The story behind the name:

One evening, at the Old Broadway Grill in Fargo, North Dakota, my brother caught the end of a Mountain Dew commercial. In the commercial, a Mountain Dew drinker was riding a shark in the ocean. My brother exclaimed in surprise, not realizing that it was a commercial. When I told him he declared "All I saw was a guy coming out of the shower with a shark." Of course, he meant water, but the idea of showering with sharks has been with me ever since.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ubiquitous Ribbons

Reading Ali Rapp's post today has prompted me to comment about the prevalence of ribbons as a symbol in our culture. Nothing I write should be construed as pro-domestic violence. I just find the evolution of the ribbon as a tool for causes to be interesting from a communication perspective.

In Communication 280 we have been talking about semiology and the cultural use of signs. Our textbook (Griffin, 2009) uses the example of the yellow ribbon to illustrate the evolution of the yellow ribbon as a sign. You may remember the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the 'Ole Oak Tree." In the song, a man returning from prison asks his sweetheart to tie a yellow ribbon around an oak tree so that he will know if is past is forgiven and if he is welcomed home. During Desert Storm, the yellow ribbon symbol was co-opted to mean "Welcome Home Troops" with the forgiveness of stigma ejected as meaning to be replaced with American military superiority. Of course, today we are again bombarded with yellow ribbons, although the "Welcome Home Troops" message has been replaced with the "Support our Troops" message. I believe this change in the meaning of the sign has some source in the debate over whether or not our troops should be coming home from Iraq or not, tied closely to the "are we winning debate" and "when is the appropriate time to leave" argument.

But we are exposed to more than yellow ribbons. October is domestic violence awareness month and awareness is raised by a purple ribbon. Breast cancer awareness has a pink ribbon and HIV/AIDS awareness has a red one. The question I would like to pose is: does the saturation level of a sign or symbol in a culture ever lead to the reduced effectiveness of that symbol? For example, will people, upon seeing Ali's purple ribbon, stop to ask her what that ribbon stands for? Or will they simply chalk it up to another cause and keep walking?

If the purpose of the ribbon is to raise awareness about an issue, then is that symbol effective if it no longer elicits comments or questions from others? Is awareness really growing?

Of course, we could look at the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon as a symbol that grew into a campaign. In this instance, the placing of a pink ribbon on a product indicates that purchasing that product supports breast cancer research in some way. The pink ribbon has evolved into an effective advertising campaign and fund raising tool. What does it take for a ribbon to gain this type of prominence?

Anyway, I think it's an interesting question (or several interesting questions). Signs and symbols are all around us, often being taken for granted. Don't even get me started on the wristband...

Monday, October 13, 2008


Last week Mark received a two-person pass to a pre-screening of the movie Quarantine. I am a big scary movie fan - especially in the month of October - and so I was looking forward to going. When we got there we found out the pre-screening was being hosted by a local film company and a radio show. After a little shpiel by the hosts and marketing folk, the movie began.

Let me just say this: After the first twenty minutes of the movie, the quarantined characters in the movie weren't the only ones that were sick - so was I.

The movie is shot from the perspective of a camera man, which means that the frame doesn't sit still AT ALL during the whole movie. Think Blair Witch and Cloverfield. I saw Blair Witch on VHS and Cloverfield on DVD. Because of this, I had no idea what watching this kind of movie on the big screen would do to me. First, it made my eyes hurt. Second, it made my head hurt. Third, it made me want to puke. I actually got motion sick. It was horrible. After 40 minutes I turned to Mark and said that if we didn't leave, I was going to vomit. So we snuck out. I was bummed to go, because it had a nice creepy vibe going... A little Resident Evil-esque. And from other plot summaries I've read, it seems like it would have gotten even more interesting. Alas, I doubt I will ever be able to watch the movie. I will have to satisfy my October horror-movie craving with other, less nauseating far.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


(Disclaimer: This blog contains several references to proper names of books and television shows. I have neither italicized nor put these titles in quotations. This is a stylistic choice (mom) and I figure that if there is anyplace I do not have to follow proper punctuation rules for titles it is in my own blog.)

A few months ago when we were up visiting my family in Fargo, my brother declared that we had to stop up at his house to meet Sam, the new member of his family. I, of course, immediately thought new kitten, forgetting briefly that Jared had previously mentioned his newest purchase - a 40 inch flat screen Samsung television... named Sam. The TV was almost as fun as a new kitten. As far as I'm concerned, there is really no point in playing Xbox or PS3 on anything BUT a high def TV. He showed us a little bit of BioShock and I've been wanting a high def TV ever since.

Mark and I went about equipping our new game-playing entertainments station backwards. First, I bought him a PS3 for his 30th birthday in June. Then, a few months later, we bought a nice TV stand that can hold up to a 50 inch flat screen. We had been planning to wait until Thanksgiving to buy the actual TV, but playing games on the old 27 inch tube TV just wasn't cutting it. So, we went out and bought our own new addition to the family from Best Buy last night - a 42 inch Panasonic plasma TV... Pan. We thought seriously about buying a 40 inch, but then decided that in order for us to have bragging rights over Jared, we had to get the bigger one. So THERE, Jared. Our TV is bigger than yours is.

While the TV purchase was certainly exciting, the other thrilling moment of last night was when I saw the trailer for Legend of the Seeker. There I was, standing in front of a wall of high def TVs, when I see a trailer featuring some guy with a sword. Being a fantasy buff, of course I immediately began paying close attention. THEN, the voice over mentioned the name Richard Cypher. I started jumping and clapping in Best Buy. No, I am not ashamed.

Turns out, there is going to be a television series starting on November 1st based on one of my favorite fantasy series' of all time, The Sword of Truth!!!!!! HOOOOORRRRAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!! I've only been waiting for a live action version of either Terry Goodkind's or Robert Jordan's masterpieces since I was in high school (Jared and I have spent many productive car trips casting the Wheel of Time, although we both agree it should be done in a television medium... it is far to complex for a movie). Backing up a step, when I started jumping and clapping, Mark (bless him) said "Robert Jordan?" I was so pleased that he knew enough about what we were looking at to make such a close and educated guess. I corrected him and then took out my phone to call Jared. I am always really excited when I get to tell Jared something that he doesn't already know regarding either Sword of Truth OR Wheel of Time. Later, Jared texted me and told me Legend of the Seeker was being produced by Sam Raimi. AWESOME! Could not be more excited.

Anyway, it's raining here today and I'm cranky about it. I love rain if I can enjoy it from home. However, having to walk in from the car was a cold and wet experience. My jeans still aren't dry. Adding to my discomfort is the fact that, for some unknown reason, cold air is being pumped into my office even though the temperature outside is 53 degrees. You just don't need air conditioning when it is 53 degrees outside AND October. Dumb. Plus, I'm really frickin' hungry right now.