Tuesday, January 29, 2008

David Ogilvy Was a Genius

Duh, right. I know. I'm a few decades behind the curve on this one.

But I'm having my advertising campaigns class read Confessions of an Advertising Man this semester. So I'm re-reading it, too.

And it's amazing how spot on the book is so many years later.

In advertising, we're in the business of selling. Never forget that. Most do. Ogilvy never did.

In other news, I have been eaten alive by the To-Do list.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Too Much Work, Insomnia, Frigid Outside

That's about how it's going.

But I am having fun.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

BBC Illustrates Mortgage Mess

Although this is already a bit dated, I encourage you to take a look at the BBC's graphic depiction of the problem with sub-prime mortgages.

Separate from the issue is the fact that I think this is an excellent example of new Web-based journalism. The BBC is using the medium to its advantage with visual examples over gray blankets of text.

Some of the graphics are even interactive.

Thanks, Wes.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

It Was a Mistake to Let Kids Watch TV

I have a doctoral degree in telecommunications.

I taught an entire class on sex and violence in the media last semester.

But it was neither of those things that led me to my current conclusion. It is television's powerful force as an agent of socialization that is the problem.

Sitting here yesterday, my kids were watching Baby Looney Toons before school.

Really, what could be more innocuous than that, right?


This particular episode involved Baby Sylvester (a boy) wanting to play at a tea party. He got kicked out and told to do something such as play basketball, at which he was bad and of which he was afraid.

Meanwhile, Lola (a girl) did not like to be at the tea party and longed to play basketball with the boys.

Let's take a look at that, shall we?

The entire point was to set up a conclusion that we should not gender stereotype these activities. However, in order to satisfy this seemingly good resolution, the bulk of the show had to build up these gender stereotypes to be torn down.

And I think that is fundamentally bad.

At the end of the day, one has to ask what the children will remember. Will they remember the build up or the tear down?

As someone who does research within this area, the data suggest that children will remember the build up. These gender stereotypes are consistent with what they will see in their real lives, so the build up will resonate with their real lives. They get a double dose of the stereotype. The life lesson is far less likely to be remembered.

When I ask my kids questions about what they are watching, my hypothesis is generally confirmed. They bite on the build up.

So they get all kinds of ideas. Multiple episodes of Hannah Montana -- I am sooooo lucky -- center around of a theme of deceiving your parents. Sure, by the end of the episode, there is a tidy ending where the deception fails to pay off. But the lion's share of the episode was a lesson in duplicity.

Say what you will, the Teletubbies had no such nonsense. But it's been downhill from there.

It was a mistake to ever let my kids watch TV.

Growing up, I had friends who were not allowed to watch TV. I pitied them as if they were some kind of pauper child forced to wear home-sewn bib overalls.

But their parents were right. You cannot protect kids from the entire world, but children's television offers almost nothing of value, and it unintentionally teaches a lot of lessons that I try pretty hard for them not to learn.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pinker Offers Take on Evolved Morality

If you're looking for something interesting, I recommend Steven Pinker's contribution on "The Moral Instinct" in the New York Times Magazine.

It is a great read; however, I feel that, as usual, Pinker relies too heavily upon innateness.

His heavy leaning on the gene is evident as he somehow finds a way to use Chomsky's universal grammar (strongly innate) as an analogy in morality.

If you find this topic interesting, Robert Wright's The Moral Animal does a great job at considering how altruism might have evolved.

At any rate, Pinker is a brilliant writer, and this is well worth reading even if I do quibble with a few of the details.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

We're So Free We Can't Swear in Writing

I hear a lot of politicians talking about how free we are.


Take for instance this CNN.com story that Pennsylvania police filed disorderly conduct charges because a man used the "F word" on the memo line of a $5 check he used to pay a parking ticket.

Yes, yes, that's the sound of the First Amendment rolling over in its grave.

Seriously, people?

The F word?

Is this f*%$ing kindergarten?

A very large group of people need to read Thoreau's On the Duty of Civil Disobedience!
There will never be a really free and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly (p. 388).
Luckily for this guy, he did not say "Don't tase me, bro" on the memo line.

Sadly, he caved and apologized before the case went to trial, so the cops dropped the charge.

I hope that a bunch of constitutionally minded young people are currently looking for expired meters in Doylestown, Pa., as we speak.


All Hail the PBJ

UPDATE: See also http://www.pbjcampaign.org/

From one of my new favorite blogs, Well at the New York Times:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are good for you and the environment:


Well: A PB&J for the Planet?
The classic sandwich may be a good way to help the world and improve your health.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ex-Harvard Boss Eyes Publishing Changes, Too

Thanks to Wes Wise for pointing this out. From the New York Times (read entire story here).

Ex-Harvard President Meets a Former Student, and Intellectual Sparks Fly

Published: January 7, 2008

In June 2006, Peter Hopkins, a civic-minded and idealistic 2004 Harvard graduate, trekked up to his alma mater from New York for a meeting with Lawrence H. Summers, the economist and former Treasury secretary. Mr. Hopkins, who finagled the appointment through his friendship with Mr. Summers’s assistant, had a business idea: a Web site that could do for intellectuals what YouTube, the popular video-sharing site, did for bulldogs on skateboards.

The pitch — “a YouTube for ideas” — appealed to Mr. Summers. “Larry, to his credit, is open to new ideas,” Mr. Hopkins recalled recently. “He grilled me for two hours.” In the age of user-generated content, Mr. Summers did have one worry: “Let’s say someone puts up a porn video next to my macroeconomic speech?”

It took awhile, but a year after that meeting, Mr. Summers decided to invest (“a few tens of thousands of dollars,” he said, adding “not something I’m hoping to retire on”) in the site, called Big Think, which officially makes its debut today after being tested for several months.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

You Are Not How Much You Make

There's somethin' wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes

We're seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain't His
It sure ain't no surprise

We're livin' on the edge

- Aerosmith, Living on the Edge

The New York Times has an interesting story on the status of traditional professions, such as medicine and law. If you read between the lines, however, the story is more interesting.

You're more than your job. But take a moment to read the subtexts of status and money. These are powerful themes that have entered the public consciousness, and we seldom stop to question them.

Here's my favorite quotation:
Many young associates, she added, spent their lunch hours making lavish purchases on NeimanMarcus.com, just to remind themselves that what they did counted for something.
This is simply brilliant, and it captures everything in a nutshell. You're an attorney, and all this work counts for something because you can shop at Neiman Marcus. Brilliant!

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

It's January 5, People

... and the high temperature in Lubbock was 70.5 degrees, according to my backyard thermostat.


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Friday, January 04, 2008

Dinosaur, I Hardly Knew Ya

Every once and a while, I stumble upon a fact that blows my mind.

The other night at bedtime, the television was on the History Channel, and I heard some version of the following quotation, courtesy of Dinohunters.com:
In 1822 Gideon Mantell, a doctor from Lewes, East Sussex, described a fossil tooth which his wife had found by the side of the road in Cuckfield, West Sussex. This tooth was the first dinosaur fossil in the world ever to be identified. For the very first time people began to realise that creatures as large as dinosaurs had once existed.
What? Seriously? That's like 186 years ago.

We've only known about dinosaurs for 186 years?

Now a lot of other things seriously start to make sense. Still, I am amazed.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1840s Connection I Intended to Make

As I wrote on Sunday, I noticed a connection between the 1840s writings on Henry David Thoreau in Walden and Karl Marx in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

However, as I searched back through Thoreau's first chapter, I failed to find what I thought that I remembered. When I found some link in the writings, I wrote about it, and attributed the mismatch to faulty memory. I finally found the intended paragraphs yesterday afternoon.

Thoreau wrote:
Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluous course labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day to day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine (pp. 6-7).
Marx wrote:
In the first place, the raising of wages gives rise to overwork among the workers. The more they wish to earn, the more must they sacrifice their time and carry out slave-labor, in the service of avarice completely losing all their freedom, thereby they shorten their lives (p. 22, emphasis original).
If you have never read Walden, I recommend it with the highest praise that I can give. The first chapter, titled Economy, and the final conclusions contain some of the most accurate perceptions of the human condition ever observed.

A lot of people have critiqued "keeping up with the Jonses" and other problems of avarice. Yet Thoreau's words still ring true a century and a half later. Why do we live to work when we should work only to live? Read Walden, and you likely will never think about this question the same again.
This spending of the best part of one's life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the lift of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once (p. 57).

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