Development and asynchronicity

October 7, 2010 at 10:23 am | In ideas, just_so | 2 Comments

The other day, we had an interesting conversation around the dinner table about development and asynchronicity.

Asynchronicity is a familiar idea around here, because, as homeschoolers of asynchronous kids, we learned a decade ago (and had to address the fact) that development happens on several levels and usually not in lockstep. The intellectual, physical, and emotional development of the asynchronous child is never as nicely meshed as the child-rearing and pedagogical literature would have you believe.

It struck us, at dinner two nights ago, that the same could be said of countries or any other organized system of knowledge, information, or development. But when we think of countries, we tend to judge them according to some “synchronous” view of where they should be at. Maybe that’s not so smart.

Why, for example, should countries without a developed road or rail infrastructure work toward developing an automotive or rail infrastructure? Why not use horses? That was the “crazy” idea that sparked our thinking over dinner. My first thought was, “Horses? You must be kidding.” But as we explored the idea (and substitute asses or camels for horses, as the case may be), it made more sense. Just because civil engineering brought mega-projects like interstate highway systems to some countries, does that mean we have to assume that all countries need the same civil engineering feats to develop and prosper? Could asynchronous development help regions or countries leapfrog over some of those developments? It’s possible to have a modern extended network of cell phone communication  alongside an “old-fashioned” technology of transport by animals.

Asynchronicity is something that educators of gifted kids understand, and it’s also used to describe types of information exchanges that have arisen from internet-based information exchange. Asynchronous messaging is:

Fire-and-forget information exchange. Participants in an asynchronous messaging system don’t have to wait for a response from the recipient, because they can rely on the messaging infrastructure to ensure delivery. This is a vital ingredient in loosely coupled systems such as web services, because it allows participants to communicate reliably even if one of the parties is temporarily offline, busy, or unobtainable. Asynchronous messaging systems are also vastly more scalable than those that rely on direct connections, such as remote procedure calls (RPCs). [emphasis added] (source)

I like thinking about these aspects in juxtaposition. Synchronous development is great when it works, but harmful if it’s an expectation that becomes a straitjacket. Having seen first-hand how liberating the acceptance and embrace of asynchronous development is for developing children, I’m intrigued by how favoring asynchronicity on a larger scale could liberate creative and developmental energies in other systems (like countries).

As it happens, I came across Blackboards Everywhere: Atemporality And The Idea Of The Future yesterday, which referred to an Oct. 5 piece by Russell Davies, something something something. The beef? According to Davies’s post, we’re failing to imagine the future. Instead, we’re focused on retro or stuck in the present, with no clear vision of what the future should look like:

I sometimes think all this talk of atemporality is an abdication of sci-fi responsibility. SF writers seem very keen to deny that they’re writing about the future. They’re not doing prediction, they’re telling us about the now. OK. Well. Pack it in and get on with some prediction.

Anyway. It’s not just sci-fi. I’m also depressed about the lack of future in fashion. Every hep shop seems to be full of tweeds and leather and carefully authentic bits of restrained artisinal fashion. I think most of Shoreditch would be wondering around in a leather apron if it could. With pipe and beard and rickets. Every new coffee shop and organic foodery seems to be the same. Wood, brushed metal, bits of knackered toys on shelves. And blackboards. Everywhere there’s blackboards. (source)

Well, maybe we’re going through the throes of rethinking synchronous development. It has to be easier to imagine the future if there’s a blueprint (synchronous development) that lets some sort of whole Gestalt emerge, right? And if that slowly wears away – in favor of bits of asynchronicity emerging successfully (or not) – it gets harder to predict the future. Maybe that explains why we’re more easily enthralled by retro visions (and I think Steampunk actually gets some things right, although on the whole I’m not a fan of it, and I don’t get it at all when it becomes some kind of fetish).

Added bonus, since Davies mentions fashion: Watch this fascinating TEDx talk by Johanna Blakley, Lessons from fashion’s free culture, wherein Blakley explains how “copyright law’s grip on film, music and software barely touches the fashion industry … and fashion benefits in both innovation and sales,” and “what all creative industries can learn from fashion’s free culture.” Looks like fashion is a sort of “loosely coupled system.” Something to keep an eye on.

Retail realities

October 6, 2010 at 11:28 am | In ideas, innovation, victoria | Comments Off on Retail realities

Yesterday’s post about ordering New Glasses online prompted Robert Randall to comment with some questions and thoughts about the future of retail.

My first response was to point out that I posed those very questions way back in December 2006 in my article, Consuming Downtown. This is hardly a new problem, and if local retailers haven’t woken up to the dangers that online retail poses, they must be dreaming.

Looking at my New Glasses conundrum: I’m not in a position to pay the bricks-and-mortar surcharge on stylish-looking glasses at this time, and if an online retailer can provide the service and the product at a considerably cheaper price, I’ll take my business there. However, if a bricks-and-mortar retailer offered the right shopping experience, maybe I’d dig deeper and pay the surcharge after all.

So what can a bricks-and-mortar store do to draw in customers?

Perhaps Victoria is a “special” case with plenty of people who still shop traditionally, because I don’t get the impression that traditional outlets here are hurting. Yet. But if a retailer were to continue doing business the old way, then starts to hurt, and then complains about the new ways muscling in on his/ her business (as Robert’s friend seemed to have done with regard to LensCrafters) – if that happens you have to wonder what the retailer was thinking.

It’s really not an either / or thing (either bricks-and-mortar or online).

If a bricks-and-mortar eye-wear store wanted to draw me into its store, it would first have to make sure that it has an absolutely Wow!gorgeous online presence. Glasses are items I might shop for only every couple of years, which means I’m not comfortable just “popping in” to the store to look around. A specialized store where I’m likely to shell out a few hundred dollars only every few years is a bit like a commercial art gallery: there’s a lot of threshold resistance because I don’t want to encounter over-eager or overly-snobby sales people, and I don’t want to be reminded that I can’t afford this or that, and that my choices are therefore limited to really generic looking crap. In my case, this means I’ll want to do my initial browsing online, to see if this store and I could possibly be sympatico. It should then be a bonus that, living in the same city, I can actually walk into the store to examine the goods up-close.

If the store wants to hold my attention, it should avoid offering everything. I despise most eyewear stores because they sell too much stuff that would never look good on me. I need instead to know that if I go in there, I’ll find something I can like. It’s a waste of my time to go from store to store looking at 15 gazillion variations of the same “vanilla” frames (the “mall” experience), all of which don’t speak to what I want to express. If you’re going to offer 15 gazillion types of frames, put them online, for god’s sake, but don’t “display” them in your store (use your online site for that).

Instead, concentrate your in-store displays to highlight specific looks, with a seasonal focus on collections and on what’s hot as an overall look: eyewear is fashion, forget about selling it as science or some impossibly rarefied, hard-to-produce item. With today’s optical labs, lens quality just shouldn’t be something the consumer is supposed to worry about. Top quality should be the standard, a given. And if it’s not given, you’ll hear about it because I’ll be bringing it back for a refund.

Let’s take a look at a local bricks-and-mortar store that succeeds as an online retailer, too, because of the way it has managed to carve out a very specific niche: Baggins Shoes on lower Johnson Street in Victoria, BC. Baggins (established as a store in 1969) bills itself as having the world’s largest selection of Converse shoes, which (along with Vans, Heelys, and Dinosoles Shoes) it sells online as well as in its – yes – bricks-and-mortar store. Baggins sells a lot, but it drills down into depth, with an exclusive focus on a certain kind of shoe. Luckily for Baggins, those shoes come in 15 gazillion variations, which means they never sell vanilla, but instead sell specialized flavors of a particular “hip” brand. Baggins leverages social media, too (their blog is dead, but check out their Facebook page, Youtube, and Twitter streams), …and yet its physical retail experience is treasured by many. See, for example, Elizabeth McClung’s blog post on her buying experience at Baggins, Crisp Lesbian Lolita Gothic: or “How my clothes control people.” (Bonus: click through for a photo of Elizabeth’s sales person, holding a pair of Rosie the Riveter sneakers.)

If I ever buy a pair of Converse shoes, you can bet I’ll buy them at Baggins. And if I ever saw as zingy a blog post about an optical / eyewear shop as McClung’s post about buying sneakers at Baggins, I’d take my business there. Especially if they had a good website where I could shop virtually first, trying glasses on virtually and seeing the price before I commit.

Wake-up calls and the seduction of the snooze button

October 4, 2010 at 10:45 am | In creativity, housekeeping, ideas, writing | 5 Comments

Last week, while attending a professional / academic conference in Toronto, Vancouver-based academic and “social media power userRaul Pacheco-Vega posted a blog entry called The future of my personal blog. He noted:

I am in awe of the depth of knowledge and caliber of colleagues I am sitting with, and I am honored to be sharing the floor with so many passionate and great specialists in water. It’s also a very strong wake-up call for me, as an academic whose career is, despite my relative success, still in development. I am well-established in some topics I’ve done work on, but in others I am still learning. (source)

Raul was wondering about the future of his personal blog: it’s where he focuses much more on “social” and far less on “academic,” and increasingly it’s also the public profile he’s most closely associated with. Does he have to choose between the two (social “vs” academic) – and if yes, what does that choice look like for a multi-faceted/multi-talented person? If no, how does he avoid letting some part of him atrophy?

I’m at another point in the spectrum – I don’t want to say “at another end,” since that implies a binary structure: it strikes me that it’s precisely the absence of simple binaries that makes these choices (or traps) difficult if not seemingly impossible to resolve. But I can relate to what Raul struggled with in that entry. Read optimistically, I suppose that in some ways, he could well be at the forefront of forging a new type of career – a hybrid “creative” trajectory that defies traditional placement.

I’m quite a bit older and have a very different personal history than Raul. Married with children (who are now both at university), I torpedoed my academic career in 2000 when I chose to homeschool my kids (which meant giving up the luxury – pardon the sarcasm – of the adjunct professor career: I did not have tenure and wasn’t in a tenure-track position, and I also wasn’t in a position to move around the country, chasing a series of 2- to 3-year appointments). In that process (of placing the perceived needs of my children over my own for a career) I also hitched my economic well-being to my spouse’s success. In hindsight, I can’t say I would recommend this to anyone. Now it’s 2010 and two years have passed since we stopped homeschooling, and I’m still trying to find terra firma – without success, to date. That the economy melted down in the interim hasn’t helped, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…

A while back I had a meeting with Elisa Yon, a talented young architect I met here in Victoria, but who is now in Vancouver continuing her graduate studies in design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Elisa talked about how invigorating it was to be back amongst high-caliber people who are working hard in a field she believes in. It was more than slightly depressing for me, because it made me realize that I have none of that in my life here. I no longer have “the children” to homeschool, but living on an island in a provincial capital often enough seems like living in the suburbs – or in Lake Wobegon. Victoria tends to hype self-congratulation to the point where it emulates (unironically, alas!) Garrison Keillor’s mordant portrait of a self-satisfied place “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” (source) As they might say on Star Wars, “It’s a trap!”

I hope Raul figures out how to square his particular circle. Every time I feel like I’m getting close, something happens to make the solution slip away again: I currently have no idea how to inject my serious side (my “academic” interests, my desire to study patterns – and to recognize them – or my wish to have meaningful conversations with people who care about the same things I do) into what I do here. Perhaps it is a question of making a new type of career, that hybrid “creative” thing outside traditional expectations.

Ever wondered why hotel staff turn down your bed?

October 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm | In ideas, social_critique | 3 Comments

Yet another section in Erve Chambers’s Native Tours jumped out at me today (see previous entries for other examples). Chambers references (pp.106-7) the work of Graham Dann, who in 1996 “described some of the ways in which language is used to promote various kinds of tourism, as well as to regulate and control interactions between tourists and hosts.”

Language is key to “socializing” the tourists – getting them accustomed to the focus of whatever the tourist experience aims at, whether it’s the nostalgia register; spasprech (health tourism); gastrolingo (food & drink oriented tourism experiences); or greenspeak (eco-tourism).

What I found most fascinating was this, however:

The process [Dann] describes is one in which tourists are invited to play the role of the child about to explore new physical and cultural terrain. Their socialization begins with guidebooks and marketing brochures, which assure the tourist-child that his or her safety and comfort needs will be assured and that there will be plenty of opportunities to satisfy his or her biological and emotional needs. Once they have arrived at their destination, industry workers guide the tourist-child to a bed, even turning down the sheets, provide food, and offer the assurance of 24-hour contact with the front desk. Dann describes the work of other scholars who have suggested that this child-parent relationship persists throughout the traveler’s visit. The goal of tourism industry representatives is to transform the tourist from the “natural Child (with unlimited wants) to the adapted Child (with trained needs).”

I have to admit that I never thought of it this way before – but it makes sense. As Dann (via Chambers) notes, it helps explain a lot, for example the nearly irrational temper tantrums tourists are capable of throwing over what, in other circumstances, might be minor details. “I’m not being taken care of,” would be the Child’s inner thought when a reservation isn’t honored or if the towel service isn’t up to snuff. That’s when the client/ guest/ tourist can act like a brat – and having paid dearly to be that Child (trained or not), she or he feels entitled to scream.

Check out this image posted to Flickr by fujiapple (it sure makes Dann’s / Chambers’s point!)…

authenticity, agency, tradition, community

September 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | In ideas, just_so | 3 Comments

Just juxtaposing a few things tonight, a couple of quotes that struck me…

For example…

I’m still reading Erve Chambers’ book, Native Tours; The Anthropology of Travel and Tourism, and in the section on “Tourism and Culture” came across this passage (pp.96-97) about tradition and authenticity:

Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (1983) argue, for example, that traditions are always invented and continually being reinvented. Their approach centers on the agency, or deliberateness, that informs the construction of traditions. Examples of invented traditions associated with tourism abound. The now “traditional’ silver-crafting industries of the Mexican town of Taxco were invented during the 1930s with the encouragement of a visitor from the United States. [further examples] (…) While some observers might find in these cases evidence of cultural fakery, others are just as likely to argue that the origins of particular traditions are much less significant than is the degree to which they become incorporated into distinct cultural identities.

Richard Handler and Jocelyn Linnekin (1984) have contended that our tendency to judge authenticity in terms of the faithfulness by which traditions are passed intact from one generation to another fails to account for the ways in which traditions actually serve human communities. Traditions, they argue, are invariably defined in the present and reinterpreted to meet the ideological needs of the living. The invention, appropriation, and reconstruction of tradition is not a consequence of modernity, but perhaps more nearly a necessary condition for the construction of all human culture. Modernity and capitalism did not create these mechanisms, although they might have helped speed them up and, in so doing, perhaps made them more transparent. This transparency, which serves to render previously implicit cultural traditions more explicit, makes it increasingly difficult to perceive modern tourist images as being “real.” In this respect, Handler (see Handler and Saxon 1988) joins MacCannell in asserting the virtual impossibility of achieving a sense of authenticity in modern times. [emphases added] (p.97)

Also today, I came across an article by Andrew O’Connell in the Harvard Business Review blogs, Sensitive Men: It’s Your Glass Ceiling Too.

Something about O’Connell’s discussion of the agentic mindset – its importance in getting ahead – made me think of Chambers’s analysis. Here’s O’Connell:

A team led by Mark C. Frame of Middle Tennessee State University finds that the higher you go on the corporate ladder, the more you’re among people who put a lot of stock in assertiveness and independence — what psychologists call “agentic” qualities — rather than on such things as caring about others’ feelings.

Get near the top, and people are all about action. Tasks. Results. That, according to Frame and his colleagues, lends “support to the idea that success and upward mobility in corporate environments may require more task-focused behaviors” and fewer behaviors displaying what are known as “communal” qualities.

The findings, based on attitudes data from more than 14,000 people, apply to both men and women. Thus, “it could be that the glass ceiling has more to do with communal versus agentic behaviors than it does with gender,” the researchers say.

In other words, the glass ceiling may be about how you roll, not what sex you are. It may block anyone who places great importance on selflessness or concern for others. Kinda scary, when you think about it.

If you’re a sensitive guy, you’ve probably sensed the presence of this barrier all along. You might even have heard once or twice that you’re “too nice to get promoted.” Yet you know you’d be a better boss than those task-oriented managers, many of whom have zero people skills. (source)

Goal-orientation – even if it’s disguised as communal authenticity – wins out.

Is this surprising? Not at all, …except that we do spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that inner truth, authenticity, and communal values matter more than “getting things done.” Yet the agentic mindset – agency – carries our stories and narratives forward, and we act like that’s a dirty secret.

Eschatology? Please just say no.

September 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm | In authenticity, creativity, ideas | 3 Comments

Had coffee with Elisa Yon this afternoon. We talked about a bunch of things, including her great experiences so far at Emily Carr University of Art & Design. As we talked about individualism and society (among other things), I tried (but failed) to remember the name of a French psychoanalyst whose book had impressed me mightily a couple of decades ago.

I got home and – googling to the rescue – found the information I sought: I was recalling Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. The book I read was Creativity and Perversion. I liked it.

Usually, I’d link to the Wikipedia page of someone like Chasseguet-Smirgel, but her page is such a hatchet job that I won’t bother. Seriously, Wiki people? You think her biggest accomplishment was pissing off leftist Lacanians and intellectual anarchists? Oh, come on…

Every once in a while, I lull myself into believing that we’re beyond that sort of bullying. But then I turn around and realize, “nuh-uh, we’re not.” The bullying I refer to is the Left vs. Right nonsense that partisan diehards like to dish out.

It seems Chasseguet-Smirgel called bullshit on masturbatory anarchism (or self-indulgent anarchism, choose your label), and for this Deleuze and Guattari of Anti-Oedipus fame gave her a smack-down. (Ok, here’s a link to her Wikipedia page.) Yes, I’m being harsh – but eschatologists who think that liberation lies in anarchy, or people who are so damn sure of the telos that they actually believe they know just what the future holds (excuse me while I gag): these people drive me crazy, and I include anyone of any political stripe in my no-go zone.

Co-incidentally, I happened to watch Steven Pinker‘s brilliant talk, A History of Violence (don’t have a direct-direct link – just click through on the second link and look for Pinker in the line-up: he’s the handsome curly-gray-haired guy with the bright green tie).

And somehow, what he had to say made me think that Anti-Oedipists and anarchists were off on a tangent and Chasseguet-Smirgel was more on track all along.

(To be continued.)

Dirty Wall Project: slums and cities

September 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In cities, guerilla_politics, housing, ideas, innovation, land_use, local_not_global, philanthropy, street_life, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off on Dirty Wall Project: slums and cities

I saw an amazing photograph in the temporary gallery Ryan Kane of the Dirty Wall Project has set up on Fort Street.

The photo is one of many that Kane is selling to raise funds for his venture: it’s a flat, saturated, picture-edge-to-picture-edge frontal view of one small piece of a slum in Saki Naka bordering the rail line. Its complexity makes Where’s Waldo look minimalist.

Monday Magazine published an interview with Kane last month. An excerpt from the introduction:

You’ve heard of guerrilla gardening and guerrilla marketing, but what about guerilla volunteering? The concept to “see a need and fill it” without worrying about paperwork, bureaucracy or religious bias is exactly what 28-year-old Kane Ryan strives to do with his one-person, not-for-profit organization called the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan just recently returned from India where he was working in the slums of Mumbai, organizing health camps, distributing tarps for the monsoon season, funding emergency surgeries and building a school for the children living in the Saki Naka slum community, among other initiatives. All of the money he raises—75 percent of which comes from here in Victoria through fundraising events, private donors and by selling his travel photography—goes directly to the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan pays for his own travel, food and accommodation out of his own pocket by working odd jobs during the months he returns to Victoria. The Dirty Wall Project is proof that one person can indeed make a difference. (source)

If you’re in Victoria, make sure you get to 977A Fort St (formerly Luz Gallery).

I can’t find an online version of the photo that grabbed my attention this afternoon. Here’s a substitute, which hints at the complexity:


Visit Ryan’s site, or check out his photo book, Dirty Wall Project (on Blurb). See a need and fill it, make a donation.


September 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm | In authenticity, ideas, just_so | Comments Off on Doubt

There’s something uniquely web-world weird about typing in the name of a long-ago friend into a search box – say, Facebook’s? – and discovering his/her Doppelgaenger: the person who has the same name and could – just possibly could be the person you were searching for, but could also be a completely different person altogether.

In days of yore, you might have simply speculated on the similarities you discover. But now you might also have a photo – an image – to go with the facts you recall, and it makes you wonder: Is this the person I knew x-years ago? And you grab on to geography (let’s see, White Rock is close enough to Victoria, or, Mattapan is close enough to Cambridge) to make a “rational” case for why (or why not) this ghost may (or may not) be the old girlfriend or the old boyfriend.

What do you remember? That your friend was sent to a Federal penitentiary? How do you search that? (Probably not.) That s/he married a single dad/mom? (Try to recall the kid’s name – see if s/he is on Facebook!) That her family owned a car dealership or the father became a mayor?

You search – and come up with so many replicates! Who needs science fiction: your double – older, younger, and/or geographically displaced – is out there.

Barring a positive identification, you’re left with a ghost – and doubt.

Frustrating, yet thrilling: doubt.

You put it away – file it, knowing you can return to it at some later date. The web-found replicates carry on.


August 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm | In advertising, arts, authenticity, brutalism, fashionable_life, ideas, media, style | 1 Comment

Night thoughts about exigency (something I have no time for).

Exigency: An urgent situation …a situation requiring extreme effort or attention. Exigence: demand.

Think child-rearing, perhaps? Think about having hardly any time for yourself, as you prepare yourself to be on constant alert, inbetween the moments that punctuate perpetual vigilance with pure delight? Is it addictive, to live like that? As Perma-Mom or Perma-Dad?

Which brings me to disaster. Why is the idea of disaster so seductive? Is it because it’s over quickly – unlike real life…?

Toward the end of July, NPR’s film critic, Bob Mondello, had an excellent segment, Disasters In Reel Life: It’s About Time (And Suspense). He referred to the “realistic” popular cataclysms dished up by Hollywood, and wondered, “So how come when a real disaster strikes, it feels so different?” One obvious answer is time: in the movies, disaster is fleet of foot (or whatever it is that disasters have, if not exactly feet – legs, maybe?). In real life, on the other hand, there is no suspense to disaster. It’s a drag, not a wild ride.

Then there are the other banal and painful differences: “Disaster movies have characters; real disasters have casualties.” The fictional representations of disaster obey Aristotelian rules about build-ups to climactic events, while real-life disasters mix up that experience. And in disaster movies, you never have to deal with the clean-up…

This might speak to the infatuation with urban apocalypse: it’s a desire to hasten an “end with horror” (versus true – and impossible – reconciliation to the “horror without end”). Check out London After the Apocalypse on Flavorwire: a more nuanced, artistic vision of 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow…? Perhaps we’re to shrink from the oozing decrepitude of Norman Foster’s Gherkin, its normally plump erectitude punctured by what looks like a case of vegetal clap. Maybe we should be awed: when a mighty organ such as this is marred, then it surely is the end.

[An aside, possibly irrelevant: If I had ever met her, I would be able to hear my maternal grandmother’s voice say, Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende (“better an end with horror than a horror without end”), a sentiment I always found really alarming and frankly ideologically dangerous (and one my own mother embraced whenever she felt a) depressed or b) manic – like I said, a dangerous idea). But then I didn’t live (and die) my grandmother’s life.]

In this unholy mix of media manufactured fast-forwarding to The End, we see that ecological disaster also has a special role to play: As Bob Mondello put it, “If the Gulf oil spill were happening in a film, you’d see oil-covered polar bears within hours of the Deepwater Horizon’s demise.” Urban disasters are a long-standing trope that goes back to the early days of Industrialization: both the Romantics and Surrealists liked to imagine man-made forms overtaken once again by nature. There’s something satisfying about seeing chthonic nature assert itself against concrete and human-contrived geometries. It’s also nice to think that nature will win, whereby winning means making human squalor and folly seem irrelevant. Unfortunately, that scenario also means everything else human becomes irrelevant – and that’s not an idea I can endorse.

And so we come to fashion, which has to be one of the highest achievements of humanity. (I’m not being ironic, incidentally.) A recent approach (the oil spill shoot in Vogue Italia’s August 2010 issue by Kristen McMenamy, shot by Steven Meisel) has put the Gulf of Mexico/ Deepwater/ BP oil spill front and center in haute couture. But as wrote, regarding the August Vogue Italia photo spread featuring oil-slicked models on the Gulf:

As beautiful and provocative as they are, we can’t help but feel uneasy. Creating beauty and glamour out of tragedy seems quite fucked up to us, not to mention wasteful and hypocritical, seeing as thousands of dollars of luxury clothing was flown in, and then subsequently ruined for the shoot. Glamorizing this recent ecological and social disaster for the sake of “fashion” reduces the tragic event to nothing more than attention-grabbing newsstand fodder. But that’s just us. Do you think this is appropriate commentary, or just tasteless? (source)

Some of the images (very few) are beautiful – most are provocatively horrifying. They’re not easy to swallow, and you have to look long and hard (which is difficult, given the ugliness of the setting) to find the fashion (be sure to view the 11 images in the slideshow).

Horror without end – the models are posing in the thick of it. End with horror? Not practical. As long as humans are around, we’ll never be without fashion (and fashioning) – how could we be? It’s part of our art – we’ve been fashioning since we got kicked out of Eden. Perhaps the question is, if we can’t be without the horror (can’t stop it without ending), can we shake ourselves out of being used to it?

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