Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Presidential Bathing Beauties -- Round 1 -- The wide hips candidates.

Presidential Bathing Beauty hopefuls Duncan Hunter (R) and Chris Dodd (D) enjoying the view.

Who - Candidate Duncan Hunter

Qualifications – He’s a lawyer and has been in the House of Representatives since 1981.

Platform – Wants to amend the Constitution to define “personhood” at the moment of conception and make an amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman only. Believes in slashing taxes, slashing budgets (except DoD related budgets) and making sure the NEA doesn’t get a penny. Wants to build more border fencing, create a national employment verification system and reform birth right citizenship.

What’s the deal? – Seems to be parroting some of the neo-con and traditional GOP talking points (War on Terror, gays – bad / pro life - good) but appears to buck the trend on trade (one way street analogy). Right wing extremist “pundits” Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin lust for him in that polemic sort of way. What a crazy 4 way that would make.

One of the things that has all but destroyed American manufacturing and crippled the financial prospects for the lower-middle class and working class in this country, is NAFTA. I give big props to Rep. Hunter for taking an anti-NAFTA stance. In the close bond between big business and big government, this is a stance that I understand can be a relationship killer for a politician.
In the shattered world of defining political leanings, Rep. Hunter is being labeled a “conservative” Republican vs. a “liberal” Republican (Giulliani, Huckabee). I just see him as being a cross between a Goldwater conservative (fiscal, trade), a Reagan Conservative (social, military) and a Moral Majority conservative (right to life, anti-gay). In other words, he’s a Gumbo Republican.

Trivia – Served in Vietnam for the 75th Ranger Regiment, 173rd Airborne as a First Louie, not a ring tapper either.

Bathing Beauty Quals – Give Pat Buchanan a Valium, or give 4 Valiums to Ron Paul, and you have summed up his Bathing Beaty qualifications. He can’t seem to express passion and serious ideas because he cannot elicit passion and seriousness. Good intentions, some good ideas but something seems “off” in his delivery. I have a feeling that if you sat with him, off the record and talked about issues he would be able to express, one-on-one what he believes in. I believe you could disagree with him and the discussion wouldn’t teeter from a wedge due to the differences.

Can he get the nomination? – Only if Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin do a 3 way lez fest on pay-per view to raise campaign money.

Can he become PotUS 44? – Not if Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin do a 3 way lez fest on pay-per view to raise campaign money.

Conspiracy Theories? – If you sat down with him, off the record, I have a feeling he would give you the blank stare if you asked his thoughts about conspiracy theories. I think he knows about them in a general sense, meaning he thinks they are kooky and theorists are kooks. “Next question.” Would be his response.

Who – Candidate Chris Dodd

Qualifications – A Lawyer and has served Congress since his election to the House of Representatives in 1975 and the Senate in 1980. 32 years in DC…holy Jesus, Dodd.

Platform – Parrots the end the war in Iraq line, but doesn’t define where troops will be “redeployed”. Talks the talk on energy but only offers tax incentives for consumers to buy new energy efficient cars. How about the working poor, for whom buying a Prius just isn’t an option? Follows the standard Roosevelt and Great Society beliefs on social issues.

What’s the deal? – Dodd is one of those unknown factors. He talks the talk on a lot of issues but his total number of years inside the Beltway seems to have worn off on him like it has John McCain. I think Dodd is politically savy and knows what lingo to throw out there. I just don’t think he can walk the walk, be a ball buster when it’s needed or pull people together when he needs to.

– 2nd generation Senator, his father was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal. Spent two years in the Peace Corp and six years in the Army Reserves and National Guard.

Bathing Beauty Quals – If this were the Miss America pageant, Dodd would be a 1940’s version of Miss Idaho or North Dakota; personable and nice and likable but not a lot of beauty or substance or depth. He’s a wide hips sorta politician. He chose a role (stereotypical social cause Democrat) and stuck with it instead of being a visionary. It’s a shame because with his background he could have easily become one.

Can he get the nomination?
– Sure, if the rest of the Democrats jump out of the race.

Can he become PotUS 44? – Sure, if he runs un-opposed…across the board.

Conspiracy Theories? – I have a feeling if you sat down with him in a cabin out in the boonies of Connecticut and a case of beer, he’d laugh it up for a while with you. If there are any conspiracy theories that Dodd might have a thought over it would be the JFK assassination. I doubt if he would follow a single theory belief in the JFK assassination, he probably just believes “someone” was behind it all.

Summary - Bet good money on Dodd to spend another 3 decades in Congress. Bet good money on Hunter getting uber rich on a lobbyist salary when he decides it's time to call all those favors back home when he leaves office. Don't bet a penny that either man will have a shot in hell at becoming the next President...thank God for small miracles.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Viral marketing and propaganda -- The Cloverfield campaign

The upcoming release of the film Cloverfield has provided me with a fun distraction of late. The back-story that apparently is included with the film is interesting and deep, there is mystery surrounding the entire project and driving the online chatter about the film is a series of websites that are directly connected to main and subplots of the story. Following the story online we have the chance to see the present day in a past tense manner. It is also a chance to see a well-tuned online viral marketing campaign in action.

Viral marketing interests me because it works by exploiting social networking and the desire of people to conform and follow what is popular. It is a method of social control even if the goal is to simply make millions of dollars on a movie. The thing that fascinates me the most about these campaigns is that many people will still follow the marketing script even if they know for a fact that it is a manufactured process. When government propaganda is exposed for what it really is, the effect upon the citizenry is opposite; they feel duped and begin to swing their beliefs in the opposite direction. I often wonder if that point of critically, the point where citizens turn against the propaganda fed to them, has also been engineered. In this day and age, there is very little difference in the methodology between creating and waging a viral marketing campaign to advertise a movie, and creating and waging government sponsored propaganda to advertise going to war. The only real difference is the subject matter.

Viral marketing relies on people disseminating information about the product to people within their social network. Propaganda relies on the citizenry discussing the points of the propaganda with people within their social network as well. Viral marketing relies on peer pressure to help sell their product to people within the network because they want to fit in. Propaganda relies on citizens not questioning the “right” nature of what the propaganda sells by threat of ostracization from American society and the dreaded taunt of treason being thrown around.

When I was growing up this was simply called a fad. That is probably what it was called when you were in your teenage years. Clothing, music, language and pop culture tastes were determined by the sine wave of fads. Now, the medium for disseminating information has changed and we have the Internet and text messaging to speed the process and make it all encompassing. 23 years ago all it took was one Bruce Springsteen video and everybody simply had to have a jean jacket. Even then it still had no effect on people living in the suburbs and rural America, people who had no access to cable TV. Now, even my Mother can surf the web and she does indeed surf, even if it is only a dialup account.

The term viral marketing is itself a new term. First coined in 1996 by a Harvard Business School professor, it’s roots lie with media critic Douglas Rushkoff who wrote about advertisers infecting susceptible users and spreading the infection among other users. The spread could be charted long before the actual “infection” took place by using statistical analysis and the entire process could be tweaked for maximum effect by the marketer, even as the campaign was being run. Our self-awareness, or rather, the awareness of us by marketers and advertisers, is astounding.

Of course the irony of this posting is that I may be contributing to the viral marketing process by advertising the film and giving my reasons for wanting to follow the campaign. In effect, I could be feeding the beast intentionally. Then again, some unknowing traveler in cyberspace may see this posting and become enlightened to the interconnection of marketing campaigns and propaganda. Who knows?

Will I be a big fat hypocrite and see the movie? Probably. I have had a life-long love of horror movies featuring giants that goes back to my days of watching Shock Theater on WTVC in Chattanooga. I saw all of the giant monster movies on that show; King Kong, Son of Kong, The Mighty Joe Young. It Came From Beneath The Sea, Konga and all the Godzilla movies. I even remember seeing The Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman and feeling that pre-pubescent attraction to actress Allison Hayes in the title role. Talk about great legs. I even use my old VCR from time to time just so I can watch War Of The Gargantuas.

I’m also a big time sucker for any movie or book that requires in-depth study of specially written and complex encyclopedias and bibles to follow the back-story. I often wonder if this is the prime reason why I follow conspiracy theories and the high weirdness subjects. There are tons of back-story in them to sift through and in the end there is a monster to face.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The downtown connector is no place for scaredy cats

I’ve always felt a particular pain for folks driving through Atlanta for that yearly visit to Granny’s house at Thanksgiving time. This city is full of psychotic drivers on even the least traffic heavy days, and when Thanksgiving rolls around a large chunk of the population flies back home to whatever city they are originally from, leaving the remainders with a less congested road and the muscle memory for driving like a loon. The things these travellers must think became painfully obvious on Saturday night as a family of Floridians tried to navigate the Brookwood interchange while it was plugged from an accident and the Battle of Georgia was being waged nearby on the Georgia Tech campus. I had a front row seat to it.

After the Thanksgiving visit with my family I came back to town since I had to work on Friday. All weekend I had the opportunity to see out of state plates and Georgia tags bearing the county names for places far flung to the four corners of the state. Seeing those folks drive on Atlanta roads and the Interstate roadways was painful and eye opening, as always. The old saying is “country come to town” and I can get away with saying it because of my hillbilly roots.

They are easy to spot. Just look for the center lanes and there they are, puttering along at the speed limit or just below the limit and as you pass you can look over and see the absolute fear in their eyes, both hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. Why they stick to the center lanes was a mystery to me for years until I finally figured it out. Normally the center lanes here are a DMZ of sorts. It’s the no-man’s land where one will normally see wrecks originate. The slower drivers should be in the far right lane but I think these folks are scared that right lane will become a turn only lane and they won’t be able to merge back into a left lane, so they would be forced to take the off ramp in some unfamiliar area. I wonder if they are terrified thinking that waiting at the end of every off ramp is a pack of 2 dozen crazed city folk, high on crack or God knows what; just waiting to pick off the easy prey.

So, on they drive, in the middle lane with folks passing them at speeds higher than the pace car for the Indy 500. Everyone blasts by them and sometimes they will cut right in front of them as a way of telling them to get the hell out of the middle lane. The looks on their faces as they near the downtown connector is one of panic and pure primal fear and I got to see one first hand on Saturday night.

I was up in the Marietta area late in the day and decided to come home via 75 and then on to 85 north at the downtown connector. I had the Georgia v. Georgia Tech game on the radio and as I neared the city the traffic update signs warned of the 4 left lanes being blocked by an accident at 10th St. I continued on and thought it would just give me more time to enjoy the game on the radio. Just below Northside Drive the traffic turned into a parking lot and we crept up to the north side of the Brookwood split.

At the exit ramp for 85 north some poor soul was completely lost and freaked by the mass of humanity as he tried to go from the HOV lane to the main body of traffic. I suppose he thought the HOV would take him and his family off course from I-75. When Georgia scored as Southerland ran it in near the end of the 3rd quarter, Bulldog Nation was well represented in the traffic jam and all of us were easy to spot. We began honking our horns and flashing our lights, hands and arms flailing and pumping in the air. The poor bastard with his family in the minivan in front of us was freaked beyond limit. He had no idea what had transpired, the family was convinced the display was anger being pointed at them for blocking two lanes of traffic.

I’m not talking about run of the mill freaked in this case, it was obvious that the whole scenario was freaking out the kids in the backseat too because they were bawling like they had just woke up on Christmas morning with huge lumps of coal to greet them and no toys. It was hitching sobs time from the backseat of “young uns” and Dad was sawing at the wheel, looking like he was going to blow a gasket with everyone honking and flashing their lights at him…or so he thought. The wife was in full-blown panic mode and after years of reading the lips of baseball players I could see she was mouthing the words, “Oh dear Jesus! Roy! They’re gonna kill us all!” Little did Dad and Mom and the tykes know that the lights and horns were for a touchdown that had just happened only a mile or so away in the spacious bowl that is Bobby Dodd Stadium.

It was easy to feel bad for them for having such a terrifying moment on their way back home to someplace in Florida. It was also quite funny to see a carload of Floridians so petrified at the experience. I will guarantee you that someplace down in Florida; a family who owns a white Dodge minivan complete with the LCD screen for the kiddos in the backseat is telling everyone about the nightmare that is Atlanta. “Those people in Atlanta are out of their damned minds! We almost got killed in a traffic jam and ALL of them were flashing their lights at us, honking their horns and waving their arms. I wouldn’t live in that dump for all the money in the world!”

Helpful advice for those travelling through Atlanta for vacation, business or moving: Stay to the right, and above all, don’t panic.