“It’s Okay To Look”

July 28, 2008

While watching the news on television, a match.com commercial appeared.  I confess that I am weird in the sense that sometimes I find the most interesting part of programming to be commercials.  As a former corporate marketing guy the habit of studying commercials is a hard one to break.  I was not paying as close attention to this ad as I do for some, but got the impression that they have enhanced or upgraded their service in some way.  Sorry, that much of the message was lost on me.  But I am also the wrong demographic for the service, specifically, I’m married.  But wait a minute.  While I am definitely married, am I the wrong demographic?  What are they up to here? 

What DID catch my eye in this commercial was their sign-off slogan, which they are in the process of protecting with a trademark.  That slogan is:  IT’S OKAY TO LOOK.  It left me pondering.  On one hand, I find it to be an effective devise.  But on another, I have to wonder if they are trying to expand their potential market beyond those for whom they can serve a legitimate purpose.

It’s okay to look…alright, it is a nice little piece of encouragement to a single person who has been reluctant to try out on-line dating services.  After all, the process of checking out the match.com site is a fairly anonymous one, as far as I know, I’ve never tried it.  So, for the single and reluctant soul, this is a gentle way of saying “what’s the harm in taking a look, its okay.” 

I’ll buy that, and will concede that the slogan is effective.

It’s okay to look…so, maybe the slogan is also a not so subtle invitation to someone who may be involved in a dating relationship, but who is, shall we say, not all that content.  Is the message then “what’s the harm in just checking out what other possibilities exist?  After all, it is an anonymous process.  No commitments required.  And your current relationship doesn’t have to find out…it’s only a “look”, and that’s okay.” 

I’ll maybe buy that one too.  They are is still acting as a service for those who are single.

It’s okay to look…reminds me of some of the men that I worked with when I was just out of college.  They were all older than I was and I don’t remember if I was married at the time or not, but I do know THEY WERE.  I distinctly remember them “admiring” women both in the office and out in public.  I write admiring in quotation marks because I could just have easily described their “admiration” as lusting, particularly when their viewing was accompanied with commentary.  When I would chide them about being married, one of their favorite responses was something to the effect of “just because you’ve ordered, doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”   Ha ha ha, (slap knee), that was a really good one.  It’s okay to look would just be another way of saying the same thing they did, wouldn’t it?

It’s okay to look…was this an intentional double entente, or just an interpretation that I have taken completely out of context?  Was match.com’s intention to limit the intended effective reach of this message to singles who could benefit from on-line dating services?  Or will match.com take the business from any place they can get it?  I suspect that they would say that they don’t get into the moral decisions that necessarily are joined with “dating” and I suspect they would deny any attempt to expand the reach for their service to include married persons.  Nevertheless, one thing I am certain about, for some people, it’s NOT okay to look.


Where’s the truth?

July 24, 2008

The pensive look on this sweet little face surely characterizes the question marks surrounding the facts about her disappearance.  Caylee Anthony was reported missing by her grandmother last week.  Her mother sits in jail, charged with a couple of misdemeanors related to misleading investigators.  She remains there pending the payment of a $500,000 bond.  However, law enforcement officials have officially listed her as a “person of interest” in the little girl’s disappearance.

This particular case is so strange, that it has captured my interest.  Mostly because it is so different from the circumstances that normally accompany other news stories about people who have gone missing.  The “players” and their actions are bordering on bizarre. 

Here are some of the facts as currently known:

On July 15, Caylee’s grandmother calmly calls 911 to have her daughter arrested for stealing her car. 

Later that same day, Caylee’s grandmother franticly calls 911 to report that Caylee is missing and has not seen her since early June.  In this second call, the grandmother reports that there is an odor like a dead body in the car that she earlier reported stolen by her daughter, Caylee’s mother.  The 911 operator asks to speak to Caylee’s mother, who calmly describes that she had not seen Caylee in 31 days.  The tone of ambivalence is striking.  Meanwhile the mother accuses a babysitter of having Caylee.  The babysitter named is a non-existent person who resides at a location the mother cannot identify. 

Caylee and her mother live in the same house as the grandmother, but the grandmother is not aware that Caylee is missing for that 5 week period of time.

Two separate cadaver sniffing dogs have found evidence of human decomposition at the home of the grandmother and, in the car used by Caylee’s mother (which was the one reported as being stolen by Calyee’s mother.)  The grandmother now claims that the dead body odor was from a piece of pizza or garbage left in trunk of the car for 19 days.

Caylee’s mother borrowed a shovel from a neighbor, at night, around the time the little girl was last seen.

Friends of Caylee’s mother regard her as an “habitual and compulsive liar.”

The grandmother says the mother knows where the child is, and if she is let out of jail, she can help in finding her.  However, Caylee’s mother is not cooperating with law enforcement officials in terms of telling them where Caylee is, and will only deal with her attorney.

The grandmother says of Caylee: “we know where she’s at”  In the same interview she says: “she could be anywhere.” 

The grandmother claims today that tips have been received of sighting Caylee at the airport in Orlando and in Georgia.  The grandmother thinks that whoever has Caylee is going to North Carolina.

Where is the truth?  Where is Caylee?  I certainly hope that she is found unharmed and in good condition although, given the circumstantial evidence, that seems like an unlikely outcome.  The odd happenings surrounding this case certainly make for interesting theater.  Too bad it is not just that, theater.  The life of a precious little girl either hangs in the balance, or has already been extinguished.

Pray for Caylee’s safety, or her eternal rest.


The definition of irony and ingratitude!

July 21, 2008

            

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months.  The German newspaper SPIEGEL interviewed Maliki, and asked him when U.S. troops should leave Iraq.  His response:  “as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned.  U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.”

How ironic that al-Maliki, has implicitly endorsed Barack Obama’s candidacy on the basis of his agreement with him on this important issue.  In so doing, he has effectively discredited John McCain who was, for all intents and purposes, the chief proponent of the so-called “Surge” which arguably secured the freedom of the Iraqi people.  And al-Maliki’s apparent support for Obama virtually defines irony given the fact that Obama, by his own words, would never have authorized the use of force in Iraq in the first place.  Is there any reason to think that Saddam Hussein would have simply relinquished his power had we not forced him out?  Surely al-Maliki would not favor that.  But that is precisely what the situation would look like today had Barack Obama had his way.

I have never been overly impressed with al-Maliki’s effectiveness as the leader of his country’s new democracy.  Mostly his lack of a sense of urgency is what troubles me.  But, I am equally unimpressed with his ability to think strategically, as represented by this gaffe, not to mention his apparent lack gratitude.


This gives the intent of the expression a whole new significance.

July 19, 2008

A few years ago, The Coca-Cola Company declared that its operating strategies would be to “think globally, but act locally.”  The concept was probably not invented by Coke, and there are other organizations and causes that have co-opted the same philosophy.  By that expression, they meant that the products of The Coca-Cola Company will stand for refreshment, affordability, high quality, fun, etc., on a world-wide basis.  Likewise, the company itself will insist on high standards of business ethics and professionalism in every market in which it operates.  But, the company also acknowledged that individual markets have unique an particular requirements.  And to be a valued supplier, The Coca-Cola Company needed to be both aware of, and responsive to those requirements.  It makes sense.  But it bears mentioning that “thinking locally” never granted permission to a local manager or executive to do ANYTHING counter to or harmful to the global image or positioning of the company or its brands.  Violators pay with their careers, as senior corporate executives are totally committed to preserving and protecting the good name and reputation of the company and its products.

The United Methodist Church is facing a serious threat to its authority.  “Thinking globally,” United Methodist Church law, forbids its ministers from performing ceremonies that celebrate the union of same-sex couples.  This has been a contentious subject for a number of years, but so far, a part of the “global operating strategy” of the United Methodist Church is to uphold the belief that homosexual practice is not compatible with Christian teaching. 

Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church has, within its ranks, a number of ministers who have taken the “act locally” concept a bit too far.  The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday, that United Methodist ministers in California, (where the state’s supreme court recently ruled in favor of permitting gay marriage) are performing, or are planning to perform same-sex marriages.  These ministers will be performing ceremonies in direct violation of the church law of the denomination they have freely chosen to be ordained and governed by ecclesiastically.  It is my hope that the bishops of the United Methodist Church, its “senior executives,” will be as thoroughly commited to the clear teaching of scripture, as the top management of The Coca-Cola Company is with respect to the principles and image of their company. 

If a denomination is to remain relevant, it must have global standards by which it conducts its global ministry.  And while ministry clearly is a local activity, in fact it really is an individual person-to-person activity, it is not an unreasonable expectation on the part of any church that its ministers support the laws and teaching of that church.  Ministers who are not faithful to the laws of their church must be disciplined in a serious and credible way.  Given the seriousness of this matter, that is individuals doing violence to the very church laws that they pledge to uphold, expulsion seems like the appropriate response.  It seems to me that this is no small matter.  The name and reputation of the United Methodist Church really does hang in the balance. 

The world will be watching.  The Lord is watching.


Not your mother’s “Barbara Millicent Roberts” doll

July 17, 2008

Mattel will be introducing a new doll this fall called “Black Canary” Barbie.  The British newspaper The Sun carried the story first, and it was unclear from their article if the doll will be available only in the U.K. or worldwide.  The inspiration for this doll is a DC Comics character of the same name.  The comic book super-heroine is a martial artist and possesses a supersonic scream that shatters objects and incapacitates villains.

 
While the comic book character has evolved over the years, she is not strictly the product of our overly sexualized 21st century.  She was originally conceived as a character 1947! 

                                   

Black Canary was originally thought to be a villainess, but was actually an infiltrator in a criminal gang.  While I will concede that her appearance has changed a bit over time, and yes, those changes have been more provocative, the general look (curvy and blond) has not really changed in the last 61 years.  It seems to me that Black Canary, the comic book character, and Barbie, the doll, land pretty close to one another in terms of appearance.

While it remains to be seen if this doll will be a big seller, it comes as no surprise that it has critics.  And the Christian community in the U.K. has already expressed their outrage.  Christian Voice calls the doll “filth.”  And while it is not clear if it was The Sun who took some editorial liberties, or if it was a quote from Christian Voice, the newspaper headline refers to the now doll as “S&M Barbie.”  Given that the doll’s inspiration was a comic book character, whose sexual preferences are probably unknown, this seems a bit over the top, and only fuels the controversy unnecessarily.

I have never completely bought into the criticism of some, who suggest that Barbie creates unhealthy body image aspirations in young girls, (with what would proportionally be a 5’9″ height, 36″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), or that her material acquisitions of clothes, homes and cars, will result in an unreasonable pursuit of these same things by grown-up former Barbie owners.  I would submit that there are far greater and more potent influences in these regards than a doll that might get played with for a few years, or more likely a few months.

So, what do you think?  Is a little girl playing with a doll inspired by a comic book superhero a bad thing?  If it is, then surely little boys should be discouraged from playing with superhero action figures.  How about games of fantasy wherein a child imagines he or she is a superhero?  Should the line be drawn because the superhero (and therefore her action figure doll) wears fishnet stockings?  While this particular outfit is unique, is it any more provocative than some of the other attire that can be purchased for Barbie? 

Sure there are lessons to be taught about the need for propriety of dress and modesty.  But hey, it’s a doll.  And while there may be some strange and peculiar exceptions, I would dare say that the vast majority of little girls who are playing with Barbie dolls, still live under the authority of parents or some other adult, who can control what that little girl wears and when she wears it, if there is a concern about a level of emulation that leads to the desire to wear leather and fishnets.  And if a conversation with a child on this subject is too difficult, please refer them to me.  I would be happy to remind that child that while they may be super, they are not a comic book superhero.  And just as they do not possess the power of an incapacitating supersonic scream, they do not dress that way either.


Perhaps they protest too much

July 14, 2008

THE NEW YORKER magazine, in its July 21 issue has sparked plenty of controversy with their cover, shown below.  The publisher insists that it is pure satire, but the Obama campaign has pushed back.  And that is not at all surprising.  From the apparent setting in the Oval Office, to the outfits that the two caricatures wear, (Obama in a get-up suitable for traipsing around the highlands of Afghanistan, to the Mrs., suited up in camo with an assault rifle slung over her back sporting an Angela Davis hairdo) along with a portrait of Osama Bin Laden over the fireplace, wherein an American flag is being burned, I am sure they are bristling.  Probably the only thing the Obamas are not complaining about is the dead-on accurate representation of the fist-bump that I have almost never failed to see the two exchange, when appearing on the campaign trail together.                

                  

One of the things about satire, for it to work, it must land close enough to the facts, or at least perception, to be understood contextually, otherwise, it has no basis for humor.  For example, had they chosen to clad Obama in a woman’s dress, that would only have been effective satire if there were those who regard him as effeminate, or perhaps the submissive partner in his marriage.  Since that is not the case, that satirical caricature would fall flat on its face.  And in fact, the reaction you might expect from the Obama campaign if that were the image shown on the cover would sound something more like: “What?” or “Huh?” rather than the indignation that has accompanied this one.

While I will agree that some of the satire in this cover is outrageous, the images must bear some proximity to fact or perception to have been understood contextually.  Whether it is fair or funny is an individual matter.  The bottom line, the satire is obvious and can be comprehended.  It is established fact that Michelle Obama has spoken about her lack of pride in her country.  Were her comments taken out of context?  In spite of her protestations, they were not.  She said what she said.  In fact she did so twice in one day, at separate campaign appearances.  In many ways, some of Michelle’s comments are frieghteningly close to the America-hating vitriol of her former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.  As for Barack, he wrote in his book Audacity of Hope, “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”  Add to that his refusal to wear a flag lapel pin, like virtually all other U.S. Senators, and not placing his hand over his heart during the recitation of the Pledge of Alliegence or the playing of the National Anthem, and the image of the desecration of the flag portrayed in the magazine cover takes on real satirical weight.

I can certainly understand why the Obamas have not appreciated the humor in the cover of the magazine.  But perhaps they protest too much.  Instead of complaining about it, which only draws more attention, they should do something to change the facts, or at least the perceptions of who they are and what they stand for.  When they do that, these caricatures will cease to remain relevant.


“There but for the grace of God…”

July 11, 2008

John Bradford (1510-1555) was gifted intellectually, with skills at law and finance and later became involved with the English Reformation.  He was imprisoned by Mary Tudor who was a Catholic, for a trumped up charge of stirring up a mob.  When one day he saw another prisoner being led to his execution, Bradford is credited with having said, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”  The expression has often been used since simply as “there but for the grace of God, go I.”  And as we see calamity around us, I think we can all say the same for ourselves. 

I confess that I have enjoyed witnessing the dissension within the democrat party this week as the Rev. Jesse Jackson was caught making an “inappropriate” comment at the conclusion of an interview on Fox News Channel.  In it he makes a crude reference to what he would like to do to Obama for his apparent abandonment of his far left (I’ll call it Marxist) predispositions and support for black people, now that he is making a strategically calculated shift to the center, to rhetorically court moderates and independents.  Jackson has since apologized for the comment.  However, I would contend that he was apologizing for the comment being exposed and the embarrassment it has caused, as I am inclined to believe that the sentiment underlying the comment runs much deeper.

                 

So while I can say without reservation that I wish more of the same faux pas and miscalculations for the democrats in the weeks and months ahead, I do feel genuine empathy for Jackson.  James, the brother of Jesus, correctly understood that:

“with it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not be so.” (James 3: 9,10) 

Surely Jackson is guilty of this contradiction.  And while James surely meant it to be a lesson for all mankind, it seems an even more serious lapse when the tongue belongs to a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While I am not an ordained minister, I do have the privilege of teaching from God’s word, and I am equally guilty of this sinful contradiction that scritpure says “ought not be so.”  While I have relatively little appreciation for Jesse Jackson’s politics or some of the outrageous tactics he uses in support of his social causes, I do sympathizse with the embarrassment and shame from the conviction he is (hopefully) feeling from the Holy Spirit.  There but for the grace of God, goes Chuck Thomas.