Jeff Trexler: September 2008 Archives
Paul Kedrosky finds the perfect image for the current economic state of affairs:
"If it feels to people a little like Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football, that's because it should. Too bad we're all the football."
"I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
So said Adam Smith, and John Montgomery agrees.
One thing the announced remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space cannot match: the fact that the original production was a social enterprise. As Tim Burton's Ed Wood memorably portrays, the film was an investment vehicle for the Baptist Church of Beverly Hills. Pastor Lynn Lemon appears as the reverend presiding over the funeral of wrestler Tor Johnson.
That's the title of this Flickr pic of a Denver donation meter. The principle is simple: put in money and a charity will give a homeless person shelter for a proportional period of time, after which they're kicked back on the streets.
OK, so that's not how it really works. If you want to learn more about that, check out Weird Universe.
Every time I see this commercial, I wonder what could have prompted the people to sing and dance with such exuberance. Do they know that once the commercial is over they will disappear forever? No more continuity--they're just gone.
And then today I noticed the leap, like the leap of Butch and Sundance, and I figured, hey, that's they answer. It begins with the question of life--"What next?" They know, and so they sing, embracing the leap into the endless dark. It's Sartre with slot machines.
Y'know, I really need to get out of the apartment today.
Folks who know me personally--which now includes you if you read this site, 'cuz honestly, I say much more here than in the so-called real world--know that I'm originally from Pennsylvania's Amish country. The area has a rich visual culture, which may be one reason why some rather famous illustrators (e.g., Haring, Steranko, Kidd) emerged from the region or its more-or-less urban environs.
Adaptation to new media without losing one's integrity is another longstanding cultural preoccupation, which no doubt shaped my own teaching and research. To answer a question I've been asked lots of times, devout Amish have figured out how to have electricity, ride in cars and even access the internet while remaining for the most part off-the-grid.
Below: you too can learn Pennsylvania German on Amish Country TV:
Wilson Bryan Key argued that advertisers embed skulls and other imagery of death in marketing because images of death grab our attention.
If he had stopped writing books on subliminal ads and gone into marketing skull designs, he would not be a footnote in ad criticism history. He'd be one of the wealthiest people on Earth.
"I don't know what was so "Great" about the Depression, but that's the name they give it."
Having spent part of this morning in Time Warner 10-Qs--quarterly statements filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission--thanks to the Superman Homepage, I decided to continue the theme by taking a granular look at the market response to the House rejection of the bailout plan.
The tech news is a bit scary, though mixed, but as a comics-watcher I had to look at Marvel Entertainment as well. Right now the fall in its 4-5% drop in stock price pretty much tracks the % drop in the major indices.
An apt observation from Free Exchange, an Economist blog:
It is also remarkable that the issues were framed and debated by Americaâ€™s leading economists almost exclusively online. No elaborate committee reports. No think tank publications. Even the questions at the Senate Banking Committee hearings were influenced by the online commentary. When the historians go back to suss out the billâ€™s genesis, they will have to devote significant time to a virtual exchange of ideas.
For years I've read about how the free market is amoral. Profit is its only value.
But as sexblogger Audacia Ray has learned, this isn't exactly true. Teaching people about diverse aspects of sexual identity is apparently too hot for the web, as evidenced by the cancellation of her Paypal, iTunes and Google Checkout accounts.
Sex in the Public Square recounts the story so far and makes a key point: by cutting off the most accessible means of revenue generation by a microenterprise, these virtuous vendors help create a web environment in which the only sustainable sex-related presence is raw corporate porn.
For years, we've heard about the near-mystical virtues of a "free market," and we keep on finding out that it's not that free; the Internet was sold to us as an "information superhighway," only to discover how easily toll booths and road blocks can be built, rendering it as mobile as the 405 near West Hollywood on a Friday afternoon. The smaller our public space becomes, the more restricted the channels for distribution come, the more we're reduced to passive listeners with no voice of our own.
First draft: 3 pages.
Final (perhaps): 110.
Nominal oversight, limits on executive compensation, a change in the tax treatment of preferred stock that will upset a bunch of folks.
But still no free ice cream and cake for everyone.
Today conservative pastors around the country are endorsing political candidates in an effort to have the 501(c)(3) ban on political campaigning declared unconstitutional. The group behind it--the Alliance Defense Fund--says that it will sue the IRS if action is taken against the offending churches.
That's nice, but in my not-so-humble opinion it's a waste of time, money & peace of mind.
A case from The Year 2000--Branch Ministries v. Rossotti--illustrates why. As that opinion notes, the Supreme Court has stated that having to pay tax is not a constitutionally significant burden on religious freedom. First Amendment freedoms do not necessarily entail a freedom from taxation, and churches, like other charities, have a legal right to form tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations that the tax code allows to campaign.
Again, as I said in a comment to my Twitter and politics post, I think the prohibition on campaigning is lame for a range of infallible super-smart reasons with which I know everyone would agree. I'm also well aware that one could argue the prohibition is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, inasmuch as it privileges apolitical churches over those for whom political endorsements are integral to their message.
But others have tried and died while attempting to climb this particular mountain, and my guess is that this initiative won't get existing precedent overturned. Of course, the composition of the court has changed quite a bit in recent years, so I'm not putting any money down in Vegas.
Art Lebedev's Fuck The Rain umbrella takes McLuhan's media-as-an-extension-of-the-self to its logical extreme. The umbrella does not merely extend our arms and skin; it expresses our frustration with having to need this covering in the first place.
Perfect for wet weekends when you have to go to work!
As if Sex and the City tours weren't enough, the Washington Post provides this tour guide to New York sites featured in Mad Men.
New York is doomed.
Above: A Beautiful Mine, by RJD2, the source of the Mad Men opening credits theme.
The Flatiron Building, 1917: a United Cigar Store becomes a United States military recruiting site, complete with gun turrets.
Freud, who would have known what to make of this, was 61 years old.
Now the Flatiron corner is a Sprint shop.
Freud is dead.
A fascinating article in the NY Times this morning about technology and the NCAA. Things that stand out:
- the bylaw prohibition on info tech during games (interpreted not to include headphones)
- the contrast between the field info environment and the rest of the team's IT
- the stopper: concern that allowing tech during games would exacerbate the gap between rich universities and the rest
Art Clokey's brilliant USC student film. As related in the Emmy-winning documentary Gumby Dharma, a Warner Brothers producer saw it and asked Art if he could create a clay-based character that would improve the quality of children's television.
After interacting with folks today re Twitter and politics, I figured I'd spend a few minutes on my break writing up a few professional networky things I've noticed while playing with social networks. These cut across gigs--not limited to SE--and include my experience working with my students, who have been great in helping to figure out what works and what doesn't.
- The first thing that comes to mind is that professional network has both internal and external components. Although we tend to focus on using social networking sites to connect with people outside one's current place of work, within an organization introducing useful tools can be an invaluable means of establishing one's value to others and the group. That's why my first couple comments in Beth's thread focused on internal networking.
- As I noted in that thread, maintaining a healthy signal-to-noise ratio can be key to keeping & attracting followers.
For folks like Beth or Robert Scoble maintaining constant contact strengthens the signal--their value added is engaging this stuff all the time, and stuff they send trends significantly toward the useful or positive connecting. Folks who try to mimic this by twittering every insignificant action every frickin' minute of the day--it's like weird jello molds or 1960s Swanson TV dinners, more a response to new tech than something genuinely enticing.
- RSS feeds based on keyword searches are a great way to find & connect to engaging new people.
- Because short is the norm on Twitter, it's a much more user-friendly way to ping people periodically than, say, email. Especially for a Mr. Roboto like me, who writes more comfortably when imagining that no one will ever read it.
In keeping with my happy-go-lucky up-with-people spirit, I'm reading A.M. Sakolski's 1932 classic, The Great American Land Bubble.
Plus ca change and all that.
It's an engaging if depressing read, and sometimes bets that looked busts in 1932 turned out to be quite prescient. Yet the central lesson about our proclivity for empty speculative land investments is remains at least a little relevant, no?
A few choice quotes:
America, from its inception, was a speculation. . . .
Much of this soil has again become the resourceless property of the state authorities, since the private owners have been surrendering them one after another . . . .
Such is the story of the . . . latest phase in a long series of cycles of land gambling and town jobbing, which has marked American business annals almost from the time of Columbus to the present day.
The final outcome is still in the lap of the gods!
Earlier today I explained how the 501(c)(3) prohibition on political campaigning had implications for Twitter, Facebook and other social networking by and for charities. In my class Wednesday we talked about candidate debates hosted by charities and the importance of maintaining a nonpartisan appearance. Below, Frank J. Fahrenkopf of the Presidential Debates Commission notes that this would have lead to the cancellation of the debates should only Obama have shown up.
One effect of online social networking technology is that it intensifies the environment that Marshall McLuhan called "all-at-onceness." Old divisions fall away--near and far, high and low, word vs. picture--in favor of composition.
Part of this integrative process is the fusion of the personal and professional. Topics that were once taboo in polite conversation--money, religion, politics--are now a salient feature of the connected self.
In most respects I have no problem with this. I see myself primarily as a Watcher when it comes to organizational technology--I'm interested in seeing what happens but have little to no personal stake in any particular tool.
But there's something going on that's gotta stop.
Namely, political campaigning in social networking accounts connected to 501(c)(3) organizations.
Here's the problem. Section 501(c)(3) prohibits charities from intervening in political campaigns, either for or against a candidate. The prohibition is absolute; if the IRS so decides it's one strike and yer out.
Yet if you pay careful attention to charitable Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, message boards and other social media, you can find any number of accounts associated with 501(c)(3) managers also being used to tout Obama, slam Palin, raise funds for a political party and so forth.
Sure, a person can express political preferences and still be involved with charity--so long as the proper distinctions are made. But in many cases that's not what's happening.
Here are a few things I've noticed recently.
A Twitter account promoting a charity slips in news of a fun fundraiser targeted at defeating a particular candidate.
The Facebook account of a program manager also incorporates campaign fundraising widgets and promotions for upcoming rallies.
A charity message board explores how members can leverage its resources to help a campaign.
For obvious reasons I'm not linking to any of this stuff. At the very least the integration of the political and professional provides grist for critics to call negative attention to a charity; at worst, it could provide grounds for the IRS to revoke a charity's exemption. This is why a number of charities with anxious lawyers maintain a strict ban on political campaigning by employees at work, on charity tech or utilizing the charity's email.
Particularly if you're a charity manager (i.e., officer or board member), you should maintain a firewall between accounts that promote your charity and those in which you advocate for your personal political preference. For example, a personal profile that identifies you as a charity's manager, lists the charity's website as yours and provides an email address that resolves at the charity's domain could be cited as grounds for concluding that the account is an extension of the charity, especially if the account is being used to promote it.
Again, charity managers are as individuals allowed to support and oppose political candidates. At the very least, take clear steps to establish that an account is personal and that you're not speaking in your capacity as an organizational representative.
Clumsy, artificial, against the unifying spirit of the web--yep, I agree with that, and more. But the IRS has made clear that the same rules that apply in the real world also apply on the web, as any group that has been audited for its page links can affirm--and even if the IRS doesn't come after your charity, your charity might come after you.
OK, this makes my day: a new comic featuring Jerome Kerviel, whose sham trading cost a leading French bank over 7 billion dollars. The book sparked so many orders that it has been pulled from Amazon until more copies can be printed.
The story of Mr. Kerviel - a native of Brittany, who rose through the ranks to SociÃ©tÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale's trading floor without having attended any of France's elite schools - has made the 31-year-old a folk hero for many in France.
The pseudo-diary of Mr. Kerviel was written by an author who goes by the pen-name Lorentz and illustrated by Nicolas Million. The book starts with Mr. Kerviel as a young man at the bank, conscious of his humble origins as he compares his "three-button polyester suit" with the haute couture of his co-workers, saying, "I was all wrong."
It chronicles his rise to trader, showing him coming home to frozen dinners and renting Casino on DVD. As he begins trading beyond authorized limits, he takes his cues from random signs, like his concierge's observations about the weather or his horoscope in TV Guide. He mocks the bank's risk controls, fooling managers with a fake trade approval by photocopying a note onto German central bank letterhead.
Here's a pic from the train platform on my way back from class last night.
It's an example of the negation marketing strategy I noted yesterday. The aim of the campaign is to emphasize the ways the airline is not a business--it has people devoted to positive change, not flight attendants; people who deserve a caring environment, not passengers; et cetera et cetera et cetera.
In the nineties and earlier 2000s there were certain marketing advantages for nonprofits to emphasize that they weren't so-called traditional nonprofits--a bogeyman in many respects, akin to Brand X--but in other environments this same message can have substantial disadvantages.
Like I said yesterday, mastery of negative space is art. The McCain strategem is an example of how hard it can be--the "not campaigning" gesture would have been a heckuva lot more powerful if it had been made earlier and if McC & co. would have also canceled other interviews besides Letterman.
It's like what happened when Red Cross imagery focused on Ground Zero but 9/11 donations got channeled to infrastructure--the inconsistent gesture became much more conspicuous.
So I'm sitting here at Barnes & Noble looking at some books in connection with my research, and straight across from me I notice, amidst a bunch of books on hacking, this book on IT Auditing, one of whose authors is the founder of InfoDefense. What jumps out, of course, is the reference to Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations.
We started to look at law, IT and nonprofit management in my class last night, and this book has reinforced the topic's importance. It covers not just SOX, but the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, HIPAA, state-law privacy rules, international law and standards organizations.
Welcome to my world. It's like I said to my class last night--when you wake up to how many legal landmines are out there, it's enough to make you want to pull the covers back over your head.
Scott Berkun: "I know for sure my great grandparents would never have made it through this - Instead of being here writing this, I, like they were, would probably be a peasant farmer somewhere in Eastern Europe."
Sometimes the most effective political strategy is withdraw from politics.
Commercial marketers excel at this. They learned long ago that you can sell more of your product by shifting attention away from the rhetoric of commerce and commodity.
Nonprofits should pay attention. Particularly in today's market blowback, you can be a more effective social entrepreneur by diverting attention from entrepreneurial rhetoric.
It's the subject of my article on nonprofit design. Some folks in the social enterprise community misinterpret my argument as a call for the elimination of market strategy from the nonprofit realm. That's not the point--my focus is attention management in identity design, which is quite a different thing.
Done well, you can maximize revenue and organizational efficiency by getting folks to see you as noncommercial & humane. It's an art--and as in any art, the key is to learn how to utilize negative space.
Now via the Contra Costa Times we have news of a fundraiser that attempts to do the same thing, albeit in a way that may be less evident.
The Naked Clown Calendar.
Again, lots of organizations are doing naked calendars, but for most it's nothing more than ersatz trendhopping. What makes the clown calendar work is the way it plays on human responses to transformation and disguise.
The creation of an alternate self through alterations in appearance and exaggerated motion inspires laughter, fear, unease . . . . As the calendar's creators explain, the naked clown calendar plays with these responses even further by reversing expectations of the norm:
"Our goal was to create this sort of craziness in your mind," says Chad Benjamin Potter, the lead clown on the project. "When you think of clowns you think of costumes and makeup and hair. When you think naked clowns, that's something else entirely."
The calendar benefits an MS charity--a disease suffered by the clown school's co-founder, and one that affects physical coordination central to clowning--as well funds scholarships for folks interested in the circus arts.
Last night I gave a brief chat re the implications of the market crash for the social entrepreneurship mantra of adopting business models. I'll provide the core points here via podcast or something later; gotta prep for class tonight.
Until then, this post on Philanthropy.com captures the response of many within the philanthropic community. Well worth noting whatever your personal commitments.
Mark Federman has a useful roundup on McLuhan on art.
As for the post's political point, I'm utterly ignorant of the issues in Canadian politics, but one response that comes to mind is to wonder whether government-subsidized art is truly a counter-environment or a mediated co-option of a counter-environment by the Emperor. The radical goes numb, the way The Rite of Spring has gone from riot-inducing to sleep-inducing at major metropolitan symphonies. Just asking!
The book above: Federman's McLuhan for Managers, which is excellent. Buy it, read it, live it.
Y'know, I've been in the do-gooder biz for a long time and done a lot of things that folks will never see. Nature of my gig, really--like I used to say in law school, there are people who save the world and there are people who do the taxes of the people who save the world, and I'm in the latter camp.
But every so often I see things that make me think, dayum, wouldn't it be cool to be in the former!
Last night was one--we co-hosted the annual social innovation awards with Americans for Informed Democracy. Great awardees and speakers, not including me--Ashoka's Bill Drayton, Kiva's Premal Shah, Justin Rockefeller of GenerationEngage, you get the drift.
A mixed media combination of comics, photos, journals and travelogues, I Live Here is a four-segment book collection, with each sectionâ€“â€”and each artistâ€”focused on the personal and social trauma of displaced people in a different country.
And the mechanics, now this really gets me:
Itâ€™s [going to be] four books; this is the first of four, and itâ€™s a series. I mean, for me, my day job [performing on The L Word] paid for the book; itâ€™s as simple as that. I didnâ€™t look for outside funding, because I wanted to be sure I wasnâ€™t taking money if the project wasnâ€™t going to work. I would rather it be at my own [financial] risk. . . .
My partners and I have started the I Live Here Foundation. Doing a book is great, but it doesnâ€™t help the communities weâ€™re going into directly at all. But the one thing that I did feel like I could help with was the lack of creative writing programs in these areas. Our first creative writing program was in a juvenile prison in Malawi where I spent some time. I realize that these [creative writing] programs donâ€™t address food and medicine and water, but what it does address is making people feel listened to and heard and validated. I think it gives them a sense of empowerment. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s next for us.
The last bit should not be undervalued--creative endeavors are essential for impoverished communities, both to provide an identity infrastructure capable of breaking the cycle and, equally important, to help folks feel that their lives have more significance beyond subsistence.
In short, to feel human.
Media communities are buzzing about this group's success in getting Scholastic to withdraw the Bratz line from in-school book fairs.
Here's the organization's slightly edited mission:
CCFC's mission is to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. A marketing-driven media culture sells children on behaviors and values driven by the need to promote profit rather than the public good. The commercialization of childhood is the link between many of the most serious problems facing children, and society, today. When children adopt the values that dominate commercial culture . . . the health of democracy and sustainability of our planet are threatened.
Much better, it seems, to go back to a more innocent time before kids were corrupted by corporate values.
Like in this old children's book:
Folks lament the new New York as a cultural wasteland, but honestly, it's not dead yet. One of the fun things to see right now is the resurgence of graffiti as public art. No broken windows here--there's little concern that the marks on walls and pavement will foster more crime.
In fact, sometimes we even encourage school kids to do it, as in the collaborative monster graffiti project between public school kids and artist Kylin O'Brien.
That's the title of an upcoming exhibit of superheroic--and supervillainous--art by developmentally challenged artists in San Francisco. For more, check out this public radio report.
Y'know, stuff like this is actually not a bad sponsorship & marketing opportunity. I also love the title of the art organization's current exhibit: Most Culture Humbug Sexy People Like John Patrick McKenzie. Catch a glimpse at Creativity Explored.
One of the constants of human experience is that when something bad happens in the economy, we tend to ascribe the cause to irrationality--most notably, greed and crime.
As if on cue . . .
Since hearing Yelle's A Cause des Garcons yesterday on the Nubian Queen Comics MySpace, I gotta confess I've become a bit addicted to it for my work background today.
What kills me about this video is the way it represents the effects of media in daily life--the integration of the hair dryer music into the sound, the anthropomorphic transformation of mundane tools into things that affect the singer's life in odd and unexpected ways--good stuff.
Another good one from the same singer is the Ce Jeu video, which is a clever play on color and form.
Sarah Haskins skewers cleaning ads that sex up the mundane.
Tera Patrick's Mistress Couture runway show approaches the event horizon for do-gooding, sex and design.
The discussion of sex and charity ads over on Philanthropy.com raises the question of what constitutes an appropriate and effective integration of sex into cause marketing.
One that's been getting a bit of mixed attention is the "Declare Yourself" campaign, which features Jessica Alba in bondage.
The promoters call this "provocative." Critics call it "creepy." Me, I'm trying to figure out how, if Alba silenced herself, she managed to wrap that tape with her hands bound behind her back.
The NYC Sexbloggers Calendar is an example of a fundraising medium that aligns with the values of the multiple communities it serves--the sexbloggers who created it, the sexually themed blogosphere to whom it is targeted and the sex work charity that it benefits.
This eBay auction for the ASPCA raises several interesting questions, not least of which is whether the chosen beneficiary welcomes publicity from the sale of a dinner with a porn star. If the ASPCA is opposed to this, the use of the ASPCA logo provides a hook for taking it down.
But should the ASPCA protest? While some may find the association with a porn star unsavory, the fact is that porn stars, strippers and others in the biz are people too. They pay taxes, raise children, have hopes and dreams like everyone else. Is it more charitable to stigmatize people or to encourage them to join in a greater cause?
Finally for now, here's one aimed at promoting safe sex among teens. The message: condoms stop global warming, because by preventing babies from being born they reduce the number of folks hurting the environment.
Of course, you could use the same argument to promote abstinence or becoming a priest, let alone other forms of birth control that aren't as effective in preventing disease. But hey, the site is by kids for kids, so A-for-effort and all that!
A Polish charity uses the phrase "Give children' wings" as a fundraising hook; Red Bull sues. Der Spiegel has der scoop.
That last entry kinda weirded me out, so as a pleasant antidote here's a pic of kids creating their own comic book.
More scenes from the event are on Flickr and the Nubian Queen Comics MySpace page.
This ad campaign tries to encourage people to save by morphing them into pigs.
I know that do-gooders don't tend to think about such things, but there are religious communities that consider the pig to be unclean. Equating savings with pigs is a sure-fire way to limit your effectiveness in certain neighborhoods where this ad may be found.
More generally--a digitzed Dr. Moreau face? Yuck on several levels. I'd recommend reading up on the cognitive psychology of face perception before getting too clever with the Photoshop.
Have you ever found a parking ticket on your windshield only to discover it was an oh-so-clever advertising flyer? Church tracts, local bars--whatever the product, if you're like me, this sort of thing inspires a resolve not to patronize the establishment thoughtless enough to recycle this lame ruse.
The Plank, a blog run by The New Republic, justly knocks this breathless, if clueless, promo for the latest variant on this hackneyed gimmick by art students on behalf of The Spirit film.
The students at The Art Institute of Washington D.C. have created an exciting advertising campaign to help promote THE SPIRIT. Having to overcome heightened city restrictions due to the political security in their town, the team reached out to the local parking administration to get the OK to flier cars. Their fliers are not average fliers: they have created fake "parking citations" to really draw the attention of the recipient. These citations mimic actual parking citations of Washington D.C. on the cover, yet on the inside reveal special tasks issued by THE SPIRIT to promote the safety and protection of Washington D.C. The citation interior also mirrors an actual citation, yet the usual "violations" (such as an expired parking meter) are replaced with tasks assigned by THE SPIRIT. "Protect against those who may disrespect the city" and "Protect against those that may steal from others" are just some of the tasks which THE SPIRIT has asked the community of Washington D.C. to help out with. The "small print" of the ticket includes a brief notice about the faux citation, emphasizing the importance of protecting one's own city as THE SPIRIT does for Central City. The students have organized themselves into six teams to cover six different geographical areas of Washington D.C targeting areas with parked cars.
It really was an odd year in NYC last Christmas, with reports of huge losses at investment banks being mirrored by reports of record bonuses. ABC has the numbers:
In 2007, Wall Street's five biggest firms-- Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley - paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.
That's $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.
Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines --their worst year since 2002.
Before we simply brand this as unchecked greed, it's worth remembering that many professionals in the City saw--and still see--a symbiotic relationship between their businesses and bonuses in the financial sector. Real estate brokers especially.
At the time, giving a lot of money as bonuses could be rationalized in part as a way of maintaining the City's financial ecosystem, not to mention stabilizing investor confidence by affirming leadership's faith in the firms' financial state.
I'm not justifying it; just offering a little reminder that the motivations leading to unfortunate acts can often be complex.
Rules and monitory signs abounded at Yankee Stadium, albeit sometimes with a twist--the above photo shows the team using Charlie Brown to advise parents to stay with their young children.
Or to take them to the giant furnace to be offered unto Moloch to secure a victory--I forget which.
Anyway, back to the rules.
Throughout the season people have been angling for souvenirs from the stadium's final year, and as it turns out the team did allow the Yankees' players a closing parting gift.
A gift with a legal limitation:
The players will be allowed to keep one thing from the game: their jerseys.
â€œThe memo told them they cannot sell them and they must keep them until they die and then they can be turned over to their estates,â€ Trost said. â€œItâ€™s a restricted gift until they die; we want the jerseys to stay in the family.â€
For the final game at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees allowed fans to walk the warning track in the outfield. TV footage just highlighted a fascinating scene: an outfield wall covered with the fans' handprints.
And so connection to a baseball team connects us to our past.
Four things about this attempt to use Daft Punk's Technologic to sell a Lincoln:
- The song may be digital, but the dashboard is analog.
- They really should have edited out the lyric "Crash it."
- The flashing headlights--it's Christine!
- Cyberspace? How 1994.
If you've ever been involved in a securities deal--or visited the office of someone who has--you're no doubt familiar with Lucite tombstones, the tchotchkes that commemorate success. Paul Kedrosky relays this tombstone for taxpayers who've come to Wall Street's rescue.
Graveyard humor for grim times:
Above: a Peta protest continues the naked women protesting meme (well, semi-naked--note the panties). It would be transgressive were it not so routine.
The idea here is that you'd be more sensitive to the plight of fried chickens if you saw them as unclothed women in cages. Except chickens have feathers, so I'm not sure the analogy tracks.
Anyway, they're women, not men, because we're all progressives here and everyone knows women are "chicks." And of course, this way Peta has images to photoshop so guys will look at them online.
My problem with this trend is not the bodies and sex and stuff. Read my blog for any length of time and you'll see any number of creative, thematically appropriate ways of integrating sex with do-goodery. What gets me about stuff like chicks-in-cages is that it's cliched to the point of being tiresome.
Oh, and as for folks who take the instrumentalist approach that no publicity is bad publicity since all that counts is people talking about the pics, I'll repeat a comment I made on this philanthropy.com thread:
Thereâ€™s a fine line between strategic utility and moral nihilism, and it seems to me at least that some charities have become all too willing to cross it.
First, Lehman is being forced to sell off Neuberger Berman, owner of "one of the most distinguished corporate art collections." We're talking millions and millions here, which, while that side of the company has been profitable, raises the question as to where this collection will go. Second, Lehman has been a huge donor to museums not just in the US, but also in Europe, signing their names (and the checks that go with it) to help put on exhibits in nearly every major museum in New York, as well as in big museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Modern, and the Louvre.
It's not just a financial blank check:
The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation . . .
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
If you're wondering how the due diligence for the Watchmen movie could have missed the rights problem now in court, this article has useful background info on the process--in short, the key 1994 document was not included in the document reviews for subsequent stages.
The article also offers a producer's insight into how movies get made, and his point is relevant to lots of other areas of life as well:
Mr. Gordon, meanwhile, appears to have made good on a philosophy he described almost 30 years ago.
â€œMost pictures are made because somebody else wants to make them,â€ he was quoted as saying in a 1979 issue of Screen International.
â€œAs a producer, the only club you have is to have something that somebody else wants.â€
The New York Times has a poignant homage Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard, who, alas, has been out for the season except for one significant exception. This line particularly stood out:
Essentially, Sheppard is a simple man, as some poets and clerics and teachers can be termed simple.
This is the song of life, transforming the mundane into transcendence.
TechCrunch has a great intro to the Webkare phenomenon in Japan, the online phenomenon in which girls try to hook up with anime boys. It's a game, and collaboration with other players is key to winning it.
In short, it's a social enterprise, no?
The TC piece goes on to discuss the broader issue of loneliness 2.0--an important subject, since curing loneliness is one of the web's primary social functions.
Speaking of which, here's useful new look at the science of loneliness, aptly called Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.
This article on the costs of data storage and the risks posed by discovery in a lawsuit is essential reading for anyone in business or charity--particular in a university, where archiving is virtually a sacred obligation.
It's Friday, so here are an artist's thoughts on a classic experiment in personal transformation:
"I believe a good critic is a teacher. He doesn't have the answers, but he can be an example of the process of finding your own answers. He can notice things, explain them, place them in any number of contexts, ponder why some "work" and others never could. He can urge you toward older movies to expand your context for newer ones. He can examine how movies touch upon individual lives, and can be healing, or damaging. He can defend them, and regard them as important in the face of those who are "just looking for a good time." He can argue that you will have a better time at a better movie. We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness. Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully."
So the stock market rises on news of a government bailout and new limits on securities transactions.
With the stock market (for the moment) stabilizing, does that mean the market rhetoric of social enterprise is stable as well?
The situation is far more complex.
In a nutshell, the rebounding confidence in the economy is a response to the infusion of external unearned support.
That's not so much faith in the market as the entire system. Were there renewed faith in the market--and its metaphors--the surge would have recurred without the rescue plan and the news of government intervention would shake investor confidence.
Let's put it in the market language of social entrepreneurs.
Social enterprise C is humming along selling cookies made by prisoners. People wise up that the cookies suck and that they're only buying 'em because of the charity. C's ex-customers start stocking up on Pepperidge Farm instead.
Sales plummet, and it looks like C will go bankrupt.
But hooray, at the last minute a foundation gives C a million dollar grant and C goes on selling its cookies.
That's not a validation of the self-sustaining triple bottom line. It's traditional charity.
UPDATE: Paul Kedrosky pretty much sums up the market situation:
I should be happy, I suppose, but I'm mostly depressed and dismayed. While something is necessary, it's tragic that it has had to come to this, and the political and economic fallout will be gigantic and long-lasting.
And Robert Reich:
Another major step toward socialized capitalism.
There are still some--including major--comic books shops that sell DVDs of otherwise unavailable cartoons, tv shows and movies. This news story of a comic shop owner sentenced in a piracy case illustrates why these products, however much they may arguably be filling a cultural gap, should be pulled.
The key thing to note: the shop was busted by visits from federal undercover agents. This means every shop in the U.S. should take note and act accordingly.
HSBC makes the union protest rat a part of its marketing campaign. Perhaps some labor-serving lawyer needs to look into the available legal options for stopping--or at least profiting from--this appropriation of its symbol to promote a bank.
Above: Cast your vote by pre-ordering the candidate comic of your choice.
Below: An excerpt from Superman vs. Uncle Sam, an interview with comics scholars David Hadju and M. Thomas Inge. The subject: Censorship.
There's always a threat to what comics represented in the early post-war years in the late 40s' and 50s'. Comics don't represent that anymore. There's always a threat to subversion and insurgency and the daring that comics represented back then.
It takes place, not in the pages of comics, but elsewhere like video game screens. It takes place in Grand Theft Auto 4 now. It's the same thing. What we see in GTA is a form of art entertainment not just meant for young people, but also meant to be a way for young people to challenge the conventions and standards of nicety, moral values, and these aesthetic values of their parents' generation. They're assimilated and this is the pattern that goes on in radical forms of culture over and over again. . . . The parallel to the comics, of video games, whatever will be invented next, about 20 years from now will continue to serve that same societal function.
The Grand Central Partnership is a nonprofit business improvement district, responsible for revitalizing the terminal and surrounding area. Today, however, it has been in the news because of this lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of four security guards who claim to have been discriminated against because of their Rastafarian dreadlocks.
As AltReligion explains, in Rastafarianism dreadlocks are more than just stylized hair.
The uncut/unstyled hair typically clumps together in long ropes, which are considered a sign of faith, connecting the believer to the people of the Old Testament. The name "dreadlocks" refers to one who is "dread," a God-fearing believer.
Authentic Rasta dreadlocks are not to be confused with salon-created or "intentional" dreadlocks, which do not conform to Ratafarian teachings. Rasta doctrine dictates that dreadlocks form naturally in the hair when it is allowed to grow without interference.
The origin of the dreadlocks doctrine comes from the emulation of biblical "Nazarites," Old Testament prophets who did not cut their hair. Biblical justification for the practice comes from the Old Testament Book of Numbers.
As the complaint below relates, the hair had become so dense and unwieldy that it was unable to fit under the caps required to be worn by GCP. As diverse religious hairstyles, jewelry, clothing and other practices become more visible in a society where extension of the self is the new norm, expect cases like this to proliferate.
That's what's being chanted in a megaphone below me right now. I have no idea what the cause is, because the shouts aren't reaching my window.
However noble the cause, this discourse of protest has always made me uncomfortable. There's no appeal to rational discourse or even a positive emotional connection; it's just demands and power and fear.
For a good cause we let it pass, but the rhetoric of force subtly becomes the norm, and then . . .
Hey, I'll take any excuse to mention the work of Ellen Dissanayake. This review provides a helpful summary of one of her key works, and the following review offers the kind of feisty I'd like to see more of in academic writing:
In recent years poststructural theory has adopted as central doctrines anticolonialism and the denial of the political and cultural hegemony to Western values. Despite this self-satisfied and superficially laudable stance, Ellen Dissanayakeâ€™s conclusions would seem to imply that poststructural theory is the biggest imperialist con job going. Its scriptomaniacal advocates do not even begin to see, let alone comprehend, the meaning art has had since the Paleolithic for the vast majority of human beings in their long, evolved history. Homo Aestheticus calls for a counter-revolution in our thinking about art. Its message is timely, provocative, and immensely valuable.
The new Fashion Targets Breast Cancer charity commercials really p!$$ed me off when I first saw 'em this a.m. Baptizing the workplace leer in the name of do-goodery is not funny; it's perverse. Jezebel captures the feeling quite well:
Breast cancer is a serious disease that has far-reaching effects on women, children and families â€” and men, obviously. But taking the age-old stereotype of a man gawking at a woman's tits and trying to twist it into a positive message just rubs me the wrong way. Can't women tackle a life and death issue without being gaped at by dudes?
And this comment is something else the designers of the above ad really should have considered:
Honestly, all I can focus on is women who have mastectomies potentially watching this commercial and feeling like they've lost the only piece of themselves that has sexual worth to men.
The thing that makes this so very not funny is that the overt sexism in the medical community is the reason that Breast Cancer research couldn't get enough funding, and had to start trotting out cute, non-threatening pink covered merchandise in the first place.
Another nonprofit law class done, another day explaining legal language in ways that (I hope) make sense to non-lawyers.
Speaking of which, if you're into international aid--and to a certain extent nowadays in do-gooder-land, who isn't?--I've been enjoying Alanna Shaikh's Blood and Milk, the source of the nifty graphic above. Alanna offers a no-BS perspective on popular buzzwords as well as useful advice for folks who are or wannabe in the field.
It's an area of the charity biz for which I've long had a particular interest, even if the actual day-to-day reality can be a bit disconcerting. Alanna's reflections on pretentious expats are spot on--the post about suffering reminded me of my time in Russia when it was making the transition from scarcity to abundance. Mimetic consumerism, not noble self-restraint, became the order of the day.
One of the things we chat about in my entrepreneurship class is the repurposing of old media in new contexts. The candle flips from illumination to atmosphere; the horse, from engine to entertainment; the museum, from gateway to the new to mausoleum for the old.
The place has already turned away one would-be patron â€” a book collector who spotted a certain tome in the window that he had spent 25 years looking for. Sorry, buddy, not tonight.
This summer I became a member of the board of directors at MoCCA. I've enjoyed working with everyone there--it's a great group, and I've learned a lot.
But hey, I'm just the nonprofit law guy. What folks are really interested in is the art you can find at its annual festival and periodic exhibits.
Last Friday night marked the opening reception for the new Kim Deitch retrospective, a must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of New York counterculture, mass media and, of course, comics.
WSJ: The Federal Reserve is considering an $85 billion rescue for embattled American International Group that could leave the government in control of the firm . . .
And so it goes: A Republic administration that declared itself to be the heir to Reagan might end with the government effectively nationalizing the financial industry.
Russell T. Davies, producer & writer of the utterly wonderful Doctor Who revamp, has a new book called A Writer's Tale, excerpts of which are appearing in the London Times. There's a lot of good stuff in here for anyone who makes a career out of self-expression--"A hundred versions of me, and every single one sounds like a fool" echoes my own inner voice after I give a talk, no matter how successful--but the following rumination on the writer's voice is particularly noteworthy:
You ask how a writer finds their voice. Now, that's a question!... Gaining a voice, whatever that is, comes with experience and practice - and the writing, again, is indivisible from the person. Your voice tends to be something that other people talk about, about you. It's not something that you think about much yourself, and certainly not whilst writing. I never - never - sit here thinking, what's my voice? You might as well ponder, who am I? It is, in fact, exactly the same thing. You can wonder your whole life and you'll never get an answer to that.
Indy feminist magazine Bitch is a nonprofit, and it needs 40K to publish another issue. Below: the mag's fundraising appeal, which includes a savvy satirical look at a common fundraising tactic: puppies!
Via the Daily Bedpost, an update on this controversial church sign response to Katy Perry's "I kissed a girl & I like it."
Brothers and sisters, please. Besides, lesbians are usually the kind of people who fight for peace and women's equality and decent vegetarian food -- they make the world a better place. And they're probably the ones who make the most comfortable shoes in heaven, too.
If I have a hobby, it's reading lasts--the last issue before a new writer or artist, the end of a series, the final appearance of a character before the reboot. Anger, resentment, satire, release, profound loss--you see the full range of human responses. Below: the end of the cult classic newspaper strip Robin Malone.
Audacia Ray's Naked City at the Village Voice was an invaluable source of social enterprisey info in the sexual realm. Though NCVV is, alas, no more, she continues to bring the goods in other fora. The ad above is from her new column at Eden Fantasys:
You might not know that Lysol - yes, the household disinfectant - has a significant place in the history of womenâ€™s sexual health. From the 1930s through the 1960s Lysol was sold and recommended as a douche for women that would not only clean and deodorize the vagina, but could also prevent pregnancy. Ads like the one pictured preyed on womenâ€™s insecurities about the smell of their vaginas and the potential for inspiring their husbandsâ€™ disgust and rejection.
Unison Fetish, a dance protest aimed at the mass commodification of alt-neighborhoods, with the feature target being Magnolia Bakery, a Sex-and-the-City-tourist fave.
Entrepreneurial Strategy of the Day: Lip Gloss for a Crap Economy.
Times like these call for a serious lipcolor, friends. No playful, flirty shimmer. Choose a lipcolor that means business -- Bobbi Brown Mauve Lip Gloss. . . .
Mauve means business. Wear it, along with a mean cut-eye, to intimidate the girl in the next cube who you think is going to try to steal your job. She wouldn't dare!
In a way, it's a heckuva lot more practical than books about the economy.
So I was taking a break from the latest stock market news. Wanted something light--light, Jeff, light! --and thanks to Journalista found this set of pics from the first edition of Elson-Gray's Primer & Book One Readers, which gave us Dick and Jane.
Many of you younger and non-U.S. folks may not be familiar with Dick and Jane, but for folks of a certain age Dick & Jane books were standard fare in the early reading curriculum. Except I cleared through the %$! things before I started school, which meant I had to sit in the back and read books of my own choosing, such as Island of the Blue Dolphins and McLuhan's Understanding Media.
The Flickr set has some interesting historical stuff. I wasn't aware, for example, that Spot was originally a cat. For a book that came out in 1930--a year after the stock market crash that launched the Great Depression, the image above seemed unintentionally appropriate.
It works for today, too, as we hear financial experts tell how the folks at the top will persevere as the financial market fallout hurts many others below.
CNBC observed that of the Big 5 investment banks at the beginning of this year, only 2 will survive after the BofA/Merrill Lynch deal goes through.
Lehman had previously survived the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1893, the Depression and the World Trade Center attacks.
But I guess this doesn't mean anything for do-gooders. After all, they have their own investors.
Welcome to the new reality.
Wall Street in meltdown.
The government takeover of investment firms and other major industries.
And social entrepreneurs continuing to talk as if nothing had changed.
The time has come for the movement to grow up. In the current economic climate, the rhetoric of entrepreneurship, capital markets and social investment no longer has the same resonance. It's fraught with fearful risk, discredited assumptions, the emptiness of an exploded bubble.
The Business section of today's New York Times sounds the alarm. The front-page headline--Economy to Entrepreneurs: Turn Back.
Amid the current economic turmoil, many entrepreneurs and small-business owners like Ms. Reed are debating whether it makes sense to seek safety in the corporate life â€” and deciding that it does.
In my upcoming article on social enterprise and systems theory (going online this week), I chat about semantic bubbles. Entrepreneurial rhetoric provides a textbook case of phenomenon--if social enterprise is truly going to adopt rigorous analysis that goes beyond the limits of the past, it must face the harsh reality of its own faddishness.
"Buy a book, save a breast" is the slogan of this charitable book project from Lorenzo, but cause marketing is not the only way that books promote the common good.
In today's NY Times Book Review, reflections on two books that portray publishing and bookselling as humanistic communities--at least until "the bottom-liners of business" took over.
It's an interesting contrast to today's do-gooder community. The commercial folks wish the business lingo would just go away; the nonprofiteers want to chuck their identity for metrics and return on investment.
In today's Funky Winkerbean, Tom Batiuk nails the rampant trendhopping among nonprofit fundraisers. Here's the eco-punchline:
The worst thing is that the film was co-financed by Dove, the soap company, and the end credits conclude with the stars waffling on about Dove's "campaign for real beauty". [Meg] Ryan has had her face altered so drastically since When Harry Met Sally that real beauty isn't something she's qualified to discuss.
The KLD Blog offers this insightful post on what names reveal--and obscure--about contemporary business, including social enterprise. There's a bit of fun with companies that really should have a better grasp on the significance of such words as Harbinger, Tosca and Cerberus, but the real kicker comes with the social investors:
The Childrenâ€™s Investment Funds: Its name reflects its commitment to give some of its profits to charities aiding children. Its recent, successful battle for board seats at the American freight railroad CSX showed not a hint of childrenâ€™s games. The issue appeared to be whether current management is putting too much into capital improvements and too little into its shareholdersâ€™ pockets.
Over the coming months, weâ€™ll learn whether maximizing CSXâ€™s value to shareholders, and the resulting charitable donations, will outweigh the consequences for those depending on rail service in Americaâ€™s southeast â€“ and the children of CSXâ€™s stakeholders.
Many articles refer to The Childrenâ€™s Investment Funds and their share value-maximizing peers as â€œactivist shareholders.â€
How long ago it seems when that phrase applied only to environmentalists, Ralph Nader organizations and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Twenty years ago â€œactivistsâ€ were shareholders who used the proxy process to raise issues such as South Africa and global warming. Those shareholders continue to play leading roles in corporate accountability.
Twenty years ago, funds engaging in hostile efforts to replace directors were called â€œcorporate raiders.â€ But yesterdayâ€™s raiders are todayâ€™s activists.
The giant Jesus at the Twin Towers reminded me of this portrait, which fascinated me when I was a kid.
There's a worthwhile visual study to be made of Jesus depicted in different sizes--normal size knocking at your door, giant size at buildings, humongous on the throne of judgment, ginormous (so as to be visible everywhere) at his return, then shrinking down to normal to interact with followers on Earth or in heaven.
Seems odd at first, but remember that metamorphosis has long been central to popular religion.
This photo reminds me of my winter snow chore growing up: shoveling a path to the outhouse of the elderly woman across the road. Sounds a bit time warpy now, but it paid for a lot of comics.
This picture really captures my way of seeing. Lots of fun at parties am I.
Via UK Street Art.
The Blue Cross of California reasons that nude statues aren't gratuitous if they're diseases and ashamed. The stunt: to promote healthcare insurance through images of naked people who don't have it.
I'd link to the BCC site, but the intro tries to educate you by counting up to 6.7 million, the number of Californians without healthcare. What it taught me: not to bother with an organization that thinks so little of your time that it expects you to wait while it counts to 6.7 million.
So I took a break from my work today to check out the scene around Ground Zero, which is in the sight line from my office. In fact, right now there's some serious helicopter action outside, which makes me think the McCain/Obama tribute may not be far off.
What intrigued me most about the scene was the mix of folks who saw it as an opportunity to promote their various causes. Christian proselytzers were out in full force, including a police-for-Christ brigade whose tract dared to cross this line:
Many Police Officers die . . ., tragic if they went off to a Christless eternity. We have enough tragedies in the job, we don't need any eternal statistics.
J&R Music World had duly somber folks handing out sales flyers (of course!), and the 9/11-was-an-inside-job folks had a parade where they chanted, incessant, unceasing, "9/11 was an inside job."
But amongst all the grim and earnest faces one man stood as a beacon of light, cheerfully greeting all who walked by . . .
and offering free admission for topless table dancing at New York Dolls.
Topping off the wackness, I returned to my office to see the latest social Web 2.0 tributes, including this Second Life homage that offers visual proof of the real culprit of the 9/11 attacks:
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Whatever its political ramifications, the Inspector General's report on the sex, drugs and bribery scandal at the Department of Interior is a fascinating study in moral psychology. This paragraph jumped out right away:
The results of our investigation reveal a program tasked with implementing a 'business model' program. As such, Royalty in Kind (RIK) marketers donned a private sector approach to essentially everything they did. This included effectively opting themselves out of the Ethics in Government Act . . .
This says less about the private sector than how public sector folks perceive it.
My favorite quote from the report on illicit activity connected with the procurement of lucrative oil contracts:
"Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length."
The Renaissance lawyer & art theorist Leon Battista Alberti liked linear perspective to a civic assembly. The analogy is apt--politics, like the visual arts, transforms separate elements into a greater whole.
Nowhere is this more evident than in civic art. The Library of Congress offers this retrospective of comic art responding to the September 11 attacks.
In the 1980s, Lex Luthor was transformed from a mad scientist to a corporate executive, expressing the perceived dichotomy between business and social benefit.
This dichotomy is no longer viable.
Check out the winner & runners-up of the TechCrunch 50 pitch contest. Coordinated action, do-gooder rating, education, enriched expression--each of these companies enhances values associated with the so-called nonprofit sector.
The annual Towers of Light 9/11 memorial does have some detractors in the do-gooder community:
Tall brightly lit structures and searchlights attract and disorient neotropical migratory birds. Thousands of them die when they are pull off course by these lights, and then become exhausted from flying around and around searchlights and brightly lit skyscrapers. Migratory songbirds that survive in a city until sunrise often die when they collide with walls of mirror-like glass windows or are run over by city traffic.
The twin beams of lights should be turned off between 11 PM and sunrise to prevent the senseless slaughter of thousands of songbirds.
Roger Ebert's blog consistently offers gems of insight, and his latest post is no exception. Not too long ago movies were a junk medium, like comic books and pulp fiction. Now we read this and it seems intuitively obvious:
As I've written many times, the movies are an empathy machine, drawing us into other lives, allowing us to identify with those of other races, genders, occupations, religions, income levels or times in history. Good films enlarge us, and are a civilizing medium. Bad films narrow us. No films at all impoverish us.
In this respect film expresses the same impulse toward empathetic representation evident in spoken and written language.
My thoughts re the article are in the comments.
The key WSJ article quote to note for the future:
But some Republicans say the two companies should be privatized and their social mandates ended. "There is no validity in taking a for-profit private company and forcing a nonprofit social mission on it," says Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling. "We already have the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] that has 90 programs with either a housing or urban-development mission."
From last week's New Yorker.
The US government takeover of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has dealt a shattering blow to the ideology of market capitalism, which has been used for decades to justify a relentless assault on the working class and a vast transfer of wealth to the American ruling elite.
The endless invocations of the virtues of private enterprise, individual entrepreneurship and self-reliance, used to demonize socialism and defend a system that exploits the vast majority for the benefit of a financial elite, have been exposed as frauds. When it comes to big capital, losses are socialized. Only profits remain private.
My favorite image from A Primer of Capitalism.
The federal takeover of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac reminds me of this image from the classic 1937 quasi-comic A Primer of Capitalism. The argument: private capitalism is more democratic than state capitalism, in which the politician is boss, not the consumer.
I've been reading a lot about soap recently, so I was delighted to see this revealing bit of colonial history pop up in Weird Universe today: the Pears ad incorporating the "Pears Soap is the best" graffiti scrawled on a rock by British soldiers invading Africa.
That we shower and shave and mask our natural scents with perfume, cologne and breath fresheners is a part of daily life on which we tend not to reflect. Go back a hundred or so years and you'll see why we do it--a steady stream of ads equating cleanliness with social progress.
Even the word "clean" cedes the point, as if the normative state is not the one we inhabit naturally.
Via Violet Blue, pointed social comment from photographer Mark Velasquez as part of his New Americans series. What particularly stands out: that when explaining the shot he felt he had to affirm his own patriotism:
I stay way too caught up on the news, home and abroad, of the corruption and backstabbing and bullshit that goes on in our and every other government. I'm not an anarchist, I love America and most Americans, but I see us all suffering from a collective stagnance. We're all pretty sure where we stand and how we feel, but don't know where we're going or what to do next. We are looking for something to believe in, someone to tell us its going to be okay, something that feels real and relevant.
Cause marketing? Commercial stunt? I personally don't know, but Curbed offers this account of Foxwood on the N.
From 1943. "Martha Logan," it seems, was a fictitious representation of the Swift Company's home economics division.
It's the Sunday before 9-11, which means the annual test run of The Towers of Light. The recurring rituals connected with September 11 raise important questions about remembrance, grief and civic identity--particularly, when is it time for the rituals to stop?
This may not be evident from the TV coverage, but it is a real topic of discussion here in NYC. "God Bless America" at Yankees games, memorial ceremonies, the Freedom Tower & 9-11 museum, even events for victims' families--I've heard any number of folks say enough is enough.
At least in private.
From the above 1924 ad, another example of how early twentieth century corporations defined themselves in terms of public good:
With a sound financial structure, a management which is reflected in a high quality of telephone service, the Bell System is enabled to service the increasing requirements of the American public.
From Dealscape, an account of how Sara Lee sought to neutralize a shareholder activist by appointing him to its board of directors:
Sara Lee agreed to expand its board from 10 to 11 seats and add Ubben as a director, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filing on Aug. 25. But, according to the agreement, Ubben and ValueAct will leave much of their activist and private equity efforts at the door. . . .
The agreement also locks ValueAct, for now, from engaging in any buyout or activist strategies. In addition to agreeing not to buy any Sara Lee assets, ValueAct promises not to launch a proxy contest, form a group to press for changes or enter into any hedging transactions.
The Yankees built there new stadium over a Bronx park, and part of the deal was that an equal amount of civic space be restored. To keep that bargain the Yankees are planning to demolish the current Yankee Stadium.
Predictably an online petition group is rallying to preserve the original--and, some say, to keep it as the Yankees' home field. A few arguments from recent signers:
Christine Riggs, "I'm from WI, love the Yankees (esp. DiMaggio era). My lifes dream is to see the Stadium and a Sox/Yanks game. Don't kill my dream"
Janet, "The Stadium is a Cathedral, a holy place."
Russell Savage, "Yankee Stadium is an American Institution that should ever be torn down."
Coke Art, a blog and retrospective from the RockAndRoll Agency, highlights the social significance of Coke ad design:
When â€˜Coca-Colaâ€™ started in the 1890s portraying these independent women, it was still a uncongenial time for a girl with big ideas. Women were discouraged from thinking beyond household drudgery, and derided if they distinguished themselves. From these early days, â€˜Coca-Colaâ€™ has used the girl portraits in unique ways, always running miles ahead of the times. â€˜Coca-Colaâ€™ encouraged and inspired women to live their lives to the fullest and share life experiences.
This is the first week of Lynn Johnston's recursive retelling of For Better or For Worse, and the res in which she mediaed could not have been better: Michael gets bored with watching a fish swim endlessly around and around his small bowl.
It's a comic strip Finnegan's Wake, as Johnston swirls us back to where she started, with images and words that seem somewhat familiar but resonate with deeper significance.
The whole process has been fascinating to watch, as Johnston has tried to reground her own identity. The personal betrayal of her unfaithful spouse has been part of the struggle, but just a part--the central drama is her relation to a medium that had truly become an extension of herself.
I've gabbed a bit about Marshall McLuhan's anticipation of the day when everyone would have their own TV channel. Via perpetual fave Neuroanthropology, here's cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch expressing his thoughts about the same thing to folks at the Library of Congress--and vid-checking McLuhan in minutes 26 and 27.
Whatever else, his point about academics being impressed by views from 253 people is spot on:
Tonight was the first nonprofit law class of the new semester. I'm posting this for no other reason than that I'm tired and it's positively bizarre, with a design sensibility we're not likely to see today.
While weapons tech has received a fair amount of attention in recent U.S. military conflicts, the media culture of those on the front lines deserves substantially more than it tends to receive.
Not surprising, given that we're still catching up on WWII. One prominent focus of study--the role of graphic design, comics and cartoons. The work of wartime cartoonist Bill Mauldin in particular has received substantial acclaim in recent years for the role it played in fostering group cohesion in the lower ranks.
CNN has the scoop on Todd DePastino's new Mauldin bio:
DePastino remains surprised that his is the first biography of Mauldin, which perhaps speaks to the low regard our culture -- even pop culture -- has for cartoonists. "If Mauldin had been a writer, there would have been a biography [by now]," he says.
But the soldiers themselves -- men such as Schulz, a World War II vet who didn't meet Mauldin until years after first mentioning him in "Peanuts" -- knew Mauldin's value. When he talks about the book, DePastino says, he gets his most emotional responses from veterans and their families.
"His art was about a group of men who are suffering unspeakable horrors in the trenches. His audience was those very men," he says. "It's odd -- he was kind of mirroring their lives back to them. ... He was doing this for those guys. How many artists do that?"
Susannah Breslin links to the trailer for 9to5, a new documentary that provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the mundane reality of porn. What particularly caught my eye: the Health Care Foundation sign in the office of Dr. Sharon Mitchell.
2 seconds of research reveals that it's the logo of the AIM Health Care Foundation, a nonprofit that serves "the physical and emotional needs of sex workers and the people who work in the Adult Entertainment Industry."
Like many who watch porn, the nonprofit mainstream tends to act as if this type of organization does not exist, but its work is just as important--and just as inspirational--as raising money for children and puppies.
Thereby creating a gale-force wind that wipes out the entire French Quarter.
Anyway, that's what I thought when reading the latest New York Times.
The use of the word "brand" to refer to a marketing identity derives from the identification marks burned onto livestock. This comic book house ad illustrates the connection--it's from 1949, when westerns where eclipsing superheroes in popular entertainment.
The Superman Homepage has the scoop on Brad Melter's charity auctions to restore the home of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. More at Brad Meltzer's OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld.com, whose very name illustrates one reason why a site by a social enterprise professor has posts about comics pretty much daily.
If the kryptonite's red I'll still be there, just with an ant head.
If your holday staycation has you feeling cooped up, Liz Losh offers a wonderful trip down media memory lane with this account of her visit to Crockett Historical Museum's last switchboard in California, which went automated in 1986. Below: the operators blow kisses to the future on their last day of work.
In a brilliant PR move, Google hired Scott McCloud to draw a comic book promoting Google Chrome, the company's new web browser project. Blogoscoped has scanned the whole thing. (UPDATE: And now the whole thing is available as both a slideshow & PDF download on Google Books.)
Old media heralding the new--in biblical terms, it's like Moses showing Joshua the Promised Land or John the Baptist preaching Jesus. Sure, in these stories the old one dies, but as Google's initiative illustrates, paper comics aren't going away quite yet. As one commenter notes, "What a great way to communicate complex ideas!"
Long before Madonna popularized the red string as the symbol of Kabbalic mysticism, the toy company Transogram marketed ka-bala, a game with at best attenuated roots in Jewish spirituality. Taro cards, The Eye of Zohar and a roulette wheel promised to reveal the future of children with faith in the game's powers, and as you can see, ka-bala had quite the vision of how the role of women would evolve in the decades after 1966:
A classic ad from Multicult Classics, an essential blog on diversity in marketing. Click through for the post, which is part of a series reviewing Jason Chambers' Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry.
Bette Nesmith Graham never intended to be an inventor; she wanted to be an artist. However, shortly after World War II ended, she found herself divorced with a small child to support. She learned shorthand and typing and found employment as an executive secretary. An efficient employee who took pride in her work, Graham sought a better way to correct typing errors. She remembered that artists painted over their mistakes on canvas, so why couldnâ€™t typists paint over their mistakes?