Thursday, February 1, 2007

"More Than a Feeling" of paranoia.


In a classic example of an ad campaign gone horribly wrong, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky placed electric light boards promoting Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a show on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim," in various locations around the city. Of course, like many such reckless stunts, this caused mass panic and sections of the city were shut down for hours while bomb squads dealt with the potentially hazardous devices.

Each device is roughly the size of a checkerboard, with colored pegs on it and...well, lets face it, they're Lite-Brites. They're Lite-Brites with pictures of moon men making an obscene gesture on them.

According to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley "It had a very sinister appearance, it had a battery behind it and wires."

Perhaps the moon men (Moonenites to ATHF initiates) were too close in appearance to the Martian invaders featured in the 1938 "War of the Worlds" hoax. It's hard to tell.

Turner Broadcasting, the owners of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, said that identical devices have been up around New York, Seattle, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia for two or three weeks, as well as several dozen in Boston. Interestingly enough, there have been no bomb scares in any of the other cities due to the devices.

The two men, when questioned by reporters, replied that they would only discuss hairstyles of the 1970s. They face potential felony charges for their placement of the advertising materials, and could each serve up to five years in jail.

Boston's sense of humor could not be located for comment

For more info see CNN's coverage

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How to waste time on the Internet

...other than reading TMoMD, that is.

Check out The Surrealist for some completely randomly generated fun. Kevan Davis and Holly Gramazio have created a site full of word toys to keep you out of trouble for at least fifteen minutes.
Most of the "toys" on the site are the type of mindless amusements that allow you to input any sort of noun and have it inserted into a randomly selected advertising slogan, movie quote or trivia fact.
For you Livejournal users, there are also a couple of generators that allow you to input your LJ screen name, or that of a friend, and get, for example, a dungeon adventure using your interests and LJ friends.

Here's a few that I got.

From The Advertising Slogan Generator:

Promise Her Anything, But Give Her Matt DeBlass

Every Kiss Begins With Matt DeBlass

If Only Everything In Life Was As Reliable As Matt DeBlass

Just Do Matt DeBlass

And from The Movie Quote Generator:

"This Matt DeBlass attracts Those We Do Not Speak Of. You must bury it."

"You had me at 'Matt DeBlass'"

"No Mr. Bond, I expect Matt DeBlass to die."

"When there's no more room in Hell, the Matt DeBlass will walk the earth."

Of course, you can use any noun you want, but your own name is usually the funniest.

There are a number of things to play with on The Surrealist web site. If you're looking for a time waster, or something obnoxious to post on your home page (they very considerately give you html code for the results) it's good fun

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fashion Models, Body Image, and Food

Take a look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? No? You're not the only one.

According to a survey done by Dove 90% of women over the age of 15 want to change something about their appearance. The most common "problem"? Weight.

Dove, a manufacturer of soap and body care products, launched their Self-Esteem Fund, aka "The Campaign for Real Beauty" in 2006. The campaign has focused on promoting a healthy, achievable standard of beauty. Dove has run ads for their products featuring attractive women who don't fit the current media standard of beauty (ie, they have curves). One of the most striking features of the campaign is a short video called "Evolution" which shows a fairly average looking woman walking into a photo shoot, being primped, made up and styled by a small army of hair and makeup artists, then being photographed. The image then goes through some impressive manipulation on a computer before being put on a billboard.

Another blow was struck for healthy (or at least healthier) standards last September during Madrid's fashion week. Show officials decided, for the sake of providing better role models, and keeping participants from passing out backstage, that any model with a Body Mass Index of less than 18 (18-24 is considered healthy) would be banned from the show unless she passed a physical.

London's Fashion Week didn't institute any such bans, a fact which the news media has recently delighted in pointing out. Heroin Chic isn't dead yet, it seems, but changes may be on their way.

It's very interesting to note that much of the negative self-image that women suffer comes from the media or from other women. What men think seems to be far less important than what women believe that men think of them. Men, for the most part, seem to actually like women with hips. Words that men often use to describe attractive women are usually along the lines of either "curvy" or "athletic". Fashion photographers may be shocked to hear how seldom the word "bony" comes up.

Speaking of men, it seems like the gender gap is closing in the realm of neurosis, at least. Men are becoming more obsessed with their body image every year. While many women are concerned about losing weight, men appear to be more concerned with getting more muscular. The "ideal" male is now muscular, has perfect hair, a chiseled chin and doesn't actually sweat. Oh, and body hair is out too (where's Magnum P.I. when you need him?).

Negative male self-image increases with the amount of time a man spends watching television. While nobody should be shocked by that, what is surprising is that young men with poor body image are more prone to engage in high risk activities, particularly unprotected sex.

So, in a country obsessed with being skinny, why are we becoming more and more obese? According to a recent article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times magazine, our obsession with "nutrition" may actually be a contributing factor. According to Pollan, separating the "nutritional value" of a food from actual food may be making health problems worse.

Processed foods and food-like substances (nutrition bars, for example, which nobody who's ever tried them can really call "food") focus on barely-understood nutrients, as opposed to the complex interactions that happen when, say, you eat an actual salad. Pollan explores the political and economic factors that have shaped our culture's nutritional habits more than any hard science has.

Mr. Pollan's point, to sum up, is that we should eat a reasonable amount of food, most of it plants, and preferably lots of stuff with leaves. Or, as he puts it, don't eat anything your great-grandparents wouldn't recognize as food. Vegetarianism is OK, but flexitarianism seems to work really well (Flexitarian-lots of veggies with occasional meat, like the diet of many omnivorous primates. We are, scientifically speaking, an omnivorous primate).

Exercise is good too.

As for me, I'll make my salad, go for a run, and enjoy life. If not waxing my chest means that I'll never date a 90-pound fashion model, I think I'm OK with that.

Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty
Article on Male Body Image
Skinny Models Banned!
Skinny Models Not Banned.
Article on Diet

Northern Ireland

Lots of stuff going on in the world this week, but this one caught my eye:

Sinn Fien Endorses Plan For Ulster Police Reform

Northern Ireland, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, has been in a state of conflict for a very long time, it was partitioned from Ireland in the beginning of the 20th Century. The population is divided between those who consider themselves British (Protestant) and those who consider themselves Irish (Catholic).
The Irish Unionists want Northern Ireland to be part of the Republic of Ireland, and the British Loyalists to either accept it or go back to England. The British Loyalists want to stay citizens of Great Britain, but don't want to leave what have been their homes for generations. This has led to bitter political disagreement and plenty of violence from both sides.

While there is still violence, it has declined, and the most prominent figures on the Catholic side have begun to speak in terms of working from within the system and establishing a peaceful compromise. While agreement is not totally unanimous, it's a step.

The latest development has come when the Catholic party known as Sinn Fein came out as officially backing a reform of the Ulster Police Department. For a long time the Irish have been at odds with the British-staffed police department. Now they are taking steps to work with them to make sure that Catholic and Protestants are represented proportionally on the force (the population is split almost half-and-half, with slightly more Protestants living in the territory in question).

It's a complicated situation, with tempers and grudges flaring on both sides, but it would be good to see Northern Ireland establish it's goal of peace with justice for all of its citizens whatever their ancestry.

It would do well for Ireland, which has long been a bastion of art and learning for Europe (see Thomas Cahill's excellent How the Irish Saved Civilization for more on that) to stand as an example of how to finally end the cycle of terrorism and oppression caused by ideological divides.
It may be a bit naive and very idealistic to think it may someday come about, but stranger things have happened, especially in Ireland