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Archive for August, 2009

New Frontiers in Niche Marketing

Marketing to vampire buffs.

Marketing to vampire buffs.

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Lately I’ve had advertising on the brain.  I rented billboard space on my cerebral cortex for Gold’s Gym.  But also, I’ve been thinking about marketing strategies a lot these days.  It seems that advertising is a way to sell people things and thus make money.  I love money!  I have a plan: marketing to incredibly specific groups of weirdos.

The New York Times ran an article on Tuesday about different products aimed at freaks who are way too into vampires.  (I should probably just say “people who are into vampires,” because being into vampires at all is the same as being too into vampires.)

These products are just regular stuff we already own, except their names are vampiric.  Fang Floss is just regular floss. SunScream is sunblock, but they write “VPF” on it, which stands for “Vampire Protection Factor,” because “sun damage is the NO. 1 killer of the undead.” A close second is dog bites (the dogs have rabies).

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Toppling the Eiffel Tower: a common fantasy.

Toppling the Eiffel Tower: a common fantasy.

If movie trailers are to be trusted, the new G.I. Joe flick features a scene where the Eiffel Tower is strafed by bomb-fire at its feet and topples over. This is not the first time the most famous landmark in Paris has taken a hit. So many movies have shown the tower being destroyed that it almost counts as a cinematic cliché, like scenes of lovers kissing against the background of the New York skyline

In the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds, a Martian attack devastates the tower, an event repeated more humorously in the 1996 Mars Attacks. Aliens also smack against the tower in Independence Day while a meteorite is the cause of ruin in Armageddon.

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Like Freddy Krueger and Dracula, Betsy McCaughey will always be with us. She first gained fame writing about the health care reform in a notorious 1994 New Republic essay, which was filled with lies but had a wide circulation and influence. Now as health care reform is once again on the table, McCaughey has risen from her undead state and continues to peddle her dubious expertise. She was recently on the Daily Show, and was dishonest as ever (which Canadian viewers can see here; American viewers can find it here).

As long as McCaughey insists on haunting public, I will continue to advise readers that they need to digest and enjoy A.M. Lamey’s definitive dissection of her work, which can be found here as a pdf file. For more of Lamey on this matter, see this earlier post.

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A problem and solution all in one ad.

A problem and solution all in one ad.

 

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

 

Important ideas are all around us.  Just look at anything I’ve ever written—free and easily accessible right here on the internet.  But also, things in our daily lives are more than what they seem.  Commercials are full of powerful concepts, and they’re fun to deconstruct.  But then you realize what is really going on and you pretty much want to kill yourself.  On a lighter note, let’s read my fun essay!

The New York Times had an article this week about deodorant advertising. The photos show men with huge pieces of deodorant coming out of their armpits to spell words such as “evil.”  These ads touch on an important cultural idea even though they don’t name it and probably didn’t take Joel Pfister’s class at Wesleyan where we learned all about this.  This idea is called incitement.

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Pages Books as seen through Michael Cho's eyes.

Pages Books as seen through Michael Cho's eyes.

Pages Books and Magazines opened in 1979, so it must have still been a relatively spanking new store when I first started shopping there in 1981 or thereabouts. I was a teenager and Queen Street was a good place to hang out if you were a kid in Toronto. It was still a grungy street with a post-punk ambience, home to all sorts of businesses that could only thrive in a low rent neighborhood (head shops, used book stores, comic book stores, used record stores, vintage clothing shops, biker bars, incredibly cheap ethnic restaurants). Queen Street has changed tremendously since then, in part because those sometimes skuzzy stores drew in all sorts of other people: it’s now an outdoor shopping mall, home to upscale outlets for the Gap and Old Navy.

Pages will be closing up at the end of this month, a victim one could easily argue of its own success. Pages was instrumental in the economic transformation of Queen Street: it was one of the major reasons people all over the city, indeed all over the country, made the trek to this once downscale downtown Toronto neighborhood. But now that Queen Street is a shopping Mecca, rent has skyrocketed to the point where it is nearly impossible to run a book store in the area. In the case of Pages the landlord wants a rent of $400,000 per year.

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Study Shows…

Co-ed dining: the tried and true diet

Co-ed dining: the tried and true diet

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Study shows that women eat less around men

For a complete list of things that don’t change, google “the past” and “still photographs of anything anywhere.”

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“Women order smaller and less calorific meals if eating with a man than if dining with female friends,” according to a group of people the DailyMail calls “Scientists.” Women responded: “Obviously. What? No, I’m not crying. Get out of my office!”

If having this insight qualifies you as a scientist, apparently any human being can be one, and I would like to be an astronaut please. Then I could wear a diaper and hang out with monkeys, who also wear diapers.

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Felix, a happy-go-lucky trickster. Is he presidential material?

Felix, a happy-go-lucky trickster. Is he presidential material?

Snorting has greeted Niall Ferguson’s new column, which begins like this:

President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky.

But aside from derision, Ferguson’s comments deserve some analysis. There is a reason why Ferguson, when he looks upon a cartoon character from the 1920s, lets his mind free-associate in the direction of black people. As many cultural historians have pointed out, the classic American animated cartoons emerged from the same milieu that produced blackface performances (like the Amos and Andy show) and minstrel music. Many of the great early animated characters — Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Bosko — had more than a touch of blackface and the minstrel show to them.

Felix the cat is a feckless, happy-go-lucky trickster. Culturally, he’s the missing link between Br’er Rabbit and Bugs Bunny: admirable in some ways but lacking in the “white” qualities of respectability and responsibility. It’s interesting that Ferguson managed to pick out such a potent, meaning-rich cultural symbol of blackness. It was probably subconscious on his part but still very revealing.

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A detail from “A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas”, by John Wolseley (2005). Born in England just before World War II, Wolseley didn’t move to Australia until he was 38. But over the subsequent three decades, the immigrant has made the continent his own, travelling extensively through its length and breadth, and making art that captures its essence as a natural system playing out over the ages of deep history. Incorporating (at different times and in different proportions) painting, drawing, and natural processes and media — including buried paper and charcoaled trees — his work has depicted such phenomena as continental drift, the stages of a brush fire, and the denizens of the Wallace Line, which demarcates the flora and fauna of Asia from that of Australia.

The surface water has invented its own complex geographies alternating times of flow, times of rest – as it dances with the aquifers and deeper water tables. There is an ancient relationship between the waterways , creeks, billabongs and their flood plains. I have been marvelling at the lines of energy radiating from swamps and water holes, and seasonal creeks full of bird, animal and plant life.

More than ever before I found that this process of making a watercolour seemed to be analagous to the action and process by which water moves and forms the landscape itself. I’ve been laying these huge sheets of paper on to softly descending banks of sand hills, and start in a rather wild and physical way by pouring, brushing, sploshing quantities of watercolour which I have previously mixed up in large bowls. All these watery landscape elements around me are then recreated on the paper.

– John Wolseley, “Journal Notes

"A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas", by John Wolseley (2005)

"A History of Parrots, Drifting Maps and Warming Seas", by John Wolseley (2005)

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Henry David Thoreau, who took nothing for granted.

Henry David Thoreau, who took nothing for granted.

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Sunday August 9th 2009 is the 156th anniversary of Thoreau’s Walden being published.  “But I read that in high school and hated it,” I hear you say. (I have very good ears.)  “It’s a bitter guy talking about beans for three hundred pages.  Walden is the worst.”

 

False.  You think Walden is the worst because you were in high school, and everything is the worst when you are in high school.  I would like to revisit what I consider one of the most important things to take away from Walden, besides a commemorative lamp: the importance of questioning the inherent.  That means questioning all the things you dismiss as inevitable, beyond your control, natural—from who makes your clothes (and why we’re even buying new clothes in the first place) and schools to who makes your ideas.

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According to American and European intelligence and military sources, there is a growing menace to Western security in (to use the intervention-justifying cliché of recent times) “the vast ungoverned spaces” of northwest Africa. A New York Times story published earlier this month itemized a string of violent events in the region that officials blame on Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that apparently formed in the final years of the Algerian civil war of the 1990s and that was until recently known as the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC).

“Is there a threat? There sure is a threat,” Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, commander of the two-year old United States Africa Command, told journalists in June, and the NYT piece echoes his tone of certainty. By only its third paragraph, the idea that the incidents “reflect Al Qaeda’s growing tentacles” in the region has already appeared as a foundational assumption.

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