A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Ok, so I realize I haven't posted for quite some time - and that a three month hiatus is probably not the best way to assure the blog's reader(s) of The Ostrich Egg's sheer vitality and true exciti-tude. But if I know one thing better than anything else, it's that an 'exclusive' and fascinating post will surely rejuvenate the spirits of this once ... flourishing ... persisting ... not nonliving blog. So what better way to brighten up the doldrums of winter than with a blog post on HISTORY!

Why history? Well, why not - posting clips of Mr. T and Ikea lamps really didn't seem to do anything for my blog-cred, so what do I have to lose? Admittedly, I accept the fact that history and wintertime fun have in the past appeared
to be mutually exclusive. For a thorough documentation see the second season episode of The Simpsons, Bart Gets an F (check it out via peekvid.com). But even though the episode features one agonizing scene where Bart forces himself to study the American Revolution in a dark, dank basement while outside the town of Springfield is celebrating 'Snow Day - The Funnest Day in the History of Springfield' ... this post is really all about breaking those negative and all too true stereotypes. History really can be fun!

Alright, fine, so what can I do to convince you? It seems pretty clear that countless pages written by historians, sociologists, and philosophers throughout time have all harped on the importance of studying history. One of the most accessible arguments is neatly broken down by
Peter N. Stearns of the American Historical Association (AHA) in an exposition titled Why Study History? In it he claims that history "should be studied because it is essential to individuals and to society, and because it harbors beauty." Furthermore he goes on to detail many of the functional aspects that this study provides both for the individual and society alike, aiding in the formation of fundamental skills that define who we are ... but I can sense that this approach isn't really helping my cause either. After all one can simply claim that this man is grossly biased in favor of history, why should anyone wanting an objective opinion listen to a man in AHA's pocket? (Not to be confused with Aha, New Wave originators of the 80s classic Take on Me)

So that leads me to Old Navy, and the reason for this blog
post in the first place. As a company whose motto has been "Get Your Fash-On!" ever since it's ubiquitous commercial campaign in the summer and fall of 2006, one would doubt that Old Navy would be the harbinger of a new appreciation for history. And yet, even three years after their last round of catchy advertisements, one phrase remains etched deep in my psyche, and that of my peers (I would assume): "History? I LOVE History!" In what was one of the most generation defining commercials of my time, the Old Navy 'History' commercial remains, in my opinion, the most successful pro-history campaign ever unleashed on the youth of America. While other groups have tried to combine the appeal of pop culture, design, and youth-centric adverts, none have been nearly as effective as Old Navy with this regard. See for yourself, and just try to deny the effectiveness of this advertisement ...

In all reality, this commercial really is the perfect vehicle for history education. The shrill, exuberant cries of the young college student reverberate as easily through the silent lecture hall as through our minds, while the effectiveness of this technique ensures that the words will become permanently lodged there (next to other unforgiving slogans).
Furthermore, the fact that the student's rant appears to be evoked just as easily by Old Navy's back to school sale as by the prospect of studying history, the commercial itself makes the idea of being passionate about something like history accessible to all (though for some it may also require the consumption of ungoldy amounts of caffeine in preparation for a midterm). The very fact that multitudes of students have gone on to study history after viewing the commercial, and continue to do so even years later, makes my point all the more valid!

If you still aren't convinced by my random co
rrelations, just listen to this: Old Navy isn't the only on to have picked up the model of catchy advertising in order to indoctrinating the youth with messages of history's virtues. While none can hold a candle up to the brilliance of the original, the popularity of this approach has clearly spurred others to try and follow suit.

Catchy slogans, reverse psychology, and the sex appeal of Napoleon Bonaparte - who could refuse?

Artist Eduardo Recife (www.eduardorecife.com), whose style and creative influence I greatly admire has lent his expertise to the development of a promo for the upcoming HBO series, Assume the Position. The premise of the show is formed around the supposition that most of our notions about historical fact are in reality based on popular culture, and it is our job as inquisitive students of history to vocally question and debunk hearsay. Robert Whul, the man charged with reformatting the common student's approach to history, is the most vocal figure present in the college classroom setting picked for the show. A couple of seconds into the promo, as his booming voice fills the lecture hall, the excitement of discovery present in the subtleties of his tone - I can't help but bring myself back to those simple beginnings when $20 capris were all that it took to get one so worked up over history.

The promo which you can check out in a 40 second and 60 second format, is really a clear sign that the youth, nurtured by Old Navy commercials of yore, have grown up to be actual college students, deserving of more mature historically infused advertisements and pop-culturally savvy programming.

I for one will keep the tradition started all those years ago by Old Navy strong, and my love for history will forever ring out, in the immortal words of that annoying girl:
"...Something happens... Then something else happens! It's so sequential! Thanks... first guy! For writing history down! ...LET'S STUDY!" And I'm pretty positive others see it that way too.

Illinois delegation at National History Day 2006
See more of NHD on my Flickr photoset

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