Sunday, February 1, 2004

Simple Things

I’m having problems reconciling my pleasure at seeing learning and growing experiences all over the place with the obvious marketing and product placement around them. For example, I’m sitting in a Starbucks sipping a grande non-fat chai latte. From my vantage point, a cushy micro-sueded blue wingback chair, I can expand my musical horizons to jazz, world music, and classic American music from the HEAR music rack. I can purchase and read both the local paper and the New York Times. If I don’t want to buy them, I can peruse people’s pre-read magazines and papers from the considerately placed paper basket. I can learn and buy dozens of coffee and teas as well as purchase coffee and tea making and drinking accessories. In a coffee shop years ago I would have been able to sit and get food and drink. If I wanted to buy something I’d go to a store. There was more separation.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a certain pleasure in sitting in a living room-like environment and kicking back with a drink with some friends. But knowing that every cozy little detail was engineered to facilitate parting me from my money is annoying and more than a little creepy. Sure, sure, I know I can avoid these places – and usually I do. But damn I keep getting sucked in by the comfy chairs that provide me with excellent people-watching perches. In addition, I can plug in my laptop and write journal entries for you. I’m working on using cafes as places to commit art (thanks to you and your generous art-related gifts). These are things I can’t get at home. Right now there are about a dozen or motorcycle dudes clad in tight leather body armor. The odd of them pulling up to my house to grab a coffee and hang out are slim.

I suppose that I’m sensitive to this because I am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge. Last Thursday I went with Esther and her posse to see the Diane Arbus exhibit at SFMOMA. I was fascinated and hopefully Esther was inspired. But it was all about the art and the artist. Yes, I know they have a museum store but it’s off to the side and they don’t have advertisements in the exhibit on where to purchase things in the gift shop. On a side note, if you go on Thursday evenings, you can get in for half-price from 6-9 pm. I know I'll be back there again, until the two times I was there when I worked a couple of doors down from the museum. You just need to make the time.

I was at my local library the evening before the museum trip (also refreshing void of shopping opportunities) and picked up a few videos, a couple of books on bonsai and the book The Well Educated Mind I found this book compelling since it’s premise is that you don’t need to sit in a classroom to learn something. It outlines how to read and even takes into account that most of us subsist on ‘fast food’ information derived from television, movies and magazines. It also provides a starting point of lists of classics along with my the author feels that this would expand us, her reader. I was please to see that I had read many of the authors. I know I still have a lot to learn, but it was nice to see that I wasn’t starting from scratch.

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