American Gladiators! Babies! RAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!

As both Alex and my Shelly reminded me over the past few days, the second season of the New! IMPROVED! American Gladiators has begun. Monday night was the opening episode of the season, but if you missed it, there’s another airing this Friday at 8/7 central. Or, you can watch it online at the NBC website. Which I am doing now. There’s tons of New! IMPROVED! stuff going on for the second season, but I was most impressed with the fact that Laila is having a baby. (RAAAAAAAGHHHHH! Power+Strength = Intense Baby Labor! and PAIN!)

That brings me to another point – what’s with fake advertising/spoofs and babies? Take the ‘I feel great ‘ Nutrigrain commercial:

Or the Powerthirst ad:

What makes babies funny? Is it the number of babies? Babies everywhere? 400 babies? Would AG be funnier if they could add more babies? Or is it just the ridiculousness of too many babies that gets our funny going, a ridiculousness that goes along with every aspect of American Gladiators?

AG has learned from last season’s mistakes. This time around, it’s not only about preening, machismo, and trash talk. It’s about serious stuff, serious issues that people face every day. It’s also about overcoming obstacles. No, I don’t mean the ones in the Eliminator. I mean a single mom who put herself through school (she’s allowing herself to be bludgeoned and ‘tested’ for her daughter), a man with one leg (he has a bendy metal thing instead, kinda like a hook-leg instead of a peg one) and a deaf man (Don’t worry, he’s not mute – he can still give a loud, man-beast yell). Yep, we’ve really got the cream of the crop this season. Maybe next season, they’ll make all the contestants live and train together in some tiny apartment and see what happens. The Eliminator would be replaced – instead, there’ll be one in-apartment event called ‘The Bathroom’.

Where’s my Prince Caspian?

I was startled while online today to discover that the ‘Books iRead’ program on Facebook also allows access to online copies of some books.  Currently, in fact, there are 16,306 titles available.  At the top of the list: C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  No doubt it’s all as a result of the upcoming movie, but still, the idea itself is intriguing.  Not only are places like Google Books and Project Gutenberg getting all the text they can get their hands on for all of us readers, but even social networking sites are promoting book browsing.  I love it!

Unfortunately, the Facebook copy from Harper Collins is incomplete – small sections of pages throughout the text are missing.  The Google Books copy is the same.  Perhaps they aren’t the same pages, and I could get a complete read by combining the two of them – I didn’t check.  Still, it makes me wonder.  Do they really think they’re going to sell another copy of the book by cutting pages 36-39?  Why not just make it all available?  Lewis is long since mouldering in his grave – no doubt that’s why they’re making the movies now, without need for his consent.

To close, Project Gutenberg contains only one work by Lewis: Spirits in Bondage, a collection of poems.  This is due to the fact that all of his other works have not yet fallen into the public domain.  I doubt these poems are of great significance to modern times, as I’ve never heard of them.  However, it does make me wonder what we’re waiting for in regards to the rest of the his works.  I mean, I’m all for giving children their inheritance, but there comes a time at which the past can no longer claim rights over the future.

But we paid good money for that!

brand

(brānd) n.

    1. A trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer.
    2. A product line so identified: a popular brand of soap.
    3. A distinctive category; a particular kind: a brand of comedy that I do not care for.
  1. A mark indicating identity or ownership, burned on the hide of an animal with a hot iron.
  2. A mark burned into the flesh of criminals.
  3. A mark of disgrace or notoriety; a stigma. See Synonyms at stain.
  4. A branding iron.
  5. A piece of burning or charred wood.
  6. A sword: “So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur” (Tennyson).

American Heritage Dictionary

Though I am not certain, I would guess that our modern definition of ‘brand’ referring to a particular known company producing a certain item probably came from the marking of livestock and criminals. As in the past, the symbols and names of a brand denote a kind of ownership, a possession of both the symbol itself and the materials that make it. In some ways, it remains a demeaning mark. Branding in the modern sense often has longer-lasting unintentional consequences in the restrictions placed on the reuse of branded articles.

Take the recent purse prototype by TImbuk2. Made of recycled plastic bags (which really need to be reused, as they are very UN-biodegradable and often pose a hazard to animals), these flash-laminated bags are both water repellent and designed to take advantage of the bright colors and interesting shapes of the plastic bags themselves. Unfortunately Target saw the use of their bags as an infringement of tradaemark, rather than a promotion of their brand.

In some ways, I can understand Target’s side of the story – they are protecting their rights and defending their interests. And I’m sure they spent a considerable amount of money on the design of their bags, which use their logo interestingly. This good design is probably a part of why TImbuk2 included the Target bags in a prototype purse. But whether or not Target eventually takes advantage of this sort of niche eco-conscious market for bags, the Timbuk2 prototype probably would’ve done little harm to the Target brand.

The question for me that comes out of this story is the freedom given to corporations regarding the extension of brands. The question is not so much whether or not Target’s rights were being violated with the reuse of the bags, but whether or not the bags should be branded at all. Especially in a case like this, where the bags are detrimental to the environment, should corporations be held responsible for the number of bags the produce? Should they be rewarded for the number they recycle? Due to the branding of the bags, wouldn’t a corporation see excess bags as additional advertising, rather than a detriment?

It is for situations like this one that I am not a libertarian. The interests of business in this case are not aligned with the public good. The government, whether national or local, should step in to regulate how many branded article should be allowed, how they should be used, and what the environmental impact of such use can be. In addition, there should be a limit to how long brand-name packaging protection can ‘last’. If you want to brand a shirt, fine – the trademark protection endures. If your brand name is on a product package, that box or bag or plastic wrap should be immediately ‘free’ for re-use. Even advertising, such as billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, and even TV and radio spots, should have a certain shelf-life of protection. Afterwards, the public should be free to use it as it pleases. If it happens with copyright and patents, branded goods should be limited int eh same way.