Sunday, April 30, 2006

Adidas pulls back sneaker with caricature

Controversy - The company reconsiders and stops sales of the shoe Asian American groups found offensive

The Oregonian

Adidas Group has reversed itself and agreed to immediately halt sales of a limited-edition sneaker that features a caricature some Asian American groups found offensive.

The Y1-Huf sneaker, designed by Barry McGee, a San Francisco graffiti artist, featured an Asian face with slanted eyes, buck teeth and a bowl haircut. The caricature is a design that McGee, who is half Asian, has used before and was meant as a representation of himself, he said in a statement released by Adidas.

The stereotypical image angered some who saw its use, divorced from the artist's context, as offensive. Adidas initially refused to stop sales of the $250 sneaker, defending the artist's work.

But after hearing complaints from several groups since the shoe went on sale April 1, the company changed its mind and said on Thursday that it will pull any remaining pairs, said Abby Guyer, a spokeswoman with Portland-based Adidas America, the North American headquarters for the German company.

"We're an inclusive brand and we felt like we needed to respond to that," she said. "We continue to stand by Barry's vision and by his creativity and by his partnership with Huf (a retailer) in San Francisco."

Most of the 1,000 sneakers that were for sale have probably been bought, she said. The company is assessing how many remain with the 12 retailers around the world selling the shoe.

She said Adidas' "apology is for the offense that was caused and for the unfortunate misinterpretation of our intentions but we can't apologize for the artwork that was created by an artist."

Portland-area groups representing Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans were preparing to send a joint letter to complain about the sneaker. But the news that Adidas would no longer sell the shoe satisfied their concerns, said Stephen Ying, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Portland.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

i'm not home

I'm in New York right now (should be if the bus is on schedule, anyway).

No new posts today, besides S.O.D. and this one.

Have fun, click around the site, and for God's sake, comment on something!


Friday, April 28, 2006

Hecht's to Macy's switch to begin

Conversion starts at 3 stores Sunday

Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE -- Three area Macy's stores will close Sunday night and begin moving into former Hecht's stores for reopening Tuesday as the next step by Federated Department Stores Inc. in the transformation of its regional chains into one national brand.

The doors were closed tight yesterday at the former Hecht's stores at White Marsh and Owings Mills malls in Baltimore County and at Marley Station in Anne Arundel County. The big move will start after those malls close Sunday evening.

Dozens of employees will work through the night to "walk" merchandise from Macy's to the former Hecht's, said Elina Kazan, director of publicity for Macy's East division. The stores will remain closed Monday as workers continue the transition.

"This is going to be one Herculean task for us," Kazan said.

Federated, which acquired May Department Stores Inc. last year for nearly $12 billion, is in the process of creating a nationally recognized department store chain under the Macy's nameplate. Federated is converting regional department stores across the country - including Hecht's, Filene's, Famous-Barr, Strawbridge's and Kauffman's - and replacing them with Macy's.

On Sept. 9, Federated will celebrate the conversion of all its regional chains.

Other Hecht's stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, including those at Security Square Mall, Towson Town Center and The Mall at Columbia, will be converted to Macy's before then.

Federated is in the midst of closing 68 stores in malls where department stores owned by it and May overlapped. At White Marsh, Owings Mills and Marley Station, Federated decided to move Macy's into the more prominent, former Hecht's spaces.

Boscov's Department Stores, a Reading, Pa.--based chain, will move into the old Macy's spaces and plans to open for business by the winter holidays.

Federated began having clearance sales at the Hecht's stores this month to clear out merchandise.

This week, employees began putting new merchandise in the stores. Macy's signs, with the signature star emblem, could be seen hanging throughout the stores.

"We're bringing you a great new place to shop," said signs on the front doors of the old Hecht's locations. "We can't wait to welcome you when we re-open this location as Macy's May 2."

Kazan said the stores won't be completely converted when they re-open Tuesday, but they will be close.

"When the customer comes in on Tuesday, we want them to see as much of a Macy's store as possible," Kazan said.

Yesterday, employees scurried around inside the former Hecht's stores unpacking boxes of perfume, setting up shoe displays and dressing mannequins. Macy's nameplates had been erected outside each store, although they were obstructed by temporary plastic Hecht's signs.

Shoppers said yesterday they had mixed feelings about the change.

Brenda Dailey said she doesn't really shop Hecht's or Macy's. She prefers J.C. Penney, or her teen-age kids drag her to Aeropostale or Hollister.

"If you take any of those stores away, we're in trouble," she said.

Toni Rehrig, 61, said she'll shop Macy's once Hecht's closes. Yesterday, she got a pair of pants at Macy's at steep discount. But she also feels a little nostalgic about Hecht's.

"I love Hecht's because that's where I shopped almost since I was born," said Rehrig, a retired school instructional aide from Joppatowne. "I'm sad to see it go."

unexpected kudos

Eric's Blog Reviews gave me a B

Report: Rosie to join cast of 'The View'

NEW YORK, April 27 (UPI) -- ABC TV has reportedly hired former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell to fill the chair being vacated by Meredith Vieira on "The View."

The celebrity-oriented TV news magazine "Extra" said ABC was preparing for an official announcement expected Friday.

Former "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Patricia Heaton had been widely considered a front-runner for "The View" when Vieira leaves to take over for Katie Couric on NBC's "Today Show." Other names frequently mentioned included Connie Chung and Soledad O'Brien, "Extra" said.

O'Donnell began as a standup comic and won $20,000 on "Star Search." She went on to log a number of TV and film credits and has six Daytime Emmy Awards for "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."

She and her partner, Kelli Carpenter, have four adopted children.

Mick Jagger films sitcom pilot

CBC Arts

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger has taken part in a pilot for a TV comedy being considered for ABC's fall season.

Jagger, who is currently touring with the Rolling Stones, filmed scenes in New Zealand, according to Charissa Gilmore, a spokesperson for the show's producers, Touchstone Television.

The show revolves around a hard-up New York janitor who schemes with his friends to rob a celebrity.

Ottawa-born, California-raised actor Donal Logue stars in the proposed 24-part series as the main character, who sees Jagger showing off his ritzy penthouse apartment on TV and decides on the 62-year-old rock veteran as his celebrity target.

Logue is a familiar face from both TV and film, having starred in the family sitcom Grounded for Life and appeared on TV's ER, as well as in such films as Just Like Heaven, Blade and Sneakers.

The as-yet-untitled new show is the brainchild of Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, who previously worked together on the NBC series Ed.

Burnett, also an executive producer for late-night host David Letterman, has said he wanted to create a plot-based sitcom that would see one storyline unravel over an entire season, likening the idea to "a comedy version of Lost or 24."

Jagger "did a lot of ad libbing," Burnett said. "Some of the funniest stuff in the pilot came from him. He's just a smart, funny guy."

ABC is set to announce its fall schedule next month, with Jagger's pilot one of several new comedies under consideration.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

McDonald's to Reduce Stake in Chipotle

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) - McDonald's Corp. plans to reduce its ownership of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. in coming months and complete the separation by year's end to concentrate on its flagship fast-food restaurants, the company said Wednesday.

McDonald's plans to sell around five million shares of Chipotle stock within the next two months through a registered securities offering and use the proceeds to buy back McDonald's shares, the Oak Brook-based company said.

Later this year, McDonald's expects to completely separate from Chipotle through an exchange of Chipotle shares for McDonald's common stock, the company said.

Since McDonald's made its initial investment in 1998, Chipotle, a quick-service restaurant offering burritos and tacos, has grown from 16 restaurants in the Denver area to more than 500 nationally.

Adidas, Reebok CEOs: Reebok will remain a performance athletics brand

By Mark Jewell, AP Business Writer

CANTON, Mass. --The top executives at Adidas-Salomon AG and the German company's newly acquired Reebok brand said Friday that Reebok will continue to target the athletics market, and may ease away from the sneaker brand's recent hip-hop marketing geared toward consumers favoring style over performance.

"We've been a little bit too lifestyle-focused maybe over the past couple years, and we want to shift actually more toward the performance side of our business," Paul Harrington, president and CEO of Reebok, said in an interview with The Associated Press at Reebok's Canton headquarters.

Harrington and Herbert Hainer of Adidas said that Reebok will continue to strike endorsement deals with individual athletes, but leave it to Adidas to reach such deals with entire teams, in soccer and other sports.

Since Adidas' $3.8 billion acquisition of Reebok International Ltd. closed on Jan. 31, industry analysts have speculated as to how the one-time athletics sneaker and apparel rivals would position the two separately managed brands to avoid competing against one another in the same market niches.

Some analysts suggested the bigger Adidas name would likely continue targeting serious athletes willing to pay a premium for performance-oriented shoes, with Reebok largely relegated to lower-priced sneakers and apparel targeting more fashion-conscious consumers.

Hainer on Friday sought to dispel that notion about the Reebok acquisition, which he hopes will double Adidas' U.S. business and narrow Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike Inc.'s market leadership.

Adidas' chairman and chief executive said he has "no doubt" that Adidas "will bring Reebok more into the performance area, which we all believe has lacked a little bit over the last season. They have great products."

Reebok lost some of its athletics prominence on April 11, when Adidas announced in London that it had signed an 11-year deal with the National Basketball Association to make the German company the official uniform provider for the U.S. league. Reebok has been the NBA's uniform and apparel provider since 2001.

However, Reebok continues to maintain that role in football and hockey through apparel deals with the NFL and NHL.

"Those will remain with Reebok -- our contracts are in place," Harrington said.

Reebok also has a large stable of individual athlete endorsers, including the NBA's Allen Iverson, baseball's Curt Schilling and hockey's Sidney Crosby.

Reebok also has some deals in soccer, traditionally a bigger strength of Adidas, whose sponsorships include soccer star David Beckham and the Spanish team Real Madrid.

Hainer said there's plenty of room for both brands in soccer, with its global following. But the two brands will stake out separate turf in some respects.

"Adidas will be more on the teams, and Reebok will be more on the individual athletes," Hainer said.

The acquisition also offers a chance to reposition the brands in the youth market, which Reebok has aggressively wooed in a campaign that has seen the brand stray beyond its athletics roots. Four years ago, Reebok introduced its street-inspired "RbK" line, and the brand last year launched an edgy "I am what I am" marketing campaign featuring athlete endorsers alongside rappers such as 50 Cent and Jay-Z. In November, Reebok announced it would begin producing Reebok-branded TV programs for a new Comcast Corp. on-demand hip-hop channel.

Some analysts have suggested such moves could alienate athletically inclined customers who value performance, Nike's traditional strength.

Harrington said Friday that the "I am what I am" campaign will continue, although it will subtly shift away from entertainers and focus more heavily on athletes.

"We'll evolve it, but it will still be the pillar of our brand position," said Harrington, who took over for Reebok's longtime CEO Paul Fireman after the brand was acquired by Adidas.

Dispute over rice brings mall restaurants to a boil

A restaurant at the Providence Place food court is suing another eatery, and the mall, over its exclusivity agreement to serve white rice and other menu items.

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Take two bowls of "white" rice from competing mall restaurants. Bring into court one restaurant's General Gao's chicken and compare the color with the other eatery's Orange Chicken. Add a smidgeon of alleged photographic mischief and you have a culinary conflict that has people steamed.

And a Superior Court judge feeling a bit addled.

"I feel the late Craig Claiborne [the New York Times food editor] should be sitting here instead of me," deadpanned Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. yesterday as he heard closing arguments in what's being called the "Rice Wars."

Last fall, Cathay Cathay, the Chinese restaurant in the Providence Place food court, filed a lawsuit against two of its mall competitors and the mall itself, arguing its lease entitled it to the exclusive sale of "white rice (boiled and steamed)" and about a dozen other specific menu items.

David Chu, president and general manager of Cathay Cathay, accused both Japan Café and initially Gourmet India (which has been dropped from the suit) of infringing on that exclusive lease arrangement by selling similar food.

Or as Chu's lawyer, John J. DeSimone, passionately declared to the judge yesterday: "Mr. Chu has been violated with the rice!"

"It's white rice" that Japan Café is serving, DeSimone said. "White rice is white rice."

No, it isn't, countered Harris K. Weiner, the lawyer for Japan Café.

Chu's lease gives him the exclusive right to sell white rice that is boiled or steamed -- but not parboiled, said Weiner.

"We're selling parboiled," Weiner said, emphatically pointing toward the judge. "Parboil rice is not a violation."

Parboiled rice is used in all kinds of cuisines, including Mexican he said.

Weiner referred to some of his "expert" witnesses he used over 10 days of testimony, and several learned "treatises" and articles that had been read into the record.

The articles discussed how parboiled rice is milled differently from white rice in that it is initially steamed with the husk on, which changes the "nutritional value, texture, cooking time, color and tastes of the product. . . ."

"From a culinary standpoint," Weiner told the judge, "they are different."

But Fortunato had a question. When they toured the kitchens together, Fortunato said, "I saw white rice" in both kitchens. "Did you see white rice when you looked at them?"

The difference, replied Weiner, is in the rice's texture, taste and smell.

Weiner reminded the judge that he allowed Gourmet India to be dropped as a defendant in the suit because the basmati rice it serves was aromatically different -- not to mention yellow.

While Cathay Cathay might have an exclusive right to serve Chinese menu items, it doesn't "have the exclusive to the type of rice served in a Mexican restaurant or a Japanese restaurant."

Nor when it comes to certain chicken dishes either, said Weiner.

Chu has complained that Japan Café serves a Chinese Orange Chicken dish that is very similar to the glazed pieces of chicken it offers, called General Gao -- one of the exclusive menu items protected under its lease.

"We brought General Gao chicken into the courtroom," Weiner said, "to show it is not orange" as depicted in pictures the plaintiff introduced as evidence. "General Gao chicken has a red hue. Ours had a honey color."

"I would hope," Weiner said, "that the court would give no weight to those photographs."

"Are you suggesting someone manipulated the photographs?" the judge asked.

"I am," said Weiner.

DeSimone called Weiner's accusation and defense, variously nonsense, absurd and astounding.

"Maybe the name is different, but it's the same dish," DeSimone said of many of Japan Café's items.

Chu is suing the current landlord of Providence Place mall as well, Rouse Providence LLC., arguing it should enforce the exclusive lease arrangement it has with them.

DeSimone said Cathay Cathay pays about $275,000 a year in rent -- the highest of any food court vendor -- because of the exclusive arrangement it asked for. Yet the mall is doing nothing in return.

But Stacey Nakasian, a lawyer for Rouse, said: "The mall is not the rice police."

While the lease requires Rouse to tell other vendors not to sell the selected items of Cathay Cathay's menu, she said, it does not give it any enforcement power.

That is "an absurd position," DeSimone said, referring to the mall landlords as a collective "Pontius Pilate" who has wiped his hands of any responsibility "yet they're making mega dollars on this gentleman."

Fortunato said he will rule on Cathay Cathay's request for an injuction against Japan Café on May 4.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Police file charges for counterfeit sneaker sales

Lance Martin, Senior Staff Writer
Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald

HALIFAX, N.C. - A Conway woman turned herself in Friday and faces one count of criminal use of a counterfeit trademark, according to the Halifax County Sheriff's Office.

The charge stems from a raid last week at Something Different, a store on Main Street in Scotland Neck, where 245 pairs of fake Nike shoes and other fake designer clothes were seized.

Letitia Diane Daye, 33, was released on $3,500 unsecured bond. She has a May 17 court date.

Her arrest was the result of a joint operation that included investigators from the sheriff's office, the Scotland Neck Police Department and the North Carolina Secretary of State's office. Fake Nike shoes, Timberland boots, throwback baseball jerseys, Roca Wear clothing and Evisu jeans were taken off the market, according to investigators.

The Secretary of State's office had received a complaint about the merchandise and subsequent investigation revealed the goods were fake. The bogus Nikes were being sold at retail value which is well more than $100. Some of the shoes were on layaway. The throwback baseball jerseys, which retail for between $300 to $400 were among the few items being discounted. They were being sold for $65.

Churches are taking over commercial, retail spaces

By THADDEUS HERRICK (The Wall Street Journal)

Several years ago, when leaders at the 5,000-strong Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston realized they needed more space to expand their congregation, they considered building a new church on the outskirts of this sprawling Texas city. Instead, they opted for a less conventional site: a strip mall on the Katy Freeway.

Last year, Tallowood began services in a renovated 32,000-square-foot building that was formerly a Circuit City store. In addition to a 300-seat auditorium, the location now boasts 30 offices, a conference room that doubles as a day-care center and a Christian bookstore. "Not everyone comes to church for the architecture," says Larry Heslip, Tallowood's minister of education and administration. "Some people just like to be in a space that's usable."

A growing number of churches with huge congregations are growing so large that they need unconventional spaces in which to expand. Such churches - typically Protestant with regular weekly attendance of more than 2,000 - have doubled in the past five years to about 1,200, with almost a quarter of them in California and Texas, says Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn.

To make room for members, many churches are moving into commercial and retail spaces such as strip malls, big box locations and corporate campuses. Though often less spectacular in design than conventional churches, these buildings tend to be cheaper than new construction.

Large churches also see such properties as more desirable because they might attract potential churchgoers who are shopping at a retailer next door or across the street. And plenty of suburban property is available thanks to a commercial and retail push to both the fringes and downtowns of large urban areas.

But not everyone is giving thanks for the push into unorthodox religious real estate. The moves have sparked controversy, much as store-front churches did when they began popping up in the inner city years ago. Though protected by a 2000 federal law designed to shield religious institutions from discrimination in land use, churches acquiring commercial and retail property still find themselves under fire. Mr. Thumma says communities are often distrustful of large congregations trying to expand from a nearby town or city. They are reluctant to cede potential business real estate to nonprofits and leery of increased traffic and the demand a church might have for city services.

For three years, Christ Church of Montclair, N.J., has been locked in a battle with Rockaway Township, N.J., over its $14 million acquisition of Agilent Technologies Inc.'s 107-acre office and research facility there.

In addition to a 2,500-seat sanctuary, the church wants to build a K-5 school and recreational facilities for its congregation of nearly 5,000 people. But local officials, concerned about the impact of a crush of parishioners on city services and a potential loss of tax dollars, have so far blocked the project.

"What are we getting out of this?" says Louis Sceusi, mayor of Rockaway Township, which has a population of 22,000. Christ Church, in turn, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming religious discrimination.

Still, churches are gobbling up all sorts of property. In 2003, the Eastside Christian Church on the outskirts of Cincinnati moved into a former 1970s-era fourplex cinema on a beltway looping the city. Walls were knocked down, giving the church a sanctuary the size of a gymnasium. "Where people watched 'The Godfather,' they're now discovering God," says Pastor Jonathan Wolfgang. He says the move is helping the church connect to its suburban congregation, which has grown to 1,200 people, up from 200 a decade ago.

In Portland, Ore., Our Place Church converted part of a 54,000-square-foot technology warehouse and office complex into its new home in 2003, a particularly attractive property to church leaders because of a new Costco store across the street - shoppers might discover the church as they're running errands.

And in perhaps the most high-profile move, Lakewood Church in Houston, which says it has the nation's largest congregation, last year relocated to the former Compaq Center, the 16,000-seat arena that was once home to the National Basketball Association's Rockets.

Moves by churches into retail spaces can create anxiety among parishioners and neighboring stores. In 2001, Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston snapped up a nearby 75,000-square-foot strip center, using some storefronts for its youth and adult programming while maintaining tenants such as TJ Maxx and CVS Pharmacy. Charles Simmons, the church's senior minister, says the acquisition troubled a considerable number of the church's 6,600 members, as well as retailers who worried about teens roaming their stores. "It was a new experience," says Dr. Simmons.

Such fears never materialized, and today, parishioners and retailers say they coexist with few problems, though some retail employees say church members have expressed frustration with shoppers taking up parking spaces. Mr. Simmons says lack of parking is an issue, especially during the Christmas season, when he says Memorial Drive United moves some of its programming to its main church nearby to relieve the problem.

Retailers also balk at sharing space with churches because churches seldom draw as much traffic as restaurants and stores. But employees at a sporting goods store in Tallowood Baptist's new locale, called Tallowood Center, say business is good. Several doors down, a local restaurant chain plans to occupy the former site of a Macaroni Grill. "Churches are a natural feeder for us," says Geoff Herbert, director of operations at 59 Diner, which is expected to open next month.

Tallowood paid $7.5 million for the 12-year-old strip center in 2004, acquiring 80,000-square-feet of retail space and 390 parking spaces on about 6.2 acres across the street from a Ford dealer. Mr. Heslip says new construction would have cost considerably more, and older members might not follow the congregation to a new church. Tallowood spent $500,000 on the renovation of the Circuit City store, a project that presented few construction challenges. The older church, located less than a mile away from the new structure, is undergoing a $26 million expansion.

Tallowood's leaders believe the new campus will attract new followers. For younger members, the church plans to turn what was once the storage bay - with 24-foot ceilings - into basketball courts. At the rear of the building, a modified coffee bar is in the works where Mr. Heslip says folks will be able to come in off the freeway and watch sports network ESPN. And all the church services feature an electronic band, not a choir.

"It's the opposite of the old campus," he says. "And intentionally so."

Welcome to the white-trash nation

Note from Steve: Thanks to Chris for finding this article

Way beyond trucker hats: la vida lowbrow is the new mainstream

By Helen A.S. Popkin
MSNBC contributor

In a scene from the “American Idol” satire “American Dreamz,” an industry suit tells the Kelly Clarkson-styled character (Mandy Moore) and her mom that a “white trash” background is great for her image.

“We’re not white trash,” the mom counters, taken aback.

“Of course you’re not,” the suit replies, rolling his eyes at their garishly decorated middle-class home. “But look how well it did for Britney Spears.” Mandy Moore’s character nods vigorously, ready to embrace any persona that promises fame.

In life, as in art (or at least this movie), the suit is right. Whether it’s America’s embrace of our verbally-challenged president, backlash against Hollywood’s hoity-toity values or the omnipresence of obnoxious reality show jerks, white trash is white hot.

Formerly an insult originated in the antebellum South, the term now describes a growing state of cool, moving beyond the now-passé trucker hats and PBR-in-a-can to full-on “keeping it real.” In fashion lingo, white trash is the ghetto fabulous for spring.

To illustrate the growing white trash cachet, witness “My Name is Earl” (a postmodern “Roseanne”) or the budding movie career of “Blue Collar” comedian Larry the Cable Guy. (An “Ernest” for the new millennium?) Someone tell “The Simpsons”: Between the rise of NASCAR and Dick Cheney’s hunting accident, white trash ain’t just for Cletus and Brandine anymore.

Take Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. On “The Simple Life,” these silver-spoon skanks don’t need a Southern background or humble beginnings typically associated with the low-class moniker. Despite their trustafarian benefits, Paris and Nicole wear their riches like white-trash lottery winners, blowing their cash on pricier versions of regular junk: jewel-encrusted PDAs and cell phones, silk wife-beaters, etc.

Trailer park? What trailer park?
Trucker hats aside, white-trash accoutrements are still all the rage. Swag bags given to celebrities at this year’s Oscars included T-shirts from online retailer White Trash Palace, emblazoned with such slogans as “Every mother is a working mother.” George Clooney auctioned his Oscar bag for charity, but other celebrities wear the white-trash logo as a badge of honor. And that doesn't even include country artists such as Toby Keith, with his new CD “White Trash with Money,” or Candye Kane's “White Trash Girl.”

Kid Rock, with his “White Trash on Dope” tour, worked this shtick from the beginning. Perfectly coifed Jessica Simpson used her own backwoods background to win the coveted Daisy Duke role in the big-screen “Dukes of Hazzard.” Hilary Swank, in the acceptance speech for her second Oscar, crowed about her trailer-park beginnings, much to the dismay of her family, who didn’t remember their life quite as gritty as Swank described.

Swank’s family may have good cause for embarrassment by her podium proclamation. White trash, after all, didn’t start out as a funny slogan on an overpriced T-shirt. In “Gone with the Wind,” Mammy warns Scarlett O’Hara against acting like “white trash.” In its original 1890s definition, the term is a slur against impoverished and uneducated white families in slave-era South — doubly biting in its implication that all non-whites are trash (hence the “white” distinction). It’s also used in “To Kill A Mockingbird” to describe the Ewell family, the patriarch of which is a violent, incestuous drunk.

In a recent episode of England’s hit soap opera “Coronation Street,” a character accused his sister of behaving like her “white trash friends,” and the nation exploded in controversy. Fans were appalled by the show’s use of an insult with racist overtones. Meanwhile, back on these shores, white trash still retains the associations of trailer parks, Camaros-up-on-blocks, screaming babies, unemployment, public drunkenness, lack of education or social skills — but not the social stigma.

Trash lit
These days, hipsters who 10 years ago would have embraced grunge grow long mustaches like the one worn by the title character in “Earl.” White trash now spawns the same pop-culture ephemera associated with past trends. Like the “Preppy Handbook” and “Hipster Handbook,” we now have the “Down Home Trailer Park” book series by Ruby Ann Boxcar, and "White Trash Etiquette," by Dr. Verne Edstrom, Esq., due out this summer.

Plus, we have the style bibles of white-trash couture: reality shows. What’s more uncouth and stereotypically hick-like than obnoxious and seemingly unintelligent people grappling for fame and fortune sans hard work or talent? Beyond “The Jerry Springer Show,” there’s “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses,” revealing to the world America’s inability to raise its children. And don’t forget one of the original reality shows, “Cops,” still going strong.

Fashion statements aside, do we really want to embrace white trash as the new cool? Take, for instance, the antics of current white trash pinup girl Britney Spears and her no-means-of-visible-support husband Kevin Federline. The real-life Beverly Hillbillies recently got a visit from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and a deputy sheriff. It seems a doctor reported their baby, Sean Preston, suffered a skull fracture six days before he was brought to the hospital. Two months earlier, Britney was caught driving with baby Preston on her lap.

It don’t get more “Cops” than that, folks. And it don’t get more white trash than “Cops.”

Helen A.S. Popkin was raised with a car up on blocks in the front yard and "educated" in the Florida public school system.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jane Jacobs, 89: Urban legend


TORONTO - Jane Jacobs was a writer, intellectual, analyst, ethicist and moral thinker, activist, self-made economist, and a fearless critic of inflexible authority.

Mrs. Jacobs died this morning in Toronto. She was 89.

An American who chose to be Canadian, Mrs. Jacobs was a leader in the fights to preserve neighbourhoods and kill expressways, first in New York City, and then in Toronto.

Her efforts to stop the proposed expressway between Manhattan Bridge on east Manhattan and the Holland tunnel on the west ended contributed toward saving SoHo, Chinatown, and the west side of Greenwich Village.

In Toronto, her leadership galvanized the movement that stopped the proposed Spadina Expressway. It would have cut a swath through the lively Annex neighbourhood and parts of the downtown.

Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, became a bible for neighbourhood organizers and what she termed the “foot people”.

It made the case against the utopian planning culture of the times — residential high-rise development, expressways through city hearts, slum clearances, and desolate downtowns.

She believed that residential and commercial activity should be in the same place, that the safest neighbourhoods teem with life, short winding streets are better than long straight ones, low-rise housing is better than impersonal towers, that a neighbourhood is where people talk to one another. She liked the small-scale.

Not everyone agreed. Her arch-critic, Lewis Mumford, called her vision “higgledy-piggledy unplanned casualness.”

Mrs. Jacobs was seen by many of her supporters — mistakenly — as left-wing. Not so.

Her views embraced the marketplace, supported privatization of utilities, frowned on subsidies, and detested the intrusions of government, big or small.

Nor was she right-wing. In fact, she had no time for ideology.

“I think ideologies, no matter what kind, are one of the greatest afflictions because they blind us to seeing what’s going on or what’s being done,’’ she was quoted.

“I’m kind of an atheist,” she said. “As for being a rightist or a leftist, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I think ideologies are blinders.”

Mrs. Jacobs scorned nationalism and argued in her 1980 book, The Question of Separatism, that Quebec would be better off leaving Canada. Moreover, she argued that some cities would be better off as independent economic and political units.

Her view of cities startled long-held perceptions. In her 1969 book, The Economy of Cities, Mrs. Jacobs challenged the dogma of agricultural primacy and created a debate on both the economic growth and stagnation of cities.

“Current theory in many fields — economics, history, anthropology — assumed that cities are built upon a rural economic base,’’ she wrote.

“If my observations and reasonings are correct, the reverse is true: that is rural economies, including agricultural work, are directly built upon city economies and city work.”

“For me,” John Sewell, a former mayor of Toronto recalled, “the most significant influence was in terms of the notion that cities drive economies, not provincial or national governments.”

“She’s the one who propagated the thought, and I think she’s dead right.” Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago — the 1995 winner of the Nobel Prize for economics — liked Mrs. Jacob’s theories.

“I like her style,” he was quoted. “That kind of stepping back from facts and asking, what kind of economics produced this idea, is just a natural thing for an economist to do. I think everybody in economics finds her work very congenial for that reason.’’

Mrs. Jacobs was no expert, bare of established credentials had limited formal education, but was a member of that wonderful school of amateurs — American writers who were observers, critics and original thinkers, including such names as Paul Goodman, William H. Whyte, Rachel Carson, Betty Friedan and Ralph Nader.

Mrs. Jacobs, born May 4, 1916, grew up in Scranton, the center of Pennsylvania coal country.

Scranton may well have sparked Mrs. Jacob’s life-long interest in cities and how they work. It provided “a template of how a city stagnates and declines and may be part of the reason why that subject interested me so much, because I came from a city where that happened.” she was quoted.

“I think I was rather fortunate in having wonderful school teachers in the first and second grade. They taught me almost everything I knew in school.

“From the third grade on, I’m sorry to say, they were nice people, but they were dopes.’”

“I came from a family where women had worked, mostly as schoolteachers, for quite a few generations. I had a great-aunt who went to Alaska and taught Indians. My mother had worked as a schoolteacher, then a nurse; she became the night supervising nurse at an important hospital in Philadelphia,” she was quoted.

“Those were traditional women’s occupations, to be sure. But I did grow up with the idea that women could do things, and in my own family I was treated much the same as my brothers.”

Finishing high school, she trained as a stenographer but got an unpaid job as a reporter at the local newspaper. Mrs. Jacobs moved to New York City in the Depression years and wrote a few articles for Vogue.

Then, at age 22, she went to Columbia University, but that didn’t last and after two years she returned to writing. She never embraced an institutional affiliation.

David Crombie, a former may or of Toronto, described Mrs. Jacobs as a “Harvard refusenik.”

In fact, according to Crombie, she had been offered more than 30 honourary degrees and turned them all down.

“It just wasn’t her style,” Crombie said. “She didn’t see that as what she was about.”

She married Robert Jacobs in 1944. He was an architect and it was his work that got her interest in Architectural Forum, a monthly magazine, where after a short time she went to work, becoming a senior editor.

Theirs was a close relationship and a happy marriage. It was to last for 52 years before he died of lung cancer at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital, a hospital he had designed.

In 1958, after writing about downtowns for Fortune magazine, Mrs. Jacobs received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to write about cities. At the same time, she was creating havoc with developers, planners and politicians who wanted to put a highway through New York City.

Jason Epstein, her long-time editor at Random House and co-founder of the New York Review of Books, recalled that the proposed expressway had nothing to do with moving traffic. “It would be devastating to the city,” he said.

“The reason to build it was that it was eligible for federal highway funds because it connected New Jersey to New York.

“It meant jobs for the construction industry, lots of money for politicians and architects who benefit from those things, and probably for real estate developers who would pick up on the fringes.

“It took 12 years for Jane to finally stop this thing,” Epstein recalled. “She was arrested at one point and charged with a couple of felonies and was in serious trouble. At one point she was thrown in jail.”

In 1968, Mrs. Jacobs and her family moved to Toronto. They didn’t want their two draft-age sons, Jim and Ned, to serve in the Vietnam war.

“It never occurred to me that I would ever be anything else but American,” she was quoted. But that changed when she took part in a march on the Pentagon in 1967 and found herself facing a row of soldiers in gas masks.

“They looked like some big horrible insect, the whole bunch of them together, not human beings at all. … After a certain amount of time passed, I decided, well, that’s it. … I fell out of love with my country. It sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t feel a part of America anymore.”

Toronto was ripe for Mrs. Jacobs. She wasn’t here long before plans were revealed to build the Spadina Expressway, which promised to cut a strip through the city, making it easier for suburbanites to commute in and out of the downtown. She wrote a newspaper article highly critical of city planners for their vision to ‘Los Angelize’ what she described as “the most hopeful and healthy city in North America, still unmangled, still with options.”

In an unrequited sentiment, odd as it might seem, planners adored Jacobs. She described them this way, however. “First of all, our official planning departments seem to be brain-dead in the sense that we cannot depend on them in any way, shape or form for providing intellectual leadership in addressing urgent problems involving the physical future of the city.”

Mrs. Jacobs galvanized local citizens against the planners and politicians in what became known as the Stop Spadina movement.

“She really enjoyed the activist part,” Crombie recalled, “the strategy, the being on the streets, being at the meetings. She enjoyed meeting people, she enjoyed the vigour of activism.”

That was one facet of Mrs. Jacob’s character. Another, as Crombie put it, was Jane the ethicist.

“She had a terrific sense of the moral order,’’ he said. “She had the moral authority of an Old Testament prophet and the easy authority of a mother superior.”

For the most part, Mrs. Jacob’s books were an intellectual progression, each taking her thoughts on cities and economies a step further.

“She moved beyond planning to look at the city as economic generator,” commented Christopher Hume, urban affairs writer for The Star.

“Eschewing jargon and received wisdom, she possessed an extraordinary clarity of mind that enabled her to reveal truths so obvious they were in visible to the rest of the world.”

Epstein, the New York book editor who discovered Mrs. Jacobs as a writer of books, described her as a “shrewd” woman.

“She had that wonderful double view, trusting no one side, and suspicious of the other, which she had every reason to be. It made her mind very complex, extremely clear, strong and vigourous.”

As well as The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Economy of Cities, and The Question of Separatism, Mrs. Jacobs wrote other books, including: Cities and the Wealth of Nations; The Girl on the Hat, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue; A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska; The Hannah Breece Story; The Nature of Economies; and Dark Age Ahead.

Mrs. Jacobs was taken aback that her book The Question of Separatism was not well received by some Canadians. She wrote that Quebec would be better off and more vital economy outside of Canada.

“I don’t turn up my nose at people feeling emotional about things,” she was quoted.

“Emotion is valid. But I’m surprised at how emotional people get about Quebec.”

Her story of A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska is a book about her great aunt in turn-of-the century Alaska. The Girl on the Hat, written for her grand child, Caitlin, is the story of a resourceful girl named Tina who is two inches tall.

The central premise of her book, The Nature of Economies, is that economics is a web of connected forces subject to the same laws as all other living things in nature.

At the time in March, 2000, she told The Star’s Judy Stoffman: “This will be a radical idea to those who think of human beings as being outside nature. Human beings are neither adversaries of or the inevitable masters of nature. They live by the same processes as all nature.”

Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Jacobs continued to live in her three-storey brick house on Albany Ave., a tree-lined street in the Annex neighbourhood she helped preserve.

She wrote in an upstairs office on a typewriter, refusing to use a computer. A son, Jim, an inventor, lived close by and another son, Ned, worked for the Vancouver Parks Board and is a musician, and a daughter Burgin, is an artist and lives in New Denver. B.C.

The shelves of her study were not filled with books about economics or cities, but with writings on chaos theory and the sciences, subjects which stimulated her own thinking.

Shortly after writing The Nature of Economies, she was quoted as saying: “I think I’m living in a marvellous age when great change is occurring. We now see that there is no straight-line cause and effect; things are connected by webs.

“This understanding comes from advances in the life-sciences, and it opens up the possibility of understanding all kinds of things we haven’t understood before. I think it’s very exciting.”

As for her own life, she said the following: “Really, I’ve had a very easy life.

“By easy I don’t mean just lying around, but I haven’t been put upon, really. And it’s been luck mostly. Being brought up in a time when women weren’t put down, that’s luck. Being in a family where I wasn’t put down, that’s luck. Finding the right man to marry, that’s the best luck! Having nice children, healthy children, that’s luck.

“All these lucky things.”

Agree With This? Worst Song of All Time

The worst song of all time, the one that no one can stand to hear for even a few seconds is the 1968 megahit "Honey," by Bobby Goldsboro. (It was No. 1 for five agonizing weeks in the spring of that year.) You know, it's the nauseating tearjerker about the wife dying and the tree she planted before her untimely demise. "See the tree, how big it's grown / But friend, it hasn't been too long, it wasn't big..." At least, that's what CNN music critic Todd Leopold thinks is the worst song ever.

In the interest of fairness--and because, as he says, it's foolish to single out "Honey" when there are so many other awful songs--Leopold conducted an informal poll among his colleagues at CNN. There were two rules:

1. The song had to have been a hit, the kind you hear on the radio so often you can't change the station fast enough.
2. It can't have been a song that wore out its welcome through repetition. A really bad song is one you hate from the beginning.

These are the songs CNN employees nominated as the worst song ever:
--Starship's "We Built This City," a No. 1 hit from 1985, which was also named Blender magazine's worst song ever.
--The Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight"
--Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart"
--Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings"
--Don Johnson's "Heartbeat"
--C.W. McCall's "Convoy"
--Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"
--Rick Dees' "Disco Duck"
--Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps"
--Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park"

Leopold wasn't swayed. He says, "I'll stick with 'Honey.' Or, at least, it'll stick with decomposing, stepped-in garbage on a hot day."

internet surprise

I got a nice little present from my Dad tonight while doing laundry.

Apparently the alternate internet access number I was using on dial-up was not local (despite EarthLink and Sprint's verbal assurances that it was) and I was being charged for every time I needed to go online when the main number was out by Sprint. EarthLink conveniently does not cover this in their service agreement.

Sprint sends the bill to Dad, Dad stews on two or three months of bills (building up that patented Swain anger) and Mom brings it to the surface. So now I have about $300.00 of guilt over my head.

And reconfiguring my modem to the latest driver and "maximized stability" (another thank you to EarthLink) leaves it sounding tinny at startup with only a slight bit of performance gain.

Thus is my evening.

The movie title that launched a phenomenon

'Snakes on a Plane': So 'stupid,' it's 'brilliant'

NEW YORK (AP) -- The buzz -- or hiss -- began with the movie's title, a plot-spoiling punch line that rapidly evolved into an Internet phenomenon: Production stills were posted on the Web, followed by mock movie trailers and posters, R-rated audio clips, silly songs, poems, even a line of T-shirts.

"Snakes on a Plane" arrives in theaters August 18, but is already a cult blockbuster for fans who snicker at its B-movie premise.

The thriller stars Samuel L. Jackson as an FBI agent protecting a witness on a jet full of lethal serpents unleashed by the mob. (Get the full story -- including an interview with Jackson -- from

Brian Finkelstein, the 26-year-old creator of the fan Web site, said the daffy title is what galvanized people to spoof the movie even before the New Line Cinema production finished filming.

"It all came exclusively out of the title, and how honest and straightforward and clear the title was. There was no metaphor, no symbolism. Everything you needed to know about the movie was right there in the title," said Finkelstein, whose site has received an estimated 300,000 hits since its January debut.

The title made for an easy crossover into the pop-culture vernacular.

The slang Web site has eight ways to define the phrase, including: "A simple existential observation that has the same meaning as 'Whaddya gonna do?' or '(Stuff) Happens.' "

But leave it to merry Internet pranksters to drop an unprintable profanity -- twice. In a popular audio trailer crafted by 19-year-old Chris Rohan of Bethesda, Maryland, a smack-talking Jackson imitator yells: "I want these (expletive) snakes off the (expletive) plane!"

Rohan said the title "sounds stupid, but that's what makes it brilliant" -- thus inspiring him to write and record the trailer while enlisting a friend to voice rough-and-tumble Jackson.

In another send-up, a video clip presents impersonations of Christopher Walken and Jack Nicholson.

"There are snakes," complains a faux Nicholson, with Joker-like exaggeration. "On the plane. And they're biting. And they're scaring people."

Yet another video follows a 4-year-old as he flies a paper airplane smothered with rubber snakes. Guided by the boy's hand, a plastic figurine kicks them off. In a making-of featurette, the boy says sound effects -- "making loud noises" -- were most challenging.

Posted on Finkelstein's site, a fan-made love duet titled "Two Snakes on a Plane" includes the lyrics: "We could spend our lives together like two snakes on a plane/Shed our skins and wrap each other in all that still remains."

The snake hoopla comes at a time where there's a vast audience downloading and sharing satirical spoofs of all genres, such as widely circulated mock trailers of "The Shining" and a "Titanic" sequel, titled "Titanic: Two the Surface."

New Line recently requested that the movie's PG-13 rating be switched to R and ordered the shooting of additional scenes, including one with Jackson spouting an expletive like in Rohan's trailer.

"More power to that," Rohan said. "I love just hearing Samuel L. Jackson blurt out the F-word every five seconds."

Monday, April 24, 2006


Got it from Chris:

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:30am

2 Diamonds or pearls? I like ‘em both, though I wrote a story on diamonds.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Benchwarmers

4. What are your favorite TV shows? I don’t really watch TV much anymore.

5. What did you have for breakfast? Yogurt.

6. What is your middle name? Forrest.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? American, generally.

8. Food you dislike? I could make a list. I tend to be a pretty picky eater.

9. What is your favorite potato chip? I guess it would be Lay’s KC Masterpiece Barbeque, but I try to avoid potato chips, though I will eat popcorn by the bucketful.

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Geez, it changes every day. I’d say Free by Alex Bugnon or Spirit by Earth Wind & Fire.

11. Favorite sandwich? The Italian Sub at The New Yorker Delicatessen .

12. What characteristics to you despise? Stupidity.

13. Favorite item of clothing? I’m a clotheshorse, that’s like asking mother to name her favorite kid.

14. Where would you go on vacation if you could go anywhere? New York City. In fact, I’m going this week.

15. Favorite brand of clothing? Polo Ralph Lauren, but see item 13.

16. Where would you want to retire? Somewhere without cell phones.

17. Favorite time of day? The dead of night. The phone stops ringing.

18. Where you born? Rocky Mount, Virginia.

19. Where have you lived: Here and Blacksburg, Virginia.

19. What is your favorite sport to watch? Professional baseball (in person).

20. Who do you least expect to send this back? Nobody.

21. Person you expect to send it back first? Nobody.

22. What laundry detergent do you use? Tide powder, Cheer Dark, Era liquid, Woolite. Nothing I do is imple.

23. Coke or Pepsi? Coke.

24. Are you a morning person or night owl? Night owl.

25. What size shoe do you wear? 13, usually narrow.

26. Do you have any pets? Nope.

28. What did you want to be when you were little? An architect or a JCPenney store manager.

29. Favorite candy bar? Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

30. What is your best childhood memory? It all blurs together, but it was nice.

31. What are the different jobs you have had in your life? Telemarketer, factory worker, architect, photographer, desktop publisher, direct sales, bookkeeper, tax preparer.

32.What color underwear are you wearing? White.

33. Nickname: Not telling.

34. Eye color? Hazel.

35. Where have you traveled for pleasure? Washington, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, New York, Baltimore.

36. Ever been toilet papering? No.

37. Love someone so much it made you cry? Only once. I got over it.

38. Been in a car accident? Several

39. Croutons or bacon bits? Croutons.

40. Favorite day of the week? Saturday.

41. Favorite restaurant? Village Tavern.

42. Favorite flower? Roses.

43. Favorite ice cream? Godiva.

44. Disney or Warner Bros? Warner Bros.

45. How many times did you fail your driver's test? Zero, I don’t drive.

46. Favorite fast food restaurant? Five Guys.

47. Before this one, from whom did you get your last email from? Mitch.

48. Which store would you choose to max out your credit cards? Bergdorf Goodman

49. What do you do most often order when you are at Sonic? I don’t go to Sonic much.

50. What time is your bedtime? Around 3am.

51. Who are you most curious about their response to this? Nobody.

52. Last person you went to dinner with? Mom.

53. What are you listening to right now? The TV (“How I Met Your Mother” on CBS)

54. What is your favorite color? Red.

55. How many tattoos do you have? None.

56. Who do you tell everything to? Like anybody listens. LOL

57.Where is your favorite place to live? Where I am now.

58.What do you hope to do before you die? Get laid again.

59. Something you'd like to add? Nope.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


ATLANTA - You know, it's hard out here for a prof.

Paul Hudson was taught that lesson during Esquire magazine's Atlanta search for the "Best-Dressed Real Man in America" earlier this month.

"I'm known as the best-dressed man at [Georgia Perimeter College]," said Hudson, 55, a history professor who put his sartorial pride on the line at Macy's in Lenox Square; Atlanta was one of 10 cities in the competition.

Unfortunately, his suit and tie ensemble from Jos. A. Bank failed to even crack the top 10.

A schoolteacher from southwest Atlanta won the competition in a brown, custom-made pinstriped suit from Executive Clothiers, a plaid shirt and buckled shoe-boots from Kuhlman at Phipps Plaza.

To complete the outfit, Shawn Lovings wore a Bordeaux ascot borrowed from Executive Clothiers salesman Leonard Gresham, who competed last year and lost.

The judges — Esquire senior fashion editor Wendell Brown, Star 94 "Super Shopper" Alisa Henderson, veteran NFL safety Mike Logan and three Macy's employees complimented Lovings for his individuality.

"We liked how [Lovings] pulled himself together," said Brown. "You could tell he was at ease in his clothes, unlike some guys who looked like they dressed just for the occasion."

The ultimate winner of Esquire's search will be announced on NBC's "Today" show in early September. But Lovings showed few signs of stress.

"I'll be ready," he said. "I take style seriously. And I think you could see which guys weren't really comfortable doing their own thing, like I was. I take my cues from legendary dressers like Duke Ellington. The old-school ways never fail."

If he'd worn a hat, Douglas Peek, 28, would have tipped it to fellow contestants who placed higher in the judging. Peek, a public-speaking instructor at the University of Tennessee, was one of many who came from out of state to compete.

"My mom and I are big fans of ["Today" co-host] Katie Couric, and we saw the Esquire guys on TV last year," said Peek, who mixed jeans and a T-shirt from Armani A/X with a pinstriped blazer and French-cuffed shirt from Express, cowboy boots and Tiffany cuff links.

"When she heard it was coming back again, my mom said, 'You need to drive down to Atlanta.'"

"I have to give the guys here credit for how fine they dress. The ladies of Atlanta must be pretty pleased."

Wal-Mart Customer Arrested after Self-Checkout Mishap

Chain Store Age

GRAPEVINE, Texas - A Wal-Mart customer who was experiencing difficulties with a self-checkout system not working properly was arrested for allegedly punching it out, The Star-Telegram reported.

Joel Wallace Hansen had allegedly scanned two or three items on a self-checkout machine when it locked up while he was in a hurry. Hansen, who is accused of punching and breaking the screen, talked about the incident a day after he was arrested and was released from the Tarrant County Jail on a $1,000 bond. Hansen denied throwing a punch and said he never threatened anyone, despite what employees claim.

Hansen reportedly said that he would work something out with the store about the damage, which was first estimated at $2,000 but has been reduced to $715, and that he should not be charged with criminal mischief.

the full Northlake Mall Grand Opening photoset

I'm on a photgraphic roll tonight, y'all.

Check out my trip to the (then) newly-opened Northlake Mall (Charlotte, North Carolina) on September 16, 2005. I posted some of the photos before here in spotted at northlake.

This post is cross-posted at LiveMalls.

Want more Northlake? Check out these LiveMalls posts:
Belk, Northlake Mall
Dillard's, Northlake Mall
Hecht's, Northlake Mall
Dick's Sporting Goods, Northlake Mall

the full Tysons Corner Center Expansion photoset

Proof of how far behind things had gotten for me. Check out my trip to the expanded Tysons Corner Center (McLean, Virginia) on its Grand Opening Weekend, October 1-2, 2005. I just posted these tonight!

I posted some of the photos before here in spotted at tysons corner center.

This post is cross-posted at LiveMalls, if it matters.

Want more Tysons? Check out these LiveMalls posts:
Hecht's, Tysons Corner Center
Bloomingdale's, Tysons Corner Center
Lord & Taylor, Tysons Corner Center

upload and shit

My weekend was pretty uneventful. I dug a trench around our well for the concrete to go under the new well head in the front yard, and then went to Lowe’s and the club.

Yesterday I did some shopping in Roanoke and uploaded a shitload of old pictures onto Flickr.

Blogger is acting up like crazy tonight. I can barely publish.

Hopefully some of y'all did more interesting stuff over the weekend. And if you did, talk about it here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Consumerism inflates economy

In Japan, retail resurges as a long spell of deflation ends.

Washington Post News Service

TOKYO - If happiness is a $150 pair of designer sneakers, Nishiki Tada bought himself a bundle of joy last week.

Flush with a new raise, the 27-year-old carpenter joined the mobs of shoppers in Tokyo's Omotesando neighborhood, the hip epicenter of Japan's retail renaissance. Inside urban clothier A Bathing Ape, where multicolored sneakers revolve on conveyor belts like pieces of tempting sushi, Tada dropped nearly $300 in 15 minutes on a long-coveted pair of tennis shoes and other pricey accessories. ''I love shopping,'' Tada said. ``And now my life is great because I have money to spend!''

He had his shopping companion and boss, Kazuhiro Takeshima, to thank for that. With Tokyo real estate prices rising in 2005 for first time in 15 years, Takeshima's home-construction business has rebounded too, allowing him to reward his staff with raises.

''There is a sense that we're back in business, that things are good in Japan again,'' said Takeshima, 35. ``It makes us all feel a little more confident about opening our wallets to spend.''

That chain reaction of spending -- from houses to cars to sneakers -- heralds what economists call the long-awaited return of Japanese consumers. Their comeback, analysts say, is the strongest sign yet that Japan is overcoming a protracted cycle of economic downturns by finally licking its most daunting financial plague: deflation.

Unlike most nations, where prices rise with inflation each year, Japan has been locked in seven years of price declines, or deflation, as gloomy consumers and skeptical businesses put off purchasing, expecting that prices would continue to fall. The drag on the economy forced some companies to cut payrolls, creating what many feared would be a cycle of constantly falling prices.

That is changing during a strong economic recovery that has lifted Japan's consumer price index for four straight months. That the world's second-largest economy is getting out its checkbook again is good news for the global economy.

Before Japan's economic bubble burst in 1991 as real estate and stock prices crashed, Japan was criticized in many corners for trade protectionism and corporate hurdles that made it difficult for foreign companies to tap the lucrative Japanese market.

Although barriers still exist, overseas retailers such as Starbucks and Gap have proliferated, globalizing the insular Japanese retail market. Last year, the value of imports was projected to have reached 13.8 percent of gross domestic product, the largest in more than a decade. While higher oil prices were a factor, so was strong demand for European wines, Chinese textiles and American leather goods.

''With Japanese consumers spending again, we could be looking at the start of the longest period of economic expansion in Japan since World War II,'' said Takahide Kiuchi, senior economist at Nomura Securities. ``This is something that is going to be felt around the world.''

Japan is entering its fourth year of economic growth and has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, the lowest since 1998.

Unlike previous, short-lived recoveries fueled by government spending, the upward trend now is based largely on slimmed-down companies posting record profit and returning to a cycle of hiring. Major banks have cleaned up their bad loans. This month, the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Nikkei index soared near a seven-year high. The Bank of Japan last month scrapped its ultra-loose monetary policy, which had kept its key interest rate near zero percent for the past five years.

Analysts expect Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government to declare the death of deflation this summer.

Takuya Wakizawa, 30, a Tokyo television programmer, recently took the plunge into homeownership. ''I started seeing mortgage rates going up, and I realized I couldn't wait any longer,'' said Wakizawa, who locked in a 35-year fixed mortgage for a two-bedroom Tokyo apartment at 2.62 percent last summer. Rates for similar loans have since risen above 2.8 percent.

''My generation never used to think that prices would get higher,'' said Wakizawa. ``But prices are going up, and it makes you feel like you can't afford not to buy now.''

Special correspondent Akiko Yamamoto contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

N.F.L. Draft Daze: The Lost Weekend


THE Super Bowl is one thing. Plenty of women who consider themselves football widows throughout the fall can make peace with the thought of spending a few hours once a year in front of a television for a game that itself transcends sports — an American carnival, a spectacle of money and excess, held in festive locales, with rock stars performing at halftime and plenty of color and pageantry along the way.

The N.F.L. draft, however, is something else. Officially known as the National Football League's annual player selection meeting, the draft is basically a weekend where representatives from each professional football team gather in Manhattan and divvy up last season's crop of collegiate talent. Each team allowed to pick one player per round (barring trades) over the course of seven rounds to add to next season's roster.

Like the Super Bowl, the draft comes once a year. Like the Super Bowl, it features football players.

But that's about where the similarities end. Equal parts livestock auction and trade convention, the draft unfolds as slowly as a championship cricket match in Pakistan — 17 hours over two days.

ESPN's coverage of the event, which will be held this year at Radio City Music Hall, starts at noon next Saturday, and ends Sunday at 6 p.m. And much of the action seems to consist of middle-aged men standing around in windowless rooms waiting for telephones to ring. It's sports without the sports, you might say.

Yet for a large and growing subculture of American men, it is also a phenomenon, for some even rivaling the Super Bowl itself in importance. ESPN's Nielsen ratings for the first day of the draft, which registered a 4.3 last year, have more than tripled since the mid-80's.

The audience (each ratings point equals 1.1 million households) is 79 percent male, and seemingly about 97 percent obsessed. Normal life grinds to a halt each year during draft weekend. Travel plans are delayed, social obligations are put off and wives and girlfriends are tuned out.

"The season ends in late January and starts in July, and between, there is a time lapse I call the "desert,' " said Henry Browning, 38, a pharmaceutical research scientist who uses the draft as a pretext to leave his wife behind in Kalamazoo, Mich., and travel — to San Francisco this year — with four old graduate school buddies and hold a two-day draft party. "I consider the draft the oasis."

For a large and growing subculture of American women, this is a weekend to be endured.

"It's insane," said Mia Rosenwasser, 28, a high school Spanish teacher in Atlanta who loses her fiancé, Chad Kishel, for about 48 hours every April as he and his male friends temporarily transfer their emotional commitment to the slick-haired ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. "I think it's uniquely male."

Most women go through at least a phase of trying to understand it.

"Last year, I was trying to be supportive, and I sat with my boyfriend for maybe an hour," Ms. Rosenwasser said. "Then I found out it went on all day. He was going to be spending seven and a half hours in the same room, without leaving."

Andrea Lavinthal, a magazine beauty editor in Manhattan said she has reluctantly decided that draft mania must be some male equivalent to what the Oscar's red carpet show is for women.

"Guys can watch the actual Academy Awards show," Ms. Lavinthal said, "but we need three hours of Joan Rivers beforehand. We need to know about the hair and makeup. It's the same thing. They need to be out in front with this knowledge. They need to be in the know."

The growth in popularity of fantasy football leagues can account for some of the increase in popularity of the draft. The event provides fantasy players reams of data and insight they can use to plan their rosters. The draft is also the rare football event where half the audience does not go home miserable.

Fans of all 32 teams have a stake in the outcome, and because every team comes out of the weekend with new talent, every fan can imagine himself a winner. But that does not necessarily account for the passion that many draft aficionados display.

Ms. Rosenwasser said her fiancé has been planning to observe a meticulous draft day regimen. He will start with an early morning workout to get the juices flowing, will fire up the barbecue grill around noon, and will spend every free minute beyond those chores reviewing the draft analysis he has been compiling for months. When his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are on the clock to make a selection, it is understood that everyone in the room is to remain silent.

He does not want anything to "break his concentration," said Ms. Rosenwasser, who added that she planned to endure the draft this year by quietly sitting beside him, working on plans for their wedding and honeymoon.

While several women interviewed insisted that they considered themselves football fans, most said that the draft seemed to represent an insurmountable gender barrier.

"I used to try to make myself pass out," recalled a 26-year-old public relations executive in Washington who asked that her name not be used because she didn't want to embarrass her prominent foreign political family. A Washington Redskins fan herself, she nonetheless said spending two days in a darkened studio apartment watching the draft with her ex-boyfriend was like being trapped "in a surreal bubble."

"I just wanted to lose consciousness, so I wouldn't have to watch," she said. "Being trapped in that space, it was terrible. But I couldn't go out and do anything, because if I left," she said, her boyfriend would pout, as if she "didn't appreciate history in the making."

This year, she said, she has a new boyfriend, and she considers their first draft weekend together something of a test. "It could make or break the relationship," she said wearily.

To be certain, not all male football fans are obsessive about the draft. Will Leitch, the editor of the sports blog, admitted in an e-mail message that he finds "the notion of middle-aged balding men salivating over 20-year-old college men in their underwear on national television a bit creepy."

But those who are into it are very, very into it.

Tim Gerheim, 24, a law student at the University of Texas at Austin, said the draft is his favorite sporting event of the year, something he anticipates and enjoys more than the Super Bowl.

"It's a very intellectual experience," he said. "You're trying to predict what is going to happen, you're putting yourself in the shoes of the people who are the decision makers."

The male obsession with the draft does reveal tendencies about how each gender approaches sports fandom. Men tend to value clear-cut measurements of ability and achievement — which is almost all the draft is — more than female sports fans, who take greater interest in athletes' personality and character, said Steven J. Danish, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in sports-related issues.

"Men want data and statistics," Dr. Danish said. "They don't care if athletes are nice people. But women are much more interested in the back story, whether they helped people out when they were growing up."

Certainly the hunger for data borders on addiction.

"Every year, I say I'm not going to do it, but I end up with the television on right through Sunday night," said Russell Levine, a sports media executive who lives in West Orange, N.J. His wife, Susan Levine, was as sympathetic as most wives could be. The two met in a sports bar, after all, and Ms. Levine said she considers herself one of the biggest female football fans she knows.

Still, the charms of the N.F.L. draft are largely lost on her. She can only make it through about 20 picks in the first round, she said.

"I actually take care of the children," she said, "while he's sitting in front of the TV."

Glass Slippers by Puma


THE thousands of people who rallied this month to demand legislation to legitimize immigrant status achieved at least one goal: they made the country take notice of an issue often eclipsed by fashionable matters like obesity rates, antioxidant creams (or anti-antioxidant creams? one does get confused) or the Britney Spears bump.

Sarah Jones has been doing as much for the audiences at "Bridge and Tunnel," her one-woman Broadway show in which she portrays disenfranchised contestants at an all-immigrant poetry slam. As Ms. Jones, a native New Yorker, transforms her voice, face and body with awe-inspiring realness into her 14 tragicomic characters — including an elderly Jewish woman who is Polish-German-Lithuanian, a Dominican schoolteacher and the smooth Pakistani host — her work slices and dices a few genres as well.

She has been called a poet, a rapper, a comic, a performance artist, an activist, terms that cropped up in 2002, when she sued the Federal Communications Commission (and won) over a ruling that "Your Revolution," her explicit rap song about misogyny, was indecent.

It is hard to believe there could be more than one such multiple-personality artiste, but there are, and two of them collided years ago. It was in 2000 at the HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, where Ms. Jones was receiving an award for another one-woman show, and her longtime idol, Robin Williams, was appearing. The two supercharged particles met in a hotel hallway and almost instantly exploded into a welter of voices and accents.

Then the star-struck Ms. Jones cast her eyes down and saw something she sincerely coveted: a pair of iridescent green sneakers designed for Puma by Jil Sander, the couture equivalent of the plain 14th Street Pumas she was wearing.

"So I told him, 'Wow, I want your shoes,' and he said, 'No, I want your shoes,' " she recalled. "And I said, 'No, I really want your shoes,' and he said, 'No, I really want your shoes.' " This went back and forth until finally Mr. Williams took off his shoes and handed them to her, and she did the same. "It was like this volcano of fun energy," she said, "and the lava came away in the form of these shoes, to extend the metaphor to a place it should never have gone."

Ms. Jones took the shoes and, because they're sneakers, ran. "The saddest part of the story is that we wear the same size shoe," she said. But it made the Cinderella story work. She still has the sneakers today and wears them often enough not to gather dust in the closet, revered but idle.

"At first, I thought, 'I am going to put them away and keep them perfect,' " she said. "But they make their way to Equinox."

While she loves the Pumas — she has been finicky about footwear since the age of 2 — they are also a token of the day she met her idol just as her career was taking off. What's more, the exchange that put them on her feet, ruby slipper-style, is a reminder that comedy is about going too far, about trampling perceived niceties and boundaries, an ethic Mr. Williams knows well.

"Of course, Robin is so funny," Ms. Jones said. "If he picks this up and reads it, he'll say, 'I gave that woman my shoes?' "

That's his tough luck. As anyone who makes an indelible impression knows only too well, you never get to take anything back.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lifestyle Center Expansion at Valley View Mall Adds Barnes & Noble, Carrabba's and Panera Bread

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Apr 21, 2006 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. today announced it will develop a new lifestyle center addition to Valley View Mall in Roanoke, VA, called "The District at Valley View." The lifestyle center will feature Barnes & Noble, plus fashion retailers and restaurants including Carrabba's Italian Grille, Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy and Panera Bread.

The multi-million dollar project includes the addition and redevelopment of 76,000 square feet of space on the northeast quadrant of Valley View Mall, near the entrance to JCPenney and the main mall entrance. Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

The District at Valley View will feature an open-air, streetscape setting with unique and eye-catching storefronts, extensive landscaping and pedestrian-friendly walkways. The lifestyle expansion will also have abundant parking including curbside parking for shopper convenience.

What a feeling! The '80s are back in fashion

By Allie Shah, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Just when you thought it was safe to give those leg warmers to a museum, they're back in style -- along with a host of other iconic pieces of 1980s fashion.

Designers such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs seem to be saying, "I love the '80s" with their updated versions of a decade many associate with ugly fashions.

Anthropologie is selling cropped parachute pants and Ragstock is advertising skinny black jeans for men and leg warmers for women. But perhaps the dominant '80s-inspired fashion of the moment is a pair of leggings worn under dresses and short skirts.

"We're really starting to see the strongest influences of the '80s in spring 2006," said Gregg Andrews, fashion director at Nordstrom, one of several stores carrying '80s designer Norma Kamali's latest creations.

"We're starting to see designers have a renewed interest in shape and silhouette and volume," he said. "We're on the end of a cycle that has been very much about lots of embellishments, lots of color, lots of very dressy fabrics. Now we're going into a cycle that's a little more subdued, understated. So the interest will come in the shape of the clothes."

The decade that brought us oversized knit tops and jackets with shoulder pads was all about volume. From cowl necklines to dolman sleeves to blouson shirts and bubble skirts, the look was mostly full on the top and narrow at the bottom.

With the birth of MTV in 1981, music stars such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson played a huge role in setting fashion trends. Earlier in the decade, the new-wave music trend also influenced styles that are in reruns today -- skinny jeans and black-and-white striped shirts, for example.

For a few years, elements of '80s fashion have been creeping back in style. Flats for women, argyle sweaters and prep brands such as Lacoste have became popular again.

"The clean and wholesome side of the '80s we've already explored," Andrews said. "Now we're going to the more rock-inspired, more decadent -- that whole new-wave look."

Designers, he said, are fashion historians who look back for inspiration and then create fresh versions to reflect a new decade of style.

But just as with any decade, the '80s produced its share of fashion mistakes. The oversized shirt with leggings and canvas sneakers ensemble should not be recycled, Andrews said.

Not everyone believes that we're seeing a '80s fashion rerun. Nina Stotler, a fashion trend consultant for Peclers Paris North America in New York, said the '80s trend was important two years ago and is gone now.

"The only thing that's referencing the '80s now is the leggings," she said. "We're seeing a lot more subdued colors, with nude being really important. It's not so much the bright '80s colors."

She also said that fashion consumers have changed drastically since the 1980s, when everyone wanted to wear the same Guess? jeans. They don't want looks that are mass-marketed, she said. They want something tailored to reflect their individual style.

Andrews, meanwhile, advises fashion-conscious shoppers to avoid overdoing the trend. "There's lots of great items from '80s that will be inspiring and that women will want to incorporate in their wardrobe," he said. "The key will be picking one '80s-inspired item and not turning it into a period costume."

Teenage Passions, Writ Small

Cryptic, Unique Dog Tags Assert, Honor, Intimidate

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer

Without saying a word, Teofilo Rubi announces his identity to everyone he passes at his Prince William County high school. All they have to do is glance at the dog tag around his neck, emblazoned with the blue and white flag of his native Central American country and the words, " Yo Soy CATRACHO " (I am Honduran).

A few lunch tables over at Gar-Field Senior High, a 16-year-old girl sports a dog tag engraved with a photo of her girlfriend. Another classmate wears a dog tag with a picture of Al Pacino clutching an assault rifle in the movie "Scarface."

You want to know the essential truth of teenagers? Check out their dog tags. Walk through the hallways or cafeterias in just about any high school, and you can see them draped around students' necks like modern-day lockets or shiny talismans, proclaiming an identity or intimating a tantalizing narrative.

Resting squarely on students' chests or swinging with their strides, the oblong pieces of metal are engraved with images of boyfriends, slain relatives, native homelands or any number of hip-hop approved celebrities such as Tupac Shakur or Jesus. In what has to be one of the more ironic appropriations of U.S. military apparel, the dog tags can be encrusted with diamonds, gold-plated or filled with blinking LED lights, carrying price tags that range from $20 to $100, and in some cases more.

"Everybody wears them. It represents who you are. It deals with who you are," said Rubi, 18, as he sat down for lunch one day with friends, while wearing his Honduran dog tag. "My girlfriend gave it to me for Valentine's Day. She said, 'If you don't wear it, you're going to see what happens.' "

Rubi's friends around the lunch table started razzing him, pretty much immediately.

"It's going to run out of fashion in two weeks," said Lionel Granados-Ortez, 17, a Salvadoran sophomore. "As a matter of fact, I'm going to get a cat tag."

"You're stupid," Rubi shot back with a smile.

Granados-Ortez nodded and finally conceded. "Nah. It's tight."

Earlier generations draped themselves in silver or gold heart-shaped lockets, earnestly sentimental neckwear that enclosed a person's most private thoughts or relationships. Now, the modern-day locket, as worn by teenagers, young adults and the hip-hop avatars they parrot, has taken the shape of a military dog tag, but the inscriptions and images are hardly discreet.

Befitting an age in which teenagers are glomming onto just about any inanimate object for self-branding -- think cell phones, custom-made Nike sneakers and, sigh , -- personalized dog tags are just another avenue for self-advertisement, a way for young people to feel like celebrities even if their stratosphere is hemmed in by lunch bells and school bus schedules.

Dog tags -- the official identification of the U.S. military, providing the wearer's name, Social Security number, blood type and religion -- were first employed as novelty items on a large scale during the Vietnam War. Protesters wore red and blue plastic tags that said "Love" or "Peace," according to Paul F. Braddock, a Pennsylvania-based author of a book about dog tags and their history.

Major companies -- Coca Cola, General Mills, Old Navy -- also were distributing dog tags with their names embossed on them as a way to lure a younger demographic and boost sales, Braddock's book says.

But the current teenage dog tag vogue can be more directly traced to the late 1990s, when camouflage -- camo couture, it has been called -- became the choice look for hip-hop stars seeking to harden their images and build a kind of combative solidarity. Some view the rapper Master P (also known as Percy Miller), with his crew of No Limit Soldiers, as one of many artists responsible for glamorizing dog tag pendants.

(One of Master P's lyrics: "Got the world screaming my name/From every soldier to soldierette/From every killer to cadet/Playa hatas get wet.")

Novelty dog tags became popular in urban communities, especially among blacks and Latinos, the predominant groups who wear them in schools.

"While a lot of African Americans and Latinos may have negative perceptions about the military, they can still identify with the strength of the soldier," said Joseph Anthony, chief executive of Vital Marketing, whose company has organized youth-oriented events for Nike, Nintendo and the U.S. Army.

"The urban culture is very narcissistic. It's about self-glorification and saying, 'I grew up in a poor neighborhood, but if I get something nice, I want to let the world know about it.' It's about have-nots being able to create an equal platform for themselves," Anthony said.

Teenagers get the dog tags mainly from kiosks at local shopping malls, where they can pick out their favorite image from a catalog or bring in photographs for engraving. The process can take a half-hour or so and can be as inexpensive as $30.

But sometimes, kids buy name-brand dog tags from or Ecko Unlimited that are 18-karat white gold-plated or stainless steel. (Gucci sells an 18-karat white gold-plated dog tag necklace with diamonds -- for about $2,500.)

For the most part, students say they buy dog tags for their girlfriends or boyfriends. Often the dog tags outlive the relationships. Jae Sung, 16, a Gar-Field student, got a dog tag several months ago with a picture of her girlfriend on it, and on the back it read: "10-23-04 I Love You."

The dog tag was a conversation starter for new people, and, more often than not, just something to fidget with during class. A few weeks ago, though, Sung and her partner broke up. But she still keeps the dog tag in her backpack as a reminder.

"It was a mutual breakup, but it's kind of inappropriate for me to wear it. It's there for me to hold onto," she said. "I miss the relationship. I changed for the better. Before, I really didn't treat girls in the nicest way. She taught me to treat people better."

For others, the dog tag carries serious weight, serving as a portable memorial to a lost relative. At Montgomery County's Blair High School, Eric Jackson, 17, a senior, was strolling through the cafeteria with a dog tag that reads "R.I.P. Ronald G. Jackson, a.k.a. Dad."

"I'll be walking around, and other students will look at my shirt and read it and say, 'Oh, how did your father die?' " Jackson said. "My dad died of cancer in April of 2005. . . . He was a manager at UPS."

To cultural observers such as Minya Oh, the author of a recent book on hip-hop jewelry titled "Bling Bling: Hip Hop's Crown Jewels" and a radio show host on New York's Hot 97, the emergence of dog tags in the high school scene is a harbinger that the fad could be coming to an end.

"It's completely played out. I've seen the next thing," Oh said. "I am seeing a lot of talented independent jewelers making sneaker-related jewelry or DJ-related jewelry. Like replicas of speakers around your necks."

Give your feet a break

By Debra D. Bass

ST. LOUIS - It’s not exactly surprising that more people are choosing their sneakers based on style and color rather than athletic performance.

In our unabashedly casual world, athletics-inspired shoes known as "athleisure" have become perfectly acceptable to wear with spring dresses, flowing skirts and jean shorts.

Athleisure shoes differ from top-dollar basketball styles coveted by teenagers because those shoes were actually designed for sports. Athleisure is about looking sporty, and the footwear is becoming so popular that a growing number of couture sports fashion shoes sell for as much as Kate Spade or Manolo Blanik pumps.

"I wear these because they are so cute. I’d choose something else if I was dancing or running," said Melissa Cohen, a local dancer and Pilates instructor who was sporting a pair of Kangaroos with sporty diagonal stripes and a Velcro pocket for change.

"I don’t know what kind of activity they were designed for, but they are great for teaching Pilates," Cohen said, lifting her foot to show off a split sole that makes the shoes as flexible as slippers.

She joked that when she tried to walk her dog in the same shoes, she discovered their limitations. The shoes have no traction and little arch support, which made them somewhat dangerous when she stepped on a muddy path. But the shoes are perfect for wearing to work and running a few errands, she said.

"You see everyone wanting comfortable shoes. Moms can’t run around in heels or platform wedges," said Eileen Lewis, director of fashion strategy for, one of the largest shoe sellers on the Internet.

She said that Pumas and adidas are back after their last heyday in the ’80s, and both are offering couture items. Lacoste shoes will also be big this year — the athletic-looking skimmers and ballet flats were paired with skirts for runway shows.

"People see the shoes and ask our sales people, ‘Can I go running or walking in these?’ and the answer is, ‘No.’ We make sure people know what the shoes are designed for," Lewis said. She said that athleisure shoes are about comfort and personality, not performance.

European athletic-looking shoes by Gola, Palladium and Fly London — available at the Soul store, 6301 Delmar Boulevard — are as functional as they are fashionable.

"But people really just buy them for looks," said Soul assistant manager Sean Mangrum. "It’s a bonus that they have the orthopedic sole, but most people are looking for fashion, not a shoe to wear for a walk around Forest Park."

The fashion-forward store, with shoes ranging from $74 to $110, will also be stocking Puma and adidas vintage styles, Mangrum said.

For years, men looking to stand out or make a style statement paired comfy sneakers with formalwear, often taking their cue from Hollywood stars and musicians. Now, women who have typically held an allegiance to the high heel, no matter how tortuous it becomes, are taking more interest in comfort.

Lewis said customers who spend $300 to $400 on fashion sneakers would generally spend top dollar for sexy footwear.

So how long before casual couture sneakers drift into a new realm? Lewis said that in Europe, it’s already common to see women in blazers, tank tops and slacks walking around in a pair of cute sneakers.

If jeans can be as easily paired with sequined tops and heels as with a T-shirt and flip-flops, maybe sneakers can be just as versatile.

"When I get the chance, I like to wear heels because I spend so much of my time in sneakers," Cohen said.

"But if I worked in heels, I think I’d be perfectly happy dressing up and going out in some cute athletic shoes."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Suitable Attire?

Suit Goes in Washer, Dryer, But Traditionalists Recoil: 'This is the Antichrist'

The Wall Street Journal

LONDON --Tim Blackshaw still winces about the night two years ago that a party guest spilled a glass of Chateau Lafitte 1975 down the back of his Christian Dior jacket, the fine red wine ruining the expensive light-gray suit.

Yet, as the 30-year-old chef browsed the racks at a Marks & Spencer PLC store here recently, that episode wasn't enough to persuade him to bite on the retailer's heralded new product: the first suit that can be washed, machine dried and worn without ironing.

"I am not sure it would come out looking okay," he says, even though it looks like the other suits hanging on a rack, with its brightly colored silk lining.

And therein lies the problem plaguing the wool/polyester/lycra suit like a stubborn wrinkle. The suit maker, Bagir Ltd. and its retailers, M&S in Britain and J.C. Penney Co. in America, are fighting powerful forces of anthropology and sociology with mere chemistry and marketing. Men, long accustomed to armoring themselves in creased-and-pressed formality as a sign of their status and aspirations, would have to risk not looking just so in professional situations.

"Suits aren't meant to be convenient," says Anne Hollander, a fashion historian in New York and author of a book about suits. "If you wear a suit, you are joining the company of respectable people."

She says men in general feel more insecure about clothes than women. "What men fear the most is something that makes them look like a fool," she says.

Thomas Horton, the 44-year-old chief financial officer of American Airlines's parent AMR Corp. expresses the befuddlement of many men when asked about the idea of a wash-and-dry suit.

"That would be hard for me to get my head around," says Mr. Horton, who like his boss, AMR Chief Executive Gerard Arpey, has his suits custom-made by Chris Cobb in Dallas. "It's a foreign concept. It's like starching your jeans. I wouldn't do that either."

But the retailers and the suit maker aren't aiming quite that high up the executive ladder. Instead, they are banking on the mix of convenience and price (about $225 in the United Kingdom and $177.99 in the U.S.) to lure in a certain type of buyer.

"There are a lot of very busy blokes about who wear a suit for work, who go through a lot of wear and tear and who'll want this because of convenience," says Stuart Rose, chief executive of M&S, the biggest seller of suits in Britain. Tim Danser, a buyer for tailored clothing for men at Penney, says, "The customer is time-compressed and, in middle America, also pocket-book compressed."

Kenny Cook, a 37-year-old desk clerk for Royal Mail in London, plans to buy one of the new suits for a friend's wedding later this month. Mr. Cook says he eats lunch at his desk and often drops a piece of his sandwich on his suits. "I can't be bothered to go to the dry cleaners," says Mr. Cook. "But I've mastered a washing machine."

The quest for convenience suited with style has been going on for decades. The first "wash-and-wear suits" appeared in the early 1950s, when polyester was invented, but they were more often the butt of jokes to indicate the wearer's humble circumstances. They have quietly occupied a small market niche.

In the summer of 2002, Bagir, which is based in Israel, decided to pursue the concept as a way to distinguish itself from garment makers in low-wage countries. At the time, suit makers like Bagir were also suffering because the trend toward casual wear was at its peak. One reason men were rejecting suits, market research showed, was that they thought of them as inconvenient. It came up with a washable suit that could be drip-dried. That suit, which needs to be ironed, is now M&S's biggest seller and has sold 750,000 since 2004. Penney also sells a version.

Despite the success, Bagir executives wanted to go further and make a suit that could go in the dryer. But heat from the dryer created a problem. In long trials, it would render the front of the suit either wrinkled or as stiff as cardboard. In tests, Bagir washed and dried the suits 30 times and checked after every five cycles to see that the garment's shape and color could withstand water and heat. Finding the right formula took over two years and $10 million.

The new dryer-friendly version is made of 45% wool, 52% polyester and 3% lycra. The man-made fibers, says Offer Gilboa, chief executive of Bagir, prevent the wool from going back to its origins "as a wet lamb." The wool content prevents the plastic feel of earlier, all-polyester suits. Many men trying on the new suit in London say it isn't shiny, scratchy or hot and looks like the other middle-priced suits at the store.

At M&S, the "Wash and Tumble Dry Suit" went on sale a few weeks ago and comes in gray, black, navy and classic British chalk stripe, as well as double- or single-breasted. It costs £129 (about $230), less than most department-store brands. At Penney, the pants and the single-breasted, two-button jackets can be purchased separately. Neither Penney nor M&S would say how many of the suits they have sold, but both stores said the suit was selling well.

Upscale U.S. retailers Barney's New York, a unit of Jones Apparel Group Inc., and Brooks Brothers, a unit of Retail Brand Alliance Inc., declined to say whether they would ever consider selling a wash-and-dry suit. At Nordstrom Inc., spokesman Deniz Anders says, "It is a great idea though it needs more development."

In at least one corner of the fashion world, the suit is drawing praise.

"For some guys, polyester carries a stigma but it shouldn't because of its high wool content, which makes the suit hang very well," says Jim Moore, creative director of men's magazine GQ in New York. "This is a real business suit." He notes that polyester is losing its negative image, as an increasing number of fashion designers, including heavyweights such as Giorgio Armani, use synthetic fibers in men's suits. "I don't think it's a suit that's for every single man out there," he adds, "but it has a sensible price and would be great as a starter suit, or for a guy who is traveling a lot."

But, in Britain, the new suit may face a particularly tough time, even though it costs £9.99 (about $17.80) to dry-clean a suit in central London -- about twice as much as on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In Britain, where casual Fridays never caught on, suits are still de rigueur for business.

"It's about the image you want to project," says Steve Hughes, a 39-year-old information technology consultant who says he dreads wearing the wrong suit to work. "What you wear is a reflection on you as a professional."

Catherine Hayward, fashion director of British men's magazine Esquire, says she didn't see a great need to wash suits to begin with. "It's not like men are going to the meat market where they get covered in blood, or doing gardening in them," she says.

For Marc Psarolis, sales director for upscale British clothes maker Daks, the reaction is much more visceral.

"This is the Antichrist of what we believe in," he sniffs.