Sunday, June 29, 2008

CNN: Still Stupid

Here are the t-shirt options today:
  • Party begins for Spanish soccer fans
  • Bison again roam in Minnesota
  • Pets from floods need homes
  • Teacher fired for using book
But here is the one that would actually make an okay t-shirt:
  • Oldest profession feeling fuel-price pinch, too
Not that anyone wants a CNN headline t-shirt. I mean, that's still their greatest barrier. But it would help if the almost funny headlines were the one's making it rather than the definitely not t-shirt worthy ones. I mean, "Pets from floods need homes" is pretty much just an ad for the humane society. Which would be great if proceeds from the sale of those t-shirts went to help said pets find homes. But they don't. So very very lame.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why is CNN so stupid?

Have you noticed that CNN has this new thing where they put a t-shirt icon next to some of their headlines? If you click on it, you can order a shirt with the specific headline on it. My question is: why is choosing which headlines should be on t-shirts? They are universally retarded. I get the feeling that some baby boomer/greatest generation producer noticed that all The Young People were wearing t-shirts with nonsensical slogans on them, sometimes about different states being for lovers, sometimes about something called the "Flying Spaghetti Monster." And then s/he learned that some of them - the one's that read "Area Man" or "Area Woman" - were from a humorous fake news publication called the Turnip or the The Scallion or some such. S/he rushed into the marketing department and declared, "The Young People are idiots! They'll buy anything anything! They call it "irony;" I call it "profit." If they like wearing fake headlines on their chests, I'm sure they'll love wearing real headlines!"

I don't know who chooses which headlines could become shirts, but they are universally stupid. Why would you want that on a shirt? The thing with ironic t-shirt slogans is that they are a decontextualization. If you went to Virginia and bought a shirt that said "Virginia is for lovers," and were like, "Look at the awesome shirt I got; Virginia is totally rad," you would be a dork. Or someone's grandmother. But if you buy that shirt at a store, it is not actually an advertisement for Virginia, it's just an intentionally dorky t-shirt. And if you are intentionally dorky, then you must be cool because no one would ever intentionally be a dork. Or it is a shirt that has a non-slogan on it, like "Bowling Sucks" or "I'm A Quitter," something that no one would ever seriously use a t-shirt to advertise. And that juxtaposition is, I believe, funny. I think that's how ironic t-shirt logic works, anyway.

The choices from CNN are just headlines. They're informative. They're not even particularly funny. Here, I will give you the list of headlines with a t-shirt icon available right now:
  • McCain, Obama in nuclear battle
  • Motorists push car to get free gas
  • Lost dolphins feed in New Jersey river
  • Hawaii reels from high food prices
These are decontextualize; they provide their own context in that they are informational headlines. They aren't a juxtaposition, like something that would never be a headline to begin with (a la the Onion) because they are actual headlines. And they're not even dorky things someone's grandmother would buy. Grandma might think "Virginia is for lovers" is a cute slogan; she probably doesn't think "Motorists push car to get free gas" is all that adorable. It's so stupid! And it doesn't work even a little. I suggest checking these out whenever you use; maybe you can explain to me who would buy such a shirt.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Identical Cousins. Wait, what?

I don't know how it never registered when I was a kid, but what the hell was up with the premise of the Patty Duke Show?

"They're cousins, identical cousins and you'll find... they laugh alike, they walk alike, some times they even talk alike.... you could lose your mind! when cousins! are two of a kind!"

I mean, seriously: how did it never occur to me that there's no such thing as "identical cousins"? Also, why do I still know the theme song to a show that was already in reruns before my mother had even graduated high school? Hrm... I just looked it up on wikipedia and evidently I don't remember all of the theme song. Here are the lyrics in full (just try to wrap your head around all the ways in which none of this makes sense):

Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.
But Patty's only seen the sights
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights - what a crazy pair!

But they're cousins,
Identical cousins all the way.
One pair of matching bookends,
Different as night and day.

Where Cathy adores a minuet,
The Ballet Russes, and crepe suzette,
Our Patty loves to rock and roll,
A hot dog makes her lose control - what a wild duet!

Still, they're cousins,
Identical cousins and you'll find,
They laugh alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike -
You can lose your mind,
When cousins are two of a kind!

Okay, I'll admit it, that was mostly filler. I don't really have anything more to say about this other than to invite you to really fully consider the insanity that is the idea of IDENTICAL COUSINS.

Also, is the bit about the hot dog innuendo? If so: gross.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Come Rape The Earth With The History Channel! Weee!

Pete and I are big fans of the Discovery Channel show, "The Deadliest Catch" (please imagine that said with Mike Rowe's inflection). Crab fishing is a hard hard job and for the most part those guys are incredibly kind and funny, and philosophical about the lives they've chosen. The producers of the show work hard to make it clear that these men are not chumps, that they are tougher than tough and well seasoned, and that not just anyone could do their jobs. You root for the underdogs who are having a bad year, but you also root for the guy in the lead because it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time. The Discovery Channel (in my opinion) works hard to make it clear that these are all professionals. And in the two and a half seasons the show's been on, each crew has had good seasons and bad.

When I saw commercials for the History Channel's shows "Axe Men" and "Ice Road Truckers," I didn't realize they weren't Discovery Channel shows. One follows Oregon loggers and the other Canadian truckers up near the arctic circle. The commercials make it seem like they're also examples of programs that document "crazy dangerous jobs and the men who love them." While flipping channels today, I noticed that "Ice Road Truckers" was on and I thought, "Why not?" The intro said that the truckers were racing ahead of an arctic storm to deliver "much needed supplies." Then it showed what appeared to be a bunch of little houses in a tiny town all buried up to their roofs in wind-harried snow. "Wow," I thought, "Those guys are so brave to take that stuff to those villagers."

I watched the first five minutes or so with no distractions, but then started to knit and kind of tune out, so I was surprised to hear the phrase, "Without these supplies, the diamond mine cannot operate." Whaaaa? That's right - the much needed supplies are going to a Canadian diamond mine. These guys are driving 60,000 tons of truck and oil over less than 4 feet of ice to help DeBeers rape the earth. Way to be, History Channel.

And then Axe Men came on. I thought it would be about how hard it is to be a logger, maybe something about the changing industry. And maybe it generally is, but in the episode I just watched, it seemed to actually be about which crew of foul-mouthed hard asses could rape the earth (specifically the part called "Oregon") more quickly.

The thing that galls me the most is that they have totally stolen (WHOLESALE!) the Discovery Channel's format. They have the same voice over, the same switching from crew to crew with a map and their relative distances, and the same "so far this season" tallies of dollars earned or loads of trees hauled (or pounds of crab). If I were the Discovery Channel, I would be suing their asses hardcore right now. And yes, I think it's totally weird that I'm most bothered by their format theft, but there it is.

The thing about the Discovery Channel is that they show the crabbers being responsible - they measure each crab; they throw back the ones that are too small or female; and they explain their reasons for doing so in almost every episode. They talk about quotas and how the crabbers are fined if they go over their quota. They take the time to make it clear how carefully their crab fishermen are keeping track of the pounds of crab in their hold (who knows how the rest of the fleet behaves). This is an implicit commentary on the impact the crab fishing fleet has on the crab population. The History Channel, on the other hand, provides no commentary whatsoever on the impact driving semi-trucks carrying fuel over ice to diamond mines where it will be mixed with nitrate to blow up the earth (like mountain top coal mining). Seriously! What do the truckers think of that? What is the possible environmental damage? Is De Beers a responsible company? History Channel, you're dropping the ball. Maybe stick to things you know, like Hitler and the DaVinci code, and maybe the seasonal Nostradamus, Dracula and Jack the Ripper.

(Also, Mike Rowe - the voice-over guy for "The Deadliest Catch" and the star of "Dirty Jobs" - is frickin' awesome. I totally love that guy.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Dirt: The Women's War

Just quickly, have you noticed how a lot of cleaning commercials - especially for Swiffer and various vacuums - portray cleaning as a military campaign run by women? I've been thinking about this for a while. It's so pejorative it makes me angry every time I see some woman sneaking up on her "worst enemy" (dust!) like it's the only way she can make her shut-in life bearable. And there are the ones with women "dismissing" their mops in favor of their swiffers. In one version it's a female executive who appears to be letting an employee go... but no it's really her feather duster! In another a woman is counseled by her mother that it's time to make a change, "for the children" and then her baby starts to cry when... her dirty old mop falls over! (Yes, in one version it's an old English butler, but that always struck me as an after thought.) Anyway, these commercials super bug me. Feminism is about equality for everyone and even though these commercials seem to want to portray women as "powerful go-getters" who know what they want, they instead trivialize the gains women have actually made in the work force (and the world at large) by implying that those gains are still best applied to hearth and home. Actually, the only vacuum commercials I've seen that I don't find pejorative are the Dyson commercials (even though I do find him a wee irritating) because he speaks to his potential customers like they have some possibility of understanding why his product is better based on its actual features rather than an implication that said customers will be "empowered" by their purchase. I may post more on this later, but keep an eye open for such ads if you haven't noticed them and tell me what you think.