Entries Posted in "March 2005"

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Marketing Genius
March 31, 2005

I've always been convinced that Mormons had brilliant commercials. LDS television spots always deal in principle. The subject matter is usually marriage, family, life, or some other pursuit of happiness. The commercials always made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside until I got to the end and heard, "This has been a message from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Then there's the part where they offer you a free version of the Book of Mormon when you dial their 1-800 number, and tell you to talk to your Mormon neighbor if you have any questions. In all the years I grew up in a predominately black Seattle neighborhood, I've never had a Mormon neighbor. Never. But since I'd like to be on CBS one day, I'll just stop there.

Indoctrination is the best way to disseminate a message. Even Mcdonalds seems to know that. Needless to say, deceptive commercial campaigns are rampant. There is one in particular that is driving me crazy.

The "Knowing is Beautiful" Campaign
The national multi-million dollar AIDS education campaign is a couched effort full of glossy ads and urban culture celebrity cameos, all geared towards encouraging young people to get regularly tested for HIV. The campaign has raised more than a few eyebrows. The slogan, "Knowing is Beautiful," as in knowing that your irresponsible sexual choices haven't caught up with you yet is deceptive to say the least.

Seen both on television, as well as on billboards, when the "Knowing is Beautiful" campaign billboards first began appearing on Boston buses and subway station billboards, people were rightfully disturbed. The Boston Globe reports:

Knowing is beautiful? What a weird choice of words, Boston public health nurse Brianne Fitzgerald thought when she first saw the ad in the subway.

"Knowing is not beautiful," Fitzgerald says now, weeks later. An AIDS counselor and caregiver for nearly 20 years, Fitzgerald recalls a group of her AIDS patients that included a bony, ratty-haired, pock-marked old addict from the JP projects; a tiny baby-doll-like prostitute in the South End who puffed up like a Cabbage Patch Kid before she passed away; and an infant in a Cambodian village whose body was so malnourished and riven by diarrhea that he looked 70, not 7 weeks, before he died.

No, says Fitzgerald, "It's not beautiful. It's depressing as ****"

Like some others in the field, Fitzgerald, 56, fears that by using such glossy depictions to break the barriers of blase, the ads are veering into dangerous territory: glamorizing the disease, as she put it; disguising the fact that despite great medical strides, people are still dying from AIDS; dismissing the many who are still living but are shredded by the side effects of their medications, from nausea to nightmares; even loosening safe-sex strictures with its elegant touch.

"We want everything to look nice in our culture," Fitzgerald says. Still, as it sweeps across the country, the "knowing is beautiful" theme -- a joint effort by Viacom, the media giant, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides information on health issues to the public and policymakers -- is being heaped with praise in some quarters for being a chic public service approach to trying to lower the percentages of those who are infected with HIV but don't know it, now pegged by Kaiser as about 1 in 4 in the United States of those infected.

By eschewing the scary and statistic-driven messages of typically dull public service announcements in favor of a style more reminiscent of a Gap ad -- sensual sepia tones, hip-hop iconography, and an adhesive bandage from a blood test primped up as a beautiful flower-shaped HIV-test trademark -- the media blitz's participants are hoping to turn the clinical into the cool.


Posted by Ambra in Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 10 }
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By the way, if you don't have logins for the Washington Post or the New York Times by now, you probably don't have call-waiting and refer to Mp3s as "records." As a reminder, BugMeNot is a great resource.

Posted by Ambra in Linkology | Link to This Entry | Comments { 16 }
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It's A Long Story
March 30, 2005

And telling it would involve some very not nice words that should not be uttered by someone who frequently criticizes the poor language choices of others.

In short, during the process of changing web hosts (to avoid such occasions as tacky "account suspended" pages), my site was held hostage. FOR NEARLY TWO WEEKS. Ambra was not happy. I shall however, release my pent up wrath by commenting on all the events I missed.

I have a new fabulous host (Plug: Living Dot) run by people who act like they have jobs to keep, and this shall not happen again. But if it does (and it had better not), go to ambranykol.com for updates.

Thanks for sticking around.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 9 }
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Dude, Where's my Blog?
March 24, 2005

Rule #32 of blogging: Don't apologize for non-blogging because nobody really cares.

At first I was going to be all stoic and ignore the fact that I've been MIA (missing in action) for the last week or so by posting some cheeky missive on why Terry Shiavo's husband is manipulative and how many smoke screens the media has thrown up in his defense. Then I started getting sympathy emails about my absence. You know, the ones where people consider a week of non-posting an indication of some sort of quarter-life crisis. Perhaps the loss of a pet or something really devastating like...having a life. Incidentally, I mourned the loss of my dog three years ago, but even that wouldn't have stopped me from posting to my blog. I appreciate everyone's concern, but let me just serve notice: I would never end this blogging venture without some confetti, bells, whistles, and major fund drive. I am however, glad to know people care.

To say life's been hectic is an understatement. Never in my life have I been through so much simultaneous change.

There's some philosophy that says any lulls in blogging are likely to throw off your readership and decrease traffic. Blah. Whatever. I'd rather go silent a week than post shoddily (made up word) written observations on life. I refuse to be a machine. I keep telling you people that I need to bring another writer on board but nooooooooo. So yeah, I needed a break to brace myself for the good stuff on the horizon.

Last week, I had an interesting conversation via phone with fellow blogger La Shawn Barber. She hipped me to the fact that she was phasing herself out of her full-time job. I think there's something in the water. We're both sick of working just to be working. I may be young, but I'm smart enough to know that anytime I have to ask somebody else for permission to use my own vacation time, something is wrong. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

I've got lots of exciting stuff in the works. I'll just keep it at that for now. Thanks for your patience everyone. My brain is refreshed again.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 14 }
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That Ambra Nykol...where is she?
March 17, 2005

The world may never know.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 18 }
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The Requisite Monthly Rant: How Not to Get a Job
March 15, 2005

Just a few tips as pulled from today's experience in the recruiting department:

  1. Write your your cover letter by hand on college-ruled paper with a blue Bic pen.

  2. Use the word "pimp" at least one time on your resume.

  3. When the recruiter calls you for an interview, forget that you even applied for the job.

  4. Use an email address on your resume that includes the word "sexy" (e.g. lilsexymomma@yahoo.com, 2sexy4u@hotmail.com).

  5. Make sure the outgoing voicemail message the recruiter hears includes music and the phrase "shake that (insert Biblical word for donkey)."

Posted by Ambra in Requisite Monthly Rant | Link to This Entry | Comments { 21 }
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When Good People Attack
March 14, 2005

Without fail, there are two things America can be counted on to consistently produce: lazy individuals and "good people." It's a safe bet that a good percentage of America consists of your average non-littering, non-baby-seal-clubbing, charity-donating "good" person. Data has proven that Americans are big givers. In addition to this, we also feed the children, build habitats for humanity, seek international amnesty, give the world vision, treat animals ethically, and assemble corps of peace. And as if that weren't enough, we even recycle. Boy aren't we good!

Yet in all our "good doing," one has to wonder why we still can't shake this pesky crime problem.

Recently, the media has reported on the "goodness" of two very disturbed individuals. It seems that not only do bad things happen to "good people," but "good people" do bad things.

This past Friday, 33-year-old rape suspect Brian Nichols saw fit to exonerate himself by opening fire in an Atlanta courtroom, killing at least three people. While Nichols has mostly been painted as a heartless criminal by the media, his family is alleging that his character is completely the opposite of what's been depicted. Indeed, there is little evidence that Nichols is the hardened criminal that's been presented, save 1989-1990, when Nichols was arrested three separate times on the campus of his Eastern Pennsylvania university for harassment, disorderly conduct and such. Still, Nichols's family contends that he just "snapped." The AP reports:

Felisza Nichols says the portrait of her 33-year-old brother-in-law as a bloodthirsty killer doesn't make sense.

"He's a good person," she said. "He didn't come from a broken home. He's not a person who hung out in the streets and was always in jail. He came up living a good life."

Did you know that coming from a two-parent home automatically makes you a good person?--Apparently so does being a churchgoer.

Brookfield, Wisconsin citizens were recently deceived by a "do-gooder." The Saturday following Nichols's killing spree, 44-year-old Terry Ratzmann, described as a "buttoned-down churchgoer" opened fire on the congregation at the Living Church of God, killing seven people, wounding four others, and ultimately turning the gun on himself.

Did you know good people are cowards too? Fellow friends, neighbors and churchgoers were stunned. The AP reports:

None of those who knew him expected Ratzmann to be violent, though some said he had grappled with depression. Neighbors said he was quiet and devout, that he liked to tinker about his house and garden. He would even release the chipmunks caught in traps he set in his yard.
Because we all know that having an affinity for chipmunks means you are incapable of evil.

Thus far, news reports have come to many conclusions about Ratzmann's motivation. Some say he was provoked by the sermon, while others say he was depressed about recently losing his job. In one consistent vein however, every report thus far has drawn the conclusion that Ratzmann's churchgoer status automatically made him a "good person."

All this goodness, and yet we can't get to the tipping point of what is wrong with our society. It's America in a nutshell. We'd do ourselves well to attempt to come to some sort of resolution about the definition of "good." Unfortunately, it is a fruitless endeavor. In general, we have been very careful not to take the "morality conversation" too far. It is inevitable that any type of examination of right and wrong will eventually trace itself back to truth.

But no. Amid the neo-moralism of America, we prefer vague standards, non-existent principles, faulty status symbols, and imaginary lines to guide our society. We equate accomplishments and financial status to morality. The result is numbness to our conscience, one of the important built-in authorities resident in every human being.

Lack of moral accountability equals chaos. Yet, when our "good people" defrock their "goodness" we have the nerve to act surprised and baffled, when in actuality, we're in part responsible because we've fostered a society that both allows and encourages people to think going to church, graduating from college, and rescuing chipmunks
is enough.

It is disgraceful that lives must be lost in the wake of our morally relative society, but if nothing else, perhaps we will eventually see that "good" isn't good enough.

Posted by Ambra in Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 22 }
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I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder the fake disease. I literally have a folder full of writing yet to be posted on this blog, but I can't sit still long enough to finish it because are so many other fascinating things to write about. Plus there's Snood--quite possibly the most addictive game you could ever play. Don't even inhale or you're a gonner.

Yesterday I began spring cleaning. This usually means that you can find me sitting in the corner of my living room somewhere reminiscing over yearbooks, reading old essays, looking at bucked-teeth pictures from the eighth grade, and getting absolutely no cleaning done.

Yesterday I found all my old college acceptance and rejection letters. I was instantly reminded of the nauseating pretension that comes along with the whole college admissions process. Accept me! Accept me!

Even worse was the obsequiously-obtained Harvard recommendation letter I found from author and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. What Dr. Gates didn't mention in his letter was that I stalked him, hunted him down at a post-book-signing cocktail party and acted like a complete fool just to get a letter that had no chance of getting me into Harvard (thank God). Dr. Gates probably wrote the letter because he felt sorry for me. Heck, I felt sorry for me too.

You know when people ask you to name one of your lowest moments? Well, next to urinating on myself in public, that one is probably number eight on my list. I don't live life in regret, but I cringe at those times in my life when I knew I wasn't being myself.

Enough navel-gazing. I'm working on my columns this morning so I'll be back later today. There's too much to talk about. I need to get back to 5:7 posts. Remind me why having a job is a good thing again?

Posted by Ambra in Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 10 }
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  • Cobb on "Robots": My fellow brotherhood blogger, Michael Cobb Bowen (I refer to him as "the law firm") begins his commentary on the new movie "Robots" by reinforcing something I have been saying for years: Robin Williams is a crackhead. Being the Pixar devotee that I am, I refuse to see these washed up and tired step-children of animated flicks (Shark Tale, Shrek/2, etc.).

  • Who let the dogs out?: Watch out Randy Jackson, Rev. Wayne Perryman, author of "Unfounded Loyalty" (why Democrats are no friend of blacks), released a piece to Seattle press last week in which he lists 12 reasons why black men shouldn't call each other "dog/dawg." Ehhhhh. Terms of endearment aside, Perryman makes valid points--none of which I can argue with. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. All I'm saying is: I can think of 12 more important reasons why black men shouldn't do a lot of things--Like this. Ultimately, Perryman proposes that the term "brother" be used instead. I agree.

  • The New SAT Strikes Out: Early feedback is in regarding the new SAT, which students were subject to for the first time this past Saturday. Overwhelmingly, students thought it was "boring." On the new test, which includes an extended math section, a perfect score is now a 2400. The good news is, analogies are out. The bad news is, writing is in. Whereas before students could opt to take the SAT II in Writing, now it's included in the standard SAT. Oh I could go on about my disdain for the College Board and all their silly little tests. I did fine on the SAT, but I totally bombed my SAT II Writing test. All my English professors hated my writing. They said it was too conversational. Go figure. Today's lesson: ignore your English teachers.

  • Apple Beats the Bloggers: Apple won the case to go after the sources who divulged trade secrets. Scrappleface comments as only he can. I must say, Apple is making it very difficult for me to love them as I do. Oh but I think I'll manage. I'm actually considering selling a kidney on the black market to cop the new Powerbook. Have you pressed your cheek up against one lately? I know, I'm getting counseling for this really soon. In the meantime, do you think Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple and Pixar) will let me come live in his guest house? Right...counseling.

  • Kids on Media Overload: Joanne Jacobs notes a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found the average American child logs more than eight hours of media exposure per day. Considering that may 16-year-old brother does his homework on his laptop with the television on, his mp3 player going, and 6,700 instant message windows open, I believe it. Media, it's the opiate of the masses.

Posted by Ambra in Linkology | Link to This Entry | Comments { 3 }
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The Face Behind the Words
March 11, 2005

Perhaps it's just me, but when I read a book, the first thing I do is turn to the back flap to see what the author looks like. I don't do this from a "shallow" viewpoint. I do it because when I enjoy something, I want to attach a face to my enjoyment. Unfortunately,our culture is very much fueled by "looks."

A consistent observation I've made about visual media in general is that higher standards are set for women. I certainly am one in favor of well-grooming a nice attire, but what I find perplexing is that not only do women have to be smart, we also have to look well-put-together, only to have people completely ignore our intelligence and focus on our appearance. It's a vicious cycle.

On average, female media personalities have to look fabulous well into their older age while the men--also known as "the decrepits"--can wear toupees, have sagging skin and missing teeth all while anchoring the network news. There will never be a female version of Michael Moore because a woman could never get away with looking like that and still be considered credible.

The writing world is a bit different. I've always found it interesting that certain writers (bloggers especially) choose to reveal their identities while others stay behind the curtain.

When I started my weblog, I threw up a photo because I wanted people to know there really was a legitimate person behind this site. Plus I figured that as a columnist, I'd have to do it anyway so I might as well just put myself on out there. The unfortunate thing is that while no one is under any obligation to post their photo, when a woman doesn't, people start drawing their own conclusions.

Recently, blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin changed her weblog photo. When she did, people had a lot to say. It's a seemingly insignificant thing, but I bring it up because in the past, Malkin's opposition had a field day with her looks. Posting your photo online makes you an open target--especially if you're a woman with contrarian views. People cannot fight the urge to draw some sort of connection between works and appearance.

Some interesting conversation has been generated around the idea of how a person's image contributes or takes away from their writing/weblog. Mick at "Uncorrelated Thoughts" writes:

I suspect in most cases, NOT having a photography probably serves the reader the best...LaShawn Barber has a nice, friendly picture on her site. She seems happy to see me and has cookies in the living room... Does it help the blog? In LaShawn's case I think it does. Nothing intimidating or off-putting about it.
Interesting. I can't really imagine what people might imagine me to look like without seeing my picture, but it's a given that we all formulate some idea of what a person looks like regardless of tangible proof.

Words and thoughts don't exist in a vacuum. There are real-live breathing people behind every thought that's ever been expressed on the earth. Whether or not those people choose to identify themselves (and how they go about doing that) seems to be entirely dependent on the culture.

Take for example, the real estate industry. Most real estate agents display their picture in their advertisements. I once asked an agent why they did this. The reality is that purchasing a home is a major decision and when clients can see the face of potential agents, it establishes credibility and comfort.

Similarly, major newspaper columnists generally have their photo published alongside their work as well.

So what does credibility look like? It depends on the times. There has long been a debate around about whether or not Ludwig van Beethoven was a black man. We're not talking Afrocentrism here (which I don't agree with), but mounting evidence that Beethoven was not "white". I'm a pianist so this discussion has always intrigued me. What I find so fascinating (and telling) is the lengths to which some scholars have gone to refute Beethoven's "blackness." I mean, surely Moonlight Sonata and other great classical scores could not have been written by a black face. Not now, and certainly not in 18th century Germany right?. So why the battle? Well, it's all about perceived credibility.

We subconsciously prefer the vessels of certain expression to look a certain way. I often think my age works against me. I opt not to put my photo on the frontpage because I'd rather people first read my words. Funny though because when I read columns and weblogs, there's a certain mystique about visual anonymity that forces us to use our imaginations.

Afterthought: Incidentally, somebody emailed me and told me it was time to update my photo, so my brother and I shot each other's photo yesterday for fun. I'm not too pleased so this one will be temporary, but my brother...is he my twin or what?

Posted by Ambra in Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 25 }
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show