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September 07, 2005 - Image 29

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-07

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COMMENTARY

The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005 - 7B

When (and why) will it end?

ZAC PESKOWITZ THE LOWER FREQUENCIES

OCTOBER 14,2004

"If something cannot go on for-
ever, it will stop."
- Stein's Law as postulated
by Herbert Stein, the late chair-
man of the Council of Economic
Advisers.

or those of us who don't fol-
low the vicissitudes of the
fashion world, the Lance
Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet is
the most highly visible trend in apparel. More than
8 million of the bracelets, which retail for $1 a piece
with the proceeds going to the Lance Armstrong
Foundation, have been sold, and the University com-
munity is certainly responsible for a disproportion-
ate share of those sales. The bracelets make a great
case study in the adoption of social trends, and their
popularity raises a dilemma that most commentators
have ignored: When will we reach the other tipping
point? Namely, when will people stop wearing the
seemingly ubiquitous bracelets?
Giving up on the LiveStrong bracelet isn't exactly
as simple as switching in your pair of UGG winter
boots for the comforts of spring's flip-flops. The
bracelets bill themselves as a symbol for deep val-
ues, and merely giving up on them would suggest
callousness to the plight of cancer survivors. For
most causes celebres that generate an apparel-based
sign of support there is a tangible sign that a wrong
has been remedied and the symbol can be dropped.

A war ends. A political prisoner is freed. A corpo-
rate tax bill is vetoed, etc. If Emile Zola had asked
the dreyfusards to wear pins featuring a drawing of
Devil's Island they would have known to end their
effort when Dreyfus was eventually pardoned by the
French government. Of course, cancer isn't going
away within any of our time horizons despite the best
efforts of groups like the Lance Armstrong Founda-
tion. So are we obliged to wear them ad infinitum?
The first and most pressing concern is olfactory in
origin. It's true that the LiveStrong bracelet is made
of 100 percent synthetic silicon rubber and unlike,
to give an example, a hemp lanyard, the LiveStrong
bracelet is less susceptible to this fetid threat. But
while the stench threshold of the LiveStrong bracelet
is substantially higher than in the case of other, less
synthetic wristwear, it is nonetheless an unavoid-
able reality. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow
but someday soon a foul cloud of odor will hover
around everyone still wearing their bracelets. From
a social welfare perspective, continuing to wear the
bracelets after this fail-safe date would be simply
disastrous.
Fortunately, the Michigan winter provides an
excellent, low-cost escape opportunity. As soon as
the bitter cold mandates the donning of long-sleeved
shirts and bulky coats the bracelet can be tastefully,
and unnoticeably, removed. Six months later, when
you can once again allow your wrists to be exposed
to open air without fear of frostbite, the bracelets
will be gone and no one will be the wiser about this

abandonment of principle.
The accumulation of debris and body odor clear-
ly presents an insuperable barrier to the perpetual
popularity of the bracelets, but there are other con-
siderations that suggest the bracelets may have to be
thrown off before nature works its noisome course.
Obviously, no one wears them for social acceptance
or to get a hot date - that would be wrong and self-
interested and all the things that the Lance Arm-
strong Foundation stands against. But let's just make
the highly speculative assumption that there are
actually some people depraved enough to wear the
bracelets for conformity pressures. So while seeing
that Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Bono, Angelina Jolie
and John Kerry were all wearing the bracelet might
have encouraged some people to go to their nearest
Niketown, plop down a dollar and do their part in the
fight against cancer, seeing that the googly-eyed kid
in your stats lecture wears one might not result in the
same behavioral response. Actually, market research
has definitively shown that no one has purchased one
of the bracelets because of John Kerry.
But the greatest obstacle of all remains the one
first articulated by the great, self-loathing Groucho
Marx. "I don't want to belong to any club that will
accept me as a member." Eventually and despite our
best efforts, we are all forced to accede to the logic
of this tragic conclusion.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
OCTOBER 20, 2004
Peskowitz should attack a less honor-
able 'fad' than LiveStrong bracelets
TO THE DAILY:
In his article on Oct. 14, When (and why) will it end?, Zac Peskow-
itz attacks the "fad" of wearing the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong
bracelets. It's a $1 rubber bracelet that has raised millions of dollars
for cancer research. Not only have they raised millions of dollars,
these little yellow bracelets have raised awareness about what is
probably one of the most uncontroversial charitable causes: cancer.
If Peskowitz is so against fads, I suggest he write an article criti-
cizing something that is not doing anyone any good. Perhaps he
could attack the very UGG boots he mentions in his article. Leave
the little rubber bracelet that is doing so much good alone. One of
Peskowitz's main arguments against the bracelets is that they may
one day give off a "foul cloud of odor." I doubt that rubber bracelets
will ever give off such an odor, but maybe it would be good if they
did. Then everyone who has been wearing a bracelet can go out
and buy another one, raising another $12 million dollars for cancer
research. As for the celebs that Peskowitz has noted have submitted
to the "conformity" of wearing the bracelets, I think it is amazing.
These people could go out and buy themselves diamond bracelets,
but instead they're sporting yellow rubber in support of an impor-
tant cause. I personally do not care if the $1 for the bracelets comes
from John Kerry, Peskowitz or anyone else, or what their reasons
are for buying the bracelets. It is one more dollar going to fight
cancer.
I am very moved by the show of support the yellow bracelets
have created for cancer victims and survivors. Shame on you Pes-
kowitz, go pick on a fad that deserves it.
Stacy Dodd
LSA senior
The letter writer is the president of Students Against Cancer.

Peskowtiz can be reached at
zpeskowi@umich.edu.

314 E.
Arbor,
734-66

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