Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

On the neologism “dumpety”

Okay, I had to post this because it needs to become a word.  I checked Google, the only thing “Dumpety” turned up (basically) was some lame children’s book called “Dumpety the Dump Truck.”  Way lame.  Anyway, I am setting forth a definition of “dumpety” right now (subject to refinement, as my brother and I basically made it up):

dumpety (DUM-pet-ee) adj.  1)   Pathetic, clumsy, evoking amusement rather than pity:  Look at that dumpety bird with only one leg.  Usu. deprecatory.  2) Oddly-shaped, oblong or irregularly formed:  Save the good muffins for the bake sale; just eat one of the dumpety ones.  Comp. pitiful, malformed, feeble, sad.

With this handy term and definition now in your lexicon, please use the word “dumpety” whenever and wherever possible, appropriate or otherwise.


On Time

I thought I’d be up to writing a full post tonight, but due to a sudden metabolic energy crisis, I’ll just put down this thought and hopefully come back to it:

Historical change has very little to do with the passage of time, as Bloch and others have argued.  It has everything to do with human perception, whether of the events in question, the “mentalite”/mentality of the age, or the passage of time itself.  This is why, for example, the American Civil War is over but not “just history” in the minds of many Americans.

So this invites the question, particularly in relation to a negative past, how do we move productively forward?  And if “forward” is too problematic, then how do we move away from this past?

Between the historiography class and the probably theory-heavy seminar on cultural memory, I suspect I will be able to fill this out in a big way by the end of the quarter.  Ohhhh good.

An Ad I Actually Like

I spend a lot of energy complaining about advertising, both specific ads and general trends. So I thought I’d just mention an ad I actually do like.

I’ve only seen it on CNN (and I think they moved on now) but basically it’s about Morgan Stanley being “World Wise.” The ad features a narrator stringing together “buzz words” about the modern economy … “borderless economy… friction-free state… flow…” etc. (I can’t remember any of the others but they are along the same lines). As he speaks, images morph together around a city – an urban skyline, a subway commuter train, looking up a several-story building with red lanterns hanging in the open space, etc. The point is, that Morgan Stanley is “world wise” and can help understand all the nonsense about modern business.

The ad is a little on the corporate-buzz-word side, and is certainly targeting more high-end corporate or individual investors. Nevertheless, it’s one of the few ads I’ve found to actually be a pleasure to watch, without feeling that overwhelming irritation that I’m being “sold” something. Probably because I am in no way their target demographic, but still.

Anyway, I laud the marketing team at Morgan Stanley for making an intelligent and visually pleasing ad, without having some guy in a suit walking towards me and asking to manage my money.

Wikipedia really does have everything

I wiki-ed your mom last night.

(Seriously, click on it.)

On Intention

So I was watching “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” today and noticed the little closed-caption symbol at the top-right of the screen… the little TV-speech bubble thing.  And it got me thinking about all the intention, planning, ideas, materials, and effort behind most everything we own or see or use on a daily basis.  Even the 25 to 30 second commercial you see on TV probably had at least a couple months’ planning, paying the actors, editing, testing with focus groups, and selling to networks behind it.

Don’t have much else to say about this, just – think about it.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget the people and time and effort behind things we only see as finished products (not just physical objects but also images, songs, etc. etc.)

New entertainment

So I was thinking of Colbert’s latest “call” to the nation, namely that people should send in why David Geffen deserves the job as an intern at the Colbert Report, in 8 words or less (supposedly you’re supposed to Email him at with a response).

Anyway, it got me thinking – part of Colbert’s humor is getting the audience to do whatever the hell he wants… tonight he asked for those “letters” and to make his audio-clip of his recent White House speech the #1 seller on iTunes (it was #5 during the show, as of now still is) – and I dug up from memory the Wikipedia elephant thing, the naming a bridge after him thing, and probably a crapload of other stuff.  And people do it.   And it becomes part of the overall humor/satire of the show.

Also, the recent Cartoon Network/[adult swim] campaign which backfired comes to mind – not quite the same thing, of course, but in a way events themselves become part of the joke, not just a satirical retelling of them.

Anyway, these aren’t really coherent thoughts but hopefully I can get across my point that perhaps more than ever before, the “audience” is on display as well as the performer, and to some extent in on the joke.  This can’t be a new thing – stuff like audience-participation improv, the premise behind “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and the like, etc. etc.  But more than ever, the audience produces as well as consumes the entertainment.

But it does bring to mind the deceptive, in my mind extremely deceptive, idea of “the power of you” as shown in the TIME person of the year thing, citing YouTube and the like as somehow “empowering.”  It’s still, for the most part, consumption, people.

You can customize the soundtrack to your life by making your own iPod playlists?  … You still bought an iPod and acquired (legally or otherwise) other people’s music.  And judging by what sells, other people’s rather formulaic and market-driven music.

You can text message your vote to choose the next American Idol, or in a nightly news poll?  … You still just paid a cell phone company probably $3 to “make your voice heard” on shit that doesn’t matter.

You got to build your own bear? … You still just paid a lot of money to put together a simple toy kit, using outfits already designed for you.

You can customize Windows Vista, your Nintendo Wii character, your TiVo choices, your cellphone ringtone, and your Fridays dinner menu to what YOU want?  … You still bought it.

You get a nice selection of about a half-dozen gift card designs at Target, from a birthday cake to a flower?  You still bought a freaking gift card, so someone else can buy more stuff.

Bottom line, “the power of you” is to some degree a deception.  I’m not a Luddite, but I do think hidden in the customization and personalization is some degree of homogenization and still consumption handed down from the top.  I’m not saying everyone is a mindless consumer here.  I’m just saying that it’s good to take a step back and take a long, healthy look at what you’re really buying into.  Don’t let freedom of choice alone lull you into a feeling of real individuality.  Who is giving you these choices, and what do have to consume in order to have the option of making them?

In summary:  consumption.  We can’t not do it; but sometimes it’s good to think about what and why we consume so damn much.