RSS

Monthly Archives: September 2011

As Seen on T.V.

Today’s (primetime) television listing includes such small screen gems as; Fatal Honeymoons, Survivor: South Pacific (Bali Hai?), Dance Moms, Real Housewives (insert gated community), Sons of Guns: Oh my G-d a Canon, Confessions: Animal Hoarding, True Life: I Have Acne.  These are just a small sample of what is available to the discerning television viewing audience of our fair region.  But wait, do not rush to cancel cable, there is also a tiny Isis delivered glimmer of hope in today’s listing: Kate Plus 8: The Finale.

Cheekiness aside, I actually find this programming abomination somewhat comforting.  For one thing there is the utter truth in advertising that exists in these shows and ones like: The Dumbest Stuff.  No one is trying to pose as something they simply are not.  That is always deliciously refreshing.  Do I think Edward R Murrow would quit smoking if he knew that network news shows now cover; Celebrity Secrets: A Model Life, sure.  But I am also so bold as to suggest that Mr. Murrow would discover the joys of public broadcasting and the BBC.

Aside from the utter lack of pretense of inexpensively produced “reality” shows they provide a valuable litmus for our culture.  To my mind there is no difference between seizure inducing television, fast/junk food, and licensed designer products.  As a nation, we have a Big Gulp appetite for cheap crud.  Why is this (old news) encouraging?  Because if we can connect the dots, we can begin to make better choices about how to address social issues.

Consumer debt, like obesity, is spreading like the plague.  Some portion of our nation’s massive consumer debt is due to buying too much.  (Stunning economic analysis, I know.)  For decades, we have been on hyper-drive extolling the virtues of being Rich and Famous (oh what Robin Leach has wrought!)  We can not feign surprise that a celebrity obsessed culture now exists.  In the 1990s, we saw the ascent of television shows, songs, and magazines, whose general raison d’etre was to pitch (formerly obscure) brands as “must haves.”  Did anyone ever need to know what a Blahnik was, or be hypnotized into believing it had intrinsic value?  Not surprisingly, once the consumer appetite was created, the knock-offs could not be far behind.   I am actually a proponent of (legal) knock-offs (i.e., H&M,Topshop.)  Usually, not such a fan of disposable clothing, I find these shops help to quench a thirst for photo spread apparel.  There is a (more relevant) secondary function of these shops as well.  In theory, if faced with the mass-market ubiquity resulting from say, Missoni for Target, a consumer epiphany can not be far behind.  “Is the “famous” “designer” (insert item) actually better than another (insert item,)” the consumer then asks him/herself.  Make no mistake, there are huge disparities in craftsmanship, materials, styling in fashion, but there is no relationship between those factors and the size of the team of publicists hired by a designer. Once that realization occurs, the uber-marketed brand is simply not as desirable.  So the proliferation of cheap knock-offs, could in fact work to curb excessive consumer debt.  I suggest Public Service Announcements (PSA) which show who the people really are that are buying these items.  This would not be that different than the substitution of the burly Malboro Man, with the guy attached to the oxygen tank.

While we’re on the subject, how about the same PSA marketing campaign for junk/fast food?  Not unlike the restrictions put on liquor and cigarette advertising, how about rules of engagement for food-like products?  There are the easy black-out restrictions (i.e., no advertising sugar laced or processed food to children: ever.)  But then there are the more creative (and flat out enjoyable) approaches.  How about anyone shown serving, being served, or ingesting sugar laces/processed food, looked like they actually eat it?  Or for every advertisement for sugar laced/processed food, equal space (and resources) must be given to visually accurate depictions of people; on dialysis, oxygen dependent, or mobility impaired.  Severe?  Absolutely, but this is war.  We’ve spent decades convincing the public that cheap crud is appealing.  It’s time use the same approach and ingenuity for the good of society.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Will Someone Care?

There is a beautiful piece in today’s paper about, amongst other things. isolated geriatric gay men.   The generation that is now elderly, came of age in the late 1930s and 1940s.  Historically, not the best of times to be “out.”  It stands to reason that when one must keep their personal life in the dark, their personal life may not grow and thrive.  Certainly there are heart warming stories about men and women who defied convention during these times.  (Juxtaposed to the very sad piece about gay men dying alone was the grin inducing piece about a gay couple who met in 1944 and lived together for 60 years.)

I don’t think these two stories being about men is a coincidence.  I will venture that fewer gay women live a life of solitude, or if in partnership; notice.  An upside to our society’s gender bias is (remarkably) fewer gender lifestyle restrictions for women.  Women have lived together for centuries.  Boston Marriage, anyone?  Two women setting up housekeeping is not only not a “threat” to their community, but considered quaint.  Women who cross-dress (think: Annie Hall) are seen as creative or fashion forward.  I’m not so sure anyone would think that of a man in a dress (of course, they’ve probably never seen Eddie Izzard.)  Adding to society’s gender inequity is plain old biology.  Love it or hate it, there is a difference between girls and boys.  Chromosomal testing results aside, I am the first to say it is difficult to discern what is biological and what is sociological.  Let’s just decide not to be entirely definitive on the origin, but agree that women experience the world more socially than men.  GENERALLY.  Very very generally.  Women tend to have more friends and intimates and stronger social networks.  Women tend to process the world through relationships.  Again, generally.

The duality of a) the community accepting women cohabiting and b) women tending to have strong social supports contribute to gay women presumably being at less of a risk of aging/dying alone.  The author of the geriatric piece, Dr. Eskildsen, urges us to not to assume heterosexuality when working with patients.  I happen to think “not assuming heterosexuality” is just a good rule to live by, period.  However, I might shy away from sexual orientation emphasis when it comes to issues of isolation.

Aside from the obvious gender chasm (versus sexual orientation chasm) that I’ve described above.  Many people either choose, or through happenstance, live a very solitary life.  Some people even flat out prefer to be alone.  It would seem to me that the goal should be to avoid projecting our own desires onto someone else.  Tending to a person (geriatric patient or otherwise) according to what the individual craves is the most humane.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Is Our Blue Eyeshadow?

When watching an old movie, how long does it take you to pinpoint the decade?  How long before you can identify the year?  Maybe I possess a (previously unidentified) talent, but I can guess the time period in about 2-3 minutes.  The women are the very first barometer.  Even in a women’s prison film, the style of dress, eyebrow and shoe should speak volumes.  If there are no women handy, men will do.  Hair, hats, cut of the pants, will all point to a decade if not a year.  For the more advanced player, do try a period film.  Cleopatra is a good example of such an exercise.  I’m no anthropologist, but I’m going to venture that there was no blue eyeshadow before the common era.

Parlor games aside, I am struck by the notion that I can not identify any style of dress or hair after the 1980s.  Of course I can still pinpoint a film’s time period.  Sort of.  By the cars and size of the mobile phones.  But the fashion and style?  Not really.  I would be willing to concede that one never notices what will eventually become iconic, while actually living in the period.  But, and this is a big but; I am referencing over 20 years of indistinguishable style and fashion!  If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.  Your assignment is to describe to me a working woman in 1998.  What is she wearing?

Now, I don’t necessarily think a loss of iconic time specific style will be the death of our society.  I just wonder how it happened.  Is it the result of cheaper mass marketed clothing?  Perhaps this is what comes from sanitizing the design process for competitive cable television?  Is it the result of brand worship?  Did America even know which shoes to fetishisize before the 1990s? Perhaps it is more positive: could it be that the fashion playing field has become so democratic that there is not one style we can pinpoint as that of a recent decade.  Or, is fashion now like public behavior; anything goes?  Does a generation of women who think nothing of styling their hair in public (often in the vicinity of my dinner) feel a specific style would stifle her spontaneous, chip clip creativity?  Is style just too committal?

Life will go on, no doubt.  But it makes me a little sad, that in my doterage, when I turn on my subcutaneous video imagery receptor and watch a film from my “youth” I won’t be able to imagine myself in the time period.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Style

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

An Overdue Thanks

I have kept (relatively) quiet about something for ten years.  I have struggled with how to have a public discourse about anything in and around the subject of the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Very rightfully, Americans feel enormous ownership of their feelings about the events of the day and the aftermath.  Through luck and happenstance, I have no more entitlement of opinion and/or feeling about the subject, than anyone whose life was not shattered.  I acknowledge this with all due respect and reverence.

It is my hope, that on the heels of an anniversary ending in a “0” when the media has whirled itself into a commemorative frenzy, it might be time to gently offer up a thought that has clung to my psyche for a decade.

I would like to publicly commend and herald the air traffic controllers of the world.  I could not be more serious.  During those first moments, and even hours, the air traffic controllers safely directed every single commercial flight to a safe landing.  This unprecedented maneuver is almost too much to comprehend.  Air traffic is not something most of us really think about.  Save for an occasional horrific mishap or the rare film (Pushing Tin was a good movie) air traffic is not a high profile profession.  I’m guessing the controllers are okay with this.  Engaging in this very high pressure, isolating work, one probably doesn’t leave much time or energy to care about public opinion.

No doubt, part of why we never heard (much) about the drama and heroism inside the control towers is the lack of visual imagery.  I mean how many stories get told these days without compelling video?

If I could please take this moment to thank the men and women who did a job, most of us could never do, under intense time pressure and without a single incident.  I pay my respects without for a moment, taking anything away from everyone else who sacrificed and saved.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Home Economics 2.0

Recently I’ve wondered what has become of Home Economics.  Not the actual classes I was subjected to (more on that later) but the concept itself.  I’ve tossed the query out to various friends and acquaintances and have received murmurs of “budget cuts” in reply.  Hardly empirical data I know, but today’s opinion piece provides confirmation of our suspicions.

Now I would never extol the virtues of tedious sewing projects which only resulted in tears and an ancient teacher so frustrated by my stellar ineptitude, she used the my arm as a pincushion in an attempt to make her point.  I would never suggest someone else endure the humiliation of laboring over one simple skirt for an entire semester while the rest of the class created the equivalent of the Spring Line of Thomas Jefferson Junior High School.  I would never wish upon anyone the hollow sense of accomplishment that comes with an end of year unveiling of a skirt that no longer fit.

But cooking, and nutrition?  Well that’s a horse of a different color.

I think we can all agree, we’ve got a little weight issue in this country.  There is nothing like learning about the origin of food, nutrition, and cooking to aid in the decision process involved in eating.  If that weren’t reason alone to re-imagine Home Economics classes, consider for a moment the inherent math and science lessons to be had in growing and preparing food.  Chlorophyll, banana cultivation, baking chemistry, weights and measures…Years of lesson plans are just waiting to be delivered in the most entertaining (BAM!) delicious ways.

There has never been a better time to consider this curriculum.  My family (of origin) sat down to dinner together every single night.  Lunches were consumed at home, or were packed in a brown bag (note: mashed banana and peanut butter on whole wheat really needs the protection of a proper lunchbox) weekend breakfasts were a family affair.  There was no junk food (except for birthday celebrations) and nutrition was often discussed.  Again, without any scientific proof, I’m willing to say that the majority of children are not experiencing their meals in this manner today.

Unlike technology in the classroom (we’ll save debating the return on investment of teaching students power point, for another day) the teaching of Home Economics need not be an astronomical financial investment.  Yes, the title “Home Economics” is a bit cloying, and does conjure apron-y imagery.  But with the modern interpretation of say; Domestic Engineering, we can begin to imagine how making education (specifically math and science) personal, makes all the sense in the world.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Education

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,678 other followers