Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Changing Values in Sweden is by Represented European Toy Company [Extra]

Northern Europe's largest toy retailer, Top-Toy, has caused some attention in the Swedish market with the release of their latest catalogue. The catalogue is being labeled as gender-neutral, and the images published definitely contradict the social normal. Images of the publication feature boys playing the stereotypical role that young girls normally play. For example, there is a boy blow drying a girl's hair wearing a fanny pack type waist bag with many hair accessories. There are both boys and girls playing in a toy kitchen, dressed in an apron and chef hat. It features a boy walking small, white feminine dog toys next to a white picket fence. In contrast, it also shows a little girl with her hair pulled back in a ponytail shooting a large nerf gun.

Top-Toy has actually released different catalogues for different areas. The Denmark catalogue does not feature these switched gender roles. It uses images following societies' norm. The company knows exactly what they are doing, for they are not hiding these issues in the media. They are using different marketing techniques for different demographics, and they have even highlighted the reason why. There has been a gender debate occurring in Sweden recently, and Top-Toy has been following it closely. They are representing a new, modern way of children's play, and they feel that the customers will appreciate this.

Thomas Meng, the retail marketing director, stated, "We want our catalogues to reflect the way boys and girls play in real life, and not present a stereotype image of them. If both girls and boys in Sweden like to play with a toy kitchen, then we want to mirror this pattern."

Top-Toy claims that all their customers in the Scandinavian market will begin to also experience more gender-neutral catalogues in the future. It is amazing to see this progression into modern civilization happening overseas. Sweden is one of the most progressive nations in the world. However, the United States is still so far away from something like this happening. The "greatest country in the world" is losing when it comes to accepting changing gender roles, sexuality, and marriage equality. It is hard to recognize it at times, but we are still progressing, just very slowly. There is a group of people in our nation that still haven't changed their traditional views amongst these changing times, and that is holding us back.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Republicans vs. Chris Christie?

In the wake of devastation from one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the Northeast coast of the United States, Governor Chris Christie acted out like any governor or compassionate and sympathetic human being should. He put everything else that was going on in the world at the time on the back burner, and gave all his attention to his state of New Jersey and its shellshocked residents in a time of crisis. Hurricane Sandy happened to hit the week before the presidential election, and Christie's reactions and response to President Obama during this time of need has cause some fury among the Republican party and Mitt Romney donors. Governor Christie praised Obama's actions as president in his response to the storm, publicly calling him "outstanding", "incredibly supportive", and worthy of "great credit". The party believes Christie played a role in the outcome of the election that next week, and unfortunately for him, he has been trying to explain himself to his party ever since.

Mitt Romney donors demanded to know why Christie stood so close to the president the week before the election. At the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas following the election, he was not praised like normal, instead reminded of how many people he had offended. Days before the election, Richard Murdoch claimed that the governor might be responsible for the re-election of Obama. Republicans are now questioning him as a reliable leader. Some believe he is looking out for his future, positioning himself for re-election or as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. He has been called "Judas", "traitor", "fat", and a "fool". They are putting much of the blame from the results of Mitt Romney's loss onto the shoulders of Mr. Christie.

"I'm not going to apologize for doing my job," Christie stated. "The fact of the matter is, I'm a guy who tells the truth all the time, and if the president of the United States does something good, I'm going to say he did something good and give him credit for it," he said. "Politics becomes a lot smaller when you're dealing with life and death issues, it just does." Damn right, Mr. Christie. He was not thinking politics when the northeast was slammed by Sandy. When people were losing everything they had, he did not put Romney first. When lives were being lost, Christie was doing his job. It is disturbing to think that those fueling the Republican party are coming down hard on a governor who was doing everything he could to help during a national disaster, which meant, yes, shaking hands with the President of his country. It comes across as ruthless, vicious, and heartless. These reactions following the election just reinforce, in my mind, why Mitt Romney was not victorious.

Check out the article on The New York Times.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Water Portraits

Peter Holmes has been seeking to "make water consumption visible in a meaningful way." He set out on a project that is entitled Water Portraits, in which he has taken 16 portraits over a two year period throughout North America, Europe, Morocco, and Turkey. Holmes photographs people in different cities at or near their own residence. With help from an assistant or friend of the subject, water is dumped from above onto these people, and the scene is only created once. There are no retakes. The amount of water dumped in each equals the average input of municipal water per person per hour in that particular city or country.

California: 32L per person per hour

Serbia: 5.3L per person per hour

Holmes' intent of this project is to "bridge that gap between statistics and significance". It is difficult for the average citizen to comprehend statistics about water consumption. Canada, for example gives the average consumption per capita per year: 1,420,000 liters in 2004. That is hard to put into layman's terms, and that is exactly what this artist is trying to do for his viewers. This is certainly art in my opinion because Holmes is passionate about the subject, and he is trying to make humans aware of the issue. This is just very intriguing to me because Holmes actually has a bachelors degree in political science from the University of British Colombia. His work has been featured in magazines and group and solo exhibitions in Vancouver. The series is printed onto newsprint, and the informative statistic is located below each portrait. Also, in the gallery he displays the original aluminum plates that transfer ultraviolet ink to the press blankets, then to the newspaper.    

He combines art and math to try to invoke a response from the observer. Most, especially Americans, aren't aware that fresh water that comes out of the faucet is actually a very precious commodity and resource. It is essential in everything we do. Of course, in the west, we turn on the tap or press a button and clean water comes out, and then we go on about our merry way without thinking about how lucky we truly are. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people in the world do not have access to clean water. There wasn't a better way for Holmes to bring this to our attention than through photography and portraiture. Art can establish a connection with the viewer, something reports and papers many times cannot.  

Germany: 6.3L per person per hour

France: 10L per person per hour

Belgium: 4.3L per person per hour 

Netherlands: 3.8L per person per hour

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Failure (Nixon, 1968)

The 1968 Presidential election between Richard Nixon and vice president Hubert Humphrey was an extremely controversial time period. President Lyndon Johnson, coming under the belt after the assassination of JFK, announced that he would not be running for reelection. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated just 4 days after this announcement, and Robert Kennedy was assassinated just months after that. Humphrey was nominated as the democratic candidate during the national convention, as he came into the race quite late, not actually winning any of the primaries. Americans, young Americans, were tired of the war that had been going on in Vietnam, as our government kept sending more and more troops overseas. This sparked an antiwar movement, and protesters rioted in the streets on behalf of their beliefs that we should end the war immediately. Humphrey was unfortunate to come into the election during this great turmoil with some of the greatest riots in the history of the U.S. occurring during the Democratic National Convention. This certainly didn't look good for the left wing.

A unique presidential race had definitely unfolded, and I find it interesting the position that Nixon and the republican party had to take in their attack advertisements. They couldn't just attack one single person, like the incumbent president for example, for their tactics had to change, attacking with a broader scope. Instead of going directly after one person, they went after the entire democratic party. I guess I find this interesting because it is simply different from the race going on in 2012, where things have gotten quite personal. The Nixon campaign basically used everything that was going on in the world at the time against Humphrey and the democrats. Filmmaker Eugene Jones made a very well crafted series of political advertisements on behalf of Nixon's campaign.


I found the one minute spot, Failure, particularly productive in its intent and purpose. It is very dark and dissonant, blatantly attacking the democratic party for the failures that were going on in the nation. It claims the opposing party can't even get it together themselves, so how in the world would they be able to run the country. Jones definitely uses scare tactics to scare Americans into voting for Nixon. It uses still photographs and erie music to help link the sound to the visuals. The images are dark, scattered, and chaotic, used to symbolize exactly what the unstable American streets looked like at the time. It shows photos of fire and rioting and claims that if the party can't control their own backyard then how will they put order in all 50 states. It shows Americans that there is a war going on overseas that cannot be won and questions why we were still there. The ad is strictly information about what has gone wrong, saying nothing about what Nixon will actually do to implement change. It is simply about Americans acknowledging that they need new leadership. The ad takes advantage of what they claim the democratic party has brought to the nation the last four years, essentially saying if they are in their right minds they shouldn't want four more years of the same thing. Now, that part does sound quite familiar.    

Sunday, October 21, 2012


An ample amount of businesses across the nation are currently catering to what's "hott" in the marketing world, and right now that happens to be the presidential campaign. Yes, believe it or not, marketers and advertising agencies are making their pitch for companies using Election Day and the campaign as a major tactic in an attempt to move their product. Well, I guess anything is believable in this day and time. So, just when you thought you would try and escape the election for at least a few hours by going to the store or not looking at your smartphone or computer, try again! Actually, don't even try anymore. The marketing madness is inescapable! (Via Politico)

Morris the Cat
9lives cat food is running a fake presidential campaign for Morris the Cat. He even stands for cats of all colors! Check out his facebook page if you don't believe me.

7-Eleven now gives you the option to vote when you pick up your morning joe at the convenience store. They are calling this official endorsement the "7-Election 2012", and the results are being tallied and made available online. What cup are you, blue or red?

Hotels are getting in on the action by offering election-themed promotions that appeal to guests of either party. The Mayflower Renaissance in Washington has a "Pick Your Party" package where they are decorating suites in blue or red trimmings and stocking them with political DVDs. The package includes a Champagne breakfast and a night limousine tour of the monuments for only $5,000 a night!

Boston Market is running the Bowl Poll Campaign where shoppers can voice their opinion by purchasing either left-wing chicken or right-wing turkey. Customers can now "vote on issues that really matter."

A minor league baseball team in California offers their patrons seat cushions that have either Obama's or Romney's face on them, and Luster Premium White oral care products claim that "presidential candidates' teeth whiteness as a leading indicator of election success", hoping you will give them some business. Astonishing? Bizarre? Preposterous? YES. Apparently, this method is working though. I have nothing else to say but...ridiculousness.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reality Check

23 year old Brooklyn resident, Chad Lewine, is trying to promote voting in the upcoming election and show his support for President Obama through a recent music video uploaded to the world wide web. But, Lewine also wants to make a living through music. Therefore, he is using a political outlet to essentially promote his career. After watching the video, I found myself dumbfounded that this guy would put out a video of this quality if he is actually trying to promote his career as well. He is getting the attention though, as I found this video on CNN iReport, so what do I know?

Here is a link to Lewine's President Again lyrics. I find some of the lyrics to his song hysterical, ignorant, and degrading. He actually claims that Obama is the "best candidate to date, better than Washington, Jefferson, nobody's got anything on him, no question." Comparing anyone to the first president and forefathers of the United States should never be done. It is dishonoring and downgrading, especially considering all the negativity surrounding both candidates in the election right now.

The lyrics also say that "if you wanna keep guns off the street" then you should vote for Obama. Despite the perception that Obama is anti-gun rights, he has repeatedly affirmed our Second Amendment foundation rights to bear arms. During office, Obama has actually signed zero gun-control laws. It is just apparent that this guy has no political insight and makes many false claims. Comedy is actually a much more effective tool in political activism than music. Chad needs to reorganize his priorities and become more educated because ultimately, knowledge is power.

Barack vs. Mitt

According to commentators, surveys, and basically the majority of the world, Mitt Romney was the clear "winner" in the first presidential debate that took place at the University of Denver. Those people felt that Obama lacked enthusiasm, that he was too soft, too timid, not having enough aggression towards the former Governor of Massachusetts. Was Obama really that "terrible", as John Geer, Vanderbilt University's political science chariman, stated in a CNN article? Did Romney's "performance" really reshape the presidential race, as his supporters believe? Will the televised debate really play a significant role in the outcome of the 2012 election? Many believe the answers to these questions are a definite yes, but I think we should take a big step backwards and try not to get brainwashed by all this debate drama.

After watching the debate live on CNN, I felt like I had just walked down Broadway in New York City and caught a Thursday night show. What the world watched that night was certainly a show. It was as rehearsed, set up, and practiced as a Broadway musical. The two actors this night just happened to be President Obama and Governor Romney. They each stepped on the stage smiling ear to ear, heading towards each other, meeting in the middle for a greeting. They rehearsed the hand shake, each making sure to shake affirmably while putting their other hand on their opponents arm to show strength. It was obvious they had a dress rehearsal, each candidate wearing identical navy colored suits with an american flag pinned on the left side of their suit jacket, as well as identical looking crisp white collared dress shirts. The only difference in their attire was the different colored ties. They really spiced it up, Obama going with the blue polka dots and Romney going with the red stripes. I wonder why each picked that color...hmm?? After reaching the podiums, this happy story turned into a violent drama with much suspense.

Coming into the debate, most of what was said referred to what Romney "needed" to do because he had been under fire from many of his fellow Republicans. There certainly wasn't as much talk as to what Obama's strategy should be. But, those commenting basically said he needed to stay calm and collected. I say that Obama did just that, he just may have been a little excessive in his calmness and collectiveness. I will also agree that Mitt Romney did hold his own throughout the debate, setting the tone, and that Obama did miss some opportunities to punch back at Romney. Will the nation take into consideration that Romney has been debating all throughout the primaries, and Obama has not done this in four years, so he may be somewhat rusty? Do citizens want some sort of instant gratification, or will they actually sit down and weigh all of the facts? That we will have to find out and see. According to an analysis by Gallup, however, only two elections in the past half century have been affected by the outcome of a televised presidential debate.

Furthermore, I believe there was one major cause for all the disruption after the debate over Romney's "victory", and the split screen told the story precisely. Romney was not scared to go toe-to-toe with the incumbent President. The President, on the other hand, looked down, shook his head, took notes, and had little eye contact with Romney for most of the night. Therefore, that one major cause was body language. The audience got the sense that Obama did not even want to be there debating that night. Obama was criticized for being too cool, almost like he didn't want to get his feet wet. Essentially, I felt the outcome of the debate was based for the most part on body language. Will the outcome of the November election be based mainly on body language? To simply put it...NO.