A bit Irish (at least a little)

Since it is St. Patrick’s Day I was remembering that I have an Irish ancestor back on my Karuk side. My great-great-great-grandfather, Dick Morrison. Based on the dates, my guess is that he came to Northern California during the gold rush in the 1850s. The picture is a close-up of a family tree my tribe sent me when I formally enrolled.

I’ve spent the morning watching “Reel Injun” and “Smoke Signals.” Thinking about the past, but not specifically my past. A shared past. Ran across a poem by Gail Tremblay when I was digging around looking for that family tree. It seemed to go well with all of this:


Singing out the ghosts, I unlearn weeping,

forget to dream about dead relatives

sharing a dark dance at the bottom

of the sea. I learn to listen as the birds

split light with their sound.

The owls let go, forget to dream my name.

I hold my breath in my hands–the pulse

of air swells and recedes like waves spreading

life on the shore. Singing out the ghosts,

I give up thoughts of my mother’s corpse

changing color, growing nails and hair,

bleeding rot into the sweet groaning ground.

Bones become pure, allow me to be; I let

the living touch me and wash me with their tears.


Angelina Jolie Greenwashing for Louis Vuitton

I saw this ad on the back of a Time magazine that arrived in the mail today. It disturbed me, although it took a moment to realize exactly why. Clearly, Louis Vuitton is playing off of Angelina Jolie’s public persona as a humanitarian. But the advertisement itself doesn’t really have anything to do with helping people. It is about being inherently selfish.

The phrase, “A single journey can change the course of a life,” is nice, but it doesn’t really give you any story when paired with the image they are using. This picture is all about a beautiful, world-famous celebrity, enjoying a journey of self-discovery in an untamed, exotic wilderness. This advertisement isn’t about making the world better for everyone, it is about making you want to have the type of life where you can travel with expensive luggage. It is about colonization and empire-building. It is about elitism. It is about white supremacy.

I have to admit though, it wasn’t even all of the things I listed above that I found most disturbing. For me, it was the fact that I understood wanting to live the life portrayed in this ad. I’m not immune to creature comforts. I like Louis Vuitton products (from my limited experience with them) and certainly would enjoy having the financial freedom to be able to regularly purchase their products. I don’t blame myself for wanting to enjoy such things, but I don’t like how easy it is as a middle-class American to find myself in these types of situations.

The ad really reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I know some of her critics didn’t like how self-indulgent she was in being able to travel the way she did with a book advance. This seems like an even less likeable version of that story where a beautiful, white, American woman is traveling to a distant land to “find herself.” (And don’t get me wrong, I personally loved the book. The movie, less so.)

I guess what it comes down to is another case of “greenwashing.” Or if not exactly that, something similar. I’m so tired of all the marketing hype around “organic” and “environmentally-friendly” items. Not because I disagree with the principle, but because so often it is just used as a way to sell more things that won’t actually improve the planet. This seems like another way for Louis Vuitton to make someone feel good about themselves for purchasing their products. Because if someone as worldly and charitable as Angelina Jolie would endorse the brand, it must not just be about being an upper-class snob, right?

Update: This image was shot by Annie Leibovitz, noted celebrity photographer. Angelina’s fees for the campaign are being donated to (an unnamed) charity. Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton Executive Vice President, Marketing and Communications, comments: “We are honoured that Angelina Jolie agreed to participate in our Core Values campaign, whose central theme of travel as both a physical and emotional journey is one with which she can personally identify. Angelina Jolie is a global star in every sense – not only in her career as an actress, but also in her long-term commitment to international humanitarian issues.”

Street Art: Capitol Hill

Mural of John T. Williams

Poster on the same wall as the previous picture

Parking sign

One of the things I often forget about now that I live in the suburbs is the proliferation of street art! I was out last weekend with a friend and one of the things we started taking snapshots of as we were leaving were some of the things we saw that intrigued us the most. Above is a sampling of some of the things we saw…