TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie Plans to Give Away 300,000 Pairs in 2009
LAist - Apr.15/09
What happens when you travel to Argentina to learn how to play Polo? You start a sustainable and socially conscious shoe company. Of course.
Well, that is exactly what happened to Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes. After visitng the country in 2006 and witnessing the mass amounts of children without shoes and its detrimental effects, he returned to the US determined to eradicate this problem. And for the last 3 years, he has been doing just that.
For those unfamiliar with the company, the concept is simple: for each pair of shoes they sell, the Santa Monica-based company will give a pair to a child in need. Shortly after starting the company, Blake and friends returned to Argentina with 10,000 pairs of shoes for the children and ever since then, thanks to the company's success, they have been able to increase the breadth and scope of the project; 140,000 pairs have been given away in Argentina, Ethiopia and parts of the Southern US. He plans to give away an additional 300,000 in 2009 alone.
Tommorrow, TOMS will launch their "One Day Without Shoes" campaign, in order to raise awareness about the impact a pair of shoes can have on a childs life.
In today's world, it is all about what you can do to give back and give more, and we hope to see the emergence and success of companies like TOMS, with a focus on increasing awareness and driving social change.
LAist is a big fan of TOMS, so we were pleased to have the chance to talk to Blake about his unique business model, empowering young people, their current projects in Ethiopia and meeting with the Obama administration.
TOMS core and initial vision and goal was to provide children in need shoes. How has this evolved and grown?
Well now we've started focusing specifically on Southern Ethiopia where there is a horrible foot disease called Podoconiosis that is completely preventable with shoes. Were really focused on that area. It’s almost like an elephantitus of the foot and it’s really grotesque. Specifically, now we have a factory in Ethiopia helping create special leather boots for kids so they don’t get this disease.
So, as we’ve grown our giving has become more focused on specifically preventing diseases for kids in certain areas of the world but we’re still focused on coming up with new great shoes that people will continue to buy so that people will continue to support us season after season so we can continue our giving.
You touched on a great point in your speech at the Clinton School of Public Service that when "you are doing something good, people want to help you". Especially now, how crucial or pivotal has that been to the success of TOMS?
It’s been very critical…it’s really just about telling the story and getting it out there. And when we do that, more and more people will buy the shoes and want to be part of it and want to help. That’s really been a critical part of the mission; it is not just being like “we’re a brand and we’re doing it ourselves” but rather getting people to write about it, email about it, share the videos, write on the blog…it’s really a very inclusive company so that we can get more people participating.
And you guys don’t do any advertising, right?
No. It’s really all just through media, viral videos, blogs and facebooking. We’re launching a new website that we’ve been working on for 6 months. There will be a lot more community pages, ways to interact and get more involved with TOMS. I’m really excited about this because I think it will take the kind of “people being part of the brand” to a whole other level.
We’re trying to integrate more web 2.0 and let people know what they can do if they want to get more involved; if you want to have a style your sole design party, it will tell you other people in the area who are doing so. We want to integrate our community and our fans so it’s not just “I’m buying a pair of shoes” but rather hosting an event, screening, or eventually even helping us design the line, so its really just a community of people, and not like a company.
What has been the biggest challenge with this whole project?
The biggest challenge was the fact that we had no experience making shoes when we started, so learning production, quality control, inventory and all the other business parts of being a shoe and fashion company. No one on our team really had any experience, but we’ve been learning that on an ongoing basis, but it has been the biggest challenge so far.
So have you brought anyone new on?
We brought in a guy from Asics and Nike.
What has been the greatest and most unexpected lesson?
When you really give young people a lot of authority and opportunity, they can do amazing things. Because of our giving level and because we’re a start up, we haven’t really had a lot of money to hire a lot of “super-experienced” people, so we’ve hired people right out of college, or even out of high school and given them a tremendous amount of responsibility and authority for the lack of experience they have and for the most part I’ve been really impressed with how many of them have really risen up and become really important assets to TOMS, do their jobs and get things done in a way that people with maybe ten years of experience wouldn’t do.
Also, with our intern program it’s a way to see how much great ideas and efforts come out of that program. It’s really about empowering people, and making people believe that they really can make a difference, and contribution no matter what their age or experience is, and when given the tools and abilities to do so, amazing things happen.
Can you tell me more about the intern program?
There are two parts to it. We have the interns who spend the summer here in LA and we have the Vagabonds. Vagabonds are interns who travel around the country hosting screenings and parties and spread the word about TOMS to high school and colleges around the country. And that’s become a big part of my thinking and a big part of the culture; you don’t necessarily need the most experienced people, you just need people who are passionate, smart and hardworking.
What's your advice for people, young especially, who want to take the social entrepreneurship route to give back in their communities and want to make this giving a full-time venture?
I think two things. For better or for worse, a lot of people have been laid off and a lot of companies aren’t hiring, but there are social ventures like TOMS out there and often the best way to get involved is to volunteer some time, and even if you are 40 years old and are not going to do an internship, the truth is, if you have, lets say, graphic design skills, and you’ve been laid off, maybe donate your skills to a not-for-profit or a social venture like TOMS that you’re really passionate about, and often times through that process, especially as an organization is growing, sometimes it can become an opportunity for actual employment.
And I think a lot of people have seen that by getting involved in a socially focused venture that they are not only fulfilling a financial needs but their spiritual and mental needs as well. I think that’s why people love working at TOMS and I think were going to see a lot of other organizations like TOMS popping up because it’s just kind of that right thing to do.
Has TOMS been able to stay profitable and sustainable?
Yes, it’s TOMS third full year. We’re definitely on a path to sustainability. We haven’t had to let anyone go. If anything we’ve had to hire more people in the last two months. We’re right on plan and we’re going to give away 300,000 shoes in 2009.
How do you pick retailers?
We look at retailers in a non-traditional way and we really pick them based on how passionate they are about our story because we don’t think there is a certain type of person who likes TOMS…so we feel our demographic is very wide so we should sell to a very wide variety of stores, so we pick stores that our willing to tell our story in a very powerful way and get behind it.
I saw the new Vegan TOMS. How focused are you on using the most sustainable materials? What is your commitment to environmental/sustainable practices?
The new line of shoes is made from 70% recycled plastic bottles and 30% hemp, so the fabric is more sustainable than even an organic cotton. So we’re very much focused in that direction and moving as fast as we can.
The pop-up store on Abbott Kinney was so successful you ended up staying longer than planned. Any future plans for more pop-up stores?
No plans yet, but were thinking about San Francisco.
I heard you recently met with the Obama administration in the White House...
Yes, I was invited to go the White House and meet with the administration and specifically talk about the Department of New Media. It’s cool because it’s the first time the White House has ever had a Department of New Media and they invited myself and a few other entrepreneurs involved with technology just to talk about what we're doing and how we can bring more transparency to government.
What's next for TOMS?
We’re just trying to get our community more involved in our mission, besides just buying a pair of shoes. So there are a lot of ways we’re working with the new website and the social media properties so people can host design parties, screening of the documentary film…really just trying to get our community together offline as well as online so we can really create platforms for social change, not with just shoes but with other big ideas out there.
TOMS AT&T Ad
I'm sorry...who is this Julia Allison person? Is she, uhm...like...an east coast Kardashian or something?
Let's at least give the girl credit for becoming a fame whore sans sex tape.
Julia Allison is dreadful and the only reason she's famous is because Gawker is always in a state of near orgasmic excitement about her. Do us all a favor and just stop talking about her please.
You are witnessing the desperation of a whiny, attention-whoring climber with no regard for anything but money, fame, and the self.
People who are actually getting laid do not complain about other people getting laid. They either laugh about it or ignore it.
Julia, what are you saving it for, a rainy day?
The only reason Julia Allison is an F-List celebrity is Gawker.
I can see the Law and Order episode now:
Christopher Meloni: sorry, miss, but even famewhores are not above the law
Julia Allison: fine. but can I get a photo with you first?
I'll say this for her: There are not many young women dressed in that get-up and crouched in that position who can make a horny young man seriously consider a life of celibacy.
Who is that lady in the picture and why does she look like something that was scooped out of the Pussycat Dolls' litterbox?
I once dated a girl who wanted fans more than friends. It was an utter nightmare.
Can I be honest here?
I still don't know who Julia Allison is? What she does? Where she came from?
I've just read the name over and over on Gawker. Other than that -- nothing.
I guess that means she's doing it right?
Or maybe I'm just a dizzy dame who don't know nothin'.
@__: You don't want to know. Just keep on walking, sister.
@__: Julia Alison exists so that when nothing happens in New York/The Publishing Industry/The Media, Gawker editors have someone(thing) to write about.
@__: If Julia Allison didn't exist, Gawker would have invented her and maybe they did.
Someone actually wants to be "the next JA"? Isn't that kind of like billing yourself as a poor man's Courtney Love?
@__: But that is someone I've actually heard of.
As a Denverite, I can say that Ms. Allison has managed to find, in Mr. Cutler, a bigger bitch than she is.
And as Jay Cutler walked out of the club, he asked his Brah: "Who the hell was that? Has she been on any magazine covers?" His Brah explained about the Wired magazine thing. He gagged and said "What, she's some nerd centerfold girl or something? Nahhwwaaay, brah!" Jay deleted the number from his phone, and proceeded to the nearest strip club VIP room and spent $10.4 million in about 50 minutes. The next day, Jay woke up with a hangover and a new enthusiasm for the world, contemplated the bullet he just dodged. The End.
Why is this shit even in the Post? It involves a former Denver football player (who sucks and now plays for Chicago) hanging out in a cheesy Chicago nightclub with a deranged bitch from the Midwest who lives in a studio apartment in Manhattan, writes a blog, and apparently only drinks water. Like I fucking care. Jay Cutler probably fucks a different girl in between insulin shots.
If JA wants to make it in NYC, she needs to learn discretion fast. Sorry, but the whole "micro-celebrity" thing is nothing more than a couple of articles written by a group of lazy journalists. That shit doesn't exist, so can we please stop pretending it does and feeding the egos of these sad people who desperately need psychiatric help?
Allison has a history of the TMI post, followed by fauxgret. Remember her pronouncement about then-boyfriend Jakob Lodwick? (I actually don't and am too disinterested to research it.)
@__: remember when she posted JL's bipolar on her tumblr, deleted it when someone called her out on it, then brought it up the next day in Gawker livechat?
fauxgret not once, but twice!
Julia Allison: @__: Dude, that was a year and a half ago.
@__: Yeah. That totally means that it didn't happen.
@__: And thus it never happened!
It must be nice to have short term memory so you don't have to remember when you've hurt other people.
@__: A year and a half ago. Yet you haven't learned from your tactless mistakes.
@__: Nobody here likes you.
@__: You know, I barely know who you are (I'm relatively new here, having spent most of my time at Deadspin), but, uhm, that probably wasn't the smartest thing to say.
So You Want to Be a Fameball?
I like this article. I'm quietly a bit of a fan of Julia's, simply because she fulfills all of the above criteria so awesomely, and doesn't ever fall into the pitfalls. It really does take some talent to be able to be the ultimate fameball; even if it's an obtuse and reprehensible talent to many, it's a talent nonetheless. It can't be easy. Suddenly, I feel vindicated.
Please stop writing about her. She is dull, dull, dull, dull. Thanks in advance!
Julia Allison Bores Everyone She Meets
Has anyone else noticed how bored people look when photographed with dating columnist Julia Allison? As this Ken Burns-style clip reveals, the relentless egoblogger's picture companions look desperate to be somewhere else.
Not boredom so much as perhaps shame from being so near to that always open mouth.
Has anyone else noticed how bored people look when READING about Julia Allison?
@__: Still haven't found any answer on why the fuck Gawker keeps writing about this noncelebrity.
1. Don't know.
2. Who gives a shit.
3. Julia's college roommate.
4. Some guy she fucked.
5. Don't know.
6. Don't know.
7. Guy with a beard.
8. Founder of some internet thingy?
9-??? More beardo.
Guess the jokes on us. If you read Gawker too much, the only person you recognize anymore is JA.
During the glory days of Warhol, faux fameballs were intelligent enough to know that it was all a jolly fraud. They surrounded themselves with like-minded jokers. They were quite happy to goof on the straights, get high, and giggle. Julia Allison and the rest of the post-pubertal girl scout troop really BELIEVE this shit.
@__: I find it absurdly entertaining. She's sort of making it work, and that is something, when a lot of stuff is stopping working.
@__: If your definition of "making it work" is "beating a dead horse."
@__: I think that JA really wants to be Paris Hilton, and that's because she thinks that's a cool person to be. I'm not sure if any of the Warhol "superstars" wanted to be Connie Francis. Umh, maybe one or two, but my sense is that they knew it was silly.
@__: If your definition of "making it work" is "trying too damn hard".
She works so hard at random, uh, "play" that it gets old as fast as she does. We all know she drags people around with her to make her look like she has friends who give a shit, who do it either becuase she pays them to (unlikely, but who knows) or because they're her friends, but even they could not care less about whatever fameballness she's trying to achieve - and it shows. I've seen happier expressions at the dentist's. Cognitively-speaking, she's a head trip - and not a good one - and subconsciously I think most people can't help but recognize it.
Seriously. Is this the best you can do Gawker? NYC has 8.5million+ people. Bring us somebody interesting or relevant.
I don't think I can ever forgive Gawker for introducing the world to this creature.
Trapped Forever in Sex Slavery, Eh?
by Douglas Haddow
(pblks.com - Aug.01/08)
From the Chinese head tax in the days of the British Columbian gold rush (look it up, it’s fucked) right down to the Filipino chap who holds an architecture degree from back home but now flips your cheeseburger for minimum wage in Montreal, Canada has a long and illustrious history of fucking Asian immigrants right in the ass upon their arrival to the Great White North. In no industry does this happen more literally than in prostitution, and right now women are pouring into Canada from all over Asia like, um, the choicest and most delicate plum wine being dumped into a scummy beer barrel at a logging camp in the Yukon.
One might think that in the 21st century, a wealthy liberal democracy would be able to squash its tendency to subjugate newcomers fresh off the boat. But unfortunately for a nation that prides itself on once having been a safe haven for African slaves, the rhetoric of social progress doesn’t hold up against reality—Canada has become a major transit point for a booming $10 billion a year human-trafficking industry.
The Mounties (Canada’s horsey-riding version of the FBI) have made conservative estimates that around 2,000 women and girls are illegally trafficked into Canada each year, but the reality is probably closer to around 10,000. From countryside rice patties to inner-city slums and then all the way to the freshly vacuumed arrival lounge of the Vancouver airport, traffickers use a deftly engineered system of exploitation to covertly import Asian girls into the North American sex market.
Incoming traffickees are processed in Vancouver and spat out across the continent’s vast labyrinth of massage parlors, hostess clubs, and underground micro-brothels. Within the industry, there are two broad categories of victims: older, street-smart semi-professionals who know what they’re getting into and younger girls who have no clue that they’re about to have their lives and their futures turned to shit by monsters.
I recently got to know some of the women suffering under the yoke of sex slavery and they’ve told me their stories. One of the first women I met, who goes by the name of Yo-Yo, shares a dingy ground-floor apartment with her sister where they sleep on couches in the living room and turn tricks in the bedroom. Hailing from a quaint village in rural China, Yo-Yo enjoys spending her extra dough on Hello Kitty paraphernalia. She told me that when she isn’t providing what she refers to as “girlfriend experiences,” she sits around and watches pirated DVDs because she’s not allowed to leave the apartment without her pimp’s permission.
The typical narrative of people who are trafficked through Canada’s underground railroad of sex slavery goes something like this: A transnational crime syndicate such as the Viet-Ching or the Korean Mafia, or an independent white-collar slaver, will set up a front through which they meet vulnerable young women. The fronts come in a variety of forms, the most common being moneylenders, travel brokers, and school liaisons. Slavers target girls who come from the poorer regions of East Asia and who are looking for a way out of a hopeless life.
One of the most popular recruitment ploys is the ESL dream holiday, where a girl is tricked into thinking that, for a relatively affordable fee, she will be able to travel to Canada or the US and comfortably study English at a posh institute while being hooked up with a good job and nice digs.
The front will offer the girls all-inclusive travel-study packages and will then organize and facilitate every aspect of the journey, from passport and visa arrangements to plane tickets and living accommodations. After touching down at Vancouver International, the girls are brought to a sketchy motel room or condo. That’s where things start to go very, very wrong.
They are told that they owe their benefactors much more than was previously arranged—a debt typically exceeding $30K. Their passports are stolen and they are coerced, through violence and threats of imprisonment, to not attempt any contact with Canadian authorities. After a period of brainwashing, abuse, and training, the girls are introduced to their only possible payment method: whoredom.
The brothels are generally located in newly built downtown one-bedroom condos, each of which houses one to three girls, on call from midday until 4 AM.
The pimps depersonalize them by assigning them cartoonish names like Cherry, Apple, Bobo, or Gigi. The typical workweek tends to last around 84 hours. Many girls end up working for gangs that run numerous brothels within walking distance of each other. When a trick calls up for his weekly taste of strange, the mama-san will answer the phone, check a master schedule to see which girls are free, and then direct him to the corresponding brothel. When he rings up to begin his 45-minute session, it will be the first time he speaks to the girl. From that point on, she is responsible for delivering $120 to the management, no matter how creepy, abusive, or filthy her client happens to be.
When I met Candy, a 20-year-old girl from Taiwan, she had just come up to Vancouver from San Francisco the month before and was holed up in a brand-new condo downtown. She seemed elated to meet a Canadian who wasn’t planning on getting off, and gleefully agreed to meet me for a coffee at the Starbucks around the corner the next day. When we met, she was wearing a pink velour jumpsuit and looked like she hadn’t slept or showered.
Although she had to make an abrupt exit after receiving a call from her pimp, Candy seemed relatively free to do as she pleased during downtime. Her disorientation and mental fatigue were painful to witness, as were the bruises on her wrists. She was proud of her Gucci watch and showed it off with a smile, and even though she wasn’t able to attend school like she was promised, she still studied English vocabulary in her spare time. We went for coffee once more the next week and chatted a bit about her favorite movie stars, but the next time I called, her phone was dead. I never heard from her again.
Vancouver’s ongoing development boom has been a windfall for sex slavers. Many new condos are gobbled up by rich Asian businessmen who view them as a minor investment rather than living space. With each trafficked girl bringing in an average of $100K per year, gangs can easily afford to buy up or lease multiple condos in the same building, turning a static investment into a moneymaking machine that runs on lies and STDs.
One day, after chatting with Yo-Yo for a while, I got up to leave. She panicked, begging me to phone her boss and explain why I didn’t go for full service (45 minutes of “anything goes” sex for $120). After calling up the management and voicing her plea, Yo-Yo passed me the phone:
“What wrong you no get full service?” a woman rattled out at me.
Not wanting to explain to her that I’m actually a journalist investigating her fucked-up slavery empire, I tried to sweet-talk her a little.
“Yeah… didn’t have time today, so I just went for a bit of a back massage. She’s a great girl though, I’ll definitely be back.”
“You call me next time before, OK?” she barked and then hung up.
[originally printed in Vice magazine]
Torn About Porn
A beginner MMA class at Revolution
Why We Fight
by Barrett Hooper
Toronto Life - 04/09
The fastest-growing sport in the city isn’t soccer or basketball—it’s ultimate fighting. And it’s no longer just hormonal boys itching to prove themselves in the infamous octagon. It’s ad execs, nurses, lawyers— anyone looking for an outlet for that increasingly suppressed primal urge to give (and take) a beating
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is exactly what it sounds like: a Molotov cocktail of fighting skills combining the strikes of traditional boxing and muay Thai kick-boxing with the grappling of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling (Olympic-style, not the off-the-top-rope, gold spandex–wearing kind). A well-rounded MMA fighter can attack you standing up, with feet, fists, knees, elbows, shins and shoulders. He can force you to the ground and tie up your arms and legs with painful joint locks that threaten to pull meat from the bone like a chicken wing until you tap out—the MMA equivalent of crying uncle. Or he can wrap his arms around your neck and choke you unconscious by cutting off the blood supply to your brain.
When MMA fights were first staged in North America 16 years ago, the then-senator John McCain likened them to human cockfights and tried to have them banned. Now MMA is the fastest-growing sport on the planet, rivalling soccer, NASCAR and NFL football for our Jumbotron-loving, slo-mo-replay-addicted, foam finger–waving attention. Even Hollywood has taken notice: George Clooney, Keanu Reeves and Mandy Moore are fans; and last year David Mamet released a movie called Redbelt, which was set in the world of MMA. The billion-dollar Ultimate Fighting Championship, the NHL of MMA, has, for better or worse, made the sport what it is today: a cultural juggernaut. And nowhere in North America is MMA more popular than in Toronto.
On nights when the UFC is on pay-per-view (about once a month), Toronto sports bars are packed with patrons wearing UFC or Affliction (a smaller competitor) or Tapout (an MMA clothing line) T-shirts. The Fight Network, a Toronto-based digital channel that was created to give fans a round-the-clock UFC fix, has more than five million subscribers across Canada. The annual Mixed Martial Arts Expo attracts thousands to the International Centre to meet such UFC stars as Matt Serra, Dan Henderson and Carlos Newton, the first Canadian to win a UFC championship. And the UFC’s Web site gets more visits from Toronto per capita than from any other city in the world.
And this despite the fact that MMA fighting is illegal in Ontario. Critics often decry the sport as a prime example of the coarsening of society, but it has tapped into our fighting spirit in a way not seen since George Chuvalo went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1966. MMA is the last arena where might makes right, and many of us are drawn to its lack of ambiguity. The urge to fight is a survival mechanism hard-wired to our DNA since caveman days yet out of place in modern society. Fighting, we’re taught, is bad. Disputes are not to be settled with fists and knees and elbows, but with lawyers and arbitrators and negotiators. Nobody tells their son to fight like a man anymore; even hockey fights are under threat of extinction. Yet, like it or not, when faced with conflict, our first impulse is still to fight. To deny it is simply unnatural.
Mixed martial arts has been around in some form since the ancient Olympic Games, where the most popular sport was pankration, a savage, anything-goes style of wrestling in which some competitors chose death over surrender. In the 19th century, bare-knuckle boxing was the most popular combat sport. In the late ’60s, Bruce Lee became the first modern mixed martial artist when he combined traditional kung fu with elements of boxing, French savate (kick-boxing), judo and tae kwon do to create his “style of no style.”
The sport we now call MMA was ushered in by Royce Gracie, a gracious and diminutive Brazilian who took on all comers—kick-boxing champions, karate experts, kung fu masters. He used a synthesis of Japanese jiu-jitsu and judo (a style now known as Brazilian, or Gracie, jiu-jitsu) to control and smother his larger, stronger opponents, forcing them to submit via joint locks and choke holds while he hardly broke a sweat. He won three of the first four UFC events, although his relatively bloodless encounters were an anomaly in a sport billed as no-holds-barred. (There were only two rules: no eye gouging and no biting.) The early UFC fights promised victory by “knockout, surrender, doctor’s intervention or death.” In fact, there has only ever been one death resulting from a sanctioned MMA event, two in non-sanctioned events in Europe, though UFC fights rarely ended without the canvas looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. The violence led to the sport being banned in 36 states by the mid-’90s, and pay-per-view distributors stopped carrying events, putting the UFC on life-support.
Then, in 2001, casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, billionaire brothers with connections to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, bought the flailing organization for $2 million. They put Dana White, an obnoxious ex-boxercise instructor and a high school buddy, in charge, and he immediately made changes. Weight classes were imposed, along with timed rounds. More rules were added, for a total of 31, including no hair pulling, groin shots or kicking a downed opponent in the head. Fights became more competitive, more entertaining and more palatable to non-fans. States began to sanction bouts, notably Nevada and New Jersey (home to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where betting and brawling have always been popular), and pay-per-view companies scrambled back on board. “Suddenly we were being treated like superstars,” says Carlos Newton, the 32-year-old UFC veteran. “We started making money, and people recognized us on the street.”
Dramatically improving the sport’s mainstream profile was the launch of the UFC-produced Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV in 2005. The Big Brother meets Bloodsport reality series demystified MMA to outsiders and made celebrities out of its combative house guests. It was an instant smash, often beating out the NBA, NFL and major-league baseball games in the ratings. (Season nine begins this month.)
Finally, MMA was earning some respect. It’s still the bloodiest sport this side of bullfighting, but most injuries are superficial cuts to the face and head, which bleed profusely and spectacularly yet are never life-threatening. When it comes to grievous bodily harm, MMA lags far behind bull riding, surfing, skydiving, mountain climbing and whitewater rafting, and light-years behind boxing, which has had 1,029 deaths in the past 89 years. Even McCain, a boxing fan, has changed his tune. In 2007, he conceded that MMA had “grown up.”
On April 18, UFC 97 will take place at Montreal’s 20,000-seat Bell Centre. Last year, it hosted UFC 83, an event that sold out in record time, earning $5 million in ticket sales (on eBay, tickets went for 10 times their face value). The economic spinoffs for the city were estimated at upwards of $50 million, and organizers are expecting a similar return this year. Of course, either event could just as easily have been held at the Air Canada Centre. Only Ken Hayashi, Ontario’s athletic commissioner, stood in the way.
Hayashi’s job is to govern professional sports in the province. He also happens to be a karate black belt with more than 40 years of martial arts experience. Yet he won’t sanction MMA events because, in his interpretation, they would violate Section 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which states that all “prize fighting” is illegal, with the exception of “boxing contests.” Never mind that the law dates back to the 1890s, or that other jurisdictions have interpreted “boxing contest’’ more liberally. (In Quebec, MMA is often referred to as “mixed boxing.”) As far as Hayashi is concerned, “It’s breaking the law anywhere it’s happening.”
In order for him to change his mind about MMA, two things need to happen. First, Section 83 needs to make MMA legal in explicit terms, which requires an act of Parliament. Second, the sport must establish a strong safety record at the amateur level—a catch-22 since MMA isn’t recognized at any level in Ontario. Curiously, amateur sports fall under the jurisdiction of a different government office, the Ministry of Health Promotion, which recognizes 86 sporting organizations—including judo, karate, tae kwon do, boxing and muay Thai—but has denied mixed martial arts.
As a result, some Ontario fighters sign up for unsanctioned bouts, or “smokers,” being held in underground gyms or on native reserves. (The town of Ohsweken on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford holds occasional Rumble on the Rez fight cards inside a lacrosse arena.) Underground bouts, which aren’t subject to the same safety regulations as sanctioned events, can obviously put fighters at risk—exactly what the province says it’s trying to avoid. Still, the lack of legitimate fight venues hasn’t prevented Ontario from spawning its share of serious MMA competitors. Following in Newton’s footsteps is Toronto fighter Mark Bocek. A rising star in the UFC, the 27-year-old recently had his sixth win and will compete at UFC 97 in Montreal this month. When he’s not fine-tuning his jiu-jitsu in Brazil, or training with two-time Olympic wrestler and UFC veteran Dan Henderson in California, or working out at Florida’s American Top Team (one of the foremost MMA gyms in the world), he trains at Xtreme Couture, a 33,000-square-foot MMA wonderland that opened in Etobicoke a year ago.
Among fighters with nicknames like Top Gun pilots—Iceman, Rampage, Spider, Shogun—he is simply Mark Bocek. At five-foot-eight and 155 pounds, with bright red hair, he looks a little like Casey from Mr. Dressup. Only his cauliflower ears—caused by years of punching, twisting and tearing and considered a badge of honour among fighters—betray his vocation. He’s a typical MMA athlete: an average guy with a strong work ethic and an ability to take an ungodly amount of punishment.
Like aerobics in the ’80s and Tae Bo in the ’90s, MMA has become an exercise phenomenon. There are more than a dozen clubs in the city devoted to teaching mixed martial arts, plus countless strip mall McDojos that have added some sort of MMA element (grappling, for example) to their traditional karate or kung fu curriculum. And the UFC recently announced that it will open a chain of MMA gyms in the U.S. and Canada aimed specifically at the fitness crowd.
Revolution MMA in North York is one of the fancier facilities. Open since January and built at a cost of more than half a million dollars, the 13,000-square-foot gym is all sleek surfaces and clean, masculine lines. Past the treadmills and weight machines is a large area with thick mats where a row of punching bags hangs from the ceiling. A boxing ring sits in one corner, and next to it a gleaming black cage not much bigger than a jail cell. This eight-sided arena, called, appropriately enough, the octagon, is synonymous with the sport of mixed martial arts.
Carlos Newton teaches MMA here, showing lawyers, brokers, nurses and students—even kids as young as three can take part in a munchkin MMA program—how to take their opponents to the ground and apply a submission: a shoulder lock, for example, or a choke hold. For beginners, an MMA class is like living out their own private Rocky montage: sit-ups, push-ups, skipping rope, hitting a heavy bag like it’s a side of beef, and kicking and punching drills. Once they’ve picked up enough skills, they can slap a $20 piece of moulded plastic over their $2,000 smile and climb into the cage to spar, throwing leather like a real fighter but at a much slower pace. “People who train in MMA have a Clark Kent syndrome,” says Joel Gerson, a five-time Canadian jiu-jitsu champion and Revolution’s owner. “By day they wear a suit and sit at a desk. At night, they put on their MMA gear and leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Of course, they’re not invincible, and when they make a mistake, injuries can happen.
Black eyes and bloody noses are common in MMA. So are bruises, concussions and broken bones. As Newton points out, it’s not the fighting that takes a toll on the body, it’s the training, so sticking with the program requires a bit of a sado-masochistic streak. Yet MMA requires smarts as well. For every bouncer and bounty hunter in the UFC, there’s a banker or teacher or member of Croatian parliament. “It’s a sport for the highly intelligent,” says Gerson. “You can’t just get really good at one technique and expect that to be enough. It’s not like baseball, where being able to hit a 95-mile-an-hour fastball will get you in the Blue Jays’ lineup. Like Aristotle said, the complete man should work, study and wrestle.”
For Andrea Bloch, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom, MMA is about pushing herself both physically and mentally. “It’s about the personal challenge,” she says. “And I love the intensity of it.” (Her husband and two oldest children, ages five and nine, have also taken up the sport.) Mark Brunswick, a 39‑year-old advertising account director who trains at Revolution with his eight-year-old son, thinks MMA has an authenticity and practicality that’s missing from other training programs, like running or karate or lifting weights. “It keeps you mentally sharp and teaches life lessons that you can apply in the boardroom,” he says. “And after you’ve been kicked in the head a few times, things that used to bother you don’t faze you quite as much.”
So why do fighters fight? In her book On Boxing, Joyce Carol Oates wrote that the sweet science is “a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity, all the more trenchant for its being lost.” The same applies to MMA. Most fighters will tell you that you never feel more alive than when you are giving—and taking—a beating.
If the purest form of sport is fighting, then the purest form of fighting is mixed martial arts. The sport strips everything down to its essence: there is no ball, no team, no end zone, no next inning, no next game. Only one bout of sheer mano-a-mano, push-yourself-to-the-limit aggression. MMA simplifies competition down to winner and loser, without rules like boxing’s standing eight-count, which waters down the intensity of the sport, extends the length of the fight and increases the chance of injury. By pitting two combatants of similar stature and skill against each other under a set of mutually agreed upon rules, one of which clearly states that either can stop the fight at any time, MMA is as fair a contest between two people as you’ll find.
The sport’s popularity stems in part from the fact that it’s universal: a knockout is a knockout in any language. But it’s also popular because, unlike boxing, with its cast of blinged-out, up-from-the-ghetto warriors—or any pro sport that features overpaid, often underperforming athletes—the heroes of MMA are relatable in an Average Joe sort of way. That, and the sport is accessible; anyone can do it. Not everyone can skate or swim or throw a curve ball, but we all instinctively know how to kick or throw a punch.
MMA is bloody, but it’s not bloodthirsty. Fans love a well-executed—and bloodless—submission as much as any knockout kick. We still have no stomach for cockfighting and dogfighting because of their cruelty; the obvious difference with MMA is that the violence is consensual. Two men enter, one man—the better man—leaves. It’s Darwinism in action.
Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club and the movie it inspired posited underground fist fighting (to which ultimate fighting has often been compared) as a kind of therapy for the numbing effects of consumer culture. MMA, organized, sanctioned and beamed into millions of homes and sports bars, acts as an antidote to our overly polite, overly regulated, overly protective PC culture. It lets us answer the essential question we all ask ourselves at some point: Am I a coward? Even if you enter the cage and come up short, it’s a lesson in humility without the humiliation. “It’s an incredible way to test yourself and see what you’re made of,” says Bocek.
As Oates points out, “Man’s greatest passion” is not for peace, it’s for war. And organized fighting provides a necessary outlet for these savage instincts.
UFC Planning November Show in Boston; New York and Toronto in early 2010
MONTREAL - A trio of new host cities will get Ultimate Fighting Championship events later this year or in early 2010 if Dana White gets his way.
The UFC president, apparently confident that legislation will be in place in time, has targeted Boston, New York City and Toronto for upcoming UFC shows.
White laid out the plans during today's UFC 97 pre-event press conference.
White, born and raised near Boston, has long publicly shared his interest in taking the UFC to the state, a hotbed for MMA that has hosted a past tryout for "The Ultimate Fighter." However, despite the sport's popularity in the state, and though some events are held in the state, Massachusetts does not currently regulate MMA.
UFC officials are involved in the political push, though, and regulation is considered likely very soon.
"I'm pretty confident we're going to do an event in Boston, Mass., at the Boston Garden in November," White said.
The Garden, formally known as the TD Banknorth Garden, is home to the NBA's Boston Celtics and NHL's Boston Bruins and can accommodate nearly 20,000 spectators.
Although Boston boasts a population of about 610,000 (making it the 21st largest city in the U.S.), its greater metro area includes nearly five million people, making it potentially one of the most lucrative markets available to the UFC.
However, bigger even than Boston is New York City. The UFC has been on the frontlines in the fight to get MMA sanctioned in the state of New York, though a few (but vocal) opponents have provided hurdles. Still, most are optimistic that legislation will pass and the state, the third most populous in the country (19.5 million residents), will begin MMA regulation by year's end.
White and Co. are ready to capitalize once the doors open. The same goes for Toronto, which is Canada's most populous city with 2.5 million residents (and 5.6 million in the metro area).
"The first of the year, (we want to do a show in) New York, and I'm hoping we have Toronto done before New York," White said.
White's ultimate goal is to host a NYC event at the legendary Madison Square Garden, a 20,000-seat arena in the heart of the city. However, since arriving in Canada on Wednesday, fans have been adamant that Toronto could do even better.
"The people up here tell me, 'If you go to Toronto, you could do 60,000 seats,'" White said. "People tell me crazy stuff about going to Toronto.
"As fast as we sell out here (in Montreal), maybe we could do 30,000 in Toronto."
She Earned it__by Cayusa [flickr.com]
Meet Your Weekend Deadspin Guest Editor, in the Most "Weekend" Sense of the Term
I'm Moe, and contrary to what some of you seem to be insinuating, I haven't smoked weed in such a long time you would probably have to carbon-date my urine to find any trace.
If they do that sort of thing with urine. Drinking is more my thing, which is obviously how A.J. and I got to thinking this was a good idea. So anyway: I "sound" this way (so to "speak") because I am the least qualified person ever to blog about sports. This is in part because I never played any, and in part because my parents always seemed to be monopolizing the TV with this Masterpiece Theater bullshit, and mainly because I'm a girl. I do have a fun story about getting hit on by a young LeBron James I will tell you this weekend, because there was a time I followed sports when I lived with this dude and had a job writing about the footwear industry, but basically my interest here is in broadening my horizons. I have written about many topics in my career as an actually-paid blogger — and if you were wondering, I am being actually paid by Talking Points Memo at the moment — but I feel like the financial crisis has sort of gotten me into a rut, where I've just started to feel like I can't have a drink without also delivering one of those credit default swap soliloquys, wait that is not a word oh who cares, and anyway, I am hoping that learning about this inspiring new topic will have an effect somewhat akin to how normal overworked people would, say, "go outside" or "read a whole novel" or something. Yeah, one day I'll figure out how to do those things too. In the meantime, help me blog for you. No topic overstretches the limits of my abilities to dispense comprehensively ignorant commentary. You can reach me on the tips line or, for that personal touch, here.
That's absurd that you're being accused of smoking weed. From your picture, I would have guessed meth.
Hi Moe, I'm __. You look exactly like the zombie version of a girl I used to date.
Please post a thread for the Cavs game now, please.
You misogynistic commenters with your patriarchal value systems and love of traditionalist power structures make me sick. The phallic overcompensating here is out of control and further indicative of a systemic illness throughout this patronizing, Y-chromosome haven of a website. Maybe instead of marginalizing the female presence through self-destructive cycles of pornography and videogames you bare-backed neanderthal wannabe pimps should go outside and read some Sylvia Plath. Furthermore...
OW, my head hurts. Where the fuck am I?
Mostly because I'm a girl Sigh.
@__: Yeah, that was one of the dumbest/saddest things I've ever read.
@__: It's too pathetic to even make fun of. Just sad.
Moe's run-on sentences leave me breathless, but in a good way. They are exhilarating.
@__: Exhilarating like watching a small, slightly "slow" child run into traffic, right?
To sum it all up - no posts til 1:35PM EST, 3 stories in just over 2 hours, and all loosely based on sports (by that I mean they contained the name of a professional athlete.)
Sarah Schorno: My head hurts.
@Sarah Schorno: We miss you. We all really, really miss you. We miss that you write well. We miss that you're funny. We miss that you know sports and like sports.
We miss that Moe is NONE of these things.
@__: I could make an appearance again soon. You never know.
This is just embarrassing. You are setting women back years with this crap. If you accept a gig writing on a sports blog, write about sports, and do some homework before you start. Oh and get here fucking on time. This is a big sports day. Be prepared. If you worked for me I would take your things, throw them in a box, and escort you to the elevator.
@__: I am angry about this. I've always wanted more female sports writers, but Deadspin seems to sabotage them at every turn. I know Moe's a friend of AJ's, and I can see him wanting to do her a favor. I know it's only the weekend. But this, THIS is ridiculous.
/yes I know children are starving in Africa blah blah, still sucks.
@__: Dude this has nothing to do with women as a whole. This has to do with the notion of the controversy that follows Moe, especially when she decides to tackle subjects she knows nothing about. And the bizarro boner I'm sure Denton is getting from having this girl picked apart for just having a vagina. There are a lot of women who have played sports and more than vaguely familiar with the topic, like myself. Unfortunately, they don't seem to get represented here.
Conficker Eye Chart: How it Works
The Conficker Eye Chart is in reality a very clever way to determine if your computer is compromised, and it doesn't require you to do anything but click one link.
Here's how it works, in brief: Visit the web page linked above and you'll see six images: The three on top are for security software websites, and the three on the bottom are the logos of various open source operating system distributions. The clever part of all this is that the logos aren't actually being served from the web page linked above, but are rather drawn directly from the six different websites to which each logo belongs.
Conficker (as many other pieces of malware) blocks your web browser from reaching many security websites, so if you don't see some of the security logos on the page, you probably have a problem. Why include the open source logos below it? Because if they don't show up, you are probably simply experiencing an internet connectivity problem instead of being the victim of a malware attack.
The Working Guy
Conficker World Maps
Cyber Viruses in 3D
Crank High Voltage
Disorganized Crime: Incompetent Crooks and the New Economy
by Graham Silnicki
Toronto Life - 04/09
Criminally speaking, 2009 got off to a less-than-savoury start, with a surge of small-time crookery and a slew of bungling bandits who make Ernie and Bert look like Bonnie and Clyde. Could be the bum job market is spurring former law abiders into action, or maybe even career criminals learn to live with less during a recession. Here, a month of misconduct:
Jan. 7, 2009
Three armed and masked men (one bearing a sawed-off, duct-taped shotgun) storm the Yorkville jewelry giant Cartier in broad daylight and escape with a collection of lower-end trinkets. Cops call the crime "unsophsticated" but fail to nab the perps.
Jan. 13, 2009
A lone gunman tries to bag free bling at Luxe Jewellery in the Malvern Town Centre but instead gets chased out by the store's bat-wielding owner.
Jan. 17, 2009
Two armed men hold up a south Rosedale Swiss Chalet, blindfold three employees and bind the manager's hands with a phone cord. The take: $200 (enough for 19 quarter-chicken dinners).
Jan. 23, 2009
Four masked men handcuff four employees at Hero Army Surplus in Oshawa and make off with a small militia's worth of knives, replica handguns and paintball supplies.
Jan. 24, 2009
Two gunmen are forced to flee when police break up an attempted Beer Store heist at Dupont and Lansdowne. Both are caught after one suspect fires his shotgun, grazing a cop's head.
Jan. 24, 2009
Three delivery guys are knocked over in separate incidents on a single night: a KFC driver is held at gunpoint, a Pizza Pizza driver is confronted by a shotgun-toting thief, and a Sushi Delight driver is punched in the stomach before two suspects make off with the free fish.
Jan. 30, 2009
Three knife-bearing teens hit a Brampton McDonald's after closing, forcing five employees into a walk-in fridge. The minimal cash grab was probably not worth getting arrested for two days later.
To Serve and Corrupt
Name: Tyler Brûlé
Occupation: Magazine publisher, journalist, entrepreneur and public speaker
Sexual Orientation: Gay
Was ranked as one of London's most annoying residents by Time Out in 2008.
"If I did sell (Monocle Magazine) I’d more than likely open a small hotel on a nice stretch of coast in southern Japan."
Brooklyn Virgin Discovers Naked Dancing
Somehow it happened that in all the years I’ve lived in New York City, I’d never been to Brooklyn...So on Tuesday night, I boarded the L train (heading away from the West Village) and made my way to hipsterville. I’d heard from my more global friends that Brooklyn is a charming borough inhabited by cool young families, gourmet cheese shops, and creative intellectuals. It has parks! And trees! And slow walkers aren’t mowed down on the sidewalk! But I’m what you might call a bona fide Manhattanite. Or, to be more precise, a bona fide Upper East Sider. I’ve traveled the world, I said to myself—how exotic could Brooklyn really be?
Perhaps my tweed J. Crew jacket and Tory Burch ballet flats weren’t the best wardrobe choice for that day, but I overcame the fact that I was a total Williamsburg misfit and hoped my foreigner status wouldn’t be glaringly obvious to the natives. (It was.) After narrowly escaping death by skateboard on the Bedford subway platform, I made my way to a rickety building in what felt to me like Brooklyn’s outer banks. (It wasn’t.) [...]
As we entered the space, Lafrance was laying on the table, barely clothed, 8-months pregnant, and wearing deer antlers on her head. Displayed down her leg was a miniature wilderness scene made of moss and tiny plastic animals. We all took a seat at the table and waited for something to happen. I was flustered beyond belief, but the setting was so intimate that there was no escaping without seeming totally intolerant and disrespectful. [...]
They served us tea, whispered in our ears, and even touched our faces.
I’m not passing judgment. Really, I’m not. [...]
I have no doubt that Home will appeal to a certain subset of performance-goers, many of whom will find it illuminating and inspiring. But for the more mainstream audience member like me: don’t be fooled by her carefree Feist video or her incredible stairwell dance (“Descent,” choreographed in 2003). This is a much more intimate, much more erotic, and much more intense experience. (Did I mention that she touched my face?)
I left the rickety building slightly shaken up and eager to get back to Manhattan. After this experience, I’m fairly certain that’s exactly where I belong.
good riddance and don't come back. we don't need you.
dear kate - pretentious loser. please please please STAY in the upper east side where you obviously belong.
Wow again. I know there are people who are very close minded in the world, who rarely step outside their own neighborhood. They live all over the world, including Manhattan and Brooklyn. The sad part is that this person is a writer for a relatively sophisticated magazine. I am surprised there wasn't a part of the article where the writer marvels that the subways aren't covered in graffiti and that you can pay with a card, not a token. This is worse than the tourists of time square. Performance art in a "rickety" building in Williamsburg is obviously not for "the more mainstream audience member." An artist touched your face during a performance? Mon dieu!! People have been doing much more shocking work for decades. Please stop writing. Please.
well, hey, bravo Vanity Fair. You finally published an article ignorant enough to prod me to jump through the hoops of commenter registration. It's not really the tone of the article – plenty of "manhattan people" don't venture to brooklyn, and we're the better for it. But jesus christ – this girl writes like a broken robot.
You're an idiot, Kate.
This is the amateurish work you would expect to find on someone's LiveJournal, not on a national magazine's website. Stilted and egregiously uninformed, this piece speaks to everything that's wrong with Vanity Fair, i.e. vapid journalism with a patina of New York sophistication fit for those who want to read a celebrity magazine without the guilt.
This is a joke, right? I've read better writing in high school newspapers.
What is sad about this piece, is that it's about the writer and not the artist. And the writer is obviously young and bland... If you want to be a critic/writer of any importance, it is best if you get out of your own way. We don't care. Most of us are here because we like to be challenged by all the "strange" neighborhoods/artist/performances in the city. Vanity Fair? Who's daughter/niece/god-daughter is this?
Who gave Kate a job? Be careful VF the "little people" will stop reading this kind of drivel.
Wow. You really suck. Williamsburg freaked you out. What's next? How crazy and dangerous Brooklyn Heights is? The evil stroller mafia in Park Slope tried to kill you? Chinatown is really stinky? Go back to LiveJournal where you belong. James Wolcott should personally kick your ass for what you're doing to Vanity Fair.
my grandma is cooler than this broad...
This writer who has "traveled the world" seems to be keenly unaware of the idea that perhaps, as her travels ended and she returned to The Upper East Side, the locals danced in the streets waving an effigy spewing burning chunks of tweed and wearing sad ballet flats. (Probably ignited the damn thing with a bottle of Tresor, too.) An Ugly American in Brooklyn, methinks. VF, spare us future ramblings of the smallminded. After the past wearying 8 years, we've had enough.
I'm embarrassed for you, dear virgin Kate. How do you even manage to leave the house by yourself?
It pains me that while talented young writers cannot find jobs, and seasoned writers are losing theirs, work like this is still getting published. If all you could get out of this show was that, "Ew, it was weird" you do not belong in New York City.
What a douchebag. Not only are you a terrible writer, but you have terrible outfits as well. Writers like you are the reasons why print media is marching towards a slow death.
"I’m not passing judgment. Really, I’m not." But really, YOU ARE.
Please take the A or C train to Utica Ave. around 2 AM. Wear your Tory Burch flats and designer jacket. Don't bring your cell phone.
I hope the ten cents per word she got for getting this schlock published was worth making herself a giant target for all the cool kids. Next time she's on the L train, she's going to get a giant wedgie.
As the antithesis of sophisticated, there is no way in hell you are a native Manhattanite or UESider. In fact, a thousand bucks says you're a close-minded provincial prude who hails from CT or NJ. So stop lying, stop writing, and for God's sake get out of my borough, neighborhood, and city. You're ruining the cache for everyone! And props to whatever editor approved this piece. You just knew Kate would get publicly flogged, didn't you? You're a shrewd, backstabbing snake, but if you get her fired, you're a gracious public servant.
She is not from NYC. She is from Ridgewood, NJ, where she lived until going to Harvard. So, she has been living in NYC for 2 years at most.
I actually found the plethora of negative comments more interesting and well-informed than the actual article. Also, the last time I heard a person claim such pride in their TB's I was standing in a sorority house south of the Mason-Dixon.
worst. article. ever.
Oh, dear. This morning, this VERY morning, I posted a note in my building's lobby pleading with an anonymous thief to stop stealing my issues of Vanity Fair each month. And now I see this, and frankly, I'm embarrassed to have so publicly professed my liking of your magazine. Thanks, VF, for making a twit of me.
why is everyone so mad at kate? ...we should be mad at the bedford platform skater who didn't actually hurt her! then this story would have been much more interesting!
Christ what's wrong with you? I mean you went to this fantastically amazing college, you have this dream job, you're rich and priviledged and have willingly wrapped yourself up in the rarefied world that you can't even look outside of yourself for just a moment. I can't really believe that you are as elitist, closed minded and as insipid as portrayed in this article. You live in NYC yet you lack true cultural understanding and any breath of art.
Why is this piece all about you? In reality you didn't give a damn about all the shocking French lady nudity. You just wanted to write a piece about how charming you think you are when out of your element, with your tacky shoes and your cheap jacket. You write like someone who learned everything they know about NYC from watching Sex in the City. You are the reason I live in Paris.
I'm from New Zealand, and even I find this gauche.
Did you venture there in a time machine Kate?Williamsburg is practically Manhattan, only cleaner. What, did the green condo buildings frighten you? Did you see a nice couple walking their dog who smiled at you? You can see midtown from Williamsburg with the naked eye. Dear Vanity Fair, I'm sure this deluded idiot is someone's niece, but fire her. Fire her now. I suspect she may be not-so-secretly retarded. And possibly blind. A blind retard raised in a petri dish. Peace and love, everyone else
"vapid journalism with a patina of New York sophistication fit for those who want to read a celebrity magazine without the guilt. Posted 4/7/2009 by __" Love this. Cause it's true. But, I must call out these over invested commenters. The piece was embarrassing. Whatever. But williamsburg is far more pretentious than Little Kate. Come on. Manhattan was ruined years ago and Williamsburg is right there with it.
We all get it! This article is an insult to all native Brooklynites and all the transplant residents. This article also speaks to the sad state of contemporary media... one where talented and seasoned writers are being let go everywhere and young naive trust fund babies with a 200k piece of paper from (insert Ivy League name here)are getting published in classic publications such as Vanity Fair. My suggestion to Vanity Fair and to young Kate is a formal apology to all of us... this is apparently NOT ok.
OMG, Kate -- I bet you were totally the Charlotte in your group of friends, weren't you? Insipid little ninnies like you (and the douchebag junior analysts you date) are what has nearly ruined New York for those of us who can take in the unusual without gaping at it like it's feeding time at the zoo. How did you get this job, anyway?
The author no doubt wrote this article to raise some conversation. That said, defining yourself as a Manhattanite is just lame. I suppose it may be regarded as an admition that you "are what you are". However, I am inclined to think it is me and other like me who live in Manhattan, while you perhaps live in a subset. The "coolest" people in this world do not feel they belong someplace or another based on economics or geography.
This is lame. Lame for a Harvard grad. Lame for a supposed New Yorker. Lame for a white person with good teeth. Lame. Effing lame. It's lame even for self-deprecatory "personal essay". Please, Kate, stay in Financial Advising or Philanthropic Gibberish Writing or whatever the eff you do with yourself there in the East 70s. Just STFU on anything else.
What's the over/under that in a few years Kate will be married to a rich Banker/Hedge Fund manager? Guess you will be seeing her mug at the "charity" events in NYC.
__, it's funny how close you are. She's engaged and is marrying a Goldman Sachs i-banker in about a year.
My god. For the many years that I, an ivy-league educated Manhattanite, have been reading Vanity Fair I have never read such an embarrassingly and blatantly ignorant piece by any writer. I'm seriously reconsidering the "sophistication" I've always perceived the magazine to embody. Or perhaps I'm mistaken and missing out on the joke - was this a humor piece, intentionally parodying a UES dimwit? Please...
As infuriating as this blog post is, it's worth it for the comments. Holy hilarity.
kate, back to your internship. go. kate's editor? fire yourself, now. kate's excuses are plentiful (entitled, young, ignorant, sheltered, u.e.s.er, etc). what are yours? there are plenty of bad pitches or pieces that don't see the light of day...one fell through the cracks, apparently. good luck with your second piece.
I actually registered to comment as well, but not to respond to this ridiculous writer girl--everyone else has done a fine job of pointing out all her inadequacies--but to reply to Dasvaki, who actually came to her defence. You, sir, are also an idiot. Yes, perhaps experiencing "mild shock" at a transgressive performance art piece would be the reaction of 99% of the population, but NO ONE CARES what those 99% have to say. Those 99% do not write for Vanity Fair. I doubt those 99% even read Vanity Fair. She may not be a terrible person, but she's at the very least extremely annoying for thinking that this drivel is worth the time and attention of others. And also for grossly offending people who live in Brooklyn either by choice or necessity. Not all of us can afford the UES and Tory Burch, little lady! And for the record, Tory Burch flats are disgusting and epitomize a number of things that are wrong with new money NYC transplants, who think that a giant gold logo signifies fashion/aesthetic validation. (I say this as someone who lives in Manhattan for 6 years and only occasionally ventures to Brooklyn, and yes, it can be disconcerting, but to think you're on some "rickety outskirt" when you step off the W'burg train is just ignorant on so many levels.) Ok I'm done. Thanks! Oh PS Vanity Fair? I have a blog. If you guys wanna start publishing some of my posts about my like, trips to the supermarket? We can totally work something out. Call my people. xo
As I stepped out from the oversized sports utility vehicle, I knew I was in a strange land. A strange land that smelled bad. A strange land with even stranger people. A strange land where tory burch flats were not just for 12 year olds in 2006. I was in New Jersey. I had been through New Jersey before, but the "Drunk? Driving? Call us." billboard for an attorney along the turnpike had been the only piece of their strange culture I had been exposed to. I hoped that my ungelled hair and inability to abstract myself onto fictional characters wouldn’t be glaringly obvious to the natives. (It was.) There was pregnant woman with a spray tan waiting for a bus accross the great wide pavement that seemed to go on forever, and a gaggle of blonde girls who thought that Daddy's thrice morgaged home somehow entitled them as "rich" giggling themselves into a stupor over the prospect of visiting "the city"....
This sounded like an obnoxious character on "Gossip Girl".
Someone commented that all the negative feedback is coming from people who are jealous of Ms. Ahlborn, that they just want her life and can't have it. Absolutely true. And what is fueling the rage is that Ms. Ahlborn clearly does not deserve her own life. Her writing would not be out of place in a middle school newsletter, and yet she has a job at Vanity Fair? She went to Harvard, and that experience yielded this world view? Yes people are jealous, because she has what she has clearly not earned.
it's a shame you didn't seem to give brooklyn a fair chance. however, i find your insular world view to be far more exotic than a jaunt through gentrification ground zero could ever be. i look forward to your next article when you talk to a black person.
If this girl went to Harvard and ever ventured out of Harvard Yard (or, God forbid! onto the red-line), she would have seen loads of people way more outrageous than pretty much any hipster babe she saw in Wmburg. Definitely more skateboards. Several people I have spoken with, writers amongst them, think that this article is a sham, and that no one employed by Vanity Fair could be so out-of-touch, insipid or utterly lacking the class that Ms Ahlborn presents. Me, I have met several UES gals who think that their world is the only world and everyone else is useless and I'm not so sure this is as staged as all the Brooklyn bloggers are reporting. I do think that a magazine of the esteem of VF should look a little more closely at those they hire to represent them (a Harvard degree does not actually make one educated). And, if not, who does a girl have to blow to get this gig?
what a douchebag. i "venture" into brooklyn with tory burch flats all the time and guess what....NOBODY GIVES A SHIT.
@__: No kidding. I've wandered around Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx without anyone giving a second look to my business suit or Target shoes. I think poor Miss Kate's issue is that she hangs out with the posers who want everyone else to be impressed by their outfits. Ten to one she's mad because the Brooklynites really DIDN'T care about her overpriced shoes.
Manhattan too may be too big for her. Heck even Upper East Side may have a dangerous corner or two. She is probably best off never leaving her J. Crew store, where things are as they should be.
I once ventured into her closet and found myself surrounded by Tory Burch flats. I felt a tad out of place, clothed as I was only in paper mache. I touched my face repeatedly and tip-toed to the nearest L train station. I was sure that that's where I belonged.
This writer is why New York print media is becoming more and more irrelevant.
@__: Not in its own mind it isn't...
@__: Take a look at the declining ad revenues, shuttering of magazines, and almost shut down of the Boston Globe. Print media is failing in the most spectactular way. People don't aspire to be this woman. They don't want her clothes. Or want to eat where she eats. Or drinks where she drinks.
They want to throw things at her.
People in fly over states don't look at this woman and think, Wow. I want to be just like her. She's just like Carrie Bradshaw. She comes off spectacularly stupid. If something as banal as Gossip Girl manages to get the cultural relevance of Brooklyn, it astounds me that aspirational magazines are this tone death to culture.
And you just know when she got home she kissed Mother good night, locked her bedroom door and pleasured herself, remembering the wicked scene in the rickety building in that far-off, exotic land.
Omigodomigod what if she went to Queens
@__: "I was ducking off-duty doormen left and right..."
@__: We'd cut her in the parking lot of Queens Center Mall.
@__: I'm pretty sure Astoria alone would literally make her head explode.
Blame Vanity Fair. She's out of school for two fucking years and gets a job at Vanity Fair. WTF. She sounds like a goddamn hack. I wrote better shit in my second year in high school. Hipsterville?! Seriously?! Shut up, Bitch!
@__: You don't think her parents KNEW somebody who got her a job? She's been groomed since she was three years old for four years at Harvard, enough of a career to meet Mr Right, a brief marriage and a divorce settlement that will let her finish out her days living the Martha Stewart life in Connecticut.
@__: She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and a Vanity Fair internship on her resume.
That sounds exactly like what hipsters in Williamsburg wear to me. Except they claim to wear them "ironically."
guess what. manhattan doesn't want you either.
Uh, I'm feeling grossly inadequate over the fact that I had to google image Tory Burch flats. $195 people?!
@__: Some stuff is just so lame and banal you just don't need to know about it; carry on as you were, darling.
@__: What a great public service she's done by mentioning the Tory Burch flats and associating them with a specific socio-cultural category. As I see it, they're a marker of faddish consumerism and shallowness in a person, that is, for the type of woman I always feel dirty afterwards for associating with.
@__: You should consider your ignorance of Tory Burch a testament to the quality of your character.
Give her a few more years in publishing, she'll be blowing guys for coke in the Lower East Side bars, dating ex-trannies from craigslist, living in Sunset Park and commenting on Gawker.
@__: Hold it, what's an 'ex-tranny'?
@__: Someone who actually made the transition, no?
@__: An ex-tranny is a guy who was goth in high school, bisexual in college and then androg and skinny and into heels and handbags when he first moved to NYC. But then after a few years here, and a bit of coke and greasy Asian food, he's got a puffy face and bigger ass and a square body. And he can't pull off being a girl anymore. So he wears eye liner and chain smokes and dates other sexually ambiguous people.
@__: Wow. Spot on, my friend. Spot. On.
Wow, its like a parody, only sad. Even if you think all those things, why would you write them down for other people to read?
I really didn't need another person to hate. It's all becoming so time-consuming.
@__: But the seething, the loathing, the resentment - it's all fun, no? Or is it me?
And, honestly, someone edited this tripe? They wouldn't let slop like that pass muster at the 10,000 circulation fishwrap I started out at 15 years ago.
The Evil of Banality.
Oh Kate. Your tweed jacket was boss, don't let anyone tell you different.
(Let me know when you get what this means.)
Honestly, I feel bad for her. Her life is probably incredibly boring, and she obviously has no intentions of taking advantage of all the crazy, weird, scary, amazing, freakish things this city has to offer.
HOW does this insufferable Kate person have a job at Vanity Fair? And I don't?
@__: Sweet, sweet nepotism...that's how.
And a big "Thank You" to the commenters on VF's website for laying the full-force smackdown (just incase she never ventures outside to the scary internetty borough called Gawker).
@__: I really expected at least one person to stick up for her. Nope. I mean, really, who did they think read their website? Only upper east siders? That's a pretty small population.
thanks. this is what i needed to make me realize that its time to get the f out of media.
I can barely imagine what would happen to this poor soul if she dared venture outside of New York.
Perhaps she'd crumble to dust from the shock of seeing all those middle-class and blue collar Americans roaming about.
Also, no one who graduated from college in 2007 should be writing in Vanity Fair. Which... I guess this proves?
I looked through her contributions, and I have to say that she's fairly lowbrow. She isn't exactly at the center of the cultural universe when she merely reports on kitschy ballet photographs (--and not very well at that) and doing Q&As with Twilight cast members.
I was going to conjure une petite histoire of snark, replete with translucent-skinned debutantes from London, summering and slumming with the "earthy," "base," "sauvage," dock-working locals of Marseiile, France and their crude, yet artful, custom of dress, language, and ritual, to draw some parallel to this poor young lady's frightful, hesitant voyage to realms unknown, but … crap, I decided this g-d tone-deaf, isolated, myopic, inflexible, culturally unaware, immature, stereotypical and stereotyping pile of fail just did not warrant the time.
@__: It's interesting to me how she turns what should have been an article on art into some sort of name-dropping game to establish and inflate her purported socio-economic superiority to wealthy Brooklynites.
Seriously, isn't the whole purpose of a Harvard liberal arts education learning how to effectively name-drop and what to mock-criticize without looking like a complete boor? At least, "I went to school at Yale" isn't the first thing out of Yalie's mouth. A much subtler species, they prefer instead to confide that they "Went to school in New Haven."
@__: Yeah, or I've heard: "I went to a little college on the east coast." Ugh. Then again, even if you are not a douche, it's probably tough to say, "I went to Yale/Harvard/Vasser etc. without FEELING like you are name dropping …
ANYWAY … I think the consensus is that she missed the opportunity to provide insight (I HATE art criticism, so I avoid that term) and analysis on an art form / from an artist she would normally never personally view (although technically it would be her JOB to do so, seeing as she is paid to write for Vanity Fair). She could have brought a unique perspective, one from a new witness to this type of art. Instead, she opted, I assume out of lack of creativity, chops, etc., for an obvious story line, borne out of her self-obsession (and dare I say, self-obsessed youth, as I'm sure I was the same way at that age, having experienced next to nothing in my life except my needs, wants and preferences). The only thing apparent to her was her discomfort, her fish out of waterness. She's not even trying for objective reporting, or choosing a story angle (outside the confines of her psyche). And she's not doing it because she doesn't yet know how, and apparently no one at VF cared enough to suggest one, or were told, because she was handed this job, that she has carte blanche.
I recall a few essays I wrote my freshman year at college. Periodically I have revisted them, and one or two had a similar tone - misdirected subject line, played for irony, falling miserably flat.
And yet ANOTHER reason not to read Vanity Fair emerges without even trying.
Fuck me. She writes like that and works for Vanity fucking Fair?! I'm fairly sure there is no way I would've gotten away with a self-indulgent bush league essay like this at my lowly state-school alma mater. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Is her head so far up her own delicate ass that she thought there would be no backlash for this little article? I'm sure there are plenty of Manhattanites who understand and identify with Kate's elitist point of view, but what made her feel like she would be embraced by this small group rather than reviled by the rest of the city (and most of Vanity Fair's readership)? I believe Carrie Bradshaw already spoke for this particular sector, and I daresay her talent with the written word is clearly far more developed than Ms. Ahlborn's.
@__: Yeah. This chick wants to BE Carrie Bradshaw so bad it's not even funny. And Carrie was annoying on a TV show...the real-life translation is even more so.
I have to admit it is somewhat satisfying to actually hear someone who is a tourist admit they are a tourist instead of pretending they fit in to a world that is clearly not theirs.
@__: Those kinds of admissions are best saved for group therapy sessions when you have the talking stick.
@__: Oh, and she's not actually a tourist. She's from the same damned city. I would forgive her if she were some impoverished young woman without a high-school education from Appalachia, but she's a wealthy girl from one of the most diverse cities in the history of human civilization who attended one of the top-10 universities in the world and writes for a prestigious cultural magazine. In other words, she has no excuse for her being a tourist in her own city other than her own self-serving pretensions.
She's the type of person you go on a date with and listen to her tell you how great she is, and she tells you how she's afraid of squirrels, which you're supposed to think is adorable, but which you find more than a little unbelievable, and you listen because she's vaguely cute and it might be worth it, but after a couple hours, it's no longer worth it and you make up an excuse to get away forever. It's not surprising that she wants to be a writer. Most of these self-absorbed types just want to listen to themselves talk.
@__: Spot on. And her having hopped around for four years at Harvard in modern dance workshops while the others were doing biomedical engineering projects designed to improve kidney transplant results or plowing their way through Leibniz's collected works in the original Latin and German just clenches the whole thing for me.
Thank God she escaped Brooklyn with her life. She might have gotten lost and ended up in Bushwick.
The whole "how is this person working at Vanity Fair" line of argument is bullshit. She's young, Harvard, cute, well-off: THAT'S WHO WORKS AT VANITY FAIR. For good or for ill, that is what the magazine is about; it's never purported to be anything else. It's not the Daily Worker. It's not Granta. It's not an assistance program for people who dolefully surf Mediabistro. (Incidentally [instert name of dyspeptic commenter here], whoever you are, you probably shouldn't be working at Vanity Fair, despite what you tell yourself, your friends, and your former high school English teacher who mentored you). Shut up already. The post might be tin-eared but it's not surprising.
@__: Exactly. VF has one of the WASPiest, elitist staffs at Conde. Not surprising in the least she works there.
I'm starting to think that Vanity Fair published this in order to mock her, yes?
@__: Yes, they shouldn't have let her go through with it. They had to know what would happen.
Vanity Fair is soft core porn for lit wannabees, more gay than straight. I know nothing about its elitist pretensions.
Wow, I really hate everything about her. Especially that she's an '07 grad writing for Vanity Fair.
@__: I was thinking the same thing. That being said, her vacuousness is slightly relieving: it means usurping merit will always reveal the cracks. She doesn't deserve to be writing for Vanity Fair, and this article definitively proves that.
Ya'll can't have it both ways. A major national glossy that defines the mainstream runs a casual little piece of class drama reinforcing the notion that Brooklyn is just too rickety for a certain breed of people, and you are offended? You should be rejoicing, that yet another wave of *them* will continue to fear the borough that you call home, and that you will be free to mingle another year amongst only those who are too guilty about their privilege to wear J-Crew in public.
@__: "A major national glossy that defines the mainstream"? I think you're thinking of People.
HA-HA hipsters! Meet the only people left more culturally arrogant and annoying than you.
I agree with all the comments. However . . . I'm wondering how this young girl feels after reading the comments on the VF page (and gawker, also, if she actually dared to come here). I get the feeling she thought she was being all hip and stuff when she wrote that drivel but she is now feeling deflated and needs a glass of wine. Poor girl!!
@__: Spare us your sympathy.
@__: She strikes me as more the "handful of Valium" type.
What Williamsburg is she talking about? The one I live in is littered with million dollar apartments and I get accosted more by strollers than skateboards. The 'burg hasn't been "difficult" for ten years... are you sure this isn't some article from 1999?
So, basically, she wrote about Brooklyn the way everyone in New York (including Brooklyn) writes about the rest of America?
@__: Ha ha! For real.
But the fact that she knows her Tony Brunch ballet slippers could be recognized in Brooklyn just shows how much (she knows). Brooklyn is like Manhattan. She's not even kidding herself. I hope this fake-ingenue 'reporting' isn't a new trend.
In other words: In Brooklyn, I learned not all art looks like the fountain-sculpture outside the corporate offices of Vanity Fair.
Another example of why print media is dead. Why would a magazine waste paper and ink to publish that article?
That article is about 10 years too late.
@__: It was a blog post. What does that say about print media?
Brooklyn... isn't that where they have an Ikea?
Oh dear, look at her. She's one of those horsey-lacross-ey babes who has to plug her Ivy pedigree, clothing labels, and magical Manhattan address into every conversation, just so everyone knows how Really Really Fabulous she is. Of course, if she lived anywhere outside of New York, she'd be a...suburbanite. *gasp*
Against my better judgement, I have made the visit to see the shoe stylings of Tory Burch. So, I have gathered this about life... You can design, and sell, revoltingly hideous shoes, and talent has nothing to do with getting a job with V.F. I am totes dejected and going to take a Vicodin with a martini chaser.
This is why journalism is dying. What a fucking moron. Williamsburg hasn't been scary since it was spelled Williamsburgh.
At least my out of town friends will be impressed that i live in an SUCH an edgy neighborhood... that is, if they still read the quickly-becoming-irrelevant Vanity Fair.
Once again, I feel like someone is baiting me to engage in class warfare.
Manhattan snobbery. A fine tradition with its roots in the Revolutionary War. I believe it was Gen. George Washington who, pushed back by the Redcoats from the Manhattan, penned the first pretentious article: "'Twas as good a time as any to explore the old village of Brook'lyn as my troops bivouacked on Prospect Hill. I pushed past the prams on the Main Street where crude and lower-caste people of the Nether Lands (along with free'd men of dark completion) perform'd in all mann'rs strange and base. I wrote to Martha that I could not wait to return to the comforts of Islem, where I belong'd."
Later I believe Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall passed the "Manhattan Civilian Act," which required all immigrants to the city (those who moved to the city from the province) to act with extreme airs of pretension in order to gain acceptance, whereupon the blue armbands would be removed and they could feel like higher-class natives to the city.
This tradition has survived to this day, where people from outside of the city move to New York practice becoming "real New Yorkers" by adopting the airs and buying the products embraced by the fictional characters of such televised productions as Sex & The City, Seinfeld, and various films by the famous late 20th Century Ameircan Ashekenazi filmmaker Woody Allen.
What confuses me, sincerely, is the whole, "art experience too edgy for her" thing. Did she not take any art history classes that ever mentioned performance art? Is she completely unaware that people have been taking off their clothes and calling it edgy Art for several decades now? At least? Does Harvard teach nothing?
Her description of Brooklyn is almost beside the point -- I can't get over how she could be shocked by an art experience that's only a minor step removed from say, "Hair", or "Tony and Tina's Wedding."
At this point, VF has to have her write a response.
I don't think I've ever seen such a crazed outburst of envy. It's positively shameful. Y'all are driven crazy because, Miss Ahlborn 1) Went to Harvard; 2) Lives in Manhattan (on the UES); and 3) Has a job at Vanity Fair. What it shows, underneath all the complaining and vituperation, is that none of you has a particle of self-respect.
@__: Because clearly every single person commenting both here and on the Vanity Fair site (I read all those comments too) thinks Harvard is the best place to go to school, the UES is the best place to live, and Vanity Fair is the best place to work. Obviously! How could anyone want anything else out of life?!
Gag. You are just making this worse for yourself, Kate/equally bland elitist proxy.
@__: Seriously, things can only get better for elitists and their bland proxies. I don't envy her the crap job at Vanity Fair, but y'all do.
BED-STUY, DO OR DIE, BITCH!!!
It's like wearing a shirt that says "Hate me, I love it!"
Maybe someday the twits will just stay on Twitter.
Congratulations, Kate. You've managed to successfully embody everything I hate about everything.