Thursday, August 30, 2007

Negro Law: Should We Toss Michael Vick to the Dogs?

I will update this post again, but for now since the previous post became a convo about Ebony and Jet mag, I'll give Vick his own space here.

Michael Vick has pleaded guilty in a court of law, but what about the court of public opinion? I explore the ins-and-outs in a series on ebonyjet.

1. Gold Medal Press Conference

2. Must Love Dogs Black People
3. A Race Issue? A Race Opportunity (say: oooooh)
4. I Am Michael Vick

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Assimilated Ebony

This week TAN makes his debut on the new online home for Ebony magazine.

I'm joining a group of writers charged with the task of bringing the venerable negro-mag institution into the 21st century. They're still feeling things out before they officially "launch" but I'm proud to be apart of something so black and so strong. So proud I don't even care that they pay me in grits! I hear the ladies like a little nightcap of grits and hennessy anyways ...

Last night I got to do a little market research with some Caucasian peeps, and test drove name-dropping the EbonyJET brand name. I was like, "I'm doing a little series on the Michael Vick stuff for EbonyJet." And they were like, "who?" And I was like "you know, Ebony magazine?" And they were like, "No, who are you. We don't know who you are." Then they left. But the exchange made me realize I hope they eventually lose the Jet part in the brand name. It's a little cumbersome. I feel like I'm trying to con caucasians by fitting all the blackmagazinesintoonename. There's no MaximStuff magazine. Or CosmoVogue. And I think you could just live with telling the eight readers of Jet that the magazine is now Ebony, or part of Ebony, or whatever. The wiki on Jet says that it was influential with its coverage of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. So I don't know, I'm sure they've done some other stories, but if that's what the white folks who write wikipedia think of when they think of Jet, then I suspect you need not be so heavily invested in the Jet brand. Because wikipedia writers run this ish.

Although if we brought back the Bus Boycott, that would totally be hot. Bus Boyhott (oh!).

Anyjet, now that I have sufficiently pissed off my new grits-providers, I better link this Michael Vick series before they take it down. There will be 4-5 pieces, and I'll leave this post up and link the segments as they go online:

Negro Law: Should We Toss Michael Vick To The Dogs?

Gold Medal Press Conference

Must Love Dogs Black People
A Race Issue? A Race Opportunity (say: oooooh)
I Am Michael Vick

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ask Me No Questions, I'll Tell You No Dumb Blonde Jokes

Wow. I had to get the transcript after that. Here it is for posterity:

Recent polls have shown a fifth of americans can't locate the u.s. on a world map. Why do you think this is?

I personally believe that u.s. americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and i believe that our education like such as in south africa and the iraq, everywhere like such as, and i believe that they should our education over here in the u.s., should help the u.s., should help south africa it should help iraq and the asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for ...

My kind of answer, my kind of girl.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TAN in TONY: Segregation 2.0

Time Out New York has The Race Issue on stands this week. They put a call in to TAN, and I returned it with a call to bring back segregation.

They subsequently got Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious to -- in their words -- rebut the silver-tongued arguments of the Assimilated one.

I thought only ladies knew the metallic makeup of my tongue (BLAM!).

Of course it's tough to give a real argument for something as profound as segregation in 400 words or less, but I'll be gosh-darned if I won't give it the ol' affirmative-action try.

Available online or in the mag ... Segregation 2.0 ... holla!

Ethnic in the city [Time Out New York]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pervy Plants, Flirty Flora, and Ribald Redwoods! Oh My!

I don't know, for some reason I get out in nature and feel like making love ...

hat tip: encantada

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Songs You Should Know: Silent Treatment

Do You Want More is not The Roots first album, but in terms of the public eye outside of their home base of Illadelph, it might as well be. As a young underground head always with my nose in the air sniffing for the new hotness, I never got wind of their debut Organix, but songs like Proceed, Distortion to Static, The Lesson et al. converted me and all surrounding heads in hip hop's motherland of nyc. The approach wasn't totally unprecedented — we enjoyed a one-off taste of the live band feel via the Brand New Heavies and Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1 — but they were the first real-deal hip hop band, and thus immediately recognized as heralds of a new era in the genre.

The crystalline boho-chic sensibility of Do You Want More now sounds a bit anomalous compared to their contemporary sound. Much like Three Feet High and Rising for De La Soul, it evokes a sense of hippie free-loving hip hop that was understandably replaced with something more mature, nuanced and robust. But while Proceed and Static were critically acclaimed lead singles, I would argue Silent Treatment as the most important song on the album, and considering the import of the album, possibly their careers. Silent Treatment is the song most responsible for The Roots Paradox.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Coming Attractions ...

Been busy and in-and-out of internet-friendly war zones, but I had to get a couple posts up so that True Negro Confessions: Ebony Porn was not the first thing people saw when they came to this page. Soooooo .... coming soon:

Songs You Should Know: Silent Treatment

Clash of the Titans Egos: Kanye vs. Fifty

The Assassination of the Question Mark

and so much more ...

in the meantime, please abide by the signs, this here is an hold-your-umbrella-low-and-pointed-down-to-the-ground zone. Thanks.

The Old Black Jewish Blogger Experience

I mentioned this before, but Julius Lester, 68, black jew, distinguished award winning author of 35 books, has a blog. I'm amazed. And as an Older Black Jewish Blogger, does that not totally create a hole in the ozone?

And its amazing how well he fits the profile. Take this from the FAQ on his website:

Q. Do you make a lot of money?

A. The majority of writers do not make a lot of money from writing. If you want to make a lot of money, you shouldn't be a writer.

Q. Do you enjoy writing?

A. Yes, but writing is very, very hard work. When I am working on a book I write about three hours a day and if I write three pages in that three hours, that is a good day's work. Writing is hard because you must rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. There are pages in some of my books that were rewritten more than 20 times. You must rewrite until the words say exactly what you want them to say. That is not as easy as it may sound.

Q. Do you use a computer when you write?

A. Yes! I love computers!!

See? Now where you see "writing" substitute "blogging", and take out all that stuff about hard work and rewriting... and voila! A Power Blogger is born.

But you know how old-schoolers refuse to use our new lingo — and in the case of "blog," who can argue — so he calls it a "commonplace book":

Commonplace books began in 15th century England. They were used as scrapbooks and contained anything a person wanted/needed to remember -- recipes, medical remedies, sayings, etc. No two commonplace books are the same because each reflects the person keeping it.

Of course anyone who in '68 titled a book Look Out, Whitey! Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama!, or has written a novel about slavery for teens entirely in dialogue, should be able to call their electronic scrapbook whatever they like.

A Commonplace Book
[Julius Lester Blog]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

True Negro Confessions: Ebony Section on Porn Websites

Porn bares naked the primal vice in all of us. Sex without the reproductive agenda is visceral vanity. There is no concealing the ugliness when you’re all sweaty and stroking it to a picture of some burly guy slamming his love-staff in some girl’s arsehole while he steps on her face (and that's just what the ladies are looking at!). Suffice to say when one is "in session," a leap of faith is required. Faith you remembered to lock the door before getting started, and faith the pigeon staring at you from outside the window is not a roving spy-cam for the government.

Of course if your character in some way is predicated on the kind of porn you like, it figures the kind of porn you avoid also says something. And nowadays when black solidarity is so important to our economic empowerment, you can surely understand my shock and concern when I met this black guy who:

Skips The Ebony Section On Porn Sites

TAN: So can you state your problem for the record?

Le'Tron: I am a frequent masturbator, but even in the neediest times I never turn to the "Ebony section" on a porn site.

TAN: How do you feel about this?

Le’Tron: I feel nauseous. I make myself throw up on myself. I also feel a deep sense of shame. Every time I rub one out I set my people back fifty years. This is who I am. Can you imagine? Don't look at me!!

TAN: Do you think you’d feel the same sense of shame if you weren’t black? What impact does you being a black man have on the situation?

Le'Tron: Where’s my pride? Where’s my integrity? Most importantly, what would Oprah say? Would she cradle me in her arms and explain to the audience through streaming tears why they should tolerate the foul stench of my masturbatory discrimination? Or would she be curt and shun me, such that I may never be able to walk the earth amongst the black bourgeoisie again? A life without Oprah's approval is not worth living.

TAN: How does this happen? Were you raised by racist wolves?

Le'Tron: My only defense is: can you blame me? I’m know I'm not the only one giving a thumbs down to the ebony section. I’ve been cultured to think of my people as animals. Gorillas! I don’t want to f*ck a gorilla dammit! I don’t want a fat-ass dread-locked silverback in my fantasy! I want one of those nubile perfectly-toned white cuties who run away from the monsters. In their tube-tops and short-shorts with sweat glistening on their bodies ...

TAN: Mmmmm sweaty white girls ...

Le’Tron: mmmmm

TAN: Can you give us some insight to your thought process? What influences your choice of porn?

Le'Tron: Well first I consider the basic parameters for my day: am I at home, in an office, church bathroom? Am I alone, or with company? Am I single or dating? Have I had sex in a while, and how was it? Am I just cleaning out the pipes, or is masturbating all I’m doing today? All of these things affect the particular hue of porn I'm looking for.

Eventually you have to pick girls: there's babes, porn-stars, asian, mature, fetal, big boobies, big booties, lip moustaches, corns-on-the-feet, etc. etc.

My problem is I try them all out except one … ebony.

Maybe it’s the pool of women they have to choose from. Do hot black girls not do porn? I guess that would actually be good. Maybe young hot black women got too much going on for that. In which case my problem is kind of uplifting.

TAN: I don't think anyone would find your porn tendencies uplifting. Have you thought about solutions for the problem?

Le'Tron: I don’t know. I think production value is lacking. I think regular porn has cameras and lighting, and black porn productions use camera-phones and flashlights. Maybe in addition to politicians, scientists, mailroom managers etc., we should also make sure to cultivate the next generation of black pornographers.

Does Spike Lee have a pervy brother we don’t know about? We should get him.

Or maybe we can get a foundation started. Or some sort of grant to help those without flashlights. An historically black school of porn sounds pretty awesome. Only through education can we become pornographically empowered. It's all about grad school dude! Master of the Porn Arts here I come!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Those That Can, Blog; Those That Can't, Judge

The 2007 Black Weblog Awards are underway. Voting is open through Aug 15th.

This year I've been asked to be one of the ten [esteemed] panelists to judge the competition. We even got a special badge that I'm currently having ironed-on to my whole wardrobe of white t-shirts:

This means if you were going to vote for TAN (duh), you shouldn't, because it won't count. Actually it will count, but I will of course be ineligible to win. Also, it will be a major drain on my time resources if I have to keep coming to this site to check out my content and design and such, so best to just leave me out.

Anyjudge, armed with this excuse responsibility, I am truly enthused to see what my fellow negroes and negresses are up to. I hope you are as well. And as a demonstration of black solidarity, throughout the nomination and voting process I plan on doing all my blogging with a black-glove-covered fist, and conducting my online research via Negroogle.

Which raises an issue: if these Black Bloggies are going to take off we need a good nickname. No nickname underscores how wack it is that we can't use the portmanteau "blogger" to reference black bloggers. Friggin' white people steal everything dammit! They definitely could have gone with "Whoggies," and then we could have "The Bloggies" to ourselves. Maybe we can just steal from another group, and go with "The Chinoggies." Eh.

There's the "Negroggies." Or the "Blabloggies?" We could try retro-ironic with "The Jim Croggies." Oooh that might be a good black-hipster-band name.

Well, whatever. I'm a judge. I need not concern myself with these trifling affairs.

Here's the page to get you started. There's 30 categories, so I think that means every black blogger wins. Yay!

Good luck to everyone.

- Judge TAN

The REAL BlaBloggies [Black Weblog Awards]

If Blogs Was Harlem, Who'd Be James Baldwin?

"And as a matter of fact, I was right. That's part of the dilemma of being an american negro. That one is a little bit colored, and a little bit white. And not only in physical terms, but in the head and in the heart. And there are days when you wonder ... what your role is in this country, and what your future is in it."

via Clay Cane

You probably saw this on I Love The 80s Strikes Black, but there's a nice NY Times interview from everyone's favorite year, 1984, between Baldwin and Julius Lester (who at 68 years of age -- how old is that in negro years? -- has a blog!). Here's a nice snippet:

I'm still waiting for the white writer to write a novel about a lynching from the point of view of the lyncher.

Yes, I quite agree with you. I said before that America's effort to avoid the presence of black people constricts American literature. It creates a trap white writers find themselves in.

We were talking about white writers as witnesses and you alluded to Mailer. How do you see Mailer?

Well, Mailer is something I've been desperately trying to avoid. (Laughs) All I can say is that - well, one of the hazards of being an American writer, and I'm well placed to know it, is that eventually you have nothing to write about. A funny thing happens on the way to the typewriter. There is a decidedly grave danger of becoming a celebrity, of becoming a star, of becoming a personality. Again, I'm very well placed to know that. It's symptomatic of the society that doesn't have any real respect for the artist. You're either a success or a failure and there's nothing in between. And if you are a success, you run the risk that Norman has run and that I run, too, of becoming a kind of show business personality. Then the legend becomes far more important than the work. It's as though you're living in an echo chamber. You hear only your own voice. And, when you become a celebrity, that voice is magnified by multitudes and you begin to drown in this endless duplication of what looks like yourself. You have to be really very lucky, and very stubborn, not to let that happen to you. It's a difficult trap to avoid. And that's part of Norman's dilemma, I think. A writer is supposed to write. If he appears on television or as a public speaker, so much the better or so much the worse, but the public persona is one thing. On the public platform or on television, I have to sound as if I know what I'm talking about. It's antithetical to the effort you make at the typewriter, where you don't know a damned thing. And you have to know you don't know it. The moment you carry the persona to the typewriter, you are finished. Does that answer your question?

No, but it's an eloquent evasion.

Is it? But I don't want to talk about Norman! Why should I talk about Norman? I'm very fond of him and have great respect for his gifts. Well, perhaps he's a perfect example of what it means to be a white writer in this century, a white American writer in this country. It affords too many opportunities to avoid reality. . . . And I know much more about Norman than I'm willing to say in print. After all, I care about him.

I respect that, but I'd like to pursue it from another angle.

I'll have another drink, then.

As Paris would say, that's hot.

James Baldwin: Reflections of a Maverick
[NY Times]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

BrainMapping: Finding Forever

UPDATE: I originally decided to post this as a review. But now I've decided I prefer "brainmapping." I think we'll find in this era of information abundance, that the sensibility for reviews is too restricting. Both the artist and reader are more likely to benefit if, as opposed to a critical review, we map our brains for related thoughts and ideas that are stimulated by the book, cd, movie etc.

UPDATE: Whatever. It's about Finding Forever. just read...

The track-by-track review of Common's new album: Finding Forever.

: It's hard to mess up the intro. It is what it is. An intro could be horrible if slotted as the second or eighth track on an album, but when leading the set off, it’s all good. Even if he farts on the record you’re sort of like, “hmmm, where’s Common taking this?" (is farting on the track still regarded as the worst thing an artist can do? If not, it had a nice run.) This intro isn’t great, but I do like instrumentals. It may be counterintuitive for a wordy word-merchant like myself, but I think there's too much verbiage in hip hop. More music please. Oh, and speaking of celery sticks the intro music reminds me of the album cover. But unlike the intro, the cover sucks. I don't think its vomit, but I do wonder how it got through the pipeline. I mean there had to be a few people in the process saying, “no, not that one.” It’s way too forced and awkward. I think everything has a karmic spirit. Humans, dogs, fire hydrants. Record covers too. So when something has a measure of success in life – friend gets a new job, dog nets a new bone, hydrant gets a fresh coat of paint -- I always look for the reason. What’s the story behind how this hydrant earned this new glossy coat of paint? So I’m thinking this cover has done a lot of good deeds; maybe it was helping old ladies cross the street, or serving the homeless last thanksgiving. Or maybe it has AIDS and was dying in Africa, and through sheer force of will swam all the way to America. I don't know the particular details, but I know this cover had to overcome some obstacles. It is not smart, beautiful, with wonderfully grounded a-list celebrity parents. It was not "born to do it." It did not come from a long line of great covers. There is no Nevermind in its blood (yeah, I went for it. Nevermind is a great cover.) So anycom, yeah, the intro is fine as far as intros go ...

Start The Show: F'ing Kanye. Of course he's the first voice we're gonna hear on Common’s album. Here's my memo to Kanye: Waddup 'Ye. All respect due and all of that, but yo, you gotta fall back a little. Just do it as a challenge to yourself. Like, you can do anything you put your mind to, and we know this now. But you're teaching us to resent genius. Or at least you're making us realize it's not just about being talented, it's about being talented and human. You make it hard for us to embrace you. So since you can do anything, how about we see if you can be humble. After this Common album, and Graduation -- which is going to be a wonderful artistic achievement I'm sure -- you should just chill for a year where we don't hear nothing except, on occasion, "this track produced by 'ye." That would be the real hot-like-fire move for you right now. And then use the time wisely. Add even more depth to your ish. We know you have it. If you give us the silent treatment for a year or so, then come back with some next level ish, you're gonna be right where you want to be. The game will be over. You know it’s true. Backlash is part of the human condition, it’s an infinite resource. Don't fight me on this. -TAN ... so yeah, I'm a little annoyed Kanye is the first voice I hear on the album, but the song is solid.

The People: This is where the album kicks into gear. Hot beat, singing that is smooth enough to grow on you, and Common doing what he does best: rapping about how he raps for the people. Common starts every verse with the same riff, which is novel enough to give the vocal a little flavor. Within his conscious veneer, Common is one of the best at putting white people in their place giving us a different perspective on racial dynamics, "while white folk focus on dogs and yoga, my people on the low end trying to ball and get over." Demonstrating this awareness is unique to the "black artist" experience, and critical for success; you have to figure out how to jab at white mainstream america but still be likable. If you could pin Jay-Z's blowing up to one verse, it might be the second verse in IZZO(H.O.V.A.), when he started writing (or memorizing, whatever) "I do this for my culture ..." we were introduced to another level of awareness and intelligence which propelled him to another level of success. All artists deal with underground/artsy vs. popular/accessible, but for us it's a very racialized issue. Taking this to an extreme, a hip hop artist looking to breakthrough might be well advised to sacrifice a caucasian at one of their shows. Murder is a delicate issue to be sure, but if you did it in a smart/funny/creative/artistic fashion, and made sure the victim was some annoying useless hipster type who thinks its fun to pour gasoline on puppies and burn them, I think you could get through your set without a problem. Sacrifice ... it's for the people.

Black Maybe: At this point it's almost ten minutes into the album, and none of the songs have been particularly pointed about black consciousness, so you know Common is like, “‘Ye, my people is dying in the street every five minutes. I can't go any longer without doing some real soulful, black message ish to uplift them in the struggle.” And so: Black Maybe. These are the songs that distinguish Common's legacy from the other conscious b-boys; he has a wonderful poetic aesthetic when talking about black identity issues. Like Nas, he's more willing to go "out there" with the language. If others claim that "truthfully they want to rhyme like Common Sense," then Common truthfully wants to write like Amiri Baraka. This is also the song the blourgeoise will be bumping on Sunday while they Swiffer their cribs before walking the dog and head off to yoga. Bilal blesses the track, ... it's a shame he never blew up like he should. It might be because he's black ... maybe.

Southside: Love this. banger. all day. I've seen reviews killing Kanye for the repetitive synths, but I love it. Of course I'm someone who can literally listen to one song on repeat all day. I also think the pretty keys that play the bookends and run through the hooks do enough to balance it out. Common's third verse is the jewel here, and absolutely mauls the track. "Know when to use a bible, and when to use a rifle. You rap like you should be on the back of a motorcycle." That punch at the end is another quintessentially Common line. Kind of funny, kind of offensive ... I don't know, that formula just works in hip hop. Critics want to call it hypocrisy, but hypocrisy is the agent of genius. Hypocrisy promotes dome expansion. Or at the least, it allows us to be comfortable with our imperfection ... maybe.

Drivin' Me Wild: The album is officially in a good groove now as we hit Finding Forever's pop submission. Common has yet to make one of those anthemic fill-the-stadium pop songs, but until he does, songs like Go and this one will suffice. Lilly Allen fits the vibe. Everyone wants to lick her third nipple right now, but she’s not forced here at all. It works. Just a good song ... maybe.

Good Clothes: This is a Little Brother song, how did this get in here? Actually I stuck this in my Finding Forever playlist cause I love it so. Thinking about it, even though they come from the same non-gangster, rap-about-real-life school, this is a song I couldn't see coming from Common. I wonder how he feels about it.

So Far To Go: I swapped this out for the instrumental off The Shining. The beat is incredible. It's great music, but the song sucks. I think everyone gets uncomfortable when Common starts romancing the nubian queens on wax. Does he realize he's rapping like he should be on the back of a motorcycle? A lot of people liked The Light, but I don't know. When he gets in this zone, Common makes me feel like I'm watching the Ottoman Orgy video. He's the lyrical incarnation of black people writhing to bad r&b music. It feels a little indecent if I listen too long. Common also makes me feel like I won't truly be satisfied until I find a woman whose cooch burns smells like egyptian sandalwood incense.

Break My Heart: Please return to your seats and make sure they're in the locked and upright position, we are now preparing for our descent. This song is under review for continued inclusion in the playlist. It's definitely the weakest link. Also, have you heard that Common is acting now?

The Game: Saw the video before I heard the song. I liked the vid, but somehow it's a little disappointing to me in the context of the album. It's a solid freestyle joint, but something is off. Maybe Common doesn't have enough raw emotion to drive numerous freestyle joints anymore. For my money, these lyrics don't hit as hard as Southside.

Misunderstood: I really love the track and invoking of Nina Simone, they're both a little eerie and work together to set a mood. I don't know if the song/lyrical execution lives up though. Common doesn't go poetic like he does in Black Maybe, and I think the literal lyrics work against him here. But I could listen to Nina Simone all day, so it was hard to mess this one up.

Forever Begins: Common usually ends strong. Other emcees should be pissed because Common's father stays talking over some of the hottest tracks. Pops has a distinctive voice that evokes some sort of urban-Yoda sagacity, and I love that every album ends with him saying some wise ish. Others might think it's a little much, but they should grow up. Pops is hot (nullus), and the tradition is hotter.

Play Your Cards Right: The bonus track. And sounds like it too. Actually, this song is not bad at all, but I have little to say about it. Think I'm just winded cause it feels like I've been reviewing this album Forever.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Man vs. Wild Crazy Motels

Looks like popular reality show Man vs. Wild is dealing with some fraud charges.

But this British adventurer is now the subject of an investigation by U.K.'s Channel 4, which already has confirmed that Grylls checked into motels on a few occasions when he was depicted on TV having slept under the stars. Other allegations have been made suggesting that the crew that records Grylls in action isn't as hands-off as it might appear to viewers.

On a sidenote I'm pitching a new reality series: TAN vs. Girls Gone Wild, where we see if TAN can survive hanging out with drunk college girls who like to bare their breasts. It's going to be tough, but I'm watching a lot of porn, and hanging out with a lot of drunk girls to steel myself for the challenge. Wish me luck!

Man vs. Wild now truth vs. deception [Reuters]
Survival Show Faces "Fake" Claim [BBC]
Man Vs. Wild To Go Transparent [BBC]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Anatomy of A Corporate Hijack, Link-Stones for Goliath

I've written massive amounts of words, so I just wanted to post a simple link-list on this whole P&G Amex Charity Scam:

The Huffington Post - Goliath In Sheep's Clothing
Daily Kos - P&G is Astroturfing
Consumerist - Is P&G Annexing Contest?
NY Times - P&G Entry Raises Issue of Fairness
Craig From Craigslist - A good choice for Members Project
Young Manhattanite - Corporate goliath breathing stank air
More on TAN - further ranting, and timeline of sketchy details

P&G controversies - (from wiki) P&G used to have a logo that many felt was a satanic symbol. Ha! That's a shock! In fact they still use the logo in some instances.

P&G test on animals
What's wrong with P&G? - company criticized for polluting Fenholloway River with 50 million gallons of waste water. oh, also looks like they didn't have a big problem with apartheid.
P&G goes dumpster diving
Even the diapers have issues

I continue to use The Corporation logo because this maneuver is straight out of that wonderful documentary. If you haven't seen the film, rent, buy, netflix that ish right now. It's required viewing for Living in America 101.

The [sketchy] Members Project [AMEX]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Paging Michael Moore: Procter & Gamble Lining Their Pockets For Charity

UPDATE: Post is up now. And they included more in the cut than I thought, so I'm editing the post below accordingly.

I wrote about this for The Huffington Post (note: its not up yet as I post this, but soon), but even though I went long for the typical Huffpost, I still had to cut a lot of incriminatingly intriguing stuff. So I'll post it here.

Again disclosure: Donors Choose are my peeps. And a lot of this info is coming directly from personal emails; so you can call me a DC propagandist. But again, this is not about DC vs. other incredibly worthy causes/charities/non-profits. It's about the spirit of giving, and fairness. Now that the full extent of the relationship between the Children's Safe Drinking Water project and corp goliath P&G is fully exposed, why are they still allowed to play? And if it's because there's no explicit rule against it, then why isn't AmEx making the rule? Is P&G gonna spend $5M suing AmEx over their right to compete for the $5M? If AmEx is not making a rule because it's about their members making a choice (sneaky bastards), then why isn't there complete transparency and disclosure about the company connections?

When you launch a product line at the same time as people are voting in this contest, and downplay the fact that the product is NOW IN STORES and the product description in your project summary IS THE SAME THING ... well, come on. I'm sure AmEx cardholders wouldn't vote for Cap'n Crunch as a project idea, but if it's described as "a corn and oat food product that's sure to bring children across the globe fortifying and enriching minerals and vitamins," well then they might get some votes. Children around the globe deserve food with vitamins, right?

I'm lampooning for [hopefully] comedic effect, but bottom line: Procter & Gamble is putting its marketing muscle behind the project submitted by its employee, and as a result, the other four (truly nonprofit) finalists have been effectively marginalized.

I'm sure the celebrities who endorsed this competition were thinking, "please join Amex in making a difference, please join US in making a change. let's give money to procter and gamble, a company responsible for half the products at your local supermarket or drugstore. oh, wait a minute. you don't want to give to a billion dollar company that spends millions on animal testing, or has been accused of water pollution (but they'll clean it for you at cost!)? that's ok, we'll hide the connection then. that should make it easier for you to look deep into your heart."

That's definitely what Ellen Degeneres, Alicia Keys, Scorcese et. al had to be thinking, right AmEx? Right??

And I don't understand the argument that suggests a company like P&G wouldn't go through all of this for what is, for them, a trifling $5M. I think the marketing and branding for a product that has yet to really reap commercial rewards is more than enough motivation. If they're positioned as the PUR water provider for the future ... well, I don't know, but I hear there's a market for clean water.

That's before getting apocalyptic and imagining the world where all the water is contaminated, and we pay P&G to keep us alive (thanks!). All on our American Express card, of course.

Anyridiculous, if you're using AmEx go to The Members Project and make sure your vote and voice is heard. I'm not sure if there's enough time to get the numbers (2nd place is over 8,000 votes behind as I write this) but if we lean on their conscience, maybe we'll right the wrong.

And here's a timeline of events that puts the case against the Clean Safe Drinking Water project in perspective (dates linked where appropriate, click images to enlarge):

The first NY Times article revealing what was afoot(albeit in an article that was positive toward P&G’s marketing tactics):
“Procter & Gamble is traveling incognito in the American Express Member’s Project... [P&G employee] Mr. Allgood entered the science and theory behind the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program. But he said that the Member Project’s rules precluded him from naming it, or mentioning Pur or Procter."

May 24, 2005
- UNICEF announces a partnership with Procter & Gamble to help provide safe drinking water to families in developing countries. One of the biggest tools in this effort is the P&G product “PUR,” a water-purifying powder.

August 2, 2005
- USA Today reports that “P&G… is keeping an eye on its bottom line while doing good. ‘It's a cause-related issue, but we'll also learn things about low-income consumers that are going to help P&G overall,’ says Greg Allgood, P&G's director for children's safe drinking water.”

June 17, 2007
- Procter & Gamble employee Gregory Allgood submits a project idea to the American Express Members Project entitled “Children’s Safe Drinking Water,” which is the name of a division of Procter & Gamble.

The project idea makes no mention of Procter & Gamble and for all intents & purposes appears to be a UNICEF project. The project centers on a powder that can purify dirty water, which, if one follows a succession of links, turns out to be the PUR product created by Procter & Gamble.

July 22, 2007
- The project idea finishes 3rd in the semi-finals round of voting.

NOTE: The semi-finals of the Members Project were closely contested, with the top finisher ( receiving only 65 votes more than the second place finisher. By contrast, in the finals now underway, one project idea (which had finished in 3rd place in the semi-finals) received an overwhelming number of votes within the first 48 hours. (Anecdotally, the number of votes that hit the site in the first hours of the contest suggests the project was being voted on by P&G employees....hard to imagine another source of such massive AMEX cardholders ready to go at word 1)

July 23, 2007
An article appears in the International Herald Tribune describing P&G’s new venture to sell PUR water-purifying powder for-profit in the United States, after years of selling it at cost in third-world countries.
Quote: “On Tuesday, the company will be selling the purifiers in the United States at what it hopes will be a tidy profit.” That is the very same Tuesday which begins the Top 5 finals of voting in the American Express Members Project.

Tuesday July 24, 2007
- P&G launches the sale of the PUR water cleansing kits at retail stores across the US. New York Times prints an article about the product launch.
Quote: “Gregory S. Allgood, director of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, cites a less obvious reason behind Procter’s decision to stay in the background. ‘Our employees feel really good about our philanthropy program, and we don’t want to confuse the issue.’”

- In contrast to their project page on the Members Project website, the Procter & Gamble home page features the following text under the heading of News From P&G: “P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water makes the American Express Members Project Top 25.” After Members Project discussion board comments begin to reveal P&G’s role in the project, American Express asks P&G to remove the ownership reference from their homepage, and P&G changes the language to “P&G Employee's Idea ‘Children's Safe Drinking Water’ Is Selected As a Finalist in AMEX Members Project.”

July 25, 2007
- P&G Employee “samjneal” posts on Members Project message board: “I heard of the membersproject [sic] site from a P&G internal newsletter highlighting the entry of this project into the final five.”

July 26, 2007
- American Express claims there is no connection between this project and P&G, other than the fact that it was a P&G employee’s submission. People have asked American Express to identify the author as a P&G employee in his bio on the “Children’s Safe Drinking Water” project page; yet this page on the American Express Members Project web site is still conspicuously non-transparent.

July 28, 2007

- NY Times runs another article, more directly dealing with the issues of fairness.
“It feels like David and Goliath because not only is it a competition of ideas, but when you take into consideration that Unicef is a $300 million-plus entity combined with P.& G. — how do you compete with that?” asked Neal Lurie, the marketing director at the American Solar Energy Society."

On going
- Days before contest ends, bloggers are starting to pick up on the story.
- In discussion boards, AmEx cardmembers are discovering the above facts and voicing frustration about the lack of transparency.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Watch What You Put In Your Mouth Ladies

There's probably something to be said here about various forms of meat and misogyny, and how it's all bad for women. But whatever ...

What doesn't work here is the teeth situation. The slightly open lips are supposed to be sexy, but teeth scraping has to be top 3 guys-worst-nightmare torture tactics, so I don't know... less toothy please.

Also, I'm surely among the biggest suckers for caucasian female imagery -- I'd eat okra-flavored flan if a cute light-skin tells me it's hot and delicious (actually that's not true, but I will spray some Axe into the air and pause just to see if something really happens) -- but for some reason I don't think this girl is going to be hot.

I'm curious what the ladies think. Jezebel found a generational gap (amongst the editors) in their responses ...

via Jezebel
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