There has been an influx of creepy soft toys and menacing bears on our advertising screens recently. Cute and cuddly is apparently passé.
Ranked below from the mildly disturbing to the completely creepy, I give you: MENACING TEDDIES.
5. Who doesn't love Paddington? Several people probably don't after his meddling with Marmite. A food ad that features people being sick and grimacing after eating the promoted product is quite bizarre in my book. Might just have taken that "Marmite - you either love it or hate it" a tad too far there.
4. Awwlookatthecutepanda! What the hell has a Mafia panda got to do with baked goods? I don't know either.
3. In the ad agency, the conversation went like this: "Right, so these cars are driven by the UK police force, sold second-hand to the elderly and bought new as fleet cars for middle-aged salesmen. The way to make this brand REALLY COOL is for us to put on a PUMPING TUNE and introduce these surreal teddies. You just watch. The current customers won't get it, but we'll attract lots of new ones. On acid."
2. If I'd seen this as a child, it'd have given me nightmares. It might still give me nightmares. He is not very friendly, is he? There is a menacing tone to his delivery. He seems to be holding back poorly concealed rage. What will he do if we don't buy his products? Poke out our eyes while we sleep? Gives the brand 'Birdseye' a whole new flavour. Not in a good way.
1. And the top spot for sheer creepiness goes to: Travelodge and the zzz-squad. My husband nailed it when he said: "The people behind this advert have obviously never lived in a dodgy neighbourhood." Does Travelodge now provide a gun on the pillow instead of the traditional mint?These ads have all failed because they've not make me buy their product. But they've all succeeded because they've made me talk about them and maybe, just maybe, one of you will be sold on them as a result. One of you creepy people who is into leather-clad, gun-toting, gold-chain wearing teddies and probably has sex games wearing a giant adult nappy.
The recent furore in UK over misleading television should not only focus on rigged
phone-in contests and kittens called Socks; television programmes like Beauty
Addicts: How Toxic Are You? (Channel 4) are an example of a new kind of
highly irresponsible shock-schlock TV where the content is designed and edited
for maximum tabloid value and can end up seriously misleading viewers and
Beauty Addicts: How Toxic Are You? aired on Channel 4 (UK) on Thursday 11th of October 2007 and was presented by Sarah Beeny. Sarah is a British television presenter who is best known for presenting Channel 4 property shows.
The programme was interesting, but also incredibly frustrating to watch. This type of ill researched, scaremongering journalism (and I use the term journalism loosely) actually damages the cause of those who would wish the truth be known about benefits of using natural ingredients and safe synthetics. The truth, as it is, will evolve as new research is conducted and we learn more about the subject through experience and experimentation. Making any kind of categorical statements in this type of context is not helpful to anyone in the long run.
Two young girls were selected for a check-up on their cosmetic and cleaning product usage. Sarah examined the amount of products the girls were being exposed to, blood tests were conducted, and some alternative products offered. The girls in question were extreme product addicts, using ludicrous amounts of personal care products, colour cosmetics, and strong cleaning agents in their daily routines. They were not average consumers. In many ways, it would have been much more interesting to see an average example. It may not have made such great television though. Watching one of the girls admit to eating her toothpaste every day and the other to using up a can of hairspray in a week provided far more entertainment value. It's just a shame this programme appeared to pitch itself to us as a source of information rather than as car-crash TV.
The content also included a "natural hair colour test" performed in a hairdressing salon (in fact, none of the hair colours featured were totally natural; if we take natural to mean no synthetic ingredients). There were also some interviews of the general public on their perceptions of marketing and brand statements made by cosmetic companies. It was this section that left me especially frustrated, as I found it to be the closest to what this programme could have been — helping us all to get to the root of the issue and learn how to decode product labels and confusing advertising.
Indeed many sections left me wishing that more immediately useful information would have been on offer - instead we were served throwaway sound bites, unsupported vague claims, and scaremongering. In one particularly badly thought out scene, Sarah warned new mothers of the dangers of breast feeding as "chemicals will be passed to the baby".
It might have been better to stress the benefits that breast feeding has for both baby and mother (reduced risk of breast cancer for mother and huge immune system and emotional development benefits for baby) - and to help adequately educate people on what's likely to be genuinely toxic in their lives.
On the whole, I felt the terms "toxic" and "chemical" were thrown around far too freely without real explanation as to the programme makers' interpretation on what they wanted those terms to represent.
The language used in the programme appeared to have been designed to make viewers believe the following statements:
Just because something is a man-made chemical, doesn't
automatically make it unsafe, or toxic.
If anything, sometimes it is entirely beneficial to produce something in a more controlled environment so that one ends up with a less volatile substance. The intended action and effects can be predicted to some extent, which can't always be said about natural materials. The trick is to get the balance, intended effects, formulations, dosages and usage instructions correct.
Just because something is natural, doesn't automatically make it safe. (Some of the most potent poisons in the world come from plants and animals: digitalis, deadly nightshade, belladonna, deathcap, black widow spiders, scorpions...). Natural ingredients are still made of chemicals. Yet the programme was fudging the issue by using "chemical" like a swearword.
Furthermore, the programme attempted to make the case that sodium laureth sulphate is bad for you. Sodium laureth sulphate is a coconut-derived surfactant used widely as a foaming agent in shampoos, bubble baths, and even toothpaste.
Now if you remember, one of the test subjects was a girl who actually ate quite a bit of toothpaste on a daily basis. Just because something is bad for you when used inappropriately doesn't make it a bad ingredient (cinnamon is lovely sprinkled on my best apple pie recipe, but if I asked you to down a bottle of it in one, you would probably get ill). The programme also failed to present examples of toothpastes without sodium laureth sulphate. They exist and there are some lovely ones out there. Instead the poor girl was given quite an extreme option to try — a traditional Japanese seaweed product that made her gag.
If you happen to be unable to use products with sodium laureth sulphate because you have an allergy, the good news is that there are now plenty of alternatives available. Making that ingredient out to be bad for everyone, because "it is used in higher concentrations in garage floor cleaners" (I suppose garage floors can get greasy, so why not use an effective surfactant?) or because sodium laureth sulphate can cause irritation in some people is silly.
People can be allergic to anything. Just because someone gets a rash when they eat strawberries (a person I would feel very sorry for), doesn't mean we all have to stop eating strawberries, or that strawberries should be removed from all food and cosmetics and declared evil and toxic. There are even people who are allergic to plain water.
There is a very virulent myth about sodium laureth sulphate out there. This myth has penetrated traditional and online media to such a degree that researchers now quote it as gospel. Those who dig a little deeper usually find out that it's a hoax, but the makers of this programme did not.
Sodium laureth sulphate is an effective de-greaser and very bubbly - lovely when used correctly - but not suitable for eating or for products that stay on your skin for a long time. I have seen it used in body lotions, which did not seem like a good idea, but when used in a shower gel, or any product that gets rinsed off, it's perfectly safe. It can be a skin irritant (but most people don't react to it) and if ingested, it can cause a stomach upset. That's about it. The "SLS-is-bad[sic]" myth started as an online hoax chain email some years ago. There is suspicion that the myth was started by a source intending to market "sodium laureth sulphate free" products.
Regurgitating other people's marketing messages, generating deliberate hoaxes for profits, badly researched publicity releases and repeating easily obtained anecdotal data makes things so much easier, not to mention has the added credibility of having been repeated via various sources to such a degree that when a consumer is exposed to it, they think "oh yes, I saw that mentioned somewhere else too, so it must be true."
One of the other main claims in the programme was that parabens are bad for you. (Even though when you closely listen to the script, the main statements are: "Parabens are preservatives used widely in food, cosmetics and toiletries. They are man-made chemicals. They can be found in your urine.")
Presence does not prove causality. Just because something can get into your system and can be found in your urine doesn't automatically make it a toxin. Vitamins? Minerals? Beneficial medications? Again, it can be about dosage and appropriate use.
For example certain apparently benign over-the-counter health supplements can cause liver damage and serious medical complications if used inappropriately.
I went to the Channel 4 website to check what they'd written about their own programme. I found this [emphasis added]:
Parabens are related to a chemical called benzoic acid which was discovered in the 16th century, and subsequently used to preserve products against moulds, yeasts and some bacteria. The most commonly used parabens have been methylparaben (E number, E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216), and butylparaben. But E216 is one of two parabens (the other being sodium propylparaben, E217) which have recently been withdrawn under revised EC regulations on food additives. While some parabens are found naturally in plants, those used as preservatives are made in the laboratory.
Recent worries about parabens are based on a series of British studies linking the chemicals to breast cancer. In one study, laboratory tests showed that parabens weakly mimic the activity of the natural female hormone, oestrogen. While all women need oestrogen, the hormone is known to help some breast tumours to grow, and part of breast cancer treatment aims to stop the effects of oestrogen.
In another study, parabens, especially methylparaben (E218), were found in 18 out of 20 samples from breast tumours. While there is no proof, it has been suggested that parabens contained in deodorant products may be absorbed through the skin under the arm and be involved in development of cancer in nearby breast tissue.
Neither of two leading cancer charities, Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, support this theory. Instead, they point out that it was a very small study, and it did not compare parabens levels in breast tissue from women who did not get breast cancer. Instead, they quote a large
US study which failed to show that women who use deodorants or antiperspirants were more likely to get breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK points out that over 90% of today's deodorants and antiperspirants don't contain parabens. So if you are worried about a possible link with breast cancer, you should be able to find products which are parabens-free.
I found it interesting that the content on Channel 4's
own microsite presented the subject with a different slant. The above text was
not included in the script of the TV show. Instead the programme was almost
devoid of real content. A good addition to the television show, for
example, would have been to report that The European Commission had planned a
technical hearing on behalf of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products
(SCCP) on the safety evaluation of "Parabens in cosmetic products",
in order to follow-up the SCCP opinions on the subject. The hearing was on 23
October 2007 in
Telling the truth about matters, whether you're a business representative or a journalist, or a medical professional, or an aromatherapist should be on everyone's top agenda.
It most certainly isn't. Why? Because telling the truth requires patience, knowledge, the ability to be objective, and real effort on all sides. It also requires continuous further study and is often not the most immediately profitable option for businesses or anyone with something to sell or promote. And it doesn't always make for very exciting television.
The consumer is left out of the loop in terms of easily available unbiased information on cosmetics. There press releases from beauty companies that beauty writers use as their primary source of material are a closed circle. Most beauty scoops and articles are almost exact reprints of a patchwork of press releases; nothing more. I have spoken to beauty journalists off record and they tell me how frustrating it is for them to be effectively pushing product rather than to actually report on anything. The mutually beneficial relationship between the beauty PR and the beauty journalist is unlikely to change in a hurry, if ever. It is in neither side's best interest to break the deal.
I feel that this television programme was such a huge wasted opportunity.
My advice? Don't blindly buy into any lovely marketing stories, brand names, press releases, beauty articles, or any of that jazz. It is all subjective and often heavily tainted. The best thing we should all campaign for — as consumers and as business people — is a case for CLEAR, HONEST and EASY TO UNDERSTAND labelling. If you know what's in your product and what it's supposed to do for you, you'll have all the information you need to make your own decision.
There are some real poisons that we are exposed to; some of them can indeed be found in commonly used cosmetic products. Now we just need proper exposure on these issues.
This was first seen at BlogCritics
Timo played a really cruel trick on me recently.
I fell in love with them instead.
The fucker! After getting caught up in the characteristic Joss Whedon layers of emerging and intriguing stories, ready to bubble into the surface... I get told, sorry, you'll never find out how they'll develop. Will they, won't they? Does River lose it completely, or will she now become the best pilot in the known universe? What was all that about Book's past? How... when... who?
We watched couple of episodes a night, finally finishing with the film yesterday evening, and then, it was all over. I sat on the floor, forlorn, repeatedly mewling: I want more FlyFly.
This is indeed, a cruel and hard world. And there are too many moronic American TV executives who should have their innards fed to them in some peppery sauce.
Theme from Firefly
Take my love.
Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don’t care, I’m still free.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Take me out
to the black.
Tell ‘em I ain’t comin’ back.
Burn the land and boil the sea.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Have no place
I can be
Since I found Serenity.
But you can’t take the sky from me.
Words & Music by Joss Whedon
Performed by Sonny Rhodes.
Comedy Central has resurrected the former Fox animated series from "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. At least 13 new episodes will be produced -- the first since the series' original run from 1999-2003.
The new batch is part of a deal the cable network made with 20th Century Fox Television last year to pick up syndicated rights to the existing "Futurama" library of 72 episodes. Comedy Central also had an option to air any new episodes produced.
New and old episodes will begin airing in 2008 on Comedy Central. Actors Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio have agreed to return as voices for "Futurama."
"We are thrilled that Matt Groening and 20th Century Fox Television have decided to produce new episodes of 'Futurama' and that Comedy Central will be the first to air them," said David Bernath, senior vice president for programming at the network.
"There is a deep and passionate fan base for this intelligent and very funny show that matches perfectly with our audience, and it is great that we can offer them not just the existing library but something they've never seen as well."
Time for the Zoidberg freedom dance! Freedom, freedom, freedom, OY!
Lordi scored more points in Eurovison than anyone else. Ever.
Last night's results left many far behind; even Terry Wogan's favourite choice, Bosnia-Herzegovina. UK's entry was allocated only 25 points.
1. Finland - Lordi 292
2. Russia - Dima Bilan 248
3. Bosnia-Herzegovina - Hari Mata Hari 229
4. Romania Mihai Träistarlu 172
5. Sweden - Carola 170
6. Lithuania - LT United 162
7. Ukraine - Tina Karol 145
8. Armenia - André 129
9. Greece - Anna Vissi 128
10. Ireland - Brian Kennedy 93
19. UK - Daz Sampson 25
The fact that the self-parodying, pus-oozing, crazy, funny Finnish blokes who play 80s inspired monster rock have won, shows that the general Eurovision watching public may have shifted from your nan and the secretly gay neighbourhood uncle to a much wider audience with a taste for the absurd. And Lordi's winning ticket was that by being the most absurd of all, they made everyone else's entry look like a parody. Out of tune Barbie and Ken dolls. Quality!
I've laughed so much that I feel a bit bunged up this morning. Adding to my amusement were the news reports from Finland (following translated and paraphrased from several articles from the current issue of the main Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat):
Before the voting begun, the situation in Athens still seemed tricky;
Lordi had been allocated the worst possible slot in the contest, right
after the host country's Greece's entry. By the time Lordi performed, the
audience had lost some of their enthusiasm for jumping up and down, but Lordi
collected points from the very first voting round onwards nevertheless.
Lordi is going to appear at the "Kauppatori" (main market square in Helsinki) on Monday,
as promised to their fans before the contest. (That explains why they were
holding bits of paper up during the contest, which stated: "Meet you at
Lordi's Eurovision win sent Finns to a night-time frenzy; the police had to get
involved when the streets filled up with people running around with Finnish flags,
hooting horns, driving their cars around in circles and setting off fireworks.
The financing of next year's Eurovision song contest has presented a problem to the
Finnish media. The directors of the state media company have, however, decided in
an emergency meeting this morning that the contest will definitely be held in Finland
Speaking of which, I really must find a way to attend. Sadly, I bet all of Finland is thinking the same thing.
The Finnish tabloids and popular media are delighted this week because Conan O' Brien mentioned the Finnish president, Tarja Halonen in his talk show. The Finns love getting mentioned in almost any context and are often found to be fiercely defending their rightful "ownership" of such concepts as meatballs and sauna (both of which are not Finnish inventions, but are certainly found to be well treasured and the best in Finland), or making a case for why the Finnish Lapland is the real home of Father Christmas and how Nokia really did start from a small Finnish company making rubber boots.
I say almost any context, but when the Conan O'Brien hates my homeland item in Late Night with Conan O'Brien finally featured Finland some time ago, the response from the Finnish public was overwhelming. Hundreds of letters and postcards landed at the NBC studios and this may have sealed the unlikely relationship between one small, cold country and the ginger haired talk show host for good.
Conan revealed this image during the show:
Someone, somewhere must have observed the striking resemblance between Tarja and Conan. The Finnish general public speculates that sending actor Lauri Nurkse to the talk show audience was a clever ploy to plant pro-Tarja election propaganda to the proceedings. It appears to have worked: some polls suggest that Tarja's popularity shot through the roof afer SubTV aired the show, early Wednesday morning Finnish time. Not entirely coincidentally, I'm sure, party political broadcasts for Tarja's election campaign were shown during advert breaks. The Finnish presidential election starts on the 15th of January 2006.
I have developed a love & hate relationship with LivingTV. On one hand, it offers oodles of drug-like mind-numbing, incredibly addictive mush. The kind that has managed to make me hooked to the point of SHH-SHHing Timo in the middle of a program.
It satisfies my Inner Voyeur, my Inner Bitch and the almighty Ego that whispers "wow, I'm so much better than...".
On the other hand, it offers offers oodles of drug-like mind-numbing, incredibly addictive mush. And some of it is really rather crap. I feel dirty every time I utter the words: Living TEEVEE. Now it's about to get even worse.
LivingTV, I have a bone to pick with you.
First, you seduced with me with the "soft porn for teenage boys" (Charmed, as described by one of the cast members in a recent documentary).
If any one person suddenly became genuinely aware of every hardship and tragedy faced by humans daily all over the world, I wonder what'd happen. If even a glimpse of realisation can feel like strangulation.
So what's left for us to do? Life can't just stop. People will still eat and sleep and go to work and blog. They'll be born and die. They'll shit and they'll fuck. They'll become marketeers.
Or get editing jobs at the BBC and select the one illustrative comment on the hurricane tragedy from a survivor to be by one of such stupefying idiocy that it truly mocks those who have suffered in the USA storm: "It [the storm] may have won a battle, but we've won the war."
You sure did show that storm.
Banality of life is overwhelming.
I had a friend called Katrina once. She was from New Zealand. We worked together for 2 years and got on really well. We were just starting to get quite close when she had to go back home. She left me a little bit of her accent. I still miss her and wonder what became of her. It's sad how, despite exchanged addresses and good intentions, some friendships just need that daily interaction to survive.
Tuulia applied to work as a Finnish language teacher for a Finnish prison. I haven't asked why she applied, or why the inmates of a Finnish prison would need to learn Finnish, but perhaps this will all become clear. She said: "I don't even know if I want all kinds of gangsters to learn my language in the first place." This implies that the Finnish prisons are full of foreign gangsters. The Russian Mafia?
Timo finally started his Finnish course today. I bought him a course book for Christmas. It comes with some sort of CD-rom too. He wants to learn the language before we have any children (if/when such a thing happens). I think that's a good idea, or we'll plot all kinds of things right under his nose.
On a day like this, I feel the Karma of life is pointing towards a Very Important Finnish Lesson. It's called Vittu Saatana Perkele.
Swearing is good for you, I swear. (Oiih, that was bad, but I couldn't resist).
According to the CITY magazine's research, Finns swear much, much more than their Northern or Central European counterparts. I'm not sure whether that's true, but I do know that Finnish is the best language to swear in. All those hard consonants and rolled Rs.
Apparently the late arrival of Christianity had something to do with Finnish love of profanity. We've only recently been filthy pagans. I'm proud of that.
In fact, someone (I forget who) was quoted saying that if life gets too hard, don't whine, remember that you're a FINN, VITTU PERKELE SAATANA.
Some of the things that I adore probably make me deeply uncool, but in an odd way, that just adds to the appeal.
I can be taken in by nostalgia. It seduces me with its texture and make-believe of How Things Used To Be. One of my favourite nostalgia universes to inhabit is the late 1950s/early 1960s. Something about that time speaks to me. I have a feeling it's a combination of what was on TV at my grandparents' house, how Helsinki looked when I was a little girl and how browsing through the old family albums always seemed almost tangible; like I could climb in and be a part of that black and white scene.
And something else. There is something else.