The writing is generally smart, sharp and fast. Think of it as a sort of "Daily Show" if the "Daily Show" were fixated only on consumer culture. And if it didn't have any commercials. And were a book.
The fifth section of "Ad Nauseam" briefs readers on the history of advertising (or more precisely, on the history of how advertisers view consumers). It's one of the most concise, readable and clear-eyed reviews of this industry I've ever encountered. Few punches are pulled, and as such, one emerges with an honest -- and, at times, embarrassing -- understanding of how we ended up where we are. You may never look at "Mad Men" quite the same way again. Or "Bewitched," for that matter. This section alone is worth the price of admission.
We've got a couple of other good ones as well, from the Second Pass and from Slate. These are old, though. Yeah, yeah, I should have posted earlier... kill me...
It's a long (or, rather, uninteresting) story but our book, Ad Nauseam, doesn't have an index. I was hoping that Amazon's "search inside" feature could help fill that gap, but our publisher says it takes a while for Amazon to make it functional.
So I've gone ahead and made an index myself. I have no idea how to make an index, frankly, and there are no doubt a number of typos, but for those of you who have bought the book or are considering buying it, it's better than nothing. Link (pdf)
Jason and I are blogging at Boing Boing this week and next. Other than that, we're just sitting around basking in all the royalties that our book has brought in.
Which reminds me that, while I've never been particularly good at self-promotion, I'm pretty eager to get back to (paid) work. If anyone knows someone looking to hire a writer/blogger/editor/graphic designer, kindly let me know: brooklynite282 (at) gmail.
Featuring Michael Idov
and some of the nice folks who contributed to Ad
Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture. This
is an evening about the American Dream, how it woos you, and how it can bite
you in the ass.
Gallery Bar 120 Orchard Street between Delancey and Rivington Saturday, 5/16/09 8PM - 9PM
DAMIAN CHADWICK is a
writer and comedian based in New York.
He writes for the Upright Citizens Brigade house sketch team Gramps and
performs around town with the long-form improv group Sherpa.
GAYLORD FIELDS, the
senior editor at AOL Music, has previously worked at Rolling Stone and Spin.
He also currently hosts a free-form radio program on WFMU in Jersey City every Sunday evening.
CARRIE McLAREN is the
editor of Ad Nauseam. For over a
decade, she published Stay Free!,
a nonprofit magazine focused on American media and consumer culture. Her latest
venture is Adult Education, a monthly "useless lecture series" that
she curates for Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
MICHAEL IDOV is a
staff writer for New
York magazine and the editor in chief of the literary
Up is his first novel, inspired by the author’s own failed
attempt at opening a coffeehouse.
So sayeth the headline to a story about what New Yorkers want the new administration to spend money on. Funny thing is, the quote that the headline was taken from gives a very different impression of what the author wants:
I’d say we need bigger and better schools and hospitals, especially in neighborhoods like Bushwick in Brooklyn, where I live. Roads and bridges, they have other chances to get fixed, but kids get only one chance to go to school. If they asked me, maybe I might say, “Obama, pave Atlantic Avenue.” But that’s for me, and it’s peanuts compared to all the additional stuff we need to do, which is to invest in the schools and hospitals.
This New York Times story about about the use of YouTube as a search engine caught my eye. Apparently, people — particularly kids — are using YouTube as their primary search engine for research projects, news, and other information. The Times paints this trend as the inevitable march of technology but I can't help but see it as the devolution of our collective brain. What we don't get in this story in the fact that defaulting to video-only search is, um, pretty stupid. While I can understand why a 9-year old would do it, you've got to wonder where his teachers are to give him a basic lesson in media literacy: video and text communicate differently and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
To use an example from the article, let's say you need info to do a school paper on the wallaby. A search on YouTube brings up, on the first page, two home movies of people encountering wallabies, a vodka commercial, and kids singing a Raffi song. Even if there was a documentary about wallabies, the student would have to sit, watch, and wait to see if any relevant information appeared. He would then have to transcribe it and check the spelling for any proper nouns or unusual words.
A Google search for "wallaby," however, brings up Wikipedia's wallaby page, a National Geographic factsheet about wallabies, and several other wallaby-relate websites. The information here is laid out clearly, and is easy to scan. The user doesn't have to worry about transcribing or spelling. And several items are hyperlinked in case he wants to find more information about particular points.
Clearly, there are smart uses of YouTube, and it's an essential resource for hunting down TV and video clips but there is no need to uncritically embrace it as a primary source for research.
Some day when my brain is back and I no longer have an infant I would love to do a book about the pro-homosapien bias in the media.
Exhibit A: This clip from a National Geographic documentary comparing the way humans and chimpanzees learn.
It's pretty interesting: When asked to perform a series of motions in order to get a treat out of a box, the human child will copy the adult's motions exactly. The ape copies the motions as well, until the box is replaced with a translucent version. Once it is, the ape — but not the child — will realize that half of the motions are pointless and take a shortcut to get the treat.
Conclusion? According to the filmmakers: Both humans and chimps learn through copying, but children are "better" at it.
I love it. The fact that children blindly follow the leader is portrayed as a sign of our intelligence while the chimp is seen as a slacker. C'mon, give the chimps some credit! For one thing, you're asking them (but not the kids) to imitate a creature of a different species. Would children be as good at copying if they were asked to imitate chimps? Secondly, the ability to imitate isn't the only thing in play here. The children, for instance, could simply be more obedient — or, at least, more obedient to other humans. Lastly, if learning is the goal, shouldn't the chimps get serious props for problem solving?
Granted, this clip is only a piece of a larger documentary and I'm undoubtedly taking some of this out of context. (In another scene, the author of the study addresses some of these issues. ) Still, the suggestion that this experiment is evidence of how "humans came to be the most successful species on the planet" rankles.
Then again, it's no surprise that the children are applauded for simply aping their teacher. After all, this is the educational model of grade school.
My kid is 4 months old and I scarcely find time for blogs anymore, but couldn't let pass this Motrin commercial. The spot basically takes a jab at the recent (in the US, anyway) vogue for babywearing and offers up Motrin as the solution for the backaches that result.
I'm not sure which is more hilarious: the fact that people working for Motrin thought this was a good idea or the overwrought backlash by moms pissed off about it. This "answer" video, for instance, denies that babywearing hurts your back or is anything other than a blissful experience... which makes me wonder what its author is smoking. Practically every new mom I know wears her baby but often it's as a last resort — once the little darlings are beyond the newborn stage, carrying them can be onerous and cumbersome. It's no coincidence that perhaps the most popular carrier in Brooklyn these days is the Ergo, a carrier designed specifically to reduce back pain.
Which isn't to say that the commercial is not offensive. It is, I think, but not for the reasons some of my peers suggest. It's offensive not because the claims about babywearing are entirely wrong, but because of the way Motrin pitches itself as your friend: by deriding babywearing as mere fashion in order to offer up Motrin as the solution.
Shortly after Motrin's misdeed made the rounds online, the company behind the brand, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, withdrew the spot and issued an apology. (Hear hear!)
But maybe they'll like my idea for their next campaign: promote Motrin as a headache remedy for parents whose kids scream mercilessly when they put them in the stroller. Hell, they can come to my place to shoot that one....
Please shut up about Sarah Palin’s experience, particularly foreign policy experience.
Your campaign has spent the better part of the last two years arguing
that judgment is more important than experience. This is a good
argument because it is true. Voters apparently do not care about
foreign policy ‘experience’ and experience appears to have no bearing
on whether a candidate will use that experience wisely.
George W. Bush, hick governor, had no foreign policy experience. He
beat a two-term VP with over a decade in Congress. Bill Clinton, hick
governor, had no foreign policy experience. He beat George H.W. Bush, a
sitting president, two-term VP, Congressman and head of the CIA. Bush?
He beat Dukakis,
proving nothing. Reagan? None. Beat a sitting president who negotiated
a peace treaty in the Middle East. Carter? None. He beat a sitting
president and veteran of Congress.
Does experience look like it matters?
So, having staked your campaign on your judgment, you chose Biden as
VP, sort of admitting that maybe experience counts a little. This was
kind of bad, and not only because you were already getting Delaware’s 3
electoral votes. I don’t even hate the Biden pick because I think he
should be able to overcome the terrible atmospherics of his selection
by being a decent attack dog - but you have to admit that the
Then you had the balls to go after Palin’s experience when what you should have been going after was her judgment. When McCain selected Palin as VP he didn’t choose someone who had no foreign policy experience; he chose someone who had apparently never spent a day of her life thinking about anything beyond the border of Alaska. Alaska’s proximity to Canada is, according to the GOP talking heads, supposed to mean something about her foreign policy bona fides. After 9/11 you needed a passport to get into Canada. She got a passport in 2007.
As far as the world knows, Sarah Palin has never thought about the
world at large. She has no record on foreign policy and so she is now a
blank slate to be filled in however the McCain campaign deems
politically expedient. Not only would you be able to attack Palin’s
judgment - a mid-40’s governor with no public statements on foreign
policy should not be considered a serious candidate for the Vice
Presidency - you would be able to attack McCain’s judgment for making such a dimwitted choice.
This is how you should have gone after her selection. It would not only
have been consistent with your own talking points, it would have kept
the GOP from exploiting ‘experience’ - what most polls show is your
And in doing so you opened up a line of attack on your own judgment.
P.S. The right answer to “admit that the surge is working” wasn’t It’s working, but who knew it would! when you are running against a candidate that staked his campaign on the surge. The right answer was Working?
By what standard? If the U.S. pulled its troops out tomorrow we would
be exactly where we were before the surge started. If Iraq can’t
survive without the surge troops in place, we have established a
permanent occupation. I’d call that a failure.
Rami Tabello of IllegalSigns.ca and I are organizing a workshop to help New Yorkers fight illegal advertising in New York. Rami is coming down from Toronto just for this workshop, and it's a unique opportunity. I know Stay Free! readers are interested in this kind of thing, hope to see you there.
The details: Activists estimate that half the billboards in New York City are
illegal. Between fudged permits, lack of enforcement, and millions in
profit, outdoor advertising has become a corporate black market that
wont flinch at breaking laws to get your attention. On July 1st, the Anti-Advertising Agency and Rami Tabello of IllegalSigns.ca
will give a free workshop teaching you how to identify illegal
advertising and get it taken down. You will leave this workshop
equipped to have illegal signs removed in your neighborhood.
Canadian activist group IllegalSigns.ca is responsible for the
removal over 100 illegal billboards in the City of Toronto and will
reveal how the billboard industry gets away with breaking the law and
what New Yorkers can do to stop it.
Adult Education: A Useless Lecture Series - "Babies and American Industry" Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - 8 pm (doors at 7:30)
Union Hall in Park Slope
702 Union St. @ 5th Ave
At Adult Education, each month is devoted to a given theme, and 4-5 speakers will address some aspect of that theme using visual aids.
| Pamela Paul, “Baby Gear Your Mother Didn’t Have”
| Daniel Radosh,"Marketing to Christian Kids or The Secret Identity of Bibleman”
| Charles Star, “A Short List of the Worst Children’s Toys Ever”
| Gary Drevitch, “How Princesses and Pokemon Conquered America”
| Susan Gregory Thomas, “Barbie Goes Vertical: How the Marketing Industry Brands Infants and Toddlers”
DANIEL RADOSH is author of the new bookRapture Ready!:
Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture. He is a
frequent contributor to The New Yorker and a contributing editor at The
Week magazine. His writing has appeared in dozens of publications,
including The New York Times, Playboy, Esquire, and GQ. In the early
1990s, Radosh was a staff writer and editor at Spy magazine.
PAMELA PAUL is the author of Parenting, Inc.: How We Are Sold on $800
Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches,
Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers—and What It Means for Our
Children. She writes for Time magazine and the New York Times Book
Review, and is the author of two previous books, Pornified and The
Starter Marriage. She and her family live in Harlem.
GARY DREVITCH produces the parenting Web site Freelance Dad,
contributes to magazines like Parents and Jewish Living, and writes
non-fiction books for children. He is also the senior editor of
grandparents.com. A father of three, he has become part of the Pokemon problem, and now seeks its solution.
SUSAN GREGORY THOMAS is an investigative journalist and broadcaster and the author of Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds.
Formerly a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and co-host of
public television’s Digital Duo, she has also written for Time, the
Washington Post, Glamour, and elsewhere. She has two children, seven
and four years old.
CHARLES STAR is a sometimes lawyer, sometimes comic, and host of Adult Ed. But he is mostly known for his excellent cat.
Plug alert: I am going to be interviewed at 5PM today on "The Blog Bunker" at
INDIE TALK 110 on behalf of Stay Free!
A quick too-late-to-matter Google search shows that the host is Joe Salzone, a twentysomething conservative and Paulite. As it happens, I'm reading Ira Glass's New Kings of Non-Fiction, specifically, Host, David Foster Wallace's essay on conservative talk radio. I'm a little wary about being forced onto the defensive but I figure I can hold my own.
In any event, I'll be talking into a microphone that will disperse my thoughts into the ether and I'll do my best to entertain.
UPDATE: The taping was fun, the host is not confrontational and I think it went well, even if I was a little stiff.The show will be rebroadcast tonight at 11PM. If anyone listens, feedback would be nice. Here is my own feedback to myself: "Be funnier."
Carrie and I are hosting another session of our lecture series Adult Education tonight in Park Slope at Union Hall. Tonight's lecture, Trash and the City, has some great topics and actual bona fide experts!
I will be hosting the following lectures:
| Gertrude Berg: "Experiments in autonomous trash collection" | Benjamin Miller: "Your Waste From Space: Looking Down at New York's Garbage Footprint" | Michael Mandiberg: "10 Things I've Learned About Staten Island" | Robin Nagle: "Lost at Sea: The Quiet Terrors of Trash, Then & Now"
You can read their bios after the jump.
Adult Education: Trash and the City Union Hall April 8, 2008 702 Union St. @ 5th Avenue (Park Slope) $5 Doors open at 7:30
In the film, kiddies gather in libraries and auditoriums to hear fellow 7-year-olds and their elders sing songs from the perspective of characters from the Potter pantheon: Harry and the Potters (natch), Draco and the Malfoys, the Whomping Willows. Who knew that "Wizard rock" constituted an entire genre? We also get to see Brad Neely, creator of our beloved Wizard People, Dear Reader discuss his version of the first Harry Potter movie. And a young activist who led a charge against HP merchandise after Warner Brothers started threatening fans with lawsuits.
Granted, the movie isn't perfect. It's poorly edited, lacks a story arc or coherent thesis, and leans too heavily on visual effects and background music to give it an air of self-importance. To the extent that there is a story arc, it is that Warner Brothers has
come around to the idea that fan art is a good thing, but if that is
the case, the filmmakers lose major points for their cowardly failure to include Harry Potter movie excerpts or imagery. How can directory Josh Koury spend so much time on Brad Neely's Potter commentary without actually showing the work in question? Perhaps if he had consulted the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use or one of the recent documentaries about copyright, he'd realize how much he's gutting his own movie.
Nonetheless, We Are Wizards is entertaining and eye-opening. It's one thing to read about Harry Potter devotees, and another thing entirely to see all these kids in action. In the end, the movie is a handy record that documents how works of popular culture frequently inspire others to create.
UPDATE: Time Out NY named Adult Ed the "Best of the Day" in the About Town section, and The Onion A.V. Club called Adult Education "both informative and thoroughly entertaining."
Our second Adult Education show is coming up this Tuesday. The topic this time: Animals and Sin.
For those new to our series, Adult Ed is our new monthly lecture series devoted to making useless knowledge somewhat less useless. Each month is devoted to a given theme, and 4 speakers will address some aspect of that theme using visual aids.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 Union Hall in Park Slope 702 Union St. @ 5th Ave 8 pm - $5
Mikki Halpin: Sexual Violence in the Domestic Pug Jeffrey Kastner: A Brief History of Animals on Trial Carrie McLaren: The Legacy of W. N. Kellogg's The Ape and the Child Charles Star: The Quest to Develop Kosher Bacon
Daniel Radosh was scheduled to speak but, alas, had to go out of town. He will be missed. Stay Free's own Charles Star will be presenting his talk in his stead (along with sharing his notes on masturbation, sodomy, necrophilia, and group sex in the animal kingdom).
Narrated by Naomi Klein, the film features interviews with Stanford Law’s Lawrence Lessig, Illegal Art Show curator Carrie McLaren, Negativland’s Mark Hosler, [and] UVA media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan....among many others. This 53-minute documentary will be preceded by selections from Negativland’s new DVD, Our Favorite Things, and it will be followed by a Q&A with Freedom of Expression® author and director Kembrew McLeod and co-producer Jeremy Smith.
Freedom of Expression Screening and Q&A Free and Open to the Public (bring ID if non-NYU) Thursday, January 31, 2008, 9:00pm NYU’s Courant Institute
Room #109 251 Mercer Street b/w Bleecker and W. 4th
A gentle reminder that the debut of our new event series, Adult Education, is just around the corner: Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Union Hall in Park Slope (Union at 5th Ave.), at 8 pm. The topic for the evening is Microgenre. Hope you can make it!
Firebrand, a media company based in New York, launched the all-commercials-all-the-time show on the ION network (in L.A. on KPXN-TV Channel 30) late Monday with hopes of getting young people to view advertising: as entertainment, not an annoyance. ... The show, called "Firebrand," airs weeknights at 11. On both the show and its sister website, commercial jockeys called CJs introduce the mostly 30-second spots, which are selected by "commercial curators."
The article didn't put it this way, but using advertisements as entertainment (as opposed to merely making ads entertaining) appears to be something of a trend. Also, me crying at my desk is now something of a trend.
And they'll be even jumpier after they get the coffee
In what may go down as the worst idea ever, the Rancho Cordova police have started pulling over random drivers who are not breaking the law to give them $5 Starbucks gift cards — all under the guise of spreading 'Christmas spirit.'
It sounds like one of the Improv Everywhere pranks that starts out with good intentions and ends up creeping out the person being 'given a good time.' Just wait until a guy with a trunk full of pot stomps on the gas when he sees a cop on his tail, setting off a
dangerous high-speed chase. Merry Christmas!