Today the St. Louis area is experiencing a sleet and snow mixture. In a week or so, it will be time to start some seeds indoors for the earliest garden plants such as onions and chives. See the Schnarr’s Hardware calendar that includes suggested seed starting, planting times and harvest times for the St. Louis area. That means it’s not too early to plan your garden for 2020! I’ve been practicing landscape plan drawing as I work on my garden plan. More examples and more details are on the Schnarr’s blog!
Our next door neighbor has been discharging most of her drainage into our yard for years, causing thousands of dollars of damage to our property. We installed rain gardens to keep her runoff from further damaging our home. St. Louis County wants us to get rid of our fixes and be subjected to damage again when the problem originates next door. I’m going to document our steps again as we fight this plus the time I’m spending, so I’m beginning a new log. Where we left off, I had spent 27.81 hours working on our defense.
The first log explaining the background is here:
Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court
01-14-20 – Received letter saying we have to remove our landscaping along the fence line.
01-15-20 – I sent an email to an official from MSD, the St. Louis County Property Complaints division, and John Geiler of St. Louis County. I left phone messages for John Geiler and Mike Hite (whose name is on the notice of violation letter). I requested a personal meeting with John Geiler so I can tour the property with him and show him the problems. I sent a copy of the letter to my attorney requesting legal assistance. I also sent a link to this update to the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, Stream Teams United, River Des Peres Watershed Coalition, Environment Missouri, Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region, Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and Great Rivers Greenway.
Time spent as of 01-15-20 – 28.39 hours
Update 01-16-20: Since yesterday, I have been contacted by the St. Louis County inspector, a representative from MSD, and a representative from the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. Here is an email I sent to the MSD representative and the supervisor of the inspector a few minutes ago. It will fill you in on the situation as of right now.
“Hi, I really appreciate your call yesterday. This letter is being copied to Mike Hite and John Geiler of St. Louis County, and will be published here shortly:
Here, as requested, is what it says in the notice about the exact violation.
“Violation 1 302.2 Grading and Drainage. Health Related. All premises shall be graded and maintained to prevent the erosion of soil and to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water thereon. REMOVE THE LANDSCAPING ALONG YOUR FENCE WHERE THE WATER CAN FLOW AS IT WAS DESIGNED.”
Mike Hite, who is the inspector listed on the notice, called me this morning and let me know that he received my email. In his message he said that people always block the water from the other yard. He assumed we did that, but we did not do that, the water was not blocked but facilitated in the flow from her yard to ours. Just because other people do it, it does not follow that that is what we did.
I don’t know why no one from the county will look at the actual property, look at the pictures I’ve provided or the videos to see the following.
Water was on both sides of the fence before I did anything. Photos are in my first article with dates on them showing this. I can show you on my phone to show when I took the photos and did not fake the dates on the graphic. Here it is:
The flow of water from her property to ours probably worked fine in the 1950s when these homes were built. Here is what happened. Over the years, lawns on both sides got mowed over and over, but you can’t mow the actual fence line. Over the years, plant roots and organic matter build up along the fence, creating a high spot along the fence line. This trapped water on her side. At the same time, repeated inundations of water in both yards, and nothing planted in the yards in the affected area except turfgrass, caused the soil to be compacted in the areas that collect water. Turfgrass is not a very permeable surface especially if maintained for decades in a way that depletes the soil. So the problem the county says we caused was pre-existing.
Over the years, apparently more of her yard was paved causing runoff to have to be dumped into a smaller area of soil than the drainage was originally designed for, exacerbating the problem further. I can’t return the property to the original configuration it was designed in because the property next to us (7409 Rockwood Dr) already altered the dynamic decades ago causing much damage to the soil and altering the original drainage forever. When these houses were built they did not design the situation to still be sustainable 70 years later. We know a lot more about landscaping and how it affects water and soil than we did in 1954. Even if I could return the landscaping in both yards to it’s 1950s state, the problem would occur again over time. My landscaping is designed to be sustainable because I’ve used the knowledge we now have in the 21st century to make it so.
When I first built the raised bed along the fence line, the neighbor thought it was ugly so she complained that it was trapping water on her side. I don’t know if that was true or not since water was already trapped on her side before I did anything. Nevertheless, I knew that was not a desirable outcome and having no inclination to damage her already unattractive yard and feeble turfgrass further I took steps to make sure that does not happen. I removed the bricks in the low spot, removed the bricks along the back edge of the bed (solely because she told me she thought they were ugly, I replaced them with fine black mesh that is less visible and also more permeable just in case), made my collection area on our side larger and lower than her side, and now her yard drains completely. That is not all I did, you have a full list from my previous article, but those are the major things.
Her yard didn’t drain completely BEFORE we changed anything. I have checked it after each and every rain (other than when we were in Yellowstone last summer) to make sure (edit after sending) it does now. We IMPROVED the existing problem rather than causing it as we have been accused of doing.
Here is a link to an image that has been available to the county since July 2019.
Mike said in his phone message to me that he could not find one of the drainage pipes that is closer than 10 feet when he came to our property. I question whether the inspectors actually get out of their trucks to look because I witnessed one in May (the 2nd) doing an inspection without even stopping the truck all the way. This diagram shows clearly where to look for the pipes. I actually left one off when I made this diagram – there is one more at the north edge of the carport that I didn’t notice when I made this. Yes it’s hard to see everything at first glance, but it’s my opinion that if you are citing someone for a violation that has already been dropped in the court once, shouldn’t you be certain about these things? There is a real economic cost to me having to spend time fighting this over and over when it has been fixed since May 4. I’m partially self-employed and when I’m working on this I’m not earning money. I have plenty of proof in photo and video. I am willing to show it to a judge if that’s what it takes. Why can’t the inspectors look at the actual evidence when it’s been provided over and over again? That’s the part I can’t understand.
Here is the second pipe that is closer than 10 feet from our property (right photo).
This image was provided to the county in August 2019. The tape measure is shown extended to 10 feet. The pipe has not moved since I took this picture. I don’t understand why the inspector could not see it. You are welcome to come and measure it, don’t take my word for it. Are you not allowed to walk beyond the gate? That I understand. There is no lock on it, but if you are not allowed to go beyond that explains this whole mess. Please make an appointment with me and I’ll show you everything in person. This offer of a tour has been on the table since August 2019.
I also offered soil, fertilizer and grass seed to the neighbor at NO COST to repair the water damaged spot in her yard. I would even install it for free if she wanted me to. We did not cause the damage, it was caused by outdated landscape management practices that are harmful to the soil quality over time. But it’s in both of our best interests to improve the appearance of her lawn and if she believes we caused it I’m happy to fix it. I physically extended with my actual arm an actual bag of grass seed that I bought for her and showed her a pile of soil that we ordered from St. Louis Compost and offered her a share of it to revive her grass. The grass seed I offered her has roots up to four feet long which will help greatly in reducing her soil compaction and helping it absorb water. You cannot buy this grass seed in big box stores. She turned me down flat. The grass on our side of the fence is fine, even in the spots that flood all the time. It’s good enough that a client of mine bought plugs of it from me last summer. I’d love to tell this all to a judge, believe me, so I have no fear of being taken to court again. If you think that is a threat to me (the phone call made sure to include that), after reading the above I’m sure you can understand why it is not.
Thank you for your time.”
Time spent as of 01-16-20 – 30.25 hours
I have not heard from anyone except MSD since my last update. Here is copy of a letter I have just sent to John Geiler of St. Louis County who supervises the inspectors.
“Hi, I’ve attached a photo that I took this morning. With the water frozen, it’s easier to see where the wet spots are. You can see where the fence is. The top portion is our neighbor’s yard. The bottom portion is ours. This is the low spot in our backyards where water flows from one yard to another. As you can see, we are not trapping water in her yard.
2. With some light colored markers or colored pencils, color around the outside edge of the faux stamp sheet and inside some of the open areas inside the stamps.
3. If you own any rubber stamps with postal type words or sayings on them, get them out and stamp them on some white or light colored paper to make parts to collage onto your stamp designs.
4. Tear or cut the words out and glue one onto each rectangle.
5. Take some border stamps and stamp them in black ink around the composition to make a border. I used some fairly bold stamps because the black rectangles in the original printout are pretty bold and dark so a strong border will help balance the whole composition.
6. Add some color with other rubber stamps from your collection. I’m currently working on Christmas cards and party invitations so I used some rubber stamps that would fit into use on those kinds of items – either on the actual card or on the envelope.
7. When I make a stamp sheet like this that is designed to be viewed as a whole composition as well as single stamps, I take the original and get color copies made of it. Then I cut out individual stamps from the color copies to use on other projects and keep the original to display intact.
My husband and I have been gifted season tickets to the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis preview nights by his parents and it is our custom to go to dinner with then before each new production. Usually I like to ask if any of the party are familiar with the play. If it is adapted from a book, I want to know if anyone has read it and what they thought of it. Until recently I haven’t seen a lot of live plays so I’m trying to learn as much as I can.
I read “Pride and Prejudice” long ago and I’ve seen both modern and period style movie adaptations of the novel, but none of these were recent and fresh in my memory. I described what the story was about to the best of my ability to our party and my husband said “So it’s like a chick flick”. Coming from my husband this is not a put down. He likes “chick flicks” – he is the one who introduced me to Hallmark Christmas Movies for the first time which also could be considered “chick flicks” but whose audience is around 30% men. I searched for podcasts about “Pride and Prejudice” to learn more about the history and context of the original novel and came across an episode of “The Drunk Guys Book Club Podcast” in which they admitted that they read the book because it’s something that one probably should read if one has aspirations of being well-read. They admitted it was not their usual taste but they are aware the story is enjoyed by many women even in the present day.
The central driver of the plot is an English country family with an estate that legally must be left to a male heir and is entailed – it cannot be divided up among the daughters of the family which has no sons to provide for their future support. The daughters must find husbands who are able and willing to support them and if circumstances make it necessary, the possibly future widowed mother and any sisters who don’t find husbands. The closest male heir is a cousin and it would be advantageous for the family of one of the daughters could wed him so at least some of the family remains connected to the estate.
If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s similar to Downton Abbey, a popular television historical drama that familiarized many Americans with entailment and primogeniture and how those practices affected landed families in the UK that were trying to preserve estates and retain social status. It wasn’t always possible in real life to do that and indulge in romantic love at the same time. Pride and Prejudice the play makes no attempt to explore the fates of the working class or servant class which have very different concerns. American life in the present day has many differences to the landed gentry life of the early 1800s or the aristocratic life of the early 1900s depicted in Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey respectively. Regency England is so far from life in the US in 2019 but not so distant that we can’t enjoy this play today.
It isn’t always easy in the present day to find romantic love even when women have a lot more freedom and economic independence. I thought about this while watching the play because when I was dating my now husband, I told him that I might eventually sell the two small homes I own, but I wasn’t going to promise to sell them at any particular time or at all. I told him that I would of course take his opinions about managing them into account and make decisions that were best for us as a couple, but since I could afford to maintain the properties with my own money I was going to be the final decision maker. I told him if that was a dealbreaker for him to tell me now.
Does that seem like an odd question for a woman in her late 40s to have to ask a suitor in the year 2017? I think it’s odd indeed, but I learned from the relationship proceeding the one with my now husband, that yes I had to ask it. I thought I was on the verge of a proposal from my previous boyfriend, but he abruptly dumped me. He told me the reason for his action was that he did not approve of my renting an art studio. When I suggested that after marriage I move to his home and use my then current home as a studio because the cost of owning it was roughly the same as rent for the studio, he told me it was not acceptable for me to consider still retaining ownership of my condo and he was finished with me for even thinking about it. He believed I was incompetent at managing money (guess which one of us was and still is debt-free) and he didn’t want me to continue to do art projects. It’s possible there was a lot more than that going on, but I have it in writing from him that those were the reasons he was willing to admit to. I believe he was really a fake suitor and not a real one but I thought he was for real at the time. Yes, I’m old fashioned enough to still think in terms of “suitors”. I haven’t spoken to him since other than superficial politeness if we are ever at the same events. (The reason we met in the first place is that we like similar events and know a lot of the same people. I’m polite if spoken to because I don’t want to make other guests or the hosts uncomfortable.)
After that I decided that if I ever got the chance to be in a relationship again and it looked like it might be leading to marriage, I would have this conversation earlier since apparently some attitudes I thought were a given in the present day in our current culture are, in fact, not. I wanted to get married but not if I had to give up my right to own property to do it. I had read the essay “A Room Of One’s Own” by Virginia Wolf in my teen years and as a creative person I fully understood the implications even if I didn’t yet understand how hard it was going to be to get “a room of my own” AND romantic love and how long I was going to have to wait.
I told my husband that if he liked Hallmark Christmas movies he would probably like the play we were about to see. The heroine is rewarded for her strong-minded and unorthodox approach to life. She finds love with a handsome man and security for her family, similar to many Hallmark movie plots. The play even ended in true Hallmark style with a couple of conventions I won’t spoil but which you can probably predict! With its disturbing background about the rights and roles of women in the circumstances in which it was written, it can be paradoxically enjoyed as light Holiday fare if you don’t dig in too deeply. And if you want to dig in deeply there is plenty of substance to reflect on later. Is this story romantic or anti-romantic?
Enjoy the florid manners, witty banter, choreography, romantic comedy conventions and lush production. As someone who appreciates design and sewing, I was particularly taken by the costumes and would have been entertained by those alone if necessary! There is a big cast with lots of costume changes and I loved how certain characters wore variations of the same color to help you keep track of who is who. If you go, if you are not very familiar, to get maximum enjoyment out of the play I recommend brushing up a little on the characters beforehand so you are not confused. Also don’t do what I did and remain seated during intermission. It’s a long play and I got a little restless-leg feeling going at the end which made me fidget to try to get my leg comfortable. (When I was younger I called it “movie knee”.) Do walk around a bit if you can!
Pride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Adapted by Christopher Baker
Directed by Hana S. Sharif
December 4-29, 2019
Link to box office: Pride & Prejudice
I put some links to help understand more of the historical background here:
In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.
I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.
With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!
In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.
Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).
The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.
Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.
There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!
The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?
After reading my paper “Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown“ what do you think of the above two photos? Still photos and motion pictures use a lot of the same production elements. Following are some more questions I would ask the writer, editor and publisher of the Journal if I could.
Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?
Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?
Why was no mention made of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report? The excerpt below is from page 21:
“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”
I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.
To see what I used as sources in analyzing the Journal article I put a link to the Journal article and other interesting articles on the topic I found, plus a link to the Senate report on this Confucius Institutes on College Campuses Pinterest board.
My husband Tom and I were looking for an art show to go to on a Saturday evening after 5:00 pm mass and were pleased to see an ad for the show “Thank You” at Galeria Obscura by mixed media artist Marley Billie D. The theme of the show really resonated with me because an old friend of mine had died a few days earlier, and I had recently submitted a proposal for an art show that involved a tribute to another friend that passed away last year and both deceased friends and others were heavily on my mind. Appreciating the impact people had on your life when they are gone is a good thing, appreciating people while they are still here if you can is even better. I need reminders to do that more. Seeing a collage invitation for the show excited me. Collage and mixed media are near and dear to my heart (and one of my major muses) because of the way that actual found objects and papers can give another dimension to projects that brand new materials just can’t do sometimes.
I spoke to Marley briefly at the opening and expressed my appreciation for the collage, found objects and re-purposed materials used in the show. While some of the pieces in the show are actual collages or include some collage elements, each wall in the installation was itself a masterful assemblage that together created a kind of collage room. You could also think of it as a scrapbook that you can walk into. Artwork was combined with snapshots, many with captions written either on them or on the wall. The walls became a “journaling space” like you would see in a scrapbook or art journal. The black walls of the gallery space, some light gray painted frames at regular intervals, white text and “Polaroid” style photo margins in the exhibit were perfect neutral foils for the highly saturated colors in the artworks themselves. While viewing I soon realized the skill and design ability it takes to create an installation of joyful harmony when there is so much going on with colors, materials and textures.
Marley told me that Pop Art is one of her influences. I learned on the Oxygen web site that Marley Billie D was on a show called “Street Art Throwdown”. You could consider Street Art in the Pop Art category because it’s a populist form of art, and sometimes there is Pop Art subject matter incorporated into it. Marley told me that some of the Pop Art influences came out in her work in the “dot gain” pattern she likes to use in some pieces, used prominently by some well known Pop artists like one of Marley’s inspirations, Roy Lichtenstein. There is torn away corrugated cardboard also, which whether consciously or not helps me see the Pop Art influence. Cardboard cartons are a form of advertising re-created by another influence Andy Warhol in his Brillo boxes piece. The textures made by corrugated cardboard also look great combined with the dot gain pattern, both visually and thematically.
To my eye, there is also Pop Art influence in the saturated color schemes and the creative re-use of materials. There appear to be things like old wood, recycled frames and old wall decor blended in many of the pieces. The “cheesy” kind of wall art many of us remember growing up with could be considered a form of Pop Art. They are cozy, familiar, homey objects that remind many of us of happy family times from the past. Some of these discarded items from other people’s families can be found in alleyways and thrift stores, and while hunting and dumpster diving you might also find cardboard and product packaging. Very fitting to blend such materials with the retro and populist sub-contexts of the show. Also an example of how you can use kitsch to make art that is decidedly NOT kitsch.
You can understand by what I have written above why I had a strong personal reaction to this show. To explain further, the huge blue spoon and fork seen on the wall in my photo are perhaps examples of those objects that for some artists can become powerful symbols that appear repeatedly in an artists’ body of work. Sometimes the audience knows right away what the symbols mean, in other instances they are part of a more private language that the artist uses. Giant wall utensils also appear in one of Marley’s paintings – see it here on her Instagram account. I grew up in a house with several painted plaster ornaments decorated by my Mom, myself and my brother. For example my Mom “antiqued” a giant wall set that included fork, spoon and ladle, and displayed plastic grapes in the ladle part of it! I can relate intensely to this symbol. I think what Marley did in painting either the actual objects from the painting or objects like them dark blue and including them on this wall is a masterstroke, both in color choice and concept. The feelings they might evoke in someone who grew up surrounded by similar objects are powerful. They are also good examples of Pop Art because of their kitsch appeal, large size, bold colors and celebration of ordinary household objects, all characteristics that help signal the Pop Art genre. To add yet another level of meaning, utensils are associated with Thanksgiving, a ritual that involves food and family, is coming up in two days, and probably had something to do with the timing of this show.
I’m thankful for all the people who had something to do with forming my character and creativity as I have lived life. And I am thankful for Marley’s show for inspiring me and reminding me what I owe to others.
I mentioned Pop Art subject matter above when I explained how Pop Art often celebrates objects that “ordinary” people use and encounter in their daily lives. A hamburger is one of the quintessential and ubiquitous American foods, and pop artist Claes Oldenburg was one of many pop artists who have celebrated the hamburger when he made his famous giant soft hamburger sculpture. The chain restaurants that feature objects on the walls evocative of the chosen restaurant theme could be considered a form of Pop Art as well. I don’t know a lot about the industry that supplies these objects, but I would like to! Some restaurants appear to use reproductions and/or vintage and antique objects to help create the desired atmosphere. It is very fitting that the new Red Robin restaurant in Richmond Heights, Missouri is decorated with colorful and engaging Pop Art. At least some of it appears to be specially commissioned work. I went to eat there because some of my friends were checking it out and I wanted to socialize with them (see photo). The art work was a special treat that I did not expect. Basically they turned the dining area into a giant Pop Art installation. There was even a hamburger hassock! The graphic below is a montage of some of my favorite pieces. Enjoy while contemplating an art form that originated as commentary on commercialism being shamelessly used as advertising! And very appealing advertising if you ask me…
Faux postage is a really fun mixed media project to make because it’s relatively non-threatening to create tiny works of art in a format that everyone is familiar with. There are lots of craft products you can buy that make it easier to make artwork that looks like postage stamps. A long time ago I designed some rubber stamps for this purpose and some of them are currently for sale in my Etsy shop. You can make this project with any other small stamps that you own also and a selection of paper crafting supplies. Enjoy!
1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the first page for Part 1.
2. Cut out some paper rectangles that are 1 3/4 inches tall and 1 3/8 inches wide from dark paper. You will need at least 16 rectangles.
3. Trim the edges with a paper edging scissors and arrange on your Low Tech Faux Postage sheet Page 1. You can think of your sheet as one composition made up of 16 tiny compositions if that helps you to get ideas. Glue down your trimmed paper rectangles.
4. Use a 1″ square paper punch and start by punching out one square for each rectangle from a selection of random scrap papers. Arrange until you are satisfied. If you have similar sized paper punches in other shapes such as circles, feel free to try them out. As you look through your scrap papers, you might get inspired to cut out other shapes. If you are moved to do so, go ahead and cut out whatever you like and glue down on your sheet without worrying about whether or not you’re “inside the lines”.
5. Take some tiny rubber stamps with words, phrases, numbers or symbols that have to do with philatelic stuff like stamps or cancellations. Stamp them in permanent black ink on light colored pieces of scrap paper. When the ink is dry enough to handle, cut or tear out what you have stamped.
6. Glue the torn or cut pieces to the collage work you’ve already done to help make each rectangle suggest a postal stamp design.
7. Continue to add embellishments to your stamps until you think they look finished. Here are some suggestions for what you can add:
More cut collage papers, found or commercial
Drawing – paint and gel markers are interesting choices to experiment with because you can write with them on slick surfaces and sometimes dark backgrounds as well
8. When your stamp sheet is done, you can frame the whole thing to display it, cut apart your stamps to make tiny artworks, make color copies then cut apart the color copies, or put the whole thing in an art journal. Your imagination is the only limit and the most important thing is to have fun!
Here is a paper submitted for Media and Culture class, presented here before grading.
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. Amanda Staggenborg
MEDC 5310.01: Media and Culture
12 November 2019
What is the Hallmark Channel Selling?
People tend to consume culture that is in accordance with their own attitudes, values and behaviors (Silverblatt et al. 97). If a media product gains a wide audience by appealing to the cultural norms of a large number of people, it becomes an example of popular culture (Silverblatt et al. 97).
During the week of November 20, 2017, the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas subscriber television programming was the highest rated for women in the age ranges 18-49 and 25-54 (Rosa). Hallmark put 16 more new Christmas movies into production in 2018 than 2017 (Rosa), indicating that the channel’s popularity was expected to rise even more.
Back in 2003, the Hallmark Channel was ranked 22nd. It saw itself as family friendly, “Main Street and mainstream”, with potential to become a much more powerful and popular network (Umstead). Also in 2003, the Hallmark Channel’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing and brand strategy also found the concept of “owning holidays” appealing as the channel started timing its programming to follow the holiday oriented calendar of the Hallmark brand’s retail stores (Forkan).
Hallmark stores are in the business of selling a variety of gift products that carry emotional messages (Ferrante-Schepis). On the Hallmark Channel, now one of several channels owned by Crown Media Family Networks which is in turn owned by Hallmark Cards, Inc. (About Hallmark Channel), the emotional messages support the brand and are also part of the product.
To be successful, marketers need to understand the values that their customers hold and celebrate during the holidays. Christmas consumers are moved by traditions and holiday memories (Knaub-Hardy 119-121). Other than just commerce and commercialism, many people celebrate by attending worship services and are conscious of promoting joy, love, community and kindness to others (Meredith). Typically celebrants engage in a lot of family activities such as parties, family portraits and school concerts (Stirland 22). The Hallmark brand has been around long enough that it has become a holiday tradition in its own right (Danailova 184).
The Hallmark Channel audience is about 70% female and about 30% male (Hallmark Channel CEO…) with a median age of 58.6 (Battaglio). Bill Abbot, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, aims to appeal to viewers who are under served by an industry that in the main produces content that features violence, sex and controversy to court young viewers and the affluent audiences that are found in large cities (Battaglio).
Many Hallmark movie plots center around a woman who lives in a big city and has a stressful career (Battaglio). There are few people of color in most casts, a frequent criticism that the channel has acknowledged and is gradually taking steps to correct (Ellenbogen). The protagonist usually finds fulfillment by moving to a small town and engaging in romance with a supportive man that sometimes helps her solve her problems (Battaglio). There are holiday activities we associate with stereotypical All-American small town values and the plots make sure these endeavors include lots of consumption, such as gift giving, wrapping, food crafting and decorating (Battaglio). It makes sense to combine Christmas and romance together because the romantic ideal world view embraces Truth, Love, Beauty, Faith and Justice (Silverblatt et al. 109), values that work well in either context or both together.
Many critics have examined the implications of the popularity of these formula driven movies from feminist and political points of view. Some analysts think the movies make a pro-feminist statement while others are of the opinion that the values celebrated in the movies are a throwback to times when women had more constrained roles in society. Sometimes the movies are praised for giving viewers a respite from exhausting politicized content, and they also invite criticism from others for not including controversial or political messages.
The choice by Crown Media to attempt to avoid controversy is deliberate (Hallmark Channel CEO…). Referring back to the company’s direction in 2003, Crown Media appears to have kept its goal of “owning a holiday” firmly in mind (Forkan). Consumers who are motivated by thoughts of nostalgia, tradition and the better parts of human nature are assumed to respond negatively to programming that reminds them of how different the real world is from their ideal vision. People also reject content that is offensive to their most deeply held values (Silverblatt et al. 97).
Moving to the country has been a cherished American fantasy for a long time. When the United States was founded, many of the architects of the new nation idealized farming (Wolf). In the 1950s, when television first became the dominant form of media, many television programs moved their casts to or created shows in small towns and suburbia (Hine 24). People who moved to the suburbs liked to think they were moving to small towns, according to analysts of the time (Hine 24).
The book Populuxe makes the case that the years 1954-1964 were the high point of American consumer culture. Despite criticism by elite taste makers, many Americans bought products that were not of great quality but symbolized their fantasies about the past and the future (Hine 60-61). Crown Media appears to have tapped into the fantasies of Christmas and holiday buyers but has gone even farther by associating holiday consumption with other cultural myths of American mass consumers.
“About Hallmark Channel.” Crown Media, 2019, www.hallmarkchannel.com/about-us. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Danailova, Hilary. “Party, Gift and Hallmark Stores: Trends in Year-End Selling.” Souvenirs, Gifts, & Novelties, vol. 56, no. 4, May 2017, pp. 182-184. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=123229254&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Ellenbogen, Rachel, “Why Are Hallmark Movie Casts So White? We Asked The CEO” IBTimes LLC., 2017, https://www.ibtimes.com/why-are-hallmark-movie-casts-so-white-we-asked-ceo-2631589. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Ferrante-Schepis, Maria. “Lessons from Three Undisrupted Brands.” National Underwriter / Life & Health Financial Services, vol. 121, no. 2, Feb. 2017, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=121064821&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Forkan, Jim. “Promo-Wise, Hallmark’s the Holiday Net.” Multichannel News, vol. 24, no. 15, Apr. 2003, p. 23. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=9537921&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
“Hallmark Channel CEO Shares the Magic Behind the Network’s Strategy.” NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, 2019, www.ncta.com/whats-new/hallmark-channel-ceo-shares-the-magic-behind-the-networks-strategy. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Hill, Samantha Rose, “Why the Hallmark Channel Is Completely Dominating in 2017.” Group Nine Media Inc., 2019, https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/hallmark-channel-movies-success-2017. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Hine, Thomas. Populuxe: From Tailfins and TV Dinners To Barbie Dolls and Fallout Shelters. MJF Books, 1986 and 1999.
Knaub-Hardy, Kathy. “How to Sell More Christmas-Themed Home Décor and Ornaments.” Souvenirs, Gifts, & Novelties, vol. 51, no. 5, June 2014, pp. 116-122. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=97170255&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Meredtith, Brian. “Time to Rethink Christmas Marketing.” NZ Business + Management, vol. 30, no. 1, Feb. 2016, p. 54. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=112287637&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Rosa, Christopher, “There’s a Reason You See the Same Women in All Those Hallmark Christmas Movies.” Condé Nast, 2018, https://www.glamour.com/story/hallmark-christmas-movie-actresses. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.
Stirland, Kirby. “All the Trimmings.” Earnshaw’s Review, vol. 99, no. 6, July 2015, pp. 22-39. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=109111548&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Umstead, R.Thomas. “Hallmark: ‘JAG’ Fits Our Brand Strategy.” Multichannel News, vol. 24, no. 25, June 2003, p. 16. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=10092311&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.
Wolf, Tom, “A Nation Founded By Farmers.” Modern Farmer Media, 2013, https://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/the-founding-fathers-on-farming/. Accessed 12 November 2019.
There are a few more articles that I read but did not use on my Pinterest board:
This past Wednesday was a pretty gloomy day weather-wise. It wasn’t terribly cold, but it was relentlessly gray and damp. While working at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves on that day, I was given the task of helping to hang garlands and wreaths on the outside of the store. We were preparing for the Old Webster Holiday Open House which runs from 10 am – 4 pm today.
Whether it was the physical exercise involved or something inherently joyful about decorating, almost immediately my dull mood turned lively and creative. Over the next few days I got some of my Christmas stuff out and started brainstorming on decorating ideas for the store and the home I share with my husband Tom. I finally got some ideas for the endcap in the Garden department that I decorated and update from time to time. I added some paper flowers I made with tin birds, seed packets from Botanical Interests, some little tin watering cans, a canvas mat with attractive lettering and some holiday faux greenery and floral pieces. I’d been stuck for awhile on ideas but I finally felt inspired. If you’re going to the Open House today be sure to stop in Schnarr’s – there are some new holiday items to see and and lots of festive lights and decorations!
For many years when I lived alone in my condo I did not bother with displaying Christmas decorations. I made them because I love to make them and always will, but since I didn’t have many visitors I thought it was not worth the effort just to decorate for myself. Before I met my husband, I was dating a guy for the first time in many many many (did I say many) years and I did decorate a bit while seeing him since I finally had someone else to decorate for. I think I have learned a lesson from these experiences – it’s exciting to work on decorations and displays for business purposes because selling things and creating excitement in a store is a lot of fun. But it’s also worth doing just for yourself, whether you live alone or not. You can choose to shop for a lot of new items, use old favorites or combine old and new. If you find that decorating lifts your winter mood, you are worth the effort all by yourself! You could look at it as a form of necessary self care. Tom and I will have to be somewhat restrained in our decorating at home because we have cats, but we can do something and I’m going to make the effort. (The mistletoe is up already, to make sure we get lots of use out of that!)