Asking the wrong questions about TOMS Shoes

Blake-Mycoskie-TOMS-Shoes-Focus on the family

I’m quoted in a LA Weekly story on TOMS shoes.

Since I’ve started to think about and research TOMS my stance has been best summed up as such: the problem isn’t shoelessness; it’s poverty.

At the best TOMS is addressing a symptom of poverty, not poverty itself. At the worst, TOMS is exploiting those living in poverty to sell shoes and hindering the local shoe business of their giving locations by giving away free shoes.

The author of the piece, Patrick McDonald, even gave me the last word on TOMS in the piece:

“You see the impact of how a job can change lives,” says Timmerman, “of how it can give a person dignity.”

He adds,…

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A brush with the paparazzi


On Monday I had my photo taken at least a thousand times by no less than 20 different photographers. It was one of those psuedo-famous moments where I felt like I was someone else, maybe even Lady Gaga. (Note: My butt cheeks weren’t hanging out.)

I was addressing high school students participating in Ball State’s summer journalism workshop. Photogs circled around the stage, in front and in back. At the top of the auditorium they stood on seats and tried to get an angle that no one else had imagined. I was less of a pseudo-celebrity and more of a bowl of fruit.

The title of my talk was “Confessions of an Untraditional Journalist.” You can…

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WTAMU using WAIW as their first year reader!

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this yet, but four schools in the great state of Texas are using “Where Am I Wearing?” as a common reader this fall.  This means that every single freshmen will get a copy of the book and be expected to read it.  How awesome is that?!?

West Texas A&M University located just south of Amarillo is one of those schools.  Here’s what they had to say in a recent press release about selecting WAIW in:

“We always try to select books with global issues for the Readership WT program and to have students consider what kind of impact they can have on our local and global communities,” Kendra Campbell, director of First Year Experience, said. “With…

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New video game lets you be a lord of the sweatshop

Sweatshop Game


Your boss is hounding you to produce more t-shirts faster, but he’s not willing to give you more money to hire new employees. You have two choices: don’t meet his unrealistic expectations or higher children at 1/3 of the price of an adult worker?

These are the decisions you face in the new online game Sweatshop.

Sweatshop is a light-hearted game, but it’s based upon very present realities that many workers around the world contend with each day.

Littleloud and Channel 4 worked with experts on sweatshops to integrate some of these realities into the game design.

In addition, there are numerous facts and figures spread throughout the game, highlighting the plight…

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The Human Narrative bends toward empathy

If I had to narrow the goal of my writing to one thing, it would be empathy.   I try to make my readers feel what I feel or feel what it’s like to be in my subjects’ shoes. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of this video and of Jeremy Rifkin’s book, The Empathic Civilization.

Rifkin traces humans from our early day’s, trying not to be eaten on the African savannas, to modern day, and how we have divided the world into Us and Them.  First it was blood, then tribes, then religions, then nations, and so on.  Our Us continues to expand. It’s with…

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What do Indian call centers think of you?

India call center

“Hello,” the heavily-accented voice on the line said, “this is T-Rex. How can I be of service to you today?”

I was calling about a credit card or maybe my website. I can’t remember for sure, but I needed help and had to place the dreaded call to customer service.

“T-Rex? Your name is T-Rex?”

“Yes, sir, like the dinosaur in Jurassic Park!”

I’m glad he clarified that because I might have thought he was referring to the British band and that would just be weird.

What’s your most memorable chat with India?

Andrew Marantz wrote an amazing piece in Mother Jones about Indian call centers. He actually worked in one!

On training:


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Poverty of Community

I’ve been to some of the most poverty-stricken places on earth, including shanty towns, villages made up of mud huts, dumps where mothers and fathers scavenge alongside their children, and urban slums. What often strikes me the most isn’t what they don’t have, but what they do have: a strong sense of community, much stronger than our sense of community in Muncie, Indiana. Their communities live in abject poverty. We have a poverty of community.

What are you doing to build community?…

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Warning! Flaming Balls!

Happy 4th of July!

My buddy Alex here is pictured standing in front of a 7-foot and $350 box  of artillery.  Yes there’s not much more American than these bombs of patriotism, made in China.

Huge Box of Fireworks

May your day be void of Flaming Balls!


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Dildo or Firework?

Have you ever noticed that the names of fireworks are a little too dildo-like?

I just flipped through an online catalog of fireworks and found the following firework names: Aerial Avalanche, Burst and Bloom, Untamed Retribution, Bada Bing Bada Boom, Komodo 3000, Phantomizer, Bone Breaker, White Knight, Midnight Monsoon.

And the list goes on, but I should probably stop before Annie hollers up and asks what I’m doing. “Oh I’m just trying to find fireworks which have names that sound like dildos. (I’m thankful this is the first time this has ever occurred to me…but is the plural dildos or dildoes?)…

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Arianna Huffington and Glenn Beck agree!

Beck - vs - Huffington

Well, they didn’t actually agree, but they delivered the same message. Arianna wrote about it in a piece titled Post Card From Greece: This Should Not Be About Austerity, But About The Future of Democracy. And Glenn Beck delivered it in his last monologue ever on Fox’s Glenn Beck show.

Arianna Huffington is from Greece. (That’s why she talks funny.) Greece is an interesting place to be from these days, with all the protests, spending cuts, and youth unemployment at 40%. She revisited Greece and writes:

But now people are rushing, quite literally, to reengage in civic life. They want to start fresh and awaken the…

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