10 Years: Reconnecting with Nari & Ai

2007

I was 28.  I got engaged and bought a home and left the country to meet the people who made my clothes. I had a few small assignments that would pay me hundreds of dollars for three-months of reporting that would cost me thousands.

Nari was 25. She was living with 7 other young women in a room that was maybe 100 square feet. She worked in a garment factory making Levi’s. She paid a $50 bribe to get her job, which paid her $50 per month. She sent half of her money home to support her family in her village. She wasn’t shy.

Ai was 24 and shy. She was one of Nari’s 7 roommates. She missed working in the fields at…

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My next book adventure… Where Am I Giving?!

 

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Sometimes  when we see the harsh realities of the world, we can feel guilty, ashamed, and powerless to do anything. That’s how I felt standing in a dump in Cambodia, watching adults and children picking through a trash heap.

I wanted to do something to help, but what could I do? I was just one man, researching my first book, traveling on my second mortgage. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I hadn’t done anything and that felt wrong.

This feeling of helplessness is what I’m taking on in my new book adventure…

Where Am I Giving? A Global Adventure Exploring How to Use Your Time, Money, and Energy to Make a Better World will explore this distance between the hopelessness of guilt and the…

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What we learned from the guy who builds $250K Batmobiles

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We met the guy who made the Batmobile. His name is Mark and he lives in Indiana.

We were celebrating Free Comic Book Day at our local shop, Aw Yeah Comics, and Mark was there with one of his 1966 Batmobile replica. It had a a “Bat Beam” button, and an “Emergency Bat-Turn Lever.”

Even as a kid, I recognized that the original Batman TV-series starring Adam West was cheesey. I loved it. The corny jokes. The word sounds–Bam! Pa-Zow!! Bat shark spray. Bat-everything. But the Batmobile was just plain cool, so to see it, or at least a pretty darn good replica, of it was awesome.

Mark Racop, the owner of Fiberglass Freaks, stood a watchful yet not hovering distance from the car. As Harper, 8, and I walked toward the store’s entrance, we stopped to talk to him. I asked if he was with the Batmobile.IMG_4199

He confirmed that he was and then launched into an unexpected motivational soliloquy that went something like this:

I built my first Batmobile with a few friends in 1977 when I was 17. I never knew it would become this. DC officially licenses us to build replicas. There was a one-in-one-thousand chance that my hobby would become anything. Whenever I get a chance to talk to kids, I always tell them to follow their dreams.

“How much does a Batmobile go for?” I asked, wondering if it was outfitted for car seats.

“$125,000 to $250,000,” Mark said, as matter of factly as superhumanly possible.

To which I thought, “Holy shit, Batman!”

When I first started chatting with Mark, I thought I was talking to a grown man with a quirky hobby. But when I realized I was talking to a grown man who builds cars that cost quarter-of-a-million dollars, I took him more seriously.

I’m not sure why, but the numbers made me see Mark differently. They shouldn’t. Because before Mark had a business building replica Batmobiles, he did it because he loved to do it. No doubt society looked at Mark as a quirky kid with a silly hobby who should probably find something more productive to do with his time.

I can relate. Before I earned a living as a writer and speaker, I was a quirky kid with a silly hobby, and a lot of people told me I should probably find something more productive to do than travel around the world and write stories for ten bucks a pop. My asking Mark what a Batmobile cost was the equivalent of the questions I’m often asked: “What’s your day job? What does your wife do?”

Yet even I judged Mark this way.

Why is it that as a society we’re so quick to dismiss someone’s passion instead of supporting it?

Mark builds Batmobiles. And they are freaking awesome! That’s enough on its own for us to celebrate him.

Mark is proof that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our passions and hobbies. We should embrace them and we should support the passions and hobbies of our family and friends regardless of how quirky.

If you want to buy a Batmobile and have the funds to do so, check out Mark’s site Buy Bat Parts.

More Batphotos below the break…

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Participating in Chicago’s Fashion Revolution

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I’m participating at several events as part of Chicago’s Fashion Revolution week. Fashion Revolution was inspired by the Rana Plaza factory disaster, which I wrote about yesterday.

 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26

Noon CST

I’ll be on NPR affiliate WBEZ’s program WorldView with Jerome McDonnell. Wait, WBEZ? Isn’t that the station that produces This American Life? If I see Ira Glass, he’s totally getting a high-five.

6-9 PM

Explore alternatives! Fashion Show and Panel with Keynote Speaker Kelsey Timmerman at Columbia College. Chicago Fair Trade and Columbia are hosting an ethical fashion show, interactive displays, and a panel. I’ll give a quick keynote before the panel begins.  Located at 618 S. Michigan . The fashion show…

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4 years ago 1,134 Bangladeshis died making our clothes

Rana Plaza collapse

One moment Reshma Begum was sewing. The next, she was falling from her station on the second floor into the basement of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh.

She lost consciousness. She awoke to cries of help that gradually silenced. Her clothes were shredded, everything was dark, and her hair was stuck in the rubble. She ripped her hair free and scavenged the dark crevices on her hands and knees finding four crackers, a small bottle of water, and the occasional puddle to quench her thirst. She probed her surroundings with a pipe for pockets of air.

This was her life. This was her living for seventeen days.

Was Reshma’s situation an unfortunate end to an individual pursuing real opportunity…

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Are autistic kids better givers?

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Researchers in Germany just published some interesting findings about the prosocial behaviors of kids with autism.

From the abstract of Helping and sharing with preschool children with autism:

We assessed helping and sharing behaviors in 3- to 6-year-old neurotypically (NT) developing children and children diagnosed with ASD. Children with ASD were more inclined to show spontaneous helping in the absence of the helpee than NT children. In the sharing task, NT children shared the resources equally between themselves and the recipients. In contrast, ASD children kept less for themselves and gave more resources away. In addition, the stronger the ASD symptoms were and the less cognitively weaker they were, the more children preferred to give resources to a rich than to a…

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Why I (kinda) stopped eating Chocolate

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I stopped eating mass-produced Chocolate (note the capital C for Big Chocolate) about 18 months ago.  No Hershey’s. No Mars. No Kit Kat. No…gulp…York Peppermint Patties or Twix.

I’m not healthier or more ethical than you. I don’t think my small act is saving the world. I stopped eating chocolate for me.

It’s just that most of the time I ate chocolate, I thought about Michale, the farmer I met in Ivory Coast and how whether or not he could send his kids to school depended upon the price of cocoa, which swings wildly. I thought about the Solo, the slave, I met and how his parents didn’t know if he were dead or alive.

COCOA FARMERS TASTING…

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What if mentoring doesn’t work?

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The greatest gift you have to give to another is your time.

I believe that. That feels right. But what if it isn’t? What if you volunteered as a mentor and in the long run it was harmful to your mentee?

For years I volunteered as a big brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). My little was 10, now he’s 19. (I think! He’ll probably read this and correct me. He’s like that.) The BBBS model of recruiting Bigs and selectively matching them with Littles and offering them match support is proven.

(From the Washington Post)

The prototype for all this – and the model from which [Wellesely College economist Philip] Levine suggests building –…

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“Don’t forget to explore!” A lesson in creating from my daughter

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On Monday, Harper and I explored the woods. We found puff balls, a beer bottle, a rabbit, and a squawking heron. We climbed a deer stand and tried to patch a beaver dam.

When we walked from the woods into the clearing next to the pond, we saw what appeared to be snow flowers. It was as if tall weeds that had managed to stay upright through the winter bloomed petals of snow.

Harper wanted to show “everyone,” so we recorded a short episode of Harper & Daddy TV, our hit YouTube show. (I mean, like, one of our video has 100 views.)

While we were filming, we realized that the snow flowers had formed atop nearly invisible spider…

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Make the Living Room Great Again: A Fable

House fire by Ada Bee

(photo credit: Ada Bee)

The King of the Living Room surveyed his kingdom. He didn’t like what he saw. He hated his kingdom.

“This living room isn’t what it used to be,” the King of the Living Room said. “So sad.”

“When I was a child, the living room was much bigger. I used to be able to jump off the couch. I peed in the corner and now the whole damn room smells like urine.”

“So here’s what we are going to do. From here on out it’s the Living room first! Not the kitchen, not the bathroom, not the bedroom. Living room first! This living room is a disaster and I’m the only…

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