Fire mars sky

A city in Texas is grappling with being a city in Texas, and the questions are coming in existential batches:

Making sure ITC isn’t spewing toxic fumes doesn’t require fining it out of existence. It requires a serious commitment to safety and transparency, which are sorely lacking in this state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a history of lax monitoring and enforcement. And Texas has refused to require widespread public disclosure of chemical inventories and Risk Management Plans of facilities that would improve journalists’ ability to inform the public during a crisis. A reporter who wants to see a facility’s RMP has to make an appointment with federal marshals to view it.

Patrick Jankowski, senior economist with the Greater Houston Partnership, told business reporter Jordan Blum: “We need these facilities here because it’s how we get our products to market.

Of course. But what is a booming economy without quality of life? Without peace of mind? Parents sent their children back to Deer Park and La Porte ISD schools Tuesday, but they couldn’t have felt great confidence when school officials restricted outside activities. Houston ISD took the same precaution. Good to err on the side of safety, but no parent should have to fear that just walking to school might endanger their child’s health.

Nothing that calls for fatuous comment or commentary. It’s just a situation reduced to its plainly naked reality. Companies do what they want, the public has no say. Regulations are too onerous. We need these companies here for our products. And what’s up with the air?

Not exactly the smoothest criminal but perhaps the one we deserve

Apologies to Mr. Jackson, but let’s introduce Mr. Mencken of 1920:

As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Brought you courtesy of Mr. Harriot:

He has become the world’s most powerful man in the world’s most powerful country through a system that rewards white men for being white men. He has no particular intelligence or expertise, yet he has convinced his poor Caucasian co-conspirators that the only way they can succeed is by placing their foot on the neck of the people who don’t look like them. The brown people. The black people. The non-Christians.

Isn’t that the most American idea of them all?

Good grief. Okay, I get it. Green – young, inexperienced. Naive. Wet behind the ears. Easily fooled.

Uncle.

Today is Towel Day

In tribute to the great Douglas Adams.
And while we’re at it:

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“What?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

No specific gin or lizard endorsement.

Ode to a series

Any thinking person’s loathing of advertising must, by definition, equal respect for the perfect ending of Madmen.

jon-hamm-mad-men-series-finale

No exegesis here (see Edroso for that) but from a writer’s standpoint, choosing his conception of the most famous and well-known of products and advertising campaigns as the Don’s portal back to his life and career was as inspired as it is confirmation of the campaign’s emptiness. As a stand-in for all advertising, it’s a savage send-up. Nicely done, Mr. Weiner.

Related.

Star of a new advertising campaign

So… innocently checking the NYT media decoder blog and the top two three of the top four stories are about the advertaiment process unfolding before our eyes. They’re not about this per se, because that would maybe be like a story on the circumscribed movements of the second hand, but

Such sponsorship agreements — known as branded entertainment, content marketing and native advertising — are becoming common on Bravo, part of the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment division of NBCUniversal. And as the channel plans its programming lineup for 2013-14 during what is called the upfront season, more sponsorships that integrate advertising into shows are planned.

and

“I am not against ads in general,” said Till Faida, a managing director of the project, “but I am just annoyed by the current state of ads. I have worked in online marketing — I just thought ads could be so much better.”

While still receiving donations from users, the project now also negotiates deals with large Web sites that run unobtrusive ads to be “white-listed” and thus not automatically blocked by the program. (A recent deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, granted such status to the social news site Reddit.)

add to that the recent stories about buzzfeed and heed: much like people making money simply off of money, the mining of what ‘content providers’ think you want to read or will click on and the re-packaging of that as ‘news’ or ‘headlines’ or ‘things you should know’ or whatever is vastly afoot.  Think of this as a PSA and not at all news, but this phenomenon has a slow creep, just like the touting of innovation and such in  high production-value TV advertising that we get accustomed to over time but is increasing really about nothing at all.

Just remember, people write books. Be firm about what enters your noggin.

Update: Lou-weeze. Parody, we hardly knew ye.

Define ‘this’

Surely you’ve noticed these Exxonmobile commercials (no link, sorry. Google it) focussing on the state of education in America today, how we’ve fallen behind relative to so many other countries and how we need to support teachers and students to re-establish our dominance. Exxonmobile is concerned. About education.

The cartoon narratives are fancy and well done, but back up a minute. The tag line, ‘Let’s solve this.’ Really? Confident. Serious. First-person plural. Everything else they are involved in is kosher and so now they’re turning their attention to our education problems. Exxonmobile. That is sporting of them. This is has got to be one of the most classic, think-up-something-else-so-we-don’t-talk-about-energy-policy, concerning trolling PR strategies they have dreamed up at least since they embraced, and likely already solved, the ‘go green’ issue – by making it go away. Let’s solve this?

Here’s what’s actually going on in solving education problems today:

Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.

The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.

Every time a student receives a voucher of either type, his local public school will lose a chunk of state funding.

“We are changing the way we deliver education,” said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. “We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.”

BIBLE-BASED MATH BOOKS

I’ll stop with that sub-head, just to let it sink in. Let’s solve this. Oy.

Eating Real Food

Is now a marketing slogan.

real_medium

I was talking with a friend about some of the possible consequences of the popular appeal of Mad Men, that maybe it could subjectively get us to actually hate and therefore begin to try to resist the power of advertising. But, even as the words passed my lips I knew this was a vain hope. It’s terrific art but the network executives behind it are just as clueless about why people like it – and clued in about what people will watch – as the most cynical characters on the show are. Evidence the appalling reality show that mimics it, follows it, appears to be unwatchable and will probably be some kind of quantifiable cultural phenomenon on its own.

Selling back to us things we should already be doing, making the zeitgeist attractive and appealing, is tricky. Because there are a lot of things people already do that many others should embrace for their own and our collective good, but for the streak anti-authoritarianism that runs deeper than the Mississippi – and which is completely at odds with our vulnerability to corporate thinking. We (remember, there actually is no they) can even get people be against clean air and water. We’re helpless before the slick-o ads that pervade. Even the coming presidential campaign is actually a high-concept design contest, starring people in ads who will say they just want honest conversation about our problems. “Were X’s ads effective?” the headlines will read. Such will be the nature of the political analysis. “Wheels with wheels, man!”

So, yes: eat real. Hey better yet, get real. What does that mean? Hey, now we’re back on track! Not sure we need to put such admonitions on t-shirts – though it does bring to mind Marquez’ One Hundred Years, when everyone in the village forgets the names of everything and they have to go around labeling things like ‘chair’ and ‘table.’ Yes, maybe it’s that. Or this:

Means as Message

Digital-Billboards-Mockup

The Times returns to a past series on driving distractions to look at LED billboards:

Some cities and states are debating whether to prohibit or regulate this new form of advertising for fear that it can distract drivers and raise the rate of accidents.

new study concludes that there are environmental reasons to avoid digital billboards as well. Digital billboards, which are made of LED lights, consume lots of energy and are made of components that will turn into e-waste once the billboard’s life has ended.

But wait, you ask, isn’t LED lighting quite energy-efficient? True, notes the report’s author, Gregory Young, a Philadelphia-based architectural designer and urban planner. But traditional billboards are lit by only two or three lamps, albeit inefficient ones, and only at night. By contrast, digital billboards have hundreds if not thousands of LEDs, which are illuminated day and night. And LEDs function poorly at high temperatures, so the signs need a cooling system.

This would seem to be the worst of both worlds so, of course: we all want one. Turn your interstate into a lame version of the Vegas strip. Really, it’s another brilliant move by the outdoor advertising industry, who you should assume has all your best interests at heart – they’re looking out for you, just like all the health care companies and financial planning institutions that pay their biggest fees. But even outside of the inherent dangers of looking up from your iPad burrito Four Loko steering wheel and general eco-lessness of these forms of advertising, I’m more concerned about the sort of dull feeling about our surroundings that actually emanate from them, much more strongly than any other intended message. Beaming lights in articulation of a come-in and/or otherwise recognizable logo design is our current version of anti-beauty. And as much as LED billboards seem like some sort of natural evolution of the kind of eye-poison to which we’ve all become so accustomed and accommodating, they’re not. They are their own form of dystopia. I.e., an actual sign of something.

Since some call this the season of beauty, everyone should just take some time and re-load on the most agreeable things you can find. It will help us not be so accepting of these kinds of invasions into our mental space, especially through the pollution of actual space, using actual pollution to do it. Three birds: meet my friend, stone.

Massive Eco

As in, “check out the eco on that chick!” or “He’s got an eco the size of Kansas.”

That is, these don’t refer to a nice set of ta-ta’s but a sort of dialectical framework that, when and where necessary, might be detectable from the outside. You might identify yourself with/by something as benign as carpooling or as radical as making your own clothes. The continuum here is not based on the relative merits of either one in opposition to the other – which may be considered greener, for instance – but in opposition to more conventional, energy-intensive ways of doing things. The question is not does it make a difference, but does it make a difference to you. Because we don’t wake up one day and decide to start looming our own thread; but over time, we do consider things like where we live, how much we can use alternative or mass transit, what kind of roof we are going to invest in for our house, that kind of thing.

Those kinds of choices, where we pause to consider the externalities related to our decisions, are the ones that will send the most durable signals. This flies in the face of green advertising, though it has much the same aim. Instead of a particular product or company, these more-general types of choices begin to play a larger strategic role in cutting down our GHG emissions and getting back to somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 ppm, mainly by establishing multiple routes to these goals.

So, of course I’m joking about ‘massive’ – because it’s more about smaller, individual-scale choices that will have giant ramifications, and effect the public attitudes around you.

The point is, know what you think about this stuff and why you live where you do, buy what you buy (or don’t) – because unless it was your own idea, then it wasn’t and someone gave to you, effectively deciding for you. Whichever side of this point you’re on, everything else flows out from there. By taking some control of what you think and why, you won’t feel so cynical about vain attempts to save the world from far-off problems like those effecting the climate, nor so horribly pained by the antics of the idiot caucus. I promise.

Cranking Up The Wurlitzer

Does a noise machine run on renewable energy?

Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak today released information from BP regarding its spending on corporate advertising and marketing following the April 20, 2010, explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

At the suggestion of Representative Kathy Castor, on August 16, 2010, the Chairmen sent a letter to BP requesting details on the company’s spending on corporate advertising and marketing relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and relief, recovery, and restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today the Chairmen sent a letter to Representative Castor, summarizing BP’s response and acknowledging her leadership on this issue.  According to BP, the company spent over $93 million on advertising between April 2010 and the end of July 2010—more than three times the amount the company spent on advertising during the same period in 2009.

This really can’t count toward their expenditures for repair and recovery in the Gulf… can… it? Yikes. Within the single bottom line format, that question is self-answering and probably tax-deductible. I guess there is no difference between advertising and dispersants, between messaging and (lowering the)oil booms, between, well you get the picture. Let’s just re-inforce the frame.

via TPM.