Love for Sale: Revisited

When I started this blog I wrote about TV commercials: “Advertisers are using love to wrap us and their products in one big All-Consuming Embrace.”

Now, Cheerios has taken the love sell to a new low with its commercial featuring a mother, a child, Cheerios and a dead nana.

On his Sept. 17 show, Stephen Colbert weighed in, satirizing Cheerios for “leveraging the death of a grandmother” to sell cereal.

See Colbert’s hilarious segment here.

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media

Burning Art: The Art of Burning Man

Some 60,000 people attending this fall’s Burning Man celebration of “radical self-expression and self-reliance” turned Nevada’s Black Rock Desert into a temporary art museum.

PBS’s News Hour featured a great segment on this year’s art, including the work of San Francisco area’s Flaming Lotus Girls.

You can see the video report here.

And you can see still photos here.

In 2008, I interviewed reporter/photographer about her book, Burning Book, and about the spiritual aspects of the annual Burning Man celebration:

Jessica Bruder is a reporter for the Portland Oregonian and the author of the 2007 collection, Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man.

“Spiritual isn’t a word I use a lot in my own life,” says Bruder, who was raised in a Jewish-Catholic family. “I spend most of my time in the secular world. But as I look at it, and think about the roots of what drives people to participate in Burning Man, I see that it’s a sense of community similar to what people find in religion.

“If they’re religious people, or if they hunger for something bigger than them, Burning Man is certainly bigger than they are, even though they create it themselves.”

Find out more about Jessica’s book here.

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media, Picture=1000

TIME for Some Football?

Millions of folks are glad to watch football on TV once again. But how much playing time does the average NFL game include?

The Wall Street Journal used stopwatches and calculators to determine that there are about 11 minutes of actual play per NFL game.

football clock

That’s less than the average baseball game, which includes almost 18 minutes of actual play.

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media

Plastic Jesus Attacks Again!

No, we’re not talking about the popular song recorded in 1962:

Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I have my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Through all trials and tribulations,
We will travel every nation,
With my plastic Jesus I’ll go far.

We’re talking about a modern-day anti- consumerist prankster who goes by the name Plastic Jesus.

His latest attack involved sneaking a Useless Plastic Box into a Best Buy store and posting this photo.
We will be looking to see what Plastic Jesus does in the lead up to Christmas!

Posted in Blog, Man&Machine, Mixed Media, Picture=1000

Colbert Turns the Other Cheek

It was another Colbert Report classic, combining spoofs of pop culture, the broadcast media, and religion.

The occasion was Flo Rida’s performance of “Can’t Believe It” on NBC’s Today show, complete with the line about the rapper’s love of shapely posteriors (or “bubble-yum bum”).

Following the performance, Flo Rida explained the gaudy piece of Jesus jewelry he wore during the performance.

“I put God first with everything I do,” said the rapper, soberly.

It was all too much for Colbert and his writers, who logically concluded that “Jesus was a bootie fan,” and also gave a new twist to a classic Christian commandment.

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media

The Butler’s Faith

The movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” tells the story of Eugene Allen, who faithfully served eight presidents while working as a White House butler. The film includes religious elements, as Director Lee Daniels explained to Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service:

You can’t tell a story about the civil rights movement without the gospel and gospel music. You just simply can’t. It’s impossible.

butler moviejpg

Banks’ story goes deeper into Eugene Allen’s faith, including his six decades as a member of Washington’s Greater First Baptist Church, where he served as an usher and trustee.

Forest Whitaker plays Allen and Oprah Winfrey plays his wife Gloria in the film, which opens Friday Aug. 16.

For even more, read The Butler by Wil Haygood, the writer who tracked down Allen for The Washington Post and wrote the book that inspired the movie (and the cover photo above).

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media

Yod Lives!

Was he a holy man or con man? A benevolent father figure or a dirty old man? Decide for yourself after watching The Source Family, a documentary film about the former Marine named Jim Baker who transformed himself into Father Yod and led a utopian commune of wide-eyed young followers who were devoted to healthy food, the Sacred Herb, and sex.
“I’m the father you all wanted,” said Father Yod. His devoted followers seemed to agree, most sticking with him even after he determined he should have 13 wives.

“They transformed sex, drugs and rock and roll into a genuine religious formation,” says a scholar quoted in the documentary.
Thanks to an abundance of photos, film, and music (provided by the commune’s band, YoHoWha 13, which recorded numerous albums), The Source Family transports you back in time to the early 70s.

The documentary also features more than a dozen former members of the group, which disbanded after Father Yod’s sudden death in 1975. Some, like Isis Aquarian, one of the 13 wives, remain as devoted as ever.

If you’re interested in cults, groupthink or the legacy of the 60s, see The Source Family.

Posted in Blog, Mixed Media, Past Is Present

Love for Sale?

Have you noticed? Advertisers are using longing, love and Al Green to sell us more stuff.

Advertisers are using love to wrap us and their products in one big All-Consuming Embrace. Take another look at these 7 commercials:

1) Subaru makes some good cars, but this commercial seem to suggest we should love our automobiles like we do our partners, kids, and dogs.

2) Did you know pizza functions as sacrament at family love feasts? “When you get together around a Papa Murphy’s pizza,” says the spot, you can experience “Love at 425 degrees.”

3) Johnson & Johnson’s new branding campaign, “For All You Love,” features evocative images of parents and kids. Cute, but the New York Times suggests J&J may be trying to powder over the $68 billion corporation’s recent problems with massive product recalls and consumer lawsuits.

4) “Love” fills the final screen of a recent spot for heart-healthy Cheerios. But apparently, not everyone was feeling the love. The commercial’s multiracial family (the cute kid has a white mother and black father) has generated online racist comments.

5) Love your dog? “Keep love strong” with Iams dogfood. Installments in the “Keep love strong” campaign tug at your heart by featuring a woman returning to her beloved pet following a military deployment or a girl putting lipstick on her dog.


6) Starbucks claims its rewards program is OUR WAY OF LOVING YOU BACK in print ads that invite readers to “see how rewarding a friendship can be.”

7) “I’m so in love with you” croons Al Green, in his 1971 #1 hit, “Let’s Stay Together,” which was used in this commercial featuring  Meanwhile, an alluring woman enjoys an intimate moment with some Lay’s potato chips. “One taste and you’re in love,” says the voice-over.

Vance Packard’s 1957 book, The Hidden Persuaders, explained why “professional persuaders” (guys like “Mad Men’s” Don Draper) used insights from psychiatry and social science to create commercial imagery that bypassed our brains and went straight for our gooey core:

…they see us as bundles of daydreams, misty hidden yearnings, guilt complexes, irrational emotional blockages. We are image lovers given to impulsive and compulsive acts.

More than half a century later, some still create commercial come-ons that exploit the deepest affections of the human heart. But in the last line of his song, told us how to handle people who mess with our emotions:

  And if you do me wrong, I just might leave you alone.


Posted in Blog, Mixed Media
A to Z

Steve's articles have appeared in these publications and outlets:

Akron Beacon Journal
Albany (NY) Times Union
The American Spectator
Ann Arbor News
Arizona Republic
Atlanta Journal/Constitution
Associated Press
Birmingham (AL) News
Bookstore Journal
Boulder Camera
Catholic Digest
CCM Update
Charlotte Observer
Christian Examiner
Christian Herald
Christian History
Christian Management Report
Christian Post
Christian Reader
Christian Research Journal
Christian Retailing
Christian Single (Southern Baptist Convention)
Christianity Today (since 1982, EPA Award)
Church Bookstore
Columbus Citizen-Journal (Sunday magazine features)
Columbus Dispatch
Compassion Update (Compassion International, editor)
Cincinnati Enquirer (Sunday magazine features)
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Current Thoughts & Trends
Daily Guardian, Wright State University, Dayton, OH (editor)
Dallas Morning News
Dayton (Ohio city magazine)
Dayton Business Journal (editor)
Dayton Daily News and Journal-Herald (news, features, stringer)
Devo'Zine (United Methodist)
The Disciple (Disciples of Christ)
Discipleship Journal
East Asia’s Millions (Overseas Missionary Fellowship)
English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English)
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Freedom Wire
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO: Religion Editor, news, features)
Grand Rapids (MI) Press
Herald of Holiness (Nazarene)
HIS (InterVarsity)
Home Life (Southern Baptist Convention)
Houston Chronicle
Huntsville (AL) Times
Indianapolis Star
Kansas City Star
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service
Leadership Journal
Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader
Life@Work (EPA Award)
The Living Church (Anglican)
Los Angeles Times
The Lutheran (ELCA)
The Lutheran Witness (Missouri Synod)
The Magazine for Christian Youth! (United Methodist)
Media Update
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Missions Today
Mobile (AL) Register
National and International Religion Report
New Age
New Orleans Times-Picayune
New Sound
New York Times (Religion Journal, news, stringer)
New York Times Syndication Sales Corp.
Newark Star-Ledger
Omaha World-Herald
Orange County Register
Parents of Teenagers
Pastor's Family
Policy Review (Heritage Foundation)
Publishers Weekly
Pueblo Chieftain
Pulpit Helps
PW Religion Bookline
Re:generation Quarterly
Religion News Service (news and features)
Religious Broadcasting
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
San Diego Union-Tribune
Shepherdess International (Seventh-day Adventist)
Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard
Tallahassee Democrat
Today’s Pentecostal Evangel (Assemblies of God)
Twin Circle Catholic Weekly
Vue (Wesleyan)
Washington Post
The Wittenburg Door
World Pulse
Worship Leader
Young Salvationist (Salvation Army)
Youthworker Journal (writer, columnist, editor)
Youthworker Update


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