Friday, February 23, 2007

Revolutionary Jesus

Was Jesus really a rebel? I'd love to here people's opinions on this, because the answer is a little yes and a little no - but how much so is a fascinating question.

This much I'm certain of: Jesus was not a cool rebel. He was a dutiful son and a loving friend, more than a rebel without a cause.

But what do you think? To get your creative juices flowing, here's a little collection of Jesus-as-Che Guevara graphics I've found on the web. Enjoy, then comment!

Monday, February 19, 2007


This is one of the most surreal books I've ever read. It's by an advertising exec - someone paid to help companies make money. And it's about love.

Love? Kevin Roberts seems to honestly feel that the new frontier in branding is getting people to love particular brands. He points out the rabid fans behind Apple computers, for instance, and concludes that a love relationship exists between Apple and their consumers.

Kevin Roberts is no fool; that much is clear. What is bizarre to me is the conflation of love and consumer passion.

I've felt for a while that there's a world of difference between love as defined by Jesus (about laying down one's life for one's friends) and love as defined by pop culture (which is only about the moment). But love for companies?

I know that corporations cultivate long-term consumer loyalty. I remember that in high school I sometimes drew corporate logos on the back of my notebooks. (Maybe I can dig one up and scan it in for my readers.) But sometime we've got to become deeper people. There is a greater love out there, much greater.

This world is starving to death of soul-sickness, and lovemarks will only tease. Nothing against Kevin Roberts, because he needs to make a living, but love is deeper than branding because life is deeper than consumerism.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Tunes

Here is the music I have out from the library this week. Go ahead and judge me all you want. I have my tastes.

  • Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra. Grammy-winning Polka.
  • Willie Nelson's newest, Songbird. Country.
  • Megadeth, from 1987. Big Hair Metal.
  • Jay-Z's Kingdom Come. Hip Hop.
  • Black Eyed Peas. Hip Hop.

What about y'all?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Before It was Cool to Smoke

A lot of anti-tobacco crusaders these days talk about uncooling cigarettes. They are referring, of course, to the use of cool to sell cigarettes to young people. Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.

By "uncool", they mean "shame", as if rejecting cool is something to be ashamed of.

But what no one is mentioning is that cigarettes were being pitched to young people long before cool conquered the advertising world. That took place in the mid sixties. Before that, taste, quality and social standing were successful tools.

Behold this ad from I don't know when. I found it at the Internet Archive. These two smokers are so square it's not even funny. But we're supposed to admire them (they're fashionable dancers) and, therefore, smoke their brand.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hail Wedded Love

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, of which I can't complain that it was once some beautiful and authentic holiday, because it never really was, let me offer these lines from Paradise Lost to my Babymama, because I love her but she'd hate for me to get sappy in front of a watching world:

Hail, wedded Love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety
In Paradise, of all things common else!
Translated into normal English, You'll be my baby even on the other side.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tut tut, Girls Gone Wild, Tut Tut

I try not to be a cynic, but it seems to me that Newsweek is dishonest and hypocritical this week. Their cover feature on what they call misbehaved celebrity women is one big excuse to tell titillating stories and show risqué pictures.

I've recently come to be a strong opponent of pornography, and the coolification of porn. Paris Hilton (whose famous video I have NOT seen) and the "Girls Gone Wild" phenomenon--two role players in this bigger movement--are featured in Newsweek, along with Britney Spears and the like. Newsweek approaches the topic as if it were a public concern, asking "are we raising a generation of 'prosti-tots'?" In other words, are we celebrating pornographic behavior before a closely watching girlhood?

Of course we are! Every year in this country we are hard at work making pedophilia less of a taboo. The unstated goal behind so much of this Girls Gone Wild business is the sexual availability of girls for the public manhood. And Newsweek's wink-wink cover story did less than help the crisis. By collating a timeline (with pictures) of bad girls in Hollywood, they put themselves in the camp of celebrating objectification.

I know that I must be coming off as a grouch. But this is dangerous stuff!

Pamela Paul's seminal book Pornified called for us to "Censure, not Censor" peddlers of smut. That's what we've got to do here: Shame, Shame, Newsweek.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

He likes me!

Yesterday, when I came home from work, Josiah was busy playing with a block. When he saw me (about 10 feet away) he immediately crawled over, with a huge grin on his face.

It was a big effort on his part, because he's not that expert at crawling, but man was that ever flattering.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gwen the Alpine Peasant

I can't help linking to this one by Gwen Stefani. It's standard dance-hall ear candy and nothing more. But it's set to the tune of The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music. And it's got yodeling. Not very well done yodeling, but still!

This happens to be Ms. Stefani's second hit song taken from a 1960s musical (after If I Were a Rich Girl from Fiddler on the Roof). One petty complaint: she's got this dumb logo for herself. But throughout the video she has dozens of them hanging from the ceiling; since the video makes you think about Sound of Music, all I could think was Nazi swastikas.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Snoop Dogg is a Homeboy

Snoop Dogg at USCOne more thought on Snoop Dogg. I realized one thing I really like about his album, despite the gangster junk: It's very much rooted in place-Los Angeles.

Music should be local, especially hip hop, which is the genre of "I have a story to tell". Snoop Dogg's song's are all about a real place. And that adds a sense of freshness and humaneness to all the bluster.

Snoop Dogg at USC
Originally uploaded by ellimac.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Boring Transgressiveness

Here's a line from Snoop Dogg's Vato:

I wouldn't be the n_____ that I am if I didn't pop n____z in the mouth.

Isn't that poetic? I listened to the whole CD. I checked it out from the library. Here's my assessment: Snoop Dogg manages to pull off an amazing feat. He makes sex, drugs and violence seem so ... boring.

Before I commend him too effusively: even that has been done before. Last year Staind managed to make anger and incredible guitarwork boring.

It had never occurred to me before writing my book how much we can learn from boredom. Then I stumbled across a book called A Philosophy of Boredom, by a Norwegian professor.

Boredom, as it turns out, is more than an attitude. It can also reside in an environment. Boredom, according to prof. Lars Svendsen, is basically a refusal to take delight in the world. This is significant in the realm of transgression. Transgressiveness is a value in much of the art world, because of the high pressure put on artists to do something never done before.

The trouble is that the psychology of transgression focuses more on the boundaries to be crosssed than on what lies beyond them. So the transgressive artist is not saying anything about the world out there; only about the boundaries themselves. And if all boundaries are crossed, there is nothing else to say.

So if transgression is an artistic goal, boredom will be the result. In Snoop Dogg's case, we have songs about every kind of gang violence, every kind of drug, and every kind of cheap sex. And what are we left with? I can't even take offense. It's just plain old boring.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

What about the Superbowl?

I missed the Superbowl. The entire thing. I was driving the most boring stretch of highway in the cosmos: I-39 through central Illinois. So I missed things like this:

The Superbowl is an annual parade for advertisements. This is where people who want our money try to get us to love them. But since I missed the show, what did y'all see?

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