The Difference Between Spilling Coffee and Spilling Tea

You may well be surprised to hear
about the difference between spilling tea
and the parallel but oh so different act
of misplacing your daily cup o’ joe.

Coffee spills are the forte of drowsy
morning hands-
as if it wasn’t already hard enough
to crawl into the on-rushing day.

Perhaps you were distracted, my dear
by a bad dream
or a friend rather far away,
and were hoping to sharpen slowly-
slide by difficult thoughts unnoticed.

Either way, that precise moment
when you spill your hot coffee-
the cup made with the last scoop
in the jar- that is when
you will decide the color of the day.

Of course, tragedies like this are subjective,
and the interpretation of this
mug tumbling will be your own,
whatever shade you light upon
while sipping the drops that survived
that day break fall.

But spilling tea…
well frankly, it’s just not that big
of a deal.

In the evening, or rather the
late afternoon when
the last of the sun leaks in
through the kitchen window-
too soft to disturb
the chill in the air- the window is open.
Only your hands are warm-
cupped around something herbal.

Studies show that ninety-nine percent of the time
the ginger tea spill was a direct result
of the fact that
your eyes were fixed on the friend
sitting rather close by,

and if my facts are straight,
they made you laugh a whole body laugh,
which naturally (as is natural) upset the teacup,
and quite a bit spilled into your lap.

In this case, you were, perhaps,
so preoccupied with this person
that the ginger tea had grown cold.
And so you laughed
and laid your hand on theirs
before rising to quickly whisk away
the mess.

This song has been stuck in my head for 13 years.

A few months before my tenth birthday, my family moved to Alexandria, Egypt for a year. My parents had always been wanderers. They met in Trinidad and Tobago as strike breakers for Pan- Am Airlines, dated in Paris, and even kept up a long distance relationship between Africa and the States while my dad was over there doing who knows what (he has so many great true stories, I have trouble placing them all on a timeline- perhaps I’ll write later about the time he snuck into Iran in the weeks between the fall of the Shah and the rise of Khomeini). So, of course, children didn’t slow them down. My younger brother was born in Saudi Arabia when I was three, and two years later my father and very pregnant mother didn’t see any reason not to take an extended trip through India on the way back to the States.

I was old enough in Egypt that I remember quite a bit of our time there. And for some reason, over the last thirteen years, one of the things that has stuck in my memory is the “Habibi dah!” phrase from this song. I think one of the reasons it stayed stuck in my head for so long, was the familiarity of the word. Habibi is essentially an Arabic equivalent to “Baby” (someone correct me if I’m wrong on this).  My dad is fluent in Arabic, and when we were young, my dad called my mom Habibi. So, as a ten year old learning Arabic (no, I don’t remember any of what I learned), I was excited to recognize a word on the radio.

Taxis in Alexandria, Egypt

Taxis in Alexandria, Egypt

“Habibi Dah (Nari Nari)” (Translation via Wikipedia: that’s my love: my fire is two fires) was released and went platinum in Egypt the year we were there. I remember being excited to hear it come on taxi radios, because it was the only song I recognized. In fact, it’s the first hit pop song I remember hearing. I was a shy, homeschooled child, so I didn’t listen to Britney, N’Sync, or the Backstreet Boys until my late teens when everyone started getting nostalgic about their childhood (at which point I realized that the latter two are actually pretty great); all my friends were reminiscing about the bands and tv shows that had defined their elementary/middle school years, but at that time I was into books and classical music (nerd!).

Anyway, fast forward thirteen years. I’m living in Reykjavik, Iceland, where you’d think not much would remind me of Egypt. Except, there is a fantastic  Shawarma place (owned by an Egyptian/Syrian couple) two blocks from my flat called…..you guessed it: Habibi. So this week, it finally occurred  to me to look the song up. It was a great moment of nostalgia. And yes, it’s as fantastic as I remember. Turns out ten year old me had pretty great taste in music.

P.S. I emailed the youtube link to my dad, curious to see if he would remember it. This is what he wrote back: ” I still have the cassette.  I never forgot the video clip, from Asian MTV.  Just remember you danced and ran around many those locations, like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, as a little bitty girl in your pink and sky blue windbreaker, many years ago.” (Photo via. Edited by me.)

Anatomy of a Modern Ad: How Our Purchasing Has Power

I’m going to go ahead and call it: this is the best alcohol advertisement I have ever seen. This may even be the best advertisement I’ve ever seen. Why? 1) It tells a story. 2) It engages the audience emotionally. 3) It promotes positive messages about family and literacy and…. 4) It gives you something (a good feeling/entertainment/ etc) before it asks you to buy the product. I’ve noticed a growing trend lately: companies are not just relying on the traditional “best selling points” (e.g. sex sells). They are using their advertisements and marketing campaigns to promote ideas that improve the world. Whether it is empowering young girls to learn and build (see the GoldiBlox ad below), solving health problems in developing countries, or just telling and celebrating the stories of an increasingly diverse nation. This is in contrast to meaningless Wendell Berry Quote drivel like “Not Normal,” the Mini Cooper ad I wrote about last year. Of course, the main goal of all these brands is to sell product, no doubt about it. And it could be convincingly argued that they are simply responding to the Millennial Generation’s value-based buying habits. But, this is bigger than reaching sales goals. It has power.

Value-based buying habits? According to market research, “U.S. consumers ages 18-34 engage with brands far more extensively than older generation, and they expect their values to be reflected in the brands they purchase.” Like my generation is fed up with the murky waters of politics, we expect to know about the brands we support, and, in the same way we surround ourselves with people with our values, we choose companies who reflect our values. Combine this with the incredible potential of the internet and social media to create real social change, and you finally have a generation holding the reins of big brands, instead of brands choosing the direction of society. To refer back to the above mentioned study, “Social media and mobile devices amplify and accelerate the impact of Millennials’ brand choices and feedback.” We have the power to demand a higher standard of conduct and ideology from even the biggest companies.

I’ve seen this from the consumer point, of course, but I’ve also experienced it from the business side. My mom owns a granite counter top business. When she started her business ten years ago, her goal was to offer a level of craftsmanship and local expertise (versus big box store offerings) that consumers were having trouble finding. But more than that, from the start she was determined to either be successful as a honest business that took care of its employees and cared about its community or to go out of business without compromising her values. Everyone (*cough* male business owners *cough*) told her she needed to just try to be the cheapest, to not offer her customers so much extra help and advice, and especially to not pay her employees so much. But she didn’t listen.

I'm sure you recognize this little girl.

I’m sure you recognize this little girl.

And when I took over marketing for Granite Grannies, my job was easy. I didn’t have to come up with catchy slogans or convince people to buy things they didn’t need. All I had to do was tell our story, and show them our quality work. And you know what? It worked. Business is great at Granite Grannies, and the more the reputation of that brand grows, the more opportunities my mom has to keep supporting local craftsmen, paying good wages, designing home elements to last, and giving to local causes.

So, in conclusion, I hope you recognize how much power you have to change the world, just by the brands you choose to interact with. The recent Meaningful Brands study predicted that companies who aren’t deemed meaningful by consumers will have trouble keeping up in the near future. Their advice to companies: “”Impact people’s lives. Focus on well-being from your product. That’s tough. You have to have that right from the get-go.” So hold businesses to that standard. Don’t settle because you don’t think you have any power to change corporations. Thanks to social media, the individual has a voice and a platform and a chance to create a ripple effect. What ideas do you want to promote in the world? Use your buying power to harness the platform of advertising and encourage the growing practice of using branding to accelerate social change.

“I felt sad because I did not know how to live.” Tidbits 3.10.14

“I felt sad because I did not know how to live.”
-Paul Theroux, My Other Life

“Lady, I will touch you with my mind.
Touch you and touch and touch
until you give
me suddenly a smile, shyly obscene…”
-e.e. cummings, “xvii”

“I’ll be your Emmylous and I’ll be your June
If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too
No I’m not asking much of you
Just sing little darling, sing with me.”
-First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”

“The earth’s round, on which mankind lives, is much indented.”
-the 1st line of Ynglinga Saga

“If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction…
To all perfection I see a limit;
but your commands are boundless.”
-Psalm 119:92,96

“For sorrow my beetling brows
drooped over my eyelids.
Now I have found one who smoothed
the wrinkles on my forehead…”
-Verse 20, Egils Saga

scott

In the low blue lustre

Carl SandburgI have become obsessed recently with the Carl Sandburg poem “Sketch.” I have a brittle, well read edition of Chicago Poems. Besides the brutally insightful poems of Sandburg, the inside cover has a note from my dad, who bought the slim volume for me while stuck in the Chicago airport seven years ago. It is one of my favorite books of poetry, but for some reason, “Sketch” never struck me the way it has in the last few weeks. Perhaps the difference is that now I live only two blocks from a harbor (the one in the photo), and the ocean is omnipresent in this city.

“The shadows of the ships
Rock on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide.

A long brown bar at the dip of the sky
Puts an arm of sand in the span of salt.

The lucid and endless wrinkles
Draw in, lapse and withdraw.
Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles
Wash on the floor of the beach.

Rocking on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Are the shadows of the ships.”

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Heaven Works Backwards

Though this moment is altogether less than perfect-
though this time is broken,
we have determined to make the better of it
but we have not altogether discarded

our intermittent yearning
for the yet-to-come
light which promises to raze
the gauzy veil perpetual-
for the rush and clarity
of an ice cold wave of future bliss
to bear down on our blurry senses.

All yearnings and all waitings
are one motion
in one direction-
all pining and all wantings
are one future gravity.

the small yearnings
the small waits:
this present past will be illuminated
by an embrace long anticipated

& the long-con, the long wait
(the only one we know)

the droll, dull, plodding
of this series
of pasts and repasts
will color backwards
each bleak day

the warmth of true red
the sweet notes of genuine violet
the glow of undimmed gold
and a blue, a whole blue

a blue beyond what my weak eyes
are for now privileged to behold-

the blue of the peace
of never again seeing a blue
that only gives our wish for blue
a whet.

Short Film: Glory At Sea

One of my all time favorite short films. “

A group of mourners and a man spat from the depths of Hades build a boat from the debris of New Orleans to rescue their lost loved ones trapped beneath the sea. Winner Best Short Film, New Orleans Film Festival 2008;
winner of the Wholphin Award, SXSW Film Festival 2008.

This was the short film by Court 13, directed by Benh Zeitlin, created in 2007 and birthed in 2008, that directly preceded the development and production of “BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD” — winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize (2012), and the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or (2012).”