Category Archives: Media, Advertising and Pop Culture


Yesterday was Black Friday. But yesterday was also Buy Nothing Day, and this post in in the spirit of Buy Nothing day.

This video keeps popping up on my Facebook feed. You might have seen it.

At first blush, this is the kind of video I love. Showing that people are basically good and altruistic. But there was something that bothered me. I watched the video again. Then I zoomed in on the final shot where one guy passes a beverage to another. A Coke.

It’s a Coke commercial. And then I got angry. Not that it was a commercial riding on the feel-good factor – commercials have always done that. Just don’t try to fool me and hide your message. It’s deceptive and dangerous. When people find out, they become angry and cynical and that beautiful message that the world is a great place completely gets blown out of the water and is replace by the message that the world is full of deception. Had there been a simple logo shot at the end of the commercial saying it was sponsored by Coke, I would not have felt so duped. So stupid. So cynical.

I was tempted to go back to FB and start commenting on everyone’s feed, “Nice, but it’s a damn Coke commercial.” But, you know. Buzzkill. No one likes to be the one to pop the feelgood balloon. Who likes to have it pointed out that they have been duped?

But wait a sec. Who have I been duped by?

I started to dig around and look into the organization that had their logo tagged on the end of the video, Love Everybody (where I am seeing comments that others are suspecting the same thing I am about the Coke product placement). I was certain I would find out that they were funded by Coke somehow. But if they are, it is not obvious from their website. And then as I continued my research to try to uncover whether this was really a Coke commercial or not, I came across this version of the ad on YouTube:

Now in this version, there is a very definite Coke logo and product shot at the end. It is obvious in this version that this IS a Coke commercial and the message was sponsored by Coke. I see this version and I am okay with this. Coke has been explicit. So, why did Love Everybody edit the video to remove the Coke logo at the end that clearly showed that it was a Coke commercial? What was their motivation to do this? Did they want to use the video as a vehicle for their own organization? Try to re-edit in such a way that they would get the feel good factor out of it? Or are they really funded by Coke and have re-edited the video to make the Coke message obscure and almost subliminal? Or are they engaging in some form of culture jamming and it is actually a sophisticated ploy to use the message of a corporation to provoke exactly the kind of negative reaction and backlash to a mega-corp that I felt? Or perhaps they are funded by the state and are trying to soften the perception that constant public surveillance is a good thing?

And here in lies the problem. Going down this road has made me start questioning what this simple little message that seemed so sincere and earnest really means. The message that the world is a good place has been replaced, and that pisses me off because I want to believe that the world is a good place and people are basically good. That may be a naive attitude, but as a father trying to raise engaged kids who don’t end up living a cynical life steeped in fear, I NEED to believe that.

I like to think of myself as fairly media literate. I worked in that world, on both the commercial and alternative media sides and feel I have a good bullshit detector. But it reminds me that we are living in complicated media times where messages and media can easily be manipulated. For me, this is another indicator of the importance radical transparency in everything we do. We need transparency as a core value in our society today or risk creating a cynical society that lives in fear, uncertainty and doubt. We need to push at our governments, corporations, institutions, and ourselves, and believe that being open and transparent and making our motives & actions visible and explicit is the only option.

Instructions for a Bad Day

Yesterday was Pink Shirt Day in Canada. A day to stand up to bullying. It also marked the release of this video, created by students at G.P. Vanier school in Courntay, BC.

It is a touching video about hope, featuring a composition created to mark the day by poet Shane Koyczan (he of We Are More fame from the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics).

What a wonderful, inspiring project, which will (thanks to YouTube) be seen by thousands of people around the world. And, perhaps, one person who just might need to hear this message at the most pivotal moment of their life.

Here is Shane talking about how the project came about.

How do I tell my daughter she looks nice?

I’ve been watching my 8 year old daughter start to play with her identity. It’s a wonderful thing to watch her develop into her own person and begin to visually express on the outside who she feels she is on the inside. Yet, this is also causing me some confusion as I grapple with how I should respond.

This Christmas she received a gift card from her aunt to an accessory store. You know, that store in the mall where they sell cheap jewelery and every item is adorned with cuter-than-cute airbrushed images of Justin Bieber or bejewelled and bedazzled to within an inch of its life. One of the items she bought was a pair of glasses. Now, my daughter doesn’t need glasses. She bought them simply as a fashion accessory. She wanted to see how she would look with glasses on.

This morning she came down the stairs from her bedroom wearing both the glasses and a pink bandanna headband. She looked adorable, and I was just about to say, “hey, you look cute.” And then I caught myself. If I say that, what is my daughter really going to hear? That making a change in her appearance gets her noticed as “cute”? And what of that word “cute” anyway? What am I saying to my daughter when I say she looks “cute”? Am I seeding the thought in her that her self-worth is tied to her appearance?

Of course, I didn’t think all that consciously in that split second where I paused, questioning my choice of phrase. This has all come after as I reflect on the moment. But something in that moment did make me hesitate and check what I was about to say and, instead of saying she looked cute, I said ,”hey, who are you and what have you done with my daughter?” She smiled and giggled and went into the bathroom.

I don’t know if that was a better choice of words, but it felt better in the moment than saying, “hey, you look cute.”

I’ve been thinking about this for the rest of the day. Our words carry so much weight with our kids. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way (is she listening to me?) but they do, and they are listening. Always. I hear the things I say come rolling out of my kids mouths all the time. They take it all in.

What do I say to her? I love that she is beginning to play with her identity and make her outside a reflection of who she feels she is on her inside. But what do I say to let her know that I don’t think her self-worth is connected to how she looks?

8 year old me

Glasses. I used to get beat up when I was a kid for wearing glasses and here she is wearing them as an accessory. Fine by me, which is me projecting my own feelings about what those glasses represent. Intelligence? Brains? Really, if she wants to project an image that she is intelligent and brainy, isn’t that okay? Better than short skirts and makeup, right?

Or is it? I mean, I am still making a judgement call about her based on how she looks, projecting my own assumptions and beliefs about what something like glasses represent. Am I not still making a judgement based on her appearance?

There are going to be times when I want to compliment her on her appearance. She’s beautiful, and I want to tell her that. I want to notice. Maybe I want to say it to her as a shield to protect her from the message that she will be constantly bombarded with by popular culture and advertising that she is not. She’s my little girl and I want to protect her. But on the other hand I don’t want to start sending her signals that men only notice her when she looks a certain way.

So, I’m feeling a bit caught right now. What do I say to my daughter? Is it okay to tell her I think she looks nice? That she is beautiful? Any advice?

Because a little girl can never feel inadequate enough

This book has not yet been released, but I am still going to judge it by it’s cover on it’s Amazon page (which I am linking to so you can do your part to leave a comment about how appropriate you think this book is) and by it’s description on the authors website which says:

Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight. This inspiring story about a 14 year old who goes on a diet and is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.

Maggie has so much potential but she will never achieve it because she is fat. She will never have self confidence as long as she is fat. Self-esteem? Garbage until she gets skinny and popular.

What’s worse, according to this article from The Guardian and the description from US Amazon site, is that this book is aimed at 6 year old girls. 6 year old girls? a 6 year old girl is probably just starting to understand the wider world around her and her place in it, and she is met with this message? That she has no self-worth unless she is skinny?

The book blog Treasury Island said it well in their scathing post about the book:

Young girls are surrounded by messages telling them they’re not good enough. But just in case they miss the billboard adverts, TV commercials, models and actors preaching impossible standards of beauty and culturally acceptable body sizes why not give them this? It’s never to early to introduce body fascism to your children!

At least when someone stumbles onto this book on the Amazon site and reads the customer comments and tags for this book, they will understand the true messages behind a book like this. The Internet can be such a great place.

Looking for SAHD to be on The National

A producer from CBC’s The National contacted me hoping to interview me as part of a story they are doing on stay at home Dad’s. I’m pretty sure they got my name from this Financial Post article about stay at home Dad’s which seems to imply that a) the Post interviewed me and that b) I am still a stay at home Dad. Neither are true. The quotes attributed to me in the article are pulled directly from this post I wrote in 2005 when I was a stay at home dad. Just for the record, I am generally okay with them pulling content from my blog as everything is released under a Creative Commons license. But I’m a little less comfortable with the way the article is written, which seems to imply that they interviewed me for the article because, if they would have interviewed me, they would realize that I haven’t been a SAHD since 2007.

Anyway, if you are a SAHD, The National is looking to interview someone for a story they are working on. Preferably, that SAHD will be in Toronto, but it’s the Mother Corp and I’m sure they can scream up a camera crew in any major city in the country so don’t let that stop you. If you are interested, connect Laura MacNaughton, Producer, CBC News: The National at work: 416-205-3372 or via email at

The ad purge is complete

I removed the final block of ad code from my site and have added an advertising policy that explains that the intent of this site is to be ad free. If you do come across any old affiliate links or blocks of Google Adsense or text ads that once were on this site, please let me know and I’ll remove them.

I think I need a site facelift now that the ad’s are gone and not taking up so much space. Hmmm…time for a redesign I think.

Dumping the ads and reclaiming my space

This post has been a long time coming, but was finally pushed into the fore by a combination of finally having the time and this post on the Best Daddy Bloggers awards.

When I first began blogging 6 or 7 years ago (gawd, has it been that long?), the parent blogging world was very different, and my attitude towards blogging was very different than it is today. At the time, I wanted to undertake the technical challenges of setting up a personal webspace, having just finished a post-grad program in information technology. I also was about to have my first kid, and want a space to document that journey.

But I also wanted some place to connect with other Dad’s. At the time, there weren’t a lot of places for Dad’s on the web, not a lot of space for personal stories.

In those first few years, I wrote a few posts that got popular and passed around. I was seeing lots of traffic. I was also trying to balance work/life, and thought that maybe I could turn this blog thing into a way to make a few bucks. So, I signed up for Adsense, and explored the world of making a few bucks off my Daddy experiences. This was, oh, like 2005/06 or so. Early days.

But then I noticed something. It changed the way I wrote. The personal stories got less and less, and the blog became more like a machine I had to feed. I became obsessed with stats and tracking and checked my Adsense account often. It changed the way I blogged, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Right around this time, blogging exploded – especially parent blogs. Mommy and Daddy blogs were popping up left, right and centre. Sites like Minti and Babble appeared, and parents were forming and connecting online like never before. Blogging about your experiences as a parent became a business model, and I noticed that authenticity I saw in the early days disappearing from the blogosphere. Actually, authenticity became a business strategy. Me included. And I’m not feeling comfortable with it these days.

So, I am going to be removing the advertising from my site. I want to reclaim this space and reconnect with why I started blogging in the first place. It’s about me – this is my story, these are my memories. I put them out there as a way of both sharing and connecting, commiserating when the days are tough, and celebrating when the days are good.

I need to dump the ad’s. That is the first thing I need to do in order to reclaim this space as my own.

Hurting our daughters

It sickens me to think that these girls are the same age as my daughter. My reaction in seeing these photos was nothing short of visceral. Disgust. Sadness. Anger.

These are some of the images from the December issue of Vogue Paris, featuring models as young as 6 years old.

“Cadeaux”. Translated it means gifts. I am sure they title refers to the clothes these little girls are wearing. After all, Vogue Paris is a fashion magazine, and what 6 year old girl would be complete without their Bulgari bling.

Others have written about this much more eloquently than I have, including spelling out the reasons why these types of images are dangerous to our daughters. Therapist Ashley Solomon, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness, said this on her blog.

Portraying girls in adult apparel and situations and portraying adult women as young girls (à la Britney Spears sucking on a lollipop in a Catholic school girl uniform) reinforces the sexualization of youth, something that harms both girls and society.

In fact, the American Psychological Association created a Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and found that these media, products, and societal practices are significantly harming the healthy development of young girls. Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, Chair of the APA Task Force, stated unequivocally, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

Jennifer Grant also makes a point about this particular issue and the guest editor, Tom Ford that I also think is relevant.

Fashion designer Tom Ford was the guest editor and designed the controversial issue, including “Cadeaux.” Is it relevant that Ford is a close friend to photographer Terry Richardson (whose work is featured elsewhere in the December/January issue), and that Richardson has been accused of preying on child models and has written and gleefully performed a song called “Child Molester’s Coming For You”?

I think so.

And just to put this in context so we don’t miss the blatantly obvious point that this issue and magazine are all about the sex and not fashion, let’s look at the other photo essays in this magazine – one entitled “Pussy West”, and the other entitled “”Forever Love” featuring two elderly people who (according to this sensitive description by Hilary Alexander of The Times) are:

…so wrinkled they clearly have never had an intimate relationship with Botox, demonstrate that you may be geriatric but you can still get it on….

Well, good on them for still being able to “get it on”, but when you position provocative photos of little girls between other photo essays so obviously sexual, well then this becomes more than just pictures of little girls playing dress-up.

Dads, we need to be aware of these types of images, and how they harm not only our daughters, but society as well. This has to become an issue that we Dads not only talk about, but shout loudly about. Our young daughters are depending on us.

So please, spread the word. If you are a Dad who blogs and has a daughter, spend a few minutes and write a post about this yourself and send a message across the Dad blogs that this type of portrayl of our daughters is just not cool.

When the marketing department gets involved

Maybe funnier for me because today my girl turns 7 so we are right in birthday mode.

And the winner for most overpackaged product this Christmas is…

Leapster game cartridges. Here is a photo of one of the games Santa tried to stuff into my sons Christmas stocking with a $2 coin  for comparison.


and here is the actual size of what was contained inside that package.

Wasteful packaging 2

What a bloody waste.  I wish the Grassroots Recycling Network was still doing their annual excessive packaging awards. I would be nominating Leapster.

Love your games. Hate your packaging.