Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movies and Masculinity

I was talking to my friend the other day who said that high school movies and romantic comedies from the 80's and 90's influenced the way Gen X men think about dating.

Say Anything, Better Off Dead, Can't Hardly Wait and the Wedding Singer all follow the story of sweet, sensitive men down on their luck and striving after a really pretty girl. The women are usually dating some sort of jockish, jerky dude, and then at the end of the movie, they fall for the sensitive one.

So men have been programmed to think that if they just act as the sympathetic friend with the listening ear, they'll win the girl.

But that's not how women work, my friend pointed out. These movies delude because women are more often going for men with spines. Sad but true.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Westerns and other movies from the 40's and 50's. These usually feature some dude who's so dominant that he's kind of a jerk. But the women go for him anyway.

These movies present masculinity in a way that seems almost exotic today, because it's not featured in the media.

Last night, I saw the Magnificent Seven. When the young gun first meets the Mexican girl, he picks her up, throws her over his shoulder, and demands to know where the other girls are. These old movies feature a kind of brutality that you don't really see today. It might not even be permitted in the movies today.

Duel at Sunset, another Western, features the same type of character. Gary Cooper won't marry the girl, won't take her seriously, but she loves him anyway, then at the end of the movie, they shoot each other to death.

Old Westerns are fascinating to watch if you want to get into the psyche of the female mind.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Press releases

Every week, I slog through 100 press releases or so.

As an editorial assistant, I write briefs for each issue that look like this:

InfoPrint Solutions Co., the Boulder-based joint venture printing company announced earlier this year by IBM Corp. and Ricoh, has begun operations with 1,200 employees around the world. The company was formerly IBM's Printing Systems Division.

If you want to get through to newspapers, study exactly how their news looks, and format your releases accordingly, or sign up for PR Newswire. Too many people try and do it by themselves, to disastrous effects:

(made up example)
Hundreds of thousands of old people die alone. 50 percent of old women have only their cats to keep them company. 75 percent of Baby Boomers will be divorced by the time they are 60.
Nonprofit X works to help old people transition from a life of solitude to one of great joy by connecting them with elephants that know sign language. Since its founding in 1998, Nonprofit X has appeared at 200 senior center functions, bringing elephants for the seniors to talk to.

(many paragraphs later)
By the way, we hired a new executive director.

By far the best person who sends my newspaper press releases is Boulder's Best Organics, a company that puts together organic gift collections. They write just one or two sentences, because they understand that we have a section of briefs that are just one or two sentences long.

If you want to get through to people like me, make it really easy for us to understand the information in just a few seconds.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Data harvesting

The Central Penn Business Journal, a Harrisburg, Pa. publication, conducts a quarterly survey of businesspeople in the area, gathering their thoughts on the state of the economy. Then, they send the results to economists who analyze their opinions.

They use the same basic data tool that my newspaper uses, a tool that dozens of business journals across the country use. But most of us just collect facts--revenues, names, e-mail addresses. This was a brilliant use by Central Penn of a customizable survey format to collect the nuances of public opinion, and create economic indicators out of that.

Data services is, I think, a fairly new field, and the other companies in my area who do it, Umbria and Collective Intellect use complicated math to monitor blogs and other new media, and sell public opinion on trends for a high price.

Our surveying format has nothing to do with math. But it makes me realize that with a little effort, you can also collect public opinion and turn it into statistics.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Truth fallacy in journalism

I have a bit of a conundrum regarding facts.

There's a Boulder company, Domino Inc., that I'm putting into the Business Report's database, and I can't tell if its an Inc. or an LLC. In our recent issue, we published it as an Inc., but their Web site says its an LLC.

Many things could have happened,

a) one of our writers assumed it was an Inc.
b) it really is an Inc., but the company hasn't updated its Web site
c) the person who put together the press release is at fault.

It makes me wonder how much of what's published is true, and how close we can really get to the truth.

It happens with much bigger things, too. You might ask a public company for their revenues, and they quote 8.5 billion dollars, while Hoovers.com, the trusted source for information on public companies, quotes 8.2 billion.

How close can we get to the truth in everyday life, who is responsible for the truth, and is there such a thing?

I am posing this as a question that has both journalistic and philosophical implications.

Does anyone know of what this phenomenon is called in philosophy? The truth fallacy, or something?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hybrid rentals

The Associated Press put out an article on rental car companies adding hybrid cars:


and it's a good thing, but I was dismayed at how few cars it is. Hertz is adding 3,400 hybrids and Avis is adding 1,000. They're only appearing in certain locations, like airports and Earth-friendly metropoles like Portland, Ore.

I'm surprised they don't think the demand is high enough across the U.S. to add them at every location.

Hertz is paying a pretty penny for its fleet, $68 million dollars, but not a lot compared to last year's revenues of $8 billion dollars--www.hoovers.com.

I imagine the cost will be passed on to the consumer, and the companies will totally earn back their investment. I have heard that all of these new environmental incentives companies are taking--carbon offset credits, solar panels, etc., eventually pay off, and so I wonder which companies care about the environment and which are doing it for PR.

Well, let's all ask for hybrid cars the next time we rent--it will increase the demand. There may only be one or two per location, though.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Visual Blogs

My friend, Jess Gonacha, a young artist in Boulder, has a blog that is quite visual.

She might post ten things she wants to do, like visit Iceland, and each thing has a beautiful picture attached. Or, for nine days in a row, she created one piece of art per day, and put it on her blog. One of the art pieces is a drawing of the relationship between an owl and an egg.

To see what a well-crafted, image-laden blog looks like, visit her blog at www.jessgonacha.blogspot.com. You can also get a sense of what young artists are creating and interested in today.

I'm quite new to the blogosphere, but I'm realizing that it mimics the traditional media. My blog, which will probably be mostly writing, is like a newspaper. Jess' blog is like a design magazine. Then there are some which blur the lines between advertising and newswriting, like another Boulder guy who reviews products from all over the country, www.joshspear.com.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crocs Stock

Crocs Inc., the Colorado-based public company that made rubber shoes so famous, just split their stock in half, making the value go from about $90 a share to $45 a share. It also doubles the amount of stock they have, to make it more accessible to investors.

I'll be curious to see how much longer this stock can go up.

At this point, if I don't buy clothes for two months, I can afford about two shares of Crocs, and then if I'm lucky they'll go up in value, and then I can buy two months worth of clothes and a week's worth of lattes.

I'm pretty new to following the stock market, but because I work at a business newspaper, I can't help but notice the economy's doing pretty well. But how much longer can this ugly shoe company go up in value?

They did just release a line of high-style, high-heeled shoes due to their acquisition of an Italian shoe designer, and it actually makes me want to put the things on my feet.

They're thinking of everything. They realized that not everyone wants to put hideous pink clogs on their feet, so now they're appealing to the urbanites with this new line, I think it's called YOU.

My big fear is that I'll slide a pair on my feet and turn into one of those people that wears them everyday with socks.