Wordsmiths, Wield Your Sassy Social Consciousness!

I don’t mean to come across as completely insensitive, but social causes shepherded online usually rub me the wrong way. Cause invitations on Facebook are by far the most annoying: They’re pat and patronizing and a complete waste of my time. I seriously doubt that joining an online cause will magically-inexplicably put a dent on the world’s most insidious problems.

But today, I ran across a great site that helps you simultaneously improve your English skills and your social karma. Awesome! Now here's a cause I'm glad to sink my teeth into.

If you’re a word junkie like me, you’ll greatly appreciate FreeRice.com, an offshoot of the socially conscious world poverty site poverty.com. FreeRice promises to donate 20 grains of rice for every guess-the-synonym question you answer correctly on their site. Go ahead and put your knowledge of Webster's to the test. How much rice can you chalk up for those who need it the most?

What I really like about this site is that it helps you grow as a writer, it conveys an immediate sense of urgency when it comes to world hunger, and it prompts you to act on this urgency. And for those with a competitive edge, this social-aid-site-cum-verbal-quiz-machine also keeps score.

Offsetting your carbon footprint is sooo five minutes ago. After all, it’s not much fun to help save the world or whatever if you can’t get something out of it yourself, right? So play the game, donate some rice, and let me know how you fared!


Jazz Up the Internets with Sonic Images and Sound Events

Reading is a highly visual exercise, not only because eying a snippet of text is a visual act in-and-of-itself, but also because words and phrases call on memory and abstract association to evoke shapes, moving images and mental pictures.

This is especially true when it comes to ad copy, as most advertising is crafted so users “see” precisely what it is they're about to gain or miss out on. Evoking mental images through brisk, pithy and colorful writing is a proven, seductive way of piquing consumer interest, and produces effective calls to action.

Something I also try to do when authoring any piece of writing is to cater to the sense of sound. Whenever possible, I use alliteration, loud words, musicality, onomatopoeia, and other sonorous literary devices to spark auditory buzzes in the reader’s mind. This way, words not only pop in a user’s head, but seem also come at them as if mouthed from within earshot.

And today, the interactive space is not simply about seeing, it is also about hearing. As I roam online for juicy bits of information or plug away at work, I’m almost always listening to streaming radio and pretending I’m droppin’ it like it’s hot. Every so often, I’ll also download a podcast or two. And for the most part, I’m pleasantly surprised when I land on a corporate webpage that employs sound in ways innovative.

Do you know the difference between a sound event and a sonic image? You should, if you wish to learn how to leverage audio online without annoying the hell out of everyone. Check out this insightful article from iMedia Connection for a crash course on auditory website enhancements. It’s an eye- (or ear?) opener, and includes several real-life examples of how on-target audio cues are used by companies to further consolidate their branding online.

Does this ring true to you? What do you think are the best ways to use sound effects as auditory flashbulbs on the Web?


The Flighty Faux Pas of Shopping While at Work

I don’t mean to stifle your digital shopping habits with vexing online survey results, but I’m sure some of you are at least a tad curious as to how many professionals partake in the joys of Christmas capitalism while at work, right? Well, I’ve got, um, odd news.

First of all, it seems consumer organizations and consulting agencies are at a loss when it comes to accurately figuring out how big a chunk of the corporate workforce is bent on shopping at the office. Check out this post on Consumerist, which semi-successfully attempts to explain why the latest shopping-while-at-work surveys are all over the place with their numbers.

In the end tho, who cares! I already know that a lot of people shop from their desks, especially during the Holiday season, and more so than they care to admit. What I really want to know is: Is it considered socially acceptable to do your Christmas shopping online during office hours? My verdict: Totally! It would motivate me to think others believe so, also. Survey says: Not so much.

According to Spherion, a firm that conducted one of the aforementioned polls, more peeps seem to think shopping online while at work deserves some tsk-tsking, as opposed to those who think it’s completely acceptable. Dang. Interestingly, however, the same survey says the amount of workers buying online is up 27% from last year.

So what does this mean? Does it mean users out there are being naughty instead of nice? It seems like some working onliners are having a sort of moral-ethical crisis and supplanting it through their e-purchases, only to feel guilty later on... or something. Or, the surveys are simply meaningless PR ploys.

Whatever the case, no one can deny shopping online is now mainstream. So the question remains: Are you one of these shopping-while-at-work offenders? Come clean with a comment!


Will TXT for Food, Better Mobile Messaging

Sometimes I feel I'm standing on the gimp side of the digital divide. Let me explain: Seeing as texting in Costa Rica isn’t the most reliable of wireless services, I've automatically defaulted from taking part in the TXT-for-takeout trend currently taking the fast food industry by storm. I feel I'm missing out; I can read about texting orders online, but that's about it.

Papa John’s and others have the right idea, fer sure, and many digital early adopters are already all about ordering thru text messages. Send a text message, get your pizza in half an hour. It’s simple, super-quick and surprisingly secure, despite what some skeptics would think. Here in Central America, however, the mobile situation is SNAFU as usual, making a TXT-placed order next to impossible.

Check it: If I send a text message using my all-sorts-of-embarrassing, olden Third World cell phone, it might take up to 12 hours for it to reach the desired recipient—if it gets there at all. So when it comes to ordering food, it’s the phone for me, chuck.

1 lrg pzza pls, xtra cheez? Sounds good. But what I really need is rlble txt msging, mos def. Alas, no amount of shorthand can help me inveigh against the state-owned cell phone provider. I guess I’ll resort to in-person complaints at the local agency. Ugh. I feel so savage.


Quirky Online Games for the Plucky Office Procrastinator

I have to admit I’m a sucker for branded online games. I love the old-school feel that comes from playing them, the throwback to the Atari and original Nintendo-style graphics, the simplicity of the keyboard controls, and the thrill and gratification that comes from beating a game of low-to-medium difficulty. I’m hooked. And many users throughout the Internets are, too.

And more to the point: As viral marketing campaigns, online games almost always hit a bull’s eye. The reasons are obvious: They grab user attention for long periods of time, serve as free advertising, provide a distinct interactive brand experience, and help players self-identify with a specific corporate messaging.

Of course, any sort of online gaming experience—especially that of a nostalgic nature—will inevitably cut into the productivity of anyone’s day. It’s hard to hype up a time-consuming hobby frequently frowned upon at the office by administrative types. I’ve found, however, that dabbling in a little online fun can do just the trick to mushroom that imaginative spark and transform it into spot-on creative execution.

If, for example, you have a slam-dunk idea but still need to hash out the details, a dash of online gaming can help you carve out the finishing touches. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and check out some of the following branded games. If they don’t help you come up with some quirky and totally awesome digital marketing ideas of your very own, I invite you to go off on me on this very post with an irate comment or two. So here goes:

Headcase, from Wrigley’s Candystand: Use your mighty brainpower and oversized head to collect green diamonds and bounce your way out of chewy situations in this land of bubblegum wonders.

Absolut Disco, from Absolut Vodka: Not so much a game as a groovy online experience, this Studio54-inspired disco affair lets you boogie down to a myriad of keyboard-controlled late 70s psychedelia while using your webcam. Far out!

Zuma, by Yahoo! Games: From the makers of Bejeweled and Bookworm, this PC-only game is guaranteed to swallow up tons of your time. Swivel your stone frog and chuck your colored balls in the right direction before the hungry Aztec idol gobbles up the entire string of balls with a single swooping gulp.

Now that you know where to go, go ahead and kill some of that valuable office time. Let me know if these games get your creative juices flowing. Happy gaming!


Your Reading Companion for 2008: Make it a Kindle?

I’m not really known to suffer from the kind of Asian gadget fetish that has stricken many of today’s in-the-know urban professionals, who at times seem to be in sears need of intervention from their iPhone and Blackberry dependency.

Every so often, however, I’m blown away by the news of an innovative technology to the point where I feel I must jump head-first into the online conversation and offer up my two cents on the latest and greatest whiz-bang device.

Which is what I have decided to do now. So let's begin: If you haven't already, say hello to… drum roll please… the Amazon Kindle! Check it out: The Kindle is an all-new e-book reader, a crafty contraption brought to you by Amazon.com that builds on the functionalities of the Sony Reader by offering wireless connectivity and the possibility to subscribe to newspapers, blogs, magazines, and online comment streams, as well as the option to purchase e-books on the spot. In other words, it bitch-slaps the Sony Reader into technological obscurity with a definite techno sleight-of-hand.

Many in the blogosphere and in traditional media are calling the Kindle a milestone in technological innovation. And when it comes to traveling light, it really can’t be beat. As soon as I get my hands on one I’m totes buying it.

Online reviews have been mixed but promising: The Kindle’s screen is mellow and crisp, it’s easy on the eyes, and the e-ink reads perfectly under direct sunlight or in pitch dark—no need for sunglasses or a lamp to guide your eyes. It doesn't have a trackpad, but the keyboard and intuitive controls are getting high scores. It's not perfect, but it has potential.

And the Kindle has an undeniable advantage: It is eco-friendly through-and-through. No longer do we have an excuse to plow down patches of rainforest to ensure bestsellers make the global bookstore rounds. So let’s all rekindle (ha!) our reading habits through digital. Might we all soon say goodbye to books altogether?


Creative Spotlight: Orangina Amps it Up with Lusty Busty Wilderness

Here’s one for the books: Orangina just came out with a smutty ad campaign of sexed-up human-animal weirdness that’s so silly and off-kilter it hits the creative nail right on the marketing head. It’s the kind of proposition that’s so sexually over-the-top and cartoonish, it’s at once prudishly offensive and completely inoffensive. Which is why it's such a fun ad campaign to showcase—after all, the TV spot features a Flashdance reference!

No doubt, this “Naturally Juicy” campaign does a hell of a job of getting the Orangina brand name noticed and out there, even if at first it garners wide-eyed incredulity; watching the television ad is sort of like darting into a kaleidoscope-colored sex shop for the first time out of curiosity—you can’t help but feel a little bit dirty, even though you’re only looking. The entire campaign is so incredibly odd, so unapologetically in-your-face in a “sex sells” kinda way, and so fruity and explosive, you simply can’t look away.

Todd Mueller of Psyop, who worked with French-based FLL PARIS to produce this wacky marketing campaign, proudly defends it by pointing out that “it goes without saying that when you get the opportunity to spray Orangina all over the chest of a sexy bunny girl, you go for it." Wha...? Whatevz, it works (smirk).

Sure, it’s eons beyond anything this maker of fizzy-pulpy orange drinks has crafted before to market its stuff in Europe, but this titillating take on the otherwise lackluster refreshments is already making waves, leaving it’s fair share of WTF-blog entries and noisy ad campaign analyzes throughout parts of online.

Take note: After watching this television spot, you won’t be able to buy an Orangina during your next visit to the zoo. Actually, scratch that. I’m sure you won’t be able to NOT buy an Orangina next time you go to the zoo. It’s too much fun not too. Right?


3 Off-the-Wall Widget Ideas for the Tired Mac's Desktop

My MacBook Pro's dashboard currently serves up the usual fare of garden-variety widgets—simple, run-of-the-mill apps now ubiquitous on every young, on-the-go professional’s laptop. Here's the breakdown: I have a world clock, a calendar, sticky notes, a dictionary, a unit converter, a calculator, an online translator, and a kooky widget that lets me know the current mood of the world.

This last one is my own personal offbeat selection, downloaded as part of an effort to feel edgy and unique or whatever. It's not cutting it. My drab collection is definitely wanting, as I'm sure you can evidence for yourself.

After checking out the Chuck Norris Facts widget on one of my coworker's computers, I now feel like shaking things up a bit on my own dashboard. However, none of the available widget downloads on the Apple website seem to float my boat.

So here are three pop culture-soaked ideas for non-branded widgets I would put up on my dashboard fa sho:

The Sorceress of Eternia Conspiracy Theory widget: This revisionist app is meant to provide the skeptical cartoon fan a refreshing take on the 80s He-Man episodes. Am I the only one who doesn't buy into the whole “Sorceress is the protector of Grayskull” bit? Didn't think so. This widget can spit out a different theory on the Sorceress' true situation every time you click on it. What's the real need for this doped up bird woman to be all up in that castle cooking up strange potions anyway? Does she continuously pull her tired "I'm fainting" act just to get some attention from muscle retard He-Man? Is she on drugs? Did she cheat Skeletor out of his true home? This widget will let us know.

The Live Blogging for Britney widget: It's like Twitter, but funner. It will be solely focused on Britney and her downward spiral by providing an engaging way to love-hate on this trashy celebrity trainwreck, all in real time. What's Britney doing right now? Are you rooting for her, or hoping she runs over some more paparazzi? Be the first to know about her next trip-up. This widget will give us round-the-clock status updates.

The Literary Devices as Used in Contemporary Media widget: How is syllepsis employed in pop songs? What TV shows are using deus ex machina to try and make sense out of their convoluted plots? Is there a cable news network more prone to the use of alliteration when it comes to the newsticker than others? What's the latest film to employ iambic pentameter in it's dialogue? Check this widget whenever you want to be hit with a pop-culture info nugget of literary wisdom.

These ideas might seem a little off-the-scale for some, but if you ask me, they'd make spot-on apps in today’s world. What widgets would you like to see on you own dashboard? You know you want to share!


At the Office, the iTunes Shared Folder is Fabulous Fodder for Gossip

That’s right, peeps. If you really want to pulse on what’s going on at work, there’s a digital grapevine often overlooked that can serve up a hefty portion of juicy. This promising info-pipeline is, no doubt, the iTunes shared folder.

As an ostensibly innocent application of audio wonders and song compilations, iTunes at the office also doubles as a treasure trove of racy rapports—if you learn how to read between the lines, that is.

There’s a lot to be said about a person depending on the music he or she decides to share over iTunes, especially in a corporate setting. And how you name your collection? That's where the honey is, hands down.

Check this out: Recently, one hot-to-trot employee at my office “anonymously” declared his love for a female coworker by naming his iTunes collection Ana, you are the reason I come to work. The songs were sappy and romantic. This digital PDA surprised many an audio junkie at work, especially after the messages started getting racier as the days rolled by.

Quickly, IT set out to catch the horny culprit, and by tracking the music collection-in-question’s IP address, they managed to hone in on the would-be sexual harasser. Everyone found out, and nonstop ridicule ensued—on the iTunes shared folder, no less. Awesome. Technology rocks!

In keeping with the spirit, here’s my online rundown of some music collections currently making the daily rounds at my office’s iTunes shared folder. I hope no one feels slighted (cross my fingers):

take it from behind non-stop hit parade.com
Name: “take it from behind”? Okay... It’s a little aggressive and sexually charged, and the whole thing reads over-the-top. Closeted, much? And what’s with the dot com? That techno-suffix stopped being cool in 1997.
Music: Comprehensive collection, but definitely not a "hit parade." There’s a lot of mainstream alternative, some punk, and… Ricky Martin! Hmm.

Name: So this person resorted to the old lowercase-uppercase-lowercase trick. It’s not chalking up too many creative points in my book, unless she's a third grader that rides the short bus. She could be new, maybe.
Music: It looks like it might be good, since I currently cannot access her collection because of user saturation. Interesting.

Name: Meh.
Music: Blah.

Name: As in Marley? Could this be a hardcore reggae fan?
Music: No. It’s all trash metal. Pfff, poser. Very disappointing.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. So... are there any breakups and make-ups to report from the iTunes front at your office? Let me know!


Busted Big Time: Facebook's Late Adopters Turn the Tables

Be real: no matter how sure you are that you’re getting away with murder (metaphorically speaking, that is), there’s really no need to post pictures of it up on Facebook. Especially if you don’t want certain people eyeing your misadventures. It’s the social networking equivalent of filming a private sex video and then being surprised it popped up online somewhere.

Sears, all the latest controversy bubbling up in the blog circuit over the evident lack of privacy on Facebook has totally missed the boat. If you don’t want someone checking out your every personal detail, don’t make a point of posting it on Facebook. Or My Space. Or anywhere else on the Net, for that matter.

Because no matter which way you slice it, it will end up being your fault, and you'll be kicking yourself to the grave. Take note: if you upload something you don’t want others to see, it will come back and bite you in the you-know-what, guaranteed.

The reason for this rant is that I am all sorts of embarrassed for one Kevin Colvin, bank intern by day, wand-toting party fairy by night. It turns out this Facebook “early adopter” (ha!) didn’t go to work for a couple of days, claiming he had a pressing family issue. Ok dude, do what you have to do, hope everything works out.

But then... oops! A coworker jacked some pictures this guy posted on Facebook during the days he was away from work that clearly show him NOT attending to a family situation. His boss got a hold of one of these not-so-flattering photographs (with the dude partying it up in a fairy costume), and responded by attaching the photo to an email reply and bcc’ing the entire company. Uh-huh, that's right.

Harsh. And a tad extreme. Anyway, online ridicule ensued, as the e-mail thread landed in the inboxes of friends and colleagues throughout the land. And of course, blogs are eating this one up. Go ahead and check out the cringe-worthy e-mail exchange here. I'm still reeling.

So my whole point is, if you are going pull one over The Man, at least make sure to cover your tracks. Geez. I’m sure all of us have done something similar at one point or another in our careers. But we have the decency and brains to be smart about it. Right?

I’d actually be laughing at this if it wasn’t so painfully embarrassing. I mean, check out the picture! Some one put him out of his misery please, for my sake.

As one commenter noted on Valleywag (the blog that broke the story): “Okay, that’s one way of letting the entire office know you’re gay…” LOL. And all of online for that matter. I wonder if this kid has what it takes to become the next Chris Crocker. Thoughts?


Online Inventions for the Postmodern Imagination

Go ahead and admit it, you love reading about quirky inventions and wacky machinations. And I’ve got great news: The Internet is chock-full of these. Across online, there are improbable creations and crazy inventions for all tastes, stripes and minds. Some of these are slightly jarring, some are cute; others seem to start off with right idea but resort to ridiculous execution, and still others don’t make any sense whatsoever. Like, at all.

Anyway, despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that I have been swamped with work of late, I decided to explore the inner nooks of digital this morning in search for something that could afford me a much-needed sweet escape.

Luckily, I didn’t have to look too far. A friend and colleague of mine hit me with a link to Weird Inventions by Saddletrout Studios, a wacky site featuring a collection of totally-out-there devices that have absolutely no functional use you could think of—image renditions and all! The descriptions read like how-to copy pulled straight out of a product features catalog (awesome!), infusing the page with an decided dash of deadpan humor.

From an indoor sundial to hypno-glasses, these inventions-that-never-were are guaranteed to provide the stressed-out office rat a welcome dose of comic relief. The disclaimer at the top of the page says it all:

“Many of the items on this page could very well be dangerous if actually built and used. I can not be responsible for accidents, and do not encourage anyone to actually build or use these contraptions. All that aside, please enjoy your visit.”

My heightened interest in nonsensical and otherwise batty creations then led me to the following site, the Patently Absurd Archive, a comprehensive collection of offbeat-yet-real, USA-patented inventions that, for what you would think should be obvious reasons even to the creator, have not yielded runaway commercial success. The archive chalks up one sears impressive list. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

The question remains tho: Is there anything you believe this world is in need of? Put on your inventor’s hat and get to it! And send the idea my way!


"Provocative Paranoia" of 2.0 Pays Off In Spades

No doubt, blogging has become the standalone tool for up-and-coming journalists and media critics to jumpstart their careers by blazing a trail online. Because of this, the blogosphere is thriving as a vibrant and dynamic patchwork of media musings, observation, and news analysis.

The spectrum rolls wide: There's incisive commentary, vapid criticism, innovative writing, false reporting, nuanced gossiping, quirky news gathering, and more, much of which has the ability to disseminate at brushfire speed. It’s information democracy.

Still, many an old media partisan holds a staunch fealty to the tenants of a journalism that is no longer, discrediting the merits of online with off-putting, chip-on-the-shoulder contempt.

Which is why I was elated to read mediabistro's interview of John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist. After some interesting insights, Micklethwait buoyantly announces that, as opposed to other newsweeklies which have been blindsided by the advent of online, The Economist has actually fared quite well with the rising tide of digital. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say:

“We remain provocatively paranoid about the Internet; you have to be thinking of ways in which you can deal with it. When I first came on I thought of the Internet as this sort of hurricane coming right towards us that had already hit newspapers and now would come to magazines, which were further ashore. But now it seems to be sort of glancing magazines, rather than hitting directly. It's not true for all magazines -- there are some that have been hit quite badly -- but the sort of thing that we're doing at the moment seems to be helping us rather than hurting us, because it's putting so much more information out there.”

In seven years, as the explosion of Web 2.0 has caused many a print publication to tumble, The Economist has managed to increase magazine sales by 107 percent—all thanks to an aggressive (if belated) courting of the digital space.

This sends a powerful message to old media advocates, one that many Internets have been toting with aplomb for a long time now: Embrace digital, or face an agonizing death... Yes?


Kids, There's a Killer in Your Midst

Here’s a post on Consumerist I think is all kinds of awesome. It turns out that a German Christmas advent calendar designed for kids, just released by the city of Hanover, features a cartoon depiction of… guess what… A serial killer!

That’s him above inside the yellow circle. He's lurking behind the tree, ominously looking around for potential victims amongst the chirpy families playing about. What's that in his hand? A butcher’s knife! And this bloodthirsty sadist has a name: Fritz Haarmann.

The calendar is currently for sale at major bookstores across northern Germany. And Hans Nolte, Director of the Tourism Board of the City of Hanover, is all about the serial killer, it turns out. “He’s part of our history,” he boasts.

Love it. No Holiday calendar would be complete without some sort of allusion to kid-happy blood splatter. Not surprisingly, no matter how many vexed and concerned citizens belt out in disbelief, most seem to be eating it up.

“People are cueing up to buy the calendar now,” notes Nolte. I want one too, and I don’t even live in Germany. “It’s like a twisted Where’s Waldo. I like it,” a Consumerist reader opines. LOL. It really does look like Where’s Waldo. It’s the artwork, no? Talk about postmodern irony.

According to Reuters, Fritz Haarmann, who murdered more than 20 people in the 1920s, including kids, is only one of 23 local historical figures in northern Germany that are portrayed in the calendar. Other notables include band members from the 80’s heavy metal hair band The Scorpions. I suppose the calendar is meant to teach kids about history and instill regional pride?

It’s quite the dicey proposition. There's something definitely very Simpsonesque about it, wouldn't you agree? And there's nothing like having a murderer up on your kid’s wall to really capture that Christmas spirit. I hope next year they sprinkle the calendar with hard-to-find cartoons of other famous serial killers, like Jack the Ripper maybe, or that busted chick from Monster. I know they’re not from Germany, but whatevz. Thoughts?


Television News Rolls Way Off the Tracks

I was watching CNN last night for the first time in about four months, thinking about how much I used to enjoy television before the digital space seduced me oh-so-deliciously, when I realized just how dorky the anchors on this cable news network really are.

I know most people have beef with the in-your-face attitude of the Fox News correspondents, but at least it seems like they have something important to say, and they’re not two-faced about their political slant. The delivery of the CNN folks just doesn’t cut it for me; it comes off as hypocritical. And the news! It’s a joke.

I was actually plugging away at my laptop and wasn't particularly interested at what was coming from the screen last night, but I did manage to capture a little of the awkward banter that was exchanged so profusely by the talking heads during Anderson Cooper 360.

There was some chitchat about a high-priced hybrid cat for sale in California (okay...), and then the show ended with the silver-haired anchor urging users to send in v-mails, because at CCN, they not only like to read our opinions, they love seeing us, too. How Web 2.0. Whatever. This could have passed for innovative like 5 years ago, maybe.

Then it was time for Larry King Live. Ok, I’ll stay tuned, I thought. I was too busy crafting an e-mail to change the channel. To my utter dismay, the guest was “CNN’s own” Lou Dobbs. Snap.

I need to call a time out here and let you guys know how much I hate this guy. He’s been the bête noire of television news for the past few years, at least for me. I try never to watch his show; it’s bad for my liver. I find him a doughy, thinly-veiled bigot--a man who claims to stand for “American” ideals of days gone by, or of days that never were. He spews gruff condescension and touts an inward-looking, nationalistic doctrine that irresponsibly dismisses the powerful forces currently shaping the world that he so blindly decries. And, he had the audacity to proclaim that his viewers never disagree with him. Right.

Television news is blowing chunks at epic proportions. Lou Dobbs can bite it, for all I care. My last hope for television news was CNN, but now I realize that even this network has become too self-serving for its own good. It’s no longer about news—it’s about self-promotion, ego pandering, and needless filler. Maybe I’ll try BBC News next time. Which is when I decided: No one’s forcing me to watch this. Time to turn it off.

I went for the remote and quickly zapped away the noise coming from my TV, and then contentedly dived back online.


Can Civil Oppression Offer Up a Dash of Sexy?

Saucy women's gossip blog Jezebel has decided take on a very pressing issue by crafting a morally weird online poll that throws religion, politics, and gossip into fever pitch. Let's honor this nutty poll and take some time to ponder: Just who, exactly, are hotter—the Bhuddist monks in Burma calling for an end to the ruling military junta, or the scruffy lawyers in Pakistan protesting in favor of democratic institutions?

How to decide? It is quite the predicament for many an informed Internet opinionator. The results currently register a statistical dead-heat. I’m trying to drum up some support for the lawyers myself. Shaved heads on peace-loving monks? Not so much. Middle-class Muslim intelligentsia rallying against an oppressive dictatorship fueled by hyper-religious zeal? Way sexier. Let’s make sure these guys come out on top!

At first, I was a little taken aback by this ridiculous, in-a-thousand-ways objectionable poll. I mean, c'mon, these people are suffering! But after giving the post a once-over, I couldn’t stop laughing. And I voted. Twice. It’s the kind of proposition that’s so offensive, it’s not at all. In some ways, it's actually sympathetic to the plight of these democracy-clamoring revolutionaries.

Here’s how I figure: I’m pretty sure the average Jezebel reader simply doesn’t care what goes on in those far-off parts of the world. With this post, Jezebel manages to pique reader interest in two salient, violence-fueled crisis situations that are escalating as you read this, and does so with a solid dose of tongue-in-cheek humor.

I know, I know, it’s unsavory, insensitive and superficial to create a poll asking which group of oppressed yet “fine-dressed men in Asia” is hotter. But Jezebel makes a good point: As a rule of thumb, what gets more girls, bald heads or shaggy beards?


Creative Spotlight: Oregon Trail Reloaded

Here’s an online experience I’m elated to endorse: Check out Thule Road Trip! If you ever played Oregon Trail on Apple II--and I’m sure at least a handful of you did--you’ll be overflowing with excitement at the thought of an all-new Web-based game, brought to you by Thule Sweden, that plays just like the original. As a digital marketing campaign aiming for higher consumer awareness, this game is right on the money.

Thule Road Trip, accessible on the Thule homepage, recaptures the spirit of Oregon Trail and the American Western Expansion with 4-bit programming, clunky graphics and choice-led gaming, and then infuses the pioneering experience with some modern-day Manifest Destiny.

What was once a desperate plight to stay alive before reaching the promised lands of Oregon is now a postmodern party-on-wheels experience that threatens to end too quickly if you can’t keep your passengers entertained or your car tuned and on the go. It's standout creative and impressive execution rolled into a can't-miss experience for retro gamers and cool hunters alike.

Remember the embattled oxen, the cholera-prone companions, and the ease with which a broken hand or leg could bring about sudden death on the Oregon Trail? Now, you can run out of fresh CDs to play, blow a tire or two, read through all your magazines too quickly, or even have your passengers freak out and give each other purple nurples. And don’t burn all your money! If you get pulled over for speeding and can’t cough up enough dough for the ticket, it’s game over, roadie.

As a manufacturer of car rack systems, RV accessories, and vehicle spare parts, Thule has really hit the nail on the marketing head with Thule Road Trip. Not only does the branded game offer a solid dose of digital nostalgia, it also celebrates the great outdoors and the thrill of automotive. It’s creative concepting at its best, no doubt. Play the game, have some online fun, and let me know if you make it all the way to Santa Barbara!


Pop! Goes the World (Wide Web)

I love the media because it’s at a frenzy: It brims with postmodern delights, and provides at once disarming and unsettling experiences. It dispatches a myriad of visual and auditory episodes at a constant, rapid-fire rate, forcing even the most jaded introvert to wield at least a dash of pop-culture literacy.

The vortex of media today lies online. The Internet is where television, movies, literature, advertising and art all come together, and as such, digital powers up pop culture in ways unprecedented. It both defines and lends pop media (historical?) significance; what was once a trackless waste of disjointed and oftentimes creatively tone deaf cultural concoctions is now the stuff of online analysis, legend and sticky speculation.

Flummery to some perhaps, saddled with meaning and humor for others, pop culture as captured by online is a dynamic, circuitous, and trashy-chic phenomenon that reflects the absurdity and fleetingness of the human condition. Thanks to digital, it is beginning to take on unexpected importance in business, art, and even architecture, as well as in the day-to-day lives of many online professionals.

From comprehensive sites like Cracked.com offering up pop cultural fare such as assessments on the “15 Most (Painfully) Unforgettable Cartoon Theme Songs” and a rundown of the “7 Most Easily Escapable Movie Monsters,” to ezines like PopMatters, “an international magazine of cultural criticism” where literary condescension is par for the course, online is now where pop culture takes its shape.

There’s no denying it. In the catchy words of Men Without Hats, “pop! goes the world.” And my heart. What about yours?


Let’s Love on the Wooden-Leg Goats

Here’s a post that’s not at all salacious, hair-raising, or meaning-laden. Just as I promised, I’ve decided to spill a bit amount of blog ink on… yes… farm animals! Not ponies though. I’ve taken a scant amount of creative license here and departed from my earlier commitment to talk about gimp horses to revel in something way better: fainting goats! Yes, that’s right. Fainting goats.

They don’t really faint at all though. They’re actually called myotonic goats. They’re all the rage in some parts of online, and for good reason. When they get excited, their muscles stiffen up, causing them to topple over like dominoes. Petrificus totalus!

In a world where no one bats an eye at the latest news of massacres or bombs or flash floods, these guys are making quite a splash, garnering their fair amount of much-deserved attention. Why? Check out this clip and see for yourself. It’s hilarious.

It sure beats looking at Britney Spears in a hot pink-purple tigress costume. Ew. I’ll take fainting goats over Hollywood trainwrecks-on-a-suicide-mission any day.

So how else can I spruce of this post? How about videos of plucky cats and their crazy antics? They’re straight-up super cheesy, but they still amuse. If it’s not your cup ‘o tea, well, we can just stick to the fainting goats. What do you think?