Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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You Know What Red Food Dye Is Made Of, Right?

You Know What Red Food Dye Is Made Of, Right? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Red velvet cupcakes will never be the same again.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
1 April 2016

Okay, this is not an April Fool's joke. However, it is a fun story and reminded me of an always favorite day while teaching Candide in the satire class I taught for over three years.

Ironically, the recollection is of a quote made by Candide's teacher Pangloss who is one of literature's most foolish of fools; most often expressed in his naively optimistic teaching that "This is the best of all possible worlds. Everything happens for the best."

In one particularly bizarre episode, Pangloss returns to the story suffering from a sexually transmitted disease that he believes he contracted while in South America (of course, history that used to record that sexually transmitted diseases traveled "from" new world natives "to" European travelers rather than in the reverse direction which science has since verified.)

Anyway, in spite of the serious impact that the disease has wrought upon Pangloss, rather than revisit his opinions about everything happening for the best, he pre-empts that consideration that he might be wrong with this defense when asked if the devil might be the force behind his illness...

""Not at all," replied this great man, "it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not in an island of America caught this disease, which contaminates the source of life, frequently even hinders generation, and which is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal..."

Imagine the look on my student's faces when after reading this passage I would casually pour myself a glass of cranberry juice and open a box of Red Hot Tamales candies and then explain to them that cochineal indeed was the product of squashed bugs and that it was the most common way to produce the red dye for clothing and many foods.

You might find this article ( indicating that it is for this reason that Starbucks ceased using cochineal in its Strawberries and Creme Frappachino mix most recently referred to as either carmine, cochineal, or Red Dye #4. 

When did they stop serving food colored with squashed bugs? 2012!!! 

And did you know that Starbucks was ahead of the curve? It wasn't until 2013 that alternatives to Red dye 4 were being sought for Danon and Yoplait yogurts, by Tropicana for its fruit juices, Nestle's for Nesquik strawberry chocolate cookies, by Betty Crocker for its Red Velvet Cake Mix, and by Rainbow for its Mentos candy AND in thousands of other common foods such as fake crab and lobster, fruit cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish eggs/caviar and liqueurs, candies, ice creams, processed foods and beverages, as well as in drugs and cosmetics.

Besides the thought of eating squashed insects, it turned out that many people are allergic to cochineal and vegetarians found the news particularly revolting.

On a more pleasant note...
For the record, those of you might teach Candide should know that the Candide Google Lit Trip has very recently had a rather significant updating.

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WHOA: This Is What Life Hacks Looked Like 100 Years Ago

WHOA: This Is What Life Hacks Looked Like 100 Years Ago | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
You know... everyone thinks the thought of a life hack is just some new thing created by folks on the internet. But as this Reddit post is showing, people have been thinking of clever ways to create easy solutions for over a hundred years.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Well, who would have thought ....




Let's talk about Informational reading...


I found this article pretty interresting. I'd use it in class.


With the exception of the very clear labeling indicating that these quite clever and great examples of what might have been at the time fanscinatinging clever examples of out of the box thinking, I couldn't help but wonder about the corporate decision to sell cigarettes without any mention of why someone would want to buy cigarettes, why this particular brand of cigarettes might in some way be considered a better tasting or more convenient or even healthier alternative choice than another brand of cigarettes. (Note that the article includes examples from competing cigarette companies)


The deceptive art of misdirection in advertising  is nothing new. 

We live in times when cherry-picking evidence to support our opinions and what passes for debate is too often a matter of who can most "successfully" pull the wool over the eyes of  the inattentive by side-stepping  the obligation of considering the validity of rational counter-arguments. Through deliberate refusal to veer from pre-established talking points.crafted by wordsmiths, handlers, "interested" financial benefactors, (perhaps with the help of an English major or two) to deflect legitimate challenging questions and to transform through repetition exceptions to the rule into what appear to be examples of the rule.


Why misdirect in advertising? It works and most importantly consumers don't even know they've been had. 


Ask a class of high school students whether or not they are tricked into buying "stuff" by commercials because they happen to be funny, or sexy or bordering or crude, or as in the case of the cigarette ads in this scooped article, actually interesting and useful but at the same time completely and intentionally free of useful information about the product. 


Will you be surprised at how many of your students will make some claim to the effect that there may be stupid people enough to be fooled, but they're too smart to fall for it, who at the very same moment are wearing logo-branded clothing turning themselves into walking advertisements?


And then ask them if they're even aware of the extent of the extent to which the practice of stealth advertising has permeated their world, particularly the parts of their world that they spend hours a day paying attention to not even realizing they're being sold.. 


Some interesting efforts to misdirect perception of the unwitting::


Stealth Ads: They're Effective — And Priced To Move

Be sure to watch the Jumping in Jeans video. It's just too cool to wonder whether this was bought and paid for by Levi's!

_________ has several examples of its ability to place ads sereptiously in front of unquestioning eyes. Besides the Jump into your Jeans campaign there are several more examples of their "fine work" here.:



And you have to give credit. They're perfectly willing to reveal some of the elements employed to deceive and thereby influence viewers eager to be entertained by their clients (un)commercials.


IF I WERE DESIGNING AN INFORMATIONAL READING learning experience, I might begin by pre-selecting a few of the videos featured  in this website to casually share in class without revealing the reason why I'd decided to share them with the class.. Though I think it would be important to find the best ones on their original YouTube sites to show them as they were meant to be seen. As well as to let them see how popular they have been.


After sharing five or six or so, I'd let the class discuss which were the coolest videos. And, I might after enough time to let the conversation gain momentum, casually ease in questions like, "What kind of people would do such things?" (as though I were enjoying the opportunity to feel superior to the people in the video) Or "Are these people cool? or idiots? or crazy? or, try this, "Are they YOLO"?  (Just in case  this term hasn't crossed your trajectory, it stands for "You Only Live Once:," which has become a mantra in defense of doing just about anything from climbing Mt. Everest to getting totally out of control at a party.)


I'd let the conversation roll for awhile leaving enough time to say something like, "Hey, you guys want to see something really cool about these videos? And I'd flip back to the pages on the site where they can see "WHO" these people really are. They're all actors being paid by various big companies to make their products attractive without letting you even know what they're up to. 


And, I'd leave just enough time at the end of the class period to ask the question, "So how much of this class period was I doing stealth teaching?" and "Did it work?"


What might be of interest in a flipped classroom sort of way would be to go through this warm up experience and then send kids home with the assignment to Google "stealth advertising" and to find three articles that are primarily text that are  published on "reliable" websites. They should collect the URLs for the articles they chose to be ready to discuss in class the next day along with a list of the four or five talking points they wanted to remember about the article for class discussion the next day.


When I googled "Stealth Advertising" Google provided as usual links to similar searches at the bottom of the first page of results including such related ideas as:

 • fcc targeting stealth advertising
• stealth advertising definition
• stealth advertising examples
• product placement
• stealth ads
• undercover marketing techniques


I don't know about this, but I'd guess that even though the assignment specifically limits them to finding articles that are primarily text, I'd bet money that engagement levels might well have them choosing to take some side trips into the area of checking out some of the Images for Stealth Advertising links that they will also see on the first page of results. And, if they happen to mention any of the images they saw while looking at image results or began talking about product placement they had seen ...


Well, then I'd take that as a fairly positive assessment indicator of how well I had done in engaging students in some quite important informational reading.


p.s. If you want to get crazy about it, either show or suggest that interested students check out the Morgan Spurlock film, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."


It's a movie about making a movie about product placement that is completely funded by product placement.


Here's a link to the trailerl


 ~ ~

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