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by Rayne

About That Porn You Sent Me

9:37 am in Culture, Economy by Rayne

The "ruins" of Detroit. (photo: ifmuth via Flickr)

Yeah. You know, the “ruin porn” and the “urban decay porn” you sent me, gloating over the death of Detroit like a ghoul over a corpse.

I’ve seen it already, thanks for sharing though. Over the last ten years as I’ve driven through Detroit watching its skyline and its streets and homes change after the auto industry fucked it again and again — yeah, I’ve seen the real thing, not just the warmed up leftovers you sent me.

This is what happens when a city of nearly two million occupants is treated like toilet paper by the corporations it made great. What did you expect would happen when after years of tax abatements and rolling over for these corporations’ short-sighted, quarter-to-quarter and purely selfish demands?

Did you know that General Motors thwarted the use of street cars when it “owned” Detroit?  It wanted to encourage its workers and city residents to buy its vehicles or use the buses it built, and in turn the white collar and eventually blue collar workers used the cars they bought to move to the suburbs where they could have their two- and three-car garages. The only people left behind were folks who really couldn’t afford to move to the suburbs or those hardcore souls who were dedicated to living in Detroit.

But that was over the course of the last several decades, the course of my lifetime that this urban flight occurred; it was a slow and steady bleed.

During the last ten years the slow bleed became a hemorrhage as the automotive industry offshored tens of thousands of jobs, spawning even larger numbers of job losses among suppliers, and even more jobs lost as workers fled the state and no longer purchased services from their neighborhood dry cleaners or hair salons, no longer frequented their restaurants or their grocery stores.

The collapse of the financial industry gave them the coup de gras, what with the damage subprime mortgages did to the financial subsidiaries owned by GM and Chrysler.

But I can see why you indulge in the porn; it’s fashionable. So fashionable it’s predictable. The residents of Detroit and Michigan can almost predict which photos the pornographers will take when they arrive, because we see them again and again.

Like here.

And here.

And again.

But the truth is this: Detroit has been through boom-and-bust before, survived and lived to tell about it as has the state around it. Unlike many parts of the country which are relatively new and have never gone through the cicada-like cycles, Detroit is an an elegant old survivor who wears scars deep down to her bones out of sight of the youngsters who mock her.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Food Sunday: Pizza, Pizza, Millions of Pizzas

1:48 pm in Culture, Food by Rayne

photo: fritish via Flickr

One million pizzas.

That’s the number of pizzas the NFL’s official pizza provider, Papa John’s, forecasts in sales today. Add the forecasts of Domino’s Pizza (1.2 million pizzas) and Pizza Hut (2 million) pizzas — that’s one hellacious amount of dough, sauce and cheese being delivered today.

You might as well double the pizza forecast since Little Caesar’s, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake, and a plethora of independent pizza restaurants make up more than 75% of the remaining marketshare.

What a lot of calories, too — the average slice of pepperoni and cheese pizza weighs in at an estimated 230 calories, and very few Super Bowl partiers in reach of a pizza pie will limit themselves to a single slice today.

Frozen pizza sales will be up substantially this week as well, by roughly 70%; it’s become a popular option not only because frozen pizza technology has improved over the last decade, but the cost is more appetizing during an economic downturn, saving a delivery tip at a minimum.

But this is only a fraction of the Super Bowl snack food story; last year, 106 million people watched the game. Massaging the numbers, that’s roughly 12-13 people per pizza — or a solid rationalization for a mess of chili or many chicken wings.

In this household we’re going with homemade pizza this evening. It’s tasty, it scales up easily depending on how many people are hungry (I’ll simply freeze the extra dough if we only need a smaller pizza), and it’s fresh and fast.

And we can control the calories, too. We’ll be using low fat mozzarella and turkey pepperoni on ours today, saving 50 to 100 fat calories per slice — even more with a veggie-mozzarella version. Served along side a raw vegetable tray, it’ll be a healthy Super Bowl dinner.

What about you? What are you having this Super Bowl Sunday?

Oh, did I mention that while some of our family members may dine on healthy homemade pizza while watching football, at least one of us will be dining on the same while watching a chick flick? How many of you are going sans football tonight? Do tell.

by Rayne

Super Bowl Anti-Marketing or Bimbo Pushback: Getting the ‘Old Girls’ in the Game

10:57 am in Business, Culture, Economy, Internet, Science and Technology by Rayne

Cloris Leachman appears in an ad for domain registrar Network Solutions; the ad promotes a service offered by the registrar which competes with GoDaddy.com. Most Super Bowl fans will recognize GoDaddy’s ads with little prompting; they generally feature a young and prominently endowed woman dressed scantily while breathlessly promoting GoDaddy’s brand. GoDaddy has also featured ads with Indy Series/NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, but the ads still revolve around a young woman. In at least one recent case, a GoDaddy ad featuring Patrick was rejected because of its reference to beavers; one might well ask what beavers have to do with domain registrations.

The Network Solutions’ Leachman ad represents anti-marketing, which Geoff Livingston wrote about yesterday, discussing a trend in “unselling” products. The Volkswagen ad with the tiny Darth Vader wannabe (see at bottom of this post) could also be seen as an anti-marketing ad; there’s little effort made to push the product, only a subtle appeal through the ubiquity of the subject across a range of potential buyers, made in a way which cuts through all the other advertising — targeted buyers of the Volkswagen in the ad are familiar with Star Wars and are likely of child-rearing age, and can readily relate to the ad. This isn’t a new approach; it’s been more common among European companies to use an indirect approach to selling. New, though, is the uptick in this kind of marketing, intended to break through the deluge of promotions pushed through regular broadcast and cable outlets, and now social media.

What’s particularly important about the Leachman ad is not unselling or anti-marketing, but the pointed pushback at advertising which uses young women as objects to promote a product while doing little to convey anything about the product’s merits. One might well wonder what it is that GoDaddy offers customers after watching one of their well-endowed ads — what does GoDaddy have to do at all with the internet?

The advocate at the end of the YouTube ad above is a critical point of departure as well; BlogHer.com’s CEO Lisa Stone dispels the notion that women are only window dressing for a technology product. Women are purchasers of domain services, and are among those customers that want to “get serious” as the ad’s tagline says are those who want trustworthy and effective technology products and services, not breast-enhanced glitz.

Women have been given short-shrift in technology for a very long time, even though they have become a driving force in technology consumption. The disparity in how women are treated by the technology has been the focus of several organizations, among them the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and Women Who Tech, an organization which hosts an annual summit focusing on parity in the technology industry. The work of these organizations may finally have paid off — 15 years after the Borg Institute launched — if a member of the technology industry is finally willing to stake a sizable chunk of marketing cash to go after the market segment which doesn’t want or need sexist messaging to promote products and services.

But perhaps the raw numbers convinced Network Solutions to do the Leachman ad:

As of 2005, there are an estimated 10.1 million majority-owned, privately-held, women-owned firms in the U.S., employing 18.2 million people and generating $2.32 trillion in sales. Women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all businesses in the United States and represent about 775,000 new startups per year and account for 55 percent of new startups.

That’s an awfully big market segment to insult with bimbo-laden ads to promote products and services.

by Rayne

Partially Chinese Mother Is Only Partially Superior

3:02 pm in Culture, Education by Rayne

Fortune cookie cupcake (photo: abakedcreation via Flickr)

Last weekend’s piece in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua whipped up a firestorm of debate about parenting techniques heightened by racial, ethnic and cultural tensions.

What a pity, really. This should have been an opportunity to talk about the challenges parents share in common rather than polarizing them into Chinese/Western, obsessive-compulsive/loosey-goosey, dictatorial/complacent factions.

I should point out for starters that the Wall Street Journal’s bought-by-News Corp. editorial team kicked this off with the crappy, inflammatory but traffic-boosting headline they put on Amy Chua’s essay — “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” is just begging for a beat-down, isn’t it?

And I say that as a person of Chinese heritage.

Chua didn’t do herself any favors, either; she comes across as a real tyrant who in just the right community and state might be labeled an emotionally abusive parent. She’s sold herself on the notion that it’s just the Chinese way to bully children into complete submission.

Granted, she does say other groups will do the same thing, but still, there’s this smugness about her background. And granted, this particular essay is an advance peek into her book she hopes will sell like hotcakes; there’s some hyperbole to be expected but this seems a bit excessive. (You can be certain that when someone claims to speak for half a billion people of a single cultural group and gender, there’s some hype involved.)

On the other hand, I’ve gotten some mileage out of her essay here at my house. I asked both my blonde-haired, Asian-eyed 13-year-old and 16-year-old kids to read Chua’s piece; both of them had the same reaction, their eyes wide with disbelief that a parent could possibly be more demanding than their own mother.

“No sleepovers — ever?” said the 16-year-old, stunned at the prospect of not having a girls’ night with her peeps.

“No television, no video — ever?” said the 13-year-old, his thumbs moving in unconscious sympathetic reaction to the loss of an invisible game controller.

“Yeah,” I said, “Imagine if I went full Chinese mother on you and expected better than 3.85 grade point averages out of you. Just think of it!” I rendered my best imitation of my Asian auntie’s high-pitched laugh.

They were terrified. Good.

But not really… Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

What’s Really Scaring Conservatives – Sharia Law or Islamic Banking?

3:37 pm in Countries in Conflict, Culture, Economy, Religion by Rayne

Conservatives are divided into different and often competing factions, including social conservatives who are driven by their Christian fundamentalist values, and Wall Street conservatives who are driven by the profit motive. It’s not difficult to see how the twain meet, though; the corporatists of Wall Street use their economic power to co-opt the religious right, “buying” them to do much of the heavy lifting for their corporate aims. Sometimes money can simply buy any angry conservative by persuading them that everything afflicting them is the fault of the left or some “other” — see the example of the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party.

But in the case of the recent ramp-up of fear by the right wing against Islamic sharia law, it’s difficult to see any involvement of the monied corporatists. There doesn’t seem to be any rationale for them to get involved.

Or is there? Perhaps the problem is that most Americans are not familiar enough with Islam’s tenets to see there is a threat to American corporatists’ current business model; it’s enough of a threat that they just might spend money making donations to religious groups asking them to ratchet up the fear factor against all things Muslim including sharia law.

You see, under sharia, interest on loans has been forbidden; as the report here by al Jazeera explains, profit is made on trade or sales, not on the loan of money itself.

Just imagine what applying this kind of law to our American banking system would do to the banksters which cannot foreclose fast enough, using foreclosure fraud on already fraudulent subprime loans.

Would you like to break Islamic law by gambling and bet that corporatists are more worried about this possibility than the Christian fundamentalists are about sharia?

by Rayne

SNL Pokes Fun at TIME’s ‘Man of the Year’ – and the Facade Slips

7:47 am in Culture, Media, Politics by Rayne

If you missed Saturday Night Live this weekend, no worries; we have the best part here in this video skit featuring “Julian Assange” who gives TIME’s “Man of the Year” award a well-earned roasting.

But watch — and listen — carefully at the very end, to the very last line.

Yeah, that bit; I wonder how that got by the corporate overlords? Notice how the audience receives it, too, with cheers and applause.

Nobody, not a soul, boos or cries when “Assange” acknowledges the death of democracy.

by Rayne

Watercooler – Special Food Sunday Ahead

8:18 pm in Culture by Rayne

LOL cat Christmas cookies. (photo: melissacorey via Flickr)

After the rather action-packed, news-jammed, boffo-Senate day, let’s stop and talk about anything but politics; let’s talk about tomorrow’s special Food Sunday.

It’s that time of year when many of us are preparing for holiday celebrations and we all have favorite baked goods we love to share with others. For this reason, Ellie Elliott has whipped up a cookie exchange post for you to share your favorite cookie recipes with others; watch for her post mid-day tomorrow.

But what about you? What kinds of goodies are you preparing for the holiday? Can you share them with us tomorrow as a post? If you’re baking cookies, can you share your favorites in Ellie’s thread tomorrow?

And for some of us, this holiday season is a bit more challenging than holidays past. We’re having to scrimp and cut corners to keep it together. What kinds of steps have you taken to be more thrifty this season?

Of course, being a Watercooler post, feel free to share anything else on your mind. What’s up?

by Rayne

Saturday Art: Steve Schools Stephen on Colbert Nation

1:25 pm in Art, Culture by Rayne

Comedian, author and art collector Steve Martin tries very hard to share his knowledge of art with Stephen Colbert this week. Martin is doing the rounds to promote his new book, An Object of Beauty. The two never really get around to talking about the book directly, in which Martin writes about an art collector and the development of her eye for collecting art work. But in goofing around, Colbert teases out an indirect discussion of the process of art collection.

Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Food Sunday: Semi-Homemade Jumbalaya

4:55 pm in Culture, Food by Rayne

When you’re tired of turkey and you need a zippy, quick to pull together pick-me-up dinner, try making this semi-homemade jumbalaya. You might even try making it with some leftover turkey chunks and/or ham.

Why semi-homemade? Because some evenings when you get home from work you just don’t feel like fussing around with ingredients and monitoring cooking too closely. And because some evenings you need to tell an older kid to make dinner which everyone can eat reliably.

Bonus: this recipe as prepared also reduces the sodium in the overall dish by about half, and allows you to tweak the seasonings to make it more or less spicy. (My kids prefer it less salty and a little less spicy – that’s how we discovered the semi-homemade method, adding more rice.)

Serve with a nice tossed salad and a light-bodied red wine and relax the rest of the evening. Don’t forget the tabasco sauce on the side in case you need more heat!  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Saturday Art: Princeton University’s Art of Science 2010 Gallery

12:25 pm in Art, Culture by Rayne


First Prize

Second Prize

Third Prize

Click the thumbnail images above to learn about the science behind the art.

The collection above is Princeton University’s Art of Science 2010 Gallery; it’s the fourth annual exhibition of works hosted by the school which examines the intersection between science and art.

This year’s theme is “energy” and very broadly applied to the choice of images. The works are not intentional art, but art created as a by-product of research in a number of different fields of science. The first prize winner is an image of a Xenon Plasma Accelerator, for example, while one of the other entries above is an image of a frozen section of mouse eye from the Department of Molecular Biology.

You can explore the remainder of the 45 works in this year’s collection at Art of Science online.

[Images: Low resolution versions used here under Fair Use from Princeton University.]