aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, May 25, 2007
Make it yourself Star Wars
George Lucas, creator of “Star Wars,” has never hesitated to protect his intellectual property, which is why some call him “Lucas the Litigator.” But this week, his Lucasfilm plans to make clips of “Star Wars” available to fans on the Internet to mash up—meaning to remix however they want—at will.
Well, actually, there are plenty of caveats to protect the franchise. And while I did, in fact, stand in line at Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd for the original Star Wars in 1977, I really don’t give a hoot about Star Wars anymore.
As to Lucas figuring out that maybe he can use the internet to keep his franchise alive, color me unimpressed. Now Jonathan Lethem’s giveaway, that I’m impressed by. Maybe I’ll have time to dig in and say more over the holiday weekend.
Hyundai’s image problem
Hyundai sent a mailing today encouraging me to save a tree. I can switch to email mailings from the car-maker but not opt out. So we kill a couple more trees and they blame me. My take is that the cost of the mailings is the only disincentive I can send!
I bought my second Hyundai last year. I’d have rather bought a Camry, but $5,000 and half the warranty convinced me to stick with Hyundai. Their goal must be not just to keep me as a customer but to make me choose them again next time based on something other than price. If anyone can do it, this guy can:
As senior vice-president for global marketing at Nissan in Tokyo and vice-president for marketing at Nissan’s North American operation before that, [Steve Wilhite] was used to looking at Hyundai as a competitor. He’d seen its quality improve “to scary levels,” he says--and sales stall. It was clear that the company needed a new “big idea” to redefine its brand and move it away from an association with cheap, tin-pot vehicles. Wilhite had reinvigorated brands before, earning marketing-guru status at Volkswagen in the 1990s when he led the German carmaker’s comeback, largely through clever advertising. Then he’d gone on to become Apple Computer Inc.’s top marketer. That Hyundai chose Wilhite to run its entire U.S. operation says volumes about how critical a strong, new brand identity is to Hyundai’s future.
Apple & VW; those are great associations. But the job is a tough one:
Wilhite is focused on repositioning Hyundai as an overachieving, underappreciated brand that smart people are discovering. While briefing the ad agencies bidding for the new Hyundai campaign, he evoked the “Drivers Wanted” ad campaign that Arnold Worldwide created for Volkswagen in the mid-1990s, as well as the classic VW ads from the 1960s, that “made consumers look at a brand through a different lens.” Says Scott Goodson, CEO of ad agency Strawberry Frog: “Even when you show a consumer that quality is higher than Toyota, they don’t believe you.” [...]
In the end, Wilhite and a committee of managers and dealers opted for San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein + Partners. Goodby helped to define Hyundai’s problem using research involving 200 people who sized up the new Veracruz crossover. When a group was shown the vehicle without any identifying logos on it, 71% said they’d buy it. Once the Hyundai logo went on, however, that dropped to 52%. In the same research, a Toyota logo lifts intent-to-purchase by more than 20%.
Goodby’s campaign, due out by June, is expected to blanket TV, the Internet, and newspapers with data about safety ratings, quality, and value pricing using a tone that agency CEO Jeff Goodby describes as one of “disarming honesty.” The idea is to create an environment, he says, where neighbors and co-workers of Hyundai buyers completely understand why they bought a Hyundai. “Hyundai,” he notes, “has no social currency today.”
I hope they succeed. A freind’s Mercedes broke down, again, in the parking lot at lunch the other day (actually, it switched to “limp mode” so that it could hobble home) and still I feel defensive the logo on my grill. But I love the car. Highest safety rating, great gas mileage as prices soar, bumper to bumper warranty and roadside service.
60% believe God created the world in 6 days
ABC News headlines its breathless coverage of the creationism museum - “designed by the same man behind some of the attractions at Universal Studios in Florida” - with presumably new poll results:
According to an ABC News poll, 60 percent of Americans believe God created the world in six days. In Petersburg, Ky. this weekend, a creation museum is opening that depicts a story far from what you may have learned in science class.
Exhibits at almost every natural history museum teach that dinosaurs are millions of years old and that they died out long before human beings existed, but at the creation museum, they say God created dinosaurs and humans at the same time.
The ABC News report includes some balance - “Mainstream scientists worry that because this museum is so sophisticated it will be more effective at giving children a distorted view of science.” - but no real articulation of the scientific facts. Say, for example:
There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.
No, what ABC gives us is a media thrill ride, a fluff piece that advertises a theme park as credible (if questionable) science tied to a nugget of news (the poll).
Fundamental changes at Facebook:
In discussions with multiple sources involved with the launch, we’ve come to see the platform as a highly ambitious idea, approaching the idea of Facebook being an operating system with other web apps riding on top of it. [...]
This move is more than catching up with MySpace and Bebo and what have you by adding outside widgets; Facebook has become a primary relationship and identity broker for millions of people. Now outsiders can capitalize on that information in a safe way, pulling from users’ expressed interests in their profiles, building on their stated intention to attend events, or simply giving them more dedicated tools for expressing themselves. The outside apps will be woven into a structure that’s already been built and is utilized every day.
Users can upload and record videos directly to their profiles and send them as messages to friends. They will also be able to upload video directly from their mobile phones.
Facebook is clearly pushing the personal video angle, saying “We’ve designed the application to discourage misuse, and our users agree only to upload video of a personal nature that is about them or their friends, or created by them or their friends.” Videos will not be public or downloadable; they will only be playable by a member’s friends and networks.
Making it even more important that educators understand social networks and “mediated publics.”
Tolerance vs. Equality & Justice
Wendy Brown’s Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire sits on my bedside table. A small book, it’s a long read. In the first chapter she observes that once the call was for “liberty and justice for all.” Now, instead of calling for “equality,” we call for “tolerance.”
Marc Fisher brings us an example of how this plays out. A cashier at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus food co-op was offended by a student’s t-shirt. Said she, “I won’t ring you up.” The response was a model of modern tolerance:
The collective, which rents space from the university, announced last week that it would serve any customer who was not physically or verbally abusive, but that any worker who was offended by a customer’s politics could discreetly slip away and find another clerk to serve the patron.
Imagine that at the lunch counter. We could have black waiters wait on black patrons, or gay on gay, or Christian on Christian, Jew on Jew and so on. No more need to negotiate, instead this ideal has us living in our separate equality. The logical extension of our tolerant accommodation.
[T]he students seem blind to the core rationale for freedom of speech, the idea that a marketplace of ideas is only worthwhile when it is truly, wholly unfettered.
Gretchen Metzelaars, director of Maryland’s student union, met with the collective “trying to help them come to the conclusion that they must abide by the university’s human rights code,” which prohibits discrimination based on age, sex, race and, yes, political beliefs.
Despite hours of conversation, “it became apparent that they were not coming to the right conclusion,” Metzelaars said. “So we delivered it to them.” This week, she told the collective that if it discriminates again, it will have 60 days to vacate the premises.
“They can’t see that this is discrimination,” she told me. “They’re more committed to their righteousness than they are to the rights of other people. The fact is, you have to serve everyone.”
In the end the students still don’t get it. I’m not sure that most of us do. The move towards tolerance means a shift away from equality and justice. That shift brings with it the assumption that differences cannot be negotiated. Instead they can only be tolerated.
But the flip side of the tolerance coin is the legitimation of intolerance for those incapable of exercising tolerance. (James Dobson, Osama bin Laden, PETA, and ACT-UP spring to my mind.) And we miss the opportunity to make a more just and equal society for all.
Military disavows Christian event in Georgia
Only after a DC-based group objects:
After complaints by a government watchdog group, the Air Force and the Army partially distanced themselves yesterday from a three-day evangelical Christian event this weekend at a Georgia theme park.
The Memorial Day weekend “Salute to the Troops” celebration at Stone Mountain Park is sponsored by Task Force Patriot USA, a private group that says its purpose is “sharing the fullness of life in Jesus Christ with all U.S. military, military veterans and families,” and whose Web site says “Christ is our Commander-in-Chief.”
In recent days, both the Task Force Patriot USA Web site and the newspaper of Robins Air Force Base, Ga., described the celebration as “an official U.S. Air Force 60th Anniversary event.” Along with speeches by evangelical ministers, church services and distribution of Bibles, the published schedule promised “hourly flyovers” by Air Force jets, performances by military bands, color guard presentations, a parachute demonstration by the Army’s elite Silver Wings jump team from Fort Benning, Ga., and exhibitions of Air Force equipment.