Hits, Punches and Other Impact
Three-minute verdicts, humanitarian aid for your vocabulary, Brazilian models, hyper-social networking, what Harry Potter and the Yankees have in common, and where you can get a side order of sweaty hunk with lunch. Welcome to the Hits, Punches and Other Impact issue.
By Maria Popova
Amnesty International, always the shocker, is on a latest spree to remind us that toy recalls are the least of China’s reputation problems. In a new campaign busting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the human advocacy crew is out to expose the contrast between China’s marketing efforts and their internal practices, a discrepancy that reeks of blatant hypocrisy.
Turns out, when China promised to kick up human rights for the 2008 Olympics, they went ahead and made a bunch of minor touch-ups to the death penalty system (a.k.a. itsy-blitzy change) and vouched to give foreign reporters more freedoms.
But “freedom” is the last thing one such investigative reporter, Zhao Yan of the New York Times, got when he tried to appeal his three-year prison sentence for an alleged political vendetta. The appeal was dismissed in under 3 minutes. He was recently released after completing the sentence.
Which is an unsurprising event, given a long-standing law has been allowing police to shove crime suspects in jail for up to 4 years without trial. Since 1957. That’s half a century of legalized anti-freedom, granting suspects not even a shot with the whatever loose justice system does exist. Meanwhile, China’s busy opening the world’s largest, blingest luxury airport.
The irony, of course, is that the entire marketing campaign to boost China’s international image for the Olympics is funded by the tax yuan of these very same people facing human rightlessness on a daily basis.
The wonderful people of the Red Cross bring all kinds of aid to those in need. Including the linguistic kind. Overheard in a shared restroom, we bring you this uncovered vocab gem of the week, courtesy of the lovely women of the American Red Cross:
noun: Too short to be a midget.
[Definition spoken in a matter-of-factly, isn’t-it-obvious tone by utterer upon inquiry.]
We’re starting to understand why Brazil is on a mission to ban outdoor advertising: because they have so much higher standards for what constitutes compelling, culturally relevant visuals. (As opposed to, you know, babes-boobs-and-beer billboards.)
Case in point: 27-year-old artist Bruno 9li. Inspired by alchemy (even saying “alchemy” is pretty damn badass in and of itlsef), his ink-on-paper and mural art may just be Brazil’s hottest contribution to culture since Gisele Bundchen. (What, we do have to acknowledge the mainstream’s tastes. Chill out.)
In the sea of sameness (hello, pseudo-anime and anything with distorted doll heads), Bruno 9li’s work stands out as something we’ve never seen before. Do check out his full exhibit to feel a little more enriched, or at least a little closer to Gisele.
The college set. A small (18 million) and often annoying (ah, the swollen sense of entitlement) demo. But one with enormous market influence: a combined power of their own disposable income and what they puppy-eye their parents into buying, a solid, opinionated word-of-mouth network, a tendency to be early adopters of, well, pretty much anything, and a lifetime of consumption ahead of them. Their relationship with the marketing world, to say the least, matters.
So here’s a snapshot of how this dynamic has changed over the past couple of years. Anderson Analytics, a youth-oriented market research getup, sets out every year to probe what brands the kids are digging via their annual GenX2Z College Brand Survey. A top-line:
2005: Nike, Coca-Cola, Polo, American Eagle, Sony
2006: Nike, American Eagle, Sony, The Gap, Old Navy
2007: Google, Apple, Target, Facebook
What else the kids care about:
On the web:
2005: CollegeHumor, Facebook, Google, MySpace, eBay
2006: MySpace, Facebook, CollegeHumor, YouTube, Google
The gender breakdown gets even more interesting. Even though Facebook tops both charts, twice as many women rank it #1 than men, and MySpace is nowhere to be seen in men’s top 5. So the survey seems to assert that social networking skews much more female in the 18-24 set.
But here’s our thought: Take Digg. It allows people to see what content others in this whole big Internet universe are digging, exchanging information and opinions with the world at large rather than with a small social circle of actual friends and acquaintances, as is the case with traditional social networking sites. None of the Digg-type sites pop up on women’s web favorites list, but they do on men’s. (Fark and CollegeHumor are just other bystander ways of connecting to what tickles others.) Could such sites be a form of “hyper-social networking,” allowing users to connect with others beyond their immediate “society” in broader, less intimate ways?
So it may be, then, that social networking holds equal appeal to young men and young women. It just manifests itself in different ways as these two groups choose to relate to the world differently.
Something to think about.
Lately, we’ve been on an unintentional busting-the-print-is-dead-myth spree. On the whole death vs. evolution note, it’s not just the medium that’s evolving: its consumption also is. So what happens when you cross two dinosaur media — books and snail-mail — with a new-age phenomenon like peer-to-peer and social networking? You get Paperback Swap, a Netflix of sorts for books that’s completely free and a true testament to an old-fashioned code of honor.
Here’s how it works: you sign up (with a valid email and USPS address), sift through your old books to decide which ones you’re willing to swap, and post them on the website, adding to the over 1.6 million books already available. Just for doing that, you get 2 free book credits, so you can go ahead and request 2 books after browsing through the e-library. (Credits are the exchange unit on PBS — every time one of your books is received, you get a credit you can use to request someone else’s book.)
Then you just sit and watch your mailbox: the books, after they arrive, are yours to keep. Free.
The only thing you ever pay for is postage when other members request any of your books (about $2.13 a book using Media Mail). But, then again, they pay postage when you get theirs, so it’s all fair and simple. And, speaking of postage, PBS has neat shipping labels you can print out at home to make it all even easier. Or, you can go hardcore and join the Box-O-Books program where you can ship multiple books in one big box and swap with other boxers, saving on both postage costs and wait time.
And, for the musically inclined, there’s also sister-site SwapaCD, the self-explanatory similar program for CD’s.
Here’s the thing: if we remember our copyright classes from way back correctly, there’s something called the “first book doctrine,” a loophole in copyright law that allows you to transfer (for payment or not) a lawful copy of copyrighted work (like a book or CD) once you’ve obtained it. Basically, whenever you buy, find, receive as a gift or get your hands on a book in other ways, it’s yours to do whatever you like with. Including swapping.
Whoever thought the big break in peer-to-peer media exchange, always the hot-button issue in digital media, would come from the very media written off as dead?
This week’s as-seen-in-Philly: spotted in the midst of Philly gem Reading Terminal Market (and in the midst of lunch rush hour) is a full-blown boxing match, complete with a loudspeaker-armed announcer, a DJ, various sponsors, and ABC Action News coverage.
We couldn’t quite figure out the purpose of the whole shebang, but it seemed like some sort of boxing match ticket sales stunt. More than anything, though, we couldn’t figure out why such a stunt would be pulled in the middle of the indiest of fooderies.
But, hey, perhaps there’s some truth after all to legendary Bulgarian wrestler Lyutvi Ahmedov’s even more legendary adage: “The grub makes the fight.”
Published October 11, 2007