Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The first time, we were rained out. The second time around: success!

Drew and I have made it to two Concerts on the Quad (COTQ) performances - in a row! - so far. COTQ are summer music extravaganzas hosted at my alma mater, UNC Asheville, on the wide green space known affectionately as The Quad. Having worked these concerts for two or three summers when I was a student, I love the freedom that comes with being an attendee. No more turning dogs away as irate owners glare balefully (I happened to join the COTQ staff the year dogs were banned from the concerts); no more scooping out ice cream that is literally as hard as granite; no more lugging recycling bins back to Lipinsky Hall as dusk falls on the campus.

Don't get me wrong - my experience as a staffer wasn't all bad! I was working in the great outdoors to the soothing accompaniment of music (sometimes it was crazy and wild - just depended). My fellow staffers were awesome, I was outside ('nough said!), and I was being paid to listen to music. But honestly, work or freedom? ;) Lounging on a blanket with my pasta salad and chips in hand (one evening I'm bringing wine), enjoying an instrumental version of a Bob Marley piece...ahh....

They're dancing the conga! See? It's a rare night when folks don't make their way to the stage for some form of dancing - swing, salsa, slow, you name it.

PS Pick up an item made of glass and see if it was made in China. Chances are no. Not sure why this is, but so far, that has been my experience. Country of origin is usually U.S. of A. or Italia.

Musings from an amateur photographer

I've come to realize that there's several ways to go about photographing someone...

a) Cajole the subject into producing an array of fake, bright grins that don't look natural at all
b) Act as a shadow and allow the subject to react to the environment in his own way, unobtrusively capturing natural expressions

This all seems very obvious, right? And to be honest, I've known it all along. BUT - don't you just love the BUT'S? - I think the "how to's" of photographing a person (or anything, for that matter) have to be worked out in the photographer's mind before she gets a truly flowing photo shoot. At least that's how it works for me. And since my brain happens to belong to a writer (hehe!), I usually need to write down the results of my latest think-fest; cement the idea into place, if you will. I guess that's why I'm so obsessed with writing lists...

When I'm desperate to get the subject to smile, I've found myself resorting to a). In the case of my hubby, the result is disastrous. I don't get natural expressions from Drew this way - I get only the sarcastic look. ;) I'm finding that a good approach is to begin backwards with b) - au contraire! - and proceed to a letter - shall we call it c)? - that involves sharing jokes, suggesting outlandish poses, etc. to see how the subject will react and CLICK! got it on camera. So basically a) but without the fake grin. :D

This process occurred in a very organic way last week when Gintaras and I tramped all over the River District for a photo shoot. Here are a few of my favorites...

Can you tell Gintaras is happy that the shoot is over?

P.S. A study conducted last year by the British Medical Journal found that there were approximately 32 million more males in China in 2005 than females under the age of 20. ~ WORLD magazine

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crisis: Averted


"My car won't start. Can you come to AB-Tech?" That was Drew yesterday afternoon. I abandoned my house-cleaning mania and proceeded to inadvertently take the longest route possible to the community college. My husband, meanwhile, was kind enough to chat amiably on the phone about who knows what with me while he sweltered in a parking lot. During ninety degree weather. He's a great guy.

Several starts later, the old blue Saturn had sputtered to life and was leading the way - the shorter way, I might add - home. *whew* Car maintenance is no laughing matter. I spent over $300 on a car inspection, new windshields wipers, and two new tires mere months ago. I was envisioning the cost of a new battery - or even worse, some other, more expensive problem lurking in sinister enjoyment inside the old car. Then there was the issue of origin. Does anybody know where car batteries are made? I don't. It could be China, for all we know. Whoever said that being a responsible adult is fun, clearly did not have an enjoyable childhood.

Fast forward an hour or two. Drew and Katrina are headed to the movies to see Toy Story III and I'm off in the opposite direction to play basketball with a friend.

"Why are you standing there?" Drew asks.

"I want to make sure your car starts before I leave."

After a dismal grinding noise, Drew and Katrina dash for my car as the three of us attempt to make two separate engagements in different parts of town (I'll add that I'm already fifteen minutes late and their movie starts in ten. Great combo, eh?). The car battery is officially d-e-a-d.

The saga continues the next day when Drew drives me to work. "Uh," I begin, worried about reminding Drew of our boycott at this delicate time. After all, a car battery is a car battery is a car battery. What if the only option is a Chinese one? Are we going to put one car out of commission and share the other one for the rest of the year? That's absolutely insane!

"Uh, you'll ask where the battery is made...right?"

"Sure," Drew says. I underestimated my husband. He didn't forget about the boycott. And he's not mad about it either.

"After all," I continue, cheered by his positive response, "My windshield wipers and tires weren't made in China. Why should all the batteries be made there?"

I got a phone call later that day from a very happy husband. "Guess what!" Apparently, Drew's dad had put a brand-new battery into his other son's car the day before it wrecked. While the car had been declared totaled, the battery had not!

"Sweet!" A free, gently used (read: one-day used) battery plus free labor by Drew = problem solved. I thought that this battery episode was going to be our Big Test: the situation where we had nowhere to turn and a very real, very important dilemma on our hands. Would we choose our boycott or would we choose the necessary item?

So maybe that test is still out there, waiting ominously in our future. Maybe not. All I know is that the car is running and our boycott is still going strong. Alleluia!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Montreat College

Any objections out there to occasional posts that contain more photos than boycott-related text? No, you said? Excellent. The last time I posted a mess of photos, I was able to relate the shoot quite nicely to our boycott (you'll recall that Drew and I discovered - and subsequently lugged home - a free turquoise blanket while on a photo shoot in our neighborhood). So how about this - I promise that hidden somewhere in my photo-ridden post, I WILL poke in a sentence about our Chinese boycott?

Ben and I drove down to Montreat College this past Wednesday. I had never been before. This fact shocked even me, as the college is only twenty minutes away and I've lived here eight years. The rain came early, while we were eating dinner at the apartment, so when Ben and I arrived at Montreat, the weather was ripe for a shoot.

Chacos = China

I got my email and it ain't good news.

For those of you are wondering why I care where Chacos are made (or even better, you don't know what the HECK Chacos even are), let me explain.

Chacos are the essential "home away from home" as far as footwear is concerned. Imagine a pair of sandals with a black rubber sole and colorful, woven straps. They're comfortable (read: they support your arch, unlike the uber popular summer footwear, the flip flop), versatile, and the best summer shoes around. Drew says they look hippie - if you live in Asheville, this is a true statement. Chacos DO = hippie in my neck of the woods. Where them anywhere else and you'll just be a normal American. ;) Now picture any occasion, and I'll bet you someone, somewhere, has worn Chacos to it. I was surfing a friend's photos today and lo and behold, the groom was sporting a pair. Crazy. I wear them to work; around town; hiking and camping; in the water and out of it. When they get dirty (yes, these shoes are not only allowed to get dirty, they expect it), I throw them into the wash machine with a load of jeans. Simple.

They are amazing shoes. Enough said.

They used to be made proudly in Colorado, USA. I would sometimes think to myself how awesome it was that one pair of shoes in my closet was made right here in this country. Unfortunately, I've learned that Chaco sandal production has been moved to China as of July 31, 2008. All their other shoes and paraphernalia have been Chinese-made from day one. :(

I have a pair of Chacos. I bought them five years at for $100 (shockingly expensive, I know, but at this point, the math comes out to $20/year - a bargain!) and I still faithfully pull them out in the spring and wear them into the fall. I wanted to get Drew a pair ("hippy-ize" him, if you will). Our boycott says no. This is where the creative juices start flowing and I think, "Maybe used?"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

3 easy steps to boycotting China

Did you laugh at that title?

No? You should have. After boycotting China for one hundred and sixty odd days, I realized that we've adapted. But that's NOT too say it's been easy. No siree.

Meltdowns --> jeans + shoes = items I'm particularly crazy about = made in China. Just be grateful it was Drew and not you trudging through shoe store after shoe store that one Sunday afternoon, with me getting more and more upset...

Uncomfortable moments --> my car doesn't pass inspection because I need new tires --> I screw up my courage and ask where the tires are made --> bingo! --> NOT China!

Mad searches online --> I spend hours researching the perfect camera bag, only to realize that it's not technically new. This leads to a few days of nervously sweating it out to see if I won my bag on eBay...

There are days that I completely forget I'm even boycotting China. Other days, I want to (but don't) cry bitter tears that I am. ;-) My "solution" - if you can call it that - to a successful Chinese boycott is below. Please note that it's in order of importance.

1. Buy used
2. Borrow
3. Unfortunately, you just don't need it

I must admit that I've ignored #3. A lot. I don't want to hear, "You just don't need it." Who does? That's when my creative juices start to flow, computer keys are wildly punched, and I pull up eBay, Amazon, any site that might get me what I want, in a gently used condition.

I'm curious about "the next" item up for purchase - a pair of Chacos for Drew. Will we have to submit gracefully to #3? Chaco used to take pride in the fact that their outdoor sandals were made proudly in the U.S. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is no longer true. I have an email whizzing through cyberspace to Chaco at this very moment...