Saturday, April 12, 2008

How Advertising Distorts Reality and the Harm it Causes...

Advertising, particularly since the advent of television, has sought to shape not only what we buy, but how we think, and indeed our impression of what is good or beneficial. Moreover, it has done the inverse as well, convinced us of what is not good, what is not "hip", and, worst of all, what we shouldn't like about ourselves.

Nowhere is this more evident than the beauty product ads that feature examples of womanhood which are unnatural, and indeed, impossible without hours of preparation by a team of experts, then manipulating the results further with computers.

We have given people, and particularly teenage girls, an impossible standard to attain, and have perpetuated a culture of self-hate, eating disorders, cutting, and depression.

In the midst of this, Dove has done something revolutionary. Yes, Dove. The facial soap people. Watch this video and see. I don't think it needs any further introduction.


Friday, April 4, 2008

United Church of Christ Celebrates its Story

Members of my denomination, the United Church of Christ, raised over $170,000 in less than a week to run a full-page ad in the April 2, 2008 edition of the New York Times, celebrating the UCC's nearly four hundred year history of faith, liberty, and witness. The effort, partially a response to incomplete and inaccurate news coverage of the UCC and particularly Trinity UCC in Chicago, was so successful that a further effort will permit a new ad in USA Today.

I think it speaks for itself, so I'll simply share the text of the ad here:

Much has been said about the United Church of Christ in recent weeks, much of it hurtful for many in our country, including members of Trinity UCC in Chicago. That is why we are eager to share the broad and diverse story of the United Church of Christ, one that we celebrate.
With all Christians, we rest in God’s amazing grace and hear God’s voice in the words of Scripture. Yet, the UCC is unique to some because we do not require uniformity of belief. We are a church of open ideas, extravagant welcome and evangelical courage. Our passion for democracy extends to both government and church, where decision-making rests within each congregation. We support liberty in our pulpits, just as we affirm the individual conscience of our 1.2-million members to agree, disagree and wrestle with life’s biggest questions in a spirit of love.

Our story is this nation’s story. We are the people of the Mayflower. More than 600 of our 5,700 congregations were formed before 1776. Eleven signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of UCC predecessor bodies.

As early abolitionists, we came to the aid of the Amistad captives and founded hundreds of schools across the South after the Civil War. We were the first mainline church to ordain an African-American (1785), a woman (1853) and an openly gay pastor (1972). We were also the first to form a foreign mission society (1810). Our multi-ethnic membership includes persons from every immigrant group, as well as native peoples and descendants of freed slaves.

Our unity is not dependent upon uniform agreement, but in our shared allegiance to Jesus Christ. Ours is a risk-taking church, because ours is a risk-taking God. God is still speaking, ®

If you want to download the ad, I have posted it on the Vermont Conference's website. Click the links that follow to view/download.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Music - from trombones to Bjork...

I have always been intimately connected to music. I started playing the trombone when I was 7, and was pretty good at it. While in high school, I auditioned each year for the regional band playing a different instrument each time (trombone, baritone, tuba, trumpet). I also played in our church’s CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) band for 10 years. The most exciting part was being honored as the first chair trombonist for the Central Mass. Youth Symphony Orchestra. I guess you should add chorus and high school musicals to the list as well. I might have gone to Berklee College of Music in Boston, but that is a tale for another time.

I begin with the musical history of my youth not to try to impress you, but to give you a feel for how important music was (and is) to me. My musical tastes are eclectic – the cd changer in my truck is as likely to contain Mozart as it is Dean Martin as it is Cake as it is the soundtrack from The Music Man.

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t born a generation too late. I have a real affection for some of the biggest names of the 1950’s and 60’s, and I don’t mean Elvis or the Beatles. I’m thinking more like Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Sammy Davis Jr., Dino, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, and many others. Songs from what is now called the Great American Songbook, classics crafted by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, the Gershwins, and so many more. To listen to this music on line, go to Martini in the Morning for the best internet music station.

Identifying with more modern music is sometimes more difficult for me. But there are several modern artists whom I find very enjoyable.

But only one, really, touches me deep inside, for reasons I can’t begin to explain. And that artist is Bjork.

Bjork is from Iceland, and it is difficult to fit her music into a single genre. In fact on Wikipedia it lists them as:

Alternative Rock
New Age
A Capella
Industrial Rock
Punk Rock

Her music touches me internally. It is not a pop song quickly forgotten, but something to be savored and explored over time. She first grabbed me with the song Hunter. She has wonderfully expressive vocals, a diverse and deep musicality, and seems to exist for the sheer joy of her music. She has her own record label, and although she has sold 15 million albums worldwide, she probably would not consider herself a commercial success. I heard her say once that the money she earns only serves to help pay for the next project.

And her next project is amazing. Her new song, Wanderlust, would serve as a good introduction to Bjork as any other. And she just spent $100,000 of her own money to produce a video for it. Several months in the making, filmed in 3D, it is amazing. I’ll insert it here. (You might want to listen to it the first time without trying to ‘get’ the video. Just listen. Next time through you can watch)

(updated April 4th - The video has been removed from YouTube, but if you search around you will find the audio and/or video - jim)

Let me know what you think….