that they have instituted a five-word limit in each class. When a student swears, the teacher writes a mark on the board. After five marks, no one is allowed to swear for the duration of the class. If the rule is broken? They get a severe talking-to by the teacher. We're thinking there won't be any field trips to Fucking, Austria.

Outnumbered and out of place: The fair-skinned A&F image is just plain racist

Note from Steve: Thanks to Heather for finding this story. My experiences at Abercrombie & Ftch have not been as bad as the writer's, but Mom and I's incident at Sur La Table reinforces that "shopping-while-black" is still a problem, and a widespread one at that.

Mary Andom / NEXT team
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

While cruising the mall recently, I couldn't help but notice the sea of white streaming in and out of the Abercrombie & Fitch store.

"Oooh, Abercrombie's having a blow-out sale," my friend said. "Let's go in."

"Uh, I don't know," I told her. "Black folk don't really shop here. I'll walk around the food court or something."

But secretly, I wanted to know what all the buzz was about. I had never had the courage to walk into an Abercrombie before.

"C'mon, it'll only be a minute, promise," my friend said.

As I stepped foot in that store, I felt I was in dangerous territory. An uneasiness swelled in my stomach as the customers looked on in curiosity. Feeling outnumbered and out of place, I tried to look as natural as possible. I shuffled my feet and poked at the clothing. A bubbly sales clerk chirped, "Uh huh, yeah, that tube top looks great with those low-rise jeans," as techno music pulsated in the background.

Every couple of minutes, though, she would look over my shoulder and when I'd catch her glance, she'd squeeze off an uneasy smile. Not once did a sales clerk ask if I needed anything or wanted to try something on.

But I've long dealt with this reality of Shopping-While-Black: either you're ignored or followed.

The billboard of handsome white jocks and beautiful white women frolicking in fields reminded me of how different I am from them. They are tall, slender and fair-skinned or Asian — everyone from the customers to the cashiers.

"Traitor, you don't belong here," that little voice in my head admonished. "Black people don't shop here."

I had had enough and was ready to leave when my friend chimed in, "Great, I found it, he's going to love this shirt."

"OK, let's just get out of here."

When I walked out, I was reminded of the many reasons why I refuse to spend my money in a place like Abercrombie & Fitch:

• I don't have the "A&F look."

• The suburban lifestyle doesn't appeal to me.

• The Abercrombie image is just plain racist.

We all know that beauty is largely defined in this culture as white. Even some of the most popular black actresses and pop stars, such as Halle Barry and Beyonce, have lighter skin and long silky tresses.

At a young age, we are taught that white is beautiful — from Cinderella to Barbie. As a child, I used to smear my mother's dark foundation all over my Barbie's face and plait her hair so she could look just like me.

Imagine what message this is sending to the little black girl with dark skin, textured hair and full lips. Is she not beautiful or American enough?

Abercrombie employs these live Barbies to reinforce the Eurocentric ideal of beauty — or as they call it, the "all-American look." I always thought "all-American" referred to the melting pot theory we're taught in school. But I guess Abercrombie had something else in mind.

This controversial image is at the very heart of a racial-discrimination suit filed against Abercrombie & Fitch by nine Hispanic and Asian employees who accuse the company of unfair employment practices. Perhaps surprisingly, there are no black plaintiffs in the suit. In a way, we've created color-coded fashion associating the urban look of flashy tennis shoes, puffy coats, baggy jeans and jerseys with blacks, and the suburban look of khaki pants, polo tops and Dr. Martens with whites.

And Abercrombie represents this image perfectly, further propagating stereotypes and hatred with its racist message. Does Abercrombie have an obligation to represent minorities on their billboards and in their stores and catalogs? That's for the courts to decide.

But honestly, I cringe at the thought of Abercrombie & Fitch expanding its marketing of self-hate and racism to even more people.

Mary Andom is a Western Washington University freshman. E-mail:

29 pieces of advice…

…from a guy who’s having his last day as a 29-year-old.
  1. Be honest with yourself, even if you can’t with anyone else.
  2. Always give to charity, but remember that charity starts at home.
  3. Date frequently and have as much sex as you can when you’re in college. It gets harder to meet someone afterwards.
  4. Eat as well as you can afford to, and as close to natural as possible. You may not lose weight, but your body will thank you.
  5. Don’t take crap from anybody.
  6. Make sure you have a comfortable place to sleep.
  7. Embrace your inner child, but be adult enough to snap out of it when necessary.
  8. Never ask or answer the question: “Do I look fat in this?”
  9. Indulge in a couple of guilty pleasures, preferably ones that won’t kill you.
  10. Exercise regularly. Even if it’s just taking the stairs.
  11. Geekiness will help you meet people on the internet, not so much in real life.
  12. Have a favorite beer.
  13. If you can afford to go to college, make sure you do.
  14. Keep a gas card handy. You’ll thank me later.
  15. If you love someone and they don’t love you back, set them free.
  16. Learn a trade that you can make extra money with.
  17. Make as many friends as you can…and treat them even better than you want to be treated.
  18. Own at least one good pair of shoes.
  19. Never tow the line of a political party.
  20. Read a book or two regularly.
  21. Procrastination only works occasionally to one’s favor.
  22. You cannot drink your problems away.
  23. Respect your parents, even if you have to move across the country to be able to deal with them.
  24. Make friends with a good lawyer. You may need him or her someday.
  25. Rock out to some good music sometimes. You’ll feel better afterwards.
  26. Never charge more than half your credit limit on a credit card.
  27. Know enough about sports and current events to carry on a relevant conversation.
  28. Make sure you know the difference between sex and love.
  29. Sometimes it’s just better to shut up.

goofy finds at sur la table

Mom and I went to Sur la Table, an upmarket kitchenware store in the vein of Williams-Sonoma, at SouthPark in Charlotte Saturday night. It's one of her favorite stores and it's in my favorite mall.

Sur la Table, which is French for "on the table" is filled with thousands of unique, high quality home products...and a couple of goofy ones.

Guess which ones I'm showing? LOL

Isn't it great that black folks come in flavors now? I guess I'm 'white chocolate negro' :-)

This is actually a piece of fine chocolate imported from Spain. It looked delicious, but the name could be considered either offensive or damn funny. I chose the latter, though it made me do a double take.

I wouldn't have thought as much about it if we hadn't been followed around the store by no less than four sales associates. It wasn't just an a attempt at service either. None of the other customers (who happend to be white) were getting that kind of attention, and only one of those four was knowledgeable enough to answer our questions. It made us very uncomfortable, and it made me think that they weren't used to black people shopping there.

At the checkout, I saw these "hangover drops." Despite their willingness to track our every move previously, when we got to the checkout, the sales associate refused to answer the question of what these tasted like. So I figure they taste like Jaegermeister and vomit, which is what my hangovers usually taste like :-)

In Hip-Hop, Making Name-Dropping Pay

By Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer

From a generic brick office building at the end of a road in Lanham, Tony Rome is creating a niche in an artless side of hip-hop that some people would rather not discuss.

Rome hooks up rap stars, R&B singers and urban comedians with major corporations that want to reach their fans. The ideal relationship, says Rome, who founded Maven Strategies in 1996, would have an artist write a brand name into a song, feature the brand in a music video and partner with the brand in other promotions, getting paid by the brand's owner along the way.

He began a recent Monday morning meeting at his six-person marketing firm with a bit of genial how-was-your-weekend banter. One company rep had gone to Dream night club in Northeast Washington; another played basketball with her boyfriend at ESPN Zone, and beat him. A company vice president celebrated his young son's birthday.

The conversation circled back around the small conference room to Rome, and on to business.

"So what's the status on the Seagram's Gin Live tour," asked Rome, a cool 37-year-old with a closely cropped afro.

Maven said he is promoting a concert tour for Seagram's Gin, and that he recently arranged a meeting between the liquor brand and singing hip-hop darling Lil' Mo at B. Smith's restaurant. The deal is done, Maven said, and contracts are signed. Seagram's will pay for the concert, the singer will headline the tour, and the posters promoting the concerts will prominently feature the gin.

Everything from gin to luxury cars is on the table, eagerly awaiting placement in a rapper's song or on the banner above a comedian's tour. For a price.

On to the next matter. Has the company that paid to have its product placed in scenes of up-and-coming Houston rapper Slim Thug's new music video approved the final cut? Thug is the latest rapper in hip-hop's dirty south genre, with its big beats and yell-along choruses. Rome declined to name the company that paid for the placement.

"We have the still pictures, but we're waiting for the video," said Lamar Lee-Kane Sr., Maven's vice president of branded entertainment.

The way Rome sees it, "no other media outlet gives away anything for free."

"We are trying to bridge that gap" between hip-hop artists and corporate America, he said.

With that philosophy as a guide, he has built Maven into a player in urban branding and product placement in hip-hop music and videos, advertising industry watchers say.

"In the past, [product placements] were negotiated in a somewhat informal way; what Maven Strategies has done is to really codify the relationship and create a structure for how much people get paid," said Lucian James, president of Agenda Inc., a San Francisco-based brand research firm. "That's one of the holy grails for product placement: to really work out what it is worth."

Rome began showing celebrities the money when he founded his company as an independent sports agency nine years ago, representing NFL players Kevin Hardy and Brian Mitchell. But as America's idols changed, so did Maven. As Michael Jordan grew older, kids no longer wanted "to be like Mike" but like Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z.

Soon Rome was no longer inking deals for football players. A deal in 2000 promoting the national Kings of Comedy tour, headlined by African American funnymen Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac, led to a focus on urban entertainment and eventually hip-hop music. Rome got the HBO cable network, Crown Royal Whisky and other sponsors to back the tour with $1 million.

"What we are really about is helping our clients connect with their customers in unique creative ways," Rome said. He also works on product placements in urban films and finding corporate sponsorships for events targeted at African Americans, such as a program to stop childhood obesity.

Maven's prices vary depending on the branding a company is after, but Rome made news last Spring when Advertising Age, the ad world's publication-to-read, splashed a story across its Web site about a deal Maven stuck with McDonald's. According to the story, McDonald's confirmed that if rappers would include "Big Mac" in their lyrics, the fast food giant would pay them between $1 and $5 each time their song was played on the radio. Rome won't discuss the deal with McDonald's in further detail and guards his client list closely.

Most brands that hire Maven for product placement would rather not draw attention to the money exchanging hands between companies and the rappers.

Corporations want consumers to assume that rappers name-dropping hamburgers, cell phones or cars wrote the brands into their lyrics because they love them not because they were paid, said William Chipps, senior editor with IEG Sponsorship Report.

"It has to be organic," Chipps said. "It can't be blatant."

"Organic" is subjective. Robert "T-Mo" Barnett, a member of the once widely popular Atlanta rap group Goodie Mob, is working with Maven on a deal to promote a brand. Maven gave him the name of the product, and he wrote it into the lyrics of the single he is planning to release this year. T-Mo's contract with the company has not yet been signed, and Maven would not identify the brand. How much the company pays him for mentioning the brand depends on the radio popularity of the single.

T-Mo was in the studio recently and laid down the song, which he is calling "What's Happening."

"I was vibing," the rapper said. "It just came natural. I heard a good beat, and I just flowed with it. It was nothing I had to really force.

"I am helping them brand their company and at the same time they are helping me," he said. "I got a brand new baby boy, and I'm trying to feed him right now. I want to be smart about every move I make so I can maximize my earnings."

Larry Khan, senior vice president of R&B promotion and marketing for Jive Records, said this process for making music is "pretty much accepted."

"I guess in days gone by it would have looked like the artist was selling out, but now it has become a part of American culture. It doesn't hurt your street cred," he said.

Hip-hop artists, who often rhyme about their lives, fantasies and aspirations, have been touting their favorite brands in songs for years and subconsciously enticing their fans to buy them.

Hip-hop originally functioned as a sort of "black CNN," as rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy dubbed the music in the late 1980s. And the transition to mainstream pop culture, and thus branding, began innocently -- and unpaid. In 1986, popular Brooklyn rap group Run-DMC released "My Adidas" -- an ode to the sneaker company and their personal style. The song topped the charts and boosted the company's sales. Later, Adidas offered the rappers a paid sponsorship deal, and the relationship between the business and the art was formed.

In the past decade, the link between rappers and brands has evolved along with the music's promotion of bling and living the luxurious life. According to Agenda, brands were mentioned almost 1,000 times in the top 20 singles last year on the Billboard charts. The top brands were: Cadillac (70 mentions), Hennessy (69), Mercedes-Benz (63), Rolls Royce (62), and Gucci (49).

In the popular song "Overnight Celebrity" Grammy-nominated rapper Twista mentioned nine brands, including these:

I can get you on CDs and DVDs

Take you to BeBe and BCBG, . . .

Y'all take a look at her, she got such an astonishing body

I can see you in some Gucci or Roberto Cavalli

Rome said 90 percent of those radio plugs were free product placements and would cost the companies upwards of a billion dollars if they were paid advertisements.

"Hip-hop is really the only music genre that embraces brands in their songs and because they are doing it, I think the hip-hop artists should be paid for it," Rome said.

At least one of those artists was not only paid but says so in his song.

A version of Maven client Petey Pablo's song "Freek-a-Leek," which was one of the most played last year, included this line:

Now I got to give a shout out to Seagram's Gin/Cause I'm drinkin' it and they payin' me for it.

Timeline: Branding Products Through Hip-Hop

The Washington Post

1986: "My Adidas" by Run-DMC helps spark the popularity of the athletic-shoe brand among rap music fans. In 2005, Adidas celebrates its 35th anniversary by releasing a pair of sneakers dedicated to Run-DMC.

1999: Rapper Jay-Z invests in RocaWear, an urban fashion line, and promotes it during his "Hard Knock Life" concert tour. Other rappers, including Nelly, Master P, and 50 Cent, go on to promote their own clothing lines, often in their song lyrics.

2002: "Pass the Courvoisier," by Busta Rhymes featuring P.Diddy, not only promotes the French Cognac, but uses it in its title. The song reportedly helps send Courvoisier's sales soaring.

2002: Jay-Z invests in Scotland-based Armadale Vodka and begins promoting and rapping about the liquor brand. He also incorporates Armadale into some of his lyrics on songs such as "All I Need" off of his double-platinum album, "The Blueprint," to introduce Armadale to the hip-hop audience.

2003: Petey Pablo's "Freek-a-Leek," which includes a fully disclosed product-placement for Seagram's Gin, is released and later tops the chart. At the end of the song, it says: "Now I got to give a shout out to Seagram's Gin 'cus I drink it and they payin' me for it."

2004: Advertising Age reports Maven Strategies struck a deal with McDonald's to find rappers who would include "Big Mac" in song lyrics. The fast-food giant agreed to pay the rappers between $1 and $5 each time their song was played on the radio, according to the industry trade publication.

Harvey officials await Dixie Square Mall purchase

By Michael Hirtzer, The Star

Little work has taken place at Dixie Square Mall nearly two months after a developer delayed purchasing the 57-acre site from the city of Harvey, IL.

John Deneen, of Chicago-based Emerald Property Group, said he needed to remove a large amount of asbestos before he could purchase the mall.

There has been no apparent work done at the site, 154th Street and Dixie Highway, about two months after Deneen made those comments during a city council meeting in July.

The mall remains vacant, still surrounded by a security fence, with no visible activity inside.

City spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado said the city still is undergoing a property title search before the city can close on the property with Deneen.

"We're basically waiting on the title," Ald. Daryl Crudup, 3rd Ward, said Friday. "(The developer and his attorneys) needed some additional information."

Deneen did not return a phone message left Thursday at his office. A secretary said Deneen was out of town until Tuesday.

Crudup said work will begin at the mall after the city transfers the property to Deneen.

"I was hoping we could (start) anywhere from a week to a month," Crudup said. "We're looking good for September."

It is unclear how long it will take to remove the asbestos. It also is unclear when crews will demolish the mall.

Deneen has pledged to tear down several of the existing structures and build several new stores. He has said that a handful of major retailers signed onto the project.

Several projects have failed to bring the mall back to its former glory. After being built in the mid-1960s, Dixie Square was one of the first completely indoor malls.

Since the late 1970s, however, the mall has seen several projects fail.

Crudup, who lives in the 3rd Ward that includes Dixie Square, said the area soon will undergo improvements.

"We're moving on all phases of the renovation," he said.

He said several other projects are in the works, including a beautification project at the nearby Cook County building and the construction of senior housing by the YMCA.

Crudup said the county will expand its parking lot as well as improve its fence and the overall look of the landscaping, while YMCA officials will begin construction next month.

American Kitchen Delights, a nearby food service company, also is expanding. However, an effort to move into the former Montgomery Wards building stalled after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a cease and desist order until the removal of all asbestos from the department store site.

Despite all the setbacks, Crudup still said he is optimistic about the area's future.

"We're moving, and that's the key," he said.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday Marks Anniversary Of King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech


Today is the 42nd anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March-on-Washington and Martin Luther King’s "I have a dream" speech.

The President and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation says this year's message revolves around young people.

Harry Johnson Senior says children of today need to know and understand what King's dream was. He says that dream of equality has made their lives better.

The foundation is raising money for a memorial on the Washington Mall honoring King. It's raised more than a-third of the $100 million needed.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for late next year and the King memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2008.


Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

It's all about the jeans

By Libby Copeland
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - At a boutique where denim dreams come true and almost no one is bigger than a size 10, a woman flags down a salesgirl and confides a terrible problem.

"You don't have a butt?" asks the salesgirl.

"Like, at all," the woman says.

This is as close to an emergency as you can get in the premium-denim world. From the rows and rows of bluejeans, which stretch to the right and left, from floor to ceiling, the salesgirl pulls a pair of Rock & Republic's with high back pockets, designed to magically lift and shape all that is droopy or flat.

There are nearly 30 brands here at B Scene: jeans with small pockets and big pockets and specially angled pockets, jeans with close-together pockets that make a wide butt narrower, jeans with no yoke to make a butt extra round. There are rhinestoned and embroidered pockets to call attention to your butt, and plain pockets to make your butt disappear.

Everyone has a different theory about how to solve the world's butt problems.

"There's so much controversy," says Ilana Kashdin, who once planned to be a doctor and now co-owns this boutique, where she studies the anatomy of denim and the derriere.

Whether you're paying $145 or $520 for premium denim, you want to get the butt right. Every woman does that half-twirl at the mirror, back arched, head craned around. If the jeans are right, the experience is transformative, like putting on a magic cloak.

She says, "Oh. Muh-god."

For a while we were stuck in a dark place, our jeans tragically utilitarian. We bought them in stores decorated with hay bales. We fooled with acid washes and elastic waists. We had poor pocket technology. We had no choice.

Then came beauty, so much beauty. (And status, too, but we'll try that on later.) Now we are clad in the sanctified denim of the 21st century, a pragmatic, pioneer material made decadently new. From our perfect behinds, we can see the future.

In suburban Potomac, Md., B Scene is the province of cute teen-agers and hot moms. They come for sequined shrugs and $120 metallic sandals, velour sweatshirt-and-skirt ensembles ($275), tube tops made of terry cloth. ("Isn't this the material you make towels with?" asks a young man, and the young woman he's with calls him an idiot.)

And they come for the jeans, found in the back third of the store, where a ladder is propped so Ilana can reach the tippy-top shelves.

Premium denim is a tiny percentage of the overall jeans market, but you wouldn't know it from the profusion of brands here. A disproportionate number have names that sound less like fashion lines and more like spiritual causes that Hollywood actors might get involved in. There's True Religion and Blue Cult, Citizens of Humanity and 7 for All Mankind. This makes a certain sense; the notion of denim-as-transcendence will ring true to any woman who has ever looked in the mirror and not recognized her own blue-clad behind.

What if we all adored our backsides? Would we achieve harmony with our bodies? Could this translate to a higher level of consciousness? Are the jeans of the 21st century helping us get there, or making sure we never do?

"I live for jeans," says Becca Walker, 33, who has 20 to 30 pairs and recently bought some made by People for Peace that cost $285 and have the word LOVE embroidered on the butt. These made Becca an object of envy. Women at her son's nursery school were "stalking" her. Her neighbor bought a pair. Walker thinks the jeans were totally worth the money. "I felt a little nauseous afterwards and then I was OK," she says.

At B Scene there are dark jeans for nights out and light jeans for days in. There are white jeans with pink stitching and blue ones with turquoise-colored stones. There are jeans with worn hems to mimic the look you'd get if you let them drag under your flip-flops. There are jeans with wire in the back pockets to give them a perpetually wrinkled look. There's a style called "ripper," with the bottoms and pockets all shredded, and a style with the apocalyptic description "destroyed." There are maternity jeans with a little pouch for the belly. Soon Ilana will be getting shipments of baby jeans, costing $80 to $180, and some extra-fancy adult jeans for $695.

Occasionally, in comes a newcomer to the premium denim world. This can be exhilarating and scary, like going to a foreign country without knowing a word of the native tongue.

"Did you want, like, daytime, nighttime, go both ways?" Ilana asks. "Beat up, not beat up? Does a particular wash catch your eye?"

"I think, whatever?" the woman says.

The newbies often don't know one of the cardinal rules: If they're stretch jeans, buy them small. They'll feel tight at first but then they'll expand "half a size," Ilana says. If a woman isn't willing to buy her jeans this way, Ilana informs her she may have to wash and dry the jeans before each wearing. This is arduous, though not as time-consuming and expensive as dry-cleaning, which some other jeans require.

Ilana, 31 but lithe as a teen, is perfect for the denim lines she carries. Her jeans don't come with a waist size bigger than 32, so if you're larger than a 10 or 12, you're out of luck. (Heftier women may suffer the indignity of being pointed to the store's small collection of men's jeans.)

At the new Denim Bar in suburban Arlington, Va., where the saleswomen dress like bartenders and you may get a free Yuengling if they like you, the owner says he sometimes turns customers away.

"You're just not ready to try on designer jeans," Mauro Farinelli tells them. Certain women try on pair after pair of premium denim and look great, but still complain. They're just not prepared, it seems, to be fabulous.

"We'll be here," Mauro tells them, hoping they'll come to their senses one day and allow him to fulfill their sartorial destiny.

No one would begrudge Mauro his noble cause. Premium denim is not just about beauty; it's about feeling entitled to be beautiful. It's about broadcasting your worth through the Swarovski crystals on your behind. Jeans have become diamonds, art, custom cars. Spend the rent money on a pair, by all means, but do not simply wear them. Know that you are wearing the Degas of denim.

Mauro, then, is an educator. He has studied tailoring and likes to talk about triple-stitching. His store is all dark wood and fine denim, some of it woven on decades-old looms, then blessed with hand-painted logos. Some jeans are so fancy they come in boxes or leather pouches. The most expensive are $645, though Mauro also sells "entry-level" jeans for $100.

Mauro has women who have followed him since his last gig, as a jeans specialist at Saks Fifth Avenue. They say he makes them look amazing. Mauro is equally loyal. He says of one customer, "She buys anything I tell her to buy."

Denim was sober and utilitarian, a thing of the 19th century, a tough fabric for tough men, meant to be worn lots and worn down.

Now it is worn down by our own fussiness. It is washed, sandblasted, hand-sanded, treated with resin. Mauro owns jeans that came with the outline of a chewing-tobacco tin already etched into the back pocket, like ready-made manhood. He's wearing them when a tough-looking man comes out of a Denim Bar dressing room looking gleeful.

"They're hugging my buns!" the man says.

The buns are the anchor of the premium-denim world, and not just because a good pair of jeans will make them look fabulous. ("We don't want any muffin tops," Mauro says mysteriously.)

The backside of a pair of jeans broadcasts your status, and hard-core denimheads will instantly recognize the meaning of each obscure squiggle stitched into a back pocket. It's a tribal marking. It tells you if the owner is wearing a pair of 7 for All Mankind jeans, signaling that she may be mainstream, a girl who follows her friends. It tells you if she's wearing Paige jeans, suggesting she reads InStyle religiously and emulates Jennifer Aniston. Or she may flaunt the hand-painted logo of Evisu jeans, meaning she paid, oh, $520 for them. This signals that she's loaded.

Mauro is a slender, curly-haired guy in his early thirties with a knack for blunt talk. His favorite word is that elegant three-letter word for rear-end, and he often will compliment a customer on hers if it looks good in a pair of jeans she's trying. He will also tell her if it doesn't.

Sometimes, in an attempt to explain the complex science of denim, Mauro will say things like, "You can have a girl with a huge ass" who looks good in one type of jeans, while "another girl, equally titanic," looks better in a different pair.

"Pocketless jeans are the worst, though," he says with disgust.

(Begin optional trim)

These days, Mauro is extremely fond of "raw" jeans, made from virgin denim that has never been washed or treated. Four to five days a week, he wears a particular pair of raw jeans. He has been wearing them like this for more than three months and won't even dream of washing them till it's been six.

Mauro gives a lot of men his pitch on raw denim. He says men are more receptive to breaking in raw jeans because they're more "patient," though it also could also be that they're less turned off by the notion of wearing dirty pants. (On the Web site for a raw jeans maker called Nudie, men ask what to do if their jeans start to smell. The site advises them to put them in the freezer.)

Raw denim is really dark blue and stiff at first, and in the beginning it tends to bleed onto white sneakers and light-colored couches. But after six months of near-constant wear, Mauro says, the jeans will fit him perfectly and will have faded in all the right places. There will be "whiskering" around his crotch and "honeycombing" behind the knees.

"This jean will be unique to me," Mauro says.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

the life and death of myrtle square mall

Myrtle Square Mall, a 442,965 square foot mall, was the first enclosed mall in Myrtle Beach, strategically located within walking distance of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, residential neighborhoods and many beachfront hotels, with frontage on U.S. Highway 17-Business (Kings Highway) and Oak Street. The mall opened in 1975 and underwent major renovations in 1989.

Since Coastal Grand, another Burroughs and Chapin development, opened three miles away in 2004, the mall has dropped anchors, many of which have moved to the new mall for business...

30 years of Myrtle Square, tourists and all, winding down to November...

'Urban parody' T-shirts carry tongue-in-cheek, controversial slogans


Hip-hop has hardly had much stomach for tongue-in-cheek humor. That is especially true these days when the all-too-serious genre of gangsta rap is as strong as ever. The best-selling rapper on the Billboard hip-hop charts is Young Jeezy, a 25-year-old from Atlanta. His debut album "Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101," is a dark, unapologetic and downright scary foray into drug dealing and gang banging.

So perhaps it is refreshing that one of the current trends in urban clothing is a bit more lighthearted.

A handful of urban clothing designers are printing T-shirts that inject street lingo into corporate logos for humorous effect. These are urban parodies, comparable to a street-smart version of "Wacky Packages." Those trading cards from the 1970s took a recognizable product like Cool Whip, painted a picture of ghosts circling the whipped cream's familiar container and called it "Ghoul Whip."

Urban parodies are little less cuddly.

These include "Blockhustler," a satire on video rental giant Blockbuster Video; "Hood LIFE," a take on the breakfast cereal; and "Streetbred," which resembles the Starbucks' logo, except the trademarked caffeine goddess has been replaced with a fierce-looking woman who wields two cartoonish pistols. On a parody of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, the phrases "Sucka Free" and "Ain't nothing sweet" surround the main logo, which reads "My Hood." The shirt is signed "A Hood Classics Perspective."

These T-shirts are the product of a Montclair, NJ firm called Hood Classics, which is run by childhood friends Marlin Holmes and Ishmel Fulton, both 25. The two developed their clothing line two years ago "to pay homage to the different people who live in the urban environment," Fulton said.

The idea is to combine self-taught graphic design with street lingo. The end result is at once edgy and everyday. The term "hustler" may be slang for a drug dealer, but as hip-hop has become more mainstream, its meaning has become so diluted that it means, simply, entrepreneur.

When asked about the "Blockhustler" logo, Fulton replied, "The term hustler, it means someone who has ambition, drive, a go-getter."

Either way, said Hood Classics' distributor Derek Ferullo, "You're not going to see these in Nordstrom anytime soon."

Instead, you will see Hood Classics in urban apparel stores like Magic Sneaker in downtown Paterson, where several styles can be seen in its Main Street storefront window.

Fulton claims Hood Classics invented the urban parody T-shirts, which is to say that other parody lines have been designed and marketed by other firms. There is "The Hustler's Depot," a play on "The Home Depot," and a take on Warner Bros. ("If you see police, Warner Brother.") Coming soon are parodies of Kmart, KFC and Baskin Robbins, which Magic Sneaker employees say will have the slogan "31 Ways to Rob."

Get Money Clothing, based in New York, makes "The Hustler's Depot" T-shirt and a shirt that says "Yield 2 G's" (in the shape of a Yield traffic sign.) All the urban parody T-shirts retail for $28 to $30.

Clearly, some shirts fudge the line between parody and promotion of illicit and illegal activities. Police, prosecutors and community activists in Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia have rallied against "Stop Snitchin'" shirts, a popular and widely bootlegged T-shirt. Antonio Ansaldi, a Boston-based firm, makes "Stop Snitchin'" shirts, as do Introspect Graphics of Prince George, Md., and R. World Shirt Co. of Atlanta. These shirts are emblazoned with a red stop sign and underscored by the word "snitchin'." On the back are messages like "You have the right to remain silent," or "Snitches get stitches."

Sellers defend the "Stop Snitchin'" shirts as harmless sloganeering.

"That term's been around since (mobster Al) Capone. It has nothing to do with gangs at all," said Ruperto Sinad, a clothes buyer for Against All Odds, a 42-branch chain retailer based in Moonachie.

"Some people misconstrue what it stands for. Just mind your own business, basically. Stop snitching on your sister," he said.

But to police and anti-crime activists, "Stop Snitchin'" shirts reinforce an unspoken code of the inner city to not speak out against crime, especially to the police. This frustrates the work of law enforcement officials who rely on witness testimony and plea-bargains - the work of so-called snitches - to nab criminals and break up gangs.

Detectives in the anti-gang unit of the Paterson Police Department were unfamiliar with these shirts, according to Detective Lt. Anthony Traina, the department's public information officer. Neither Paterson City Council members involved in anti-gang work nor officials in county gang interdiction units returned numerous phone calls seeking comment.

At the consumer level, selling urban apparel boils down to one concept: Like a chameleon, it must reflect the tastes and the environment that created it.

"It makes 'em look hood. It makes 'em look hot," Jeffrey Garcia, 22, of Passaic, a Magic Sneaker salesman, said of the Hood Classics shirts. "These days, you can't put no Mickey Mouse on a shirt."

A group of young men spilled into the store, which is bright and spacious. One tall man wearing a red sweatband listened to what sounded like a police radio over a two-way phone. Others had tattooed necks, tattooed hands, plucked eyebrows and broken teeth.

Some discussed color coordination with the clerks. "Is that the right shirt? That's what I'm thinking," one man with dreadlocks asked as he pondered an outfit of blue jean shorts, a white Hood Classics T-shirt and a pair of New Balance sneakers.

Another reached for the white-and-orange Hustlers Depot shirt.

"It just matches my shoes," the man said when asked what attracted him to it. As for the logo? "It what it is."

Short on Sleep? Mall of America Sells Naps

The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- The Mall of America has a 74-foot Ferris wheel, a shark tank and a dinosaur museum. But if that puts you to sleep, a new nap store will sell you some shuteye for 70 cents a minute.

The store, to be called MinneNAPolis, is aimed at weary travelers who need a nap after a long flight but aren't staying long enough to book a hotel room, or spouses of shoppers who are traversing the mall's 4.3 miles of storefronts.

"We think it would be really good for husbands at Christmas, when their wives are power-shopping," said mall spokeswoman Julie Hansen.

Founded by PowerNap Sleep Centers Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., the new store will include at least three themed rooms: Asian Mist, Tropical Isle and Deep Space. Each will have walls thick enough to drown out the sounds of squealing children at the indoor amusement park.

The 70 cents per minute fee works out to $42 an hour. Some pointed out that it would be cheaper to buy an $8 movie ticket and spend two hours sleeping through a quiet movie. At the company's other napping center at the airport in Boca Raton, annual memberships cost $1,200 for unlimited sleep time.

It would be even cheaper to stretch out on one of the mall's wooden benches, but people who work in the mall said they have seen plenty of tired people walking around, but haven't seen many of them doze off in public.

"We've got the view of quite a few benches here, and I can tell you that it just doesn't happen," said Sue Wendler, who has worked in the mall for six years in the marketing office for Mystic Lake casino.

Still, some shoppers had their doubts about paying for a nap.

"Would you get your money back if someone snored?" asked Linda Belz, 54, of Orlando, Fla.

"How do I know there won't be lice in the sheets?" said Ericka Dickerson, of Bradenton, Fla.

PowerNap Sleep Centers did not return a phone message left Friday by The Associated Press. Mall officials said the store would adhere to a one-person-per-room policy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

On a kick for kicks


Jason Hall could go two months without wearing the same pair of shoes. He has Dunks for skateboarding, Air Jordans and Air Force Ones for basketball and Air Max Trainers, to name a few -- all that he'll wear casually, but carefully. He's worn many only once or twice.

They come in combinations of gold and green and pink and brown, with laces that are neon green and bright yellow.

He's not just somebody with a lot of shoes. And he doesn't just buy any pair. They have to be special. And rare, like his Lucky Dunks, which could sell for $700 online. And his Cinder Bisons, which he says could go at $500.

Ever since the athletic shoe market exploded in the mid-1980s with releases like the Air Jordan, people have been collecting sneakers.

But now it's grown to the point that metro Detroit has a store dedicated to limited edition, collectible shoes. Rachel Carroll's Royal Oak store, Burned Rubber, is projected to sell a half-million dollars in shoes before its one-year anniversary in October. Sixty percent of her customers are collectors.

In cities like Los Angeles and New York, there are sneaker exhibitions. This summer marked the debut of ESPN2's "It's the Shoes" (12:30 a.m. Tuesdays), hosted by sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia that takes viewers into the shoe collections of celebrities like basketball player Allen Iverson and hip-hop star Nelly -- sneaker culture is inseparable from sports and rap culture.

There are even books on the topic. One released this year is "Sneakers: The Complete Collectors' Guide" (Thames & Hudson, $29.95), written by Unorthodox Styles, a British group that produced, a collecting Web site.

Hall says he buys about seven pairs a month, some of which he finds during the four hours a day he spends on Web sites like eBay and NikeTalk, an online discussion board. Most of the shoes he buys originally retailed for around $125, although he refuses to reveal how much he's paid for his shoes, most of which he bought in stores.

Some people would call Hall a sneakerhead. Others could be more jarring and say he's a sneakerfreak.

"I'm just a guy who loves shoes," says the 31-year-old from Detroit. During the day, he's an associate director at WDIV-TV (Channel 4).

He loves the look, the design, the colors, the commercials, the celebrity endorsements, even the smell. "There are sneakers I still smell that I've never worn," he says. A few years ago, he spent six months training himself to recognize shoe models by their scent, but "never really got it down."

When Hall hangs out with his friends, the conversation always turns to shoes. His belt has a silver buckle that reads "MWKC" -- Midwest Kick Collectors, his sneaker-loving posse.

This loose group of friends includes Detroiters Jay Wilkins, 34, and Donavan Allen, 25.

Wilkins, who occasionally DJs, owns 60 pairs that he says are worth at least $3,000. But as he and his friends point out, a shoe is worth as much as somebody will pay for it. One of his best pairs is the Nike Paris Dunk, a 2004 skateboarding shoe that he says could go for $1,800. It's worth so much because only 200 pairs exist.

Allen works at the Detroit Science Center and is the "self-crowned king of discount," he says. Of his 75 pairs, he's gotten most for less than $30. He loves vintage sneakers, which, in an industry so young, can mean a pair just 10 years old. He says he spends "endless hours" online looking for shoes. That's how he scored an original, unworn pair of 1982 Nike Dashers. The price? $17. He got his 1987 Nike Delta Forces the same way. They were $28.

The seller "had no clue what they were," he says about getting vintage kicks so cheap. If he sold the shoes now, "they could go for anything," Allen says. Hall says he has seen pairs like these selling for up to $300 online.

These three don't just buy for themselves, but look out for each other.

"We're looking at our own sizes, we're looking at our friends' sizes," says Allen, who will immediately call his buddies if he finds a connection to score the latest release. "It's all about networking." Since he seriously took up collecting in 1998, Allen has known where to find the rarest and newest shoes with connections to Web sellers and Detroit businesses.

And it's not limited to that. Hall has gone to Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco specifically to look for shoes. In comparison, Detroit's shoe market is small, he says. But it's not uncommon to hop the border to Windsor -- stores there get special Canadian releases. When he's looking for a shoe, he usually visits about 15 stores. He won't say which, though; if he did he wouldn't be able to find the hottest shoes anymore -- they'd all sell out.

Collecting "at times can be an addiction," Hall says. Three years ago, during the height of his obsession, he spent up to $400 a week on shoes. "I would literally get my paycheck, go cash it on my lunch break, run to Eastland Mall, and buy something before I had to be back from lunch," he says.

He collects Nikes almost exclusively now, as do his friends. But he started out buying Adidas. And he still owns some pairs of New Balance.

Shoestore owner Carroll says collectors generally focus on Nikes. The company targets them with technologically advanced, limited edition and well-marketed shoes, she says. The corporation has capitalized upon celebrity endorsements and rereleases of retro styles. And it doesn't hurt that collectors are brand loyal.

The NBA fined Michael Jordan up to $5,000 a game when he first started wearing the red and black Nike Air Jordans in 1985. Today, there are 20 different models of the shoe and a handful of modern rereleases. Originals Air Jordan Ones can fetch $1,000 online.

The Midwest Kick Collectors don't re-sell their shoes, but Hall knows what he'll do when the game ends.

"When I decide that it's all over, I'm just going to post them all on eBay," he says. With the money, "I'll put a down payment on a Mercedes."

What makes a shoe collectible?

By Jaweed Kaleem

•Condition: Unworn, mint condition sneakers are called deadstock and are the most valuable. The original shoebox will help, too. The more you wear a shoe, the less value it has.

•Age: Vintage shoes, such as unworn 1985 Air Jordans, are hot. Shoes more than a decade old are typically considered vintage.

•Design: Advanced technology makes a shoe more desirable. For example, the leather on some shoes is laser-engraved, which gets sneakerheads on their toes.

•Color scheme: Air Jordans with colors Michael Jordan wore with the Chicago Bulls -- such as the original red and black -- are more collectible than those he didn't wear, says Robert Paxton, a Royal Oak collector who owns almost 50 pairs of Air Jordans.

•Rarity: Rarity is the No. 1 factor determining whether a shoe is collectible. Rare shoes are described as "quick strikes," meaning a limited edition shoe model of which 3,000 or fewer exist. "Hyper strikes" are produced for specific people or shops -- sometimes just a few dozen pairs per model.

•Imports: Some shoes are released only abroad, and can be more collectible simply because few people in the U.S. have them.

Hot collectibles for sneaker freaks

Detroit Free Press

There isn't a definitive list of most valuable sneakers, though it's fair to say that Nikes are the most collectible. What's most desirable will vary from collector to collector, but sneaker lovers agree that the following shoes are highly sought.

Nike Dunk Low Pro SB Paris, a.k.a. Paris Dunk
Release: Fall '04, $125
Current value: $1,800.
Rarity: 200 pairs made
Description: Red check, portions vanilla-colored

Nike Dunk High SB (Lucky Edition), a.k.a. Lucky Dunks
Release: April '04, $125
Current value: $700
Rarity: 777 pairs made
Description: Gold-colored leather and tan suede, green No. 7 on front sides.

Nike Heineken Dunk SB, a.k.a. Heineken
Release: April '03. $125
Current value: $700
Rarity: About 700 pairs made
Description: Color scheme similar to that of a Heineken bottle, with a red star on back sides.

Adidas Superstar 35th Anniversary Consortium Series, a.k.a. Superstar, shell toe
Release: Jan. '05, $200-$300
Current value: $600-$1,000 at
Rarity: 300-700 pairs made, depending on specific model
Description: Re-releases of the 1970 model popularized in the Run-DMC song "My Adidas."

Reebok Ice Cream Low, a.k.a. Ice Cream
Retail release: Sept. '04, $200
Current value: $299.99 at
Rarity: 2,000-5,000 pairs made
Description: Decorated with dollar bill signs, drawings of diamonds and ice cream cones. Endorsed by music producer Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes and N.E.R.D.

Retail prices are averages. Current values are estimates by owners of how much shoes have sold or could sell for on eBay, and other Web sites.

Vendor: Valley View Center threw him out over T-shirt

Despite controversy, sales are good, says evicted cart operator

By PAUL MEYER / The Dallas Morning News

A company with an off-color sense of humor says it's being forced from a Far North Dallas mall because of a controversial T-shirt depicting violent crime in Oak Cliff.

Charroking, operator of a sales cart in Valley View Center, has stirred up debate since creating a "Welcome to Oak Cliff" T-shirt. The shirt portrays a person holding what looks like a gun with a body under one arm next to an open car trunk.

The company, which has produced a similar shirt for Pleasant Grove, says sales have been through the roof.

But not all are amused. José Hernández, one of the company's three owners, said he first received a letter Aug. 5 from mall management asking him to remove the T-shirt after receiving complaints. On Thursday, he said he received a letter terminating his lease.

Valley View Center officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

"We don't see it [the eviction] as a setback. It's just going to make us push harder. We are defending our rights, and we have freedom of speech," Mr. Hernández said.

"We never expected how big of an impact it had. Most people get that it's a joke."

The 26-year-old said the shirt is designed to poke fun at stereotypes about the area that maintains one of Dallas' highest violent crime rates.

Charles English, immediate past chairman of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, said the shirt represents a misperception of the area that he has been dealing with for two decades.

"My reaction is the same as it was 20 years ago. Ignore it," he said.

But he said he knows how engrained the stereotype has become, even as the area has witnessed redevelopment and economic growth.

At an Oak Cliff pawnshop Thursday afternoon, 21-year-old Chase Hollingsworth said that although some may find the shirt offensive, he finds it funny. Just last week, he said, a customer tried to pawn a loaded, sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun with a pistol grip. He quickly rejected the illegal weapon.

"I don't find it offensive because it can be really ragged down here," he said. "But some areas of Oak Cliff are a lot better than others."

Mr. Hernández said he has sold more than 1,000 of the shirts in the last two days and has received requests to include other neighborhoods, including Plano and Highland Park. The company will continue to sell the shirts on its Web site.

Report says future dim for mid-level dept. stores

BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times

Is there a future for middle-America department stores?

No, two retail experts said in a report released Monday.

"The mid-market department store will disappear altogether," said Wendy Liebmann and Candace Corlett, principals in WSL Strategic Retail in New York.

Carson Pirie Scott & Co., as well as regional department stores such as Dillard's and Belk's, must either move upscale or become part of a mass-market national chain to survive, Liebmann and Corlett wrote in a report titled "Department Stores Are Transformed."

Department stores will split into two types -- big national chains such as Macy's, J.C. Penney and Sears, or upscale stores in niche markets, such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and perhaps Saks Fifth Avenue.

They call it the "supersize or specialize" model of 21st century retail success.

Two long-time stalwarts of Chicago's retail scene are getting new owners, and separate developments Monday showed just how much the retail landscape is changing.

* Marshall Field's announced it is remodeling its downtown Minneapolis store much like the flagship store at 111 N. State in Chicago, including opening a Barbara's Bookstore and other exclusive boutiques.

The Field's in Minneapolis will feature a Louis Vuitton boutique four times the size of the existing one, and a shop dedicated to Signoria di Firenze hand-embroidered Italian luxury linens. The Minneapolis store already has introduced several boutiques that made their United States debut at the State Street store, such as Field's Culinary Studio, Levenger reading and writing accessories and British menswear shops Thomas Pink and Alexandre Savile Row.

A Field's spokeswoman said the company has yet to decide whether Field's employees will staff the boutiques or whether the suppliers will hire their own workers.

Field's is scheduled to be taken over by Macy's parent company, Federated Department Stores, by Nov. 1.

Federated CEO Terry Lundgren has yet to say what he will do with Field's boutiques, but he has increased the lines of exclusive merchandise sold at Macy's to set it apart from rivals.

Department stores are stepping up their efforts to be unique.

Nordstrom on Monday announced it had bought a majority stake in luxury designer stores Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta, and hired owner Jeffrey Kalinsky as Nordstrom's director of designer merchandising for men and women.

*Bids reportedly were submitted Monday for Carson's and four other regional department stores owned by Saks Inc.

Bids also were submitted for the more upscale Saks Fifth Avenue and the department stores as one package.

A Saks spokeswoman was unavailable to comment further, but analysts have said the entire company could sell for anywhere from $22 a share to $30 a share.

The future of Saks Fifth Avenue's store at 700 N. Michigan and Carson's flagship at 1 S. State St. is uncertain.

A sale of Saks Fifth Avenue's stores in Chicago and New York could be part of the deal if all of Saks operations are sold, analysts have speculated.

Speculation also centers on changes at the Carson's store at 1 S. State, a Louis Sullivan design that has undergone a $17 million upgrade and could be transformed by new tenants.

As for mass merchants, Sears and Penney are building stand-alone stores away from malls, but their willingness to invest heavily in them isn't known. Sears will open 48 "Sears Essentials" stores by Oct. 29, but the Hoffman Estates-based retailer has yet to release a construction schedule for 2006.

song of the day | august 26, 2005

Don't Get Any Better (featuring Patti Austin) - Tom Scott Listen

Thursday, August 25, 2005

august 25 article - with a goofy error

Finally after, three weeks of waiting, is my second column of the month, this time on Costco Wholesale. I’m glad to see it. If any of you took my advice and wrote to the paper asking to see more Retail Therapy columns, I want to express my sincere appreciation.

In her haste to get the column in this week (should have been last week, but that’s old news) my editor or the typesetter made a big boo-boo. I’ve attached a blow-up of what it is.

That is supposed to read .40 carats.

Like I said in the article, Costco buys at a discount and passes on the savings, but honestly, who the hell is proofreading this paper? 40 carat diamond earrings haven't been $400. since, say like, 1812?

If anyone wants to send that in to Jay Leno, be my guest.

the 420 dude

Today I was waiting on a client who was late and happened to step into the breakroom, where someone had turned the TV on "The Price is Right." I'm a major TPIR fan, and I figured since I was wating, I'd tune in.

A contestant named Evan (not that guy on the left) made it to Contestants' Row. Evan was likely a college student, and even more likely a stoner, because every time he would bid $420. His firends would swoon each time. The one time when $420. wasn't enough, he bid $1,420.

Apparently this dude had smoked enough pot that he decided to do his best Captain Obvious impression. I'll have to admit, it was funny as shit.

The funnier thing was that he almost made it onstage. An item came up (Peavy guitar and amp, for those taking notes) and he bid $420 again. A girl next to him bid $421. He was devastated.

He must have been psychic, because sure enough, the girl next to him had the highest bid without going over. Evan the Stoner almost won!

Uniqlo hits NYC, if temporarily

New York Times

Beginning Sept. 1 Uniqlo, a popular Japanese retailer, will introduce Americans to its casual fashions with a temporary shop, Uniqlo@Vice, in the Vice store at the intersection of SoHo and NoLIta. New Yorkers can stock up on the affordable merchandise there until Sept. 30.

Beginning Sept. 15 Uniqlo will spread its wings by opening a stand-alone store in the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, N.J. Two more shops will open this fall in New Jersey, in Rockaway Townsquare and Freehold Raceway Mall.

At 252 Lafayette Street, (212) 219-7788

Doctor in trouble for calling patient obese

Note from Steve: I'm on the fence on this one.

N.H. woman filed complaint; state attorney general asked to investigate

The Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.H. - As doctors warn more patients that they should lose weight, the advice has backfired on one doctor with a woman filing a complaint with the state saying he was hurtful, not helpful.

Dr. Terry Bennett says he tells obese patients their weight is bad for their health and their love lives, but the lecture drove one patient to complain to the state.

“I told a fat woman she was obese,” Bennett says. “I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.'"

He says he wrote a letter of apology to the woman when he found out she was offended.

Her complaint, filed about a year ago, was initially investigated by a panel of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, which recommended that Bennett be sent a confidential letter of concern. The board rejected the suggestion in December and asked the attorney general’s office to investigate.

Bennett rejected that office’s proposal that he attend a medical education course and acknowledge that he made a mistake.

Bruce Friedman, chairman of the board of medicine, said he could not discuss specific complaints. Assistant Attorney General Catherine Bernhard, who conducted the investigation, also would not comment, citing state law that complaints are confidential until the board takes disciplinary action.

The board’s Web site says disciplinary sanctions may range from a reprimand to the revocation of all rights to practice in the state.

“Physicians have to be professional with patients and remember everyone is an individual. You should not be inflammatory or degrading to anyone,” said board member Kevin Costin.

Other overweight patients have come to Bennett’s defense.

“What really makes me angry is he told the truth,” Mindy Haney told WMUR-TV on Tuesday. “How can you punish somebody for that?”

Haney said Bennett has helped her lose more than 150 pounds, but acknowledged that she initially didn’t want to listen.

“I have been in this lady’s shoes. I’ve been angry and left his practice. I mean, in-my-car-taking-off angry,” Haney said. “But once you think about it, you’re angry at yourself, not Doctor Bennett. He’s the messenger. He’s telling you what you already know.”

sneaker chocolates

The world's first sneaker chocolates, as seen on MTV, brought to you by Al Cabino in collaboration with Swiss chocolate manufacturers and available at Colette in Paris.

Thanks to Alain for sending me the link to this.

Bluefly's got a blog?

Note from Steve: And you thought THIS blog was commercial! LOL

On-Line Retailers Turn to Blogs to Attract Shoppers

Chain Store Age

On-line retailers are creating their own Web logs, or blogs, to promote themselves to consumers. The strategy seems to be successful. According to a recent study by ComScore Networks, an on-line market-research firm, shoppers who visit blogs spend approximately 6% more than average on-line shoppers., EHobbies and GourmetStation all use blogs as part of their advertising. sells designer clothes; EHobbies sells hobby goods such as plastic models, kites and science kits; and GourmetStation sells prepared foods. The companies post industry news and trends on their blogs, allowing visitors to engage in discussion about the topics.