Hello Cruel World
Sunday, October 20, 2002
"PopPolitics is an online magazine that blends pop culture and politics and covers the connections between them."
culture clash The soul of PopPolitics. Here's where journalists, academics, historians, cultural critics, artists and others come together to address a single topic from a variety of perspectives. The idea is to investigate both the pop culture and political angles, and to discuss the effect of each. A different topic is introduced every two to three months, and new articles are posted throughout the duration of each issue.
Issue 1. Marriage
Issue 2. Work
Issue 3. Identity
Issue 4. Religion
Issue 5. Crime
Issue 6. Kids
Issue 7. War (current)
Outside Observations Political news coverage coupled with historical analysis, cultural commentary and personal essays that relate the news to everyday life.
Mixed Media Serves up straight reviews, interviews and in-depth criticism, and explores the influence of popular entertainment.
Pop Forum The art of conversation. Where great minds go to dish, expound, rave, critique, debate, confer, question, holler and raise the roof.
The Ultimate TV Candidacy
by Chris Wright
Forty-two years after the Kennedy-Nixon first presidential TV debate, it has come to this: Rupert Murdoch and FOX's cable channel, FX, are bringing to television American Candidate, an American Idol-like game/talent show in which 100 political hopefuls will strut their stuff in an attempt to be picked by couch potatoes nationwide to run for president ... results will be broadcast live from the the Mall in Washington, D.C., in July, 2004. Buoyed by the publicity, the winner will presumably be encouraged to run as a third party candidate.
Surprisingly, the United States wasn’t the first country to propose such an idea. A Buenos Aires television channel beat Murdoch by a couple of weeks when, in early September, it announced the launch of The People’s Candidate, a reality TV show that will not only put its winner up as a congressional candidate in 2003, but will also launch a new political party...
Political parties don’t want us to think about structure (though we do nonetheless). They want us to see it as pure reality, to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. But this simply illuminates that politics and campaigning is already a show, no more perfectly “real” than an episode of, say, The Mole. American Candidate, then, may simply be an inevitable step in the process.
And it might not be such a bad idea. Imagine if the 2004 pool of Democratic contenders appeared on ABC each week (the network that most needs a hit) with Clinton-adviser-turned-journalist George Stephanopoulos. They could debate the issues and take part in challenges: Persuade a foreign head of state to side with the United States on invading Iraq! Find Cheney’s hidden lair! Get the country out of an economic slump and deliver a tax cut -- all without destroying Social Security! An impartial group like The League of Women Voters could serve as judges and Democratic voters nationwide as the jury, voting off one candidate each week...
Private Names, Public Spaces
by Daniel Kraker
Across the country, communities are putting their civic landscape up for sale
... [as a child] ... I even learned by rote the names of each team’s ballpark: Comiskey, Fenway, Memorial Coliseum, Veterans Stadium. These names were old, proud and noble; fit to house my heroes in pinstriped jerseys.
But in the last 15 years, as owners have played cities and fans against one another to build ultra-modern new stadiums at public expense, the old names of my childhood have died with the old ballparks. Owners have left no seat unturned in their quest for new revenues to pay ever-escalating player salaries. They’ve put microbreweries in the concourses, hot tubs behind the right field fence, and installed a new seating hierarchy, from luxury boxes to club seats. And, of course, they’ve sold the names of the stadiums themselves.
But in the last few years, the name game has rapidly spread outside the athletic sphere and into the public sector. In cities across the country, the nomenclature of our civic landscape -- from our parks to our high school scoreboards -- is up for sale. The trade magazine IEG Sponsorship Report estimated that in 1999 alone, 50 cities inked deals totaling $100 million with corporations willing to sponsor public assets.
To state and local politicians trapped between the public’s impossible demand for high-quality services and lower taxes, nothing is sacred. The Chronicle reported that San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno, who voted in favor of selling the ’Stick’s name, said cities like his are in a bind. It doesn't make sense to turn down the revenue when "[t]he feds cut back, the state cuts back, but we're here dealing with all the misery in the streets, all the demands on our social services."
Many politicians across the country agree with Leno. Throughout the country, hospitals, parks, libraries, performing arts centers, theaters, convention centers, fairgrounds, high school sports facilities and shopping malls are available for the right amount...
Last year, Massachusetts officials reviewed proposals to rename four of Boston’s subway system's busiest stations (they had already renamed their electronic toll system "Bank Boston Fast Lane” -- now known as "Fleet Fast Lane"). Business groups in Washington, D.C., urged local governments to sell naming rights to area roads to pay for transportation improvements, prompting a Washington Post columnist to suggest that Cuisinart buy the rights to the infamous “Mixing Bowl” intersection...
But Lake Forest, a bedroom community in southern Orange County, has taken naming rights deals to new heights. In exchange for $100,000, the city not only named a new city skatepark after the Etnies shoe and clothing company, it also gave the firm exclusive use of the public land at certain times to shoot commercials and hold events. And to help defray the city’s share of the park’s $1 million price tag, Etnies T-shirts are being hawked on the city’s Web site and at the Lake Forest City Hall...
Even before this latest corporate assault, most people’s lives were already saturated by advertising. The average American, according to the July 9, 2001 issue of Time magazine, sees 3,000 ads a day. No longer limited to TV, radio, and print and online media, ads are imprinted into beaches, stuck on taxi hubcaps, and beamed from lamps onto sidewalks at night.
And ad-free space is shrinking. Over the past few decades, the courts have systematically struck down laws intended to protect public space. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a state measure prohibiting tobacco billboard ads near schools. Advertising, like campaign contributions, is no longer considered to be much different from the words we speak, and it’s increasingly garnering the same legal protection...
The public commons is the last largely logo-free frontier. Advertisers can’t go there -- unless officials give them permission. Once they do, we risk sliding down a slope that’s very difficult to reverse. The temptation will only grow as public coffers are stressed and as advertisers inevitably grow more aggressive as their traditional targets -- our virtual and built environments -- are clogged.
As the Enrons of the world collapse like giant card houses, perhaps the Enron Fields of the world will follow suit (Enron was forced to relinquish the naming rights to the Houston Astros’ ballpark, but they were promptly resold to Coca Cola as Minute Maid Park). And with CEOs no longer being worshiped as folk heroes out of Horatio Alger novels, perhaps city leaders will think again about selling to the highest bidder.
There has already been some backlash against corporate names. When a new football stadium opened in Denver in 2001, fans unsuccessfully sued to keep the fabled Mile High Stadium name alive. A local agency sold the naming rights for 20 years to Invesco, a financial services company. The price tag: $120 million...
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