Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a documentary that connects with people in a visceral way. This gut-reaction to the film is achieved through the use of disturbing images (i.e. pigs being slaughtered on the killing floor), valuable insights from critics of the food industry, and demonstrations of alternative ways of producing food. Watching the documentary, I was reminded of something Upton Sinclair said after his book, The Jungle, had been released. Mainly, "I aimed for the public's heart, and by accident hit it in the stomach instead." Though Sinclair was aiming for the heart, the makers of Food, Inc. seem to have been successful in hitting both the heart and the stomach. The way I see it, the primary point of the film is to get people to think carefully about the ways they are consuming food.

The makers of Food, Inc. tried to include various points of view in the film, but most of the large corporations this film critiques refused to be interviewed and, hence, their voice was not heard. That said, though it seems like the creators of Food, Inc. attempted to strike somewhat of a balance of perspective with the film (authors are interviewed, personal stories are shared, alternative farming methods are unveiled), they are not subtle about having an agenda and I think they arrive at those benchmarks successfully. Along those lines, the way they went about achieving this balance seemed a bit formulaic. Documentaries released on a large-scale seem to have a recipe for success that contains specific ingredients. For example, since hearing from experts gets old after a while, documentary film-makers always seem to include a few heartfelt testimonials from everyday, American people. This is not to say these personal stories aren't real or touching; they usually are, but they are often presented in a calculated manner designed to evoke some sort of emotion from the audience. In the way documentaries are created, I'm not sure the makers of Food, Inc. bring anything new to the table.

I think this documentary did a nice job of empowering ordinary citizens to pay more attention to what they are eating. Though some of the clips and stories from Food, Inc. are incredibly disturbing, a thread of hope runs through the film. For instance, I remember someone saying that each person gets three votes a day (one for every meal) to affect the way food is produced in the world today. That meant something to me and I appreciate how the element of hope was captured in this film.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Powers That Be

First and foremost, I should mention that I currently do not have a dish setup, cable plan, or regular television channels. Hence, I am somewhat in the dark and, in some ways, I was unable to fully participate in the study for this week. That said, though not often, I have watched the news before and feel I am able to provide some commentary on what I've observed. The newscasters themselves interest me and I wonder what makes them do what they do. What's their motivation for sharing the news? For the longest time growing up, I thought the newscasters were the ones in charge of finding and delivering the news. More recently, I'm seeing them as pawns in the game instead.

The inflection of a newscaster seems to be one of concerned stability. In their voices, there always seems to be a hint of sincerity and yet they, the newscasters, present the news in a deadpan sort of way ("professional" would probably be the descriptive term they, the news station, would use to describe this aspect of broadcast). There is no crescendo to the broadcast and nothing visceral in its delivery. Transitions between news stories have been catching my eye as of late. From time to time, a brief, tragic story will be followed by news about a political campaign or something along those lines. There seems to be no connection, no trajectory between the stories. What is the purpose for them being next to each other in the broadcast? Is it to take the edge off, to maintain a public numbness through the avoidance of suffering?

The final 15 minutes, half of the entire broadcast is devoted to weather and sports. Granted, many are interested in both of these subjects, but they seem fickle and trivial in relation to some of the other stories skimmed over. In fact, it seems like a good deal of people watch the news so they can "catch" the weather or "find out about what happened with the game." The actual news stories seem to be of little interest.

As I prefer listening to my iPod when I'm in my car, I don't listen to the radio very often. If I do turn on the radio, I listen to MPR's The Current. Since I don't have any television channels for the time being, I haven't been tuning into anything as of late. I receive internet via Minneapolis Public Wifi and I'm not exactly sure what the source of that is. Though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, Yahoo! tend to be my online news source. Finding information about the ownership of Yahoo! was also tricky.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Improve Education & Help Students

Communication Objective

The idea behind this ad is to improve education and help students through the passing of health care reform. Health care reform would help accomplish this by finally allowing old teachers who lost interest in their craft long ago to retire under a reasonably priced health care plan.

Target Audience

I'm not precisely sure who this advertisement is geared toward. Educators. Politicians. Students. The American Public. All of them seem to fit in their own little way.


I chose to present this ad in the form of a comic including a picture of Lowell teachers from the 19th century.


There is no shortage of young teachers trying to find a teaching gig these days. In some ways, as an unemployed educator who desires to work with students, it is frustrating to not be working, while also having a hunch that there are a number of "ancient teachers" out there hanging onto their position, not because they continue to love what they do, but in order to maintain their health care benefits (I am embellishing here a bit). Something about this doesn't seem quite right and my hope was to get at this concept in a somewhat humorous and thoughtful way.

The Visual

I decided to use an old photograph as my visual. With the photograph, I chose to edit it via Comic Life in order to bring the concept behind the ad to the table. My idea for the visual is fairly simple and by no means overwhelming for the audience. Of course, if the visual I've created is to have any kind of impact, it requires people to read the comic (which I realize doesn't always happen). That is part of the risk behind the ad I developed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Table Manners

Hangover Cure

Twenty somethings seem to be the target audience of this advertisement. As the commercial repeatedly highlights, the steps to achieve a hangover cure are remarkable simple. In this case, one can either not drink at all (and, according to the images, be as lame as an old grandma or middle-aged milk-drinking woman) or one can simply take Chaser while you drink (and, consequently, your hangover will be avoided). With this commercial, in order to demonstrate the benefits of using Chaser, pictures of happy couples (which are presumably taken in the morning) are provided. In these pictures, the couples appear carefree and cheerful in every way. Clearly, using a product such as Chaser Freedom can only enhance the beauty of everyday life.

The underlying thread of this advertisement has to do with enjoying the perks of drinking alcohol without the consequences. The add is attempting to sell a product, Chaser Freedom, and I'm not really sure of its effectiveness. First and foremost, the integrity of the product is questionable, especially when the advertisement closes with the classic line "Please drink responsibly." Naturally, seeing as how the makers of this product depend on drinking irresponsibly, it's easy to question the sincerity of this remark. Second, as I experienced it, the ad is trying to be humorous, but only seems funny in an oxymoronic sense. The contradiction between the product and the final message of the advertisement is laughable.