Monday, June 16, 2008

Phat Advertising

While watching game 5 of the NBA finals last night, a commercial came on that made me wonder what the marketing department was thinking. Really, I wonder how the discussion went when this idea first came up. If I can find a copy of the video, I'll add the link, but it goes like this: A group of young kids were playing soccer. One team wins and taunts the other team while hoisting their trophy in the air. Okay so far...

original photo by savannahgrandfather

The losing team gets its turn to rub the winners' noses into their prize, however. Their traditional post game treat arrives - McDonald's Happy Meals for everyone! The champions drop their trophy on the ground as they stare with envy. Did anyone draw the connection that the kids who eat Happy Meals lost the game? It's like a miniature version of Super Size Me.

It's unfortunate that kids are getting more and more out of shape these days. At least the kids in the commercial playing soccer and burning off some of the calories and fat they were ingesting. What is strange, however, is how at the same time that society feeds our kids garbage that makes them unhealthy, we turn right around and discriminate against people that aren't in shape. Consider the following screenshots I took recently of one of those shock-the-monkey-style banner ads:

You use a feather to tickle the fat kid with an "I love cake" shirt until he throws up. Are you kidding? These types of web advertisements are misleading anyway, so you don't necessarily expect much out of something like this, but it's just offensive. Stephen Dubner recently started a discussion on misleading ads on the Freakonomics blog. Almost all advertising seems misleading in one way or another, but there seems to be more and more offensive ads because it takes more to grab our attention.

EDIT: Here's the commercial in question.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blueberries, Oklahoma, and Monty Python

When it comes to education, I generally pay more attention myself to higher education, not so much K-12 education. Greg Francom recently posted about problems in higher ed, and I agree with his assessment of the state of affairs at the post-secondary level, especially for research-intensive schools.

The question that comes to mind is whether K-12 teachers use the same poor teaching methods, and if so, what is their excuse if they're not doing research? (Again, this is a real question, not being as familiar with the state of elementary and secondary ed, except from what I remember through my experience a long time ago or from what I see my first grader doing.)

Now that I've asked the question, I'll take a step back and comment that it's not likely that elementary students have to sit through lectures as much as college students do. The kids wouldn't stand for it. They have to have a variety of activities or they (and their teacher) will literally go crazy. (Of course, they may go crazy anyway and, for example, when a substitute teacher shows up the day the class is supposed to make fruit salad from various fruits that everyone brings, there might be some blueberry stains on the ceiling after the activity is over, in spite of it being a good, different, interesting, constructivist activity.)

So then, as we move into secondary education and students have learned to provide socially desirable responses (aka sit there and be quiet), are they just being groomed for college where they are supposed to sit there and be quieter, while paying a lot more money for the privilege to do so? Is high school is as bad as college, or at least moving in that direction?

I wonder if the amount of lecture/multiple choice testing depends on the extent to which we need to give students a grade. Elementary ed doesn't care about grades as much - they seem to be trying to give all students the same base of knowledge to work from and then start filtering them into honors, regular, or remedial classes by the time they hit secondary ed. The elementary filtering system worked for me anyway. I was labeled as dumb by my first grade teacher in New Jersey simply because I had just moved from Oklahoma. By about fourth or fifth grade, with help from my mom and some teachers that recognized I wasn't the idiot they were told I was, I filtered my way up and was positioned well enough going into middle school that I ended up taking quite a few honors and AP classes in high school. And here I am now, a doctoral student (who would still rather fling a blueberry across the room than eat it).

But really, I don't remember as much how lecture-filled high school was. I do remember blowing things up in physics, dissecting sharks in biology, sleeping through boring chemistry lectures, writing poems and creative essays in English, sleeping through videos in health, learning to juggle in calculus, watching Monty Python in AP European history, writing songs in my guitar class, eating fried bananas in Spanish, singing in the Tabernacle for choir, and playing Doom during my business technology class. So I remember some boring-ness, but mostly I remember the interesting things. Maybe I've forgotten most of the boring stuff. Now, how many fun, exciting things do I remember from college classes? Let's see, my volleyball, racquetball, billiards, and golf classes were interesting. Um, what else...I programmed a tic-tac-toe game in my Java class. The only other thing I can think of is watching part of The Mask in psychology.

So maybe the real question to my throngs of loyal readers should be - what interesting things do you remember from high school, compared to the interesting things you remember from college (actual classes, not extracurricular or social activities)?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Imagine there's no fair use

"It is a pity that this decision weakens the rights of all copyright owners."

What was the decision? A judge denied a preliminary injunction against release of the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" which features 15 seconds of the song Imagine by John Lennon. The judge ruled that Yoko Ono and family were unlikely to succeed in their claim that fair use did not protect their inclusion of a small portion of the song in the movie. Of course, the decision will be appealed, and the real winners in the end will be the lawyers on both sides, but at least temporarily the correct decision has been made, regardless of the claim that copyright has been weakened for everyone because the well-established doctrine of fair use has been upheld. The lawsuit actually goes into some trademark infringement as well, since the song is supposedly a de facto trademark of Lennon.

I looked up Yoko's lawyer, Peter Shukat. In the following video, he explains some of the intricasies and disputes between artists and recording companies:

Peter seems like a nice guy as lawyers go, although that doesn't mean the above quote by him has any merit. Of course, he gets paid a lot of money by artists and their estates to push copyright law in their favor, so I don't hold it against him. Although, reading about the cease and desist letter he sent to an artist who donated a couple of paintings to John Lennon's former elementary school, and then they sent Yoko one of the paintings of John to thank her for a donation to the school (How dare anyone paint a picture of him without my permission!? I broke up the Beatles-I did-John belongs to me!), you kind of have to wonder if he isn't selling out.

I may have to go see the movie if it comes to Logan or Redbox.