Archive for February, 2008
I’m talking about smoking, in all its glowing sexiness. This hazy cloud shows no sign of dissipating from popular entertainment.
I have a simple relationship with smoking. I don’t smoke because I have a low opinion of cancer. The few times I have smoked cigarettes, I enjoyed them. But I realized that I’m the sort of person who looks kind of dippy holding a cigarette. (The point of your 20s, I think, is to identify the behaviors that make you look or feel ridiculous, and gradually expunge them from your life.)
Moreover, tobacco companies have such a long and well-known history of evildoing that no one with any scruples would work for one today. Therefore, all tobacco company employees are unscrupulous.
Which brings us to celebrity smokers. A voluntary ban on tobacco advertising in magazines took effect last year (Oh, you didn’t know that?). You can’t air cigarette ads on TV or put them on billboards or even name a NASCAR race after them. Tobacco ads are over! – cultural waste to be recycled and mocked by Richard Prince and “Mad Men.”
Backed into a corner, tobacco companies are known to resort to desperate measures. Secret product placements in magazines and films and TV shows – ones that everyone, if asked, can *cough cough* plausibly deny – seem so rational that it’s hard to believe they aren’t happening.
“Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we’ll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs.”
Pepsi-Cola sign, Queens, New York, 2007
Feel like diagramming a sentence? Try the lead to The New York Times’s William F. Buckley obit:
“William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn.”
Prewritten obits sound a lot stronger when you read them in the back of the newspaper (toward the bottom of a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning), rather than on the front of a breaking news Web site. I need to know how the fellow died, please hold the polysyllabic exuberance.
Seen here is how Domino’s Pizza is promoting its latest product – “The Brklyn,” a thin-crust pizza with pepperoni and provolone cheese. Yes, provolone. This campaign is actually running in the New York market, where we have access to the best pizza shops in the world.
Domino’s used a similar gimmick about two years ago with its stereotype-fueled “Brooklyn Style Pizza” campaign (which prompted Marty Markowitz to declare, “Domino’s is about as Brooklyn as Sara Lee Cheesecake is Junior’s”).
The concept of “Brooklyn” must be good for selling pizzas, but it doesn’t make any sense. Pizzas in New York vary from shop to shop, and some of the best shops are in Brooklyn, but there’s nothing that distinguishes Brooklyn pizza from Manhattan pizza.
So simple, so much more than the sum of its parts.
The Target store in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal mall stocks at least five kinds of plain white mailing envelopes — in theory. I know this because it has a dozen feet or so of shelf space devoted to envelopes, meticulously labeled with product names, SKUs and price tags.
Unfortunately, yesterday night the Target was out of all plain envelopes. Every single kind. It was a bare shelf, beneath a fully stocked display of scissors and sticky labels. Out of mailing envelopes! How?!
The Brooklyn Target seems like it was lifted from a desperate Soviet state, where they’re always sold out of exactly the thing you want – clear plastic recycling bags, four-packs of the good kind of toilet paper, brown T-shirts. The big-box model of shopping just doesn’t work in Brooklyn. People are used to buying a few things at a time in tiny, tightly-jammed street-side stores. The suburban-style retail system collapses under massive foot traffic, picky customers and disastrous staffing.
Trying to get a salesperson to help you in the downtown Brooklyn Circuit City is a lost cause. I’ve seen the Gowanus Home Depot descend into a state of near-anarchy. Years ago, Wal-Mart gave up on the dream of opening even a single store in Brooklyn.
Now Ikea is building a massive store in Red Hook. I haven’t biked out to see it, but I’m skeptical that the biggest of the big boxes will manage to succeed where so many others have failed. You’re in Brooklyn. The rules are different here.
Over on my work blog, PDNPulse, I have a post today about a photo of Barack Obama in Kenya.
The 2006 photo of Obama wearing traditional Somali dress on a visit to Kenya surfaced recently in a supermarket tabloid, made its rounds on the blogs, and ended up on The Drudge Report today. Hillary Clinton’s campaign (accused of distributing the photo) has issued a number of vague statements of outrage, communicating little but ensuring that the photo remains a story people are talking about. Based on the blogs I spent part of my afternoon reading, the photo has a lot of resonance among bigots, haters, and people who seldom travel beyond the confines of their comfy suburban homes.
Some think the success of the Obama campaign proves American has moved beyond ignorance, racism and bigotry. I feel good about the Obama campaign and want to believe this is true. But at the same time, we are constantly exposed to political discussions that sound civil but are in fact grounded in a fear of people unlike ourselves. Listen for it the next time people are talking about defending our country from non-specific or vaguely known enemies. Bad politicians exploit this kind of fear. It’s why some see a picture of Obama wearing a headdress as proof that he’s unpatriotic, sympathetic to terrorists, or other nonsense. It’s politics that exploits people’s wrong-headed prejudices. Get ready for nine more months of this.