Archive for the ‘commercialism’ Category


The Seductions of Food Porn: Shouldn’t Man vs. Food Be Rated XXX? How About Paula Deen and All the Rest of Her Ilk, Those Sensuous Tempters of Taste? And Don’t Get Me Started on the Advertisements. But Wait, It’s Too Late.

April 17, 2010

The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books—how not to eat what you just learned to cook.
• Andy Rooney

Among my Collectorys are two that collide regularly: food and diet. In food, I save both the delicious and the outrageous, things I call “Food of the Clods”—junk food temptations and overwrought combinations that seem likely to clog your arteries simply hearing about them.

Bread cannot be served naked. Oh, no. It is grilled. Then butter is heaped on top of sour cream and mixed with four kinds of cheese and spread onto the slice before it’s dipped in butter and flour and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Then fried again. Cake isn’t just baked, it’s injected with liqueur and topped with jelly or jam, then layered with brownies and fudge and chocolate ganache and slathered with frosting before getting stacked two feet high and frosted some more, then topped with Snickers® bars cut into amusing shapes or malted milk balls in multiple sizes and colors or tiny elephants molded of white chocolate.

And none of us should be eating any of it.

Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman takes it on for us. If porn eating is a sport, Richman is a gladiator, entering the ring to conquer the forty-eight ounce steak, the ten-pound burger, the two-gallon milkshake, the burrito “bigger than a baby’s head,” the hot wings so hot no sane person would attempt to down them. This insane man of food does and he does it all just for us.

And you can say that watching these foodish excesses is pure escapism, allowing us to experience vicariously the joys of eating the forbidden, but that’s baloney (hmmm, wouldn’t a garlic bologna sandwich on really good bread with tomatoes fresh from the garden taste scrumptious right now?). Seeing dark chocolate is not the same as letting it linger lovingly on my tongue.

I am reminded of all this by a night of conflicting television messages. I am trying to work on an article and I have the white noise of the television on. It’s working. I don’t hear any distractions from outside the house and I have no idea what show is playing. What I do hear are the commercials. At first I ignored them, but their persistent repetition got to me, not in a good way.

“What’s with these puny chicken sandwiches?” grown men ask in teeny voices. “It takes two to fill me up.” To the rescue, comes Colonel Sanders with the sandwich that has so much chicken “we didn’t have room for a bun.” Ah, yes, two pieces of cheese and two pieces of bacon sandwiched between two pieces of fried chicken. “Colonel—you the man!” The new Doubledown from KFC. Hot dog!

I learn as I listen. Subway informs me that “pepperoni’s the new bacon!” MickeyD weighs in with the third-pound Angus burger topped with goo and goop. Yesterday was Free Fryday at Jack in the Box, celebrating their new crispy fries. Domino’s makes pizza so cheap you can’t afford not to buy it, and the King is making honking big burgers just for you too.

Where’s the conflict? How do food and diet collide? These tempting ads rotate with various quasi-famous people telling me how some weight loss program or another has changed their life or busted their bellyfat or turned them into a completely new person. Diet pills and exercise equipment and extraspecial delicious meals shipped directly to my home promise to make me svelte and attractive.

Don Kardong said that people should avoid any diet that discourages the use of hot fudge. I know from personal experience that complete denial of anything doesn’t work for me. I need a tad of deliciousness to flavor my sacrifice. I wish I could eat anything I wanted to and never pay a fatty price. I cannot. I am reminded of this as I watch and listen and long for a hot fudge sundae that I’m not going to have.

What kind of forbidden food is your nemesis? If you’re a student, beware of overindulgence as reward. One Oreo is a reward. A whole bag is madness!

You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.
• Charles Kuralt


Quality Is When You Smile at the Little Details *

February 16, 2010

I’m a thrift shopper and I think about quality whenever I’m in one of my regular haunts. Thrift shopping is like a treasure hunt; I never know what I’ll find. I understand that some folks are put off by the idea of using something that someone else has discarded, but I grew up hunting for useful stuff at the dump, so I’m not at all squeamish. I have even been known to wear other people’s shoes. Especially bowling shoes. Besides, I like to imagine the others who have used or read or worn or loved my latest purchase.

As I hunt for bargains in thrift or antique stores, I am often surprised by the excellent condition of things that have obviously been used and yet are decades old: clothing, games, books, jewelry, furniture, even “cheap” odds and ends and bric-a-brac. Sometimes stuff was made to last. I seldom feel that way about anything any more unless it’s been handcrafted by someone who cares.

When I was a teenager, I read Vance Packard’s (1960) book, The Waste Makers, and was greatly influenced by his discussion of the “obsolescence of desirability” and the “obsolescence of function,” referring to deliberate attempts by auto and appliance manufacturers or fashion designers or whomever is determined to convince consumers that they need the latest model of whatever it is because what they currently own or are wearing is either passé or lacking some crucial element that will make their life infinitely more satisfying once they acquire it.

I think about planned obsolescence every time I see a new telephone with features I don’t need and would probably never use. I think about it whenever I see an advertisement for a television that will bring the world into my living room so that I will feel as though I’m right there, whether it’s a football game or the rain forest or Paris at night. I think about it when I hear discussions of fashion forwardness on my guilty pleasure, Project Runway. No one wants to hear Heidi or Michael or Nina tell them their work is “so eighties.”

The world of planned obsolescence is all about creating desire for what is up-to-the-minute. The latest. It’s just a bonus if you produce crap  (well, that’s what it is and my grandma who always said “hmmm” instead of  “hell” used this word to describe some of the worthless-in-her-estimation junk that grandpa and I scrounged at the dump) that doesn’t last because then folks like me who don’t care about the latest will be driven to purchase it when the item we’d planned to use for years lasts only a few months. I won’t even start to rant about the systemic obsolescence that drives computer usage. Keep hard copy, that’s my advice, because you can’t count on being able to open your files forever.

Booker T. Washington said that excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. This is a pretty good definition of the kind of work I’d like to receive from students in this or any quarter. It’s not that what we are doing isn’t similar to something students have probably done before. Every quarter has its share of presentations or papers or all of the other expected academic activities, but even those things can transcend expectations and become extraordinary if a creative mind brings effort and intention to the task.

You may be wondering how this is related to thrift stores and planned obsolescence. It’s related because the work any student creates can be either something s/he looks back on with pride or it can be something s/he is ashamed of, obsolete before it’s even been graded because no effort or thought has gone into its manufacture.

Imagine your work being found by a student fifty years in the future. Would s/he be intrigued by what you’ve written? Would you provide an authentic glimpse into whatever topic you’re exploring that would allow this future reader to understand current thought? Or would s/he just think that it’s a pathetic piece of meaningless trash? Harsh words, I know, but they come from someone who’s read many a pathetic piece of meaningless trash and would delight in never reading another.

Will your academic work have staying power? Will you be proud to look at it in ten years and think back fondly on the genuine effort you put into it?

If what you do matters to you, your quality work makes it matter to others.
• Dr. Pauline Wayne

* Thanks to Sarah Lambie, an extremely creative former student whose work embodied quality.


More on the Dream Theme: The Dream that Keeps Your Hopes Alive*

January 22, 2010

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
• Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

Yes, there is a theme this week, a dream theme that I diverged from yesterday as a personal stress management exercise that illuminated some things that make teacher/me crazy. But back to the theme. Dreams are as important to success in school as any textbook you’ll buy or any course you’ll take. If education won’t help you with your aspirations, why bother? Money? Money is certainly necessary, but past a certain point of sustaining your life on a reasonable level, it’s just more. And that kind of more is never enough.

Besides, it’s all relative. As Jeana Keough, one of Orange County’s Real Housewives said on a recent show, “I could be happy in a 5000 square foot house. I don’t need 9000.” Really? Dear girl, here in the real world where many of us live daily, most people are delighted with much less.

Why would musician Paul McCartney say he never plans to retire? How about Oprah or many other wealthy-enough-to-never-have-to-work-again folks? Why do they keep working when they could be doing nothing? Why work if you don’t have to and if you do have to, isn’t the work and your purpose for doing it even more important? Thomas Edison, the inventor we can thank for the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, said, “One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its rewards to the man who loves his work, but speaking for myself, I can honestly say this is not so. . .I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”

Any kind of training or education can be just one more thing to check off on your to-do list. An article in this month’s Wired,** “Summa Cum Fraud,” by David Wolman (pp. 68-75), reports that “every year, diploma mills sell as many doctoral degrees as are awarded by real universities,” noting also that “fake diplomas are known to have existed as far back as 14th-century Europe.” While paying for a degree without having to attend a single class might sound good, it won’t help you find your purpose and passions. Neither will attending classes without being present.

What is the dream that keeps your hopes alive?

There’s no easy way out. If there were, I would have bought it. And believe me, it would be one of my favorite things!
• Oprah Winfrey

Money can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, encourage unethical behavior, foster short-term thinking, and become addictive.
• Daniel H. Pink

* from “After All This Time” by Rodney Crowell

** Special note re: Wired. I love this magazine. It reminds me of how much I don’t know, reminds me of how much I don’t want to know, and fills me with fascinating information that is the brain equivalent of Styrofoam packing peanuts, filling space, but nothing I’d want to keep. I’m just hoping that it’s the kind that dissolves eventually, otherwise, I’ll be packed with useless facts about things like “Japan’s Coolest Gadgets,” like the Mugen Puchi Puchi aka Endless Pop Pop, a toy that simulates the sounds of bubblewrap popping. Gotta have it! There’s lots more that I might want if I could only read the type.

Here’s a hint for graphic designers: white type on a pale blue or yellow background is not pleasant reading for anyone nor is grey type a good idea, and just because you can create two-point type does not mean that you should use it. This hint also applies to student work. If you hand in a paper or are doing a presentation, make sure your intended audience can read it. No matter how good something looks, if the information can’t be easily accessed, the communication has failed to communicate. And while I realize that sometimes such choices are purposeful, work that needs a grade is not the place to experiment unless you’re actually in a class that requires you to do so.


TITillation Nation: Following an American Obsession

January 11, 2010

We live in a tit nation. • Bette Davis

I collect quotations about many things. One of those things is breasts and I’m using this collection this quarter in ED 562: Human Development, Cognition, and Learning to illustrate that just about anything can become what I call a Collectory, multi-sourced research that is motivated by some kind of personal interest and expands to become much more. If you’re in my class, you can follow my weekly “breast watch” at breastwishes.wordpress. If you’re not in my class you can follow it too! The first post explains how and why I began my collection.

This topic is definitely significant in relation to adolescent development and to gender issues as well. I’m currently working on mounting another exhibit of Breast Wishes, a related art show, for women’s history month. This is a topic that’s linked to my personal autobibliography collections as well.

If you were to begin collecting quotations, what subject would interest you? Why?

I’m so scared girls look at my breast implants and think, “to get boys, you need big boobs. I tell them, “Don’t get it done. Those fears go away. You develop other insecurities, but breasts aren’t one of them.” I want to get them half-size.

• Jenny McCarthy


Someone Somewhere Is Plotting to Sell You Something You Don’t Really Need But That You Might Want in the New Year if It’s Cheap Enough. Why? Because It Will Truly Make You More Beautiful, Happier, and Incredibly Successful When It Isn’t Making Your Life Easier!

January 6, 2010

Money, not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations.
• Thomas Jefferson

For years I’ve been saving holiday hyperbole and hype. This kind of adtalk continues long after the holidays are over. After all, we’ve got gift cash and cards lurking in our wallets and merchants hope to lure us in with bargains we simply can’t resist. Students are especially vulnerable to these enticements if financial aid has just arrived. I am reminded of the marketing sea we swim in both by what I see and hear and read and by an assignment on schoolhouse commercialism I just introduced to my students.

According to the Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism produced annually by CERU (Commercialism in Education Research Unit), categories of marketing targeting students include sponsorship of programs and activities; exclusive agreements with product vendors like soft-drink manufacturers; appropriation of space (bulletin boards, posters, and such); sponsored materials such as lesson plans, study materials, and curricula; and many other things that manufacturers hope will create awareness and build brand loyalty for their products.

We see this kind of thing clearly on college campuses when a stadium is named for a commercial donor or a team’s uniforms are supplied by a particular manufacturer. Other kinds of marketing are such a familiar part of the educational landscape that we may not even recognize them as advertising. Take a look around you in class and check out how many brands you can see on clothing and bags. Who among you is unbranded? Are you? I wear a lot of anonymous clothing, much of it originating in thrift stores, but alas, my fondness for Converse makes me a walking advertisement many days.

Times are tough for education and money is hard to come by. I understand the temptations of and even the necessity for sponsorship. Just don’t imagine that it’s being done for the public good. Make your own decisions when it comes to deciding what to buy and what kinds of things deserve your customer loyalty.

Here’s some of the hype I’ve collected on 3×5 cards over the years:

Woe, Ho, Ho!
A Multimedia Found Poem from W-OZ

Holiday outlook cheerless.
He needs a new chain saw. He’ll thank you for it.
Shop The Water Store for the pure-fect gift.
If a handgun’s on your list, time is running out.
Homeless shelters burst at seams.
Bring your pooch in and have its picture taken with Santa.
Give her youth. Give her cosmetic surgery.
He’s back, he’s deadly, he’s Satan Claws.
Show your love with a diamond. Doesn’t she deserve it?
It wouldn’t be one man’s dream if it wasn’t another man’s possession.
Cease fire.
Bedspread Kingdom has what she wants in precious prints and coordinated colors.
How can you live without a French fry maker?
A potato baker?
A hot dog griller?
A football-shaped slow cooker for the Super Bowl?
Accidents claim fourteen. State patrol beefs up surveillance.
Ten percent off and more. Buy now.
Twenty percent off and more. Buy now.
Thirty percent off and more. Buy now.
Forty percent off and more. Buy now.
Half off! It’s a steal! Now is the time to buy.
Think how much you’ll save.
Singing cats with your favorite carols.
Shoot-’em-up action for the kids.
Runaways–call home.
Shop today and don’t pay until next March!
Last five days.
Only two days left to buy.
Save on pants for every occasion.
Lowest prices of the season.
Isn’t it time for a Timex?
Only 24 more hours to shop!
Fed up with give-away welfare?
Fly to Australia for the holidays. Your companion goes half-price!
Top ten reasons to shop Mattress Discounters NOW.
Give holiday dinner to a homeless person.
Holiday makeovers. A new you.
One week only.
An incredible assortment. No one sells for less.
Cruise the Caribbean.
Barbie Power Rangers Playskool Cool Tools Star Wars Tyco Batman Video
Disney Pooh Bumbleball Jibber Jabber See ‘n’ Say Fisher Price.
To wrap up big holiday savings, just use your Discover Card.
Of course, you’ll have leftovers.
Add cheer to your chicken.
Just pop ’em in your microwave–heated slippers!
Products to make your life easier and more enjoyable.
It’s a must have.
Christmas just got healthier. Low fat treats!
Kosher chocolates for seasonal gifting.
When you give a gift from here, you’re giving your child something that will last a lifetime!
No one makes Christmas magic quite the way you can with us.
Make it a Mickey Christmas!
Tree overheats. Fire claims family of seven.
Are YOU ready for the holidays?
Toys! Toys! Toys!
Be as beautiful as the season.
Go wild for the holidays–rice, that is!
For the ones you love: the incredible bacon cooker.
Great movie gifts at a merry price.
Your child’s name becomes a poem. Save $3.00.
Exclusive values. Hottest items. Bonus bucks.
No interest for one year. Exclusive values. Lowest prices guaranteed.
Redecorate for the season. Next day delivery. Easy payment plan.
Free personalized letter from Santa with your $5.00 greeting card purchase.
Enter to win holiday dough.
Lose fat now! Be fit for the holidays.
Don’t sacrifice quality for credit limitation!
Where shopping is a pleasure.
Don’t you want the best?
It’s a great gift idea–the Sunday comic strip umbrella.
It’s our biggest sales event of the year!
Quality products at phenomenal prices.
Stupendous savings! Ginormous bargains!
Save! Save! Save!
We’re serious about saving you money!
Save when you buy. The more you buy, the more you save.
‘Tis the season for negotiating benefits.
World peace?
Customer appreciation sale.
It’s over, but it’s not over here!
Our loss is your gain and it’s not too late to save.
Shop now for next year!
You’ll never see prices like these again.

Is there something you’re longing to buy? Do you really need it?

One night only on MTV—a two-hour commercial-free celebration of Nike!
• Television promo, early in the twenty-first century