Thursday, October 14, 2010

Books for Children in Ecuador

Classic Coup supports global education.  With proceeds from our shirts we send books to Quito, Ecuador.  There Kaleo Kids, a non-profit organization providing shelter, education and assistance to children, distributes them.

In the Amazonian region and the Sierra about 24% of the population suffer from malnutrition.   Ecuador is below the Latin American level in primary education registration with less than half the children who attend school completing basic education. While 8 Indigenous out of 10 are registered for basic education, only 2 of them complete it.   

Below are children in a Quito orphanage that the founders of Kaleo Kids, Sherry and Darin Coyle, fell in love with on their visit to Ecuador in 2009 (see text below).

Sherry Coyle (above) co-founded Kaleo Kids with her husband, Darin in 2009.  Cindy McCain (who started Classic Coup in 2009 also) began teaching with Sherry, then single, in Nashville, Tennessee in the 1990s.  Today Sherry's  family of five lives in Quito where she teaches high school English. Next week her students in South America will join Cindy's in Nashville via Skype to discuss "A Separate Peace," John Knowle's coming-of-age classic about teen friendships.  Stay tuned for more on the launch of our international reading group.

Below are some of the elementary/middle school favorites recently sent to Ecuador.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week September 25−October 2, 2010: A Call to Action

Mention book banning and many think of the usual suspects: totalitarian regimes burning George Orwell’s1984 in distant lands long ago.  Or Old School censorship of rebels like J. D. Salinger or D. H. Lawrence.  Most remember the ruckus in the '50s and '60s over Catcher in the Rye and the British ban until 1960 on printing Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  At a time when real-life-married couple, Luci and Desi, weren’t allowed to sleep onscreen in the same bed, Holden’s expulsion from classrooms and the earthy lover’s getting the boot from printing houses was no wonder.

But what some don’t realize is that still filing out of library and classroom doors behind the obvious renegades are Harry Potter, James and his giant peach, Hamlet, King Lear, Anne Frank, Jay Gatsby, and Atticus Finch.  Death of a Salesman taken down, and Canterbury Tales sent on a permanent pilgrimage to the trash heap.  Grapes of Wrath run out of town andThe House on Mango Street evicted.

Charlotte’s WebThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Whether condemned like Voltaire’s Candide for his mantra that we live in the “Best of all Possible Worlds,” or Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbevilles for her fatalistic cry that “All is Vanity,” hundreds of books are challenged and banned in schools and libraries in the US annually.  In 2009 the American Library Association reports 460, though they estimate that 70-80% are never reported. 

Classic Coup celebrates rich reads that move our heads and hearts.  We’re about critical thinking and compassionate living. We challenge readers to turn the tide, putting down the fluff fiction and picking up books of substance.  Classics are forever green. Their authors--social critics, life coaches, visionaries--wrestle alongside us with life's most crucial issues.  They incite free thinking which survives book bans and burnings.   Classic Coup rallies rebels who embrace the freedom to read great books, many which are threatened by censorship, such as the ones here.

Ultimately, Ray Bradbury was right: "You don't have to burn a book to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them." Anyone up for exercising freedom to read, to think, to feel? Observe Banned Books Week year-round.  And rather than torching books like the firemen of Fahrenheit 451, throw a wet blanket on Spark Notes.  Read the Real Deal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Party People...Gatsby and La Dolce Vita

In The Great Gatsby, a poor boy cashes in on the American Dream to win back the rich girl he lost in his youth.  Encouraged by the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, Jay Gatsby gives epic parties, believing one night she'll attend and he'll redo history.  Of Gatsby's guests, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes:  "People were not invited--they went there.  Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all."

Designed to read as texts to the latest party, our Gatsby shirt celebrates a classic as relevant today as when published in 1925.  Fitzgerald depicts Gatsby chasing a dream.  Likewise, the author ran just as fast, globe-trotting from Long Island to Paris to keep up with the rich set. In The Crack-Up the iconic  writer tells his story, a life strung together by parties that left him feeling "drunk at 20, wrecked at 30, dead at 40."  Swept along by the fast crowd, he experienced  mental and marital illness, physical and financial ruin.

Fast- forward 35 years to a cinema classic, Frederico Fellini's La Dolce Vita.  The film centers on Marcello, a tabloid journalist  in search of meaning, this time in the cultural center of Rome.  Caught between the fast life of the wealthy and bored, Marcello is torn between materialistic hedonism and authentic artistic pursuit.  Though he longs to be a serious author he aimlessly wanders from one woman to another, one party to the next. The struggles of Fitzgerald and Marcello echo the plight of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.  But the resolutions differ.

Living the dream first means defining the dream.  Rich man...poor man.  Still the stuff of lit and life.  But rather than the angst found in the 20th century masterpiece The Great Gatsby,  buzz around Chris Lehmann's book,  Rich People Things, to be released in October, is more a postmodern response.   Material Girls (and Boys) depicted in the 21st century book trailer (below) are more laughable than lamentable.  Likewise, check out blog post #41 on "Stuff Rich People Love."  In the countdown by Chas Underwood III today's  "Extravagant Parties" may trump even those of East and West Egg.  No doubt Daisy isn't the only one with a voice "full of money."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classic Coup at Magic


Last week Classic Coup went to Magic, the largest fashion trade event in the world.  Held in Vegas where old and new converge,  classics like the Rat Pack and The Mirage meet Billionaire Mafia and XS.  It was  an appropriate place for our brand.  Our name is an oxymoron and a reminder that great books never go out of style.   While their themes are timeless, their writers, now revered, were once nonconformists....downright subversive.  Dickens, Hardy, Lee, Conrad, Chopin, Steinbeck, Twain, Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell are just a few who rallied readers against social injustice and oppression.  They were visionaries.  Cutting edge.

My quest was to take Classic Coup to the next level. We’d had a good first year, but I still had questions about the fashion industry as the medium for our message: Lit is Life.  Classic books stir critical thinking  and compassionate living, conversations that lead to understanding and action.  And simply put, my colleague teaching in Quito, Ecuador needs books for her children.  So this teacher headed to Vegas to be a good student... believing that knowledge is power.   On the advice of two friends in the biz, my designer and a buyer, I followed the yellow brick road… from Nashville to Vegas… to consult the Wiz…the Big M. Flying home through Kansas (where else would my designer live outside of Oz?), I delivered the ruby slippers…jewels I’d discovered, and in Angela’s living room we expanded our plans. Mission accomplished.

And did I have fun.

Though a Vegas virgin and a Europe enthusiast, this Nashville girl underestimated how much I'd enjoy Vegas' energetic vibe.   Not since I’d driven into Paris the first time had I seen so many lights. And though I’ve never thought anywhere in the world compares to Venice, the massive Venetian comes close. Also towering above me were pro athletes checking out Spring 2011 collections. I was swept along in a rapper entourage when I bumped into (literally) Juelz Santana and Lloyd Bands at the Street show. Later that night they were the show at Billionaire’s Mafia’s after-party at Eve Nightclub.   At the Premium couture exhibits at the Vegas Convention Center I saw a sketch of Princess Grace's wedding dress for the first time and realized I'd married in a near replica.  Likewise, I especially loved the retro clothing and jewelry designs at the Pool Trade Show in Mandalay Bay--my market.

Business meant pleasure in finding a new company for our blanks… discovering the most feasible way to sell at Magic next year… savoring seminars on fashion forecasts, trade tips for new businesses, advanced social networking and building brands. Most importantly, I met nice people willing to help a girl out…like Jill of another newcomer tee company, ATX Mafia from Austin, Texas and Industry Guru and creator of Liza Deyrmenjian.

On our free limo ride that shuttled us from the city center to the bay, I shared what I’d learned with a pretty girl about my daughter’s age who came to Magic hoping to start her own line. It felt good to give back. As one who has always depended on the kindness of strangers (yes, we’re releasing our Streetcar Named Desire shirt this fall), I discovered a place to get the goods on spring and the rewards of goodwill hunting, never out of season.

Thanks to Anna for Great Advice
At Angela Muir's Home in Kansas City

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Holden On: J. D. Salinger's Hero Still My Boy

Taylor and Holden--Venice Beach 2009

Times are tough all over.  Even for Holden Caulfield.

Some of us argue the cult classic hero never had it exactly easy, that his angst/anger  (though feigned as apathy) was depression amply induced by his climate and temperament.  Others disagree. Catcher in the Rye fans and critics are in fresh debate over Holden’s relevance for today’s teens.  But even before educators mourned the literary loss of J. D. Salinger last week, some educators, like those quoted in a New York Times article published last summer, say students find the prep school flunk-out obsolete.  They say Holden is “whiny,” “immature” and spoiled.  Said one student, “I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.” Writer Jennifer Schuessler concludes: “Today’s pop culture heroes, it seems, are the nerds who conquer the world — like Harry (Potter) — not the beautiful losers who reject it.”

No doubt more teens tweet about Harry.  There’s his fight rather than flight response to adversity.  There are his friends (crucial to the Facebook generation).  And there’s the fantasy, a plus for the masses who read for escape.  Harry’s more popular, like the kid voted “Best All Around” and “Most Likely to Succeed,” while Slacker Holden doesn’t make the yearbook at all, flunking out of multiple high schools. 

Harried by more competitive undergraduate programs, maybe the class of 2010 is too winded building resumes-- chasing down recs, competing in sports and arts, doing time at community service, and studying for AP courses—to get Holden.  When faced with their own pressures— the majority in single-parent families and all caught in a crushing economy--  young readers may advise Holden, as did one student in the Schuessler article, to “Shut up and take your Prozac.” 

Perhaps the beatings and bad dates Holden reports aren’t the stuff of tragedy. But given Holden lost his brother to leukemia and a classmate to suicide (wearing Holden’s sweater as he jumped from their dorm window), telling him to go pop a pill seems harsh.  Or maybe it’s the post- modern way a generation of teens teethed on Family Guy and South Park deal.  Maybe Holden doesn’t seem so novel anymore given his profanity is merely candor when compared to reality tv.  Holden’s 1950s shock appeal may be all too commonplace in 2010 when anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in the US and suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults.  What is shocking is how many teens are at risk.  The 2007 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment  surveyed 20,500 students on 39 campuses.  They found 3,200 diagnosed with depression, almost 40% of them in the past twelve months.  Almost one fourth were in therapy while 35.8% took antidepressant medications.  Over ten percent of those surveyed confessed "seriously considering suicide" within the past twelve months.

Based on these numbers, some may say Holden is now just the kid-next-door. But Holden approaches the disappointments of life with more than a fatalistic “It is what it is.”  He asks “But why does it have to be that way”?  Like  Stephen Dedalus he is a sensitive soul.  Like Hamlet he is more a disillusioned idealist than a cynic.  His melancholy musings denounce “the oppressor’s wrong” and “the law’s delay” (bullies who drove James Castle to suicide but were never prosecuted) while he flinches from  “the pangs of despised love.” 

And yet, Holden wants to be a champion for girls:  ”It was sort of depressing, too, because you kept wondering what the hell would happen to all of them.  When they got out of school and college, I mean.  You figured most of them would probably marry dopey guys.  Guys that always talk about how many miles they get to a gallon in their gd cars.  Guys that get sore and childish as hell if you beat them at golf, or even just some stupid game like ping-pong.  Guys that are very mean.  Guys that never read books.”

But Holden's fans do.  They're the kids who read Catcher because they want to, not because it's assigned.   The ones who meet in coffee shops to discuss it and invite me to drop by. They see Holden as a rebel with a cause.  Gotta love that. 

He's a romantic who wants to be ready for marriage.  He wants to be taught by Monsieur Blanchard, a guy he reads about in a book because “a woman’s body is like a violin and all, and... it takes a terrific musician to play it right.”   But he remains a virgin because:   “The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl…she keeps telling you to stop.  The trouble with me is, I stop.  Most guys don’t.  I can’t help it. …They tell me to stop, so I stop.”

Holden wants to save the children. He wants to rub off every “F U” on walls before the kids see them.  He wants to protect his little sister, Phoebe, as he couldn’t his brother, Allie.  He wants to catch all kids before they go over the cliff.

Does Holden still have a hold on today's youth?   Do I still like the guy?  To find out I reread my old copy of Catcher the night Salinger died.  But first... I had to ask my nineteen-year-old daughter to give me my book back.