First, a kind of disclaimer: Few things are pure. Santa Claus has yet to open up his books and let anyone review his labor agreements with the Elves. Mother Teresa may have been guilty of vanity on looking in a mirror and shouting, “You go, girl!” When it comes to accountability, we’re all residents of glass houses. Of course, in Southern California some people live in real glass houses. If not more accountable, they are at least more likely to put on bathrobes.
We were invited to attend a preview of the Basquiat show at MOCA with the party to be sponsored by public radio station KCRW. It felt cool, it felt like fun, and we went. One might have some question about Basquiat’s place in the pantheon, but there is undeniable energy and a kind of angry wit at work in the pieces and, like the best art, it asks questions about art itself. And the drinks were free.
KCRW’s part of the evening included providing danceable DJ music, food donated by restaurants properly credited, and alcohol provided by the patron saint of art openings, Absolut Vodka. We expected the giant plastic bottles of Absolut products, and various other prominent logos including KCRW’s. But when it was time to go, we got a surprise.
A nice enough man was handing out free “party hats” as people exited MOCA. The hats were the standard “gimme” –type baseball cap, with a KCRW logo prominent. Inside, a tag revealed that the hats were made in China.
Which is why I started out on a note about purity. Let’s not waste a lot of time: The promotional “humans as walking billboards” caps for a public radio station end up coming from China because that purchase probably offered the best quality at the lowest price; the same exact reason your households and mine are filled with manufactured goods from China.
Well, not exactly. KCRW had a clear shot at avoiding Chinese goods and didn’t take it, since the purchasing of mass quantities of promotional items would naturally involve a great deal of evaluation and comparing. That’s not exactly the same as your daughter beseeching you for a Barbie Dream Car that you later discover comes from China, although you could have made an educated guess.
But if you toss in the current debate on whether the sale of Unocal Oil to the Chinese firm CNOOOC is a big deal, add the hand-wringing that follows any U.S. sale to China of arms or nuclear technology or aircraft, stir that with the growing sense that China will at some point use force against Taiwan and then bake in the heat of your anger over China’s numerous human rights violations… and you have what my well-read girlfriend described as a kind of layered “lasagna” of problems with China that, depending on your take, may or may not be found inside that KCRW hat.
Hey, it’s just a cheap hat meant to advertise in trade for keeping the sun off your head. Sure, you might be upset if the workers making those caps didn’t get anything at all like a Yankee minimum wage but that’s the world we live in, right? Or at least let me pitch this: Have the radio show “Marketplace,” carried by KCRW, do a feature on the most socially responsible vendors of “gimme” caps, including those made in the USA.
Epilogue: Several days later, I was about to play golf in blistering heat when I realized I didn’t bring any kind of hat. I quickly bought a cap reading “Titleist” because it had an American flag sewn on the back. I thought it was the manufacturing logo. It wasn’t: The hat is from China. The label that revealed that also read: “One size fits all.”
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) NBC Universal may buy
(a) DreamWorks SKG
(b) Snoopy DOG
(c) Porky PIG
2) Bill Frist backs stem cells now that he’s
(a) running for President in 2008.
(b) considering a personality implant.
(c) contesting his deal with Satan.
3) Disney theme parks suffered
(a) bad review in “Architectural Digest.”
(b) roller-coaster incident.
(c) “Pluto is drunk!” incident.
1) (a) “Can I have Steve’s office?”
2) (a) “Call it a ‘cell-out’…”3) (b) “Is this an ‘Ariel’ neck brace?”