Wednesday, May 31, 2006

VDOT Is Ready for Its Close-Up With Cruise

By John Kelly
The Washington Post

(submitted to steve's blog by Ken)

WASHINGTON - "No way ," said Shelley Row of the Institute of Transportation Engineers when I gave her the stunning news.

Yes way, I insisted.

"We never make the movies," said Shelley.

Well, you have now. That's right: Hollywood has smiled upon the people who design merge lanes and speed bumps, who program traffic lights and plop down roundabouts. In "Mission: Impossible III," Tom Cruise stars as a traffic engineer.

Well, Cruise isn't really a traffic engineer. He's Ethan Hunt, a member of the Impossible Mission Force whose cover story is that he's a traffic engineer.

(And Cruise isn't really Ethan Hunt. He's an actor playing Hunt. And Hunt is a secret agent playing a traffic engineer. Got it?)

How do we know Tom/Ethan is a traffic engineer? Because in a party scene early in the movie, some civilian friend asks him, "How's the Department of Transportation?" And then Tom delivers a moving little monologue about how fascinating traffic is, about how a single motorist tapping on the brakes can slow things for miles behind him.

"Booooooring," says the friend.

As it turns out, Cruise's character isn't just posing as a traffic engineer. He's posing as a Virginia Department of Transportation traffic engineer. There's a scene where Hunt overturns some boxes in his super-secret HQ and a bunch of VDOT brochures spill out. I felt a little frisson of excitement when I saw that familiar orange-and-blue logo.

"It looks like everybody here will be going to see the movie," said VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris .

And who can blame them? When else are they going to get to see themselves on the big screen?

Traffic engineers probably fall somewhere below lighthouse keepers, orthodontists and sommeliers in the frequency of their depiction by Hollywood. Who knows how many traffic engineers eagerly plunked down their eight bucks for "Traffic" only to discover it was actually about America's war on drugs?

And bitter was the realization that neither "Rush Hour" nor "Rush Hour 2" had anything to do with backups on the Dulles Toll Road.

"The only other example that we talked about among ourselves is 'The Italian Job,' " said Shelley of the traffic engineers association. In the 2003 remake of that 1960s film, Seth Green is a hacker who gets into L.A.'s computerized traffic control system and changes the traffic lights to help a group of thieves pull off a heist.

"His big thing was to turn them all green," said Shelley of the traffic signals. "That wouldn't work. You'd have to have a progression."

That's the problem with Hollywood. It never gets the details right. Just ask Randy Dittberner , assistant district traffic engineer for VDOT's Northern Virginia District.

Cruise "said something like if you tap your brakes on a freeway you can watch the ripple effect go back for 200 miles or something," said Randy, 35. "My wife kind of poked me in the side when she heard that. She's an engineer too, and she said, 'That's totally bogus. You'd never notice it after a couple miles.' "

Something else didn't quite ring true to Randy, and those were the yawns Cruise got when he talked about traffic. That would never happen in the Washington area. We're so obsessed with the ebb and flow of our vehicles that we'd be positively giddy to find ourselves in the presence of a real, live traffic engineer.

Said Randy: "Most people say, 'You know, there's this signal two blocks from my house and I have to wait five minutes to get out.' It's kind of like being a doctor, the way [people] say, 'I have this pain in my side.' They want to talk shop. . . . If that was really what [Cruise's] cover story was, he'd have a lot of people at that party asking him questions like that, I'm sure."

Randy has been into traffic since he was a kid growing up in Mesa, Ariz. Like a lot of kids, he built elaborate looping constructions out of plastic track for his Hot Wheels cars. Unlike most kids, his always included a "designated traffic control zone": a place on the hearth where all the cars could be neatly lined up.

One more indication that Cruise wouldn't make much of a traffic engineer: You've probably seen the previews where he has to dodge explosions on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel while vehicles are jammed up all around him. That would never happen to a real traffic engineer.

"It was a traffic problem that got him all stuck, and he wasn't able to get out," said Randy. "I thought that was ironic."

Back To The Future

DeLorean Motor Co. alive and kicking in Florida
(submitted to steve's blog by Al Cabino)

NAPLES, Fla. - A solid argument could be made for retrofuturism as one of automotive design's defining themes over the past few years... witness offerings like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Volkswagen New Beetle, MINI Cooper, and more recently, the Chevrolet HHR and Toyota FJ. So could there be a better time to go Back To The Future? That's the question a cadre of Bonita Springs, Florida DeLorean enthusiasts are asking, and apparently they have their answer: a two month wait list.

Eighteen months ago, Naples resident Tony Ierardi opened up a DeLorean remanufacturing operation with the help of Texan Stephen Wynne, who had purchased the rights to the DeLorean name and logo, along with the factory's leftover parts.

The company is now capable of building a "new" be-winged coupes for $42,500-and of course, they're happy to remedy the factory-correct DeLorean's rather sluggish performance for a few dollars more. Ierardi and company are doing so well at the moment that they've already got a wait of upwards of 60 days for their versions of John Z's stainless-steel wonder.

Shoe styles spur black frat, sorority suit

Converse sees no trademark

By MICHAEL GRABELL / The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - Stop at the shops at Big T Plaza, the jumbo buffet of urban fashion in south Oak Cliff, and you'll find racks of sneakers, candy-colored in the latest here-today-gone-tomorrow trends.

You'll also find hanging out there people who are members of Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta or other historically black fraternities or sororities – people with a sense of pride and tradition in what the Greek organizations represent.

But when Converse tried to blend tradition and trend, it strained a tendon of deep attachment in the black community.

Six historically black fraternities and sororities are suing Converse in Dallas federal court for using their colors and founding years on sneakers without permission.

"We just felt like we had been overlooked," said Sam Hamilton, chairman of the organizations' Council of Presidents.

A Converse spokeswoman did not address the allegations, but she said in a prepared statement that the company wants to resolve the matter. The company has said the fraternity colors and founding years aren't trademarked.

The lawsuit creates a pumice-on-sandpaper sort of friction.

Sneakers have come to mean more than footwear to many young black men and women. They convey attitude and identity. And Converse is owned by Nike, which makes the hugely popular Air Force 1, a sneaker that has reached iconic status in hip-hop fashion and been immortalized in rap songs.

On the other side, the black fraternities and sororities also carry prestige among young black men and women, representing the history of African-Americans and the struggle for civil rights.

The groups were founded in the first decades of the 1900s, when African-Americans weren't allowed in white fraternities, faced lynchings in the Jim Crow South and drank from separate water fountains.

Their alumni lists read like a who's who of African-American history. Martin Luther King Jr. Thurgood Marshall. Jesse Owens. Rosa Parks. Alumni profiles often start with the words, "the first black." Some members have tattooed Greek letters on their backs or even branded them on their chests.

A matter of race?
Given that history, it's hard not to view the dispute through the lens of race.

Yet the case has made barely a ripple in the black community. No one is protesting at Converse headquarters. No one is calling for a boycott.

"This is not a racial issue. This is simply a trademark issue," said Michael Pegues, a Dallas patent attorney and Alpha Phi Alpha leader.

"I don't know if Coca-Cola has the same level of deeply held attachment as our mark has. But this is business. Converse is using our trademark just as if they were to put Coca-Cola's marks on a shoe of theirs without asking to use it."

Others feel differently.

"It happens to black folks a lot of times," Mr. Hamilton said. "You're standing in the line at the grocery store, and the clerk who's taking your order will look beyond you to the person behind you like you're invisible. And you want to say, 'Well what about me?'

"In this case, it seemed that as organizations, we were invisible to the extent that we were not recognized as ones who were there to be sought after."

Converse started selling the sneakers in the fall of 2003 as part of its GREEKPAK line. Shoes had two main colors – such as the purple and gold of Omega Psi Phi – and a small embroidered year – such as 1908, when Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded.

"No matter what your Greek association or affiliation, grab these quick for representation," the ad copy on Converse's Web site read. "These GREEKPAK Weapon basketball shoes are proven to make you proud. See you on the yard."

But Converse never said the sneakers represented any of the fraternities and sororities. The company argues in court papers that the traditional colors and founding years, even when used together, have never been trademarked.

After seeing the ads online, several members called fraternity and sorority leaders asking if the sneakers were authorized.

The groups – Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta and Phi Beta Sigma – sued Converse in Dallas federal court in December 2003. They alleged trademark infringement and unfair competition.

But the case was dismissed in January 2005 after U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle ruled that the organizations failed to identify any federal trademark registrations that had been infringed.

The fraternities and sororities had trademarked their names and Greek letter trios. Some had included their colors or founding years with those letters. But none had trademarked their colors and years individually or for footwear.

The organizations appealed. They argue that the color-and-year combinations have become universally recognized as theirs and should be protected by law, even without an official registration.

Last month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned part of Judge Boyle's ruling and sent the case back to Dallas court.

Aubrey "Nick" Pittman, a Dallas attorney representing the fraternities and sororities, said he isn't sure how many of the sneakers Converse had sold. But he added that the company had also made money because people thought it had a deal with the Greek organizations.

Converse, which has stopped selling the sneakers, disagrees.

"Protracted litigation costs would easily exceed any profits realized from the products in question," said the Converse statement from spokeswoman Cheryl Calegari. "We believe a more creative solution could be reached to avoid this scenario."

Attorneys are waiting for a judge to set hearings on the case.

The bottom line
But how hot would a sneaker with a fraternity or sorority symbol be at Big T stores like Flawless Wears? It's a place where business cards sport images of 100-dollar bills and where the manager responds to the question, "What you up to?" with the answer, "Trying to get your money."

The most important things about sneakers are their colors and whether someone on MTV or BET is wearing them, said manager Emmanuel Akins, who said his brother owns 250 pairs of Air Force 1's.

"I don't like the Lakers," he said. "But I got a pair of shoes with the colors because it matches."

"You know what they look for?" he asked. "Is it a name brand? Does this color match my outfit? Yes. Nobody cares about the fraternity."

Jerome D. Williams, a professor of advertising and African-American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, agreed.

Blacks on average spend more on footwear than whites, he said. But fraternity and sorority members, who tend to be better educated and have higher family incomes, might not be attracted to the same thing that draws inner-city youth to hip-hop fashion.

"There's a little bit of a disconnect to what I see with the fraternities and sororities and an urban youth market," he said. "I don't know how deeply Converse understands that."

But Steve Brown, an assistant manager at Urban Connection in Southwest Center Mall, said he sees a lot of crossover. Fraternities often host parties at downtown clubs and at Rochester Park that nonmembers also attend, he said.

"Everybody recognizes these symbols," he said. "Flashy is the thing now. If somebody can find a matching hat and matching shoes, they're going to get it."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

shower time

Long, dirty day yesterday. Mom decided to clean the club and burn leaves at the house.

I feel quite icky ;-)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Grunt and Grumble

Why do men in the country talk that way?

By Jon Katz

One spring morning, I stopped at Stewart's, the local convenience store, to get the New York papers and some coffee. I eavesdropped on the two guys in front of me as they poured enormous quantities of cream and sugar into their cardboard coffee cups.

Man in blue cap: "Hey."

Man in red cap: "Hey."

Blue Cap: "So, you still working over at—"

Red Cap: "Yup."

Blue: "You get your—"

Red: "Yeah, all fixed."

Blue: "I bet it was—"

Red: "More than two grand …"

Blue: "Ouch. So you lost—"

Red: " 'Bout a week. I'll be done Friday."

Grunt and Grumble is the language of rural life, the patois of builders and contractors, farmers and volunteer firefighters. It has the rhythms of a David Mamet play. Sentences go unfinished, assumptions are made, key words are savored, in a kind of incantation. Everyone understands everything everyone else is saying, or pretends to. Nothing is ever questioned or explained, unless somebody like me is there saying, "Huh?" and "What?" (Now that I've lived in the country awhile, I don't interrupt anymore. I just nod and mumble the occasional, "Yup.")

You have to stand a certain way when you Grunt and Grumble. It works best if your arms are folded. If you're thin, like my friend and champion G&Ger Anthony, you fold your arms and lean back. Most Grunt and Grumblers lean forward and rest their folded arms on substantial bellies. Either way, you take a wide stance, your legs two or three feet apart. This way guys battered by hard physical labor can Grunt and Grumble for many minutes, while easing back pain and the pressure on sore feet. When possible, Grunt and Grumblers also lean on trucks or tractors, as whiffs of testosterone and diesel fuel mix in roughly equal proportions.

I used to complain about all this wasting of time, until Anthony explained that Grunt and Grumble is not mere bullshitting or goofing off. It's essential to rural life: part news, part education, even part (shhh) support group. Friendships are formed, deals struck, information gleaned. Farmer A learns what Farmer C is paying for cows from Farmer B. Gossip is idle chatter. Grunting and Grumbling is business.

And also, part philosophy. Men in my upstate town rarely engage in deep emotional discussions about their anxieties. Yet they have real fears: rising taxes and the brutal toll of high gas prices; the difficulties of finding skilled workers in a region where the young tend to flee; the unpredictable turns of the marketplace. (After Katrina the price of lumber shot way up, increasing the cost of construction, making everyone unhappy.) All of that emerges, sometimes in code, in these conversations.

Sessions usually last 10 to 15 minutes—I've been timing them—until one guy either looks at his watch and seems shocked at the time ("Oh, jeez, the wife will think I'm dead") or offers an abrupt, "Well, yup." A man may raise both his hands to announce an end to the conversation. Sometimes there's a coda: "That well ain't gonna get dug in here, is it?"

Grunt and Grumble can erupt spontaneously and almost anywhere. Construction sites where guys can stop by to inspect and chat are popular venues. But you can most reliably find it at places like Stewart's, the hardware store, or any other place that sells tools. Once I grasped this, certain local behaviors made more sense. I'd puzzled, for example, about why Anthony drove to Stewart's for his morning juice and bagel when his wife, Holly, had the same breakfast menu at home. Then, joining him one morning, I understood.

He heads for Stewart's about 7 a.m, with his ride-along dog, a genial black Lab. Leaving the dog in the truck cab and waiting in Stewart's for his bagel to toast, Anthony launches into abbreviated G&G with the other men picking up coffee and eggwiches. "Hey, you hear they shut down work on the Cooper place because there's no permit?" This leads to intense muttering about county building inspectors. Also, Jamie got a $140 ticket for speeding and for having no lights or license on his trailer. This item prompts an exchange of data on current speed traps. Further, there are reports that somebody in Dorset wants to sell a few tons of gravel. Anthony collects his bagel and juice and leaves, exchanging brief macho banter (just poking and kidding on the fly, different from true Grunt and Grumble) with two or three guys.

Early-morning G&G is brief; everyone wants to get going, get to work. Further grumbling comes later, interspersed during long, tiring days. From my observations, Grunting and Grumbling ceases around 4 p.m. The men are tired, and it's time to clean up, get home, eat dinner, play with the kids, and rest.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Where's the Petite Department? Going the Way of the Petticoat


Twenty-five years ago, America's department stores — long obsessed with that Seventh Avenue archetype, the tall, thin, leggy lady — discovered her shorter sibling, the petite woman. They gave her a special clothing size, her own department and, over time, access to top designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

Small was suddenly sexy. Or at least sexier.

But the love affair with little women appears to be over. Three of the country's most influential fashion emporiums — Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's — have quietly eliminated or drastically scaled back their petite departments in the past several months, infuriating many longtime customers.

Given that manufacturers produce clothing in only a handful of standard sizes — among them, juniors, misses and plus size — the abandonment of petite sizes at the highest levels of American retailing represents a sea change in fashion, forcing some designers to either stop making special sizes for smaller women or re-evaluate how much to invest in the business.

Executives at the three department stores said the decision was based on the poor sales of petite sizes, which are traditionally designed for a woman 5-foot-4 or smaller, with pant lengths and jacket proportions cut accordingly. Petite women, they said, would rather wear the more youthful, skin-baring and tighter-fitting clothing in the contemporary departments, even if it does not fit them as well. And, they point out, there is always tailoring.

But despite what executives say, overall sales of petite clothing sizes have grown in the past several years, reaching $10 billion. So petite women suspect another culprit: high-end department stores that they say view the petite consumer as older, unfashionable and undesirable.

"It's not like American women suddenly got tall," said the designer Dana Buchman, who has supplied petite-size tweed jackets and chiffon skirts to Saks and Neiman Marcus for years. "I think it's a mistake."

And so do many short women. Feeling overlooked and undervalued, they have written the stores angry letters and groused, often loudly, to salespeople. "It's horrible, just horrible," said Laurel Bernstein, 60, a 5-foot-1 Manhattan resident who stormed out of Saks's flagship store in March after learning that the company had stopped carrying petite sizes. A lifelong Saks shopper, she has not returned since.

The emotional response from petite consumers has proved so strong that Saks is reconsidering its decision. "It appears that we have frustrated some customers," said Ron Frasch, the chief merchant at Saks. "We are trying to figure out how many we have frustrated."

The shock has been particularly acute because the changes are happening simultaneously at three of the nation's most important destinations for fashion.

As if in lockstep over the past year, Saks ceased selling petite sizes, Bloomingdale's cut the space it devotes to petites by nearly half in some stores, and Neiman Marcus reduced the number of stores with petite departments by nearly half. Neiman Marcus now carries petite sizes in just eight of its 36 stores; as of the fall, it will stock them in just two.

The shrinking sales floor space for petite sizes — which has not been duplicated in the plus-size department — has already claimed several casualties on Seventh Avenue. The clothing label Ellen Tracy, a mainstay of the petite department at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, said it had stopped producing petite sizes altogether because its biggest retail clients were not buying enough merchandise.

"We would love to stay in the petite business" said Ellen Tracy's president, Howard Rosenberger. "We didn't have a choice."

For those designers, like Eileen Fisher, who continue to produce petite sizes for department stores, there is a growing unease about the business. "There are not enough vendors anymore," said Mariclare Van Bergen, vice president of sales at Eileen Fisher, which supplies petite clothing to Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's. "So how do we keep the energy in the petite world?"

Petite sizes did not reach large numbers of consumers until the early 1980's, when a handful of major apparel labels like Liz Claiborne and Adrienne Vittadini, having discovered that millions of smaller women did not fit into their regular clothing lines, agreed to produce petite sizes.

The new sizes were not simply smaller, they had different proportions. On a woman's blazer, for example, designers reduced the distance between arm holes and the waist. Labels on the new clothesbore a "P" to distinguish them.

A petite craze was soon born, with Jones New York, Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein creating special lines and department stores establishing a separate section for smaller sizes. Rather than tracking down petite sizes on different floors, women could shop all of them in one place, relying on one salesperson for help.

Specialty clothing retailers like Talbots and Banana Republic then created separate stores for petite women. Last year, sales of petites rose 11 percent, according to the market research firm NPD Group. But at department stores alone, sales of petite clothing fell 5 percent.

Still, stores like Nordstrom, Macy's and Sears have not cut back on petites, and report brisk sales. So what went wrong at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's?

For the record, their shoppers did not enjoy growth spurts that catapulted them out of petite sizes. The average American woman, who was about 5-foot-3 in 1980, was 0.3 inches taller as of 2002, according to the government.

What did change is that petite departments gained a reputation for traditional — some would say frumpy — career-oriented clothing. Chic looks, clothing executives said, never made the leap from regular sizes to petite. So the very word petite became synonymous with many women who shopped there — working women over the age 50.

"It's a segment of the population that these stores don't care to maintain," said Andrew V. Jassin, the managing director of the Jassin-O'Rourke Group, a fashion consulting firm, "It's a snobbish appeal. The retailers want to keep the contemporary women — and she does not want to be called petite."

In the battle for space on the sales floor, executives said, the petite collections from Dana Buchman, Anne Klein and Ellen Tracy, which produce slim profits, are losing out to contemporary clothing brands like Theory, Laundry and Tahari, which draw more dollars.

Mr. Frasch of Saks said that smaller shoppers preferred to buy those younger, sexier brands and pay for alterations. "It's not a perfect situation, but it appears to service what they want better."

Ann Stordahl, executive vice president for women's apparel at Neiman Marcus, said that designers were making clothing smaller than a decade ago and that Neiman Marcus orders extra size zeros and twos, knowing they will appeal to petite women. Even without petite sizes, she said, "there are many offerings for the smaller size customer."

Bloomingdale's declined an interview request. In a statement, Frank Doroff, Bloomingdale's senior executive vice president of ready-to-wear clothing, said the size of the petite section "is commensurate with the demand" at every store.

But for women of a certain height, a certain age (45 and older) and a certain rung on the economic ladder (that is, wealthy), no amount of size two skirts or dresses will replace the original, spacious petite departments at Neiman's, Saks or Bloomingdale's.

Because for her, the petite department was not about indulgence or convenience, but about parity. It meant that even at 4-foot-11, she could wear the same sheer cascading vest from Eileen Fisher as a woman who was 5-foot-7 — with no tailoring required.

It meant that designers really did care about the little people.

Inside Bloomingdale's last week, Manhattan resident Judy Strauss, who is 65 and 5-foot-2, tried on two short-sleeved shirts from the designer Sigrid Olsen. Neither was available in a petite size, so she tried on a small and an extra-small.

"The saleswoman and I joked that maybe I should go to the girl's department," she recalled. "I really don't know where I should go."

Referring to the department stores, Ms. Van Bergen of Eileen Fisher said that "you have this consumer who can no longer shop here, no longer shop there." The petite woman, she said, "is feeling a little bit lost right now."

From Wal-Mart to Old Navy, plus sizes become more mainstream

BY DEBORAH YAO/The Associated Press

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — Kathy Curtis waded through a sea of colorful camisoles, gypsy skirts and lacy tees at Lane Bryant, shopping for a deal.

The 45-year-old suburban Philadelphia resident can afford to be picky. As a size 20, she didn’t use to have as many choices in plus sizes. But more retailers are finally paying attention to customers like her — if she doesn’t like Lane Bryant, she can shop elsewhere.

“They could do more, but things are much more stylish than they were 10 years ago. Five years even,” Curtis said. Before, “they figured, give them a couple of extra large tops and they’re happy.”

As waistlines expand across America, fashionable plus-size clothes are proliferating and moving into the mainstream. In some cases, plus sizes are leaving the outer fringes of the store floor to hang next to “regular-sized” clothes as the average American gets bigger. Where they remain separated, plus sizes are being displayed in specialized boutiques like petites.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is adding more racks of plus-size apparel in its “George,” “Metro 7” and other lines due to increased demand, said spokeswoman Linda Blakley.

And the larger sizes hang right next to the smaller sizes.

“You can shop all the lines in one section,” Blakley said.

Old Navy, a unit of Gap Inc., carries plus sizes in 250 stores nationwide, up from 55 stores nearly two years ago, said spokesman Greg Rossiter. Old Navy started offering them online in 2000.

“We recognize that the market is underserved,” he said. “The response has been very good.”

Kmart, a unit of Sears Holding Corp., hired a special designer for plus sizes a year ago. Around the same time, it also introduced “attention,” a missy and plus-size clothing line that only uses stretch fabric. Kmart said it’s always displayed plus sizes in the same section as other sizes.

“It is doing really well,” said June Beckstead, vice president of design at Sears Holding Corp.

The Kohl’s department store chain added plus sizes for its “Apt. 9” and “Daisy Fuentes” collections last spring.

Retailers who have long catered to plus sizes are getting into their second act.

This year, Liz Claiborne Inc. in New York is opening five “Elisabeth” plus-size boutiques. The designer, which began offering plus sizes in 1990, already has 28 such stores nationwide.

“Plus-size women are very, very loyal to brands. They have a lot of spending power,” said Barry Zelman, general manager of specialty retail at Liz Claiborne.

Charming Shoppes Inc. of Bensalem, Pa. announced last month that it was rolling out a chain of plus-size lingerie stores nationwide called Cacique. The stores will carry sizes 12 to 28 and feature larger dressing rooms with tri-fold mirrors for viewing at different angles.

The parent of Lane Bryant, Catherines and Fashion Bug already had seven Cacique stores as of mid-March and plans to open 50 stores by year’s end.

Retailers are expanding into larger sizes because demand has grown: Two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese today compared with 46 percent a quarter century ago, according to the American Obesity Association in Washington, D.C.

Among children ages 6 to 11, about 30 percent are overweight or obese, up fourfold from 25 years ago. Nearly a third of those ages 12 to 19 are heavy, with the percentage more than doubling during the same period, the nonprofit advocacy group said.

That’s why “virtually everybody” is looking to cater to the plus-size market, said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Consulting Group in Nutley, N.J. “That’s where the dollars are.”

But it took decades for many retailers to see the light.

“The stores did not want the plus-size woman to mix with the svelte and slender,” Barnard said.

“Bad for the image, they felt.”

Maxine Monroe, the 37-year-old publisher of an upcoming booklet called “Curvaceous Fashion Guide for the Plus Size Woman,” said retailers have taken this market for granted for a long time.

At least in the past, larger-size sections tended to be tucked away in less-visited parts of stores.

“It’s horrible, just horrible,” said the size-24 Philadelphia resident. It’s as if retailers were telling her, “’I’ll sell it to you, but I don’t want to see you at my store,“’ she said.

Size snobbism, however, is shrinking as retailers realize that outfitting the Rubenesque shopper is a growth niche in the mature women’s apparel market, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, a consumer research firm in Port Washington, N.Y.

From March 2005 to February 2006, sales of plus-size women’s apparel rose by nearly 7 percent to $19 billion, according to the research company. That compares with a 3.4 percent increase in sales of women’s clothing as a whole to over $101 billion.

Plus sizes are more profitable for retailers. On average, plus-size customers pay 8 percent to 10 percent more for clothes because they go on sale less often, Cohen said.

But as plus sizes become more mainstream, prices should drop, Barnard said.

That would be welcome news to 42-year-old Vanessa White, a New Castle, Del. resident who drove to Philadelphia recently with her family to shop for plus sizes at an Old Navy.

She said she pays more for her clothes, but thinks retailers should change their tune.

“The average is not average anymore,” White said. “The average is plus size.’”


It’s looking like if and when I take this new job that I’ll probably have to have a place in Roanoke within walking/bus distance eventually. My mom’s work schedule and my dad’s health aren’t going to hold up to my work schedule for long. I hate to do it, because I’m generally happy here, but I see the future: aging, sickness, interloping older brothers, and it’s a little scary.

One thing that this new place will give me is solitude. It would be nice to be able to close the door and not have it open again, the way I had it in college. Being able to totally relax in my own space is something I haven’t had since my dad retired, in fact. Maybe that’s what makes me so jumpy.

Anyway, these are all thoughts for another day. Thanks for listening.

Pimp My Grill


A KALAMAZOO grill can suck a standard tank of propane dry in two and a half hours. Not that backyard grill-users would want to crank every burner simultaneously and reach the full 154,000 B.T.U. capacity of this $11,290, six-and-a-half-foot-wide brute. But, as with a Porsche that can go 175 miles an hour on the autobahn, some owners find it sweet to know they've got that kind of juice under the hood.

"Our gas line had to be doubled in capacity from the house," said Connie Dove of York, Me. She and her husband, Mo Houde, took delivery last year of a Kalamazoo Bread Breaker Two Dual-Fuel grill with an infrared rotisserie cradle system and a side burner.

They hooked the 600-pound stainless steel hulk into their home's main propane supply, choosing not to mess with standard tanks, which each hold only four gallons of fuel. That's enough to allow a typical backyard grill to run at maximum for 15 hours, according to the Propane Education and Research Council in Washington.

"It is very, very powerful," Ms. Dove said. "A turkey you can have in an hour and a half."

The Bread Breaker, which has a temperature gauge that reaches 1,000 degrees, is one of an increasingly popular breed of supergrills that are becoming backyard status symbols, as Americans, mostly of the male variety, peacock with an object that harks back to the earliest days of human existence.

As Memorial Day marks the official beginning of grilling season, many men will find themselves almost genetically drawn to throwing hunks of raw meat onto a fire and poking them with tongs. It's a pull that some will spend almost any amount of money to satisfy, said Pantelis A. Georgiadis, the owner of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, the grill manufacturer based in Michigan. "There is a market segment we call the 'man cook with fire' types," he said.

When Daniel Conrad, a lawyer, moved to Dallas four years ago from Pittsburgh to join the woman who would become his wife, his parents bought him a small Weber grill. "It wasn't big enough for my ego," Mr. Conrad, 34, said. "So I got this giant enormous Weber grill."

Now, he rushes home to his wife — and to his baby, a Weber Summit Gold D6, to slow-cook ribs or experiment with smoking turkeys. "Grilling has become my creative outlet," Mr. Conrad said. "The only two extravagances I have in my life are my car and my grill." He drives a Mercedes.

And like luxury car owners, many people who splurge on a grill that can simmer, bake and fry are looking to impress.

Last fall, Dave and Allison Petrullo of Commack, N.Y., installed a custom-built Cal Spas grill on their patio with an outdoor refrigerator. They spent more than $100,000 renovating their backyard with a new synthetic deck, masonry, a whirlpool and a pool waterfall, so $6,500 more for Mr. Petrullo to have a brick sanctuary with a Cal Spas grill as its central altar seemed like nothing. "I told him to just go for it," Ms. Petrullo said. "And get your dream barbecue."

Though they have actually cooked on the grill only three times since they installed it, it has been a hit with Mr. Petrullo's friends, who congregate around it at parties and give it a going-over like a pack of high school boys around a Corvette, Ms. Petrullo said. "They like to lift up the hood and play with the knobs," she said. "They open the doors underneath, and they open the fridge next to it to check it out."

The high-end grill market, which generally refers to any grill that costs more than $1,000, started quietly in 1990 when Dynamic Cooking Systems, a company based in California, introduced the DCS Professional Grill. The 48-inch-wide $5,000 appliance, which included H-shaped cast-iron commercial-quality burners, a heavy-duty side-burner and more B.T.U.'s per square inch than any other grill then on the market, was adopted by a few deep-pocketed souls on the grilling vanguard.

But those in the grill industry say the market did not begin to take off until the last half-decade, when homeowners in the West and the South began building increasingly elaborate outdoor areas with brick kitchen islands and ornate all-weather furniture.

"You had the ultrarich people who were buying high-end grills," said Dan Darche, sales manager for Masda Corporation, an outdoor home furnishings distributor based in Whippany, N.J. "But for the more normal families, the concept started to take off abut five or six years ago, and it's been increasing ever since."

Now the high-end grill market accounts for 3 to 4 percent of the 14.5 million grills sold last year, said Don Johnson, the director of market research for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the grill industry trade group. It includes about a dozen players.

Viking has its Ultra-Premium line of grills starting around $2,500, which, among other doodads, have adjustable chrome-plated warming racks and stainless steel "flavor-generator plates" that, according to product literature, "catch drippings, generate smoke, minimize flare-ups and allow for better heat control."

Weber, the grill maker founded in Mount Prospect, Ill., in 1952, is refining its most expensive grill, the $2,200 Summit Platinum D6, in response to buyers who want more bells and whistles, said Brooke Jones, a Weber product manager. "They are looking for stainless steel grills and more accessories like rotisseries, warmer drawers, side burners and hand lights," she said.

Lynx, another high-end maker, sells a model with a 54-inch-wide cooking surface (one inch longer than Viking's biggest) for $6,500; it is equipped with dual halogen grill surface lights and red brass burners. The Twin Eagles Pinnacle Grill Series features dual-ring sealed burners and black-stripes across the starkly modern stainless steel silhouette of its base for a "museum-style look," a sales brochure effuses.

But the Queen Mary 2 of outdoor cooking is the $35,000 Talos Outdoor Cooking Suite sold by Frontgate, a luxury goods catalog retailer. The sprawling stainless steel temple features a searing station with a restaurant-style griddle, a hardwood cutting board, two side burners to heat sauces, a warming drawer, 3/8-inch-thick cooking grates, a 16,000-B.T.U. ceramic infrared rotisserie, a bartender module with a sink and a nine-volt electronic ignition system. The company doesn't release specific sales data, but a spokeswoman, Amy Crowley, said that fewer than 50 have been sold.

Some of the new top-of-the-line grills are hybrids, with interchangeable heating drawers that allow cooks to use gas, charcoal or wood for barbecuing. (Barbecuing, which usually involves indirect heat, long cooking times and wood smoke, is different from grilling, which simply means cooking on a grill.)

Many of these grills can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt brass — if used improperly, but grill manufacturers say temperatures should stay under a safe 1,000 degrees (which can melt lead).

"If you load it up with charcoal and light 100,000 B.T.U.'s of propane under it, you're going to have a 2,000-degree fire going," said Russ Faulk, director of marketing for Kalamazoo. "It's not going to lead to cooking success." In addition to the owner's manual, Kalamazoo tries to give in-person training to new grill owners, as do most of the other high-end manufacturers.

But for those who want to stay on top of cooking technology, there is no such thing as too much power; grills have become an extension of their constantly updated kitchens. Describing the family's indoor appliances, Ms. Dove in Maine said: "Our stove is a Frigidaire Profile series with five burners, and we have a Miele wok burner and a Thermador downdraft system. The grill is something that has the glamour of the indoor kitchen."

During summer months her family uses the grill, which they have named Bertha, three to four times a week, but even in winter the short path from the house to the grill is kept shoveled and the grill is fired up at least twice a week. "When you look outside and she's covered up with a grill cover," Ms. Dove said, "she looks like a monster."

Devotees of expensive grills speak of being able to cook multiple dishes at once for large crowds and rave about exacting temperature control. "Because it's so big, you can do things you wouldn't do on a normal grill," Mr. Conrad of Dallas said. "You can cook ribs slowly by putting them on the side of the grill away from the heat. Practically speaking it's fantastic."

Those in the grill business also want to sell buyers on the idea that these grills can do more than just grill. Fireplace Patio Shoppe in Eastchester, N.Y., regularly brings in a chef for cooking demonstrations on a $6,600 Fire Magic Monarch Magnum, which, with the hood down, can flawlessly maintain a temperature of 350 degrees. "He actually cooks a pie," the owner, Darin Del Gardo, said. "Usually apple crumb."

A new breed of grill cuisine is rising along with grill prices. A new book, "Weeknight Grilling With the BBQ Queens" (Harvard Common Press), includes recipes for Blistered Whole Squash, Peppers, and Scallions with Goat Cheese, and Stir-Grilled Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and a Kiss of Smoke.

Still, according to research by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, hot dogs, burgers, steaks, and chicken are by far the most commonly prepared foods on outdoor grills. As A. Cort Sinnes, author of "The Grilling Book" (Aris Books, 1985), put it, "The way most grills get used, even the expensive ones, is you turn it on, you cook some chicken breasts, and you turn it off."

But does anyone really need to spend thousands of dollars to do that? No, said Chris Schlesinger, chef and owner of the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass., and the author of books about grilling. "Give me two bricks and an oven rack and some wood, and I'll cook you a better steak than any expensive gas grill, hands down," he said. "It might look good in your garden, it might be more convenient, it might impress your friends, but it's not going to cook you a better steak."

Michael Jackson, Britney Spears...and Al Cabino?

steve's blog's favorite internationally renowned sneakerographer has made the British tabloid The Sun! (Thankfuly not Page 3. LOL),,2004580002-2006240427,00.html

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Upscale merchandisers embrace tattoo culture

By ERICA ORDEN, Columbia News Service

Marisa DiMattia, 33, has intricate tattoos of ancient Greek symbols covering both of her arms, her entire back and part of her front torso. She has been called a tattoo snob because of her discriminating taste in body art.

But DiMattia also possesses two other distinctions: a master’s degree in journalism and a law school diploma.

For DiMattia, who works as a freelance legal consultant in New York City and Belgium, her dual interests in body art and law don’t pose a problem. As she puts it, the “outlaw mystique” of tattoo culture disappeared “when I got my tattoo as a law student ... and Britney Spears got hers.”

But while tattoo culture was absorbed by mainstream culture more than a decade ago, it didn’t go upscale until late 2003, when the European designer John Galliano kick-started the trend by showcasing tattooed body stockings for his spring 2004 collection for the French fashion label Christian Dior.

Now a rash of premium tattoo-inspired merchandise has emerged. In December 2003, J Shoes, based in London, began selling its men’s leather dress shoes inscribed with images designed by tattoo artists. In June 2004, French designer Lucien Pellat-Finet began offering pricey ($1,200-$3,500) cashmere sweaters and diamond-encrusted watches emblazoned with tattoo-inspired skulls and marijuana leaves at his store in New York’s West Village.

And in October 2005, T-Mobile introduced a highly coveted, limited edition version of its Sidekick II mobile device designed by a famous Los Angeles tattooist who goes by the nickname “Mister Cartoon” and has tattooed rapper Eminem and singer Beyonce Knowles.

But while some upscale tattoo enthusiasts are glad their hobby isn’t being pigeonholed by leather-clad bikers with beer bellies anymore, they’re also worried about the designer marketplace co-opting a once-niche culture and possibly preventing tattoo artists from sharing in the commercial bounty.

“There’s a very mixed attitude toward this,” said DiMattia, who last year launched, a blog dedicated to what she refers to as “tattoo couture.”

One of the more contentious issues among tattoo enthusiasts is whether companies commission actual tattoo artists to design their products, or turn to general practice graphic designers to come up with images for their merchandise.

In the most integrated example of tattooist-industry collaboration, customers of J Shoes can design a custom pair of shoes in conjunction with a tattooist as they would design an image for their body, in what the company calls a “bespoke,” or couture, process. (Customers can also purchase shoes with premade designs.)

The company sells its tattooed line at trendy boutiques like Fred Segal Feet on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and Lounge in New York’s Soho neighborhood, and the shoes cost from $200 to $750 depending on the design. They’ve been so popular that J Shoes plans to release another edition in coming months.

“They’re for the customer who’s fashion forward and a little quirky,” said Myles Levin, managing director of the company.

Artists like Takahiro Kitamura, a tattooist in San Jose, Calif., who trained with famed Japanese tattoo master Horiyoshi III, appreciate the fact that some companies are commissioning them and their peers.

“If it’s going to be done, it should be done right,” said Kitamura, 32, owner of the tattoo shop State of Grace. Kitamura has his own merchandising deals, including a coming collaboration with Nike’s Skateboarding line, for which he’ll design a limited edition series of sneakers based on traditional Asian “guardian animals.”

According to Kitamura, the designs will be rendered on the sneakers using a combination of techniques including laser cutting, silk screening and embroidery.

Kitamura acknowledges that he’s still wary of mainstream culture’s embrace of tattoos. In 1991, when he got his first tattoos, Kitamura said, “it was punk rock and cool.” Today, he gets cheerleaders in his shop. “Some of the charm is leaving,” he said.

But he is quick to add that tattoo artists have reaped financial rewards from their craft’s popularity. Kitamura says he has a yearlong waiting list for his services, and his customers run the gamut from counterculturalists to public officials, or, as he puts it, from “police officers to gang members to computer programmers.”

He’s not alone in his conflicted outlook. Taz Stickley, 49, a tattoo artist in St. Joseph, Mo., calls the growth of tattoo culture a two-edged sword. On one hand, Stickley, who has been in the business for 35 years and identifies himself as an “old school” tattooist, says the growing mainstream interest in tattoo culture has been a boon for his shop, Painted Angel, which now features “hospital grade autoclave sterilization” and which he plans to expand with a second location in Fort Collins, Colo. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing,” he said. “It’s a good thing because it makes us a lot of money.”

However, Stickley, who says he has covered his entire body in tattoos, agrees that the culture has lost some of its mystique.

Although the old tattoo parlors weren’t really dangerous, he said, “they gave you the feeling of doing a dangerous thing when you went into them. It’s just not like that anymore,” he said. “It’s like Tattoos ‘R’ Us.”

Friday, May 26, 2006

what a difference a day makes

At first, I was going to refrain from using such a goofy title, but I feel pretty happy right now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a new job!

Pending my acceptance of the employment contract and a positive health screening, I will soon be employed as a Development and Building Coordinator (edit) for the City of Roanoke, Virginia.

I couldn’t be happier. My salary will be very similar to what I’ve been making at LMW, but it will be good to go somewhere different and do something different that still relates to design, albeit somewhat remotely at times.

I couldn’t be happier. My parents are ecstatic. Things seem to be going well for the first time in nearly two years.

True to form, there is also another possible offer on the table, received via telephone while I was out today. Why? Because life works like that.

I am supposed to talk to a cabinet manufacturer in town about a possible position. I’m not sure what it might entail, but unless he’s got a compelling argument to do otherwise, I will probably go with the City. We will see.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude to all of you who read this blog. When I was at my lowest, all of you were there to lift me up, listening to my complaints and bitching, praying for me when I wasn’t smart enough to do it for myself. I don’t know what I would have done without you…all of you! To God goes the glory, but your works were important as well.

Keep your fingers crossed that things will work out. We’re almost there, y’all.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cell phone use may signal teen anxiety

Study shows higher scores for depression the more youths call and text one another

By Denise Gellene
Los Angeles Times

The teen obsession with yakking, text messaging and ring tone swapping on their cell phones might be a sign of unhappiness and anxiety, according to a new medical study.
A survey of 575 high school students in South Korea found that the top third of users -- those who used their phones more than 90 times a day -- often did so because they were unhappy or bored. They scored significantly higher on tests measuring depression and anxiety compared with students who used their phones 70 times daily.

The study, presented Tuesday at an American Psychiatric Association meeting in Toronto, was among the first to explore the emotional significance of teens' cell phone habits.

Two of every five youths in the U.S. from ages 8 to 18 own a cell phone, a recent survey showed. Those in Grades 7-12 spend an average of an hour a day on their phones.

Earlier studies involving college students have suggested a link between heavy cell phone use and depression. Other research has shown that students incorporate cell phones into their personal identities.

Dr. Jee Hyan Ha, lead author of the latest report, said heavy cell phone users in his study weren't clinically depressed. Rather, Ha said, they probably suffered from serious teen angst.

"They are trying to make themselves feel better by reaching out to others," he said.
Ha, a psychiatrist at Yongin Mental Hospital in South Korea, surveyed students attending a technical high school in that country. Most were boys, and their average age was 15. Although cell phone use in South Korea is higher than in the U.S., Ha said he believed the findings applied to American teens.

The heaviest users were on their phones on average about every 10 minutes. The majority of their usage was in text messages. They continually checked for messages and often became irritated when people didn't call right back.

Students in the highest third of users scored significantly worse on scales measuring depression, anxiety and the ability to express emotion, compared with the bottom third.

Dr. Mark DeAntonio, a clinical professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at UCLA, said it was difficult to assess the study because its statistical measures were not widely used in the U.S.

However, he said the general point of the study was worth noting. For anxious teens, text messaging can become a substitute for face-to-face communication, DeAntonio said.

Neveah reaches celestial height on list of names

Dan Glaister
The Guardian, UK

Emily, Emma and Madison had better watch out: there's a new kid on the block. US social security data for 2005 shows that the girl's name growing fastest in popularity is not a traditional name but a newfangled tongue-twister.

Nevaeh is now the 70th most popular girl's name in the US, sandwiched between Evelyn and Madeline. The name has grown from obscurity to celebrity in just six years. In 1999 there were only eight Nevaehs born in the US, records show. But within two years, the number of Nevaehs had grown to 1,191, winning the name a ranking on the list of most popular girls names at number 266.

Last year, 4,457 baby girls were named Nevaeh in the US, propelling the name to the giddy heights of the top 100 girl's names.

The appeal of the name is easy to decipher. Although some suggest that it is of Slavic origin and means butterfly, it is in fact the word heaven spelled backwards.

One of the people credited with popularising the name made that clear when announcing the birth of his baby daughter to an expectant public. In May 2000 Christian rock star Sonny Sandoval of the group POD told MTV that his daughter had been named Nevaeh. "Heaven spelled backwards," he said.

Cleveland Evans, the president of the American Name Society and a professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska, told the New York Times that the advent of the name was unprecedented. "Of the last couple of generations, Nevaeh is certainly the most remarkable phenomenon in baby names," he said.

By some strange coincidence, or perhaps design, the 73rd ranking on both boys' and girls' lists makes inspirational reading: Jesus for boys, Mary for girls.

turd ferguson*

I can’t believe I got no comments on the He-Man opening. LOL

The last few days have been more pavement-pounding and a lot of telephone conversations. It feels like “Old Home Day” with all the voices from the past I’m hearing from. Keep ‘em coming y’all. I like the attention. In fact, the frequent socializing takes the emphasis off the feelings of disappointment I feel that I haven’t been offered anything yet.

I know I’m rushing things with this, but I really want to be a part of something new and exciting, or at least new, but I hear nothing. I just wait and wait, while people deliberate. The upcoming holiday weekend doesn’t help things. Decisions get put off yet again.

I don’t like my chances on the last interview. Things were very dry during the question and answer period and I only was able to finish half of the CAD test they gave. We’ll see.

A furniture place I applied to gave me yet another psychological test. The good news is that I am the type of candidate they can use. The bad news was that their temporary store where I have to drop the rest of my application off at was closed for the evening when I made it back out to the mall.

It does sound like American Eagle will give me an interview though. After the furniture place was closed, I dropped off an application there. They don’t pay worth a shit, but all those scantily clad young girls will definitely be a pick-me-up.

Speaking of malls, as I’m always doing, apparently whatever it is they’re putting up next to T.J. Maxx at Tanglewood Mall is now underway. I tried asking around to see what was coming, but nobody’s talking.

But anyway, that’s all that’s going on.

* - anybody out there know what the title references?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"by the power of grayskull, I have the pppooowwwwweeerrr"

This will bring back some memories for some of us. Check it out.

It Must Be the Shoes Talking

Nike, Apple launch Nike+iPod

Nike Inc. (Beaverton, Ore.) and Apple Computer (Cupertino, Calif.) have announced a partnership to launch Nike+iPod products. The first product developed through this partnership is the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, a wireless system that allows Nike+ footwear -- equipped with a special sensor -- to talk to an iPod nano, conveying information on the runner's time, distance, calories burned and pace. The information is stored on the iPod and displayed on the screen. Audible feedback also is provided through headphones.

The kit includes an in-shoe sensor and a receiver that attaches to iPod; a new Nike sport music section on the iTunes music store; and a new personal service site.

Nike ceo Mark Parker and Apple ceo Steve Jobs unveiled Nike+iPod at an event in New York.

"Nike+iPod is a partnership between two iconic, global brands with a shared passion for creating meaningful consumer product experiences through design and innovation," Parker said. "This is the first result, and Nike+iPod will change the way people run. Nike+iPod creates a better running experience. We see many more such Nike+ innovations in the future."

"We're working with Nike to take music and sport to a new level," said Jobs. "The result is like having a personal coach or training partner motivating you every step of your workout."

The new Nike+ Air Zoom Moire is the footwear developed to interact with the iPod, but Nike said it plans to make many of its leading footwear styles Nike+ ready. This fall, Nike will introduce six other footwear styles that are Nike+ ready and designed to hold the sensor: the Air Zoom Plus, Air Max Moto, Nike Shox Turbo OH, Air Max 180, Nike Shox Navina and Air Max 90.

What Are Independent Bookstores Really Good For?

Not much.

By Tyler Cowen

K-A-F-K-A. That was for a Borders information clerk. "Ghana, is that in South America?" Another superstore sales assistant had never heard of the Village Voice.

Ever since the rise of the book superstore in the 1990s, we have been flooded with lamentations for the rapidly disappearing independent booksellers—cool hang-outs where the staff knows something about literature, the owners select each title with care, and bearded patrons sit at crowded coffee tables, talking about Jack Kerouac or the latest translation of Tolstoy. Thanks to the indies, it is thought, high-quality but inaccessible books can slowly build their reputations through reader word-of-mouth and eventually take the literary world by storm. This is what people fear is disappearing forever; just last week the famed Cody's of Berkeley announced it is shutting down because of Internet and superstore competition. But does this idealized vision ring true? What exactly are we losing with the passing of the independent bookstore?

Laura J. Miller's recent Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption starts from the premise that "the debate over bookselling is not a trivial or isolated event … [but] can be understood as reflecting certain dissatisfactions with individual and communal well-being." She wishes to make the bookstore into a political arena. By patronizing the indies, consumers can protest excess commercialization and the proliferation of chains. It is one small way of striking back.

Miller admits and even emphasizes that the dilemma of the book superstore is not new. In the 1920s and 1930s drugstores were the new purveyors of cheap commercial books. The Book-of-the-Month Club was perceived as a villain in the postwar era. The 1960s and 1970s brought the first chain bookstores to shopping malls. At every stage a more commercialized alternative has pushed out previous means of bookselling. All the while, literacy and book availability have continued to rise. Nonetheless, Miller feels that added consciousness of our alternatives will do us some good. But how much good? I confess I am not inclined to grant culture-changing status to the indies too quickly.

Our attachment to independent bookshops is, in part, affectation—a self-conscious desire to belong a particular community (or to seem to). Patronizing indies helps us think we are more literary or more offbeat than is often the case. There are similar phenomena in the world of indie music fans ("Top 40 has to be bad") and indie cinema, which rebels against stars and big-budget special effects. In each case the indie label is a deliberate marketing ploy to segregate, often artificially, one part of the market from the rest. But when it comes to providing simple access to the products you want, the superstores often do a better job of it than the small stores do: Borders and Barnes & Noble negotiate bigger discounts from publishers and have superior computer-driven inventory systems. The superstores' scale allows them to carry many more titles, usually several times more, than do most of the independents; so if you're looking for Arabic poetry you have a better chance of finding it at Barnes & Noble than at your local community bookstore.

Clearly, though, what Miller and others fear is that the culture of literacy that indie bookstores help cultivate and nurture—the eccentric interests, the peculiar niches—will be lost in the routinized world of the superstore. Part of the value of indies was that they helped introduce us to new titles; Shakespeare & Co. in Lower Manhattan features different books than does Barnes & Noble. But with the advent of the Internet, the literary world has more room for independence—if not always in its old forms—than ever before. Amazon reader reviews, blogs such as Bookslut, and eBay—the world's largest book auction market—all are flourishing and are doing so outside the reach of the major corporate booksellers. Print-on-demand technologies and self-publishing are booming. Along with Google and other search engines, they will allow niche titles to persist in our memories for a long time to come. This is the flip side of the same computerization that elevated Wal-Mart and Borders: Information technology brings more voices into book evaluation and supply.

Unfortunately, many virtues of the new order are relatively invisible. Consider the used-book market. It was much easier to find a good used bookstore 20 years ago. Yet it has never been easier to buy a good used book, with the aid of, among others, Abebooks, a superb central depot for used booksellers.

The real change in the book market is not the big guy vs. the little guy, or chain vs. indie stores. Rather, it's the reader's greater impatience, a symptom of our amazing literary (and televisual) plenitude. In the modern world we are more pressed for time, and we face a greater diversity of cultural choices. It was easy to finish Tolstoy's War and Peace when there were few other books around and it was hard to find them. Today, finishing it means forgoing many other options at our fingertips. As a result, we tend to consume ideas in smaller bits, a proposition that (in another context) economists labeled the "Alchian and Allen theorem." Long, serious novels are less culturally central than they were 100 years ago. Blogs are on the rise, and most readers prefer the ones with the shorter posts. Our greater access to books also means that each book has less time to prove itself. A small percentage of the books published account for a large share of the profits, thus setting off a race to track reader demand. Many customers want very recent best-sellers, often so they can feel they are reading something trendy, something other people are talking about. Of course, that's its own kind of affectation—and not an entirely pleasing one.

But bolstering the indies will not reverse any of these trends, nor are the chain stores to blame for their spread. The indies themselves aren't always paragons of cultural virtue, either. One indie owner quoted in Reluctant Capitalists notes that he keeps book prices high "not from greed but as a way of reflecting what he sees as their worth as cultural artifacts." (On that basis, how can he possibly sell a paperback volume of Proust for $15.00?) Many of the smaller indies have financed themselves by selling, in a separate part of the store, pornography; indie stores are not all intellectual powerhouses like Powell's in Portland, considered by many to be the best bookstore in the United States. For better or worse, they are commercial entities just like the superstores. In this case, being David to the superstores' Goliath doesn't always mean that they ought to win out.

If you don't like the superstores, it is easy enough to expand your viewing horizons through other means. Just go to new sections of your superstore (the best popular book on geology, gardening, or basketball is very good, whether or not you like the topic). Stoop or stretch to slightly uncomfortable levels. Use the stool. Peruse books randomly. Look at other peoples' discard piles. Spend more time in public libraries, which offer many of the best features of indie bookshops, including informed staff, diversity, and offbeat titles. Of course, public libraries aren't exactly atmospherically "cool." The clientele is often young children, women over 40, and retired men. I visit five public libraries on a regular basis, and each one makes me feel old. But they deliver the goods.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fun for the Entire Family, but Not All at Once


LAST year it dawned on Ellen Belok that her youngest son, Gavin, 10, was often competing for her attention with his bigger and louder 15-year-old twin brothers, Todd and Bryan. In between the twins' shouting "I want to talk," "You're interrupting me" or "I need to be picked up first," Mrs. Belok realized that Gavin never had any time alone with her.

Inspired by this revelation, she took Gavin to Mexico last year, just the two of them, to see the migration of monarch butterflies because he loves nature. In March, the two visited the Arenal Volcano during a hiking trip to Costa Rica while the twins stayed home with their father.

Parents like Mrs. Belok, who have more than one child and hectic lives, have decided that if private time with each of their children cannot be carved out of an ordinary week at home, they will create the time by getting away from home. No ordinary family trip will do, though; for the maximum bonding experience, each child gets a separate vacation with just one parent to a destination chosen with that child in mind.

And it works, these parents say. The children feel more appreciated, and the parents feel more in touch with their children's lives.

"Gavin is more relaxed and seems much happier," said Mrs. Belok, who develops arts enrichment programs for schools and lives in Ridgefield, Conn., with her husband, Lennart, a neurologist. "When it's just the two of you, you don't need to take a vote where to go to dinner or what to do. You really get to enjoy each other's company."

Gavin agreed. "I can talk to her without anyone else talking," he said.

The twins do not seem to mind either. "It was fine with me," Bryan said. "We got to have pizza every night with Dad."

The one-on-one trek is not necessarily a substitute for the annual group vacation or a perilous march toward family fragmentation, experts say, but rather a way for parents and children to reconnect.

Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a psychiatrist who is an author of "The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap," has noticed that more families have been taking such vacations in recent years.

"In the past 20 years," he said, "structured sports time has doubled, unstructured children's activities have gone down 50 percent, household conversations have become less frequent, family dinners have declined 33 percent and family vacations have decreased 28 percent."

"It's these quiet times where you're sitting in the car and suddenly you hear, 'Dad, I'm having a problem,' or 'Let me tell you what is going on,' " he added.

Little information is available on how many parent-child pairs travel alone. But Emily Kaufman, a travel expert and the author of "The Travel Mom's Ultimate Book of Family Travel," said she has seen a surge of material promoting one-on-one trips, like father-and-son golf outings and mother-and-daughter spa vacations.

Cathy Keefe, a spokeswoman for the Travel Industry Association of America, said many families with two working parents incorporated mini-vacations into business trips. Statistics from the association show that 10 percent of parents who traveled for business in 2004 took a child along, and the number of such trips with children increased to 169 million in 2004 from 164 million in 2003.

Bruce DeBoskey, a regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, who lives in Denver, has been taking his three sons — Aaron 19; Sam, 16; and David, 14 — on individual trips for years. "On family trips, three boys can be a handful." he said. "I have one kid who likes music and tattoos, the other is into hiking and nature experiences, and the other one likes historical sites."

He still thinks vacations for the entire family are important. "In these family dynamics," he said, "you learn to compromise, and each kid becomes a teacher to the other. But the one-on-one trip can be a nice alternative to the chaos of a family trip."

For some families, traveling all at once is not an option. Kim Larson, a fund-raiser for nonprofit ventures, and her husband, Gary E. Knell, the chief executive of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street," have four children from 11 to 20 years old in different schools, with the oldest in college. "Outside of Christmas, none of the vacations overlap," Ms. Larson said. "At first, I thought it was a nightmare," she said. "But it turned out to be an opportunity."

Between the two parents, they have taken the children in various pairings to India, Guatemala, Japan and the Galápagos Islands.

Savannah Knell, 17, said she discovered that her mother was "really independent and strong" during their trip to Guatemala.

"She was really like travel savvy," Savannah said, "and knew where she was going all the time in a foreign country."

Some people feel that creating special or exotic vacations for just one child is an indulgence that stems from parental guilt. "It used to be you threw the kid outside and told them to come home for dinner and that was O.K.," said Adele Farber, an author of "Siblings Without Rivalry." "Now parents feel they have to take them on a safari to Kenya. You can also have one-on-one time by taking your kid to the supermarket."

And travel guides point out that going on vacation with one child at a time can be expensive. Monique Elwell, who runs a travel service,, with her mother, Brenda, said that most single parents do not get a break on room fees.

"Depending on the property and time of year, hotel rooms can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000," Ms. Elwell said. "It drives single parents batty to pay full adult price at an all-inclusive resort for their 8-year-old who eats like a bird."

But not every trip has to be elaborate. Mark Polefka, a salesman at J&S Designer Flooring in Morristown, N.J., gets only two weeks of vacation every year. So he gives each of his sons — Josh, 12, and Eric, 7 — a turn riding on the back of his beloved 1993 Harley-Davidson motorcycle for a one- or two-night jaunt.

"On a fishing trip, Josh, who was 9, became so excited about catching his first fish that he jumped up and down and tipped over the boat," Mr. Polefka said. "It's something that we'll laugh about forever." "I have lots of nieces and nephews," Mr. Polefka added, "but none of them do this with their parents. My family thinks of a vacation as going to Disneyland or the Amish country. They don't realize that you can also take these types of trips."

Whatever parents devise, treating siblings fairly is paramount, experts say.

"Most kids are human calculators," said Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist who lives in Tampa and has written five books on child-rearing. When her son, Christopher, now 24, was growing up, Dr. Peters took him to see the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. But she also took his sister, Lindsay, now 27, to Manhattan for Broadway shows and shopping.

Dr. Peters said a Florida mother flew with one daughter to Chicago to visit the American Girl Place doll store, and took another on an overnight car trip for a rock concert. The daughter who went to the concert became jealous of her sister for getting to fly on a plane, Dr. Peters said, so parents must explain that the trips are tailored to each child and should not be measured with a scorecard.

Those who have taken one-on-one trips say the effort is worth it, especially in the long run. When Dr. Kenneth Brownstein, a urologist in Philadelphia, was a busy internist, he took his three children, now 36, 33 and 26, to Lake Naomi in the Poconos for individual weekend getaways. "I was working such long days," he said. "Whenever I saw them, it was all together. I really wanted to know them without their siblings."

His son Erick said the trips diminished any resentment about his father's workload. "He carved out this time and let me know he loved me," he said. "For someone with a busy schedule, it is the best and only solution."

Monday, May 22, 2006

the old gray mule, he ain’t what he used to be

My night just got a little better.

I’ve been so worn out from my weekend of travel that I didn’t get to check out the Sunday classifieds until a few minutes ago. I found something good: a firm in Roanoke is actually hiring architectural interns! I couldn’t be happier. This doesn’t mean I’ll get it of course, because the job market is tight for anything in architecture, but I at least have an option for something I went to school for and that is a good thing.

I also got another call for interview today, this time from a modular-home manufacturer in Rocky Mount. I go there later today and I hope they are impressed by what they see.

Still nothing back from the three interviews last week. I’m trying not to worry, but I can’t help but wonder what’s going on. I think I’m in a Catch 22 situation: most stuff I’m qualified for, employers can’t see me doing, and yet I’m overqualified for everything else. It’s frustrating, and the bills go on, which doesn’t help things much.

One thing I did find out is that Allen appears to be on his way to Texas instead of here for at least the short term. As you might imagine, this is a relief to me, though he still may show up here sometime this week in the moving process.

I think I’m grating on Kevin’s nerves. He has this way of asking superfluous questions and it gets on my nerves, so I tell him about it. Why should it only be me who’s upset, I figure?

I’m trying to be nicer about it, but he’s still pulling back some because when I do complain, I’m pretty direct about it. The thing is though, as much as I get frustrated with him, he is a good friend and a lot of help to me, though I feel drained around him often times. I guess I need to learn to bite my tongue more on this and try to understand his point of view.

You know, my dad and his side of the family do the same thing to me as Kevin: ask a lot of obvious questions and then expect me to answer them with a smile. Why I do not know. When people do that, I feel like I’m being used, like people are mining me for more than what they need just because they can. Maybe I’m too nice, or too helpful, or maybe it’s nothing and I’m just delusional. I just don’t know.

Anyway, this is just more of me rambling, so I’ll stop, but if anybody has any insights, feel free to tell me.

I Do Have a Life; I'm Watching It Now


FOR Angela Jackson, a homemaker in Pittsburg, Calif., and an admitted TV obsessive, this is a sacred time of year. It's sweeps season, and after months of devoted viewing, Ms. Jackson is in a finale frenzy, getting the answers to questions that have nagged her all season and hanging on to every last dramatic plot twist.

She learned last Sunday who won "Survivor: Panama-Exile Island" (Aras Baskauskas), and on Monday that Michael and Lincoln got away on "Prison Break." On Wednesday she learned that Danielle Evans is "America's Next Top Model." And don't even get her started on "American Idol," which will crown a winner on Wednesday.

Asked if she might venture out of the house for, say, food or water with friends this week, Ms. Jackson said, "No way."

"I don't miss TV in May," she said. "All the shows are good, and they have all the special guest appearances. I cook early and I make sure everything is done by the time my show's up."

As American television has moved from episodic sitcoms to serialized shows that end, not unlike baseball or the N.F.L. seasons, in a playoffs-style showdown, the miniseason known as sweeps has become an all-consuming national event. There are season finales (till next time, "24") and series finales (farewell, "Will & Grace"), two-part finales and finale postgame recaps.

Many shows, like "Lost" and "24," have thriving online communities, which fans check the morning after, to see what fellow viewers make of it all. The obsession with "American Idol," which has nearly as many voters as a major presidential candidate, has reached kooky "Truman Show" levels. (Got your back, Taylor. Bring it home bro.)

But there's a dark side to the sweeps orgy, one people don't talk much about: Beyond all those finales and tearful farewells lies a gaping existential void, a deep abiding loneliness that no rerun can alleviate.

"It's really, really sad," Ms. Jackson said. "You know, the shows take up a big part of what I do in the evening." She said she tried to cope by reading, renting movies, watching her daughter's cheerleading practice. But it's not the same.

"I really miss my shows," she said.

Susan Squire, a Manhattan writer who is obsessed with "Grey's Anatomy" and "The OC," said she could already feel a post-sweeps hangover coming on, and a sense of doom weighing down on her.

"I'm feeling major depression," she said. "I wait all week. It's such a great moment — but it's going to go away." She likened her sweeps viewing habits to a cocaine binge, and said last week that she had been asking herself a question most addicts asked at one time or another: "Was it worth it — really worth it?"

For Katie Cray, who works in marketing in Manhattan — that is, when she's not watching "Lost," "House" or "24" — the sweeps are about not medicating. She said she lays off her much-needed allergy medicine so she won't get drowsy during her shows. At the end of sweeps, she said, "It's like I lost a bunch of friends."

TiVo was supposed to change all that. Empowered by the ability to record whole series with ease, and then to skip the commercials and the boring parts, hard-core viewers were promised that technology would free them from the shackles of appointment viewing. Viewers would be in control. What on earth happened?

For one thing, the TiVo foul: the act of discussing the outcome of a previously broadcast show without first checking with those present to find out if they saw it live, or if the show still awaits them, unwatched, on their home DVR's.

Elisabeth Diana, 26, of San Francisco said she would have been content to record her shows and watch them at her leisure, "so long as my friends keep their big mouths shut." Sadly, she said, it didn't always work out that way.

Another problem is that simply logging on to one's e-mail or checking a news site can mean running into a spoiler headline, since sites like Yahoo! News cover television happenings with at least as much zeal as real world happenings: "Mischa Barton's 'OC' Character Killed," blared Yahoo! News on a Friday morning, just hours after the broadcast. Sorry TiVo suckers!

Then there are those souls for whom television serves as a kind of glue for their social lives. Blair Beakley, 25, a buyer for a gift store in Manhattan, said TiVo-ing "Desperate Housewives" would be the equivalent of putting her relationship with her mother on hold.

"My mom and I call each other when we're watching 'Desperate Housewives,' " she said. "We live eight states away, so it enables us to communicate. Our relationship is going to suffer after this season is over."

Cathy Garrard, a journalist who lives in Brooklyn and who described herself as "totally, totally, totally" devoted to "Project Runway," said she and a group of friends have an e-mail powwow the morning after each episode of "Lost," so TiVo-ing is out.

"I would never not watch it live," Ms. Garrard said by way of explaining what happened to most of her Wednesday nights this year. "I look forward to it each week. If you went to a grocery store and bought the ingredients for a great meal, why would you wait to make it?"

Some well-adjusted types say they look forward to being unburdened by the end of the TV season. Jessica Lam, 27, a health care worker in Atlanta who considers herself a moderate fan of "American Idol," said she was happy at the prospect of getting her life back. "It's relieving," she said. "I feel somewhat couch potato-like for having to tune in that much."

Ms. Lam said she was pretty certain that Taylor Hicks, the Alabama rocker, would win this week, and that she would be watching.

So will Sara Coffman of Overland Park, Kan., who said she had recruited her husband Scott and even their 2-year-old into an "American Idol" fixation. "Our 2-year-old is a big music fan," she said. "He dances and plays his 'Sesame Street' guitar. He was a big fan of Carrie Underwood last year — he just stared at her. He likes big hair."

"We actually have a life," Mrs. Coffman added, after a moment's reflection. So what does her family plan to do for life after the sweeps?

"We'll probably go back to golfing," she said.

Galliano Plays His Hand Smartly


IF John Galliano, the designer at Dior, were not so recognizably talented, he might be considered a joke. For every show he changes his look, and his guises are as varied as Cindy Sherman's. On the day of the recent Costume Institute gala at the Met, he slipped into a booth at the Four Seasons wearing a well cut, if severe, brown pinstripe suit and a snap-brim cap. Four hours later, materially transformed by sequins and golden curls, Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano looked like Davy Crockett in drag. The bloggers went to town.

But there is the fact of his talent, which rises up to greet you like a brick wall. It is unavoidably great. In two decades, he has staged at least half a dozen shows that people still vividly remember.

These include the 1993 Princess Lucretia show in which he used electrical wire to give his skirts swing; a 1994 show in an empty Paris mansion in which all the dresses were made from black satin-backed crepe (it was a fabric he could afford and it could be used on both sides); the 1999 Matrix show, at Versailles, in which he offended Dior's old clients and established the house's modernity; and the 2000 hobo show that put fashion on the front page.

He is one of the few designers working today who actually knows how to cut cloth. If your daughter is wearing a bias-cut prom dress this spring, it is largely because years ago Mr. Galliano pushed manufacturers to try the technique on an industrial scale. His clothes have been judged unwearable and, more recently, overly commercial and safe. But as with all far-sighted talent, the judgments are eventually reversed. What once looked unwearable now seems ordinary, and what once seemed banal now looks right.

Last Tuesday Mr. Galliano was in New York to present Dior's resort collection. Though resort clothes don't get (or deserve) the news media attention of couture and ready-to-wear, Dior decided to make an event of it, inviting fashionistas as well as movie people, like Spike Lee and the producer Harvey Weinstein, and feeding them baked potatoes with caviar and Champagne at a dinner afterward. Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which owns Dior, flew from Paris with his wife, Hélène, as did the editors of French Vogue and Le Figaro.

To the Hollywood guests, the scene at the show must have had an ancien régime quality despite the modern setting of the LVMH Tower on East 57 Street. "I don't know how you do it," a Hollywood guest said with a grin to a journalist. "You're always looking at the same people at these shows. They never change!"

Well, in a way this is also Mr. Galliano's problem. How does a maverick at age 46 perform magic when those judging him remember the old tricks, and even occasionally complain he was better then? And how does Mr. Galliano satisfy his own creativity when he has to feed a global business, its annual sales approaching $1 billion, with more than 200 stores and new customers who suddenly and perceptibly don't care about what a glamorous windbag in New York thinks about his genius cutting?

Like the Artful Dodger, whose sense of freedom he transmits in both his own style and his runway collections, Mr. Galliano has an instinct for survival. A couple of years ago, when he started showing more conventional-looking clothes, along with handbags, many people took this as a sign that, at least in his ready-to-wear shows, he had finally been reined in by Dior executives.

But over lunch recently, Mr. Galliano said: "That was me. I decided to do that. Very odd to see a girl walking down the runway with a bag, I agree. But, at the same time, I knew that a certain girl with a certain shaped bag would get the image out there." And of course, increasingly the image is the message.

"It's also a question of time as well," he said. "Gone are the days of the great Balenciaga and M. Dior, when you had six months to create a line, a silhouette. That's what I try to do in haute couture. But the timing is very different today."

Does he feel he has time to be creative? "It's programmed," he said. "I mean, you can't come into the studio one day and say, 'I'm really feeling this design.' " He laughed. "It's more programmed than that. No, it doesn't bother me. I need it."

At almost every turn in his 10 years at Dior, beginning with the Matrix show, which included clothes that had been taken apart and put together backward or upside down, Mr. Galliano has demonstrated a greater ability to change than his audience. I know: in a review of the Matrix show, I wrote, "Even if there was something believably modern here, the sort of world Mr. Galliano was envisioning hardly needs haute couture."

I took the clients' side. Wrong move. In haute couture, at least as it's practiced by Mr. Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld, you trust the designer. The modernity of Mr. Galliano's torn-apart approach was eventually borne out in the imitations.

In the late 80's, in a small Italian magazine called Westuff, Mr. Galliano said he considered himself part of the establishment. Given his circumstances at the time — near poverty, no regular source of financing and serious amounts of clubbing — this may have been a case of telling a journalist what he wanted to hear. Yet despite his working-class upbringing and the outlaw poses, Mr. Galliano's understanding of fashion and business does lie with the establishment.

Reminded of the article, he said: "I was a baby. How bold of me to say I want to be an international designer and have a house in Paris! But there you go. There's no point fighting it. Embrace it. Work within it, and then do things."

He acknowledged the front-row complaints that Dior has gone too commercial without addressing them. "Um, can it ever be too commercial?" he said. "I think what we're doing is right for the time. I don't want Dior to rest as a niche brand."

It is a condition of fashion today that the top houses are run by businessmen and not by creators. Even the good businessman, as much as he understands the need for strong talent, still wants the look that sells. On his way into the postshow dinner on Tuesday, Mr. Arnault praised the direction Mr. Galliano has taken, saying it was necessary: "Our customers were saying, 'We love what John does, but it's not for me,' " he said.

The fact is, Mr. Galliano's modest resort collection deserves attention, and for the only reason that has ever mattered. It looks right for now. This collection is better than Mr. Galliano's last two Dior ready-to-wear shows — in its subtle use of cut (especially a flattering asymmetrical matte-gold dress with one soft sleeve), and in its balance of easiness and technical finesse. Right before everyone's eyes, Mr. Galliano has changed. But can you see it?

Cabino does France

l'Agence France-Presse (AFP), the world's oldest news agency, just did a piece on Al Cabino's sneaker campaign:

Original French version
Un jeune Canadien a lancé une pétition pour obtenir du fabricant d'articles de sport Nike qu'il mette en production les baskets portées par Michael J. Fox dans le film "Retour vers le futur 2", obtenant jusqu'ici près de 18.000 signatures, a-t-il raconté vendredi à l'AFP.

Qualifiant cette paire de baskets montantes de "Saint Graal" des amateurs de chaussures de sport, Al Cabino, un Montréalais qui se définit lui-même comme "basketophile", s'est lancé dans cette opération fin 2005, 16 ans après la sortie du long métrage de science-fiction dont l'action est située en 2015.

"Les soussignés estiment que ces futures baskets de Nike seraient immensément populaires et n'augmenteraient pas seulement les ventes de Nike, mais gagneraient un nouveau public à la marque", fait valoir le texte disponible sur "" et qui avait recueilli vendredi 17.951 signatures.

Grises, les chaussures que Nike avait créées spécialement pour le film de Robert Zemeckis sont dotées d'un système de laçage automatique et d'un logo lumineux. "C'est le style des baskets qui m'intéresse", a souligné M. Cabino, soulignant leur caractère désormais "à la fois futuriste et nostalgique".

Le but du jeune homme, qui insiste sur le caractère "très sérieux" de sa démarche, est d'"obtenir autant de couverture médiatique que possible", parallèlement à la campagne de signatures.

"Lorsque j'estimerai que le moment est venu, j'irai à Beaverton", le siège social de Nike, dans l'Oregon (nord-ouest), pour demander la fabrication des chaussures, a-t-il expliqué.

Nike, contacté pour une réaction, n'avait pas rappelé vendredi en milieu de journée.

Translation (courtesy
A young Canadian launched a petition to obtain from the manufacturer of articles of Nike sport which it puts in production the tennis shoes carried by Michael J. Fox in film "Return towards future 2", obtaining up to now nearly 18.000 signatures, it told Friday with AFP.

Qualifying this pair of rising tennis shoes of "Graal Saint" of the amateurs of shoes of sport, Al Cabino, Montréalais which is defined itself as "basketophile", launched out in this operation at the end of 2005, 16 years after the exit of the full-length film of science fiction whose action is located in 2015.

"the undersigneds estimate that these future tennis shoes of Nike would be immensely popular and only the sales of Nike would not increase, but would gain a new public with the mark ", fact of being worth the text available on http://www.petitiononline.COMfuture2 and which had collected Friday 17.951 signatures.

Gray, the shoes that Nike had created especially for film of Robert Zemeckis are equipped with an automatic system of lacing and a luminous logo. "It is the style of the tennis shoes which interests me", M underlined. Cabino, underlining their "at the same time futuristic and nostalgic" character from now on.

The goal of the young man, who insists on the "very serious" character of his step, is to "obtenir as much of media cover than possible", parallel to the countryside of signatures.

"When I estimate that the moment came, I will go in Beaverton ", the registered office of Nike, in Oregon (north-western), to ask the manufacture of the shoes, it explained.

Nike, contacted for a reaction, Friday in middle of day had not recalled.

Go casual but clean as office heats up

By Lamont Jones
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As the weather changes from winter frightful to spring delightful, many people begin to get concerned about what’s OK to wear to work during the warmer, more laid-back days of summer.

The best advice: Find out if you have a company dress code and what it prohibits, says Laura McDowell, fashion spokesperson for T.J. Maxx.

After you know what is not permissible, McDowell says, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t look inappropriate or too casual.

•Break up a suit, mixing and matching the jacket and bottoms with different pieces. Incorporate a more casual piece into the ensemble for a look that’s relaxed but still serious.

Women can replace a blazer with a lightweight sweater set. A tunic top is another good trade-off as long as it’s not too flashy.

•There are plenty of office-friendly skirts and dresses this season. It’s OK to be bare-legged, in which case it would be best to make sure the skirt is at least down to the knees when standing.

•Avoid jeans, strapless and spaghetti-strap dresses and top, and a bare midriff. Corporate culture still does not consider these looks professional.

•Be careful with loud colors and patterns. Take a cue from upper management. Most colors are fine, and white is extremely popular this year.

•Men should avoid open-toe sandals, which are more acceptable when worn to work by women. Guys should always wear socks with office footwear and never wear sneakers.

“Keep it neat,” is McDowell’s overall advice.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

a quick tip

If you're going to be on a bus for an extended period of time and your mind wanders like mine does, make sure you bring a pen and something to write on with you.

I thought of all kinds of funny things on the bus to the baseball game today, but I didn't have anything to write them down on.

Here's a few I can remember:
  • What is it with old guys and Members Only jackets?
  • Under normal circumstances, 6AM does not exist for me.
  • I don't know how we ended up stopping at Whole Foods in Charlottesville for a rest break, but it certainly was up my alley. All-natural sodas, baby!
  • Sasquatch!
  • As many times as I read the itinerary, it never occurred to me the ballgame was in DC and not Baltimore.
  • Have they ever considered the slogan "We're Chevy Chase Bank, and you're not"
  • DC is the kind of place where a vibrant, upscale neighborhood and a ghetto can be right across the street from one another.
  • Who claps at a home run?! They don't do this in Baltimore.
  • If they're selling as much Nationals merchandise as I see around, then why is RFK so crappy?
  • They need a fragrance counter at this ball park...badly.
  • How bad does a neighborhood have to be to put KFC out of business?
  • Shell sells hydrogen here.
  • Golden Corral gives me the heebie-jeebies. How can one place have so much food yet none of it is any good?