Refrigerator Historical Ad Analysis

The refrigerator, in one form or another, has been around for a long time. Originally it was simply an ice box, and food was kept cold only by the ice that it was physically near or on. Scientific advances made more efficient refrigeration possible, culminating in the modern refrigerator. From our modern point of view, this looks like sort of a no-brainer. Given all we know about the refrigerator now, everyone knows its something you have just got to own. But back when it was relatively new, innovative technology, the question of how to market it still remained.

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA7263/

This ad is from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) collection, dated between 1934 and 1941.

In this first advertisement, it might initially be hard to see what’s important. There’s a penguin, which is clearly there so the consumer will associate this specific brand of refrigerator with cold, but that’s nothing groundbreaking, or even marginally interesting really. The ad also mentions the pricing of the refrigerator and the “easy terms,” but again, that’s pretty standard in most advertising. The only thing that’s left is the phrase “In a million homes.” And in this already simple phrase, there’s one key word that stands out and makes clear who the target audience is: homes. This refrigerator is for your home. It’s not marketed as being in a million houses, owned by a million individuals, or having sold a million of them. Home is a word that makes everyone feel comfortable, and it brings up images of home cooked food and family, which is the important thing that the word home appeals to. This refrigerator ad is subtly saying that it won’t just be a part of your house, but also your home and even your family.

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA1891/

Again from the OAAA, this ad is undated. Based on the drawing style of Blondie and Dagwood, it seems to be more recent (much closer to 1990 than 1930), but no specific date is given.

This second advertisement depicts two iconic cartoon characters: Dagwood and Blondie from the comic strip and film series Blondie, created by Chic Young back in 1930. Interestingly, Dagwood and Blondie started out as wealthy boyfriend and girlfriend, but during the Great Depression, they lost their money and got married to make the strip more relatable. Since then, they have been seen as the iconic married couple living in the suburbs with their children. And who better to advertise a refrigerator? Just as with the last ad, this is designed to appeal to a sense of home and family, because in the end, that’s really who buys a refrigerator. Single people certainly buy refrigerators, but so do newly married couples looking to start a home and a family. Dagwood and Blondie represent a comfortable, happy home, and so are perfect for a refrigerator ad.

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA2316/

This ad is listed (again undated) in the OAAA collection from 1885-1990, but based on the woman’s hair, 1950-1960 seems like a good range.

In this final ad, much like the first ad, it’s not immediately apparent what’s relevant and interesting. The text makes clear the advantages of the particular refrigerator: it brings ice right to you! But again, the question is who this is being marketed to. The answer seems to be women like the woman in the picture, but who is she exactly? She appears to be young and attractive, she has a modern (for the time) look, and upon close inspection, she is wearing a ring. She’s married! That’s hugely important, because once again, this is appealing to the married home. It also appeals to each individual member of the home. Men would see this ad and think that owning that refrigerator would somehow get him a beautiful girl like that. And women looking at the ad would think that owning that refrigerator would make them young, beautiful, and modern. This is a slight variation from the previous advertisements that seemed to appeal to the family and home as a whole, but it is still quite effective and appeals to the same group, but in a slightly different way.

Between all three of these ads, one thing really remains the same: the appeal to the family. It seems that since its early days up to more modern ads, refrigerator ads have been targeted towards homes and families. This seems to indicate that it works, and that the people buying refrigerators really are people who buy into these ads, or in other words, are part of the home and / or family depicted or hinted at in these ads.

Works Cited

Gold Seal Coldspot Refrigerators in a Million Homes <http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA7263/&gt;.

End Defrosting Forever With a No-Frost Modern Refrigerator. <http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA1891/&gt;.

New Side-by-Side Refrigerator. General Electric delivers ice to your door! <http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA2316/&gt;.

Boy Man

Essentially, this is a fictional movie depicting the real danger of dehumanizing. The plot of this one specifically focuses on Thai food, but the principles are universal. Dehumanizing anything is dangerous and must be done cautiously because when something is done without humans, it loses its intangibles; the things that machines cannot sense. For example, machines can crank out hundreds and thousands of paintings for people to hang on their walls, but they don’t have the feeling that something handmade gives you. This movie is also absurd.

The movie opens with a huge press conference. Scientists are answering questions about a new technology that easily and cheaply creates any kind of flavor, and will pass the tests of the tasting machines (the one from “You Call This Thai Food? The Robotic Taster Will be the Judge”). It’s being hailed as the easy answer to world hunger. As the press conference concludes, there’s tons of commotion. Flashes going off like crazy. The speakers all shake hands and smile and wave to the cameras. Smiles. Noise. Flashes.

15 years later.

Children, about 8, in a school cafeteria walk up to a slide. They receive a cup with gray paste in it. All the children seem to be fine with it, except for one. They go on to the tables and dig in. They ask each other what they’re having. Some say pizza. Some say burgers. It becomes clear that this paste is flavored like various different foods. It doesn’t look particularly appetizing, but it passes the machines’ tests. Later, school gets out, and we follow the kid who didn’t like the food as he walks home with his mom. People everywhere are drinking the stuff, and seem to have gotten it from street vendors, restaurants… anywhere that sells food. The kid gets home, goes up to his room, and puts on a clearly homemade superhero costume. He runs back downstairs, and shouts, “Boy Man!” His mom responds, “Boy Man! Please, save us from these horrible monsters!” She pretends that he’s slaying monsters and saving the day as he runs around punching and kicking the air.

The TV is on in the background, and suddenly there’s a breaking story on the news. The mom looks back to it. The technology that made this food has created monsters made of this gray paste. Giant, oozing piles of evil muck. And they’re right in New York City. Where this kid lives. The kid looks at the TV too, and before his mom can say anything, he runs out the door of the apartment.

His mom gives chase, but he gets away, down the stairs and outside, where one of these muck piles is wreaking havoc in an intersection. People are screaming. Police are shooting at it, to no avail. Our hero runs right toward it, past the police officers, who stop shooting. The thing opens its “mouth” and he leaps right toward it, and delivers a mighty punch into its core. It bursts, and slop lands all over the intersection, but the monster is dead. Somehow, he defeated it, and for reasons no one can understand, only he can destroy these things.

The rest of the movie is him and his mom going around defeating these things. The movie ends with the mom waking up with a gasp (I know, it’s cheesy, but it was all a dream). She goes into her son’s room, who is asleep in his Boy Man costume, then to the kitchen, shaking her head, and gets some real food from the refrigerator.

As “Boy Man,” only he can deliver the humanity that defeats the technically perfect but soulless monsters that represent the dehumanization of artistic processes.

Why will this movie be a hit? The protagonist is an adorable child, and who doesn’t love superhero movies? Honestly, it probably wouldn’t be a critical hit, but it would be entertaining.

The Lift Ware Spoon

The Lift Ware spoon, reviewed on Abler by Sara Hendren, is a battery powered mechanical spoon designed by the company Lynx Design. It is designed to sense and eliminate tremors while in use; in other words, your hand holding the spoon may be shaking, but the spoon adjusts to cancel out the shaking. The video provided shows several extreme examples of people who literally cannot eat because the shaking of their hands launches food off of the spoon before it gets to their mouth. This spoon is mostly targeted at people with some sort of disease (such as Parkinson’s) that cause these severe tremors.

Overall, the spoon is not entirely ugly. The tremor mitigation technology does take up a bit of room, so the handle of the spoon is a bit chunky, but not altogether unwieldy. It appears to have the thickness of a large carrot at the handle, narrowing toward the end, with a traditional metal spoon head. This is a product born of universal design, and it would be foolish to argue that this spoon does not fill a needed role.

The spoon looks like it would feel very plastic to the touch. Not cold or metallic, but certainly not warm and welcoming either. It’s the sort of thing born entirely of ergonomics and practicality. I mentioned before that it’s not ugly, but it definitely isn’t an appealing thing either. There’s no style about it. It brings to mind a hospital or a nursing home. The type of place where there isn’t room to make things look good. They’re built to work and nothing more, and this is actually where my one criticism of the Lift Ware spoon comes in.

One of the main goals of the spoon is to deal with a “loss of dignity.” In the video, this is in reference to not being able to eat at all, but using a big plastic ergonomic mechanical spoon comes with its own loss of dignity. Unless you’re in a group where everyone is using one of these spoons (or you’re only with really fantastic friends who just don’t care), if you use it in public, it’s going to be obvious that you can’t eat on your own.

That’s not to say that it’s not a step in the right direction. Eating with a chunky spoon is much better than not being able to feed yourself. However, this spoon isn’t the answer either. Ideally, there would be some way for people with severe tremors to get rid of their tremors altogether, or have a spoon that’s indistinguishable from ordinary ones. This is clearly a long way of scientifically, and I’m not saying that’s what we need. I’m just saying that while the spoon solves some problems, its appearance does come with a few of its own.

This might change the way we perceive people with really bad tremors. No longer are they incapable of helping themselves. Now there’s a new way to help them to be independent for longer. In a way, this spoon gives me hope for the future, because it shows that one small step at a time, science and engineering like this can help people live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Unconventional Research

As most college freshmen were, I was at one point a high school senior. This involved everything that we all remember all too clearly: SATs, ACTs, weighted and unweighted GPAs, extracurriculars, innumerable college visits, endless pamphlets, countless websites, “fast fact” after “fast fact,” and everything else that went into figuring out where I was going to end up at college. For quite a while, I had no idea where I would be going the following year, and part of that was a lack of research. I had a great list of schools I might go to. I knew which schools I could likely get into, and which would be more of a reach. But I didn’t know which, if any, I actually wanted to go to. All my friends were talking about their first choice, their second choice, even their third choice schools, and I still hadn’t figured out if I really liked any of mine very much. I just didn’t know enough.

I was very fortunate in terms of acceptances. Of my whole list, only one school rejected me. However, I don’t say this to show off, but because it actually posed a huge problem for me that will be integral to this post: I was paralyzed by choice. My parents kept telling me that they were all good options for me, and my guidance counselor said the same thing. I didn’t want to ask my friends, because I didn’t want them to think I had no idea what was going on (and let’s be honest, what would they know about schools they’d never been to anyway?). I found myself on my own, and this is where my “unconventional research” came into play.

My mom and I scheduled a number of trips to schools, mostly for accepted student days, and even a couple of overnight stays with current students. These trips were absolutely critical for me, because I knew that I was going to have to decide where I spent the next four years of my life based on them, so I took each one very seriously.

We often think of research as searching through databases for the right journal or hunting through the library for that one book, but I would count what I was doing as research too. On each campus, I tried to understand the school as best I could, trying to decide if I could see myself there. My research consisted of talking to students, and not polling them, but normal conversation, getting a feel for what their life was like, imagining myself walking from class to class, looking at student centers and public spaces.

What I found, obviously, was that I liked Emory the best. The students seemed happy, I liked the campus enough that I didn’t think I’d get tired of walking around it, the DUC seemed good, and the library was nice. These are things that I couldn’t have found on any website or in any college guidebook. These are things that can only be determined from firsthand experience. And this is how research has shaped me.

Is a Cardboard Box Literature?

Actually, the question is whether or not “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” qualifies as literature and whether it meets our expectations of literature.

First of all, I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be literature, which I realize isn’t necessarily the question, but it’s a good first step in answering the real question here. Literature is literally defined as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” And we’re talking about Sherlock Holmes here! I don’t think anyone of sound mind could say that Sherlock Holmes isn’t of lasting artistic merit. He’s one of the most widely recognized characters in modern literature. Yes, I used that word intentionally.

Let’s break down the argument, beginning with the definition of literature. It’s not really up for debate. Society has to agree on certain things, and definitions of words tend to be among those things. That’s not to say that language can’t evolve, or that definitions couldn’t be tweaked, but in this case I don’t think there’s much to disagree with. To argue that literature must be written to a specific formula using only archaic language would be absurd, and as far as I can tell, only a definition that specific could exclude Sherlock Holmes from the club.

Now that the definition of literature is settled, the only other thing to consider is whether a story like “The Story of the Cardboard Box” fits it, and I think it could be asserted that the whole collection of Sherlock Holmes stories do.

So back to the original question. Does “The Story of the Cardboard Box” meet our expectations of literature? Again, I’m going to say that yes, it does.

I’m basing this in part on the fact that I personally have very lenient expectations of literature. I think that literature should include any piece of writing that brings something to the table, because after all, many great artists aren’t appreciated until well after their time. Who are we to say now that what isn’t popular today won’t be relevant tomorrow? Our society could, unlikely as it is, might someday read “Captain Underpants” like the bible. It is my contention that anything that involves some creativity could be counted as literature.

However, I understand that not everyone shares my point of view, so I’ll also try to address a more conventional point of view, that literature has to be some kind of really highbrow brilliant piece of writing. Even by this standard, I still think that Sherlock Holmes would qualify as literature. It’s tightly written, has interesting plots, and one of the most iconic characters of all time. It might be sort of cliche to say so, but Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have reached so many people if it weren’t good. It’s always possible for the masses to have poor taste, but remember that Sherlock Holmes is still relevant today, 100 years later!

By any standard, I think it has to be recognized that Sherlock Holmes is literature, and that people who don’t think so have unreasonable standards of what literature should be.

Theodore’s Job

In the movie Her, directed by Spike Jonze, the main character, named Theodore, has a very interesting job, and one that some people might think is completely made up and outrageous. What does he do? He writes handwritten letters… from other people. Using the technology of the future, his company, Beautiful Handwritten Letters, Theodore is able to dictate to his computer a thoughtful, touching letter, and the computer puts it in the handwriting of whoever has commissioned the letter.

Theodore is somehow able to come up with intimate details of some couples’ or relatives’ relationships, and when another man in the office asks him how in one case, Theodore responds by saying that he has been writing letters for this particular couple for many years, and picked up on this particular detail they’re discussing early on from a picture that he was given of these people.

This is just one example. Over the course of the movie, it becomes clear that Theodore has written a lot of these letters. So many, in fact, that Samantha helps him publish a book with his best letters. He must have written a whole bunch of letters to, first of all, have enough selection among his body of work to pick out enough really great ones that this book could be published, and second of all, to have had enough practice that he got good enough at writing love letters for other people that he could be published.

So what does Theodore’s job remind me of? Almost immediately, almost as soon as i understood during the movie what it is Theodore does for a living, my mind went directly to The Shadow Scholar. After all, they do almost exactly the same thing. They write things that are supposed to be internal, personal or intimate in some way for other people. Scholarly assignments and love letters both come with a significant expectation of originality and authenticity. Professors expect papers to be written by the student that takes credit, obviously. We’d like to think that the education system would fall apart if students didn’t do their own work, but some students feel, for one reason or another, that they need more than just a little help on their latest assignment, and get in touch with someone like Ed Dante. In much the same way, every wife assumes that a handwritten letter signed by her husband was actually written by her husband. Every grandmother would think that a letter from her grandson really was written by her grandson.

But the bottom line is, with Beautiful Handwritten Letters, what we hope for isn’t always what’s really going on. And the same exact thing goes for Ed Dante. And Theodore’s experience and ability parallels to The Shadow Scholar as well. As previously noted, Theodore has lots of experience. He’s been writing letters for one particular couple for 8 years, and the viewer is led to believe that’s the norm. Ed Dante has written tons of papers for tons of students on tons of topics. There are so many parallels between Theodore and Ed’s jobs it’s unbelievable.

Her. Dir. Spike Jones. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy McAdams, and Scarlett Johansson. Annapurna Pictures, 2013. Film.

Dante, Ed. “The Shadow Scholar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education Inc., 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

The Shadow Scholar: A Letter Home

Dear Mom,

We recently read an article in English class that I think you should be aware of. It was called “The Shadow Scholar,” and it was written by a man who went by the name of Ed Dante. This wasn’t his real name, for obvious reasons, but nonetheless, he wrote about his experience as a so-called ‘academic mercenary.’

Before I go much farther, I want you to know that this isn’t something I would ever consider doing. I just want you to be informed.

As an ‘academic mercenary,’ Dante writes papers, for a fee, for students who are desperate, lazy, or maybe even both. He describes writing on topics that he knows nothing about on tight deadlines for advanced academic programs. “I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.” Much of his work is done in an insanely short amount of time, and much of his information comes from websites like Wikipedia.

In his article, he also tells the story of one particular student who couldn’t even string together a coherent sentence in her messages to him, but would end up with a well written paper.

Unfortunately, he’s not on his own either. He actually works for a company that employs lots of writers like him to write papers for students, and he makes a pretty good living, having worked there full time for several years. He says that his company makes tens of thousands of dollars a month doing these assignments. A ‘standard’ assignment, like the one he describes writing for this particular business student, goes for $2,000, half of which he takes, the other half of which his company takes. Overall, Dante claimed he was going to make $66,000 the year that he wrote this. Again, that’s a pretty good living.

His company is doing so well that during midterms and finals they can’t even keep up with demand. Imagine that. So many students willing to pay for other people to do their work that there aren’t enough people willing to take their money.

At this point, there’s a bit of a transition in the article. His main point, for all the shock value of writing this, is that there’s a problem with the education system. He does admit that he’s a ‘bad guy.’ He says that he works hard for a living, and that he’s nice to people, but he also admits that he understands that he isn’t doing a positive thing. His point though, is that he’s not actually causing the problem. He thinks that students are.

As you know, I would never do something like pay for an assignment to be done for me. But clearly, there are students out there who are, and Dante argues that the education system that created those students is the problem, and I don’t think he’s way off base.

Dante also shares his story. What happened to him in college. It’s pretty touching. Basically, he felt that he wasn’t taken seriously, and that his talents and efforts were brushed aside by his school. It’s hard not to identify with the down-on-his-luck kid who just wanted to write, and no one would help him. It’s even kind of hard to blame him for taking money to write assignments for other kids.

I don’t think that I should drop out of school, or that college as a concept is totally flawed. I think maybe some changes could be made. I think that this article certainly brings up a pretty serious topic. Let me know what you think sometime.

Graham

Your Voice Isn’t All of You

Your voice is you.

Is it?

Actually, there’s a lot more that goes into you than just your voice. Pillow Talk, a movie by Michael Gordon, explores the boundaries of what your voice can be. In the movie, Brad and Jan share a phone line, which Jan is not happy about, because Brad is constantly using it, and she can never make her calls. They have never met, but through his manager Jonathan, who happens to be in love with Jan, and various other circumstances, Brad ends up in the same club as Jan at the same time, and Brad knows who Jan is but Jan does not recognize Brad. The rest of the movie follows Brad’s attempts to woo Jan using a false name, accent, and persona.

When first watching the movie, one might wonder how Jan could fall for this. Granted, Brad is very smooth and has a couple of lucky breaks to keep up the illusion, but the truth is, it’s not too hard to deceive someone like that. Anyone who has seen the movie Catfish knows that we often take people at face value, and that a well planned scheme could fool almost anyone.

My hypothesis is that we take people at face value because we often have to. If everyone constantly questioned the authenticity of every other person and their actions, society would fall apart. Nothing could be accomplished, from business deals to marriages. Nothing would happen. We hope that everyone’s better nature prevails and accept what they show us about themselves as true.

That’s why Jan believes in Rex Stetson. She has no reason to suspect that he’s the promiscuous playboy she shares a phone line with.

The important thing is that it’s not the voice Brad uses that fools Jan. Brad could have used almost any kind of accent he wanted to. It wouldn’t even have to be a discernible accent; he could sound like anything or anyone as long as he doesn’t sound like the voice Jan will recognize. That’s a wide range of options.

Brad creates a believable backstory. He drops remarks in conversation that are congruous with this new character and solidify Jan’s belief that he’s a man from Texas. This is what fools Jan.

His accent helps, but it’s not what makes Jan believe in Rex Stetson. It might even be the least important thing he does. As I noted earlier, he could have used any accent. If his accent were followed with the same believable act, it would certainly have succeeded. He might even have gotten away with using his regular voice, given that Jan had only ever heard him over the phone, and probably didn’t pay much attention to what he sounded like. There’s a good chance she wouldn’t have recognized his voice in person. At most, it would take a slight tweak to his voice to fool her (in terms of his voice). On the other hand, even if he’d used an impeccable accent, but made mistakes in his act, Jan would have seen through it right away.

So no, your voice isn’t you. You are you, if that makes any sense. Your background, your story, your pool of experiences are what make you you. Just changing what you sound like when you tell those stories isn’t enough to change who you are.