business, Ex, religion

Sometimes Ex leads me to some interesting rabbit holes…

Happy hump day, everybody. Like a lot of people, I was shocked to hear about Christine McVie’s death last night. Guess who alerted me? It was none other than Stephen Bishop, whose book I reviewed yesterday. He left a comment on Christine McVie’s Facebook page, where it was announced that she passed away in a hospital after a “short illness”. She was 79 years old. Although her music has meant a lot to me over the years, I’m not going to dedicate this post to her passing. I did write a brief post on my Dungeon of the Past blog. Since we also lost Irene Cara a few days ago, that blog is getting some unusual attention lately, although not that many people read it these days. I’m waiting to hit $100 in AdSense, and then I’ll probably discontinue it. But it is a handy place to express my thoughts and prayers for musicians who made the years of my youth worth enduring.

Last night, before I read about Christine McVie, I was perusing the latest Ex nonsense. I noticed that she had made an intriguing comment.

I have no words for how repulsed I am at the thought of attending such a scary and surreal event. Of course… we could crash it…

I noticed that someone had responded, so I clicked the link, and there I found a most interesting post by some stranger from Birmingham, Alabama. Behold:

The person who post this wrote “It’s a coffee shop in my city that is owned by a cult.”

Well… given my love for investigating cults, this post interested me, so I went looking for more information, and I was led to this article written by journalist Greg Garrison on AL.com. There, I learned about a man named Terry Colafrancesco who has opened a “different” kind of business in Alabama called Villaggio Colafrancesco. Mr. Colafrancesco, who is an Alabama born Italian Catholic, was inspired by a visit to Italy 25 years ago, where he noticed people standing in line for gelato on a cold, November night. Colafrancesco is an entrepreneur, but he also happens to be super religious. His business, which sells all manner of Italian style treats from gelato to coffee to charcuterie, is operated as a tax paying enterprise. But he also runs a non-profit religious community called Caritas. Most of the people who work at Villagio Colafrancesco are members of the community. Colafrancesco will be directing all profits after taxes toward the Caritas ministry that he founded in the 1980s.

According to the AL.com article I linked:

In 1988, Colafrancesco hosted one of the six famous visionaries of Medjugorje, who claimed to have daily visions of the Virgin Mary in their hometown in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the former Yugoslavia starting in 1981. Marija Pavlovic Lunetti came to UAB Hospital to donate a kidney for her brother, Andrija Pavlovic. She stayed with Colafrancesco and continued to have her visions of the Virgin Mary in a field in Shelby County. She has returned to Caritas to visit dozens of times.

The field where she had her visions in Shelby County became the focal point of the 250-acre world headquarters of Caritas, which still takes tour groups to Medjugorje and promotes the visions on its web site, Mej.com. It has a printing press and publishes Colafrancesco’s commentaries on the visions under his pen name, “A Friend of Medjugorje.” Hundreds of thousands of the books have been distributed worldwide.

The Medjugorje visions have never been endorsed or authenticated by the Catholic Church, which has approved other reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary such as the ones in 1858 in Lourdes, France, and in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.

So yes, this Italian treat paradise is very much a business, but it’s also influenced by religion. So patrons are required to be dressed “appropriately” and leave their electronic devices at home. Profanity is not allowed. People are supposed to hang out and talk to each other, rather than hanging out on their phones. Ex is apparently disgusted by this.

Now, I’ll be honest… I initially laughed when I read about these rules, because I have been to Italy a bunch of times, and I’ve never seen an establishment there that bans cell phones, skimpy clothing, or profanity. And while I don’t wear skimpy clothes anymore, and never purposely did when I was younger, I do have a strong tendency to curse. I also love to look at my phone. However, having grown up at a time when cell phones and Internet trolls didn’t exist, I do sometimes feel pangs of nostalgia for that time. Maybe this happens to everyone as they age, but once you get to a certain age, you look less favorably on “progress” and start remembering the “good old days”. So there’s a certain charm in the idea of visiting a place where patrons are required to put their electronic devices away.

BUT– while I do try to maintain basic respect for people and their religious beliefs, I don’t think I’d want to patronize a commercial business with an obvious religious agenda. Obviously, I don’t mind visiting churches or even spending money in them in the form of donations. I will, for instance, give spare change to the cathedrals when I visit them in Europe. But I’ve seen the damage that organized religions can do to many people, and I’ve also seen how cults can complicate people’s lives.

I also don’t think I’d feel comfortable at a place where workers are “dress coding” people. I can, however, see why some people love the idea of such a place, especially in Alabama, where there are a lot of “conservative” types. On the other hand, I’d be interested in seeing how many native Alabamians know what is, and what is not, authentic in Italy.

As Mr. Colafrancesco is operating a private business, he has the right to run it as he sees fit. And I would imagine people in Alabama will fully support that right. It’ll be interesting to see if this idea takes off. Some people don’t mind dress codes. Planet Fitness famously has a dress code to keep less fit people from feeling intimidated and uncomfortable by more fit people showing off. However, that chain has run into problems, as they have confronted people about their dress who didn’t feel they were shaming anybody. And my guess is that there could be trouble when someone outspoken and influential gets kicked out of Villagio Colafrancesco for wearing a halter top and leggings or something.

In looking at Mr. Colafrancesco’s blog, I see that he is no fan of “college”. In fact, he literally writes that in the section about his story. And while Colafrancesco is a very successful and apparently self made man, I can see that not going to college left him with a bit of a vocabulary deficiency. He writes that long hours and hard work had paid off, so that by the time he was in his mid 20s, he and his wife were living “financially comfortable”. He bought several “tracks” of land and “never had a mortgage or debt”. I think Mr. Colafrancesco means “tracts” of land, and a mortgage is, in and of itself, debt. It’s not that I don’t understands what he means, of course, and obviously he didn’t need college to succeed. Not everyone needs higher education to “make it”, and some people don’t “make it” even with fancy degrees. It’s just that as religion is important to him, proper grammar is important to me. 😉

In any case, more power and big props to Mr. Colafrancesco for “doing it his way”. I just wouldn’t necessarily assume that everyone can do what he’s done, or hold him up as an example of someone to emulate. Especially since it’s pretty clear to me that he’s politically conservative and probably would vote for Trump, in spite of his stated conservative values. Trump is a big fan of the skimpily clad, and he doesn’t mind swearing like a sailor as he hangs out on social media and talks about overthrowing the government. Edited to add: I see I was right. Colafrancesco is a Trump supporter. How can a man who self-righteously bars profanity and skimpy clothing in his establishment champion a man who grabs women by their pussies? What a hypocrite! Sorry, I just can’t respect someone who preaches about decency and supports Donald Trump.

Moreover, there is some belief that Mr. Colafrancesco’s group is a destructive cult. I don’t yet know enough about Caritas to state whether or not it’s a cult. I just learned the first about it last night, thanks to Ex. According to the above link, which dates from December 13, 2001:

Five former residents of Caritas of Birmingham have filed suit in state court seeking an unspecified amount of money from the group and its founder, Terry Colafrancesco.

The suit claims Colafrancesco lures people into Caritas with promises of spiritual enrichment and then drains them of money. Families are made to live in nasty trailers at the group’s compound, and Colafrancesco controls their lives almost totally, the suit claims.

The plaintiffs include a one-time lieutenant to Colafrancesco and five parents who sued on behalf of their children, who still live at the mission located about 30 minutes south of Birmingham.

The suit claims Caritas has assets of about $5.9 million. Colafrancesco “said he was knighted by Mary the mother of Jesus,” the suit says.

“It’s just bitterness,” Colafrancesco said Tuesday.

A 2012 Reuters article indicates that the lawsuit was later settled privately.

Anyway… I guess people have the right to decide if they want to buy coffee at a place where they aren’t allowed to curse, wear spaghetti straps, or look at their phones. I’m sure some people will think Villagio Colafrancesco is a very nice and inviting place for a treat. No matter what, this venture is sure to bring in money, press, and controversy… although it’s pretty rich that Ex is “repulsed” by it. This is the same woman who joined the LDS church and used it as one of her parental alienation tools. And when it turned out they weren’t going to give her what she wanted and expected things from her, like money and time, she suddenly decided it was “bad”. I’m sure the fact that church members helped younger daughter escape her clutches also contributed to her changed mindset about religion and politics. It sure is interesting and entertaining to watch.

But… it seems that Ex is pining to ditch America, too… Behold.

I’m a poor white girl. I have no power. I am a mother raising her kids and if Trump were to EVER hold office again… I’m leaving this country and won’t be looking back. He’s worse than a horror movie to me and I cannot fathom how ANYONE would vote for that scum of the earth.

Yeah… says the woman who causes multiple people to experience PTSD style nightmares due to her abuses of them. Just shaking my head and hoping she avoids Germany…

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advertising, business, fashion, music, nostalgia

I used to think Victoria’s Secret was “luxury”…

This morning, I woke up to an article in The New York Times about Victoria’s Secret, that famous underwear purveyor that once beguiled me in every mall I ever visited. The article, which I’ve linked and unlocked, was about how Victoria’s Secret is trying to “rebrand” due to rapidly declining sales and a diminished reputation. A new documentary called Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons has come out on Hulu. I haven’t seen it, because I’m not currently subscribed to Hulu, and would have to use a VPN to see it, anyway. The documentary consists of three parts, and is all about how Leslie Wexner took a brand that was originally a small chain in California and turned it into a huge business run by men objectifying women.

I haven’t shopped at Victoria’s Secret in over twenty years. There are a few reasons for that. For one thing, I’m too old and fat to wear their lingerie. For another, it’s been many years since I last thought of anything at Victoria’s Secret as worth buying. Back in the early 90s, it was kind of a cool place to shop, with dark, mysterious boudoir inspired interiors. Everything was in drawers, as if I was going to my own dresser. They sold lovely perfumes and soaps, silk and satin underwear, terry cloth robes, and really comfortable sleep shirts with cool patterns and in bright colors. I used to LOVE their sleep shirts, which were long sleeved, with a breast pocket, and satin edging around the collar. I never bought a Victoria’s Secret bra, because they all had underwires, and I hate underwires. Plus, my boobs were just too big.

Jax is awesome!

Then, as the 90s progressed, the store’s interiors brightened up, and the merchandise became crap. A lot of what they sold was not only poorly constructed and overpriced; it was also really ugly. And then I got way too old for their demographic, which seemed to target younger and younger girls. Like a lot of people, I was both amazed and horrified last month when the Tik Tok singer-songwriter, Jax, put out a song she made for a pre-teen girl she babysits named Chelsea. Chelsea had gone to Victoria’s Secret to buy a bathing suit for a pool party, and a “friend” told her the suit made her look too “fat and flat”. So Jax made a song called “Victoria’s Secret”, which went viral.

Wow.

I have to say, I think Jax is a super talented songwriter. I don’t really care for the autotuned sound, or super plugged instruments, but there’s no doubt she has major writing chops. I just listened to another song she did last year, and it actually made me really emotional, even though it’s very modern pop and I usually hate that style. What can I say? I’m old, and I like to hear real voices. But I just listened to the below song, and it legitimately made me cry. My husband is just like the man she’s singing about; we actually have that relationship. I think Jax is going to have a big career. And yes, now I see that she was on American Idol, but I’ve never watched that show in my life, and couldn’t now, even if I wanted to. Sheesh, now I feel like I’ve been hopelessly out of touch with current events.

This is so sweet. I bet it becomes a wedding staple.

I think another reason I was turned off of Victoria’s Secret years ago was because Tyra Banks made a name for herself with that brand. I used to watch Tyra on America’s Next Top Model, a show with which I had a love/hate relationship, much like I did for 7th Heaven. Tyra used to talk about how her voluptuous figure was welcomed by Victoria’s Secret, and yet I read many comments on The New York Times article about how limited the sizing has been since I quit shopping there in the 90s. I guess it got really bad. I have never been particularly thin, but when I was a young woman, I could easily buy stuff at Victoria’s Secret. They must have sort of quietly phased the more inclusive sizes out, only to bring them back now in a bid to save their brand. Although I watched Tyra’s antics on ANTM, it wasn’t because I liked or admired her. I just found her to be a narcissistic trainwreck. I liked ANTM for Paulina Porizkova, Andre Leon Talley, Jay Manuel, and most of all, Miss Jay (J. Alexander). And I enjoyed watching the contestants, some of whom had very compelling stories. Renee Alway, anyone?

Tyra, back in the day.
Hoochie? The music reminds me of porn.

Did normal, regular people actually wear the stuff Tyra was modeling? I don’t know. I remember when I was in my late teens and early 20s, they had polyester string underwear with bright colors and juicy patterns, but they also had plain silk bikinis that I really liked and wore all the time. I see the above video, especially toward the end, Tyra wasn’t super skinny. But it sounds like the brand eventually became less size inclusive, to the point at which anyone who wasn’t super small couldn’t wear their stuff. And even those who could wear it, didn’t get to wear it for long, because it would fall apart. Then Jeffrey Epstein was in the news, and it turned out that Leslie Wexner was buddies with Epstein. He ended up stepping down from his post as chairman and chief executive of Victoria’s Secret, probably because not only is he ancient, but because the brand was liable to be canceled… On the other hand, Donald Trump also hung out with Epstein, and he hasn’t been canceled yet. So I don’t know.

I used to have a Victoria’s Secret sleep shirt that looked just like this. They had lots of stuff in bright colors, with seemingly luxurious fabrics. (eBay listing)

I remember even before I shopped at Victoria’s Secret, they had a mail order catalog that had really beautiful stuff in it. There were velvet “pyjamas” (spelled with a y, Brit style), lovely lace nightgowns, even fashionable sportswear separates that were classy, elegant, and tasteful. A former friend of mine’s middle aged mother (at the time) used to get the catalog and I would look at it, amazed by what they were selling. It really did give off the appearance of being a British company with a posh London address, but the truth is, Victoria’s Secret has always been all American. It was originally founded in Palo Alto, California, by Roy and Gaye Raymond, who expanded the brand to five stores before they sold it to Leslie Wexner in 1982. Wexner moved the company’s headquarters to Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where it remains today. So much for London, eh?

Ah well… like anything else, Victoria’s Secret was based on a mythical image that never existed and was pushed by men looking to make money and objectify women. And a lot of people bought into it. I know I did, when I was a lot younger, but in those days, it was not as trashy as it is now. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so, either— this link goes to another blog post that actually shows the kinds of stuff they sold, back in the day. It was much nicer and classier; some of it would be great to wear even today!

An ad that currently appears on Victoria’s Secret’s Web site. Hmm…

It’s been years since I last went to an American mall, but I remember even when I did that regularly, being totally turned off by how Victoria’s Secret had changed. Gone was the mystery and elegance of the early 90s, and it was replaced by gaudy, sleazy, poorly made junk. And now, it appears that it’s being marketed more to young girls who don’t yet have boobs, if I am to go by Jax’s video. It sounds like the bean counters have finally wised up– maybe a little too late– and realized that bigger women have a lot more money than most prepubescent girls have, and there are a lot more of us looking to buy lingerie than there are skinny modelesque women. Those women probably wouldn’t want to shop at Victoria’s Secret anyway. So now they’re more size inclusive, but a lot of what I’ve seen isn’t appealing at all.

I’m happy with my cotton Jockey underwear, that I usually order from Amazon. My husband doesn’t mind, because he’s not a shallow fuck like this guy who commented on The New York Times’ article.

the whole reason. We men buy lingerie for our partner; the marketing is to look good for the man.. and definitely those fatties are not our standard of beauty (I’ll bet this guy is a pro-birther, too)

I’m gonna get cooch stains on the underwear, anyway, right? Might as well get some that are practical.

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book reviews, business, fashion

Repost: Dana Thomas explores the “McDonaldization” of luxury goods… 

Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2010. I’m just preserving it for posterity purposes.

For many Americans, luxury is a word that conjures up a lot of pleasant images of high quality, exclusivity, and status. People buy luxury items not just for what they are, but for what they stand for. When you can afford to purchase an $800 pair of shorts or a $500 silk tie, you’re telling the world that you’ve made it. Trouble is, the vast majority of people worldwide can’t afford to buy luxury items, at least not without sacrifice or going into debt. Author Dana Thomas explores the world of luxury in her 2007 book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

I picked up this book on Amazon.com, partly because I really enjoy non-fiction books about current events and partly because I can confess to wanting a part of the “luxury dream” Dana Thomas writes about. Apparently, I’m no different than a lot of middle class Americans who want to feel a little luxurious, but can’t afford to buy a products that cost hundreds of dollars. So instead of purchasing a $1000 Chanel handbag, I might instead purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Instead of buying a $2000 Christian Dior garment, I might spring for a $25 tube of Dior lipstick. Unlike a lot of consumers, I wouldn’t consider purchasing a “knock-off” luxury product, though Thomas writes that plenty of people would happily buy a bag that just looks a lot like a Prada.

According to Thomas, it’s because of the globalization of products that used to be exclusively for the very rich, luxury is not as lustrous as it used to be. In Deluxe, she explores the history of famous brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, and Chanel. She takes a close look at the darker side of high fashion, exploring how products that used to be tailor made in Europe are now mass produced in China. She offers a glimpse at the crafty street hustlers who sell fake luxury goods in Santee Alley, part of the Los Angeles fashion district.

Thomas did extensive research for this book, traveling far and wide, and talking to a diverse group of people in the fashion industry. Of course she quotes a number of fashion designers and the business people who run the companies that produce luxury products. She interviewed the craftsmen who make exquisite crocodile bags for Hermes, explaining how Hermes bags are made and why they are still so special. She spoke to the curator of Hermes’ museum, Menehould de Bazelaire, a former teacher who once taught Greek and Latin at New York’s Lycee Francaise and returned to Paris to become an archivist. De Bazelaire now runs Hermes’ museum, an operation that is open by appointment and documents the brand’s long and illustrious history.

Thomas discusses how luxury stores and outlets have sprung up worldwide and explains why Hong Kong has nine Prada stores while New York only has one. There’s a discussion as to how the Internet has changed the luxury business and made luxury goods even more accessible to the average person. Thomas mentions how 9/11 took a huge toll on the luxury business and offers insight as to why it suffered so much after the attacks.  She explains how the rap and hip hop culture unexpectedly and, in some people’s opinions, unfortunately, influenced the fashion world.  Thomas even spoke to a man who began his career as a police officer and later got into the business of busting people who sell luxury knock-offs. The end result of all Thomas’s hard work is a very comprehensive look at the world of luxury and high fashion.

My thoughts

I enjoyed reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster more than I thought I would. Thomas obviously has a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and her investment in this project comes through loud and clear. That being said, even though I might buy a bottle of Bulgari perfume and, back in my horsebackriding days, I once dreamt of owning a genuine Hermes saddle, I can tell that I’m not as invested in the dream as some people are.

According to Thomas, there are secretaries in Hong Kong who save up their paychecks to buy just one special handbag. There are women in Brazil who eagerly await catalogs from luxury designers and take pictures in to local merchants, telling them which product they want to buy when it’s available locally. There are women in the United States who hold “purse parties”, making a killing selling counterfeit versions of luxury goods to housewives. The practice is illegal, but apparently it’s become so common that even church organizations have been known to sponsor them as a way to raise money.

Aside from exploring today’s luxury market, Thomas offers a fascinating history of how brands like Hermes, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci came to be. I really enjoyed reading about how, through twists of fate and circumstance, ordinary people became the names behind extraordinary products. I also found it interesting to read how world events like the two World Wars and 9/11 have affected the fashion world.  The only drawback I can come up with is that this book was published three years ago, so some of the information is dated.  For instance, Thomas quotes the late Alexander McQueen as if he were still alive.  He died in February of this year.  This is not a big deal, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

Overall

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of fashion, economics, history, or even just likes to read about current events. It’s very unlikely that I would ever spend $1000 on a handbag… unless I could be sure it would be the last handbag I’d ever buy! But it’s fun to read about those who would spend that kind of money and how luxury designers are making sure that their once exclusive products are becoming more accessible to the masses. I guess, for that reason alone, it makes little sense to buy into luxury products. When it’s no longer exclusive, it’s no longer all that special.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, business, healthcare

Repost: A review of Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion…

And here’s another repost, this time of a review I wrote for Epinions.com on August 10, 2004. I will be posting it as/is, so please keep that in mind when I refer to time. I originally titled this review, “Warning: advertising can be hazardous to your health, and your wallet.

When I was in the Peace Corps, serving in the Republic of Armenia, a fellow volunteer introduced me to Jean Kilbourne by showing her 1979 movie, Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Kilbourne had filmed one of her lectures about how ads seductively affect the public in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Later, when I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, I had the opportunity to hear Jean Kilbourne speak in person. I went to her lecture and watched and listened as she showed slides of advertisements, pointing out the fascinating and horrifying subliminal messages that are presented in cigarette and booze ads. I found her to be a dynamic and intelligent speaker. I was impressed. While I was at the lecture, I had the chance to buy her 1999 book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, but unfortunately I was economically challenged and the book was hardcover. Then the following year, a social work professor showed another one of her films. That settled it; I had to read her book. I purchased it and couldn’t put it down, even though some of the material presented within the book was stuff that I’d either seen in her movies or heard at her lecture. Kilbourne’s message is very important; luckily, it’s also fascinating.

According to her book, Jean Kilbourne holds a doctoral degree and has produced several award winning documentaries, and she’s been a visiting scholar at Wellesley College. She’s also served on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and she’s been an advisor to two surgeons general. Her academic pedigree is impeccable; but she’s not just brilliant and remarkably astute, she’s also very funny. The passion she brings to her work has served to alert scores of people to the dangers of advertising and the media.

Jean Kilbourne starts off her book with the following anecdote:

In 1968 I saw an ad that changed my life. One of the many mindless jobs I had that year was placing ads in The Lancet, a medical journal. This particular one was for a birth control pill called Ovulen 21. It featured a smiling woman’s head and the caption “Ovulen 21 works the way a woman thinks– by weekdays… not ‘cycle days’.” Inside the head were seven boxes, each one day of the week. And inside each box was a picture of that day’s activity: Sunday had a roast, Monday a laundry basket, Tuesday an iron, and so forth. I realized that the ad was basically saying that women were too stupid to remember their cycles but could remember days of the week. And the days of their weeks were an endless rotation of domestic chores. (pp. 17-18)

Kilbourne put the ad up on her refrigerator and soon found herself noticing other ads that insulted and demeaned women. She kept putting the ads on her refrigerator and realized that while some of the messages in the ads were degrading to women, others were violent. She started to recognize patterns in the messages and the images within the advertisements and saw that in many of the ads, only parts of women were shown– in other words, just breasts, noses, or legs, were pictured instead of the whole woman. She noticed that “women were often infantilized and that little girls were sexualized” (18). This was how Jean Kilbourne got started as she began her pursuit of her life’s vocation, by looking at magazine ads in the late 1960s.

Kilbourne realized that everything she had done, from work to finding mates, was influenced by her appearance, although her book makes it plain that she’s very intelligent, too. Although Kilbourne had won a hometown beauty contest as a teenager, and learned how to drink and smoke from a friend, she also went to Wellesley College on a full scholarship after earning a perfect score on the verbal SAT. At Wellesley, Kilbourne earned an award that allowed her to spend a year living in London, working for the British Broadcasting Corporation. While in England, she worked as a secretary, smoked, drank, and modeled; she even dated Ringo Starr and a knight, and partied at Roman Polanski’s apartment. When she came back from Europe, Kilbourne found herself unable to find meaningful employment. It was during this period that Kilbourne really seemed to find herself in trouble with alcohol, although a doctor had told her “Don’t worry, honey, you’re not the type to be an alcoholic.” (22). She was told that she should be a model and she did work as one, until a designer told her that in order to be really successful, she would have to have sex with him. Al Capp also hired her to be a ghostwriter, but he too wanted sex in exchange for a job. With everything that happened to Kilbourne when she was coming of age, I find it no wonder that she became so focused on the women’s movement.

Jean Kilbourne makes the statement “If you’re like most people, you think that advertising has no influence on you” (33). How many of us have watched a commercial on television or looked at a print ad and felt we that we had thought nothing of it? Kilbourne points out that advertisers want the public to believe that they aren’t being affected, but they must be. Otherwise, she asks, why would advertisers spend in excess of $200 billion annually on advertising? Why would they spend half a million dollars to produce and air a commercial, or spend a couple of million dollars to air their ads during the Super Bowl or other high profile television shows? Kilbourne notes that during the 1999 Super Bowl, Victoria’s Secret aired commercials featuring scantily clad models and one million people logged onto their website, which was promoted on the television ad (33).

Kilbourne outlines why good television shows, the kinds that attract viewers of all ages, get canceled. It’s because advertisers want to attract people in the 18-49 age range; those are the people who have the most money to spend on their products. And television producers need to be able to pay their bills by commanding high advertising rates for shows that will interest people in the 18-49 age range. In fact, Kilbourne points out that most television networks have stopped aiming for the middle class and are instead trying to hook people between the ages of 18-34. It’s at that age range the advertisers theorize that they are most likely to influence people to establish brand loyalty.

Throughout Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, Jean Kilbourne has included pictures of print ads. Some of them are from advertising journals and those are the ones that are truly sinister. One picture, an ad for an entertainment group, depicts a young bald man facing away from the camera wearing earphones. The caption, which is spread over the image of the man’s head, reads “When you’ve got them by the ears, their hearts and minds will follow.” (36) Another one shows George W. Bush (after his re-election as the governor of Texas) and the caption “If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did.” (37) The caption on the ad continues, “If we can create advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product” (38). Pretty heavy words, especially given where Bush went after his time as governor.

So why should women and girls be worried? Kilbourne points out that “commercialism has no borders” (59). Advertising is EVERYWHERE: on billboards and trucks, on television and radio, on the internet, and in magazines and newspapers. A person would have to be blind and deaf not to be somehow affected by advertising. And the messages they promote are not always positive. In Chapter 5, Kilbourne shows ads that are associated with food. She points out that

“while men are encouraged to fall in love with their cars, women are more often invited to have a romance, indeed an erotic experience, with something even closer to home… the food we eat… and the consequences become even more severe as we enter into the territory of compulsivity and addiction” (108). 

Chapter 5 includes pictures of women who look as if they are on the verge of ecstasy as they are teased with food. Kilbourne has included the insidious captions of ads that imply that food equals love and women need to be comforted by food. Kilbourne explores the psychology behind tag lines like “I thank me very much for Andy’s Candies” (110) and “From you to you” (110). The commercials show women either consoling or rewarding themselves with food. But everybody knows that women are supposed to be thin. What does advertising tell us about women who don’t meet society’s expectations by being thin enough? We aren’t told that we should be happy. We’re told that we should eat the latest fat free or low carb food. We get the message that being heavier than the woman in the magazine is unacceptable and wrong and we should do something about it by joining a gym or going on a diet. Advertising is a medium that thrives on people who are either dissatisfied or unsatisfied with some aspect of themselves or their lives. But more than that, it actually encourages people to be unhappy so that they’ll buy the latest product.

But why does this theme of dissatisfaction especially apply to women and girls? Kilbourne further addresses this concept in Chapter 6. She explores how adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising and how advertisers are on the prowl to get them buying their products. How many 22 year olds do you know suddenly decide one day to pick up smoking? I would venture to guess that you don’t know many… but plenty of teens pick up the habit so that they can appear older or cooler than their friends. The same goes for alcohol and sex. But aside from the messages delivered from advertising, teenagers, especially girls, also must cope with other issues that may weaken their resolve when it comes to advertising. What happens to a lot of girls when they become adolescents? Their self esteem plummets and they are liable to be less secure about who they are. They might engage in behaviors that will threaten their health, like binge drinking, eating disorders, smoking, or having unprotected intercourse that results in a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy. This chapter includes some startling photos of ads that may not have caused the average person to to think twice… until they encounter the points that Kilbourne brings up. For example, there’s one picture of a young woman with a turtleneck pulled up over her mouth (139). On first glance, the average person might think that the girl was just keeping warm on a cold day (she’s also wearing a winter cap). On second glance, the person may understand the underlying message– that women should be seen and not heard. It’s not just pictures that convey this message. Kilbourne also writes about a perfume ad with the slogan “Make a statement without saying a word” (138). Hmmmm…

Chapters 7 and 8 are about alcohol and cigarettes. Kilbourne’s message is that no matter what the tobacco industry wants the public to believe, it’s in the business of getting young people to smoke. After all, people often die from health problems related to smoking, or if they’re lucky, they quit before they die. Somehow, those people who die or quit must be replaced. As I pointed out before, it’s a lot easier to get a teenager to start smoking than it is to get an adult into the habit. This chapter is full of good information about how teens get and stay addicted. Joe Camel is featured prominently in this section. I remember in Kilbourne’s lecture, she pointed out the many penis references on Joe Camel. I had never noticed them until she showed them to us, and now they’re plain as day.

The rest of Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising addresses how advertising itself can inspire violence, addiction, and disconnection. The chapter on violence is particularly interesting and scary. Some of the pictures included are those of familiar ads that actually call women b-itches, and promote violence and sexism. It’s a real eye-opener that might make you angry, especially if you’re a woman.

So do I have any complaints about this book? Yes, I have a couple of minor ones. One is that if you have ever seen Jean Kilbourne speak or watched one of her films, you will already be familiar with some of the ads that are included in Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. On the other hand, this is not necessarily a weakness, since having the ads in a book and reading her words will reinforce Kilbourne’s message and you can also revisit that information over and over again and perhaps enjoy a better understanding of it. The other is that sometimes I get the feeling that she overstates her case a little bit and makes ALL advertisers out to be villains. Yes, some of their messages are dangerous and demeaning, but I don’t believe that all advertising and the people that create it are inherently evil. Kilbourne highlights how advertising can be dangerous, but at times I feel that she also goes a little bit too far and lumps all advertisers together as bad. Sometimes ads can be helpful and even positive. And I think it’s important for me to point out that I don’t believe that Americans should be subjected to thought policing. Awareness about the hidden dangers of advertising is a good thing, but I also believe that people should be allowed to make up their own minds about what advertisers are saying to them. I fear that too much control will lead us to a slippery slope that could erode our freedoms as Americans.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in women’s rights, the media, and psychology, I think it’s a sure bet that you will enjoy reading Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. And I believe that Jean Kilbourne has truly created a masterpiece with this book. She has no doubt helped millions by opening their eyes to the potentially destructive influences of advertising and the media.

I want to end this review by sharing an experience that I had the other night while watching television. An ad came on for M&M Cookie Bars and a little boy was shown pocketing FOUR of the bars, then tearing up the box they came in. He ordered his labrador retriever to lie down and stay, covered the dog with the torn up box, then called out, “Mom, the dog ate all the M&M Cookie Bars again!” while the dog looked up innocently.

This ad bothered me because first, it sends the message that it’s not only okay, but also cute and funny to lie and steal. Apparently, this wasn’t the kid’s first time lying and stealing, either, since he said that the dog had eaten the bars AGAIN. Second, our nation is coping with a growing population of children who are obese and developing Type 2 (formerly known as Adult Onset) Diabetes, a disease that used to typically affect adults over the age of 40 and was almost unheard of in children. And third, this ad depicts a child pretending that his dog has eaten chocolate and it’s a cute thing. Chocolate is very toxic to dogs; it contains a chemical that can kill them if they ingest too much of it. Unfortunately, different dogs handle chocolate in different ways and some chocolates are more dangerous than others. But kids who watch this ad are probably not going to know this. The ad does have a warning about giving chocolate to dogs, but it’s tiny and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for people to read it– plus some kids who see the ad will be too young to read.

There’s no doubt that Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, has inspired me to look at advertising more closely and be a smarter consumer. I believe it can have the same positive effect on other people and I encourage others to read it and learn as much as I did. And if you have the chance to see Jean Kilbourne speak, I also encourage you to take the opportunity. Your eyes will open.

The paperback edition of this book is entitled Can’t Buy Me Love. 

Jean Kilbourne’s TED Talk…

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A grateful thank you to all of my readers…

Yesterday was somewhat less annoying than Wednesday was. There were no unexpected visitors; Aunt Flow vacated; I didn’t get involved in any online pissing matches; and as of this morning, I crossed the threshold allowing me to be paid for writing this blog. And so, today’s post is going to be focused on gratitude for everyone who has been reading this rag. Some of you have been surprisingly faithful readers, and I really do appreciate it. I know sometimes I can be cranky, negative, and gross, but it does my heart good to know that some people don’t seem to mind. Or maybe they just read so they can snark. Either way, I make a few pennies when people read, and they’ve now finally added up to enough that I can actually get paid.

Love me some Andrew Gold.

I’m actually impressed by how quickly this happened on WordPress. I moved my original OH blog from Blogger in February 2019. It was one of three blogs I had on that site, and all three were earning spare change through AdSense. During my heyday, I usually made enough money on Blogger from all three blogs to cash out every nine months or so. To do that, I had to earn at least $100. Remember, I had THREE blogs going, so they weren’t earning much individually. The original blog was the fastest earner, but the travel blog was also pretty popular before we moved to Wiesbaden. None of them were making big bucks, though.

At this point, I only have one blog left on Blogger. That would be my Dungeon of the Past music blog, which is mainly about music from the 70s and 80s. I don’t update it very often anymore, and right now, I have almost $98 sitting in AdSense. As soon as that blog earns the last two bucks I need to cash out, I’ll probably discontinue it. However, at this point, earning those last two bucks could take years! I usually only make a few pennies a month from just the music blog. This past month has been an exception. Looks like I made about 60 cents this month.

In July of 2019, when I moved the travel blog to WordPress, I immediately set up ads for that blog only. At this writing, the travel blog has made a grand total of $5.09. That amount is the whole total since the blog was created, having collected ad revenue since July 2019. COVID-19 was pretty devastating to my travel blogging, since we’ve been locked down and unable to go as many places. I suppose I could have been creative and come up with other travel related content, but to be honest, I had kind of lost my motivation. Happily, since COVID restrictions are loosening, I think we’ll be traveling more soon. In fact, next weekend, we will be on vacation. I am delighted to report that the travel blog is now consistently earning more than it ever has.

This blog has only been running ads since July 2021. In nine months, I’ve earned enough revenue to be paid. As of today, the “new” OH blog has made $109.61. That’s got to be because people are actually reading this stuff. So thank you! Writing is really all I ever wanted to do with my life, anyway, and while $109 isn’t enough to live on, it’s still money that I made, doing something I love doing! I do love to write, even if I do complain a lot about first world problems. I probably won’t be getting the $109 payout until June, which is fine. I’ll possibly get it just in time for my 50th birthday!

I didn’t want to run ads when I first started writing on this space. Like most people, I find ads annoying, and sometimes I want to write about topics that advertisers don’t like. But I was curious to see if this blog could make any money, which was why I turned on the ads. At first, I did it as an experiment, but then when I noticed that this blog made a lot more than the travel blog did, I decided to keep the ads going, just to see how long it would take before I made enough to cash out.

I know I have some readers who met me on the now defunct review site, Epinions. Those people are also writers, and they know the pleasure of seeing monthly “income share” come in. I remember my first month on Epinions, I wrote a rant about my cell phone service provider. I was really just looking for a place to vent, because I was pissed. I didn’t even know I could make money writing on Epinions. But when I saw that the review made 19 cents, I decided to write more. I spent almost eleven years writing on Epinions, and I made about $12,000, just reviewing stuff I was using anyway. Considering that I usually wrote in low paying categories like books, music, and travel, I think I did alright!

Sometimes I still miss Epinions, but that site became decidedly less fun as it was dying. I like writing on my own site now, since I can curse with wild abandon, add photos and videos, and don’t have to worry about obnoxious advisors, leads, or just oddball members lowballing ratings or leaving petty criticisms. 😉 That’s not to say that I can’t take legitimate criticism, per se. It’s just that some of them wanted to criticize things like how often I wrote, or disagreed with my review… or, in some cases, they would try to correct me when they, themselves, needed to edit.

I remember one particular Epinionator felt just fine about leaving me a low rating because she felt that instead of using Preparation H on my asshole, I should be using apple cider vinegar. And, as she commented, she signed off with the annoying phrase, “sharing the light”. I ranted about that incident on the original version of this blog. I’ll probably repost it today because, what the hell… I know some readers will get a kick out of that little taste of nostalgia.

Those kinds of comments and ratings were not supposed to happen. We weren’t supposed to downrate because we disagreed with the review; we were supposed to rate based on the quality of the review. Like, the rating was supposed to be based on how informative and well-written the review was, not someone’s personal opinion about the product or the reviewer. Anyway, not long after that “asshole” incident, in which I was advised to use vinegar instead of a soothing cream on my bum, I ran across a review by this particular writer. I gave her a slightly lower rating (helpful vs. very helpful). I think she genuinely earned the rating I gave her. She sent me a pissy email full of excuses as to why her review was the way it was, and why I should give her a higher rating. I couldn’t help but shake my head. A few weeks later, the site went belly up. It made me sad at the time, but then I realized that it was for the best. If Epinions were still going, maybe you wouldn’t be reading my first world rants here, and I would still be dealing with people like that person!

$109 is not a lot of money. In fact, it’s not even enough to pay my subscription fees for this site. But it’s a good start! It feels good to make money again. I do, on occasion, get weird, rude, or mean comments from drive by visitors; but this blog, by and large, attracts far fewer crazies than Epinions did. Like, for instance, the woman who went absolutely batshit nuts because she was posting rubber stamped reviews of her Canon camera under multiple listings and getting tons of “not helpful” ratings. Even though people tried to explain to her how the site worked, she didn’t get it… and she raised holy hell. It caused quite a drama! I don’t think she ever did learn how Epinions worked. After a weekend of rampaging with inappropriate comments and ratings, she was kicked off the site.

Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that kind of nonsense here. Most everyone who reads this blog is perfectly nice. Or, at least they are basically respectful, which is really all I ask. It’s a bonus when people come back for more, even when I’m in one of my crotchety moods. So, once again, thank you! Thanks for reading and commenting– no need for ratings, here. And thank you all for being a friend. Thanks for helping me turn my opinions into something that has actual worth. It means more to me than most of you will ever know.

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