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.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Political Artist: Michael D'Antuono

Scrolling through the world wide web, I very recently came across the artist Michael D'Antuono. He is a New York based oil painter who is known for his controversial takes on social and political issues. UK's 'American' magazine even labeled him "one of the world's most controversial artists." Working in an advertising agency in his early life and as an illustrator for 25 years, he didn't start his fine arts career until later. Listening to the news channel in his studio, he was inspired to paint "The Truth", which became one of his most controversial paintings. D'Antuono's intent of the piece was to show how we all view things differently and distorted through a political lens, to show how our nation has become extremely divided. The piece was certainly effective in that matter, receiving more than 4,000 emails, most from the Christian right that believed the piece was blasphemy.

The Truth

Here is a look at some of his other paintings, or check his work out on his website:

Small Government
"This piece points out the corporate ecstasy of an affordable government small enough to fit in their pocket. Like small-time criminals want a police force too small to catch them, corporations want a government too small to regulate."

Murder by Media
"The political environment today is awash in an unprecedented lack of civility. The 24-hour news media (as well as some of our leaders) promote their agendas with a no-holds-bared approach. Disguised as unbiased news sources, they spew deception and promote fear. Their daily hate-mongering and demonization of their opposition demoralizes our society and faith in our government."
American Pie
"No matter which administration you choose to blame, we can all agree that it seems our government represents the interests of corporate rich. Instead of prosecuting those who greedily and carelessly put our country in economic ruin, they rewarded them with no strings attached billions."
Occupying Main Street
"He needs no crowd, no chant, no sign, for basking in the comfort of his luxurious office he rules Main Street and all the other streets in the land."
Down and Outsourced
By the thousands jobs are being outsourced to India, Hong Kong, The Peoples Republic of China, Panama, Manila, The Philippines; and many other countries. Since 1986, 15 million high-paying manufacturing jobs have left the the American workforce. Any job that can be performed in another location, preferably outside of the realm of American wages and work-related laws, are going."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

1968 Democratic National Convention

Chicago Police charged demonstrators during the 1968 DNC. The officer in the photo actually sued The Times and Life magazine, and Barton Silverman, the photographer.  

With the Democratic and Republican National Conventions of 2012 just passing, I want to take a look back at what was happening in our nation over four decades ago during one of the most famous national conventions in history. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that we would not be seeking reelection again, so the convention was held to select new presidential nominees for the Democratic Party's candidate. Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator Edmund Muskie were the nominees for President and Vice President. This period in our nation was a time of great violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest. Over 100 riots occurred in different cities throughout the nation. The 1968 DNC followed the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year. The convention that year in Chicago was notorious for many large demonstrations and riots by "Yippies" protesting for free speech and anti-war, and famous for the use of force by the Chicago Police Department. Barton Silverman, a staff photographer for The Times, captured the violence in Chicago, and he was actually arrested by the police for doing his job. This wasn't the first time he captured the violence in the American streets during the 1960's, covering many other riots that took place during those years.      

Read more and see more photographs at the New York Times: Lens

Protestors forming a human pyramid in Grant Park
Barton Silverman, center, in police wagon, after being arrested

Dueling Ads

Campaign television commercial advertisements were recently released by both Romney and Obama concerning the United States and China relations, each blaming the other for sending more American jobs there.

The Romney ad claims that under Obama we have lost half a million jobs, and Obama could have stopped this seven different times but refused to do so. It says that Obama has failed to stop China's cheating. According to a post in the New York Times, the ad is supported by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that shows manufacturing unemployment at 12.5 million in January 2009 down to 12 million in August, in which those jobs where lost during the recession. It fails to mention that there have actually been hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs created and added since 2010, which brought a little light during those hard times. The comment on China's cheating refers to the Treasury's Department's decisions (under both Obama and Bush administrations) to not label China a currency manipulator. Romney says he will change that, and some Republicans are alarmed that this will make tensions high between China and the U.S.

The Obama ad claims that Romney's companies were pioneers in shipping U.S. jobs overseas. It then says some of Romney's fortune is invested in China, and that all he is doing is sending them jobs. The use of the word "pioneer" has caused some controversy because that would actually mean that his companies (Bain Capital) were making way for other companies to send jobs overseas to China, referencing that Bain was making an industry trend at the time, which is not true. The claim that Romney's fortune is tied to China is true. However, it doesn't mention that Romney had no action in that. It was reported that, "a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company."

The facts that campaign advertisements use may be true information, but what I have learned is that there is always vital information left out of them. This certainly occurs through both parties, and this is a prime example. If you want the real truth behind dueling campaign ads then you have to do the research on which statistics are being fudged just to make the candidate look good and make the opponent look bad. It's really simple actually, don't truly believe anything you see. It's all PROPAGANDA.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


One of the most famous, or infamous, graffiti artists goes by the name Banksy. He (?) is a pseudonymous England-based artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His trademark is a stencil-style guerrilla art of political and social commentary that has been featured on streets, walls, and bridges in cities throughout the world, first making his presence known in London, Brighton, and Bristol. There has been much publicity and controversy surrounding the artist because Banksy's true identity has never really been known, becoming a guarded secret. There has been much speculation and research to figure out who this artist(s) actually is. Banksy states on his website, "I am unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being 'good at drawing' doesn't sound like Banksy to me." Critics have described his work as simple vandalism. The works have dealt with many political and social issues such as anti-War, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, and existentialism. They also deal with the human conditions of greed, poverty, hypocrisy, boredom, despair, and alienation. Banksy's work mocks central power, with hopes that it will show the public that although power does exist and work against you, that power is not terribly efficient and it can be and should be deceived.  

Continue to see more graffitti

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

28,003 TPM

According to Twitter, Romney/Ryan and the GOP have their hands full now. Of course, twitter is the basis for everything these days, right? Tweets Per Minute (TPM) definitely holds more value and significance than any other poll, duh. With that said, Michelle Obama's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte peaked at 28,003 TPM. That nearly doubles Mitt Romney's TPM during the RNC last week, peaking at 14,289. Also, considering 20 percent of television viewers named Clint Eastwood's speech at the RNC a convention highlight compared to only 17 percent from Mitt Romney's acceptance speech, they better hit the trail hard these last few months. 

Political Animals

When scanning through the 2012 Republican National Convention's photostream on Flickr, I came across some images of the Republican elephant, the political animal that is used to symbolize the GOP. Then I realized that I wasn't aware of where this symbol came from or what exactly it even means. After some research, I found out that the republican elephant as well as the democratic donkey were made famous by a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, in the late 1800's. The donkey was first associated with democratic party in Andrew Jackson's presidential campaign in 1828. Jackson's opponents actually referred to him as a jackass, and Jackson decided to jokingly use the animal on campaign advertisements. Nast later used the donkey in political cartoons.

Nast's first use of the elephant to represent the GOP came in the November 7, 1874 edition of Harper's. Nast had strong republican foundations, but he became frustrated with the party during the 1870's, which is evident in "Third Term  Panic". The cartoon depicts a donkey in lion's skin scaring off other animals, among them the elephant, and this was meant to represent the democratic scare tactics of the time. The cartoonist continued to use the elephant to represent the Grand Ol' Party. Today, it is not exactly known why these political animals continue to be so popular, maybe because of Nast himself.

Thomas Nast, "Third Term Panic". 1874

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fear and Loathing

In a recent article in the New York Times, Mark Leibovich points out something that is quite obviously occurring in the hearts and minds of Americans during this election period. Leibovich had a dream that Mitt and Ann Romney were invited by Michelle and Barack for a visit to the White House where they  sipped lemonade and ate hot dogs and had themselves a good ol' time. Of course, after awakening and realizing this could never occur, a feeling of depression about this election eventually came over him. He is to the point where he found himself asking this about the campaign, "How am I ever going to get through it?" When casually mentioning his dream to people at campaign events, they responded, "It would be a sign something nice is possible." There is something vital that has been missing this year compared to past elections, a lack of joy. Americans are not as excited as they should be, but how can you blame us? All we hear is negative comment after negative comment when we turn on the news. This joylessness has much to do with the political media. Leibovich is saying that it is to the point where we can't take it anymore. We just want to get through this. Ultimately, however, with the severity of the problems our nation is already in, the American tone is probably not going to change no matter which candidate is elected.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Define: Politics

What fist comes to mind when I think of the word politics is idea of power and authority. This not only extends from the power of the federal all the way down to city governments, but politics is also very much present in societal segments such as religion, academia, special interest groups, and any sort of organization. People have many different views on many different ideas and philosophies. Politics is a mechanism in which individuals can channel their particular views in order to implement change and progress. Citizens of the United States are very fortunate to have these rights. However, in this day in time, when most think of politics they think of a blood bath. They think of political warfare because that is what surrounds us everyday of our lives through technology and the media. Some people lean to the left and some people lean to the right, and we watch, read, or listen to ideologies from political figures that we either agree with or disagree with. Then we inject our stance to family and friends, through social networks, through media, through art, or any possible way one thinks their voice will be heard.  Every issue ultimately comes down to one thing in the long run, money. Those with money ultimately who have the ability to inject and demonstrate their ideas onto others. Money equals power and authority. Politics = Money

Politics also has a great deal to do with world wars and the battles we choose to fight. Below is a photograph made famous during the Vietnam War. The little girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, is running down the road naked, after being severely burned on her back when a napalm bomb was dropped on her village on June 8, 1972. Was it in our best interest to help South Vietnam against communist North Vietnam? Americans remember the more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers that lost their lives, but we always happen to forget the one to three million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc, Nick Ut, 1972