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.
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
From Stephen Duncombe’s Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture:
“The history of all rebellious cultural and political movements is the history of the unavoidable contradiction of staking out new ground within and through the landscape of the past. But today this laying of claims may be harder than ever. No longer is there a staid bourgeoisie to confront with avant-garde art or a square America to shock with countercultural values; instead there is a sophisticated marketing machine which gobbles up anything novel and recreates it as product for a niche market … The underground is discovered and cannibalized almost before it exists.” – Stephen Duncombe
Annoying advertisements. They’re always popping up when you least want them to.
I picked up the new April issue of The Atlantic yesterday, all excited to read about the “Secret Fears of the Rich” (more on this later, no doubt), “… And the Upstarts Revitalizing American Journalism,” and “The Great Mom vs. Mom Parenting Debate.” Yet, en route to the Table of Contents, my sensibilities were affronted by one of those confoundingly aggravating Chevron ads, this one reading: “Oil companies should support the communities they’re a part of. We agree.”
Ugh. So much for a peaceful reading experience.
Chevron, with its history of multiple human rights violations, is attempting to rebrand itself as the nice, caring big oil company (not like those folks at BP, right?), who “agree” that “Oil companies should put their profits to good use,” and “It’s time oil companies get behind the development of renewable energy,” and my personal favorite, “Oil companies need to get real,” which would be funny if it weren’t so sickening.
But of course, the last thing an ad from an big oil company would be is real. “We’re gonna make pretending to care, the new caring,” spoof the folks over at Funny or Die, in their “Anatomy of a Greenwash” video:
The end of the ski season. The all-too-quickly approaching MTV-style Spring Break media coverage. The observance of International Women’s Day. Seems an appropriate time to take a look at the porn-inspired “Love” line of Burton snowboards, which will not be produced next season.
The controversial series of men’s snowboards, called Love, which featured eye-catching images of Playboy Playmates, boosted sales for Burton, and ignited a debate about sexism and free speech.
Over the past couple of winters, new lines of Love were created, with each year’s series featuring newly-released (nearly) naked images of women. As coverage of the controversy faded away, the snowboards continued to sell extremely well, and Burton continued to pretend to be oblivious to what all the fuss was about. (Which is extremely doubtful. Jake Burton himself has an economics degree from NYU.)
So, why did they (have to) use pornography to sell snowboards? Continue reading
Ah, Election Day. Here’s to exercising our right as citizens to vote for politicians to represent our various best interests, all in the hope that the multitude of campaign advertisements and robo calls will finally come to an abrupt and satisfying end. Or so it often seems with our current system of representational democracy.
Who is best represented in our democracy? And what if we were represented differently? Say, instead of voting as an individual person of a town, county or state, what if our elected officials represented us on the basis of our class? Just such a question was posed by Annie Lowrey in her Washington Post article “What if Senators Represented People by Income or Race, Not by State?”
“Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets,” challenges Lowrey, “with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.”
Okay, let’s do it. (Wait! “It was my understanding that there would be no math.”) Here’s the representational breakdown of the income groups (number of senators doesn’t add up to 100) she came up with, using data from the Census Bureau: Continue reading
It’s been nearly a week since the disappointing culmination of the NBA Finals, and, as the dream of a Celtics 18th championship recedes from consciousness, I can finally begin to reflect on the spectator experience of watching this year’s series finale. And surprisingly, what stands out most prominently is the multitude of times BP ran a commercial attempting to convince everyone that they are taking responsibility for the socio-ecological-economic travesty in the Gulf.
As I’ve noted before, the fact that big businesses can write off their immense advertising budgets, while at the same time unfairly influencing our cultural dialogue, seems truly unjust, especially in this time of needed revenue and “corporate personhood.” But this recent BP persuasion campaign is an extra-uncalled-for slap in the face. Continue reading