Repost – Product Placement and the Teenage Material Girl

“They totally ruined the integrity of the Gossip Girl books with all that product placement!” – This message is brought to you by Pepsi.

I think we may be expecting too much from our teenage romance novels. The New York Times printed an article titled In Novels for Girls, Fashion Trumps Romance. It seems Naomi Johnson, a communications professor at Longwood University in Virginia, recently wrote a dissertation on the alarming number of occurrences of product placement in books written for teenage girls. Now, I will admit the number does seem kind of high (1,553 brand mentions in 1,431 pages of the six books she had read), but in the end, it is much ado about nothing. The books in question come from three very popular series, Clique, Gossip Girl and A-List. Not my cup of tea, but you can’t argue with sales. For the record, the packaging company, publisher, and authors all deny any money was exchanged for the product placement. The authors claim real brands were used to give the books authenticity. I think the obsession with weight, appearance, popularity, and money make the books sadly authentic enough.

But what if brands like Moschino, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. did pay for product placement in these books? Would that be so bad? If a teenage girl is reading Gossip Girl, she’s not reading it to learn how to make the world a better place. She’s reading it because a bunch of hot girls in cool, expensive clothes are learning the importance of being popular, and judging others for their looks and poor choice of income potential. Would subjecting these young ladies to crass commercialism really ruin the integrity of these types of books, and shatter the reader’s feeble resistance to buy a thing because her favorite character wears, drives, or covets that thing? I say let the publishers cash in.

Now, I’ve never read a single word of any of the aforementioned books, but I’ve read a number of articles on them and there appears to be only one redeeming quality about them. They are encouraging kids to read. There is a movement afoot to have the books banned from schools and libraries. Having read that a mother wants to burn my books because they are “evil,” I am, perhaps, extra sensitive to this never-to-die movement to ban books. Censorship is not the answer. Reading builds better communication skills. It helps foster a love for learning. Reading turns on the theater of the mind and helps kids think and grow with more imagination and greater lucidity. Would you rather they spend endless hours playing games like Grand Theft Auto and meeting creeps on MySpace? C’mon. Keep them safe. Let them read.

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Product Placement and the Teenage Material Girl

I think we may be expecting too much from our teenage romance novels. The New York Times printed an article titled In Novels for Girls, Fashion Trumps Romance. It seems Naomi Johnson, a communications professor at Longwood University in Virginia, recently wrote a dissertation on the alarming number of occurrences of product placement in books written for teenage girls. Now, I will admit the number does seem kind of high (1,553 brand mentions in 1,431 pages of the six books she had read), but in the end, it is much ado about nothing. The books in question come from three very popular series, Clique, Gossip Girl and A-List. Not my cup of tea, but you can’t argue with sales. For the record, the packaging company, publisher, and authors all deny any money was exchanged for the product placement. The authors claim real brands were used to give the books authenticity. I think the obsession with weight, appearance, popularity, and money make the books sadly authentic enough.

But what if brands like Moschino, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. did pay for product placement in these books? Would that be so bad? If a teenage girl is reading Gossip Girl, she’s not reading it to learn how to make the world a better place. She’s reading it because a bunch of hot girls in cool, expensive clothes are learning the importance of being popular, and judging others for their looks and poor choice of income potential. Would subjecting these young ladies to crass commercialism really ruin the integrity of these types of books, and shatter the reader’s feeble resistance to buy a thing because her favorite character wears, drives, or covets that thing? I say let the publishers cash in.

Now, I’ve never read a single word of any of the aforementioned books, but I’ve read a number of articles on them and there appears to be only one redeeming quality about them. They are encouraging kids to read. There is a movement afoot to have the books band from schools and libraries. Having read that a mother wants to burn my books because they are “evil,” I am, perhaps, extra sensitive to this never-to-die movement to ban books. Censorship is not the answer. Reading builds better communication skills. It helps foster a love for learning. Reading turns on the theater of the mind and helps kids think and grow with more imagination and greater lucidity. Would you rather they spend endless hours playing games like Grand Theft Auto and meeting creeps on MySpace? C’mon. Keep them safe. Let them read.

When Iranians Attack… with Photoshop

It seems the Iranians felt like four missiles are much more intimidating than three. They released a photo yesterday of their successful launch of missiles capable of reaching Israel. The photo shows four missiles race from their launch pads into the sky sending a collective chill down the spine of everyone outside of radical Islam. The problem is the image is very obviously manipulated to make it look like four missiles were launched. The real photo later surfaced revealing that only three missiles were launched. In fact, a mobile launch vehicle seems to show a fourth unfired missile.

missiles 2

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Missiles

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If you ask me, there seems to be duplicate imaging artifacts between the missile in the extreme left of the photo and the missile in the extreme right of the photo. They appear to be the same missile. In fact, given their apparent penchant for trickery, how can we be assured that any missiles were fired at all? Do we have satellite confirmation? I am extremely dubious of this “documentation.”

See the New York Times for more information: In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many

Could a Synthetic Surface Have Prevented Eight Belles’ Injury?

Let the debate begin.  I have no knowledge of the pros and cons of synthetic tracks verses dirt tracks in horse racing (other than what lies before me on the world wide web), but there is a push in the sport to switch all horse tracks to the synthetic surface because it’s a safer surface for horses to run on.  Is it safe enough to have prevented Eight Belles’ injury yesterday in the Kentucky Derby?  I don’t know and it’s something that no one will ever be able to determine.  But, invariably the synthetic surface argument will carry on throughout the race for the Triple Crown, and beyond.  And, I agree that this is a conversation we should have, but I much fear that we will carry the conversation too far.  We tend toward the “knee-jerk” in the USA.  We flock to a cause célèbre, and rattle the cage until some action (and it usually doesn’t matter what action) is taken to “fix” something we perceive as broken.  Here’s what really irks me.  Congress will probably hold hearings.  Never mind the economy is in the toilet, there’s a war being waged, and we still haven’t found Bin Laden.  We need to investigate the very public death of a beautiful filly (insert sardonic tone here).    

Eight Belles’ death was a terribly sad spectacle, but the worse thing we as a society can do is demand change for the sake of change.  Keep in mind experts at one time told us cigarettes were safe and cocaine was good for you.  Let the debate run its course before taking action. 

My two cents – The injury had little to do with the surface of the track, and more to do with the anatomy of the horse.  I found the blog, Racehorse Memorial Wall, Worldwide™, and it lists several horses that were fatally injured running on artificial surfaces. 

BTW – The New York Times fired the first shot in the mainstream media.  They brought up the surface debate in their article titled, Filly’s Death Casts Shadow Over Big Brown’s Derby Victory.  I have no doubt someone in Congress will bring this up on the floor of the House or Senate in the coming days. 

Robots Writing Books

I found this article in the New York Times to be extremely scary. Author Philip M. Parker has written 200,000 books! Impossible you say. That’s what I thought. He uses a computer program that grabs information off the internet and puts it into textbook form. Sounds innocent enough, but I’m weary of Mr. Parker’s fact checking abilities. How can you ensure the accuracy of 200,000 textbooks? What’s more, he’s working on a computer program that will write Romance novels using the same technology. I’m no fan of Romance novels, but still, I would think it takes a large dose of humanity to write romance. Do we really want the next Lady Chatterley’s Lover to be written by a PC or MAC?

You can read the article here: He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)