Tag Archive 'charles'

Apr 21 2010


When I saw these shoes the first thing I thought of the TV show Arthur and this episode I liked as a kid.  Arthur got a pair of moon bounce shoes and paid for them by raking a lawn.  Because the leaves keep falling and he has to rake again, he decides instead to bounce into the tree and hit the leaves down so that they’ll all come down at once!  Genius!

I remember that Parker and I asked for moon bounce shoes after seeing that episode but alas – we never got them.  Anyway I came across these shoes on Amazon and they’re pretty ridiculous looking.

Mostly I hope that the shoes come with that awesome shirt.

I noticed while reading the customer reviews that a few people tried to turn it into the next Three Wolf Moon or Tuscan Milk.  It kind of failed because the top comments are parents talking about the product.

I looked these up on YouTube (who seriously spends time putting these videos up?!) and to be honest they don’t look like fun at all.  Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations from watching Arthur and glorifying the product all of these years, but regardless.  The product doesn’t even look fun in the commercial!

But, I since the reviews say that kids love ‘em, I guess it’s a good product. Apparently, though, you should wear protective gear.  Who knew?

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Apr 18 2010

Purchasing Power

Published by under Reflection Blog

… Black Kids and American Consumer Culture.

In this book, Elizabeth Chin examines the ways that black youth contribute to consumer culture in ways that differ from ways that white kids do.  She looked at the ways that the media portrays black youth as kids eager to kill over new Jordans and contrasts this with case studies of 3rd and 4th graders that she conducted.

One of her major findings was that black youth are more conscious of how much they cost and what a burden they are to the family.  She states that when given birthday or Christmas money most of it is expected to pay for necessities like clothes or school supplies.  She ends up illustrating this by taking each of the kids that she studied (and sometimes more) out shopping and gave each $20 that they could spend however they wanted.

This was my favorite part of the book because the kids really came to life and I felt like I could see them agonizing whether to buy the X-Man or the Walkie Talkies.  This specific case study was about a boy (pseudo)named Davy who loved to play with X-Men with the neighborhood kids.  He was the only one who didn’t have his own action figure and always had to borrow an extra.  He didn’t really mind so much, but he knew that if he had his own X-Man he would be a little more independent and he would own it.  However, he eventually chose to buy walkie talkies with batteries to share with his brother.  This was essential to note because instead of buying something that he would only use by himself, he chose to purchase something that his brother would also enjoy.

In class we also talked about what it means for the digital age in conjunction with the poor/rich gap in young kids.  We talked about something that  I had hardly even considered but makes so much sense: computers.

My family was fortunate enough to have a computer when I was growing up.  Mostly I played a lot of Rodent’s Revenge and played with Paint (you have no idea how much time I put into Paint), but I also had the opportunity to learn. I learned how to hack out a theme in HTML in 7th grade which actually helped me in my Computer Science class this year.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that the fact that my family had a computer when I was a kid aided my learning now.  It really is unfair.  I also had no problem with typing class when I was a kid because I spent time playing with Microsoft Office and getting the basics of that down.  I have a completely unfair advantage in digital literacy than kids who grew up with scare food in the house, let alone a computer.

We talked about how in order to try and combat this problem kids are taking typing classes in school to try to get everyone up to speed, but apparently they are dropping learning cursive.  I don’t really understand how you can drop cursive because when I was in 3rd grade we learned how to type on these weird mini-computers but we also learned cursive.  Why not just learn both?  We also had a keyboard class in middle school that was an elective.  That seemed to work out fine for my school. Granted, I had a pretty white school district and we had a lot of money and not all schools can pay for that many computers.  But, I just don’t see why you can’t learn cursive and typing at the same time.

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Apr 11 2010

Born to Buy Part 2

Published by under Reflection Blog

In class we talked a bit about Channel One television which was discussed a great deal in the book.  When I was a kid I always thought that Channel One was published by someone like PBS because it was informative.  Commercials seem so commonplace everywhere that I hadn’t even considered the large amount of commercials aimed at kids before.  But, it is such a marketing tool! I feel like my middle school years were a lie!  The school district was selling our eyes for money!

But, it’s smart. What do schools need?  Money.  What do advertisers need? Eyes.  Instantly a connection is made.

We also talked a bit about school lunches and I still find it amazing that some people have “real” food on their campuses from different companies.  I put that word in quotes (I know it was grammatically incorrect) to emphasize the conundrum about whether having that food on campus is good or not.  It’s all mass produced, and all have problems with how they are produced.  Sure we watched that clip in class about a woman finding a chicken head in her McDonald’s chicken nuggets, but the people who provide food to McDonald’s probably do to schools, too.

The problem always comes back to money.  Channel One exploits that need, and so do outside food producers.  Schools are always strapped for cash because they always want to get their classrooms as good as they can be with new technology.  Schools get more money if their students do well on test scores, which is often aided by technology.  But poor schools usually get their budgets slashed as that money is taken elsewhere in the city or county budget to places like public safety.  These businesses know that, so they will always be trying to brand every aspect of students’ lives, including schools.

As Schor points out in the book, as the line becomes more and more blurred between facts and advertising, children will fall deeper into the pitfalls that advertisers set.

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Apr 11 2010


Who: Agent Charles

Where: Wal-Mart in Central Park

Weather: a comfortable day of shorts and t-shirts (but high allergies)

When: Thursday April 8

This was my favorite class trip so far.

I am a terrible, terrible person but I go to Wal-Mart frequently – I was actually there this morning.  I know that it’s bad but I simply cannot afford much else.  I always feel an enormous cloud of guilt when I shop at Wal-Mart, but since I didn’t buy anything on Thursday I didn’t feel bad.  However, that is mostly because I forgot my entire wallet that morning so my plan to buy allergy medicine didn’t work out very well.


Most of our time was spent in the toys section, and a good portion of that time was spent looking at Barbies with Prof. Moon.  Something that she pointed out was that while most Barbies are $15, the collectors Barbies (“Vintage”) were more like $30, and that was because adults buy the vintage ones to collect. But, here’s something that I thought about: that Barbie probably barely cost more to manufacture, and it probably isn’t worth much since it wasn’t actually created years ago, but instead in a sweatshop during the past year.  Mattel is smart to make those cost more, and people are not thinking correctly when they buy them.

Things I noticed: There were about 5 Barbies that were not white (of 30+) and these 5 were black.  One of these dolls said “She’s Black!  She’s Beautiful! She’s Dynamite!”  It reminded of blaxploitation movies like Undercover Brother.

Something else I noticed was in the boy’s clothing section there is a giant pirate ship to advertise for a movie involving dragons.  Remember how I said that it was in the clothing section?  On the pirate ship there were Oreo’s, soda, and candy.  GENIUS.  While the parents are shopping for clothes the kid will walk like a zombie to inspect the giant PIRATE SHIP inches away and then discover SUGAR.   As we learned about in Born to Buy, kids want sugar to get hyper and annoy their parents.  After finding the sweets on the pirate ship the kids then associate the movie with the delicious foods that they already love.  These people are geniuses.

More with the dragon: when Sadie bought a kid’s meal at the McDonald’s in the store it came with a little plastic dragon toy.  Daniel had a grand old time with this toy, and it illustrated how the kids are when they find toys in their meals.  After seeing the display in the clothes section and then seeing  the toy in McDonald’s, what kid isn’t going to pester their parents to see the movie?

And then it’ll all start again next week.

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Apr 04 2010

Born to Buy Part 1

In the first half Juliet B. Schor’s Born to Buy, she discusses how marketers target children to buy their products.  A recurring theme in marketing that she outlined was how marketers used to send messages to parents about which products to buy for their kids, but now commercials skip the middle man entirely.  Ultimately, parents have a higher chance of buying toys that their children beg for rather than products that the media tells them their children will like. With this new attitude of living in a kids world where kids rule, many products also play off the idea that adults and teachers are uncool, and that kids need to separate themselves from these authority figures that cramp their styles.  However, this separation can’t go too far, because kids do need to ask their parents to buy the products.  Here’s a commercial that I thought of when I was reading the book:

Nick Mag

My siblings and I memorized the commercial and we loved to recite it when it came on (and it aired for years).  When I was a kid I didn’t realize that it was asking me to bother my parents enough to buy Nickelodeon magazine.  I guess we did bother them because we got it in the mail and I really loved it.  My favorite part of it were the posters that came in the magazine to put on your wall.  This was smart for the marketers because what kid isn’t going to put a poster on their wall of their favorite cartoon? And, after that’s on the wall, why not ask for the action figure in the store to match the poster?

The most interesting part of the book to me was the section on POX, a game that looked ready to conquer playgrounds everywhere.  They distributed advance copies to the “cool  kids” in schools (so that others would get them), used viral marketing so that kids would hear about it from their peers, and seemed addictive.  The idea was that it was in real time, so if all of your friends had POX you could play during recess, or even during class.  It almost seems like it would be positive if the toy got banned in schools because then it would seem even cooler.  But, its unfortunate timing around September 11th meant that it never really got off the ground, which is too bad because it seemed like a toy that I probably would have loved.

In class we mostly talked about sex separation for kids and the nature versus nurture debate. Peter asked whether boys and girls actually had biological preferences toward blue and pink, and the answer is no; society placed the labels upon the two sexes to separate them.  For kids, whose major goals include acceptance by peers, this means that kids labeled “boys” and “girls” are forced into gender roles.  Children want to fit in, and if the media tells kids that to be normal they must like dolls and dress up (for girls) and action and fighting (for boys), then it is especially difficult to break out of this mold.  Marketers can easily play on this by completely separating toys by sex. I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and over the toys section there were signs that said “boys” and “girls.”  I’m pretty anti separating sexes (it leaves little room for the discussion of gender as a whole) and this annoyed me. While there are many toys marketed toward boys and girls, there are also plenty of “gender-neutral” toys that marketers make to appeal to all genders.  But, this rigid binary system makes this nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, marketers are stuck in a rut of enforcing gender stereotypes and they have few incentives to change this policy.

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Mar 28 2010

Creating Men’s Fashion

Published by under Reflection Blog

A major point from the Conquest of Cool that we discussed in class was the Peacock Revolution and how marketers started advertising to men.  This must have been a revolutionary idea at the time to make men more like women.  There are very few societies that promote male femininity (even though the contrast of woman masculinity is widespread), so it must have been difficult to start getting men to care about fashion.  Even though men’s fashion does change a bit today, it is nowhere near women’s fashion, which changes with every season.  However, even today it is hard to market toward men.  We talked in class about products targeted toward men and how the always emphasize masculinity to the point of ridiculousness, for example male tissues (because men have more snot).  That’s stupid!  Hormones have nothing to do with mucus.  But, since taking care of your body is a  traditionally feminine activity, advertisers play on hypermasculinity.

Or, my favorite new example of sexism…

Look at your man

The narrator keeps saying “look at your man,” like he’s talking to a woman – but is he really talking to women?  I doubt it.  The ad may feature a man with a sculpted chest talking about how he has “tickets to that thing you like,” but that statement is sexist in nature.  It’s saying that women’s wishes aren’t as valid as men’s.  Instead, this is clearly marketing toward men who want to be like the guy on the horse.

What the marketers of the 60s probably realized was that there is only so far that men will go for fashion.  We will probably always wear polos and khakis as “business casual,” and the differences between what is “in” now versus ten years ago will be pretty subtle.  But that’s enough, really.   They just need people to buy something every season.  Marketers know that playing on stereotypes, men tend to play it safe with fashion.

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Mar 24 2010

The Martin Jetpack!

Published by under Uncategorized

I remember the days when I was a young lad playing Pilot Wings 64, and my favorite mode of play, as opposed to the helicopter or the hang glider was always the jetpack.  The game was a big deal at the time of release in ’96 because of its amazing 3D landscape and the ability of the player to explore the amazing levels.

But I digress.

When I came upon the Martin Jetpack I got very excited remembering my Pilot Wings days and was immediately interested.  In terms of originality, this product isn’t really a new idea (we all know what a jetpack is even though we’ve never seen or used one), the fact that it is built is amazing.  The website has a lot of information like “is it expensive to maintain?” (apparently compared to similar products, yes!) and “is it safe?”  (there isn’t really a straight answer for this one), but there is no “is it practical?”  To be considered an “ultralight” aircraft (this not requiring a pilot’s license), it has to fit a number of qualifications, one of which is that it cannot carry over 5 pounds of fuel.  The site also said that they are often used with a safety rope or with an attendant nearby, which makes me really struggle to find a use for this product.  At $90,000, this is a pretty expensive toy that can’t be used for much of anything.  The product will be available in late 2010. Until then, I’d suggest you brush up on your Pilot Wings 64 to be ahead of all the n00bs in the mandatory training.

Check out this video!

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Mar 22 2010

The Conquest of Cool Part 1

Published by under Reflection Blog

I’m going to admit that when I read the title of this book I wasn’t too thrilled about the assignment.  First of all, you’d think that a book about consumerism would have a more aesthetically pleasing cover.  But, the first half of the book took me by surprise.

I went into the book thinking “what could I possibly learn about advertising?  I am bombarded with the stuff all day every day, how could I not know what’s going on?”  But in fact the book wasn’t so much about advertising’s tactics, but instead how it came to use such tactics. In the first half of the book, Frank spends a lot of time on the change from the 1950s advertising to the 1960s.  Before the 1960s, advertisers spent a lot of time on market research and going on what worked in the focus groups.  The 1960s, however, spent a lot more time on creativity of the art department, as discussed in class when we watched the PBS video about the artist who started using “love” in his works.  He talked about how this was the time that the artists were given more freedom to try out new ways of thinking and selling products, rather than relying upon market research and focus groups.  This relates a bit to the idea of bringing the fads from the fringes of society into the mainstream – such as how moccasins are now common place on the feet of my classmates or flannel went from Seattle to national.   The artists were able to almost project what was cool onto the masses that they were advertising to.

We talked about this in class when we discussed the Apple versus Windows ads.  I’m a Windows kind of guy. I know that when people buy Macs they are typically buying the brand.  I was able to build my computer so that it fit my needs for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, gaming, audio editing, and of course music and internet.  I’ve had this computer for quite a while, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.  But Apple is amazing at advertising!  When I see the “I’m a Mac” ads Steve Jobs almost convinces me that my next computer will be white and include many applications that have a lower case i in them. But, as we talked about in class, this is an interesting selling point – it’s telling you that you’re buying this product to be an individual.  But, really, you’re going to be an individual just like everyone else.  So, what does that really say about our culture?

We talked briefly about the section about women’s lib in advertising and how DDB used the rebel woman to advertise to women who wanted to be dangerous.  As we saw in the Target Women clip, today women are marketed to in very different ways.  The series has a wide array of videos that show the different ways in which companies try to appeal to women, and it is so far from any sort of feminist ways of thinking that you have to wonder how we got there.

Also, this one of my favorite Target Womens.


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Mar 14 2010

Spotsy Mall

Published by under Uncategorized

Who: Agent Charles

Where: Spotsy Mall

Weather: 50 ish degrees, overcast

When: Thursday March 11, 2010

My car arrived at the mall around 9:40am and immediately ran into Prof. Moon inside. When she mentioned Chick-Fil-A our ears perked up and we rushed to get some Chicken Minis. The food was surprisingly delicious after this week’s Fast Food Nation. While we ate I watched people ordering food. None of them were mall walkers, and instead seemed to be simply waiting around for the stores to be open, maybe some of them were store employees themselves.

The store’s demographic was interesting. There were the 9 or so of us sitting and taking notes on our surroundings, and then there were mostly middle-aged men and women in the store, with a few young adults around 20. Almost all of the over 60 crowd were either walking around the mall or eating at the Wendy’s across the hall. Because kids were in school, this was an interesting change of pace from when I’m usually at malls on weekends. There weren’t any large groups of kids making noise or loitering. Instead, everyone seemed to have a purpose, even if that purpose was social.

It seemed to me that most of the people at the mall early in the morning were there to see other people. The older crowd at Wendy’s was there to see each other, mall walkers tended to walk in twos or threes. Because there weren’t many stores open, this seemed to be the obvious reason to be under the roof of the mall.

The only stores that were open when we got there were Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks. Starbucks was interesting, too, because inside were my classmates and a few elderly folks. Because of the location of the store (inside a mall) there weren’t any businessmen in suits or people just trying to grab some caffeine on their way to class or work. Instead the crowd looked to be men retired from work and nothing to do but read the paper and sip on coffee. Maybe their wives were mall walking or waiting for stores to open, but there weren’t any women when I poked my head in.

There were a lot of toddlers with their moms, which nicely fits the stereotype of men working at a paying job while women work to run a house and feed kids. The kids that I saw were quietly in strollers while their moms browsed the racks of the few stores that were open. Interestingly, most of the stores that were open were stores that had products geared towards families. Abercrombie wasn’t open, but Belk was. There was also a kid’s clothing store that actually had two sales clerks inside. They must get a lot of early morning traffic from moms who need to shop while their kids are at school.

All in all, it was definitely an interesting experience to be at the mall at 10am. The demographic was different from what I usually observe, which made it to be a completely different experience.

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Mar 14 2010

Fast Food is Unhealthy. Who Knew?

This week’s selection, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation was not a reading that anyone was amazed by.  Most of us have seen the movie Fast Food Nation or Supersize Me.  The book took the readers into the dark world that Ronald McDonald rules (whom Willard Scott named?!), where kids are fat and chicken is mechanically separated.  In 6th grade my class had to read The Jungle.  To be honest, I have no idea why the teacher assigned it to us.  She was a bitter woman who was never smiled and complained about the small size of her closet office all the time. But, I digress.

After reading that book and then learning more in depth about the food reforms that resulted in AP US History in 11th grade, I assumed that the worst was over.  I knew that I would never want to work in a meat-packing plant, but the way that we learned about it, it seemed like these places were at least safe. But, after reading Fast Food Nation, I now know that it is certainly not the case.  What struck me was the story of Kenny, an immigrant who was especially committed to his job at the meat-packing plant and even after losing an arm during work, he still managed to work hard and even save a fellow employee’s life; only to get quietly fired.  Even after putting an exuberant amount of work into his job, and working in extremely dangerous conditions, he still was not valued as an employee.

In class one of our main topics of discussion was that of marketing to children.  In the book, Schlosser mentioned a bill that was introduced that would have made it illegal to market to children under a certain age.  Even though this didn’t get passed, think about how our lives would be different had it become law.  What would constitute advertising?  Would ice cream trucks be allowed to display their products on the sides of trucks and play music?  Would Barbie cases be covered in mundane writing to make it less appealing to children?  Even stating these ideas doesn’t make sense; there’s no way that we could not advertise to children.  I guess that my question is this: is it immoral to advertise to children?  If you can’t advertise to children then you can’t make money on the products that you make.  This would mean that children wouldn’t have products that appeal to them.   I would say that it is, however, immoral to advertise to children regarding fast food meals because of how unhealthy they are.  Add in Ronald McDonald and friends and the kids think that they are the good guys.  But, let’s be honest: they’re not.

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