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Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category

To those of you blaming tryptophan for your Monday morning lag,

Tomorrow, December 1, marks World AIDS Day, which seems like a good moment to point to some online resources about the history of the illness, its impact, and the art and activisim it inspired.

The Carpenter Center here at Harvard has organized an extraordinary exhibit on the art of ACT UP (that’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) that runs until December 23. For those outside the Cambridge area, you can see many of the powerfully confrontational posters, stickers, and postcards designed by ACT UP artist group Gran Fury online at the New York Public Library.

The Carpenter Center exhibit also includes hours and hours of testimonies from the ACT UP Oral History Project, but you can also visit their site to view excerpts and complete transcripts. Interviewees include ACT UP founder Larry Kramer, journalist Michelangelo Signorile, filmmaker Tom Kalin, and NYC artist Peter Cramer.

For a sense of how AIDS was covered by the mainstream press, check out this 1983 cover story from New York magazine, and this 1985 Time article, which hit the stands shortly after Rock Hudson’s death.

For a more visceral sense of how the queer community itself experienced the frightening and devastating spread of AIDS, I recommend watching Bill Sherwood’s astonishing and unsentimental 1986 film Parting Glances, starring a young Steve Buscemi, available for instant viewing on Netflix.

Even in the 1980s, of course, AIDS was on its way to becoming a worldwide epidemic. UCLA’s AIDS Posters collection includes health advisories from Japan (on the left) to Uganda (on the right).

For the record, at last count, the World Health Organization estimates that 33.4 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen

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To students seldom awake before ten,

Like many scholars, I’ve relied on coffee as a lifeline for most of my academic career. By senior year of high school, I was already bringing a plastic mug full of instant Maxwell House (terrible, I know) to class. In college, I even considered footnoting the local convenience store in a freshman year philosophy paper, since I owed their machine-made vanilla lattes at least as much as Kant.

My thoughts turned to coffee this week after reading a great paper-in-progress by a fellow graduate student here at Harvard. Still I wondered, where was the history of coffee on the web? Look no further than the Victorian trade card collection at Miami University in Ohio . Trade cards became popular in nineteenth century America, as a way of advertising products from soap to lawnmowers (to learn more, check out the Baker Library’s online exhibit). In the example below, Uncle Sam himself endorses one brand. The back of the card features these inspiring verses, “Take this from me my people dear / If you’d keep war away/and fill the land with peace and cheer / Do just what I shall say: / I know a beverage full of charm, / there’s magic in the cup. / To cure all ills, to keep from harm, / Drink when you dine or sup.” Sorry, Anglophiles, your Earl Grey tea won’t help you escape the traumas of sickness and strife!Other cards, while produced by coffee companies, didn’t bother to picture the product itself. Arbuckle Brothers, for instance, came up with a number of collectible series, including “sports and pastimes of all nations.”  Check out the gentlemen athletes in the image below, and the coffee instructions on the reverse.

For more coffee-related trade cards, click here. And for yet more cards of all types, check out the collections at the Brooklyn Public Library and University of Iowa.

To see where coffee advertising would go a few decades later, surf over to the always remarkable Prelinger Archives. You’ll quickly discover the theme in these Folgers ads from the 1960s: make a better cup of coffee for your husband, or he’ll be back “at the office” faster than Mad Men‘s debonair Don Draper.  Click on the images below to watch.

Yours perkily,

Stephen

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To my fellow homebodies,

If you, like me, have found yourself reluctantly addicted to FOX’s high school dramedy Glee, then you know that this week’s episode shined its bemused spotlight the show’s wheelchair-riding, background singing Artie Abrams. The character has raised the ire of some disability advocates because he’s played by a nondisabled actor. But what strikes me as far more egregious than the casting is the degree of misguided, even degrading sympathy the episode points Artie’s way. When the glee club hesitates to help raise money for a bus that could accommodate Artie’s wheelchair, the director insists the students “learn a lesson” by using wheelchairs for at least three hours a day, you know, so they can understand what it’s “really” like to be disabled.

artie

This violence of viewing the disabled as “weaker” or “afflicted” is one of the central critiques of the emerging discipline of disability studies. The highlight of the episode, for me anyway, was an early sequence where Artie wheels around the high school singing Billy Idol’s “Dancin’ With Myself.” (Watch the clip for yourself here.) What makes the scene so surprisingly sublime is the way the boundary between body and apparatus blur, much in the way Petra Kuppers describes in her wonderful essay, “The Wheelchair’s Rhetoric” (you can download it here, with the kind permission of Professor Kuppers.) Artie’s joyful ability to dance within and with his wheelchair (thanks in part to stunt double and wheelchair athlete Aaron Fotheringham) begins to expose the pernicious norms inherent in the very term “disabled” and re-cast Artie as an artist, much more so than the wheelchair minstrelsy that ends the episode.

All of which I say by way of introducing a valuable resource for the digitally-inclined: The Disability History Museum. The archive includes both documents and images, like the 1933 advertisement below.

You can also read an 1863 article from Scientific American, The Great Lilliputian Wedding,” noting the marriage of the performing pair Charles S. Stratton, a.k.a. “General Tom Thumb,” and Lavinia Warren. As the author dimly advocates, “It is generally admitted, we believe, that these little people have as good a right to marry as the larger folks.”

And be sure to check out this videography of physical disabilities on film from the 1920 silent The Penalty (watch an excerpt here) to 2007’s Diving Bell and the Butterfly. And for a more political take, listen to the oral histories collected at UC Berkeley’s Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement site.

Until next time.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen

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Dear holiday lovers,

Growing up, I definitely didn’t take Veterans’ Day very seriously, except as a reason to sleep in. There were only two people in my family who ever saw a battle front—my Bronx-reared great-uncle, who was a paratrooper in the Pacific, and my Czech grandfather, who fought with the Russian army against the Nazis. The first died when I was five, and the other seldom spoke about his past. My mother, meanwhile, forbid my brother and me from playing with G.I. Joe action figures or even waterguns. So the military was pretty far from my mind as a child.

Since 2001, of course, it’s been fairly hard not to think about the military on a regular basis, whether you have a personal connection or not. And surely Veteran’s Day takes on a new meaning at a moment when America is waging war on two fronts. For today, then, I wanted to point you, dear readers, to the American Folklife Center’s (alas, not easy to navigate) Veterans History Project, which includes literally thousands of audio and video interviews with veterans from World War I to those of our present day. The 185 interviews with men and women back from Iraq and Afghanistan include soldiers such as Specialist Rosetta Tywanna Rainge Floyd from Oklahoma City; Specialist Bradley Keith Oxford from North Carolina; and Staff Sergeant Shawn Russell Stenberg, who shared the photograph below.

At the risk of sounding a cynical note on Veterans’ Day, I also feel compelled to point out a few of the commercials (and promises) that the Army has used to find new recruits. For one, check out this ad from the Reagan Era, complete with a rock song from what sounds like a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, “’cause freedom isn’t free.” Also, does anyone else vaguely remember this “Be All That You Can Be” ad from 1986? And just to round things out, here’s one from the recent Army Strong campaign. It’s nice to know that their production values have gone up, even if their recruitment standards have gone down. Who needs all those gay Arabic translators anyway?

Patriotically yours,

Stephen

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Dear reluctant researchers,

As you ponder the results of yesterday’s elections, I thought you might appreciate a visit from the ghosts of political campaigns past. No, I haven’t summoned the spirit of Fiorello Laguardia again. But I have uncovered a fascinating archive from the Museum of the Moving Image: “The Living Room Candidate,” which includes over 300 campaign commercials from the 1950s to the present.

My favorite  of these has to be this jaunty Eisenhower ad from 1952, animated by Disney. As the everymen and women sing, “You like Ike, I like Ike,/
Everybody likes Ike—for president./ Hang out the banners, beat the drums,/ We’ll take Ike to Washington.” Unfortunately, the elephant beating the drum could not vote himself.

Ike for President

Conveniently you can also browse the ads by genre, including my favorite, the always effective “fear.” Some of you out there may remember this charming Lyndon Johnson commercial from 1964, which managed to impress on a nation still reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy the imminent danger of nuclear attack. Your daisy won’t help you now, little girl.

Daisy

And if you only have a few minutes, check out the curator’s choice gallery, including this seventies-tastic bio of Jimmy Carter. Though you could be forgiven for thinking the opening music and visuals were introducing a new Laverne-and-Shirley-inspired sitcom, “Jimmy and Walt!” doing it their way.

Jimmy Carter bio

Oh, hell, just one more. How about this disgustingly sentimental ad for George Bush, Senior?

George HW Bush

George HW Bush 2

Is it just me, or are they re-enacting the lobster scene from Annie Hall on the right?

Democratically yours,

Stephen

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Dear La-Z-Boy loungers,

I don’t know about you, but I vastly preferred board games as a child over the more dangerous (and potentially embarrassing) pursuits of the athletics field.  Still I can’t help but think all of those hours spent on the living room rug must have prepared me in some way for adulthood. “Monopoly” taught me about finance; “Sorry” introduced me to the art of passive-aggressive apologies; “Candyland” revealed the dangers of psychotropic drugs; “The Game of Life,” taught me about forming a heterosexual family—not that I’ve followed all of their instructions.

Fat Boy's GameIf that leaves you wondering about the history of board games past, try digging through the rich archives of Life magazine, now available (and searchable by keyword) on Google Books. In 1970, the great glossy pointed readers towards some socially conscious board games perfect for readers of the Moynihan Report. In “Black and White,” for instance, every “black” player starts off with $10,000, and every “white” player starts out with a cool million. How’s that for disparity! And in the classroom-friendly “Ghetto,” your kids can learn what it’s like to live as a “typical slum dweller.”

Or why not commemorate the Civil War with a board game specially designed for Life. In “1863,” “everyone gets a chance to fight it over again. ”

Doll for Black GirlsAnd last but not least, some diversions from Parker Brothers. Sure, you can still find “Clue,” but what about “Fat Boy’s Game,” perfect for Christmas 1951! Read more about it, and the bestseller on which it was based here, courtesy of the blog “Isn’t Life Terrible?” (From the same Life issue, don’t miss the article, “Doll For Negro Children,” across from a cigarette ad with the tagline “Discriminating People Prefer…”).

That’s all for today, dear readers! Until next time.

Yours in indoor entertainment,

Stephen

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Dear snooze-button specialists,

Eating may be one of the more delightful ways to delay work. People who don’t spend their lives in libraries and classrooms for a living might, in fact, be surprised at how many lunches, teatimes, coffee breaks, iced coffee breaks, brownie breaks, suppers, dinners, desserts, and happy hours you can fit into a single day—not to mention those golden moments when you discover free leftovers from a talk or workshop you didn’t attend.

SupergoopOf course, eating well requires work all its own. Thankfully, the A.V. Geeks have posted countless classic (and by classic, I mean truly awful) educational films on their website, including several specifically related to food. Like the Prelinger Archive, the A.V. Geeks specialize in ephemeral films, though their collection weighs a little more heavily towards the 1960s and 1970s (Duke has them to thank for digitizing their Ad Views archive). Many of their films are also available for purchase on DVD, which may explain why the site is so poorly indexed.

Nonetheless, for the devoted delinquent like myself, a quick scan for films of the 1970s reveals such gems as “Soopergoop,” where an animated cat reveals the manipulative techniques of advertising execs looking to sell a new cereal. Or there’s “Munchers: A Fable,” a claymation pic about tooth decay with a psychedelic soundtrack and a black devil named “Jack Sweet.”

BarbecueSpeaking of psychedelic, don’t miss the kids getting down in “Story of a Peanut Butter Sandwich.” And last but not least, there’s a public service announcement about “National Barbecue Month,” where a bunch of teens in cowboy hats learn the joys of a well-cooked steak.

Onto the day! Isn’t it lunchtime yet?

Hungrily yours,

Stephen

P.S. I couldn’t resist highlighting one more video: Believe it or not, my health teacher in eighth grade actually showed us this frightening 1979 film about male puberty, “Am I Normal?“—poorly timed erections and carefully coiffed hair included.

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