Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Italian Spider-man"

This is really neither here nor there, but I don't want to get in the habit of leaving long periods between posts. It's a ridiculous and incredibly kitschy Spider-man send up featuring someone who looks vaguely like Ron Jeremy as the titular hero and a villain in a luchador mask. Which makes it surprisingly awesome.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Politics, prayer, and disingenuous posturing

It took far too long, but the Ontario Legislature finally moved to remove the recital of the Lord's Prayer from the opening of each daily session a couple months ago. I'm late to the party in commenting on this, I know, but that's because it's getting more popular attention now than it did back in February. (One question, though: it's easy to find petitions to keep the prayer, but where are the petitions to sign if you support getting rid of the damn thing?)

Largely, this is because there's a huge opposition to its removal from people who a) are Christian, b) are probably white, c) are probably not young, and d) have probably never set foot in the provincial legislature. And the logic they're using, if the blogosphere and various online petitions are any indication, is both absurd, inappropriate, often wrong, and very enlightening. I'll avoid adding my own commentary - although I'm tempted to say something about the person who invokes the "guilty white man", which is a tremendously interesting figure to me - and let the defenders of the prayer hang themselves.

(Okay, so at least two comments: I'd like to say that the racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia contained in these messages is subtle, but that would be an outright lie. I'd also like to say that I had to search hard for these comments and that these are the most extreme examples of opposition to the move. That would also be a lie - a good one-third to one-half are engaged in something at least implicitly racist.)

"I can't believe [Ontario Premier] Mr. D. McGuinty not taking his mother's advice. What kind of role model is he for the children of Ontario? "The premier doesn't listen to his mother so I won't either.""

"Is nothing sacred anymore ?? Dalton, stop being a guilty white man. If those that come to Canada do not like it and it offends them, tell them to go back to their country, if it was so great."

"I would like it known that we are the country in which the imigrants chose, We are becoming a minority, in our own country. Land of Opporunity."Right" I'm not suppose to say Merry Christmas. I was born here and proud to be Canadian.Now we are not allowed to have the Lords Prayer. Will we loose all of our hynms as well? We do not interfere in their religon. They came here for what we stood for a land of opportunity and OUR WAYS OF LIFE."

"In trying to bend ourselves into pretzels to make other peoples feel welcome we have alienated ourselves. We have lost the "ownership" of our own country."

"Canada was founded on Christianity and it should stay like this. I am from the Netherlands, where there they are changing everything as well. The Dutch hate it. They are loosing their Country to Muslims. Don't let this happen to Canada!"

History needs to be presereved, regardless of country, changing social attitudes or the form of content in question - if you begin to remove the foundation, as small as each part seems, you'll be left with nothing in the end,"

I am CANADIAN and this matters to me."

"If we attempt to take God(Jesus) out of Canada, we may experience the same types of tragedies the U.S. experienced from 9/11 until now."

If we were to go to their country, do you think they would change their ways for us? No way. I know someone from Iran, he said Canada is a fool-his country would not change anything for us if we were entering his country."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kids and/in commercials

Continuing on my TV spots riff... I had wanted to embed a bunch of videos to write about really briefly, all of them incorporating kids, but I'm having a hell of a time finding some. So I'll assume that others have seen the Ikea commercial showing the excited parents and the young daughter that's barking orders as if they're kids, or have seen the Burger King commercial where the parents beg and plead and whine with their very young son to let them go get some fast food.

They're part of a weird trend in commercials that appears to invert parent-child power relations and it's already been beaten to death - the commercials are somewhat amusing the first time but grate the second or third time before you realize that they're simply insulting - for parents and their children. There's something almost cute about the way that they ostensibly empower kids on the first viewing, but it is, of course, a patronizing sort of empowerment (the commercials are just ridiculous enough that adults will recognize these could not be real children) that they ostensibly hope kids will misrecognize as entitlement. (And if you know any children who have a tendency to act with unearned or undeserved entitlement, this is no pleasant thing.)

What's interesting, of course, is that even the non-profits use this strategy, albeit more subtly:

It's a far less patronizing commercial - as a friend pointed out to me, the "Please, David" is a surprisingly respectful touch - but I wonder if it's fair to reduce it to the same endgame: like Burger King, in the end they just want kids to badger their parents to buy stuff. Enviro-friendly stuff, of course, but... or maybe I'm just asking for too much from the format.

Of course, we can always count on anti-drug campaigns to come up with the most fantastically over-wrought, unsubtle, and totally thoughtless crap. This gem features kids exclusively but makes no effort to actually communicate a message to them, aiming the spiel explicitly at the parents. (So rather than talk to children, we're expecting their parents to write down or remember the website, visit it, read the stuff, and then retransmit it? Wha?) What makes it particularly entertaining and disturbing, though, is the palpable horror aesthetic. Truly bizarre:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lex Luthor and Tony Stark

Geoff Klock wrote here about Lex Luthor's desk in JLA: Earth 2, and about all of the things that it manages to express about Lex in a single panel: "you look at that image...the empty desk carved from an endangered redwood tree (we must assume) and you know EVERYTHING you need to know about this character: he is rich, wasteful, arrogant, powerful, has very good taste, and doesn't love anything (nothing personal is in the room or on that desk)."

It left me wondering whether Jon Favreau (or Avi Arad or any of the other Marvel people involved in the production) had this comic in mind when making the new Iron Man movie. Y'see, Tony Stark has a smaller but otherwise identical table in his living room, and Stark's vanity and alienation are similarly central to his character. I think that there's something meaningful about the table being in Stark's home, though, rather than in his office, as is Luthor's - and this is what signals their difference. As he expresses throughout the film, Stark may not have anyone to love, but one gets the sense that the table itself is substituting for those absent people - given that it's in his home, it's framed more intimately than Luthor's piece of decorative furniture, a lonely and endangered rarity kept close to home and which expresses something about Stark's sense of himself.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The commercial break in a commercial break...

I can't find a clip of it anywhere, but the Canadian hardware chain Rona has started doing something strange and bizarrely meta-televisual (though in only the most superficial sense) with its TV spots.

They split the commercials into two 15 second bits, though this isn't all that strange in and of itself. But in the first bit they ask a home-repair question, saying that the answer will follow after 'the break'. 'The break', of course, is another commercial, after which the second bit provides an answer to the question. It's a clever gimmick, though like all gimmicks one that I would surely despise if I saw it used more often than this.

Where these commercials actually become unintentionally interesting, though? In one instance, I noticed that the first half of one of these pairings aired as the last commercial before the actual TV show resumed - and so the second bit didn't air until after the program went to break. The commercial's 'after the break' line amusingly appears to invert, if ever so temporarily and weakly, the relationship between the program and its ads.

(Not that these line separating them was ever that clear to begin with, but its usually the programming itself that tries to seem more like a glorified advertisement than the commercial working the same angle from the other end.)