Hunger Blasters

There’s a potato chip bag. It’s not an overly-extraordinary potato chip bag–silver and blue. Nothing seemingly special until I notice the advertisement on it. This little bag proclaims its product to be “hunger blasters.” Here’s the confusing part, though. This phrase had what I considered to be the universal “not” sign–a red circle with a line through it–as in “no smoking.”

Photo by greefus groinks of Flickr. CC-ASA

Photo by greefus groinks of Flickr. CC-A.SA

So, I’m left wondering, are they saying that they’re not hunger blasters? Seems to me that someone in the marketing department may not have thought things through. I mean, a company trying to get the masses to buy their tasty potato chips wouldn’t go around saying “Pick Us! We’ll leave ya hungrier than when you started eating!”

Not the most persuasive thing there and I have to assume that this company knows that, so I, obviously, am missing out on something. I emailed the company and asked them about it.

Apparently, they were making an allusion to Ghost Busters. Okay, I can, at least, understand that I suppose, but I can’t let them off completely. Ghost Busters is using that universal “not” symbol just as that. They’re saying that ghosts are not allowed. Hunger Blasting, on the other hand, should not only be allowed, but encouraged when it comes to potato chips.

Plus, if they really wanted to make that parody, then shouldn’t it be “Hunger Busters?” Someone may have been able to realize the allusion they were going for had it been closer to the original. At the same time, though, I think it’s expecting a bit much to think that people would get an allusion to a film from 1984. That was 25 years ago.

I’ll give you a moment for the necessary “Woah, really. Twenty-five years already?”

. . .

Photo by of Bob Gamble Flickr. CC-A.NC.SA

Photo by of Bob Gamble Flickr. CC-A.NC.SA

Okay, ready? Yep. Twenty-five years. I suppose it wouldn’t be such a mystery if Ghost Busters had more of a cultural significance outside its era, but, really, I can’t say that I go around making Ghost Buster references. However, if they had said, say, “Wax on the chips, Wax off the hunger.” I may have gotten that it was referencing The Karate Kid–also from 1984. It’s still a fairly bad tactic to take, though. Ain’t it? Especially when you probably want to attract some greasy teenagers with bad eating habits who weren’t even born in 1984. (I can’t be too harsh there, I wasn’t either.) You’d want to make more contemporary allusions, right? Maybe something involving Hannah Montana–I hear she’s popular.

In any event, this was clearly not the best ad campaign they could’ve gone with. Or, at least, for heaven’s sake get rid of the circle and line. It’s not doing you any favors. The potato chips, though, are still quite delectable, and I’m not usually one for potato chips. Why not try marketing that?

Blogging with Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington talked about blogging about a month ago on The Jon Stewart Show. Of all the different explanations and discussions concerning blogging, I think I like her explanation best. She makes several comments I appreciate, including:

The difference about blogging is that it’s — as we say . . . first thought, best thought. Like, don’t over think it, don’t overwrite it . . . it’s a first draft of history.


Blogging is not about perfectionism. Blogging is about intimacy, immediacy, transparency, and sharing your thoughts the way you share it with a friend.

So, friends, I come to you now to bring up the conundrum of writing a book on blogging. Hmm, I say. I think the way she explains it is correct — blogging seems to be a “first draft of history” — typos and all. I can’t help but wonder about the marketing of this. I mean, bloggers would seem to be the ones truly curious about this book, but instead of releasing it as a pdf book, they chose to publish it on real paper. I have to wonder if they’re really reaching their audience.

BUT! I have a copy of Creative Nonfiction‘s “The Best Creative Nonfiction, Volume 1” which includes some choice blog posts. (I mean, they recently published “The Best Creative Nonfiction, Volume 2” that does the same thing.) If we’re now publishing the first draft of history (which is important, I’m not saying it’s not), then what happens to the 2nd and 3rd and 4th draft of history?

I suppose I’d like to see these posts retold later, you know? I’d like to see how the 2nd and 3rd drafts come out in comparison to the first. There’s no need to get rid of either–they both have validity, but I just want to see how they change. Obviously, typos would improve, but would reveal something about how we approach different audiences (ie from the internet readers to the book readers)? Would we change what we think? I don’t know, but I am curious to know.

Busting Ads with Photoshop . . .

Perhaps some of you will remember a post I did in December about the Pop-Down Project, a street art campaign that aimed to reorient our perception of everyday advertising. By sticking red click-it boxes resembling those in internet pop-up ads in the corner of street advertisements, the campaign asked its audience to consider a city experience that was free of ad-clutter.  Of course, the campaign’s assumptions say loads about how we perceive our environment in an internet age and how we understand our ability to control what enters our visual field.

A related adbust has just, ahem, popped up in Berlin.  A subway there got re-photoshopped — interfaced, if you will:


Once again we have a reframing of how we perceive images at street level by framing the picture in an interface.


This particular subversive act positions its viewer as active — in giving the viewer the illusion of control, it says, “go ahead, mash and mix it up.  Interact with your everyday images in a more engaged way, just like you do with your images on your computer.”  The tools to powerfully manipulate images towards persuasive purposes are being increasingly democratized.  Protest tactics are changing as a result.

Chris Higgs, a blogging prophet, claimed at one point that our generation is and will be defined by its ability and penchant for Remix & Mashup.  The writing is on the wall . . .

Cashstration and Sarchasm . . .

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational asked readers to alter a word in order to create neologisims.  Here are a few of the winners:

1. Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone: The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon: The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Extreme Makeover: American Dream Edition

This just a hunch, but I think the American Dream has shifted from myth to fairy tale. While a myth is “sacred” story expressing a deeply-held collective belief, a fairy tale tends to be a magic-infused morality tale. (I know these definitions are contestable, but bear with me.)

7.28.06 American Dream II by MJM, Flickr

Plenty of intellectuals have voiced concerns over the myth of the American Dream and its dangerous implications–if everyone in America can succeed through individual hard work, then those who do not succeed have only themselves to blame.This theme seems to be popping up more and more as we face certain contemporary American nightmares–international discord, economic disaster, increasing numbers of citizens without access to the basic necessities of employment, health services, adequate education, etc. So for many, the American dream has been revealed as the myth that it is. Of course, it’s easy to attribute this sense to my own position in cynical academia — so I offer these “popular” confirmations: One of my first-year students is writing about the problematic messages in The Pursuit of Happyness; a recent column by Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris (“All Rags, No Riches”) comments critically on the Academy’s preference for the fantastic optimism of Slumdog Millionaire over the devastating realism of Wendy and Lucy. As Harris, the “American” dream may not be so nation-specific:

At a time of worldwide recession, Slumdog‘s sentimental notion that poverty can be overcome with plucky determination feels designed to camoflauge unpleasant facts rather than illuminate them… The idea that even if you fall in a pile of crap, you can come up smelling like a million bucks (this is not a figure of speech but an actual plot description) never seems to go out of style. And while it’s hard to resist this movie’s ardent love-conquers-all romanticism, it’s also hard to look at those Mumbai slums and then swallow the promise that getting rich is just about stick-to-itiveness. Even in a fantasy.

(By the way, EW regularly provides some of the most astute rhetorical analyses of pop culture. I highly recommend it.)

On the other hand, the New York Times recently featured a less-than-critical look at “Riveting Tales for Dark Days

Consumers who are motivated by the laurels heaped on these films to plunk down increasingly scarce disposable income will leave the movie house with the message that circumstance is just that, and no match for the indomitability of human will. The films are built on individual successes — kids from the slums who better themselves, a television celebrity who finds his inner newsman, a newborn who overcomes old age and the midlife closeted man who steps into the light — that accrue to the greater good. That message, that darkness can be overcome by individuals working for the common good, is not so distant from the current collective impulse.

I think it’s too easy to assume that these tales of individual triumph in the face of overwhleming odds can be read as evidence of or support for a “collective impulse.” But I do think they might indicate a shift in the “American Dream” in that success seems to depend upon not just on the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” but also upon a “deus ex machina” that assists the worthy individual. For example, the slumdog can become a millionaire (and love conquers all) through the opportunities of an Indian “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

This observation aligns in interesting ways with my ambivalence in the face of “reality shows” devoted to helping deserving underdogs. The big one, of course, is “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” in which the manic Ty Pennington and his enormous crew make over the homes and lives of individuals and families who cannot do so on their own.Extreme Makeover Home Edition by Patrishe, Flickr

This show bugs me for a few reasons. Mostly  I can’t stand the self-congratulatory shouting and tear-jerking–but I’m also vaguely uncomfortable with the possible effects of this show on its fans. By “rescuing” individual cases without consideration of the institutional and socioeconomic factors that have contributed to the family’s difficulties in the first place, the show tends to avoid larger causes for concern. Moreover, the act of watching these uplifting makeovers tends, I think, to mitigate the audience’s own feelings of civic responsibility, to allow them to feel like “someone” is handling the problem… so they don’t have to.

But I’ve started to think it might be even more insidious than that–that this show (and plenty others like it) revises the American Dream to a fantasy of rescue from without. Larger ideological and institutional forces remain unexamined,  individuals can still be “blamed” for “failure,” but now they can also be “saved” by a corporate fairy godmother. Pink Fairy Godmother, Flora by Auntie Rain on Flickr

A dream or a fairy tale… Which is more dangerous, I wonder?