My Love/Hate Relationship With Commercials

Sex sells. Don’t try and tell me that those commercials with washboard-abs guys and beautiful bikini babes have never enticed you even a little bit—we’re wired to appreciate those people. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. What irks me is that sex often enough has nothing to do with what’s being sold.

“Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, Chickadoodle!” you might be saying. “You admit to loving those Isaiah Mustafa Old Spice commercials, and yet, you say that you dislike ‘sex sells’ commercials! You’re a hypocrite!”

Well, let’s think about that, for a minute. First, yes, Isaiah Mustafa is sexy. But part of the point of Old Spice is to be good-smelling, and thus, in one way or another, attractive. At least the guy’s advertising what he’s selling! Second, and probably a bit more importantly, those entire commercials are Mustafa making an absolutely hilarious parody of how sex is meant to sell! Nobody actually expects Old Spice to turn you into Isaiah Mustafa, or whoever you think is the most irresistible guy on the face of this planet! And while a lot of commercials try to play on that, they so often miss the point exactly by throwing someone (often enough the opposite sex, considering how very little LGBTQ people are represented at all, let alone accurately, in pop culture, but that’s another post entirely) at this incredibly attractive person that it veers straight out of lampooning and back into “Oh God, if only…”

I don’t like commercials that feature men running around in underwear for no other reason than to scream “SEXY!!!!!” I don’t like commercials with scantily clad women waving flags or gesturing at this TV for no other reason than that putting a pretty woman next to something somehow raises the attraction factor of the object itself. It boggles the mind: how does a sexy human increase the appeal of the TV? Are we supposed to want to have relations with the TV? Are we supposed to anthropomorphize the TV? The TV does not come with a sexy woman to gesture at it, so what’s the point? Someone help me out, here!

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I love the Toyota Rav4 genie commercial. You’re conditioned to think she’ll be an incredibly sexy slip of a thing, but nope—she’s an average woman in a purple suit with a Chihuahua and sometimes, she gets things wrong.)

But sex is only part of my gripe. I just don’t like commercials that have nothing even peripherally to do with what they’re trying to sell. The Geico commercials about “X was expensive, so Y” do push it, even though I like them, but the vast majority of commercials I like are clever in how they sell their products without veering off into la-la land. Allstate mayhem commercials, for example, are things that do happen; just presented humorously. I just want to know why I should buy something, and “our commercials are funny” doesn’t count; it only proves that you have creative people on your advertising team. Back it up with experiments! Back it up with facts! Yes, those are a little more difficult to make entertaining, but I just don’t buy things that I can’t see some sort of lasting value in.

I know I’m not the only one who buys like this, but there must be a market for these commercials, and they must be successful—how would they still work, otherwise? I just don’t want a desperate bid for my attention. I want products that work. Maybe you should invest that ad money in working products, instead.

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Good bye, my friend

On Sunday, I said good bye to a dear friend of mine of four years. We’d had our ups and downs, and even a trial separation or two, but we’d gotten through a lot.

Okay, I’m dropping the act—my laptop died. Well, not “died”, exactly.

It had shut down just fine, with the last update having been a day or two prior, so I thought I was in the clear. But when I started it up to work on homework (because what better option do I have on a Friday night?), it got about half way through booting up, and then suddenly, a blue screen of death. It flashed for less than a second, then my computer displayed a message telling me that Windows had failed to start. Well, no duh. I opted to try startup repair, while I surfed the internet on my phone to tell me more about what was going on.

Two system restores and more than two bad words later, I was exactly where I had started, albeit with a slightly more informative diagnosis than “blue screen on startup”. I borrowed my roommate’s boyfriend’s Windows Vista recovery disk, in the hopes that maybe I could do a fresh install of Vista (the OS my computer had started with—it was switched to 7 about eighteen months ago the first time something like this happened), but to no avail. I was wondering what to do now.

I texted a friend (and, not coincidentally, neighbor) who works in IT, to see if he had any suggestions. His was to drop it off with him for a diagnosis and a quick attempt at repair, which I was okay with, but that still left me computer-less, and for a computer science major with project deadlines looming, this is a very bad thing. The boyfriend offered me the use of his netbook, which would be just fine for my purposes—I didn’t need anything particularly high-powered at the moment. The IT friend came by a bit later and offered me the use of a full-sized laptop he wasn’t using at all (whereas the boyfriend would likely need his netbook for homework at some point in the near future), as well as the happy news that he had been able to recover the contents of my hard drive, which I was going to need in any case.

I spent the next day alternating between checking in on and just plain babysitting my laptop once the IT friend got a fresh install of Windows 7 running on it, and while it now functions, it was very much agreed upon by all involved that, given 3 breakdowns in 18 months, I needed a new laptop if I wanted any sort of guarantee that I could get through the year without another bust.

I had been shopping laptops already in the event that repairs didn’t work out, so I popped out to BestBuy the next day and grabbed what reviews had indicated was the most reliable and useful laptop I could get for a decent price. About eight hours later, I had everything installed on it, and all my files where they belonged.

However, there is still a bit of a learning curve, as this is machine runs Windows 8. It’s not bad—the basics were easy enough to figure out. I just don’t particularly like its design. It is not for keyboard-and-mouse setups, no matter what anyone tells you. It is pretty good for touchscreen devices, but not all of the gestures are intuitive, and they’re easy to do on accident. I just want my start menu back—is that so much to ask?

I suppose, given that I went from a not-working to unreliable laptop, and then to a working and reliable laptop, it might just be.

*sigh*…

(Methinks I may install Windows 7 on here, anyway. Just because I can.)

Just because I’m X doesn’t mean I Y or can’t Z

I don’t know why I remembered this recently, but I did, and… snowball.

In high school, I worked at an after-school childcare program. My boss had run the program since I was three, and she’d watched me grow up, so I was kind of grandfathered in. (That’s not to say I was bad at it—it’s how I got a lot of stable babysitting jobs.) Her son, who was about ten years my senior, also worked there. He was fairly nice, but a little quiet. No. This is not going where you think it is. In fact, it’s about to go exactly the opposite.

A few days after I turned 18, I was talking about the low-key party I’d had (hanging out on the beach with friends and then scarfing down a neon pink and green cake at my house), and the first thing out of this guy’s mouth was: “You’re 18? Now you can model as a centerfold!”

It took me a second to realize what he’d said. During that time, he got a pretty good dressing-down by his mom. I think most of that was motivated by me being a “good” girl who would not in a million years pose for Playboy. “Good” is, of course, a subjective term, but whether or not I am, I’d never pose. Just not something I ever want to do. Given my body type, I doubt they’d have me, anyway. So, everyone’s happy there.

But really, is that the first thing people think when they hear someone’s turning 18? Yeah, there are a lot of “legal adult” things that being 18 entails, but why zero in on objectifying women? I suspect the guy was joking, but why not joke about cigarettes or how I don’t know how the election system works and I’d probably just write myself in for every slot? None of these are things I’d do, so I guess that sort of puts them on fair ground, and I guess it could be considered a compliment if he really thought I’d pose. But then, it’s also a huge knock if it’s “Hurr hurr… You’re such a fatty and they’d never use you.” (I was quite overweight at that point, so this is not outside the realm of possibility.)

I’m probably making far more out of this than he ever meant. It was probably just a harmless joke, but it still rankles a little. It’s an implication that that’s what I’m there for: to be looked at and enjoyed. Like my brain is suddenly of no use to me unless I’m thinking how to do some sort of sexy pose (which I’d be horrible at), or put on makeup (which I rarely wear), or how tight/high my skirt should be (not a fan of micro-minis, but that’s just me).

Let me be clear: the girls who choose to model for Playboy aren’t doing anything wrong in my eyes. As long as it’s their choice, and as long as they’re okay with it, that’s fine. I don’t think I’m better than them—I just don’t want to be known as a sex object. But I can’t say that other women shouldn’t—I can’t make that choice for them. What I can say is that it’s not flattering to every woman to be looked at like that, so think before you objectify. If you think someone is hot, great! But there’s a time and a place to express that.

This guy’s friend, who also worked there for a year, was even worse. He was clearly misogynistic, and I got into verbal fights with him more than once about what girls can and can’t do. Apparently, for no other reason than that I’m female, he believed (and probably still does) that I didn’t know how to jump a dead car battery. I could do this at the age of ten. It’s not hard at all. A car battery is pretty obvious, and it’s even color-coded for your convenience! I’ve had to teach others (mostly women, but also a guy or two) how to do it, and every single person has had no trouble with it. (As a side note, I can also change a car’s tires and oil, and each of these was met with equal disbelief. What’s next? I can’t pump gas?)

It’s hard to define a line in these cases. What’s okay to assume, and what isn’t? Well, ideally, we wouldn’t make assumptions at all. But, because we do, there’s gotta be some line separating appropriate from inappropriate. For instance, you generally don’t walk up to a stranger on the street and tell them you want them in your bed five minutes ago. You also wouldn’t assume a woman knows how to cook, or that any man can change the oil on your car. Not everyone knows everything—I hope that’s obvious—and not everyone knows what people of their gender are “supposed” to know. Honestly, I have no idea how one applies eyeliner. I’ve seen it done. I get the theory. But I can’t actually do it. I am also not incredibly good at sewing, and God forbid I need to use a sewing machine. Um, halp?

Of course, a lot of people know things that their gender “isn’t supposed” to know. I know my way around cars. I know guys who are good at braiding hair and cooking and cleaning. There are men out there who *GASP!* teach elementary school.

This world we live in can’t be defined by strict gender roles. Yes, only biological women can carry and birth babies, and it takes one of each biological gender to make a baby. And that’s about it. Women can program, men can be nurses, and we can all just get along. Women aren’t property or objects—they’re allowed the same desires as men, including the desire to just be left alone sometimes. I’m probably preaching to the proverbial choir, here, but if that’s the case, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

To Those Who Defy Fate, Glory

I will openly admit to anyone who asks that I watch anime. I usually get one of two reactions when I do this:

“Aren’t cartoons just for kids?” Well, no—unless the Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and oh, let me think here… South Park are for kids, too.

“Isn’t that porn?” Oh, it definitely has a subset of NC-17 material. From what I’ve heard, I’m glad it’s not something that’s piqued my curiosity. But no, not all of it—not by a long shot.

Anime (and its comic-book counterpart, manga) span just as many genres as does your average library. Heck, I’m sure that for any book you could find in, say, Powell’s, you could find something on that same subject handled the same way in an anime or manga.

I happen to be attracted to a certain subset—the subset about how life goes on, even as it changes. Considering that I got into this whole scene as a teenager, this is pretty unsurprising. From the school-days stories of Fruits Basket and ToraDora! to the mystery of Spiral, from the adventures of FullMetal Alchemist and the political intrigue of Saiunkoku Monogatari to the… somewhat genre-defying but probably overall magical girl Princess Tutu, one thing has stayed constant: dealing with change.

I won’t bore you here with a billion different summaries of all the amazing things I’ve read and watched, though I highly recommend each of those and more, for what that’s worth. Instead, I’ll head straight to the heart of the matter.

As I’ve said before, I’d like to think I’m adaptable, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a big picture person, and so, big changes cause me great anxiety. I have a pretty nasty fear of the unknown, and when I try to conquer it all at once (my MO), it usually gets the best of me. Even so, things usually turn out fine, but my experience would be so much better if I could just relax and take life one thing at a time.

This hasn’t stopped me from forging on, of course. Through moving past (thankfully fairly minor and infrequent) middle-school bullying through the hormone-addled confusion of high school and onto college, where I’m supposed to have figured out my whole life, or so it seems, no matter the setbacks I’ve encountered, I’ve soldiered on because I’m just horrible at giving up. When I get sad or fearful, my first instinct is to get angry. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It gives me the courage to keep going; to do what needs to be done.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty low, so I sat down to watch some Princess Tutu and just have a good sob-fest. After all, it’s good to just let it all out every once in a while. But no, even though this is a magical girl anime with a horribly bittersweet ending that has me reaching for my tissues every damn time, it does have a bit of grit to it; a bit of that fighting spirit. At one point (and repeated again later as an echo), the puppet Edel says this: “May those who accept their fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.”

It’s an interesting little quote. The second part makes a whole lot of sense. We’re the heroes of our own stories, after all—why shouldn’t we fight what we might see as fate? And why shouldn’t we come out better than ever? When I can, I take that tack in life.

However, the first part is a poignant reminder that even when we have to accept things as they are, we can be happy. It’s all a state of mind, after all. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever be sad. Grief and sorrow are completely natural, but we can’t let them rule our lives. At the risk of sounding self-important, I am going to include my own flowery quote from a fanfic I wrote a little under three years ago:

 “Why does the rain have to fall?”

 “So that when we see the sun shine again, when we feel its warmth, we realize just how much we take it for granted, and we are all the more grateful for its presence.”

Yes, it is horribly romantic—this was part of a romance because I’m a not-so-closeted romantic and I like my fluffy happy endings. I refuse to apologize for it, though, because it’s the best way I can frame my point. There are good things and bad things and meh things in life, and through it all, we just have to keep going, because that’s what we do.

And some day, we’ll see the sun again.

I might not have all the answers, but I do have one

It’s said that one key to any successful relationship is having common interests. Of course, you don’t have to love or hate all the same things that the other person does. Disagreement is healthy, too. But some things, you just can’t sacrifice.

Before the boyfriend and I were together, our relationship basically consisted of, “You like to compost? So do I! We should get married!” I asked a friend for her blessing, there were witnesses—it was all quite serious (okay, seriously amusing) business. A similar thing happened with origami. And then, he asked me out, and we started focusing on the important things that were bringing us together.

Like bacon. (Well, it was another “you like/I like… MARRIAGE!” moment, at any rate.)

Suffice it to say, that has sort of become one of the taglines of our relationship. It mostly pertains to food (the song “Do You Like Waffles?” has been ruined forever), but it does extend into other arenas, as well. In a way, our silliness, itself, is a common interest, or rather, a common trait. We can be serious when we need to be, and we are, but it’s fun to imitate red pandas, and coo over bunnies, and make horrible puns. It’s fun to insist “because I’m a big, important computer scientist and I say so” when the playful argument at hand has absolutely nothing to do with computer science. It’s fun to be stunned into fits of laughter because I know my boyfriend is being ridiculous and I can’t think of anything else to say because I don’t understand what’s going on.

It’s not the only thing that keeps us together—not by a long shot—but when I think about it, it’s actually pretty important. Not only does it keep us happy, but it shows that we understand each other most of the time, and even when we don’t, it shows that we accept each other for who we are. That’s a pretty big thing, and it’s not always easy to do.

I won’t say that we have this whole relationship thing worked out. It’s a work in progress, and I suspect that in any relationship, it will always be to some degree. There’s always something that has yet to come to the surface. There’s always one more compromise to make. (He’s a night owl, I’m an early bird. He’s an introvert, I’m… an interesting case. He likes peas but not peppers, I like peppers but not peas.) But even then, it’s looking at what unites us, as opposed to what divides us. Call me crazy, but I think the world would be a better place if we all thought a little more like that.

Daily Prompt: Far From Normal

Six things about me that an outsider would be most likely to notice as different:

1) I rarely add to or subtract from the organized chaos that is my room. Even when I have plenty of room, there must always be some pile of something somewhere that looks messy, but has total rhyme and reason to it. I hate it when I do get something new or throw something out, because it means I have to re-organize my chaos and figure out where everything goes. I feel like I have a little bit of that ancient Egyptian horror vacui going on.

2) My left pinkie is broken in two places. (Or rather, I did break it in two places about 15 years ago while jumping on a bed. Lesson learned.) It never got set properly before it healed. As a result, it cracks if I curl it quickly. When I am agitated, I tend to clench a lot, so it makes its noise. A lot of the kids I babysat knew that if they heard that, they were in trouble.

3) (This one’s not so noticeable, but I don’t know if anyone else has the same experience.) Whenever I listen to music, I get a movie of sorts going through my head—random scenes; some real, some not, some connected, some not. Music just evokes imagery for me. (This is likely why I loved watching Fantasia so much as a kid.)

4) I will read when I am bored. It does not matter if I’ve read it before. It does not have to be interesting. It does not have to be very many words. I will read the back of team sweatshirts, the back of a shampoo bottle, a newspaper article I’ve already read; it does not matter. It keeps my mind from drifting too far. In that same vein, I often doodle when taking notes. I have found that when I don’t and I start to drift during classes, it’s hard to come back down. While doodling forces me to split my attention somewhat, it also makes me pay attention. A lot of people claim it can’t work, but I promise you, it does.

5) I walk the line between introverted and extroverted. I enjoy interacting with people, even when it saps my energy. I am often both excited about the idea of a party as much as I dread it, knowing that if it goes on too long without me getting some alone time, or time where I can just sit back and observe, I will crash and burn. I’ll still push myself to the edge, anyway.

6) I will often ask “why”. I am very, very curious about my surroundings, especially when I’ve never encountered something before. (There was a period of time when I was very, very curious about the boyfriend’s hearing aids. Even now, if he has one or both out, I will occasionally study them.) I take particular interest in different cultures, but I will ask about just about anything.

I Don’t Toe a Party Line; So What?

I have a confession:

I am a left-leaning moderate.

I don’t particularly identify with any political party that I’m aware of, especially because my focuses and opinions shift depending on a) what I do or don’t know about an issue or person, and b) what the current issues are to begin with. I just can’t say “I’m a member of the _____ party”, though, because I’m not. I disagree with at least one major stance of every party I know of, and so I refuse to be tied down by an affiliation.

That’s not to say I don’t have my opinions on things, however. I know what I think about a lot of stuff, and I know how much it matters to me, for the most part. What really doesn’t matter to me, especially in election years, is how much the other guy sucks. If you can tie that into how you’re going to be better, by all means, back up your statements with facts. But I am sick and tired of hearing “He was born in Siberia” or “He said pink instead of salmon”—we’re all human. We were all born somewhere, and we all mis-speak sometimes.

Okay, yes, I get the whole born-in-U.S.-necessary-for-presidency thing. I’m just tired of all the muck-raking and the sensationalism. Fact-checking would be so much easier if people just stuck to the facts and didn’t freak out over every single little thing. It’s a lot to ask, I know, since sensationalism is what makes news, but wouldn’t it be great if stories weren’t blown out of proportion?

On that subject, how about making promises that a candidate can keep? Saying you’ll dig the country out of debt and end homelessness and hunger in 4 to 8 years is admirable, and I wish it could happen, but, the fact of the matter is, that’s next to impossible, and we all know it. Or rather, it’s impossible, given that repairing such atrocities take time. Change takes time—it’s never instantaneous.

Gridlock doesn’t help. I get that everyone’s priorities are different, but sacrifices must be made. And I’m not talking about heaping more of a burden on the middle and lower classes to remain on top; I really am talking about cutting spending and (and I know someone will say I ought to be shot for suggesting it) paying more in taxes. But come on—if it’s obvious we can’t keep up our current spending, we can either pray that God/Buddha/the Treasury Department will shower us with money (which will not solve the problem, and, in fact, will likely make it worse), or we can actually take action. It’s like the joke about the guy caught on the roof of his house during a flood who keeps on saying that God will save him when people offer to rescue him, asks why God didn’t when he perishes, and God says “I sent two boats and a helicopter; what more did you want?!”

Cutting the little things, won’t work, either. PBS, NPR, and the like are atoms that make up peanuts compared to what we spend on defense, let alone on big political gatherings and conferences. I understand that all this spending does keep a lot of people in work, but that money could, if properly used (oh, how sad it is that this is wishful thinking at best!) help bring others out of poverty so that they, too, could share in the burden while still making livable wages. I’m not saying that they should be indiscriminately given to—not in the least.

I believe in frequent drug testing in addition to any other check-ups required to receive welfare. I also believe in putting those who are unemployed to work that they are physically able to do to fix our crumbling infrastructure, and I believe that prisoners ought to be put to work doing the same, and not just given a (relatively) cushy cell to live in rent-free. (I’ve heard of too many people going back to jail simply because it’s easier than actually making the effort to live outside.) I believe in education about contraception so that our nation’s babies (and all women, for that matter) aren’t having babies they can’t afford.

Finally, (and this is the part I will be absolutely crucified for, I’m sure, but I’m as entitled to my opinion as you are to yours), again, I do believe in higher taxes if one can afford them until we get ourselves out of this mess. Not insanely much higher. But this gaping financial chasm we’ve got going has two parts to it, as I said, earlier: out of control spending, and not paying enough to make up for it. But we can’t raise taxes by an unfair amount, and we can’t completely cut spending, so, it seems some of both is in order. Now, as to what to cut… I honestly don’t know. I’m no expert. All I know is that cutting programs worth a few million each won’t do squat, especially if they provide good service.

Speaking of being crucified for my views, though, I’m also of the opinion that McCarthyism is still very much alive and screaming and pointing in the U.S. It’s not always to the communists; it’s just to everyone else who doesn’t believe exactly what a vocal minority does. I mean, at least 75% of the time, it seems like our foreign policy is this: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend… or needs to be nuked from orbit. Still not sure on a good day.”

The point is, none of this has worked out very well for us, so why do we just keep it up? It makes us like little children who give their parents alternating silent treatments and screaming fits until they get what they want. Well, we all have the right to vote, so why don’t we exercise that right and vote these brats out of office? (I am a firm believer in “Didn’t vote? Don’t complain.”) And why don’t we put actual effort into figuring out what REALLY works to keep food on the table and people off the streets and corruption out of our halls of politics?

Okay, yeah, I’m REALLY reaching on the last one, and probably the other two as well, but realism with a healthy dose of optimism often does the trick, I’ve found. Also, righteous fury in small doses.

In summation, a quote from JFK: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”