IS CHRISTMAS HERE ALREADY?

So yes, there are still 29 days left for christmas. But it is not surprise to anybody to walk into any kind of stores -from local stores to national chains like Target or Walmart-. and find christmas products everywhere, from christmas trees to candy cones. Of course, everything is ON SALE (Like always). And the TV is bombrded with sale Christmas commercials. Sale here, sale there, buy early and get 10% off, get $3 off your next purchase if you buy a Christmas tree now, get the Christmast lights early…

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Companies are trying to do whatever they can to make more with less. Make the consumer spend in advance, just so they can make him spend even more when Christmas actually comes. In fact, the “Christmas shopping time” starts on November 1st, right after people have gotten done shopping for Halloween. The point is spend. Spend, spend, SPEND.

ImageThe funny thing, is that besides the companies urge to sell out Christmas stuff before the actual season. Thanksgiving is in between. So guess what.. More ads, more sales and more spending! Because of course, it is crucial to buy everything beforehand in order to save more money. And again we’re back to the endless circle of saving while spending — contradictory huh?

But in case it was not enough for companies trying to make profit in advance, they came up with Black Friday. A great ocasion to spend more money but get the best deals. It is the night right after thanksgiving, where the stores have huge deals, people line up in front of grocery sotres and malls, hours before they open, out in the November cold, just  to be the first ones to get thos amazing deals.

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Surprisingly, for those who think this “crazy shopping trend” is a 21st century invention, early shopping dates back to the victorians: The Victorians also discovered the value of starting the Yuletide shopping season before Thanksgiving. It was only a short leap from ad copy to in-store blowouts. A Nov. 16, 1888, event by the Kansas City, Mo., emporium Bullene, Moore, Emery & Company saw a preholiday rush that “packed every square foot of the store,” while promotions for an 1893 “Early Christmas Event” by one Salt Lake City retailer almost reads like a ransom note: “This is no joke. We mean it. We will do it … MONDAY, MONDAY, MONDAY.”

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Spying Scandal on European Leaders. Two Sides of the Same Coin

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The spying scandal of some of the leaders of the most important countries in the occidental world, including Germany, the UK and France, by the National Security Agency (NSA) came out on the news this past October 6th. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose personal phone was hacked, said the allegations had shattered trust in President Barack Obama’s administration and undermined the crucial trans-Atlantic relationship.

The NSA has been secretly spying millions of citizens all around the world, including countries such as France, Germany, Spain and the U.S. But this new scandal is not that recent since it has been going on ever since Bush’s administration. This scandal was uncovered by CIA agent Edward Snowden, who revealed that the Government of the United States used a certain spying programme to watch the communications of millions of people around the world. Right now Snowden is hiding in Russia and will never be able to come back to his home country. While the U.S media shows him as a traitor, in other countries he is seen as tragic hero and many have lost the trust in Obama and the U.S.

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Meanwhile, Obama assured he was not aware of the NSA’s spying on European countries as well as the american citizens. But after several months of denying his knowledge -and approval- of the spying operation, and lying Angela Merkel on the phone, the Economic Times writes the “high-ranking” NSA official declared that the president, “not only did not stop the operation, but he also ordered it to continue.” Apparently, President Obama found out about the spying operation 3 years ago, and reports say hat Angela Merkel’s personal phone has been hacked since 2002, when she was a member of the opposition in Germany.

This is a big issue for the government of the United States. Spying his allies could cost the U.S more than they think in terms of international relations, political agreements, economic deals and so on. So their strategy is to make this issue a minor deal by using the media. There is a noticeable difference between how European media tells the story and how the United States media does. For instance, Spanish headlines were some such as: “The United states spied the cell phones of 35 worldwide leaders”. On the other hand video was posted on the HuffPost Politics online newspaper informing what Senator Marco Rubio said to all European leaders: “Everyone spies on everybody”.  This way, the American newspaper gave the issue little importance.

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The first attempts made by the government to handle the story were not really effective. Lying about such an obvious case brought nothing but suspicion by the American citizens as well as the European allies. So the next  strategy the government is trying is make the spotlight move from this story to distract people. Like my professor used to say: “Who controls the media controls the population”. The government has the power of distort or twist the reality, without technically lying about. And of course people believe it.

I wonder what the consequences are going to be for obama and the U.S now. We probably won’t know the real story until decades from now. And maybe European leaders are showing their indignity on a public level, but lets be realistic, with The United States being on of the most -if not the most- powerful and influential country in the world, and European leaders need to look after their own countries, so they will probably not take the risk of breaking off their agreements and international ties with the United States. However, on a private level, they will make the U.S pay.

This satiric video by Marta Cillero shows the friendship of President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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The Creation Of Adam. The Advertisement

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I was in the train the other day when I saw this advertisement for the Epic Burger restaurant in Chicago. It is a fast-food restaurant that serves burgers like McDonald’s or Burger King, but they try to give an image of having a little bit more quality. The photo called my attention, because, for those who don’t know it, the two hands are part of the original Michelangelo’s painting The Creation Of Adam. It is located in the sistine chapel, and it was completed my the painter in 1511.

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At first I didn’t know wether to be scared or amused. I can’t deny it is a different way of doing marketing. Most commercials nowadays are dumb, rather disappointing and not funny at all – even though they use talking potholes, burger holders, or Dorito goat eaters-. I suppose the person who came up with the idea of this commercial had a little more creativity. However, The Creation Of Adam is one of the most majestic and famous paintings ever painted. And my question is: Is it disrespectful bringing this great piece of art down to the level of simply trying to sell a fattening burger?

On the other hand, it is kind of funny. But again, sadly a lot of people don’t know what this painting is and where it comes from, so what is the point of doing this? Did they really think they would really get more customers by mocking Michelangelo’s piece of art?

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We are used to media trying to call our attention everywhere we go, any second of the day. This photo put up in one of the CTA trains of Chicago might make me a little dissapointed at a personal level with what media is capable of to call somebodies attention (Even though we have all seen innumerable examples of this). The thing is that it did catch my eye, however, it caught my eye for a different reason than it was suppossed to. It was not the burguer, but the “painting” what called my attention. I am sure it has called the attention of a lot of other people. So technically the company got what they wanted, being thought of.

Latinos Portrayal In Mass Media

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The mass media plays a significant role in forming public opinion. The hours spent watching television, reading the newspaper and flipping through magazines shape people’s views of the world outside the community and shape how each person relates to that world. Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States, yet their representation in mass media networks is stereotyped and often times negatively portrayed.
To understand the Latinos portrayal in mass media nowadays we have to take a look at the concept of race itself, and how this concept is introduced into society. Race is a socially constructed concept (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan), meaning that we are not born with the knowledge of social and race difference, we socially acquire that knowledge through our parents, television programs, news, etc. For kids, a person is a person, no matter what is their skin color, their eyes color, or their background -which children usually do not even know that concept-. In fact, there is no biologically valid difference in the genetic makeup of different races (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan). Parents and society in general are the ones who teach kids the meaning of race, and social difference.
The racial discrimination in mass media in the United states comes from the early 1920’s and 1930’s, time when the minority groups such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities were of little consideration to the media industry. Because these minorities comprised a small part of the population, mainstream media like radio, television, newspapers and magazines and specially the films industry did not see them as an important segment of the mass audience (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan). The Latino community specifically has been ignored by these mass media outlets. Coverage of Latino-oriented news events and stories was generally left to Spanish-language media and smaller, community-oriented newspapers (summer 1997).
Since World War II, the trend has been toward more exclusiveness and growing sensitivity in media of all types, Latinos have appeared more often in television and print news, however, they have been negatively stereotyped, relating them to news such as immigration, vandalism, criminal activity and other sorts of negative aspects. The question that arises from this issue is: Who is responsible for this negative stereotype, and how does this affect the Latino minority group? Lamentably, mass media is constantly depicting and making stereotypes of groups, and the less familiar the people are with the group depicted, the more likely they are to believe the stereotype. What did North Americans know about Latinos a century ago? Not much if they were not in contact with them. The mass media gave them an identity, they presented this ethnic group to the North American society, but not surprisingly, it was not accurate to represent all Latinos. This kind of negative exposure produced a skewed perception of Latinos as a “problem population” in the eyes of mainstream society -which is basically what happened with African Americans-. Young Latinos in particular are the victims of this type of portrayal: Most English-language news stories featuring Latino youth involve them as drug dealers or users, gang members, teen mothers and high school dropouts (summer 1997). This is not fair for Latinos, the problem with stereotyping and generally depicting a certain ethnicity group does actually not represent that group at all, since there are infinite different types of people among that particular culture or ethnicity.
Television has had the most influence on this type of depiction. When Latinos started appearing in TV commercials or films, they portrayed as villains opposing the white hero in movies like Tony the Greaser (1911) and The Greaser’s Revenge (1914). Hollywood came up with the “Latin Lover” roles which portrayed Latinos as extremely passionate and sexual compared to their Anglo-Saxon counterparts (Gonzalez, 2010). On the other hand, Latina women were -and still are sometimes- portrayed in the media as sexual, sensual women, mothers or domestic workers.
Luckily, nowadays Latinos are breaking down the molds with the main help of famous actors and actresses and representing different roles in movies and commercials. Nevertheless, Dana E. Mastro and Susannah R. Stern’s study “Representations of Race in Television Commercials: A content Analysis of Prime-Time advertising”, Latinos are still primarily located in banking/finance ads or ads for food an entertainment, while whites -the mainstream race or ethnicity- appear in advertisements for cosmetics and were most frequently found at home.

Argo

ImageThe photo is a link to Argo’s movie preview

Everybody knows the movie Argo. Directed by Ben Affleck, it came out on 2012 and it is the story about six U.S diplomats who were rescued from Tehran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

But nobody really knew the details of the real story until last year, when the movie came out. Broadcast Journalist Ted Koppel was one of the people who helped keep the story as a secret. This delicate and dangerous mission carried out by CIA operator Tony Mendez was not put on the air when it happened just so the safety of the six diplomats who escaped from the attack to the embassy at Tehran wouldn’t be jeopardize. 
Koppel recalls in an interview what the secretary of state told him on 1979: “[…] it seems to us inevitable that if you put [the story] on the air, that the Canadian Embassy would probably be taken, and that the Americans that escaped from the U.S. Embassy would probably be killed”.
 So the story was kept a secret. The six diplomats were brought back to the U.S, and nobody really gave credit to the Canadians for helping them, but that’s another story.

So I couldn’t help but wonder, what if this story had happened nowadays? We live in the 21st century, we have all technological developments possible and the use of social media is available to almost anybody.
 If this story had happened this year, would it be the same story? Would the journalist back off with a story like this?
Some people argue that it would be impossible to keep a story like this secret. Our media nowadays focuses on getting the story ASAP. Today we are so in a hurry. Everybody wants the led story. It is the race to being first with the story and be the one to have it first. And that’s why there have been more than a couple cases where some news network or newspaper gets the information wrong and has to retract from it. In other words, media nowadays bases more on the promptness rather than the accuracy.
 But even if the networks didn’t make the story public, somebody else would. We have Twitter and Facebook nowadays, blogs, Internet almost everywhere and cell phones. Social media is the most powerful tool people have nowadays. I am sure if somebody found out about the story today he would take no time to Tweet it or post it on Facebook. Back in 1979 the Internet didn’t exist yet, and it was much more complicated to share a story on the other side of the world. So personally, I don’t think it would be possible to keep a story like this from the public.

Now, the question that arise from this is: Is this a good or a bad thing? As Koppel said, he kept the story secret so that I wouldn’t jeopardize the diplomats safety. What if today somebody had found out about the story and had shared it with the world. These people probably wouldn’t have made it home. On the other hand, maybe they could have gotten some help from other people and the mission would have been a lot easier for Mendez.
But it would for sure have been an interesting event to happen nowadays, and it woud have been interesting to see how the media would have reacted and how it would have been handled.

The Newsroom

Last year I watched the first season of the show The Newsroom. It premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012. The show examines the lives of the people who work at Atlantis Cable News (ACN) a fictitious major news outlet, which broadcasts News Night. Jeff Daniels plays the main character, the anchor Will McAvoy, who puts together the news show a different way of telling the news. His ex (Emily Mortimer) is his new producer. Due to McAvoy’s “rough way of presenting the news” they face a lot of problems with their boss, the press etc.

It is an interesting show because it gives a different perspective of a newsroom nowadays. While all the media stations are biased towards their owners interest, The Newsroom presents a different way of telling the news, basing on facts and not worrying about the publics critics. Nevertheless, critics are hard to this show for its long and elaborated dialogs. It was not believed that it would even make to the second season, but they just signed for the third season, so for those who can’t get enough, get ready for more.

Here is a sneak peak of the second season that came out on July 14, 2013.