Sunday, November 22

So We're Not Traveling to Family This Thanksgiving, But the Real Question Is: What Time Do We Eat?

A new study suggests that while far fewer of us plan to fly on an airplane to see relatives this Thanksgiving because of the pandemic, many of us are still planning to go home — we're just driving there instead. 

Despite experts like CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta urging the public to sit out family gatherings this year as the Covid-19 virus spikes across much of the country, the number of us planning to travel altogether in the coming days is only about 10 percent lower than last year, according to a study for AAA as reported by Statista. While air travel is projected to be off by almost 50%, highway traffic is likely to be off by only about 4%. 

The data can be read, says Statista, as Americans "forgoing long-distance travel because of Covid-19 but still keen to visit friends and family who live short or medium distances away." Despite how you get there or who you're spending your holiday with, Thanksgiving gatherings carry "an inherent risk of infection," according to experts, who advise those who are planning events to keep them small and preferably keep them outdoors. And as sad as it sounds, keep grandma at home this year.

Anecdotally, I can share that among my friends, family and associates, those who have been cautious all along during this pandemic are (big surprise) also being judicious about Thanksgiving plans. Many people I've talked to are, as experts suggest, keeping their gatherings small or foregoing the holiday altogether this year. (Same goes for Christmas.) Of course, I try to not surround myself with people who aren't smart, well-informed and personally responsible. 

Some may debate skipping Thanksgiving or whether to risk inviting grandma, but one thing we can all agree on is, this is the one day of the year when it is socially acceptable to gorge oneself (come to think of it, in America that's any other day, too). The question: What time do you serve the traditional Thanksgiving feast, and when do you think most of your fellow Americans set the table? 

Statista reports that the overwhelming majority of households (42%) serve between 1-3 p.m., while the second most popular feeding time is late afternoon, or 4-5 p.m. (29%). 

What's for dinner? Turkey (duh) is served by 81% of consumers, with 64% whipping up mashed potatoes. 

(Putting on my eating pants now.)

Tuesday, November 17

Another White Christmas in the Marketing Department

A diversity reality check appears to be the perfect gift for corporate America this holiday season.

For years the industry has vowed to make marketing leadership ranks more representative, yet a mere 12 percent of top marketing jobs today are held by nonwhite executives, according to a new survey by the ANA. 

Progress continues to be made, the association announced during the first day of its annual Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference — just not enough.

While people of color continue to fight to achieve parity, women have fared far better — and in fact, now dominate top marketing jobs. According to ANA, of 870 member corporations, 52 percent of marketing bosses are female, up from 47 percent last year and 45 percent the year prior. "At the senior leadership level, female representation is now likely at an all-time high," the group said.

Some progress is being made among minority groups, as Ad Age reported, with companies including Coca-Cola Co., Citi, Kellogg, Calvin Klein, Peloton, Vice Media and Amazon Prime Video/Amazon Studios naming nonwhite execs to top marketing posts in recent months. 

Friday, October 30

Whether Trump Wins or Loses, We're All Lost

Raise your hand if you'd like to read another opinion piece about the 2020 presidential election. Anybody? Thought so. At this point, surely just about everything's been said and written that can be, and just about everybody, from both sides or neither side, seems prepared for a win, loss or, yes, even a draw. (One thing we all have in common: We'll all be glad when it's flipping done.)

I don't cover politics, therefore I feel under no pressure to strain and persuade you that I am that nonexistent thing: free of bias. Nor do I even feel obligated to come off as fair or balanced. Such a quaint journalistic notion as trying to report without smirking, shaking one's head in disbelief or schadenfreude most definitely went the way of the blue dress, the housing bubble, the ascent of Pravda II: Fox News (which famously, laughingly appropriated the once-noble and meaningful standard of the newsman and newswoman, "Fair and Balanced," as its brand slogan, making it forever unusable again among actual journalists) and, finally, the entire presidency of one Donald J. Trump: noted real estate con man, philanderer, TV star, proud member of the heretofore little-known Orange race, marathon tweeter of late-night grievances.

So what in the heavens have I got to say? Just this. Whether Trump wins or loses next Tuesday, I've a feeling we will all continue to be lost — not as individuals, perhaps, but as a country. If he wins, well, that outcome certainly speaks for itself. But if he loses, it means that anywhere from one-third to forty-something percent of Americans still love him, still approve of him, still want him, after all he's done, to be in charge of Brand USA. Others have made that point, and still more will continue to make it. Because it's the true takeaway, and as such, it bears repeating, and repeating. 

Even in the case of a Biden win, a considerable chunk of the electorate, regardless of the election's results, will still think that entertainment and outrageous statements and coddling dictators and flipping off the military and pissing on rather than holding up the least among us (you know, like that dude Jesus who so many of Trump's followers claim to also worship taught mankind back in the day) are more acceptable and qualifying in a leader than brains, sober judgment, a steady hand and what used to be known as common human decency. 

We are a country populated by a frightening number of people who prefer a reality show clown posing as president versus an actual, capable, reliable leader. Again, many have made the point; again, it's impossible to repeat it too much. It is, frankly, still shocking to imagine, even after four years in which you'd think we'd all have become inured.

I have been a New Yorker for three decades, but lately I've been reading about the South, where I grew up, and my home state of Tennessee's shameful role in that dark blip in U.S. history known as the Civil War. (That Tennessee happened to be the last state to join the Confederacy, something many of its residents are fond of pointing out, does make it one whit less culpable, any less on the wrong side of history, or any less damned.) It may seem like ancient times, but the truth is, it really wasn't all that long ago, and what I have come to realize, as so many of you have, is that "we the people" haven't really changed that much over the last 150 years. During Civil War times, there were proud racists (there still are — just check out Fox News's prime-time lineup) and rabid secessionists (ditto — have you visited one of those gated communities full of tacky McMansions on a golf course lately? United Colors of Benetton they're not), but for the most part there were just sleepy little sheep: uninformed, uneducated, unmotivated, simply going along, drifting toward the gaping maw of oblivion (sound familiar?). 

Next week, the citizenry has a shot at turning away from ugliness and restoring our status as that fabled "shining beacon" of the world. 

And if it doesn't? 

Well, I reckon we had a good run, and we will thus retain our status, for four more years, as the world's most infuriating, tiresome and totally implausible reality show. I just hate to think what the finale will be.

Thursday, October 22

Time Replaces Cover Logo for First Time, Says VOTE, While New York Mag Cover Sports "I Voted" Stickers

It's refreshing to know there's still a first time for things, especially things created by journalists. 

In an unprecedented move, Time magazine has replaced its cover logo, instead urging readers in that familiar space and typeface to VOTE. The accompanying cover art, of a woman wearing a scarf to cover her nose and mouth, is by the estimable Shepard Fairey.

Time's editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal explains the decision to change up the cover this week:

Few events will shape the world to come more than the result of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. ... To mark this historic moment, arguably as consequential a decision as any of us has ever made at the ballot box, we have for the first time in our nearly 100-year history replaced our logo on the cover of our U.S. edition with the imperative for all of us to exercise the right to vote. ... We stand at a rare moment, one that will separate history into before and after for generations. It is the kind of moment in which readers across the country and around the world have always turned to TIME. We thank you for doing so now.

The editor's note is followed by a discreet button for ordering a print issue of your very own — meaning they intend to take full advantage of monetizing this historic moment in presidential politics, and journalism. And you know what? Good for them. Journalism today, notably print journalism, depends on fresh ideas and financial health. Here's to more of both, no matter what comes to pass on November 3rd.

... And in another burst of creativity from the newsstand ...

The cover of New York magazine's October 26 issue will feature a series of peel-off "I Voted" stickers, in partnership with the organization I Am A Voter and created by an assemblage of 48 artists including Shepard Fairey, Barbara Kruger and Laurie Simmons. The magazine explained that millions of Americans are voting by mail, therefore missing out on those little adhesive testaments to doing their public duty typically handed out at the polls. There will be four different covers, each with 12 stickers — enough for readers to wear a different one daily through Election Day. Here's a sneak peek:

Tuesday, October 20

Sue the Messenger: Trump's DOJ Goes After Big Tech

The Trump administration has followed through on a promised war against big tech, suing Google over alleged antitrust activities because its ad platform and search tool happen to be more popular by far than anybody else's. Eleven states joined the feds in the suit.

"If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition," the deputy attorney general said in a lofty statement this morning, "we could lose the next wave of innovation ... and Americans may never get to see the next Google." I am about as sure that this is about advancing innovation as I am that it's just coincidence the 11 states also suing happen to be red states, and that the lawsuit was filed exactly 2 weeks before Election Day. 

As CNET reports, the DOJ's action was controversial even within the department: "Some of the attorneys were concerned the aggressive timeline ... was to ensure the Trump administration gets credit for taking on a big tech company." 

But there's more. Yesterday, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows went on morning television to warn that there will be still more lawsuits against the tech giants, namely social media companies, which the president and his cronies have repeatedly accused of bias against Republicans — their latest fury being that the Twitter accounts of those aiming to spread the New York Post's widely debunked report on Joe Biden's son were either censored or frozen. (More than 50 former intelligence officials have signed a letter casting doubt on the veracity of that story, maintaining it has all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign.)

By the way, the best part of Meadows' appearance on "Fox & Friends" was when he played free press advocate:

"They're now starting to censor, actually, reporters. That's a dangerous place for them to go when they're the arbiter of what they deem to be the truth."

And what the media is deeming to be the truth at the moment is the work of thousands of pollsters and oddsmakers predicting an overwhelming Biden victory on Nov. 3. If that comes to pass, expect all the noise about the evils of big tech, and the rest of Trump's personal vendettas masked as righteous crusades on behalf of the "people," to get drowned out by the sound of all those leather wingtips and low-heel pumps bolting for the exits.