Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take a Deep Breath and Count to Ten

When attending a college class, turn off your cell phones and then you won't be tempted to answer a call. If you don't, this may happen to you . . .

Talk about dropped calls...

Okay, so you don't take calls during class, but do you text during class? According to a recent study, "43 percent of teens ages 13-17 say they text in class, and of that group, 17 percent of them say they do it constantly."

But, you say, texting is just a high school phenomena? Wrong. Another study shows that the 18-24 age group sends an average of 1,630 texts per month, or three per hour. The college students polled said professors would be shocked to learn how much texting occurs.

First, some statistics: 95 percent of those college students surveyed say they bring their phones to class every day. Ninety-one percent admitted to using their phones to text during class, and about half said it's easy to get away with texting unnoticed by the professor. And even though a quarter of those surveyed said that texting presents a major distraction during class, over half believe they should be allowed to text if they don't disturb others.

And, a shocking 10 percent of respondents have sent a text during an exam.

Texting during an exam? Hmmmm. Here's my response.

How would you feel if you were giving a presentation and one of your peers texted through the whole thing?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Says Comics Don't Pay

Guess how much this comic book costs?

Oh, c'mon. GUESS!


Yep, as Benjamin would say, "That's half-a-million simoleans, greenbacks, or smackers."

The 1939 copy of Detective Comics No. 27 features the debut of Batman and was the star of a recent Heritage Auction in Dallas.

The Billy Wright collection also included Action Comics No. 1, a 1938 issue featuring the first appearance of Superman, which sold for about $299,000.

The entire Billy Wright Collection realized $3.5 million and included many of the most prized issues ever published. Wright died in 1994, and relatives found the 345 well-preserved comics he bought as a child while cleaning out the family home following his wife's death last February, according to the Associated Press.

But wait, there's more...last year a copy of Action Comics # 1, sold for more than $1.5 million. Comic Book Resources reports that about 100 copies of the issue are believed to exist, and only a handful of those are in good condition. It has a cover price of 10 cents.

So maybe you should hang onto your comic textbooks.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Volkswagen's Heroic Star Wars Journey Down Madison Avenue

For fanboys (and girls) "The Dog Strikes Back" is the best 2012 Super Bowl commercial.

What a German auto has to do with a pooch's shaping up is hard to deduce, but this commercial certainly makes an impression on the imbibers at Chalmun's Cantina in the pirate city of Mos Eisley.

Volkswagen released an earlier teaser called "The Bark Side" to warm up audiences for the Super Bowl favorite.

The German auto maker must have determined that everybody likes dogs and Star Wars, hiring some Jedi Dog Trainers to produce this canine symphony of "The Imperial March" aka "Darth Vader's Theme." Soloists include Chewbarka, Dog Vader, DAT-AT, oh please, don't get started with the pooch puns.

And here's last year's Super Bowl commercial to which the bar fly in "The Dog Strikes Back" alludes--"Are you kidding? The dog is funnier than the Vader kid"--Hmmm . . . you be the judge.

Star Wars seems to have become an icon of American, strike that, world culture. The good-versus-evil morality prevalent in the hero's journey winds up in the lowest derivation of popular culture -- television commercials. Not only that, but these commercials went viral almost as soon as they aired. In addition, George Lucas' Star Wars has made over $20 billion in the merchandise universe selling flashlight sabers, plastic Darth helmets, and video games.

Toby Miller, social scientist and chair of Media and Cultural Studies at UC Riverside believes "The great achievement of Star Wars had been to take a moribund genre in science fiction and restore it to popularity. George Lucas took a genre that looked cheesy and made it look like a high-concept movie by investing in new ideas, technologies and people. Finally, the story and imagery have been the stars rather than the actors." There's all kinds of things to argue with in that statement, including the idea that science fiction is/was a "moribund genre"? What univers(ity) is that Professor living in? But I digress . . . What does Star Wars have to do with selling geeky German automobiles? Maybe the answer lies in transference - we can transfer the success of Star Wars onto ourselves if we buy that car. Maybe those commercials say, "It's good to be a geek, so buy a geeky (yet cool) car." It seems that Madison Avenue has entered our collective souls alongside George Lucas' empire. What is the ethos (authority), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic) behind all these :30 second Star Wars related interruptions?

If we look at these commercials as an extension of the Star Wars legacy, you can make a pretty deft analysis of the hero's journey. Think of society as the hero getting ready to embark on its mission and leave the innocent world of childhood behind. Were we innocent before television commercials? Certainly, we were less affected by advertising for the simple reason that we weren't exposed to quite as much. As society waited to take that first step across the threshold, did we make a first refusal to resist such creative, yet costly, temptations? You'll always have people that say, "Commercialism of an icon like Star Wars is a travesty," but what would George Lucas say? How does the profit factor create or limit creativity. Remember, Mozart didn't produce anything for free. Supernatural aid exists in the form of that magic we call technology, such as that little bit of iPhone magic in our pockets. Crossing the first threshold may have taken place at the movie theater, Toys-R-Us, and/or your local video game or comic book store.

Puzzle me this, earthling, how, when, and where did we as a society enter the Belly of the Whale?

Friday, February 10, 2012

College Grad Seeks $$$ Job, No Real Experience

According the Mirriam Webster dictionary hubris is defined as exaggerated pride or self-confidence. The key phrase being "exaggerated." BTW, don't ever start a college essay like this, it says amateur hour . . . but I digress.

Yahoo Finance recently led with an article entitled "How a Tenacious Summer Analyst Applicant Got Laughed at by Goldman, Morgan, and Everyone Else on Wall Street" that included the following cover letter (in part):
I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself ... I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.
The article goes on to note that the deadline for summer jobs/internships at the coveted BIG financial firms has past, but this cover letter has been passed all over Wall Street by the director who received it, "offering drinks 'to the first analyst to concisely summarize everything that is wrong with' the note, it has passed through more than a dozen firms."

There are two ways to look at this cover letter. The PT Barnum way, "All publicity is good publicity--even if it's bad," or can I have just a little hubris, PLEASE.

Lots and lots of people commented on this story, and those comments are revealing:

"He did one thing right. He stood out from the pack."

"I find it far more childish for a bunch of seasoned executives to pass around his cover letter like high school jocks passing around some poor nerdy kid's love letter to a cheerleader. It's a freakin' kid who probably was told to write personal things into his cover letter. I was told to do the same thing when I was in college by people that haven't looked for a job in probably 20 years. You learn resume writing and interviewing techniques through trial and error. A mature, thoughtful interviewer would have pointed out what he should have done differently. Only self-righteous, conceited, childish jerks would pass around his letter like that."

I have to agree with this last comment, when this human resource director received this cover letter, I am sure the sender didn't suspect JPMorgan would publish it on Yahoo. The whole redacted letter was included with the story, BUT one thing undergraduates or recent college graduates need to keep in mind is that they have NO real world experience. You are not going to be hired as VP or CEO of anything right out of college, unless you're the entrepreneurial type who starts his or her own company.

Think of a cover letter and resume as an advertisement of yourself. How would you use ethos, pathos, and logos to sell yourself? While confidence is good, braggadocio is obnoxious, whether you're qualified or not. Remember, as a new employee working your way up, you may spend more time with your co-workers then you would with your family. Would you want to work with this guy?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Bowl 2012 Top 3 Commercials

You may not agree, but according to, these are the top three commercials you saw in between a New England Patriot safety (as in the scoring play, not the position) and a come-from-behind touchdown drive by the New York Giants.

1. "It's Halftime in America" starring Clint Eastwood. Product: Chrysler.

This ad is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's, 1984 "It's Morning in America" political advertisement.

"We're all in this together?" Who is the audience for this commercial? This seems to be a nostalgic return to better days. Detroit, American cars, Super Bowl Sunday, you can't much more American than that. How is Chrysler using pathos (emotional appeals) in this ad?

2. "Matthew's Day Off" starring Ferris Bueller, errr, I mean Matthew Broderick. Product: Honda CR-V.

Wow, another throwback. If you know the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, you'll get the references. How does Honda use ethos (expert appeals) to get you to buy their product?

3. "Transactions" starring Jerry Seinfeld. Product: Acura.

And again, not only a throwback, but these are all car ads. Is Acura using any logos (logical appeals) in this ad?

Remember texts can be delivered in many different mediums, from books and movies to graphic novels and radio. Think about how these advertisers used ethos, pathos, and logos to get you to buy their products.

What was your favorite 2012 Super Bowl commercial and how do they get your attention?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Job Seekers - "Don't Tell a Sob Story"

David Eggers recently wrote a column at the Wall Street Journal entitled "Top Eight Rules of Networking"

Here are his suggestions:

1. Have a Solid Introduction
"First impressions count heavily. Make sure your attire, attitude and overall appearance are the best possible before introducing yourself to someone."

No brainer, right?

2. Don't Confuse People with Your Pitch
"No one needs to hear your entire work history upon meeting you. If someone asks you to tell them a bit about yourself, your explanation from start to finish shouldn't take more than 30 to 60 seconds."

This is something you should be practicing -- in the car, in the shower, in front of the mirror. Put yourself in the listener's shoes, would you want to hear a two hour dialogue from someone you just met?

3. Don't Tell a Sob Story
"No matter how tough it's been, you need to paint a positive picture when you're making new connections. 'Potential employers or connections aren't going to bring on people who are down in the dumps just to make them feel better,' . . . They want people who project a good, can-do attitude, and who will be energetic and excited about the position, not people who are just excited to have a job."

Think about it. Have you ever been on a date with someone who told you their whole horrific medical history? I bet you couldn't wait to get out of there.

4. Spend More Time Listening Than Talking
See number two.

5. Avoid Being Socially Inept
"There's a fine line between being friendly and personable and being awkward. You do not want to be the latter. 'Steer clear of talking about things that would make people uncomfortable.'"

See number three.

6. Don't Overstay Your Welcome
"Taking up too much of someone's time is almost as bad as ignoring them entirely."

7. Hand out Your Business Card, Not Your Resume
"What?" you ask. You don't have a business card? Go to the local stationary store and buy a box of blank business cards. If you have Microsoft Word there are plenty of templates to choose from. Make sure you put your name, address, phone number, and email address on your business card. A catchy one liner is good, for example: Registered Nurse Seeks Job.

8. Follow Up and Through
"Perhaps the 'Cardinal Rule' of networking is that once you've planted the seeds of a new relationship, you must follow up to maintain it. Whether it's a business referral, job lead, or a professional connection, get in touch – within 24 hours – to say you enjoyed meeting them."

That doesn't mean hounding them everyday, or asking them to become your friend of FaceBook (BTW never, EVER, do this with business colleagues, or potential business colleagues), just send them a brief email.

Marxist Literary Theory Made Easy

Marxist literary theories tend to focus on the representation of class conflict as well as the reinforcement of class distinctions through the medium of literature. Marxist theorists use traditional techniques of literary analysis but subordinate aesthetic concerns to the final social and political meanings of literature. Marxist theorists often champion authors sympathetic to the working classes and authors whose work challenge economic equalities found in capitalist societies. In keeping with the totalizing spirit of Marxism, literary theories arising from the Marxist paradigm have not only sought new ways of understanding the relationship between economic production and literature, but all cultural production as well. Marxist analyses of society and history have had a profound effect on literary theory and practical criticism. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Here's a comic example of Marxist literary theory in action:

Speaking of comics and sf lit:


According to Terry Eagleton (the latest, greatest Marxist literary critic): "Marxist criticism is not merely a 'sociology of literature', concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully; and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, styles and meanings. But it also means grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history."

So how would you use Marxist literary theory to critique a text? How is the book itself a product of history? What social and material conditions existed at the time of its creation? Why was it necessary? Eeekk, it's like Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies--" with creations swallowing creations, birthing creations . . . but I digress.

So as you read novels or watch movies, think about how the story reflects different socio-economic classes. For works of science fiction and fantasy:  How do economies on different planets, alternative histories, or realities work? Who gets left out? How are economic systems organized? What is wealth? What is currency? What is progress? How are workers portrayed? Is there economic equality/inequality? What makes a dystopia or a utopia and how is that related to economic wealth and/or equality?  You can ask these seem kinds of questions about any text, visual or written.