Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sneakers: The Gateway

Regarding my last post I think it’s important to also pay homage to the sneaker community by drawing attention to its natural transition into fashion.  The retro sneaker scene has opened the door wide open beckoning new members of the fashion world.  Retro sneakers are the gateway drug that introduces a generation to the fashion world.

Now that a generation once unable to buy these sneakers has the means to we do.  A part of our generation our professional athletes who are buying up these retro sneakers or being provided them based on whatever sneaker deal they have.  Having that much money and mentality of buying what they once could not sneakers isn’t the only thing they buy or get interested in.  Many pro basketball players are now even involved in the fashion industry and own their own niche boutiques.  Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Kanye West, A$ap Rocky are just a couple names of young men with the means now who are wearing these retro sneakers all the while buying up and exploring newer fashions.  With the world changing because of social media and these athletes and celebrities being able to show off their goodies fashion and sneakers are a culture of their own. 

If you’ve listened to the A$ap Rocky record, Fashion Killa, he almost overwhelms you with designer names.  Lebron James & other NBA players are frequently seen in older Jordans, but mix in designer shoes as well.  The frequency at which followers see these individuals’ rock retro sneakers and designer clothing and shoes makes them more aware of the world of fashion.  Instead of baggy jeans with a t-shirt accompanying the retro Jordan 12 Taxi this coming weekend we will see more fitted pants and designer brands rounding out the outfit. 
We can now get out retro sneakers and designer tees.  We’ve made it, look at us.  The large influence of the generation that couldn’t get those sneakers and can now has opened doors to fashion, which is see easily if you search Instagram hashtags for #OOTD (outfit of the day) or #todayskicks or #sneakerhead.  Retro sneakers in a very big way have opened the flood gates of the fashion industry.  Once you get into higher end quality products, typically these will be designer brands, the transition into Allen Edmonds, ColeHaan, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Fendi, Tod’s, Ferragamo, and John Varvatos to name a few is easy.  Once you get into designer sneakers the transition into those clothes comes next. 

Anatomy of a Sneakerhead

It’s always an interesting experience to browse sneakers with Tank.  For those of you who don’t know me well, Tank is my little brother.  I’ve been a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana for 7 years now and Tank is my Little.  I met him when he was 7 and he’ll be 14 in a couple weeks.  He is always pointing out these new shoes to me to which I’m enamored and must explain how I owned them when I was his age.  The term retro refers to new old I suppose, so when he says new he means they just came out, in his eyes and experience, but to me they’re old because they’ve been released before, it’s an old design. 

“I don’t watch the NBA anymore, not since the glory days of Jordan and Bulls passed.  Those were the good ol’ days”  This is the same rhetoric you hear from many people, interestingly enough, people who were only kids in those days.  I’m talking the late 90s here, where the rise of the NBA superstar became very much apparent with marketing and especially sneaker deals.  Larry Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell.  These are just a few names I can rattle off the top of my head that had sneaker deals.  Nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon and is cause for much of this big retro sneaker hype that we are experiencing today.  Nostalgia is why walking into Finishline or Champs or Footlocker often feels like you stepped into a time machine and visited your childhood fantasy regarding sneakers.
I always ask the question of why and am not satisfied until I have answered it in some way, which leads me to ponder the psychology of a retro sneaker.  Why is it that the 90s sneakers have made this huge emergence and not only sold well, but done so at an ungodly price hike compared to the original price? 
I grew up during this basketball “golden era.”  Just to clarify, I think the NBA is at its peak in terms of talent and marketability right now, so I don’t really buy into the golden era of basketball, nostalgia also makes everything look better in retrospect.  While we are here let’s define retrospect.  According to the great World Wide Web a basic definition is this: a survey or review of a past course of events or period of time.  A retro sneaker is just that, a review of a period of time expressed through a sneaker being re-released to the general population.  Nike is a very very smart company.  I’m not sure if you knew this but Nike now has the contract for all NFL apparel.  Nike has taken innovating sports to another level with technology like the fuel band and NikePlus as well.  Nike also owns Jordan Brand.  Nike used to own ColeHaan, but in order to focus on the sports side of things sold it off to a holding company.  All that to demonstrate Nike knows what they are doing.  I grew up in the inner city with not very much.  Like most kids in that environment I idolized these basketball players who came from similar circumstances to make it in the NBA and become millionaires.  I wanted to walk like them, talk like them, smell like them (yep, remember when Jordan released that awful cologne?), and most of all I wanted to wear what they wore.
There’s an entire generation of us, we grew up wanting to be Jordan.  Macklemore’s song about sneakers hits home for many like me (if you haven’t heard it, check it out).  Again, most of us who idolized these figures and wanted to wear their shoes also grew up poor and were not able to afford these luxuries.  Let’s fast forward a bit.  While fast forwarding keep in mind none of us wanted to be poor and some of us grew up and found a way to not repeat socio-economic habits and break the cycle of poverty and make our ways to success.  We now have money.  We now have means to that end, to grab that sneaker we so coveted growing up, we can now touch what seemed unattainable.  Again, Nike is smart, Nike knows and has probably been studying this generation for quite some time.  Knowing that we have cash they began unloading all the sneakers we yearned for as kids.  Nike is extremely innovative so it makes zero sense that they would release retros because they’ve run out of good designs.  Retro sneakers are a cash cow aimed at taking advantage of the opportunity a bunch of previously unfortunate kids all grown up with cash now apportion them.  I’m not trying to demonize Nike or the idea of retros in any way, I have been eating them up, even though my style doesn’t really support casually wearing sneakers. 
I wanted to be like Mike, but couldn’t afford it back then, now I can, you can call me a sneakerhead.  That’s how it goes.  Kudos to Nike for noticing opportunity and kudos to all of us who can finally get The Glove, Kamikaze II, Elevens, and Air Max Ones. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Addicts, Stereotypes, and a Bait Car


A shadowy figure walks past an unattended automobile. It's unlocked. The engine's running. No owner insight. Without hesitation, the perp climbs into the driver's seat and speeds off, thinking he has evaded punishment. Unfortunately for him, a hidden video camera has been installed on the dashboard and a nearby police force has been watching his every move. The suspect has been caught. With the press of a button, the officers shut down the vehicle. The suspect is arrested on the spot and led away in handcuffs. He has been snared with a Bait Car (CableNation).

At first glance this show seems entertaining enough.  I happen to catch an episode this weekend and after about the first 5 minutes my laughter turned to sorrow, my sorrow into concern, and finally my concern into these words.  All in all this show targets and marginalizes a very focused demographic, African-American* Males.  Watch the show for long enough and you see the trend without even looking into Cable Television Advertising Bureau statistics that the “criminals” are all young African-American males.  As the camera pans from scene to scene it capture street names that make it very obvious what areas of town they are setting this operation up in.  Sadly ironic any street that bears the great name of Martin Luther King Jr. is synonymous with crime and poverty.  Seeing that sign alone tells the viewer something, or else why would it be a detail offered at all?  Now a vehicle unoccupied and running is set in a high crime area as police officers with cameras and fancy electronics lie in wait for what they call perps, but let’s be honest are more like prey or victims.  Is stealing a car ever ok? The answer is simply no, however, nothing exists within a vacuum and several variables must be considered when viewing this show or even considering following me down this cognitive path. 

 Here is my disclaimer and asterisk that should be considered when reading this.  I’m a Caucasian male, who would be considered upper-middle class.  I fit snuggly into the average viewer TruTV is targeting with their programming (I’ll mention numbers later).  I did grow up in a bad area of town riddled with crime.  I also grew up as a minority with my community, meaning I grew up in a mostly African-American populated area.  All this to paint a picture that at best I can be is moderate regarding the issue of race relations at face value.  Just past the surface is this though, in college my favorite courses were regarding racial reconciliation and today’s culture.  My hope in this is others will consider more than just being entertained when viewing programs and events in life. 

 Here are some figures to consider regarding TruTV’s demographic statistics:
  • Median age: 43 (CableNation)
  • Median income: $43,000 (CableNation)
  • 67% of cable network viewers are male (Media Matters for America)
  • 84% of that viewership is Caucasian (Media Matters for America)

Great, a bunch of numbers and some obvious observations, so what?  What kind of message is this show sending?  What does this program teach the viewers about the perps and how does this mold their perception of the general population outside of television?  The majority of folks who view this program are middle class Caucasian men.  Middle class Caucasian men laughing at the dumb decisions of criminals.  Criminals who are all African-American.  What kind of depths do these seemingly simple observations by a viewer reach when it comes to how they live their everyday lives?  What happens when they go into a predominantly African-American area of town, do their assumptions change, do those doors get locked at stop lights, and do they treat others well?  Do those others deserve to be treated well if those others are just what they are taught to be by the shiny tv screen? 

I have a great idea for TruTV, set up hidden cameras in  AA meeting.  Introduce an onslaught of tasty alcoholic beverages and see what happens.  Eventually when the participants of this sick social experiment succumb to the pressure of that weakness or cultural bent they have let’s chastise them, all on national television. Is this sick?  Isn’t it just offering an opportunity to someone and recording the results?  Of course not!  The same is true of Bait Car. Placing an unoccupied vehicle in a high crime area of town is the same thing.  Unpacking the variables behind what causes the high crime is where people get lazy and just start buying into stereotypes though.  High crime areas are typically products of their past, simple predictable outcomes of a cyclical socio-economic environment. 

 Maybe you’re entertained by this show.  I was too, and then I paid attention to that little feeling of discomfort my idle mind typically rejects and opened this can of worms, a can I’m very uncomfortable with.  Do I find this show entertaining? No.  I’m not saying view the world from my perspective, different experiences and perspectives are what the world beautiful, I’m just prescribing considering other views and look deeper than the surface of things like this.

*You won’t see me often use the terms Black or White as I’ve never met someone actually the color Black, I find it more appropriate to reference heritage over colors that actually aren’t accurate.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Where is God (Logic)?

I suppose this is the question we would probably be best suited to ask ourselves throughout our experiences.  The healthiest thing we can do is reflect on where God exists within our environments and experiences. This frequent reflection gives us a stopping point of sorts, a ground zero, a base line off which we can operate and live.  The question doesn’t beg a logistical answer either, it’s not asking a location or longitude or latitude coordinates or even a pie in the sky ideology that boasts an old guy with white hair sitting in the clouds with a shiny crown on either.  Where does God exist within your experience, how is he involved, how to you view him, etc, etc.  That’s the question to ponder.

One of my professors in college used to always get on me about writing in a passive voice.  I write in a passive voice because I’m open to being wrong and I’m also open to my experience being just that, an experience in a broader prism of experiences that others have, allowing for unique experiences and individuals space to experience life and God on their own.  Standardization of anything within the context of spirituality is dangerous; space for unique experiences must be made.
So, back to pondering this huge question; maybe you won’t have or get to an answer, but the thought alone has great value.  Due to some recent life-altering circumstances I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately.  I’ve been thinking of writing about this for a bit anyways, but a comment from a friend really urged me to.  I once heard one of my favorite minds and writers say that writing shouldn’t be something you simply do, but something that is burning inside of you that you are compelled to get out of you.  My friend’s response to a simple comment I made was the extra nudge I need to compel me.
She was telling me how she was depressed and needed to take some meds.  My response was that she should also drink some Jesus juice.  When I use the term Jesus juice I’m referring to wine, based on his first miracle to turn water into wine. I don’t think she understood my little joke, but her response was still peculiar and moving to me.  “Oh, He’s been ignoring me lately.”  I take that to be in reference to Jesus. Using deductive reasoning I also take that to mean she feels like the circumstances surrounding her depression are caused by a lack of Jesus’ attention.  Following that same path a little further down that implies that bad things happen because God lets them and that somehow that means when bad things happen it’s because God somehow has turned his back or is too busy. The implications of this understanding of circumstances and God are quite complex. That line of thought would support several unhealthy and false conclusions like good things only happen to people God favors or conversely bad things only happen to people who God is ignoring or has no love for.

It’s not just what you think of God, more importantly, in my humble opinion; it’s why you think what you think about God, analyzing the logic behind your conclusion.  Considering where God is starts with analyzing why you have come to the conclusion that you have.  My hope for anyone I have the opportunity to have a relationship with throughout my life is that I can always lead folks to consider this question.  Considering this question alone is huge for someone’s life.  May you consider where God is in your life, keeping in mind it’s different for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Spark


Soul mates, the spark, chemistry, etc etc. These are all terms and general ideologies that operate on the same foundation, that there is some unexplainable, intangible connection between people that exists. It's much like faith, you can feel it but most of the time cannot explain it and when you do the words you use fail and express something that falls short of what's true. The divorce rate of western societal marriage, who has freedom to choose their mate, and the rest of the world, whose mates are chosen for them, is right around the same. What this means to me is that it is possible for 2 complete strangers to have and sustain a healthy life long relationship (marriage). The implication of this is hard work can bond 2 people, but both parties must be willing to endure and grow. In some rare cases an individual is so patient and can bare so much that they are able to stay in a marriage long enough to see their mate change and respond. This takes place in a culture and worldview we cannot really relate to. One where happiness and feelings isn't as important as commitment and honoring vows. Our culture reacts to that and goes to the other extreme, where we think it's all about happiness and emotional well-being. I had a professor say this once, and it has stuck with me and in my experience been confirmed as truth, "We are pendulum people, we swing from one extreme to another throughout life." So is either view of marriage correct, no, not entirely. Should you stay in a miserable existence just to say you endured as much pain as possible? I think not, life isn't about how much pain you can endure, rather how much you can learn from pain and use it in a positive manner to move forward and create. On the other end of the spectrum is the consideration of allowing emotions to rule the day. Emotions are an ever changing variable, shifting sand if you will, so a house cannot be firmly built on something that shifts constantly, no great decision is made on emotions alone.  Moderation is where we want to be in life, we will always swing in some way, but the less the amplitude the better.  So I think the “spark” is something that exists, however, not something we should look for solely.  I had a relationship where our connection was unreal, however, she and I were volatile together because we had zero compatibility.  I think it’s a mix of compatibility and chemistry.   So, can you have a successful relationship or marriage without having an initial spark?  According to statistics studying eastern cultures, yes.  The reality is though, not many have the patience or determination to stick it out to learn to develop it.  It is entirely too difficult for us to manufacture because we cannot endure.  The question becomes, “How much am I willing to endure?”  Having that connection makes things easier and let’s be honest, everyone likes ease.  I think having an initial spark is important but hold that captive to reality.  The same way I feel about emotions, they are extremely important but should be held captive by reality.  What I mean by that is if you feel great doing cocaine but are wrecking your family by doing it, I’d say that feeling of greatness must be held accountable to the consequences of its own existence.  I know this doesn’t cover the depths of that question but I think it scratches the surface enough to make people, me, you, think and consider making wiser decisions.  Boom!  Sometimes I write things and as I write them or even say them aloud something connects and I realize I’m speaking something I wasn’t aware I actually conceived or understood.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Community


Recently I attended a community meeting and was saddened by several things.  The lack of presence by anyone in my generation and the lack of listening and understanding by a room full of people.  

A little context first.  

I live in an older neighborhood, most houses built in the 60s and single family residences.  We live right on the border of the Arts and Design District and the Monon Trail.  The mayor of our city, Jim Brainard, is a progressive thinking guy who has done a ton of great things for the city of Carmel.  There is this underlying tension within the city between progress (and the costs that come along with it) and maintaining history, the city as is and was.  You can easily split the populace into 3 groups, the progressive types, the old schoolers, and the ambivalent.  The progression plans for our city hit on areas that border our neighborhood and in order to protect our neighborhood and its integrity we've opened the idea of becoming a conservation district.  

Letters were sent to every household within the neighborhood (Johnson/Wilson) advising of several meetings to discuss becoming a conservation district and whether or not, as a community, we wanted to move in that direction.  Of those who attended the large majority of that population voted and agreed to move forward.  This most recent meeting I am referring to was to hand out responsibilities and create boards to move forward on becoming a district and the duties that would come with it.  

Let's revisit my disappointments and/or areas of opportunity that were revealed within this meeting. The lack of my generations' presence and no one listening or seeking to understand. Within all this I am sure there will be some political disagreements ((which is fine and actually healthy if handled maturely), but I agree in the democratic process in general.  

There were city council members and other Carmel representatives there to explain the benefits and details of moving in this direction.  That being said the general understanding is that since this is their job they have a better understanding of it then the audience they were speaking to.  We were also given a 2 page document explaining what a conservation district is and what a conservation district is not. The agenda was very clear in this meeting and from my perspective the content was clearly laid out and explained.  Here come the opportunities I saw at this meeting now.

I was by far, by at least 15 years, the youngest person there.  A huge reason for my involvement is in my understanding that there is a lack of young blood in these type things in general.  I want to be involved in my community as a young person and think it beneficial for others to be as well.   If we are the future of neighborhoods, we are all growing up, getting married, buying houses, etc (AKA being domesticated), it would make sense that we get involved to help what will be ours soon.  That way we don't end up just a bunch of angry old people who don't like the way things are.  If we were involved in the journey we wouldn't be displeased with the destination.  

What a great transition into my next item, people not listening or trying to understand.  I'm the youngest and probably most open minded person in that room.  I stand out with my full sleeve of tattoos and brightly colored clothing.  I also stand out from a self-perspective view, i'm not angry, i'm curious, i am listening.  As I look around the room I see a bunch of older people sitting with their arms crossed.  Body language isn't everything, but it is a huge indicator of internal thoughts.  Crossed arms generally mean closed off.  One gentleman says, "Now of those who voted are not the majority of the neighborhood and I just don't like a minority moving forward on something i'm not ok with."  Within his statements a couple things are clear, he voted against becoming a conservation district and obviously doesn't understand the democratic process.  If you don't vote you are in fact voting.  You are voting to be silent, you are acknowledging your voice is not a part of the conversation.  You are making a choice, by not voting you vacate your opinion.  When we said a majority voted in favor we are talking of a majority of those who voted.  Those who did not vote in essence don't matter because they chose that, they chose to not have a voice.   Another man stands and colorfully says, "I don't want someone what color I can paint my house."  And another, "So you're telling me I can't sell my house for $30,000- more than it's worth..."  The final comment that made me say an explicative and walk out was this, "And that's the problem with out government now..."  

Truth be told, i'm not a huge supporter of our current leadership and may have even agreed with what some of what that gentleman would go on to rant about. I walked out not because I was offended by him, I walked out because I saw where this meeting was going.  A bunch of angry people sitting around with their arms crossed looking for that chance at the end of the meeting, the "question" time on the agenda, to rant on whatever it is they feel they need to say.  No one asked questions.  The things that were said were actually covered earlier in the meeting.  The irony of this is those most against progression of Carmel and Brainared's vision are also against progression of dialogue.  How can we discuss something if no one listens?  how can a neighborhood move forward if people don't get involved?  

I'm hoping to provide a little insight from a youthful perspective, but more than anything looking to learn and be involved in moving my community forward.  Wouldn't local government work so much more effectively if this were the case for more people?  So don;'t chose to be silent, get involved, ask questions, listen a little, and most of all seek to understand others.