Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Just Ignore Him"

Why does every anti-US blast from al Qaeda wind up being front page news?
I mean we know they hate us. There's nothing newsworthy about that.
Nor is there anything newsworthy about them releasing a video mocking us. (Though they never cease to remind me of the "tapes" the Joker used to make to mock Batman back in Gotham City.)
So why are they front page news?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Crashing My Fast: VW's New Campaign in Trouble.

Seems there's a lot of unhappiness over the new VW ad campaign.

Or ad campaigns, since in all fairness to the agency (Crispin, Porter & Bogusky) there are several campaigns running, each for a different VW vehicle.

Which is where their problems began.

It seems your average consumer isn't sufficiently familiar with the difference between the GTI, whose advertising features the "Fast" an anthropomorphic sidekick for 20something males and the Jetta, whose campaign shows cars getting into unexpected (and somewhat shocking to the home viewer) accidents in attempt to showcase its safety features.

So consumers are making the not-entirely-unwarranted leap that if you'd just leave your damn "fast" at home, you wouldn't wind up getting into all these accidents.

But at least they're talking about Volkswagen, right? You can't buy that kind of PR. (You know this is exactly what the agency is busy reassuring VW right now.)

Um, Yes Virginia, He's Not All That

Add the New York Times' Virginia Heffernan to the list of Anglophiles who insist that nothing done in the U.S. can actually be as funny as something done in England.

Her paean to Ricky Gervais in today's Arts section includes a lengthy transcript from Gervais podcast that just must not translate well to print. Even with Heffernan swearing to us that just the way the character says "me Gran" is sidesplittingly funny.

When will people like Ms. Heffernan get that much of British humor doesn't translate on this "side of the pond." That the speech patterns of council-flat dwellers, which she finds so uproarious, are so unfamiliar to your average "Yank" that any parody of said speech patterns is bound to fall flat. Until then, we're bound to keep disappointing her.

New York Times Magazine Goes New York Magazine

Today's Sunday Times magazine goes all New York on us.

Jamie Wolfe's article mimics the brainless "let's make a trend" New York magazine from the unfulfilled sensationalist blurb in the table of contents "And You Thought Abercrombie & Fitch Was Pushing It?" to the fluffy article that attempts to read social significance into something that quite clearly has none.

In a nutshell, American Apparel, the downtown t-shirt company, has mimicked A&F by using somewhat unclothed models in their advertising and on their web site. Only AA's models aren't very good-looking (in the classic sense) and because AA's faux-amateur photos haven't been shot by homoeroticist Bruce Weber, the nipples and armpits being focused on are mostly female.

That's it.

Wolf's biggest stretch is trying to create some sort of comparison between Dov Charney, AA's founder and Hugh Hefner. It seems that like Hef, Charney sleeps with a lot of his employees and has occasionally used some of them in his ads. Immediately after they've been in his bed. Which, given Charney's own less-than-spectacular looks, explains the preponderance of "unconventional" looking models.

Charney spouts a bunch of nonsensical comments about how today's "adult generation" is "not preoccupied by monogamy. Exciting things can happen... That's what the boomers presented for America and that's what this new generation presents for us..." Pretty heavy stuff for a t-shirt manufacturer.

Oh, and he's been the subject of several sexual harassment lawsuits, though Wolf seems to find it mostly amusing that he started to jerk off in front of a female journalist from Jane magazine. Oh, and he's noted architect Moshe Safdie's nephew, too

Rounding out this week's magazine is an unintentionally funny men's fashion spread, featuring rock climbers in Boulder, Colorado wearing overpriced designer clothes. What's great is that the photos of these scruffy, non-fashiony looking guys does nothing but point out how unexceptional the designer clothes they're wearing actually are. With the exception of one goofy-looking sweater, the guys look like they just raided their own Gap and mall-stocked closets. Whose contents were acquired for about 1/20th of the featured Prada-wear.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Investing In Nenad

I often wish you could invest in people's careers the way you invest in companies. If you could, Nenad Krstic, the New Jersey Nets seven-foot center, would be a sure bet. Nenad, who bears the unlikely nickname "Curly" -- his hair is only slightly wavy and he's got a full head of it-- is a 3rd year player from Serbia-Montenegro. He's grown considerably over the past few years (as a player, that is) and I would not be the first to suggest that he'll be a future all-star.

Nenad shone in last year's playoffs; here's hoping that he'll be just as strong this time.

UPDATE: Though the Nets lost Game 1 to the Pacers in a 90-88 heartbreaker, Nenad contributed 22 points, second highest total on the Nets.

The Mommy Wars, Part 237

Congratulations to Sandra Tsing Loh who continues to inject some sense into the whole modern parenting/"mommy wars" debate.

In a review of Leslie Morgan Steiner's Mommy Wars for Powells.com, she wisely points out that the decision to work or not work is an upper middle class dilemma-- most women don't have that choice if they want their families to eat. The fact that neither side ever acknowledges this (that most women work because they have to, not because they want to) just reinforced what a little bubble most upper middle class Americans live in.

Charlotte Simmons and the Duke Lacrosse Case

I'm surprised the mainstream media hasn't picked up on the similarities between the Duke lacrosse team rape case and Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons." In the book, which is set at a fictionalized version of Duke (the school Wolfe's daughter Alexandra attended) Charlotte is all-but-raped by a drunken lacrosse player. There are the liberal professors and their hangers-on too, ready to damn the jocks and to protest at the drop of a pin. The waffling administrators. The mostly-minority off-campus neighborhood where the students are less than welcome and feel somewhat ill-at-ease.

Wolfe also picked up on something the mainstream media seems to be missing as well: how the lacrosse team fits into the social structure of the campus of an elite East Coast university. Unlike most of the basketball and football players, who are working class kids and treated like mercenaries by both students and faculty, the lacrosse players come from the same social milieu as the rest of the students. In fact, they were likely high school classmates with many of them. And this makes them far more accessible, the jocks that people actually know, who have some standing with the majority of students as opposed to the ones they occasionally glimpse around campus. Now why one would assume that leads directly to rape is another story, but so much has been made of their privileged backgrounds, you'd have thought someone would have picked up on this nuance.

My fear with this case, which is being tried in the media daily, is that it's going to devolve into another OJ case, where whites take their innocence to be a given and are shocked to learn that even "intelligent" black people (and I use that term in all its liberal-mocking glory) are just as convinced of their guilt.

As for the principals, none of them are getting off easy. The lacrosse players are all being cast as obnoxious spoiled rich kids, the "frat boys" of every Park Slopers worst nightmares. And the accuser, who has gone from "dancer" to "exotic dancer" to "stripper" to "escort" has been painted as a slut with a criminal record.

Given these two-dimensional stereotypes, it's not wonder that most people's reaction to the case seems to have more to do with their personal opinion of say "jocks" or "strippers" than with the actual facts of the case, thus leading to a lot of shrill name calling back and forth.

Take the "#41 email." Rather than try and see it as the really bad attempt at humor by a drunken 19 year old that it most likely was, the email is being taken in some quarters as proof positive that, given a few more hours, the lacrosse players would have skinned the poor woman alive.

The only winner here seems to be the people who sell tabloid newspapers and television. They'll be living off this case for the next decade.