The Jamaicasotan ad (5×8 – 1/30/13)

From the minds of marketers, we’re not afraid of winter, when government works, guns for hockey, and coming out with cake.


Is this a racist ad?

We have our first Super Bowl ad controversy with the release yesterday of the Volkswagon ad showing a white guy feigning a Jamaican accent. And, of course, he just had to be a Minnesotan in the bit.

Or is the “controversy” part of the marketing to generate some attention for the commercial? It’s working.

“I don’t like it all. It’s like blackface with voices. I don’t like that,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow told CNN.

The Ad Freak blog lists three reasons why that’s wrong:

First, the Jamaican accent is not exclusively a black accent. This technically makes it difficult to call the ad racist, even though its humor is racial–i.e., it clearly derives from showing a white guy talking like a black guy.

Second, perhaps due to the laid-back reputation of the island nation, the Jamaican accent is simply not seen by many Americans as an offensive one to imitate. By contrast, an ad with white Minnesotans talking in stereotypical Asian accents clearly wouldn’t fly.

Third, the entire tone of the ad is positive and feel-good. This makes it less likely for people to want to punish Volkswagen for it. The theme and very title of the ad, “Get Happy,” is a rebuke to critics who would want to spoil the party.

Happy. Minnesotan. It must be showbiz.


You hate the snow. You hate the cold. You hate the ice. Just one question: Why are you here?

A Fargo meteorologist Tweets today…

It falls to to protect the image of the hearty Minnesotan, apparently. The site provides pictures of the ice fishing contest on Gull Lake earlier this month, shot by a photographer from San Diego. San Diego, people!

“It was just stupid cold,” says Benson. “When it gets to be 40 below, it’s no joke.”

Protected behind every manner of cold-weather gear — from hunting camo to stylish furs — competitors used fish finders to make sure their lines were at the right depth. Benson says he was standing next to the guy who landed the first fish, which had its own prize, and he literally sprinted off to the judging tent.

“He was shaking he was so excited,” he says.

Shooting the event was tricky for Benson. The cold zapped his flash batteries and he had to wear gloves thin enough to fire the camera, which meant perpetually frozen hands. Having to stand out in the elements for twice as long as the participants so he could shoot the set-up and aftermath also took its toll.

“At points I was so cold I couldn’t see straight,” he says.

Who’s tougher: The person that lives in Fargo or the person who lives in San Diego? You decide.

MINNESOTA ICE FISHING from Herman Munster on Vimeo.


Someday, people are going to set foot on a Boeing 787, and get to where they’re going safely, possibly because some unheralded guy spent much of this week looking through a microscope.


Every few months, it seems, a story about an airliner crashing in a foreign country starts our morning. Just yesterday, for example, a Bombardier CRJ200, crashed in thick fog, in Kazakhstan, killing 15 passengers and 5 crew on board. It was the second air disaster in the country in a month. Meanwhile, in the U.S., thousands of flights take off and land without tragedy.

Just consider this amazing list of commercial airliner crashes since 1919, and note how few occurred in the U.S. fleet.

It’s been almost three years since the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo that killed 50 people. After extensive investigation, the cause was determined — basically, overworked pilots — and a solution was found (new rules).

The previous scheduled airliner crash in the U.S. was six years ago last week in Kentucky.

There’s a lot about government that doesn’t work, but the oversight and investigations surrounding airlines isn’t one of them.

We are, in fact, seeing an amazing response on the part of the National Transportation Safety Board in the wake of two fires aboard the new Boeing Dreamliner 787, which have now been grounded in this country.

The investigators are doing the work the private industry should have done. Today, for example, it’s reported there have been battery problems on other planes not previously reported. Boeing apparently knew about the problems, but didn’t tell anyone .

Now the NTSB is engaged in a huge sleuthing operation on behalf of passengers in the wake of the January 7 fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston. Yesterday’s update provides an example of the extent of action:

The examination of the damaged battery continues. The work has transitioned from macroscopic to microscopic examinations and into chemical and elemental analysis of the areas of internal short circuiting and thermal damage.

Examination and testing of the exemplar battery from the JAL airplane has begun at the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center laboratories. Detailed examinations will be looking for signs of in-service damage and manufacturing defects. The test program will include mechanical and electrical tests to determine the performance of the battery, and to uncover signs of any degradation in expected performance.

As a party contributing to the investigation, Boeing is providing pertinent fleet information, which will help investigators understand the operating history of lithium-ion batteries on those airplanes.

An investigative group continued to interpret data from the two digital flight data recorders on the aircraft, and is examining recorded signals to determine if they might yield additional information about the performance of the battery and the operation of the charging system.

In addition to the activities in Washington, investigators are continuing their work in Seattle and Japan.

Even more impressive than the effort being made to find out what’s going on, is the transparency with which the investigation is being conducted. The NTSB has even set up a website specifically for these incidents.

There’s no question that this situation constitutes failure of some sort and it’s appropriate for it to be portrayed that way in the aftermath of the incidents. There’s nothing worse than a fire aboard a jetliner and it’s difficult to overstate how bad this story could have been.

But in its aftermath, we’re getting to see the primary reason why we have a safe system.


Criticism is falling on a hockey program in West Fargo for raising money by raffling off guns.

“I knew it was going to blow up, but I didn’t think it would blow up to this magnitude,” hockey board member Mike Prochnow tells WDAY.

Supporters say guns don’t have the stigma in West Fargo they may have in the rest of the country and the money is needed so that they don’t have to practice early in the morning or late at night.

More gambling: The end of bingo.

More guns: Carrying at the U of M campus? (MN Daily)

A 15-year old girl in Chicago attended inauguration festivities last week. Then she came home to be her city’s latest statistic. (Sun Times)


When is the last time the price of a gallon of gasoline went up 50 cents a gallon in one week and it didn’t make the news?

It happened this week when gasoline prices reached $3.39 a gallon, after bottoming out earlier this month around $2.85, admittedly an unusually low price in recent years.

Might we suggest soothing your wallet with this new calculator from the BBC which shows you how much worse it would be if you lived somewhere else? Unless you live in Venezuela, apparently.


Bonus I: A 15-year old girl wasn’t sure how to tell her parents she is gay, so she baked a cake.


Here’s the whole story.

(h/t: Dave Sours, North St. Paul)

Bonus II: Ten friends have been playing a game of “tag,”….. for 23 years. (WSJ)


The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Obama’s nominee, Sen. John Kerry, to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Today’s Question: With a new secretary of state coming in, what changes would you like to see in U.S. foreign policy?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: When doctors make mistakes.

Second hour: Congress has proposed cuts to Medicaid, and nonprofits around the country are seeing their grants and assistance from the government flounder. So how can federal and community organization continue to offer the services that many people depend on – can charities and private philanthropy fill the role of government giving?

Third hour: Understanding how our brains process evidence, bias and situations may help reduce wrongful convictions and improve the justice system overall.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, speaking at St. John’s University in 2009 about American leadership and our role in the world. His confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense is tomorrow.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – School officials in Moose Lake and Rushford-Peterson are teaming up this year to try to get legislative support that would contribute some funding for infrastructure upgrades in both districts. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier will have the story.

  • MN123

    Huh. Here I was thinking the ad was going to be for traveling to Jamaica for a winter vacation. The Volkswagen is just not a natural tie-in to the accent, whether it makes you happy or not. Just seems like an odd pairing—-perhaps that is the point.

  • Kassie

    As someone who doesn’t love winter (but can tolerate mostly) the easy answer for “Why do you live here?” is family and friends. I was born here. I will probably die here as will most of my family.

    But that’s not quite right. Truth be told, as tough as winter can be, there is nothing like spring in Minnesota. Suddenly everyone sheds their winter clothes and gets outside. Trails fill with bicyclists and families. Things turn green. People are in a MUCH better mood suddenly. 55 degrees feels like 75 and for a month or so I’m not embarrassed by my pale white legs. You can’t just pop in to Minnesota in April and May and see why it is so amazing. You have to live through the 10 below days and gross snow piles and cranky co-workers to fully appreciate it.

    (and then there is the amazing arts scene, the music scene, the trails, the river, the lakes, the food scene, the diversity, the decent schools, the almost good safety net and all the awesome people.)

  • Drae

    Re: #2

    Remember that day last summer when some people complained about the heat wave…? Sometimes I think Minnesotans are just not happy unless they can complain about the weather.

    While I may hate cold, snow and ice I live here because this is my home and my home is one of the most beautiful places on earth, no matter what season it is. To paraphrase Atmosphere, I can drink tap water and breathe the air.

    Besides, the winters give us bragging rights, if only in our heads, plus I enjoy embellishing (or downright lying) to those who live south of Iowa. While on vacation in Florida I was asked if it ever gets hot in Minnesota. I said we were lucky if the ice was off the lakes in July.

  • Matt W

    Apparently racism is yet another thing that has passed out of my understanding. Implying that adopting a more Jamaican attitude toward life might make some corporate drudge more happy and relaxed is somehow hurtful and inappropriate? If anything, it seems one could make the case that it is racist towards Minnesotans by implying that we are somehow so sad and depressed that only by abandoning our culture for a much different one can we ever be happy.

    Maybe VW will learn from this and next time the Minnesotan office worker will cheer up is coworkers with some nice tasty hotdish and some quality time out on the lake.