Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless Steel Appliances

Pop culture is constantly changing. What is in today might be in tomorrow… it also might be thrown to the curb. One item that has had much success recently is stainless steel appliances. One reason that I am very aware of this trend is that fact that my wife has been dreaming over these appliances for over a year. The appliances that we currently own work great, but they are white.

White used to be the “in” color. Actually, come to think about it, it looks like history is repeating itself. The colors that used to be popular were colors like avocado green. Then white was the color to have. Somewhere in there, black became popular and now the trend is stainless steel. Some people from the beginning thought that the stainless steel looked like an industrial kitchen. That did not stop the pop culture movement to the stainless steel side of the court.

I had made the comment above that history is repeating itself. Very recently, I have seen colored appliances in the store. I am not sure if they are going to catch on or not. In my opinion, I don’t think that stainless steel appliances have been out long enough to be ousted by pop culture. That is the thing about pop culture, though.

In case you were wondering, I have a set of used stainless steel appliances in my garage waiting to be installed. My wife found them on Craigs List, which is actually another pop culture phenomenon. My wife and I drove 2 hours one way to pick up the stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. We need to sell our white appliances before we are going to install the new ones. I certainly hope that pop culture goes my way with appliances. If my wife wants to get the new version of avocado green ones in a year I am not going to be happy. But I do follow the saying, “Happy wife, happy life”. I will have to wait and see what the trend turns out to be!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Assignment 1-3

Journal Article Analysis

The article that I will be analyzing for this assignment is “The Performance of Nonconformity on The Muppet Show—or, How Kermit Made Me Queer”. This article was written by Jordon Schildcrout. The article discusses the television show The Muppet Show and several aspects of the show. This article is intended for a general audience. The language is straight forward and easy to understand. The style of the article is logical. The article is laid out in an organized manner and the main idea is present from the very beginning.

Jim Henson is the creator of The Muppet Show. He also helped to create Sesame Street. There is a difference on a fundamental level between the two shows. Sesame Street was designed to show young children an educational program while still showing an “idealized vision of an urban multicultural neighborhood” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 823). The Muppet Show did not have a set goal or design, except to entertain…or did it? Even though it didn’t have a pronounced goal does not mean that it did not have an underling theme. The theme can best be described as being “progressive” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 824).

One reason why The Muppet Show had the freedom to be so creative from the beginning is that the show was first shot as an independent production (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 825). It was actually picked up by a British company after all the major American stations turned the idea down. After the show was produced, the American stations realized their mistake and got on board with the show. With no one really looking over his shoulder, Henson was able to let his creative juices flow.

The entire show is filmed in The Muppet Theatre. This is a made up place where the Muppets interact. Each week, the Muppets are visited by a special guest. The special guest is the only human on the show each week (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 825).

There are several interesting facets about the Muppets on The Muppet Show. The Muppets are usually comical or funny by nature, so the Muppets that are serious are usually the odd ones out. Also, according to Schildcrout, “The Muppet Theatre is the home of misfits and oddballs, zany characters who consistently flout convention” (2008, pg. 826). Part of the set-up of the Muppets is that they don’t conform to societal norms. This is passed on to children as they watch this show. It is not to make the children want to be nonconformists but to show them that it is all right if they don’t conform. This explains the title of the article, at least to a certain point. The Muppets also make it a point to show their appreciation for each other as performers at The Muppet Theatre, highlighting that they are not performing for just for money (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 826). This is another important point that has been set up by Henson to help teach children it is not all about the money.

Henson also makes a point to create different problems that the Muppets must deal with on a regular basis. This is a great lesson for the audience of children watching the show. It helps them realize that problems will arise but you will get through the tough times. Henson has also made a point to have some of the problems be big ones and other problems much smaller. This helps create a realistic picture for children (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 826).

The Muppets on The Muppet Show are not forced to stay within the cultural norms that other shows are forced to adhere to. This is also where the title to the article comes into play. The show has blurred the lines in several areas, including race, gender, and sexuality. For example, Miss Piggy is portrayed as a female in the show but there are a few interesting facts about the character. She almost seems to be dressing in drag by the crazy outfits that she wears. In the old theatre, men used to perform all of the roles in a play, including female roles. When Miss Piggy gets upset, her voice is very deep. All of the puppeteers that were Miss Piggy were men. Another example of blurring the line is Gonzo and his sexuality. He is portrayed as a male but at one point he chooses to dance with Kermit and at another point to be held by a male guest as they sing a song. When he danced with Kermit, Kermit seemed uncomfortable. Gonzo did not seem uncomfortable. A final example related to the issue of race is the color of the Muppets. Due to very different and bright colors, the race of all of the Muppets is not always disclosed (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 827-830).

Another interesting fact about the main Muppets on The Muppet Show is that many of them are males. In fact, “among the nearly thirty Muppets who appear regularly on the show, only two of them are female” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 829). These two females would be Miss Piggy and Janice, who sings in the band.

How is it that the Muppets are able to function under the nonconformity of cultural norms? One of the ways that the Muppets are able to pull this off is due to their child-like innocence (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 832). The Muppet Show has done a great job teaching children a valuable lesson. The show is entertaining to say the least. The show has also allowed children to question cultural norms in a fun and non-confronting way. I would have to assume that most children that watched the show did not become queer. On the other hand, it was a great example of the tolerance we should have towards others, whether they are like us or unlike us. We need the message of this program more and more in the world that we live in and this show was a great start.

Schildcrout, J. (2008). The performance of nonconformity on the Muppet show—or, how Kermit made me queer. Journal of Popular Culture, 41(5), 823-835. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from Academic Source Complete database.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Assignment 4-1

Toyota Prius

Popular culture is constantly changing. One issue that is on the minds of many people throughout the world is the idea of global warming. Scientists seem to be in disagreement about what is really going on, but that certainly won’t get in the way of pop culture. One of the icons of the global warming crowd is the Toyota Prius. The car is very popular because it is a hybrid, meaning that the car has a gas engine along with a rechargeable energy storage system (“Hybrid,” 2008). This storage system lets the Prius collect energy from the cars brakes each time the brakes are put on. Then the Prius can use that energy to run the vehicle at low speeds. This helps to reduce the emissions that the vehicle puts out.

Toyota first produced the Prius in 1997 (“Toyota,” 2008). The Prius hit the states a few years later and started to sell at a decent rate even at that point. Recently, Toyota dealerships couldn’t keep the cars on the lots. They were selling very quickly due to the very high price of oil and gas. When gas was hitting $4.00 a gallon, all of the sudden buying a car that gets great gas mileage seemed like a no brainer. People started to buy all sorts of small, fuel efficient cars. Toyota managed to be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, General Motors can’t say the same thing.

Today, the price of gas is at a several year low. This has, undoubtedly, affected the sales of the Prius to some extent. The thing is people got the message that gas prices can get very high here in the United States. It will just be a matter of time before they are high again. The Prius is a very fuel efficient car and it will continue to be successful. At this point in time, it is even seen as cool to be driving a hybrid (at least in certain crowds). It is a way to show that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and buy a hybrid. The reason I say this is that these hybrids cost a premium. The car companies know that people that want one of these cars will pay more for them. Over time, you get the money back by buying less fuel. At $1.50, it takes a long time to get that money back just so you are even. At $4.00, you break even on the extra expense much quicker.

Therefore, the Prius has shown that on a bad day it will sell at a decent rate. On a good day, you might not be able to buy a Prius if you walk into the dealership with cash. The Prius is a pop culture icon and the technology behind the car is here to stay.

Hybrid electric vehicle. (2008). Wikipedia. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from
Toyota Prius. (2008). Wikipedia. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Assignment 3-1

One of the hottest toys for the past several years has been Elmo, the bright red Sesame Street character. I remember Elmo when he first hit the streets as tickle-me-Elmo. It was all over the news and parents were paying hundreds of dollars for these toys. It was THEE toy to have for Christmas that year. I thought it was just a fad. Well, it wasn’t. I went to a Halloween party this year with almost no notice. I quickly went to Walmart with my wife to look for a costume. We wound up walking out with Elmo suits that were supposed to be for toddlers. They just fit over our heads and went about halfway down our chests. They were very snug. The costumes were a big hit at the party and I actually had someone come up to me at the party and ask me for my Elmo suit. They said that their child loves Elmo and they would be a hero if they brought it home. By the end of the party, I had to cut the openings for the arms as I am not a toddler and the person that wanted the suit had already left.
Sesame Street has always been a great place for children to visit. The show does a good job teaching children valuable lessons. What is interesting is that Elmo is a relatively “new kid” on the block at Sesame Street. According to Sesame Street, Elmo’s “personality wasn’t fully formed until Kevin Clash began performing the character in 1985” (“Elmo,” 2008). It was Clash that created the monster’s trademark giggle. A new development is that Elmo has his own segment on Sesame Street called “Elmo’s World” (“Elmo,” 2008). I think this is why Elmo has taken off so much. He has a lot of face time on the show and parents like Sesame Street so kids get to see him a lot. It has been a marketing success for Sesame Street and a hit with kids nationwide and beyond. This goes to show that pop culture can decide who will make it and who won’t. Even in the Muppet world!

Elmo. (2008). Sesame Street. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from

Monday, November 24, 2008

Assignment 2-1

The Nintendo Wii

This week I would like to explore the pop culture topic known as the Wii. I actually don’t have much experience with this gaming system but many of my friends do. Many gaming systems in the past had large followings but the Wii is off the charts. “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and The NPD Group, computer and video game sales, including portable and console hardware, software, and accessories, were $18.8 billion in 2007, a 40% increase over the $13.5 billion market in 2006 ( Miller & Washington, 2008, p. 122). The Nintendo Wii was among the top sellers.
There are several reasons why this gaming system has been so popular. One reason is the fact that this system gets the players moving. Games sure have come a long way. Parents like the system because it gets their child off the couch and moving around. It has also been a big hit with older people in nursing homes. I am sure that was a surprise to Nintendo. The Wii lets the nursing home residents play such things as baseball and golf while offering these sports in a safe environment.
I remember the first gaming system I got and it was a regular Nintendo. It will be very interesting to see what kind of gaming systems come out in the future. It looks like Nintendo will continue to stay on top of their industry. It makes me think that maybe 3-D will be the waive of the future. Only time will tell!

Miller, R. & Washington, K. (2008). Chapter 21: Video games. Entertainment, Media & Advertising Market Research Handbook, 122-126. Retrieved November 24, 2008, from Business Source Complete database.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Assignment 2-2

The three contemporary icons I chose are Bob & Tom, Lowes, and Mercedes-Benz. Each of these icons means something to me and means something to many other people in society. I feel that they are well known icons and fit this discussion well.

I like listening to Bob & Tom in the morning. They make me laugh. The Bob & Tom show is broadcast nationwide from 6 A.M. to 10 A.M. When I am in the car during these hours, they are the only station I have on. Lowes is my home improvement store. I am in the real estate business and I therefore shop their not only for things for my own home but for homes I purchase and rehab. I have found the products to be good and the service decent at Lowes. Last but not least, we come to one of my dream cars. I have always loved cars, especially nice ones. I would like to own a Mercedes someday, maybe an E55 AMG or a S65 AMG.

These icons each mean something different to me. Bob & Tom mean comic relief in a stressful world. They also show me that it is possible to find a job you really love to do. Who thought you could create radio show writing indecent songs and interviewing comedians? Lowes has an interesting meaning to me. It makes me think of the American dream. It is a luxury that we as Americans have the opportunity to own our own homes and spend thousands of dollars on them if we want too. Mercedes-Benz has a strong meaning to me as well. On some basic level, the car gives me a goal to reach for. It is possible to have a lot of nice things in life on a very tight budget. To be able to afford a $100,000 car or even a $50,000 is quite an accomplishment. When I say afford, I mean write a check for it. To reach that level of success is a goal of mine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Assignment 1-4

Crocs: Pop Culture in Action
Who would have thought crocs would have caught on like they did? Well I certainly didn’t think they would have caught on but I sure wish I had bought some stock in the company. Crocs are a certain type of shoe that is made out of plastic. They have an unusual design and are very comfortable. They have hit the ground running, no pun intended. Crocs are popular because they are comfortable and because they have been able to penetrate such a wide range of audience, from young to old.
On average, women have nineteen pairs of shoes (Marx, 2008). Could this be a reason why Crocs have become such a hit? Yes, women have certainly purchased these shoes, but they are not alone. That might also be a reason why Crocs have become so popular. They are worn by young and old and men and women.
Another sign that shows how popular Crocs have become is that they have to deal with copy-cat products hitting the shelves. In July of 2008, Crocs Inc. filed a lawsuit against Sketchers USA Inc. for copying the style and texture of the original Croc shoes (Lynch, 2008, P. 22). It seems that Sketchers would like to cash in on this market. They might have come a little too late to the party, though.
Pop culture is always changing. What is “in” today is “out” tomorrow. The sales of Crocs have dropped in 2008. “Crocs suffered a net loss of US$4.5 million in the first quarter of 2008, down from net income of $24.9 million in the same period last year” (“Clunky,” 2008, p.18). I didn’t even know that they were becoming less popular until I researched the brand for this assignment. While Crocs might not be experiencing the dramatic growth they enjoyed before, they are very much a part of pop culture.


Clunky crocs must face up to the fashion police. (2008). Media: Asia’s Media and
Marketing Newspaper, 18. Retrieved November 16, 2008, from Business Source
Complete database.

Lynch, M. (2008). SKS, crocs in legal battle. FN: Footwear News, 64(28), 22.
Retrieved November 16, 2008, from Business Source Complete database.

Marx, P. (2008). Sole sisters. New Yorker, 84(26), 84-89. Retrieved November 16, 2008,
from Academic Search Complete database.