Scam marketing a film scam
Okay, so two Czechs get an art grant from their government and use it to come up with an ad campaign for a new "hypermarket" (ie big-box store) in Prague that doesn't actually exist. In their eyes, the project is a way to satirize capitalism in the post-socialist state. They make a documentary of the whole affair, call it Czech Dream, and shop it to distributors. (It played here at the Tribeca Film Festival recently but I missed it.)
On the website, a trailer for the film portrays a climatic moment: one where the thousands of people who travel some distance for the store opening realize that it's all a ruse and proceed to beat the shit out of the film directors. But here's the catch: the trailer is itself fake. The violent confrontation never happened. When people realized they'd be had, they just shrugged their shoulders and went back to their daily grind.
If you read in-between the lines in the small print on the website, you'll realize the trailer is part of the ruse... but all this begs the question of what exactly the directors are satirizing. The Guardian referred to the film as "ingenious" and that may be (like I said, haven't seen it), but I find this brand of clever annoying. Any of you seen it? (Via Adland)
New from Stay Free! magazine
"Ever since the Earl of Sandwich first ordered meat between two pieces of bread in 1765, entrepreneurs have sold sandwiches to their neighbors who want one. This article is not about those people. Here we will explore the much larger and eviler business of getting them to want the sandwich in the first place. The next step--physically vending a carefully formulated chemical stew that resembles a sandwich--was already explored extensively in Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's famous long-form Jackass stunt, which shocked the eight people who have never eaten at McDonald's with the blockbuster revelation that the food there is bad...."
Reminder: Wizard People screening Tues. in Brooklyn
Just a quick reminder about the good times to be had at Southpaw tomorrow night. Wizard People screening. (See the nice VILLAGE VOICE review here.) Music before and after the show with DJs Digestif and the Meat Mistress. Free copies of Stay Free! And more!
Wizard People screening
(aka Stay Free! #24 release party)
8 pm sharp; doors open at 7:30
Southpaw - Tuesday, May 31
125 Fifth Ave. (between Sterling and St. John's)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Note: Most people will be seated on benches for the movie; feel free to bring a pillow or cushion. We won't make fun of you... just remember: those cold, hard seats are all Warner Brothers fault!
NY Times on Clear Channel
Anyone who doubts that Clear Channel was behind the "pirate" radio station in Ohio mentioned earlier should doubt no more. The New York Times got one of the company's robots on the phone, who explained that the company launched the station to promote a format change. Says the robot (Mr. Lankford to you):
"Clear Channel, as I see it, is dedicated to entertaining radio and to getting results for our advertisers," Mr. Lankford said, noting that the company owns both conservative and progressive talk radio stations. "There's a hole in the market here and we're going to fill it."
...and that hole is (drum roll, please) progressive talk. Yes, I will say that again: Free Radio Ohio is to be a progressive talk station! Now if you'll excuse me I think I'll go shove an icepick in my ear.
(Thanks, William Moree)
p.s. Can anyone recommend any noncommercial (or at least non-Clear Channel) progressive talk radio in Akron? Email me or post comments and I'll add your suggestions here.
Piracy is Good?
Some of you might have read Mark Pesce's two-part series Piracy is Good? How Battlestar Galactica Killed Broadcast TV. For the uninitiated, here are parts I and II.
Pesce argues that Hollywood needs to give up fighting illicit downloading and find a new revenue model (no surprise there), but his plan leaves some questions unresolved. He suggests cutting out the middleman by abandoning the networks and having TV producers work directly with ad agencies. Sounds good to me. But his "big idea" for making money is to integrate more advertising into the shows. The problem I see is that this doesn't leave space for noncommercial programming. One reason HBO shows are such a success is that they needn't rely on ad revenue; viewers pay a premium price for quality. How will that work with internet-based distribution model where everything is free?
Phone ring tone set to top U.K. charts
Video killed the radio star, now cell phones have killed the video star.
From Business Week: A cell-phone ring tone based on the sound of a revving Swedish mo-ped, "Crazy Frog Axel F," appeared set to top the British singles chart Sunday, outselling the new single by Coldplay by nearly four to one.
Sounds to me like poetic justice. Now if only someone could base a cell-phone ring on the sound of a toilet flushing...
(Thanks, Joe Garden!)
It used to be taken for granted among employees at TV and radio stations that every so often you'd get calls from schizophrenics complaining about the voices in their head. People with schizophrenia are prone to hallucinations, and in the Western world one of the most common themes in those hallucinations is media-related; people will attribute their delusions to TV, radio, and various forms of advertising. (A friend of mine has a brother with schizophrenia who used to be obsessed with subliminal advertising.) So I guess the new study showing that psychotic delusions increasingly concern the internet shouldn't be a surprise.... especially given I've had my share of internet-related delusions myself!
The New York Times has a story today about folks who have made irreverant audio tours of the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, and other art establishments. If you have an iPOD you can download these podcasts and follow along as tour guides comment on the works currently on display. Neato!
It's all in your brain, girls
Update, 6/5/05: Mind Hacks points out other problems with newspaper coverage of this story, in that it misinterprets the study's findings.
The Independent UK published a story last month claiming, "Anorexia Linked to Brain Defect, Rather Than Social Pressures." "The full story leaves a considerably different impression than the headline. The professor who led the research, Bryan Lask says his research shows a genetic pre-disposition to anorexia; as he says, people aren't "born anorexic."
There may be a grain of truth to this. After all, a variant of anorexia preceded the rise of electronic media. But fixating on brain chemistry like this drives me nuts.
If any mental illness can be tied to socio-cultural causes, it is eating disorders; anorexia and bulemia are as scarce in societies without TV as societies before TV. Remember the Fiji Islands study [$ req.; see article below]: before TV, voluptuous female figures were the norm; after TV, a sudden rise in eating disorders. An internet seach for pro-ana sites will result in dozens (if not hundreds) of sites by anorexics, who post photos of Calista Flockhart and other rail-thin models for inspiration.
Among teens, an unhealthy focus on body image is kind of a national hazing rite; the vast majority of my girlfriends in high school worried about their weight. About half of my close girlfriends, I later found out, actually had full-blown eating disorders. I was a chronic dieter myself -- and I only weighed 120 lbs! It's pretty clear to me that most eating disorders go undiagnosed or untreated; many of us, who never saw ourselves as anorexics or bulemics, grew out of it.
Those who see anorexia as a biology-based disorder see it as a discrete problem: you either have anorexia or you don't. But the health effects of our obsession with thinness would be more accurately imagined as a continuum, with people who literally starve themselves to death on one end, and the girls who merely feel like crap about their bodies on the other. When you look at it this way, tracing the problem to a brain defect starts to look ridiculous.
Pointing to brain chemistry has obvious advantage, of course: it gives pharmaceutical companies a chance to offer drug treatments.
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The New York Times
May 20, 1999, Thursday
Study Finds TV Alters Fiji Girls' View of Body
By ERICA GOODE
"You've gained weight" is a traditional compliment in Fiji, anthropologists say.
In accordance with traditional culture in the South Pacific nation, dinner guests are expected to eat as much as possible. A robust, nicely rounded body is the norm for men and women. "Skinny legs" is a major insult. And "going thin," the Fijian term for losing a noticeable amount of weight, is considered a worrisome condition. But all that may be changing, now that Heather Locklear has arrived.
Just a few years after the introduction of television to a province of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, eating disorders -- once virtually unheard of there -- are on the rise among girls, according to a study presented yesterday at the American Psychiatric Association meetings in Washington. Young girls dream of looking not like their mothers and aunts, but like the slender stars of "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills 90210."
"I'm very heavy," one Fijian adolescent lamented during an interview with researchers led by Dr. Anne E. Becker, director of research at the Harvard Eating Disorders Center of Harvard Medical School, who investigated shifts in body image and eating practices in Fiji over a three-year period.
The Fijian girl said her friends also tell her that she is too fat, "and sometimes I'm depressed because I always want to lose weight."
Epidemiological studies have shown that eating disorders are more prevalent in industrialized countries, suggesting that cultural factors play a role. But few studies have examined the effects of long-term cultural shifts on disordered eating in traditional societies.
Dr. Becker and her colleagues surveyed 63 Fijian secondary school girls, whose average age was 17. The work began in 1995, one month after satellites began beaming television signals to the region. In 1998, the researchers surveyed another group of 65 girls from the same schools, who were matched in age, weight and other characteristics with the subjects in the earlier group.
Fifteen percent in the 1998 survey reported that they had induced vomiting to control their weight, the researchers said, compared with 3 percent in the 1995 survey. And 29 percent scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk, compared with 13 percent three years before.
Girls who said they watched television three or more nights a week in the 1998 survey were 50 percent more likely to describe themselves as "too big or fat" and 30 percent more likely to diet than girls who watched television less frequently.
Before 1995, Dr. Becker said, there was little talk of dieting in Fiji. "The idea of calories was very foreign to them." But in the 1998 survey, 69 percent said that at some time they had been on a diet. In fact, preliminary data suggest more teen-age girls in Fiji diet than their American counterparts.
The results of the study have not been published, but were reviewed by the psychiatric association's scientific program committee before being accepted for presentation at the meetings.
Several of the students told Dr. Becker and her colleagues that they wanted to look like the Western women they saw on television shows like "Beverly Hills 90210." One girl said that her friends "change their mood, their hairstyles, so that they can be like those characters." "So in order to be like them, I have to work on myself, exercising and my eating habits should change," she said.
But Dr. Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey professor emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, said that he doubts that television was the only factor in the changes. "I think that television is a kind of metaphor of something more profound," he said.
In contrast to the solitary couch-potato viewing style displayed by many Americans, watching television is a communal activity in Fiji, Dr. Becker said. Fijians often gather in households with television sets, and sit together, drinking kava and talking about their day's activities, the TV on in the background.
"What we noticed in 1995 is that people had a sort of curiosity, but it was a dismissive curiosity," Dr. Becker said. "But over the years they have come to accept it as a form of entertainment."
Fiji residents have access to only one television channel, she said, which broadcasts a selection of programs from the United States, Britain and Australia. Among the most popular are "Seinfeld," "Melrose Place," which features Ms. Locklear, "E.R.," "Xena, Warrior Princess," and "Beverly Hills 90210."
Dr. Becker said that the increase in eating disorders like bulimia may be a signal that the culture is changing so quickly that Fijians are having difficulty keeping up. Island teen-agers, she said, "are acutely aware that the traditional culture doesn't equip them well to negotiate the kinds of conflicts" presented by a 1990's global economy.
In other Pacific societies, Dr. Becker said, similar cultural shifts have been accompanied by an increase in psychological problems among adolescents. Researchers speculated, for example, that rapid social change played a role in a rash of adolescent suicides in Micronesia in the 1980's.
Former Nazi wants credit for designing VW logo
Before heading off to that Homeland in the sky, Nikolai Borg wants Volkswagen to recognize his contribution to the company. According to his IP lawyer, Borg helped design VW's logo and seeks only credit, not money, for his work.
Sounds like someone in crisis management is working overtime this weekend.