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a blog by Ann Althouse

"[Balenciaga’s 'Toy Stories' campaign was] an attempt at 'let’s give people something to talk about' gone terribly wrong."

"[It's] almost an anti-fashion brand ['with its collections inspired by “The Simpsons” and Crocs' and 'an $1,500 leather clutch made to look like a bag of Lay’s chips']... But just how much can you challenge what’s cool? There’s a thin line between being creative and essentially using children as props or having them pose with inappropriate items.... All of these decisions go through so many levels of approval and eyes.... So who approved this and where did everything go wrong? There really needs to be some accountability within Balenciaga... Brands can’t get away with these massive mistakes anymore. In this digital age where anything can go viral and anyone can investigate, consumers have a really big and loud voice." 

Said Priscilla Gonzalez, 27, "a Mexico-based stylist and fashion content creator," quoted in "After teddy bear backlash, Balenciaga announces lawsuit for separate ad" (WaPo).

Are these even mistakes, let alone "massive mistakes"? It's all a mind game, getting you to pay thousands for dumb-but-branded items.

We're talking about them, we're challenged, we're aghast or whatever. It's a stupid game, but as long as there are young people who can't really afford expensive high fashion but feel thrilled to hold one thing — a bag — that screams the name, there's $1,000 to be plucked from their delicate pliable fingers.

We watched "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story."

Just watch the trailer and you'll easily see if this movie is for you:

We laughed a lot. I especially liked the big scene early on that had a lot of celebrities — including Andy Warhol (played by Conan O'Brien) and Salvador Dalí. Rainn Wilson plays Dr. Demento, and Jack Black plays Wolfman Jack. Madonna is an important character — played by Evan Rachel Wood. Al is played by Daniel Radcliffe, and Weird Al himself plays a stern record executive. 

We streamed it on the Roku Channel, and it was interrupted by commercials — as you might expect, a ton of political commercials. I don't know how I put up with it, because I normally watch zero commercials — other than in front of YouTube videos, like that embedded clip itself. I saw an absurd number of commercials related to Mandela Barnes... and don't remember a damned thing about them. Why would I vote based on commercials?

"In states as disparate as Wisconsin and New Mexico, ads have labeled a Black candidate as 'different' and 'dangerous' and darkened a white man’s hands as they portrayed him as a criminal...."

"In Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, is the Democratic nominee for Senate, a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad targeting him ends by juxtaposing his face with those of three Democratic House members, all of them women of color, and the words 'different' and 'dangerous.' In a mailer sent to several state House districts in New Mexico, the state Republican Party darkened the hands of a barber shown giving a white child a haircut, next to the question, 'Do you want a sex offender cutting your child’s hair?'... Appeals to white fears and resentments are an old strategy in American elections, etched into the country’s political consciousness, with ads like George Bush’s ad using the Black convict Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Jesse Helms’s 1990 commercial showing a white man’s hands to denounce his Black opponent’s support for 'quotas.'" 

From "With Ads, Imagery and Words, Republicans Inject Race Into Campaigns/Running ads portraying Black candidates as soft on crime — or as 'different' or 'dangerous' — Republicans have shed quiet defenses of such tactics for unabashed defiance" (NYT).

The manipulation of the color of hands is a very specific problem, and I don't like seeing the name of my state mixed up in that accusation. I don't like "In states as disparate as Wisconsin and New Mexico, ads have... darkened a white man’s hands as they portrayed him as a criminal." That happened in New Mexico but not in Wisconsin.

Yes, there has been been relentless advertising against Mandela Barnes here in Wisconsin, but I haven't seen any photoshopping of the color of hands or other body parts. What I'm seeing — and it's practically the only advertising I'm seeing — is the connection of Mandela Barnes to crime and to policies advocated by the most left-wing Democrats. Yes, you can argue that is inherently racial, and the NYT article also does that, but it's a far cry from this awfulness from New Mexico:

"After spending the summer pounding Republican opponent Lee Zeldin as an anti-abortion, Donald Trump acolyte, Hochul is finding out..."

"... what other Democrats across the nation are also learning: Crime and the economy are crowding out abortion rights and the former president’s troubles as top of mind issues for voters. The New York governor is responding with a last-minute shift in approach just weeks ahead of the election by promoting her efforts to create jobs and fight crime. 'You deserve to feel safe,' Hochul says in a new TV ad released Saturday as part of a $1 million-plus buy in New York City. 'And as your governor, I won’t stop working until you do.'"

From "Hochul pivots in New York as GOP challenger rises on crime, economic message/New polls this week showed the race tightening — maybe to low single digits, uncomfortably close for Democrats after two decades of statewide dominance in New York" (Politico).

"You deserve to feel safe... I won’t stop working until you do" — Shouldn't it be "You deserve to be safe... I won’t stop working until you are"? I know politics is just about how we feel, but if you want people to feel safe, you've got to convince them that they are safe, and giving it away that you are just going after their feelings gives the brain a bit of a chance to notice that this is nothing but an effort at emotional manipulation.

Here's that last-minute-desperate shift ad:


I made a new tag for Lee Zeldin. I will disclose that that represents a bet that he will win. I don't like tag proliferation, but I also don't like needing to go back and add tags to old posts.

"I thought the memo had gone out that the word 'luminous' had been banned from book reviews."

I wrote in December 2009, recalling a wonderful 2007 essay by Joe Queenan.

In "Astonish Me," Queenan wrote:
Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as ''astonishing.'' 

Previously, I had limited my purchases to merchandise deemed ''luminous'' or ''incandescent,'' but this meant I ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer. The problem with incandescent or luminous books is that they veer toward the introspective, the arcane or the wise, while I prefer books that go off like a Roman candle. When I buy a book, I don't want to come away wiser or happier or even better informed. I want to get blown right out of the water by the author's breathtaking pyrotechnics. I want to come away astonished. 

He was making fun of the absurd overuse of the verb "astonish" in book promotions.

[T]he truth is, if nobody describes a book as astonishing, it probably isn’t astonishing, and if it isn’t astonishing, who needs it?

I remembered that essay 2 years after I read it, as I was reading the New York Times piece "10 Best Books of 2009," which called a memoir "luminous." I said "How can I trust their judgment? To be fair, they didn't call anything 'incandescent' or 'astonishing.'" 

And I'm remembering it again, now 15 years later, as I'm seeing — at Grammarphobia — that there's a new book, "Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A–Z of Literary Persuasion," by Louise Willder. 
The blub is ‘my 100 words of little white lies’, she says. ‘There has to be some kind of sugar coating and, yes, lying.’ Of course, one has to draw the line somewhere, and Willder would like to see fewer shopworn adjectives on book covers, specifically ‘luminous’, ‘dazzling’, ‘incandescent’, ‘stunning’, ‘shimmering’, ‘sparkling’, ‘glittering’, ‘devastating’, ‘searing’, ‘shattering’, ‘explosive’, ‘epic’, ‘electrifying’, ‘dizzying’, ‘chilling’, ‘staggering’, ‘deeply personal’ and the ubiquitous ‘haunting’. 
Hooray! Publishers (and reviewers), take note. I never could understand ‘incandescent’. Even light bulbs aren’t incandescent anymore. And while we’re at it, I’d like to blue-pencil the noun phrases ‘rite of passage’, ‘coming of age’ and ‘richly woven tapestry’....

What words can you use when all the words have been used before? It's promotion, so you can't just use the truth as your guiding light. So I'll just say let your guiding light be never go toward the light. If you're describing a text, never use metaphors suggesting that the words are emitting light. So no "luminous,"  no "incandescent," no "glittering" or "shimmering" or "sparkling." 

Here are 7 TikToks I've chosen to launch you into the long weekend. Let me know what you like best

 1. Alice in Wonderland and autism acceptance.

2. The crocheted pregnant doll.

3. Interior design for the solo woman.

4. Abbey (from "Love on the Spectrum") felt the allure of the SpaghettiOs can, but the actual SpaghettiOs are a different matter.

5. Now, what to wear to the beach?

6. Do celebrities like it when you impersonate them while standing right beside them?

7. Don't watch this one unless you have breasts and they are bothering you. Note: It's an ad! Some people love it. I'm seeing commenters who say it's the best ad they've ever seen.

You've heard of "Make America Great Again." Now, here's Destroy Wisconsin Great Again.

I'm just noticing the violent verbs in the Tim Michels ad that appeared in a sidebar (at Real Clear Politics):

Bulldoze, demolish, and hammer.

I get the metaphor — construction. But it's all in the demolition phase. Destruction, not construction, including "hammer." I know you can build things with a hammer, but "Hammer Madison Special Interests" is a picture of clobbering opponents. And he's even got the word "killing" in there. I know it's criticizing Evers for "killing" jobs, but I don't think I've ever seen a political ad with so much metaphorical violence in such a small space. 

ADDED: Another thing about the hammer image:

"It's the hammer of justice."

DeSantis haters are driving more views to this DeSantis ad. They liken it to the Dukakis tank ride...

 ... but are they right or is this a good ad?


Did DeSantis successfully lure his antagonists into propagating this ad? I only noticed it because Gillian Brockell wrote this WaPo column: "DeSantis fighter jet ad conjures 1988 Dukakis tank debacle."
Clearly, what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was going for was a comparison to Tom Cruise.... What are DeSantis and his team getting instead? Comparisons to Michael Dukakis.... The footage of the not-so-tough politician popping out of a tank, smiling in military gear, his name taped to the top of the helmet, went what we would now call “viral.” Reporters can be heard laughing hysterically....
The Bush campaign took advantage, airing a devastating campaign ad playing the footage while a narrator says, “Michael Dukakis is opposed to virtually every defense system we’ve developed ... and now he wants to be our commander in chief. America can’t afford that risk.”...
Brockell acknowledges some key differences:
In DeSantis’s defense, the ad does seem to be aiming for comedy, where Dukakis definitely was not. Plus, DeSantis served in the military and is still in the Navy Reserve, though he serves as a military lawyer, not a fighter pilot....  Still, Dukakis served in the military, too, though not as a tank operator....

Dukakis did a photo op that created a visual that could be weaponized against him. The Bush campaign used it in their ad. DeSantis made an ad, and those who want to use it against him end up showing his ad. So the pro-DeSantis ad is viral, carried along by his haters. And it's driving attention to his military background, which is quite impressive:

In 2004, during his second year at Harvard Law, DeSantis was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy and assigned to the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). He completed Naval Justice School in 2005. Later that year, he received orders to the JAG Trial Service Office Command South East at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, as a prosecutor.... He worked for the commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), working directly with detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Joint Detention Facility.

In 2007, DeSantis... was assigned to SEAL Team One and deployed to Iraq with the troop surge as the Legal Advisor to the SEAL Commander, Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah.

DeSantis returned to the U.S. in April 2008, at which time he was reassigned to the Naval Region Southeast Legal Service. The U.S. Department of Justice appointed him to serve as a Special Assistant U.S. attorney.... 
During his military career, DeSantis has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal. As of 2022, he was still serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

You want to laugh at that? You're an idiot.

Dukakis also served: 

Although Dukakis had been accepted into Harvard Law School, he chose to enlist in the United States Army.... [H]e was assigned as radio operator to the 8020th Administrative Unit in Munsan, South Korea.... Dukakis served from 1955 to 1957.

I wouldn't laugh at Dukakis either. I liked him, and I voted for him. Mocking DeSantis for being like Dukakis isn't just stupid because the ad and the photo op are so different. It's stupid because Dukakis was a fine man, and Democrats should be proud of choosing him and not be kicking him around for a third of a century. Have some self-respect, you clowns.
"[Balenciaga’s 'Toy Stories' campaign was] an attempt at 'let’s give people something to talk about' gone terribly wrong.""Many advertisers have concerns about TikTok and its Chinese owners....But companies keep flocking to the app... because it appears to have reach and cultural cachet..."We watched "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.""In states as disparate as Wisconsin and New Mexico, ads have labeled a Black candidate as 'different' and 'dangerous' and darkened a white man’s hands as they portrayed him as a criminal....""After spending the summer pounding Republican opponent Lee Zeldin as an anti-abortion, Donald Trump acolyte, Hochul is finding out..."You've heard of "Make America Great Again." Now, here's Destroy Wisconsin Great Again.DeSantis haters are driving more views to this DeSantis ad. They liken it to the Dukakis tank ride...

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