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Just thought I should bring a couple things to your attention regarding an October ad campaign that your company is behind for your new, white, PSP model. Now, I am absolutely thrilled that your company is willing to branch out and make products in multiple colors (despite not seeing any valid purpose),  but don’t you think you could have portrayed the ads in a less…I don’t know…HATEFUL way?!?!? Take a look:

There are at least 18 things wrong with this billboard, and I’ll take time to go through a couple, because only complete tactlessness and ineptitude could have been behind the decision to approve this ad.

Before we get into the obvious racist undertones, I’ll first ask why the hell is this man inches away from being strangled? Perhaps you’re implying that the black modeled PSP’s are so shoddy that they’re worthy of physical harm? Shows how much faith you have in your product, sir. How’s this for a tagline: “The Black PSP. Choke one.” Sound good? No? Then why would you portray it visually?

And come on…why is this “pure” white figure conveying a look of utter disgust towards the black one as she’s punishing it? It’s as if she’s feeling justified in causing the poor man harm, perhaps a statement of superiority. Do we really need that horrible depiction? Why are you even portraying that it’s better? Can’t you sell PSP’s by just saying that it’s different? Good lord…

Worst of all, who do you think will be most perceptive to these ads? Do I need to say it? KIDS! You’re imposing this false ideal upon impressionable children in more ways than one that white is somehow superior to black, and most appallingly, you personified that through racial depictions. If this isn’t blatant racism, it’s a sheer lack of creativity and tact that goes all the way up and down your company’s food chain.

Just because you only see things in terms of black and white doesn’t mean that your consumers will.

Sincerely,

Angry (now Non-)Consumer

Not Yet Bored of the Flies

Regrettably, as a teenager, I never read too many novels. My head was usually immersed in music, sports, video games, or the clouds, as many would say. However, despite my non-literary interests, a book that I was assigned to read in 9th grade English class helped me grow in more ways than expected.

So how does a novel attract a laid back, short attention span-ed 14 year-old with no interest in literature? It would have to be fast-paced, straight to the point, and shocking. It’s really no surprise that from the second my teacher assigned the class Lord of the Flies, that I was hooked.

Previously, I had been assigned many flavorless novels and plays that I could never sink my teeth into as a teen. The schools mostly assigned historical non-fiction and mainstream classics, which were all fine pieces of work, but I was simply too young to relate to certain themes or appreciate the subtleties. Lord of the Flies was different. The excitement of uncertainty and dark, foreshadowing overtones are what initially kept the book in my hands, but the underlying themes are what keep my mind from straying too far from it, even years after I’ve read it.

Something that I won’t forget is when I told my Father, a man who I’m convinced has read literally every book known to man, that I had just finished the novel. My Father was an accomplished scholar, and an expert in philosophy, psychology, and theology, and being a teacher, he naturally engaged me in discussion upon hearing this. Together, we discussed how Golding’s novel transcended an exciting plot filled with conflict and thought-provoking character development, and enveloped the reader with allegorical themes such as nature vs. nurture. From there, Dad educated me on the perspectives of Hobbes, who valued society, with quotes such as “Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

The aforementioned quote is not the most agreeable or profound statement in philosophy, but it’s one I’ll always remember, and it’s one I’ll always link to Lord of the Flies. I think the reason it’s had such a deep impact on me is because it’s related to the first novel that truly engaged me. Now, I never look at anything one-dimensionally; every artistic or literary expression will most likely have a deeper, ambiguous meaning that we, as listeners, viewers, readers, and audiences alike can interpret.

Loud, raging festivals are not of rare occurrence these days, but for one to be successful by drawing masses of people, it helps to have a combination of any of the following elements:

1) Alcohol

2) Good food

3) Music

4) Obscure, “semi”-celebrities

5) Offensively colossal contraptions jettisoning projectiles over half of a mile into the stratosphere

When my girlfriend informed me that every November there was an event which incorporated all five of these aspects, I almost hopped in my car immediately to drive to Punkin Chunkin. Punkin Chunkin is a 25 year-old competition-turned-festival that gathers drinking and barbecuing spectators to a massive field that holds a unique competition for bored engineers, mad scientists, and frustrated demolitionists. There, they determine who’s catapult, trebuchet, or cannon (yes, cannon) can hurl a discarded Halloween pumpkin the furthest. After Halloween, I usually just throw my pumpkins in the garbage, but hey, to each his own…

Once the day of launching  came, my group of friends and I drove through the sticks of Delaware, and were introduced to the ridiculousness that would surely continue throughout the day. On the way over, we passed a house with a hand-written advertisement which read “Helicopter rides- 2 for $50”. Surely enough, in his backyard rested the most out-of-context helicopter we had ever seen. When we were approaching the venue, alongside our car was an ATV pulling a wagon full of hay, and sitting on individual bales were what I could only assume was the driver’s family. All I could conclude from this is that there are no laws whatsoever in Delaware.

Once we could set aside the culture shock, we entered a circus of projectile throwing monstrosities, stages of cover bands, and campsites with no shortage of convivial drunks. Amidst the chaos, I made an observation, and then had a conversation which I’m sure was repeated thousands of times throughout the day:

Me:  Hey, look, on that hydraulic lift up there!

Friend: Who is that?

Me: It’s the dude from Mythbusters!

Friend: Which one?

Me: I don’t know, the flamboyant, quirky one?

Friend: Which one?

Me : The one with the facial hair.

Friend: Which one?

Me: The one that doesn’t wear a beret.

Friend: Oh yeah! That guy.

So, who we later determined to be Adam Savage the Discover Channel’s Mythbusters had made a public appearance at Punkin Chunkin, and sparked a world of buzz among some 40,000 attendees. It made me think about how great the impact can be from the presence of one appropriately placed B-list celebrity. If only 10% of the people had even mentioned Adam to one non-attending friend, then that is 4,000 new people made aware of Punkin Chunkin. I, for example, have told numerous friends of my ridiculous experience, and am blogging about it for anyone to see. If the first step to growth is awareness, then Punkin Chunkin continues to grow exponentially, mostly via word of mouth. Because there are few events like this, I can absolutely see Punkin Chunkin reaching further levels of immense success.

By now, you have undoubtedly seen this groundbreaking ad. But just in case you’re not responsible for one of the 23 million views this has had on YouTube alone, then click below:

Old Spice has revolutionized the advertising world with this widely recognized series of manly commercials. The widely received campaign has not only garnered huge reactions from television ads, but has had success virally as well. Old Spice took their campaign to the next level by engaging fans via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The moderators of their Facebook page assume the personality of the now famous Old Spice spokesperson, and update statuses frequently in his unmistakable, outlandish, tone.

That wasn’t all though. Old Spice quickly and hilariously responded to user comments from their pages with video replies starring said spokesperson. My personal favorite is this one, where a commenter has a monumental favor to ask:

I really hope that girl said yes. But wedding bells or not, Old Spice’s viral campaign continued to grow by appealing to niche crowds as well as the masses. They employed the cult comedy team Tim and Eric to direct a series of absurd, viral commercials. Again, the ads were well-received.

It didn’t stop there, either. Another branch off of this constantly growing idea tree extended when they hired future NFL hall-of-famer Ray Lewis to do a series of television commercials. The most notable is one where he delivers his pitch, crawls out a window, and onto a rocket-powered raven that flies away and blows up Saturn using lasers from its eyes. Now, on Facebook, fans can send in pictures of themselves that will be photo-shopped onto the planet-destroying bird.

All in all, we’re enjoying wildly entertaining and unique advertisements that continue to obtain massive success. And if any out there disagree, I will remind you that this is a company that makes deodorant. A company that sells a product that you wipe onto your armpits has captivated millions of viewers with a campaign that has no bounds. And with that in mind, I will leave you with this:

My life, according to Disney

I love my niece, Maria. I love babysitting her, too. What I don’t love, is babysitting her when she’s exhausted. She’s quite busy for a nine-year-old, so this occurs with alarming frequency. When she’s tired, she just wants to zone out to the Disney channel. She zones out, while I attempt to tune it out.

Then, Miley Cyrus squawks an annoying melody through the speakers. “YEAAAAAAAHHHHH IT’S A PARTY IN THE USA!!!!”

Despite my best efforts, my eyes slowly and dreadfully ascend from my computer to the TV screen. A girl who looks no older than 15 is convulsing and yelping a song beneath 58 pounds of makeup, and has garnered every bit of attention from my niece. This might be the most disturbing scene I’ve observed all month. And that month includes me seeing the new Jackass movie in 3-D.

When did Disney become MTV for third graders? Why do third graders NEED an MTV? Perhaps it derives from a child’s fascination with adolescence, and wanting to adhere to teenage trends. Hopefully, I can extrapolate this progression, and she’ll be a responsible adult by age 14. But, the likelihood, is that most of society will wind up elongating their teenage years from ages 9 through 29. *Sigh*

Is Disney passively trying to make this new generation of children grow up too quickly? Did they do that to me? Not to my knowledge. When I was nine, I was immersed in movies like Toy Story, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Disney didn’t necessarily preach the same culture as it is today, but it could have been just as misleading.

According to Disney, my life will probably be defined by a coming-of-age archetypal journey to either reclaim what has been unjustly revoked from me, or to rescue a woman in distress for my own personal benefit. I’ll more often than not be betrayed by someone in my extended family, i.e., a wicked stepmother, or a flamboyant and power-hungry uncle. Accompanying me on this journey will be one or two buffoons of best friends who will usually have nothing to offer but clever one-liners and catch phrases, most-likely spouted during a comical chase scene, or preceding a musical montage to portray my preparation for a momentous event.

 

(I’m actually quite frightened at how accurately the last statement parallels my life…)

Can you imagine if I was a woman brought up in this culture? If I took Disney plots seriously, I would have to wait all the way until they made Mulan to understand that my life could have a purpose other than being a damsel in distress. Forget about taking my problems into my own hands, because if I wait around long enough, a prince will come and rescue me and take care of everything. His mere presence will erase everything that I had endured prior to his arrival. As a man, is that really what’s expected of me according to Disney? To assume the responsibility of other people and to not have them correctly address their own fate? What is this?

One of the few redeeming aspects is that other people are receptive to these trends. Please note that while I may not agree with every point the article I hyperlinked makes, but I find it encouraging that not everyone blindly accepts ideals that we’re subjected to.

I’m staring disappointingly at the TV screen, but shake it off. Disney is not imposing anything onto us. As long as we have the remote control in our hands and as long as it is up to us to take the initiative to buy movie tickets, we cannot fault anyone for producing something that we don’t necessarily agree with. Put the responsibility of shaping children in the hands of the parents, not the media. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to watch.

All that said, we could use more movies like Up and Wall-E. Just saying…

With each passing year, millions of tech-savvy and efficiency-obsessed Americans demand and obtain closer glances into the future.

This is one of those glances. This is the future of journalism.

Hear me out…

150 million people use social networking sites. Baroness Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford, fears over-usage will harm attention spans.

These sites provide means of keeping in touch with friends by sharing photos, posting links, and concisely (and constantly) updating statuses.

Twitter, the fastest-growing of all of these sites, has over 190 million users, and updates them in “tweets” never exceeding 140 characters.

Many of these Twitter accounts act as extensions of other media companies, who use Twitter as an effective means to relay information.

With the possibility of having a society with a severely reduced attention span, who’s to say that all journalism won’t be condensed to blurbs?

Will a society that seems more concerned about headlines instead of articles finally get their way?

Will we lose valuable personal interaction skills to the point where “word-of-mouth” becomes virtually obsolete?

Americans are already so bored of bipartisan coverage of internal and world issues, that we only want “news” if it’s entertaining or shocking.

Try to find a general American news outlet that wouldn’t cover a juicy celebrity scandal, and dare say that it is not an important issue.

Try to find a neutral debate show that doesn’t have two opponents trying to out-scream each other.

USA Today is one of America’s most popular newspapers. I’m convinced it has more pictures than text.

Would you rather read books, or cliff notes?

Hear speeches, or sound-bytes?

Do we want the whole story, or what we want to hear?


You can use this article as a test run. Every paragraph meets the 140 character limit of a “tweet.” How do you feel?

Informed? Efficient? Interested?

…Dizzy?

This is not a lament about social networking sites. This is a lament about the deteriorating quality of American journalism.

This is a lament about the people that stopped reading this article after 140 characters.

And if the media only aim to give the public what it wants, where then, does the true responsibility lie?

Read into this article closely.

Closer…

CLOSER…

So close that you can actually see your reflection in the computer screen.

Now in more than 140 characters, decide where to get your facts.



“You want the NFL? GO to the NFL”

For just about every week in August and September, commercials with this tag-line uttered by a raspy, bellowing voice that sounded like a poor man’s James Earl Jones would impose itself in the middle of just about every sports-related telecast I’d watch. GO to the NFL? Did I really have to? It seems like the NFL will GO to me. Between Twitter, Facebook, the radio, VH1 reality shows, billboard ads, blogs, cereal boxes, newspapers, television, and restaurants named after football stars, I don’t really have much of a choice but to GO to the NFL whether I want it or not.

But do I want it? Yeah…yeah, I do.

Needless to say, I GO-ed to the NFL. The first day of football games provided tons of events and excitement that I couldn’t keep track of by only watching one game. I logged into the overly advertised NFL Game Center, which is a web-page that gives play-by-play updates of every game you want to follow, and compliments it with video highlights, game statistics, and a comment box for discussion. After the game is finished, the page looks like this example.  Related videos such as post-game press conferences and game analysis are added as well.

If football is an addiction, then this website is the opposite of rehab. Just about every media use is included right within the confines of one page.  It not only gives you all the information you could possibly want out of the game, but it does it by automatically refreshing itself after every play, saving you the arduous task of clicking a button. It surveys over an event we otherwise have no means of watching, and allows us to discuss it with other fans, providing us with hours of potentially entertaining distractions.

The Game Center function is a great addition to any fan’s Sunday afternoon, but it is far from perfect. If people only want to know the simplest summation of a football game, namely the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where”, then this site is perfect. However, if one wanted the true essence, the “how” or “why”, then this does not provide a great substitute for sitting in front of a TV set. Game Center attemtps to solve this problem by offering video highlights as the game goes on, but they’re few in number, and never in a timely fashion.

There is potential for intelligent discussion in the comment box they provide, but it’s typically polluted with nonsensical trash talk or ignorantly biased interpretations of statistics or plays, usually laden with numerous spelling and grammatical errors. These are posts that are probably written by people that look like this:

Fans sometimes need to rely on other fans for an accurate depiction of a game, but the NFL seems to care more about allowing anyone a voice rather than just civilized people. More filters and moderation of the chat-boxes would be a great improvement.

 

That being said, all of these subtle imperfections is great news for the NFL. Their Game Center is not perfect, but the fact that there are people (sad ones like myself) who have an insatiable appetite for the content they provide, must speak worlds about what they are doing perfectly. They continue to reap the success of putting their seal on America’s most popular sport by being the most profitable sports league. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy a bowl of Ochocinc-O’s. Yes, they do exist unfortunately…

 

 

We’re all creatures of habit. Every person. We pour ourselves cups of coffee in the morning, we put half of our paychecks into our savings, and we procrastinate. We also turn on the radio in the car, gather the newspaper in our slippers and robes, and get distracted by the internet when all we’re trying to do is write a blog for a mass-communications course (we bloggers can develop poor habits ourselves)!

We can speculate when, why, or how our inherent need to stay connected comes second nature to us, or even how the first three habits I listed could be the direct result of the media as well. But in order to really answer all of those questions, we need a firm assessment of our current situation. Are we really subjected to a media overload? I decided to find out from a personal standpoint.

For two days, I wrote down every medium I came in contact with. I wasn’t surprised by what I found.

As soon as my 6am alarm went off, I was greeted with a warm (but LOUD and IMPOSING for 6am) song by James Taylor thanks to my clock/radio. Even before I was conscious, I had been invaded by the media. This was off to a pretty interesting start. As I’m driving to school, I pass by what seemed like 30,000 campaign signs. One would think, that when one takes back roads to avoid traffic, that one would not come in much contact with the media. Not the case in an election year…

But now that I was awake and even more alert to scope out examples of the media, things were coming at me left and right. I arrived at Towson, a town that normally looks just like this:

But with my senses focused, Towson at 7am looked something like THIS:

A bit of an exaggeration, I know, but it’s amazingly strange what your mind does when it’s focused. A handful of Clear Channel billboards jumped out at me at Towson Circle. Signs for restaurant and bar specials bombarded me at every traffic light (It is no wonder there are so many car accidents in city settings). Bumper stickers on cars in front of me did everything from advertising Ron’s Surf Shop to telling me all about their honor student. Informative . All of this commotion even has its own soundtrack, as a blend of indie rock, sports talk, and obnoxious advertisements blare through my radio. Nursing a headache, I finally park my car, walk to class, and briefly acknowledge all of the bulletin board announcements and sidewalk chalk ads I pass on my way to Van Bokkelen Hall.

After classes, it was time to work. I passed by all the same blizzard of distractions, and safely clocked in at Bill Bateman’s Bistro in Parkville. For the next six hours, I was subjected to a classic rock satellite radio station, and 16 televisions, each broadcasting  a different sports network. Just when I think there couldn’t be any more impositions, my phone vibrates about a bakers’ dozen times with all the text messages I missed while I was in class. I of course respond when the tables I’m waiting on are satisfied for the moment. All of this continues until I punch out, tired, and a little richer.

The drive home is uneventful. The same radio station lets my brain zone out, and the billboards and campaign posters are not as noticeable at night on these roads. I get home, and immediately check my email, facebook, fantasy football teams, blackboard, and the list goes on. All the while, I feel the need to have a secondary distraction to all of that, so I turn on the TV. For about the next three hours, as I’m studying, doing my homework, talking to friends, and responding to emails, my mind is inadvertently responding both positively and negatively to infinite tidbits of news stories, advertisements, and social commentary. Well, after hearing everyone else’s, here’s my take:

Unless you want to move out of your neighborhood, and into a tent deep in the woods with only food, water, and clothing, you will not avoid the media. And unless you despise everything it stands for, you’ll find yourself wanting to satiate your habits of being on the computer, talking and texting on the phone, or even driving by that same obnoxious billboard with that same annoying PSA. We’ve adopted media, and media made us adapt.

As soon as my homework’s done, I’m extremely tired. I attempt to watch a full episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but fail. Maybe my mind just can’t take anymore media today. Hopefully tomorrow goes a little bit easier on me, but I soon found out that it was exactly the same. I’m staying at my Dad’s house tonight, and there isn’t an extra alarm clock. With the power of Google, I bring up onlineclock.net and set it for 6am. I shrug, laugh to myself, and pull the covers over my head.

The (attempted) Media Boycott

“NO TV, NO INTERNET, AND NO MUSIC UNTIL YOUR HOMEWORK’S DONE!!!”

Who’s heard this before? If this was properly enforced in my house when I was growing up, this was by far the most useful method my parents used to get me to shut up and get my homework done. Fast-forward a few years later, and I’m hearing my sister barking this same order to her 10 year old daughter.  But to so many  parents in this time, the question that rises is “How do we enforce this?” How can we deprive someone of something that’s practically unavoidable? In this day and age, it’s almost like saying “Don’t breathe the air until your homework is done.”

For her to truly be able to obey her order, she would either have to be in an empty room with boarded up windows, or finish her homework within the next 30 seconds. I’m sitting right in the next room, and take this dilemma a step further.

Could I, or anyone, really avoid the media?

My eyes dart back and forth to assess my situation. It’s Sunday. My Holy Day. And by that, I mean, Football Day. The TV is blaring with a clamorous cacophony of crowd chants, bruising hits, and the unbearably horrible commentary of Troy Aikman. My lap is actually sweating from the computer overheating in my lap, and my phone is right next to my hand, primed and ready for texting my friends all the trash talk I need to spout for the day.

I just watched THIS play, and I’m talking about wanting to avoid the media?

I couldn’t even finish the aforementioned question in my head without three types of media interrupting my thought process. How was this going to work?

I needed to use my computer to do homework, so I couldn’t completely avoid using that. I didn’t really have to watch television, so that was a possibility. My family is amidst a bit of an emergency situation, so my phone had to stay on. But what to make of all the signs, billboards, music, and headlines that seem to inevitably find everyone?

Knowing that most of this would be impossible, I sought out to control as much as I could. I normally wake up to the sounds of 89.7 WTMD. The first morning of my media boycott, I woke up to the monotonous buzz of an ancient alarm clock. My eyes were fixated on the road more than usual during my morning commute, in an attempt to block out all the billboards and campaign signs(By the way, avoiding the media in an election year is not the easiest task). Also, how boring would you think driving without the radio is? Well, the answer is, EXTREMELY. I can answer that question on non-hypothetical terms now. Don’t take your car-radio for granted, people.

The afternoon and evening did not provide any easier situations. Walking to and from classes on a college campus with music blaring and bulletin boards around every corner are not prime conditions to avoid the media. I couldn’t even look at the ground without seeing an advertisement in chalk screaming “COME SEE FOOLS AND HORSES CD RELEASE SHOW AT THE RECHER THEATRE 10/1,” or something like that. Hmm, maybe I will go and see that. I’m not really a fan of them, but my friends band is opening that show, and…

..And now, I’m feeling extremely defeated. Not only is it almost impossible to live a normal day without being subjected to the media, but it’s also very difficult without being sucked in entirely.

Shaking my head, I walk to my car. It’s time for work. At a sports bar. Well…maybe I won’t look at the TV’s at all today.

Maybe.