Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trucks for Rebels

Author's Note: According to “Guerrilla Trucks,” a Newsweek article by Ravi Somaiya, October 14, 2010, rebels and insurgent groups around the world use the Toyota Hilux as their vehicle of choice. In response to the article, I’ve crafted a commercial for the Hilux. (To read the article—and I recommend that you do—visit For more on the why behind this piece of writing, read further down.)

Toyota Hilux—The truck for today’s rebel

Political power struggles. Religious disputes. Wars on terror. Economic instability. It’s true, we live in trying times.

But you don’t have to struggle to make it from battle to battle. Not with the Toyota Hilux. We’ve been the military vehicle of choice for insurgents across the world since the 1960s. Time-tested, fast, highly maneuverable, the Hilux packs a powerful punch on any field of conflict—rural or urban, from the mountains of Pakistan to the trash-filled streets of Somalia.

The Hilux sports a high-ground clearance and steel-frame construction, making it highly durable and versatile on rough ground. Our trucks seat up to 20 soldiers comfortably—ideal for your troops as they travel through terrorized crowds, dismount to beat troublemakers into submission, then get back on the road in time to make it to their next guerrilla bombing in no time flat.

And the truck bed is so strong, you can mount a heavy weapon on the Hilux with a minimum of effort. It’s so easy to go armed, you’ll never want to go anywhere without the Hilux.

So, when you need to make it across your war-torn country, don’t just take any vehicle. Take the Hilux—the official truck of Al Qaeda cells everywhere.

Remember… the Toyota Hilux… Because you can’t overestimate the value of a truck that’s fast, never breaks down, and can support a heavy weapon.


Author's Explanation:
Just for the record, I’m not criticizing Toyota alone. I’m pointing the finger at every corporation that puts profit above people, every person who uses good things to do evil, every marketer whose work crosses the ethical borderline, and every journalistic organization that fails to cover the moral heart of a story (in this case, the conflict between technology and people, corporate profit and ethics). I’m even pointing the finger at myself, for every time I have shrugged my shoulders over something that matters, just because it seems like it will never change.

The truth is, I believe in change. And I believe in doing the right thing. It may not happen across the world. But it can happen within each person’s heart as we choose what is right, day by day, in the little ways that we can. And that’s one reason why I write.

Thanks for reading!

~The Chipper Muse~

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Sci-Fi Fans

In another effort to be silly, here's an addendum to last week's post about the important facts our kids do and do not know. I hope you get the references, since they are all geek related.

A recent poll revealed that 17% of American children—aka our future leaders—think that the Death Star is the furthest planet from the Earth.

Listen, I get it. I do. No one can reasonably expect jock dads and cheerleader moms to know their sci-fi. That’s why it is up to us, the legions of nerds, geeks, Chuck wannabes, and gamer girls, to stand up and be heard.

Who else but comic book readers and Evil Dead fans can explain to our nation’s kids that the Death Star is not the furthest planet from Earth because it is not a planet, nor is it a small moon. It’s a space station!

(And by the way, the Death Star would technically be the furthest space station from Earth, if only the rebels would stop blowing it up! But I digress.)

It is time for Trekkies and Harry Potter fans to stand up and be heard. It is time for Team Jacob and Team Edward to stop fighting and step up to the plate for the fight at hand. We have to teach our kids to appreciate the nuances of sci-fi history before it’s too late.

When are we going to take this threat to the future of sci-fi seriously? When?

When your children tell you that the line “Sorry, I can’t do that, Dave” is from a Wendy’s commercial? Is that when?

When they think that an Airbender is a Nike shoe? Is that when?

When they believe that Snooki wrote The Lord of the Rings? Is that when?

When they tell you that the Enterprise is a car rental agency, and not Captain Kirk’s ship? Is that when?

I tell you, we sci-fi fans can’t let this travesty go on any longer. We have to act now. The future of humanity depends on it! Let’s take the children around us under our wing and get them reading Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert immediately, before it’s too late.

Go out there, and make it so!

Thank you for your attention, and godspeed.

~The Chipper Muse~

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TMZ on PBS: It’s Our Only Hope

Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? If you said Neil Armstrong, you are correct. If you said Buzz Lightyear, you’re so, so wrong. But don’t feel bad. At least you are not alone. One in five children think it was Buzz too.

We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Perhaps, though, we should call it the Misinformation Age. Shared knowledge about our world is a key thread in the fabric of society. And I hate to tell you this, but the cloth is unraveling and about to fall down around our ankles.

Just consider some of the historical and scientific “facts” that kids these days have come to believe:
  • 11% believe Isaac Newton discovered fire. And why not? Striking a match is an action that produces an equal, if not exactly opposite, reaction.
  • 11% believe that Albert Einstein was Frankenstein’s brother. Albert Einstein. Frank Einstein. Makes sense to me.
  • 17% believe that the Death Star is the furthest planet from Earth. Well, it’s not a planet, or a small moon for that matter. It’s a space station. But it could be the furthest space station from Earth, if only the Rebels would stop blowing it up.
  • 5% believe that Christopher Columbus invented liposuction. As an Italian myself, I know this isn’t true. But I wish it was. I’ve inherited the Italian fat thighs, you see, and I could use a relative in the cosmetic surgery business to give me a free treatment.
Sadly, another 17% of our kids mistook President Obama for Mr. T, even though the President doesn’t wear chains, sport a Mohawk, or go around saying, “Whachoo talkin’ ‘bout, fool?” (Strangely, no one mistook Vice President Biden for Murdock, even though they are both crazy as loons. But I digress.)

I can’t imagine where the stars of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader have been imported from, but they are obviously not from around here, because they know stuff. This general lack of knowledge that so many of our kids suffer from… Well, it is definitely disturbing. But even more disturbing are the facts that our kids actually get right. For example:
  • 65% know that Britney Spears shaved her head. I find this disturbing because it means far too many kids are reading People magazine, which is a crappy rag. Can’t we at least hook them on something cooler, like Rolling Stone or Blender?
  • 55% know that model Jordan has been married twice. Okay, I know I’m not a kid anymore, but I don’t even know who Jordan is. One of Michael Jordan’s spawn, maybe?
How is it that so many American children don’t know basic history and science, yet they do know how many times Lindsay Lohan has been before a judge? I suspect the only solution to this disturbing trend is a drastic one…one that I find utterly distasteful. And yet it is the only thing that might work.

TMZ is going to have to move to PBS.

I know you’re thinking this will never work. But it has to. Obviously, our kids are already hooked on that bottom-feeder of a show. How else can we explain why they know so much about Kanye West’s tweets? So, we’ve got to act fast by pairing the TMZ cast with lovable Sesame Street puppets to teach our kids some edumacation before they start to think Snooki wrote Hamlet.

We don’t even have to worry about the intelligence of the TMZ staff, or any of the celebrities they talk about. I mean, do you think they know any more than our kids do? No, I don’t either. But if we can get them to read cue cards, we’ll be okay. We can write down the facts we want to teach our children—such as, “Abe Lincoln was a president, not a car salesman.” The TMZ cast can sit with Grover and Oscar and Elmo, and simply read the cue cards in between making dumb jokes about Beyonce’s latest comments to photographers at LAX.

Just consider the benefits… Pairing TMZ with PBS will make PBS seem much hipper than Lawrence Welk reruns will ever accomplish. TMZ could benefit from the respectability that a little time with Big Bird can bestow. And our children will finally be able to learn that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, not Steve Jobs.

These are desperate times, and we don’t have a minute to lose. We can’t allow the future wage earners of America to be utterly unable to count to ten, or we’ll never get correct change at McDonald’s ever again. So we’ve got to make our stand now. I can only hope we’ll rescue our kids in time…

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You Had Me at Your Headline

Today, you get my musings on word choice, particularly as it applies to the most feared beast  in the world of copywriting—the headline. You will be made or broken when you face this dreaded foe...

I'm a firm believer in the power of words. Of course I am. I write for a living. I write in my spare time. I teach writing. I know through much experience that words matter. They can make you, or they can break you.

And that's why I hate writing headlines.

Yup. They're a pain. It's hard to get the right balance of cleverness, punch, and clarity. If you get to write your own stuff and it's cheeky, like my blog, you can add a little humor and pop. If you have to write for a more staid, traditional market, like my non-profit employer, you have to be more serious and to-the-point, without being trite.

That's why I really hate writing headlines on the job.

But because it is such a challenge to write a headline that works, I notice them everywhere and think about them all the time. Well, I think of them when I read them. But anyway, here are a few headlines I found online today, along with some thoughts about why I like them. Or wisecrack comments that have nothing to do with writing, but that I think are funny. It's me, the Chipper Muse. You'll get both!

For fun headlines, go to Geekologie (, the "geek blog dedicated to the scientific study of gadgets, gizmos, and awesome." Just tell me you don't want to race right over there to click on these articles:
  • What Your Facebook Picture Says About You.  Now you're worried about it, aren't you? Of course you are. Check it out. It even has a chart, so you can see how many degrees your head can tilt before it indicates that you're unstable.
  • Of Course There Is: Sexy Chewbacca Costume.  Admit it. It creeps you out. But you still want to see the picture.
  • Jessica Alba Says She Has Cellulite.  Okay, I confess, I like this one because I'm female and I'm jealous. Take that, sexy Hollywood star who gets paid to work out every day while I sit at a computer typing and increasing my own cellulite. I hate you, and I'm going home now.
Now, for dismal headline writing, let's turn to my old friend, I know this may seem unfair. After all, they are a news site, and they have to be serious, while Geekologie gets to act like the written version of The Big Bang Theory. But that said, MSNBC routinely comes up with headlines that are such gobbledygook that I suspect monkeys are not only doing the typing, but doing the editing too. Here's a few samples from today:
  • Report: Condoms clog Games village drains.  So, maybe you got hooked on the word condoms. Snigger all you must, Ren and Stimpy. I get it. But I can't help but be (a) disgusted by the idea so that I don't want to read about it, and (b) shocked that someone spent time doing a report on it. Whatever happened to book reports? Or other, more normal reports?
  • Suffering from buyer's remorse? E-mail us!  This isn't even a headline. It's not a story. It's a call to depressed, lonely people to write to MSNBC instead of writing the next Unabomber Manifesto. A kind service, no doubt. But not a headline, even though it is masquerading as one.
  • Study of gay parents shows kids are well adjusted.  Classic MSNBC sloppy writing. Shouldn't we call it a study of gay families? If not, it's only a study about parents and not the kids. You can't know how well adjusted the kids are, unless you have studied them.
By the way, I fully intended to comment on the Tulsa World's current headlines, since today is the Tulsa Bloggers Meetup. But I can't, because the Tulsa World's website is so slow that I can't get it to come up on my computer. I guess they don't want the Chipper Muse reading their articles. They are afraid, very, very afraid.

Or their IT guy went to lunch early today, I'm not sure which.

Anyway, what do you think about headlines? Have you seen any you thought were hilariously demented? Pathetically written? Or possibly even brilliant? Let me know. I crave your comments. They give me fodder to write more for you.

Ciao for now!

~The Chipper Muse~

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.