Welcome to Jack's Blog About Commercials I Didn't Fast-Forward Through
Or maybe the rest of the Stay Free team went camping and didn't invite me? Anyway, tonight I fast-forwarded all the way to the end of a commercial, and then went all the way back. Because at the end was the logo for the University of Phoenix, or as I like to call it,
Banner-Ad U. Surely you have seen more than your fair share of Internet advertising for this college offering "web-based education" and 72 "campuses" in 36 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. (Sorry, irony fans: There is a campus in Phoenix, Arizona.) But this ad was on television. Which I am luddite enough to consider real advertising.
Perhaps equally troubling, the commercial is set to the insanely catchy New Pornographers' song "The Bleeding Heart Show." If America's favorite Canadian indie-pop supergroup had to sell out, did it have to be to the University of Phoenix? Though who knows, perhaps they all hold degrees from the Vancouver or Calgary branches.
My head is still spinning. The U. of Phoenix is gaining students, and I'm losing my faculties.
Bush Needs an Aide to Spell SAT
Back in the day there was a lot of hand-wringing on the right about how Clinton's example led to a boom in teenage blowjobs (not to mention corporate crime). I suppose that means we can now credit our President for the sharp drop in SAT scores.
And maybe a press conference where the CEO of Halliburton weepily confesses that he can't read.
The cheapest whores on campus
Back in the good old days, the only companies employing college reps were the major record labels. Apparently, nowadays, everyone's in the game. From the Boston Globe:
In an age when the college demographic is no longer easily reached via television, radio, or newspapers... a microindustry of campus marketing has emerged. Niche firms have sprung to act as recruiters of students, who then market products on campus for companies such as Microsoft, JetBlue Airways, The Cartoon Network, and Victoria's Secret...
The students selected tend to be campus leaders with large social networks that can be tapped for marketing... They are expected to devote about 10 to 15 hours a week talking up the products to friends, securing corporate sponsorship of campus events, and lobbying student newspaper reporters to mention products in articles. They also must plaster bulletin boards with posters and chalk sidewalks -- tactics known as ''guerilla marketing," which, marketing firms acknowledge, intentionally skirt the boundaries of campus rules. (emphasis added)
The companies not only get the kids to do their dirty work for them, they get them to do it for free!
I am a huge nerd.
Although my love of music hasn't completely died, about 3 years ago I had a 30 minute commute and got hooked on audiobooks and lectures. Finding interesting content isn't always easy. However, I just found a new area to mine: Stanford on iTunes. Free faculty lectures, interviews, and panels. Including talks by Amy Goodman, Angela Davis, Lawrence Lessig, Paul Ehrlich, Rebbecca Solnit, Alice Waters, and on and on. This is not going to help the obsessive autodidact inside me.
Thanks to Makezine.com.
I have mixed feelings about the news that enough donations have been made to clear all of the music and images from the embattled civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. Kudos to the Ford Foundation and Richard Gilder for caring, but for every prize-winning, connected documentarian out there, a thousand others are trying to do important (if obscure) work.
When you consider the bigger picture, Ford's funding of Eyes is actually part of the problem. Rather than challenging a copyright system that shackles documentarians, Ford and the other Eyes backers opted to feed it. With the funding securred, Eyes can now be used to show that the system works.
As with Mad Hot Ballroom, the number of clearances that the documentarians must obtain is insane. It is a shame that anyone is enforcing the terms of the original limited-time licenses. It is a pity that the ransom will apparently be paid. Eyes is the exception, not the rule; it was able to raise money because it has proven itself historically. Under the current system, the majority of films won't be given the same chance.
U.S. Workers Too Uneducated to Build Cars?
From Metafilter: "Toyota announced it will build a new car factory in Woodstock, Ontario, even though several US states offered greater subsidies and tax breaks to the company. The reason?
"[M]uch of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project... Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use 'pictorials' to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.
"(Also a contributing factor -- Canada's national health service, which apparently drives down the overall cost of each individual worker.)"
Literature losing out to media studies
From the Independent UK:
LONDON: Increasing numbers of students are opting to sit courses in analysing soap operas and TV commercials rather than studying the classics, according to a report by the government's exam watchdog.
Schools are abandoning English literature GCSE in favour of media studies, which is regarded by many as an easier option, the study by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority found.
A few years ago, McGraw-Hill published a sixth-grade math textbook littered with product placements. Exercises required students to find the diameter of an Oreo cookie ("The best-selling packaged cookie in the world") and informed them that "Consumers can purchase unique clothing and accessories, and products for the home [from Land's End]." A spokesman for McGraw-Hill denied that the product plugs were put there for any commercial or promotional purposes... which is funny because the Toronto Star recently discovered (reg. req. - use BugMeNot) that McGraw-Hill is now slyly marketing textbook ads to corporate advertisers. A pamphlet makes the pitch:
Reach a hard to get target group where they spend all their parents' money.... Do you really think 18-24 year olds see those on-campus magazine ads? Do you really think they could miss an ad that is placed in a very well-respected textbook?"
McGraw-Hill is not only turning curriculum materials into product ads, they're keeping their insanely overpriced textbooks overpriced. According to a spokesperson, the new advertising "won't affect the price of the textbooks." Yes, the lucky students will get the ads for free!
(Via Erika Shaker)
Discovering buried rocks
Every school has a universally acknowledged "gut" course - minimal work for an easy A. At SUNY Albany the intro Earth Science course was called "Rocks for Jocks." At Cornell there was a survey Physics course that the engineers called "Physics for Poets." Can you guess what would happen if everyone knew what the easy courses were?
The Atlantic recently reported on a study about the impact of Cornell's decision to publish the median grades in all courses (after I graduated, of course). Not surprisingly the "easy A" courses saw a dramatic increase in enrollment and students with the lowest SAT scores were the most likely to take them. Cornell intended to preempt this problem by including the median grade of each course on student transcripts, but never got around to changing the transcript policy.
Some may say that the tendency of students with high SAT scores to stick with the tough classes is evidence of academic rigor. I suspect that it just means that high SAT scores at Cornell are ultimately correlated with underemployment.
(Via eLynah Forum)
Drugs are Like That PSA
Itinerant co-blogger/pal Skip E. has posted an amazing old anti-drug film in his AV Geeks archive. Produced by Community TV of South Florida in 1979, Drugs are Like That is so convoluted and poorly devised, you'd think it was made by NORML. Famous dead homophobe Anita Bryant narrates, and clearly she and the producers are high. How else could you explain the trippy camera work and dada-like metaphors -- drugs are like babies sucking a pacifier? ...crashing legos? ...swims in lakes?!
In the filmmakers' work, dangers lurk around every corner. The most innocent everyday experiences are portrayed as events to loathe and to fear.... which makes sense, in a backwards sort of way. Anyone with such a paranoid view of the living one's life should be taking drugs.