Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Problem with Pageants

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed and unaggressive” -Leslie M. McIntyre

The other night I watched an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, TLC’s show detailing the lives of several young children involved in pageants. While I’m sure quite a few viewers would agree that placing your four-year-old daughter in a pageant is a waste of time, money and an unnecessary stress on the family, I’m worried about the deeper implications of the pageant.

The Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump, holds a number of pageants each year, including the well-known Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageants. While the Miss Universe Organization website boasts that the group has become an “international organization that advances and supports opportunities for… young women,” one has to wonder just what kind of opportunities this organization holds. Let’s look at a Ms. magazine article:

“[To compete in the Miss USA pageant,] today's "delegates" must be between the ages of 18 and 26, single, and willing to parade in a swimsuit. They can't be engaged, previously married, or have children. Each must cover her own expenses (sponsorships defray some costs). The winner receives a trophy, cash prizes and sponsorships totaling about $200,000, luxury digs in New York City for a year, and she must represent the organization during her "reign." The other 78 contestants get to pay for their plane tickets home.”

Hmmm. Is this the kind of ephemeral fame and fortune we want to raise our daughters to lust after? Let’s read on. 

“The real winners are, of course, Donald Trump and CBS. After tallying the more than $10 million extracted from the host country, the seven-figure exclusivity deals given to pageant sponsors, and the sale of broadcast rights to roughly 110 countries, the final score is at least $100 million for Trump and CBS, and zilch for 78 of ‘today's women.’ ”

Ms. magazine, 2000

Don’t you think the thousands of dollars contestants spend on pageants could be put to better use? What about the months’ worth of pageant events contestants are required to devote to proving themselves worthy of the top prize? Couldn’t this time be better spent?

Let’s be honest. If the Miss Universe Organization was truly concerned with advancing and supporting young women, they would be giving prizes to worthy women all over the globe regardless of their age, marital status, or how they look in a swimsuit. Pageants like those held by the Miss Universe Organization are most interested in the money these women can bring to the Organization, not in the positive difference each of these intelligent, talented (and, by chance, beautiful) women can make in the world.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lucia's Restaurant

For over two decades, Lucia’s Restaurant has graced Uptown with its presence. Situated on the corner of W 31st St and Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis, Lucia’s dwells beneath understated blue awnings. If you happen to drive by in the winter months, it’s easy to overlook Lucia’s behind the snow banks. But take a stroll through uptown in summer and you won’t miss the ebb and flow of patrons through Lucia’s blue door.

Inside, the sights are simple; pure ivory walls, bright oak floors and royal blue accents clear the visual senses of unnecessary distractions and prepare the palette for a journey of its own. The menu, created weekly, features fresh, locally grown and seasonal foods carefully prepared to satisfy even the most discriminating of tastes, all presented by the most professional and knowledgeable of wait staff. On some nights, owner Lucia Watson may even stop in to pay a visit to your table.

I had the privilege of dining at Lucia’s last night. First, I enjoyed the freshest of mixed green salads drizzled in the house vinaigrette. For my entrée, I enjoyed curried chicken served with jasmine rice, steamed vegetables and three summer chutneys. Each of the chutneys was Indian-inspired and added a lively kick to every bite of chicken. I finished with a deconstructed German chocolate cake. While the goo was a little sweet for my taste, the chocolate cake and plain whipped cream were a marvelous combination. Overall, a wonderful meal.

If you visit Lucia’s, be prepared to spend $30-40 per person (this estimate includes an appetizer and entrée). For us college folk, this makes Lucia’s more of a special occasion indulgence than an everyday meal. That said, make your reservations several days in advance. Lucia’s has a come-as-you-are dress code, but as is often the case, better dress = better service. After dinner, stop at Lucia’s Wine Bar (next door) for a fine glass of wine, then head over to Magers & Quinn Booksellers to browse great books at discounted prices. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Go Kan Mon

Can the practice of consuming food help bring us closer to the people we truly desire to be? Perhaps it can. Regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), I think we can all benefit from some principles based in Buddhist thought. “Go kan mon,” or the five outlooks, are printed on the menus of several Buddhist establishments in Japan. The five rules regarding food harmony are as follows:

Respect the efforts of all those who have toiled to cultivate and prepare your food

Live your life committing good deeds worthy of such nourishment

Come to the table without negative feelings toward others

Eat for both spiritual and physical well-being

Be serious in your pursuit of enlightenment

While these outlooks may seem a bit lofty for some of us, they can be summed up in one simple phrase: We eat to live, not live to eat. That is, we should eat with our life and well-being in mind. Remember these outlooks at your next meal, notice how delicious your food becomes, and take note of your progress toward becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Want to know more? Look for this book at your local library.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Criticism

Last spring, I took a creative writing class from an excellent professor. He was smart, had a pointed sense of humor, and was a great writer himself. Just before class one day, a fellow student was discussing her work with him. She had put months’ worth of effort into preparing a project that exposed sexism in classic literature. While her professors were proud of her work, her family was not. “My uncle called me a feminazi,” she lamented. Our professor responded simply: “Well, you must be doing something right.”

Here's to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The trouble-makers.

The round heads in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status-quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.

But the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

(Apple Ad)