Monthly Archives: May 2011

the revolution will be commercialized

Most famous for the spoken word style of social commentary exhibited in his classic, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gil Scott-Heron passed away last week, at the age of 62. While “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” has been lauded as a countercultural anthem for decades now, I was first exposed to Sott-Heron’s cultural legacy, disappointingly enough, by a sneaker commercial. So much for growing up in the extremely postmodern era of The Eighties, where inspirational ideas were often ruined even before they could be understood. (In a related story, I was first introduced to The Beatles song “Revolution” by a commercial by the same sneaker company.)

Interestingly enough, said commercial (released in 1995) stars (now-veteran) point guard Jason Kidd, who will be leading his Dallas Mavericks into tonight’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, against the dreaded Miami Heat. The commercial features an updated spoken word soundtrack by KRS-ONE, who assures us that “The revolution is about basketball, and basketball is the truth.” (Obviously a pre-Paul Pierce NBA.)

So while The Revolution Scott-Heron spoke of in The Sixties was about Black Power, today it is about basketball (and buying sneakers, one would assume). (That being said, it’s a pretty good commercial, as far as commercials go.) (Even if it is painfully ironic that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was made into a television commercial.)

It is tempting to write off any commercialized effort of a cultural anthem as a rotten bastardization of an authentic creation. Then again, for better or worse or worser still, commercials do nothing if not expose people to their product/message/medium. Maybe it’s good that homage was paid to Gil Scott-Heron, introducing his music to a new generation.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t.

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Filed under Advertising, Consumerism

striking out sports sexism

As the weather heats up, the NCAA gets ready for next week’s Softball World Series, and the baseball season starts to hit its stride, I’m thinking of a TV commercial that regularly got air time throughout New England last summer, and lamenting the fact that I’ve yet to see such a promising ad so far this year.

A beer-gutted bunch of guys are getting ready for a softball game, when a young woman runs up to the huddle, hoping to join in the competition. “We already have someone who throws like a girl, right Murph?” one of them quips, as the rest join in with laughter at “Murph’s” expense.

And I’m reaching for my remote. To change the channel. To hit the mute button. Waiting for the televised production of that night’s Sox game to return from the all-too-familiar land of sexism in sports programming.

But then the commercial takes an unusual turn. The young woman returns (from the sports gear store, it is a commercial after all), shoves the man off the mound, and proceeds to strike out every one of the poor-swinging men. Turns out, she is Jennie Finch, US Softball Olympian and Gold Medalist. As the commercial ends, one of the men sighs dejectedly, “I wish I could throw like a girl.”

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Filed under Advertising, Consumerism, Social Change

meet tom shadyac: mobile-home-living multi-millionaire

Once upon a time, a burgeoning young Hollywood director bought an 8,000 square foot Beverly Hills mansion. Only to immediately realize that he had made a huge mistake.

“There I was, standing in my house that my culture had taught me was the measure of the good life, standing alone in the entrance foyer after the movers had just left, and I was struck with one very clear, very strange feeling: I was no happier.”

Which, not surprisingly, he found quite puzzling.

This director of several successful comedies, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor, Tom Shadyac went on to buy another mansion (this one at 17,000 square feet), before seriously downsizing, and moving into a mobile home (albeit the nicest mobile home I’ve ever seen).

Shadyac has a new movie out, a documentary called I Am, about his search for a meaningful life. And last month he spoke with Oprah about his journey navigating our consumer culture. (Click on link below.)

“It’s a conversation I know you all are having,” suggested Oprah. “Has the world gone mad? … It’s like we’re in this envious race to get more and more and more and are still feeling emptier and lonelier and more disconnected.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Advertising, American Dream, Lifestyle Economics

i’d like to buy the kochs a world …

Freedom. Opportunity. “The pursuit of happiness.”

But what happens when the pursuit of one person’s happiness infringes on the opportunity of another person? When the agenda of one group of people reduces the freedom of another group’s aspirations?

Conflict. Oppression. Reality?

It can be hard to realize, or consider, the hopes and dreams of others. Especially when you’re not even trying to do so.

The folks at The Other 98 % have a solution, however: buy wealthy power-mongers their own world in which to do their bidding, and from which the rest of us can be left alone.

Check out their catchy retro-80s Coke commercial spinoff, inspired by the wealthy power-mongering Koch brothers.

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Filed under American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Social Change

the wisdom of david simon: economic intelligence from the creator of the wire

I may be a bit slow to the proverbial party here (or there, or everywhere), but it’s only in the past week that I’ve become aware of the astute societal observations of David Simon.

Simon is best known as the writer/creator of The Wire, the unbelievably excellent and roundly appreciated “cop  show” that Simon says is really “a show about the end of American Empire.” Which seems quite a lot to take on, for an hour-long primetime television show. And so all the more impressive for the honest attempt.

A self-described socialist (but not a Marxist, he is quick to note), Simon was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun for over a decade. Then he wrote a book, Homicide, which led to the cop show Homicide, which were both based on his journalistic observations working the beat in Baltimore.

As is portrayed with his shows, he has seen the ugly underbelly of our uber-capitalist society. And he is dead set on sharing that story, so that it can’t be (as easily) ignored.

In commenting about The Wire (and his new show Treme, about post-Katrina New Orleans), Simon doesn’t mince words when articulating the unfortunate truths of our capital-obsessed social economy. “Every single moment, on this planet, from here on out, human beings are worth less. Not more, less,” he told a crowd at Loyola College. It’s a simple, stark truth with some revealing implications.  Continue reading

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Filed under Class, Community Investing, Economic Justice, Fair Taxation, Social Change

special star wars day edition: quote of the intermittent time period VI

Today, May 4th, is Star Wars Day. Who knew? Well, some folks on my Facebook feed. Thankfully. (Though I did feel a disturbance in The Force …)

So, here are a few bits of (affluent ANGST-related) wisdom from Qui-Gon Jinn. Because Episode I will always need more love, and because Liam Neeson’s performance as the renegade Jedi was fabulous, regardless of the rest of the movie.

“There’s always a bigger fish.”

“Greed can be a powerful ally …”

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

Happy Star Wars Day, and may The Fourth be with you!

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