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June 2007 Archives

June 1, 2007

Singularly Stupid

The changeover from Cingular Wireless to AT&T seems, to me, to be one of the worst thought-out, bungled marketing moves ever. First: AT&T’s most recent logo facelift is shockingly lame. I’m not sure which high school student won which design contest, but it looks like something a housewife designed with Microsoft Paint. AT&T’s segmented globe logo, famous for decades, as been modified into a lifeless, child-like crayon scrawl, and the bold “AT&T” logo text has been replaced by lame lowercase Verdana.

Cingular, by contrast, had a spiffy, progressive-looking “Jax,” like the kid’s game with the ball. Oh, sure, most people thought it was the letter “X,” but that was okay with me, too, as it (perhaps deliberately) evoked slick images of the X-Men. The new AT&T graphics evokes only jaw-dropping lameness, and the clumsy transition from Cingular imagery to AT&T branding seems to have been designed by chimps.

In the high-stakes world of communications media, I’m really shocked to see this kind of mediocrity—on a multi-million-dollar scale no less. Every minute of every day we’re hit with the most clever of campaigns (my beloved GEICO Cavemen, for one). Just in terms of general impression, the Cingular-AT&T transitional campaign feels bungled, and therefore does not inspire brand confidence (or, in my case, brand loyalty).

AT&T sold their wireless division to Cingluar several years back (and, by the way, forced all of their customers to buy new GSM phones). And now, apparently, AT&T has swallowed up Cingular, forcing the name change back. A kid working at a local Cingular store told me the corporate honchos decided AT&T is the better-known brand name, and decided to spend millions if not billions changing the hundreds of Cingular stores and handsets over to the incredibly lame AT&T branding.

Which misses the point that the heaviest users of wireless services are young people, no old people. The “better known” name is also the “older” name. To me, AT&T is an old name, stinking of rotary phones and Ma Bell. Cingular’s hip Generation X Logo is, to my thinking, a much more desirable brand for dealing with the short attention spans of kids today, kids who’ll now be lured by Verizon and the many other emerging wireless carriers vying for their attention (including Cricket, an emerging company that offers flat rate service—unlimited minutes and texting for around $50 a month with no credit check and no contracts).

I can’t begin to imagine what AT&T’s executive are thinking. Oh, I’m sure the Gray Panther set will be their oyster, and people already with Cingular may grudgingly hold onto their service (I mean, my *phone* still says “Cingular* on it). But if it breaks and I need a new one, I’m at least twice as tempted to switch carriers. I just think AT&T evokes old thinking and, as a designer, I think their logo is way to lame to be forced to look at it every day.

By the way, AdWeek rated Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” commercials as the Best Campaign of 2006, followed by the GEICO “Cavemen” campaign. Oddly, no mention of Cingular-AT&T.


A Dish Best Served Cold

Sorry to be gone all week. Had some server hiccups with the other site and some local headaches as well. Playing catch-up today while fending off The Stress Dragon. Stress is like hearing footsteps coming up the path that aren’t there. I often feel like I’m alone in a world full of idiots who make my life absolutely miserable, and I need to develop better coping skills for life’s little dysfunctions that seem to so easily derail my day. I mean, it’s barely nine o’clock in the morning, and I can already hear the “Jaws” theme pounding in my ears…

Days like this, I just unplug. I mean, I’m pretty useless for much else, anyway, but stress is physical and psychological and all of that. And, the most evil part: the harder you fight to work through it, the more you feed it. So maybe I’ll get my bike out and go play basketball until the orchestra exhausts itself.


June 6, 2007


And, on that note, how come virtually none of the ads for Apple’s new iPhone shows the unit at an angle? The ads I’ve seen show you very, very quick turns of the phone, which is held flatly at camera angle. I can’t tell how thick this thing is. And I’m a little suspicious of its rounded and rather dull exterior: I suspect Apple will refine this gadget over the next few years, making it sleeker, better looking, and of course less expensive, just as they have done with the iPod. The iPod now is much thinner and, frankly, better designed than it was at launch. And I have to assume some of the neato features of the iPhone will (likely sooner than later) get ported to the next generation iPods, meaning you get a dedicated entertainment device that will have several times the storage the iPhone does for a lot less money.

Much as I’d like to rush out and buy an iPhone, first I really can’t afford it (AT&T is not discounting the phone), but my real hesitation is I think it looks a little clumsy, the way the iPod did at launch. And the current generation of iPods are so much better, I can only imagine what the iPhone will be after Apple has first cleared out all the early adopters.

My money would be on the next generation iPod: where some of the cool innovations of iPhone are bound to debut. Even if the new iPod price isn’t appreciably lower than the iPhone, you’re bund to have exponentially more storage on a new iPod and you won’t need to pay some cell phone company an enormous service fee every month (remember, with the iPhone, you can’t just get voice service, you have to buy the expensive voice and data packages).



I keep seeing more and more people wandering around with those insipid (and now ubiquitous) Bluetooth ear pieces. Mind you, if you’re in your car, riding your bike, hiking, jogging or, okay, even if you are actually *talking* on the *phone,* I don’t really mind if you use the thing. It’s your head—if you want to look silly, so be it (and, yes, I acquiesce to the safety issue in cars).

But, if you’re in a restaurant, in a church, in somebody’s home—take it out. People wearing these things while, essentially, waiting for a phone call just look like morons (no offense to anyone here, of course). They look like Pod People drones from some bad sci-fi schlock film, wandering the earth with this blinking light in their ear.

I’ve been trying to figure this out, and the best idea I can come up with is people seem to think these things make them look cool (wrong). Or, in terms of black folks, that they make them look affluent (wrong) as it signals that they have a wireless phone (no longer a status symbol: any chimp can have a wireless phone nowadays, and Verizon has just put out the once-status symbol RZR as a cheapie pay-as-you-go phone).

Since cell phones are no longer status symbols, I can’t begin to imagine why people would want to walk around with these things jammed in their ears. Why people might feel that their incoming calls are so vital, so earth-shockingly important, that they absolutely must have this thing jutting out of the side of their heads at all times.

Seeing worshippers in church services with these things on makes me wonder, seriously, why they came. And I’m just plain embarrassed to be out at a restaurant with a friend who is blinking. It makes me feel that my conversation supply isn’t engaging enough, that he or she has to have another conversation on standby in case ours goes south.

Shouldn’t there be some kind of Bluetooth etiquette? Some book that tells us the Emily Post do’s and don’ts of jamming thinks into our face?

In the case of black folks, I have another layer of enmity towards these devices. I hate them the same way I hate shiny, loud suits, baseball caps turned sideways (seriously, stop it already), and those hideous Chrysler 300 fake Bentleys with loud chrome wheels. Hang me high as you want, I despise stuff that makes us look like niggers. Like sheer idiots trying to seem worldly, trying to bling. Desperate to be seen and to prove we have cash flow. Anybody ever see how Bill Gates dresses? People with cash rarely feel the need to prove it. This guy down the street is renting a rather old and not-great house with a tore-up yard and in need of a paint job. But he’s got a 911 slope parked in the driveway.

Bluetooth headsets, worn as fashion accessories, set me off the same way diamond-studded gold teeth do. The same way ridiculous, loud suits, gangsta rap and bling-bling does. It feels like an indictment of my very breathing, as white folks, especially, don’t really sort out the Bluetooth wearers from the non-Bluetooth wearers. To many a hillbilly, we’re all Bluetooth wearers.

Mind you, I need to emphasize: if you’re actually talking on the phone, I don’t mind the earpiece at all. Looks a bit odd when you’re wandering thru Wal-Mart apparently talking to yourself, but other than that, who cares. But, unless you’re an astronaut sealed inside a pressure suit, keep your earpiece in your pocket until you’re *actually using it* for something. Otherwise, it just makes you look stoopit.


June 21, 2007

Rice Sodomy

And now for Priest’s latest startling discovery: I was wandering through Wal-Mart the other day when I found myself in the pasta aisle, looking at the rice. I love rice. I love rice so much I suspect I’m half Chinese. But I rarely eat rice because, well, you have to cook rice. I can cook, but I don’t enjoy cooking and I’m basically lazy about it. When I occasionally get the urge for rice for dinner, I’ll usually stop in the local Chinese restaurant and pick up a container of steamed rice. I did that the other day—$4.50. $4.50 for a “large” (i.e. not tiny) container of steamed rice. Nearly five bucks for a bowl of rice! I looked at the woman at the counter like she was nuts. Then I wondered which of us was the real nut because I actually paid the $4.50. It wasn’t dinner, it was a Rice Mugging. It’s one of the reasons I rarely buy Chinese food here. For one, there really isn’t any good Chinese food here in Colorado Springs. I can’t quite explain it, but the Chinese and Italian people here seem awfully phony to me because they can’t cook. You cannot, write this down someplace, get a good pizza in Colorado Springs. I mean fuhgetaboudit. It’s all this commercial crap like Pizza Hut and Dominoes. In New York City, you can usually find really good, fall-down-and-die thick crust pizza on almost any street corner, and there are so many Hunan Balconies in Manhattan you can practically walk from Battery Park to the Bronx without ever setting foot on concrete.

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200 Weeks

Vist PraiseNet.OrgSorry to be gone for awhile, I was busy with the 200 Weeks retrospective over at the PraiseNet. Don’t roll your eyes, I’m not trying to force anybody to wander over to my ministerial site, but for the next two weeks we are commemorating (not quite a celebration) nearly five years of whining and complaining about the overall state of the black church. I’ve culled about 30 articles from our archives, with about a half dozen new essays peppered in (hey, it’s the online equivalent of those old 100-Page Super Spectaculars from DC—man, those were great). Putting that together took quite awhile and it, among other things, kept me pretty busy.

But now, back to the whining…


Black Like Me

(Continued from the “Vulcans” thread) Shaun: I completely respect your point of view, and I’ve no intention of fighting about it. But my blog is the one place in the entire planet where I can say what I mean and mean what I say. And I have. I apologize if it offended you—that’s not ever the plan.

Sam: I tend to think a lot of the crime vs. safe issues are economic moreso than cultural. I know a LOT of—let’s not say the N word but let’s say People Who Embarrass The Hell Out Of Me—who make $60k and better. PWETHOOM are not, by default, criminals. Additionally, my family is from rural Kentucky. Talk about people who embarrass me. But I’d not call them niggers, I’d call them hicks. And do. They’d make a fabulous Black Green Acres TV show.

Also, I think in the case of the child, they likely learned that from another child. My mother never, ever, used that word in our house. The first time I heard the N word, I was about eleven years old attending a white school on a Jewish neighborhood, and some kid in the boy’s room charged me a quarter to tell me what the word meant. I’m not kidding. I paid him a quarter to tell me what the word “nigger” meant, and he grins and says, “you!” I still didn’t understand. He had to explain it to me. The word wasn’t part of my life. And we were poor. We lived in New York City. We were desperately poor, in fact. But none of my poor, street urchin friends ever, ever used that word—it just wasn’t part of our lexicon. And, looking back, I’m really grateful for that. My friends and I were poor, mostly fatherless, wandering the streets all summer. But we weren’t thieves, we weren’t dirty, we weren’t violent, and we didn’t use the word because the word wasn’t introduced into our environment.

I’d assume unthinking adults introduced the word into your environment, and kids became the carriers of that language. Also, when I was a kid, gangsta rap did not exist. I tend to blame black society for being rather pathologically self-destructive; by allowing this garbage to blast in their homes and around their children. It is, at the end of the day, terribly destructive to our community, and parents, most especially, who blast this stuff around their kids are just ignorant and selfish morons. PWETHOOM.

“There is no difference between a redneck trailer park cracker and the ghettoest of ghetto black people, or the stereotypical Mexican.” This is, largely, what I’m saying, except the N-word has so much power that it tends to sidetrack folks. My Kentucky family are a bunch of black rednecks, but they’re not niggers—no spinner rims and gold teeth. But they used to run moonshine (and, for a summer, I with them; yes, I’ve lived a storied life). I think I can use just about any slur I’d like to describe folks whose behavior I disagree with, but soon as I say the N-word, it takes people out of the conversation because of how offensive the word is.

People who drive huge, expensive RV’s on cross-country trips see the world differently from I do. I think those people are morons and usually bad drivers, guzzling up gas as they lumber across the U.S. But, form their perspective, what they do is perfectly reasonable and sane and normal. Bottom line: everybody’s entitled to their own reality. I don’t want every black family to be Bill Cosby. I’m not holding anybody to any “white” standard. All I’m saying is, *I*, personally, think spinner rims make you look like a moron. I wish I hadn’t used the “N” word because it’s taken us away from the point of my blog post. But, if my Uncle Jeb was hanging out on his porch spitting tobacco, I’d be just as embarrassed. Not because it’s not the “white” thing to do, but because I, personally, find it offensive and am embarrassed by it. And I’m entitled to my point of view about what looks stupid and what doesn’t.

Also, I need to underscore that, if you’re *actually talking on the phone,* I don’t mind the BT headsets. I’m talking about people who wear them just as status symbols or fashion accessories.

Sam, I think the Black people vs. Niggers debate was summed up quite well by Chris Rock: it’s not really about spinner rims or gold teeth or BT headsets. It’s about people who are self-motivated and people who are not. About producers and consumers. About misplaced resentment: resentment that perhaps should go towards whites who misjudge all people of color but is instead turned towards a sub-ethnic group who exhibit certain idiosyncrasies. You can’t imagine how hard I work to make ends meet, so, yeah, I resent the fella—black, white, or orange—whose energy is primarily focused on getting over. That burns me up. Men, particularly, whose circumstances are caused primarily by laziness. Black America, in large measure, resents this get-over sub-group and, perhaps wrongfully, labels them as “niggers,” lumping in all persons of color whose investment is non-existent. Mostly because this sub-demographic tends to be what many whites think of first when they consider African Americans (or, as you pointed out, Mexicans).

It angers me that I typically need to demonstrate some reasonable erudition before whites relax and accept me as thinking person. Having done that, most whites tend to have no problem with me whatsoever, but they tend to get tense around the Ebonics and spinners crowd. Am I *truly* accepted by these folks? Remains to be seen. But it is that initial tension, that initial anxiety, that angers me. And, perhaps it is wrong fro me to get angry at my moron brother who is acting like an idiot, blaming him or his behavior or his cultural choices rather than placing the blame where it belongs: with racist people, regardless of color. White racists and black racists who perpetuate this nonsense. And, maybe, in resenting my moron brother, I am become one of those very people. It’s an ugly and vicious circle.


June 29, 2007

The Rocket's Red Glare

The President’s ambitious new immigration bill went down in flames yesterday as his bipartisan support base crumbled beneath him. Senators from both sides of the aisle caved into pressure from their constituents, thousands of which phoned and emailed Capitol Hill to voice their displeasure at Congress and the president over an initiative that all but granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens now living in the U.S. The saddest part about all of this is how poorly Washington sold this thing to the American people. I’m not suggesting the bill was perfect or that it offered any perfect solutions to what is both an ongoing gross exploitation of a working class of people and catastrophic failure to provide and enforce domestic border security, I’m saying that I didn’t know what the bill was about. And, chances are, neither did you. And neither did many of the millions of people up in arms about it.

Here in America, as around the world, we tend to vote our fears more than our hopes. Fear is a great motivator and, in act, a great equalizer. The Republican Party has made a relative art form of manipulating this country’s fear for decades now. I’m not exonerating the Democrats, I’m just saying the GOP is better at it, which is why they’ve remained in power so long—making us afraid of everything. Those tactics have come back to bite them with this stab at immigration reform. The paranoia that keeps the GOP faithful in lock-step overwhelmed any sense of reality about this reform effort. The half-baked public awareness campaigns didn’t help as, absent hard info about the reform bill, many if not most people turned inward towards imaginations pumped full of polemics and Socratic steroids—if we pass this bill, al Qaeda’s gonna get us.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves, since, after all, they were the electricians who juiced that particular Frankenstein. But what worries me, what truly troubles me, is not the downing of an imperfect peace of legislation—a reform bill that neither reformed nor liberated anybody—what worries me is the spiral such paranoid politic have put us into where, not knowing the truth, not knowing the facts, the American people defaulted to the illusory, the paranoia and fear. A fear that has spiraled beyond simple political usefulness and now threatens to overwhelm the very spirit of America as we huddle in disparate pockets of self-interest, clutching pearls and mumbling “Redrum.” We seize the flag—folding it neatly and hiding it from harm, creating phony laws about not burning it and so forth—rather than using it the way it was intended, as a weapon, waving it to rally the troops and then surging forward with it, tattered and battle-scarred, as we press forth as a unified people towards goals and objectives that are true to who we are as a people.

This was a reform initiative that neither reformed nor initiated anybody; it was mostly smoke and mirrors, providing a phony path to citizenship only the most affluent and highly-skilled illegal immigrants could benefit from. It was political stone soup, a shallow and perhaps even cynically flimsy piece of dung that was all sturm und drang. But it was a start. It got the wheels, finally, moving. It was lousy and imperfect, but it offered us a direction, something we could refine over time into actual legislation that might provide actual hope to actual people.

This is the real danger of the hardball politics of our time and the phony evangelical Christian movement: both are terribly disingenuous because they betray the core principles of what America is, of what a Christian is. First and foremost by defining, de facto, an American as a Christian (and, by strong inference, defining an American as a white Christian). Secondly, by defining a Christian as someone who defends what he has by force and huddles in closets while terrible wrongs are being committed to others. My biggest fear is not bin Laden or al Qaeda, but of the real monster threatening the American people: greedy and shortsighted evil men and women who have capriciously stripped us of who we are. And who have created, in our children, an entire generation of Christians who behave nothing at all like Christ, and people in America who have no apparent appetite for being Americans.

Just a little something to consider this week as you’re grilling burgers and waving your sparklers around.



About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to According To Me in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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