And now, for something completely bizarre featuring a rapping rodent named G-Hog and a gaggle of flashdancers trying to get teenagers interested in health careers.
Clearly, I'm in need of some counter-programming after all the gun violence and vicious political ads of recent weeks. But how to do justice to one of the strangest uses of $4,157 in taxpayer money in Pennsylvania history?
I'm talking about the Department of Labor and Industry promoting Health Careers Week (Nov. 5-9) with an Internet video of a costumed creature named G-Hog rapping about medical transcription, physical therapy and nursing.
"These occupations not only promise the opportunity to save and improve lives, but they pay well and there are plenty of openings and chances to advance," Gov. Rendell said in a news release touting the video, in which he makes a freakish animatronic cameo.
"And who's better than a giant rapping groundhog to get the attention of young people?"
See for yourself at http://go.philly.com/ghogvideo.
Government gone wild?
G-Hog is the brainchild of 46-year-old Shannon Powers in the Department of Labor and Industry's press office. Faced with dwindling resources to hype health careers to high schoolers, she thought a viral video campaign might reach "teens where they live - online."
The cheesier, the better. Think MC Hammer popping-and-locking in hospital scrubs, only wearing a groundhog suit with buck teeth and a giant gold "PA" keystone pendant as bling.
"We wanted to have the LifeLine helicopter land outside the Capitol and have the groundhog get out," Powers acknowledged. "But everyone told me no, that would be a security risk for legislators."
An intern suggested that the groundhog rap about respiratory therapy and the 15 other occupations crying out for new workers.
Every rapper needs backup dancers, so Powers recruited her 16-year-old daughter, two other teens and her hairdresser.
"I did the props," Powers said. "They didn't like the headbands."
Powers and another press officer, Rebecca Halton, wrote the rap, which actually includes lines like "The Commonwealth has health careers, but peeps is what we lack. So turn it up, turn it out - health careers ain't whack."
And just when you think it can't get worse, G-Hog spits out this rhyme: "I may eat trash on highways and practice hibernation. Think you should give health careers some real consideration."
The video was filmed at a Pinnacle Health Facility in Harrisburg. A state worker did the vocals. G-Hog was played by an Aflac insurance saleswoman who teaches hip-hop dance in Hershey.
The $4,157 budget went to production costs, talent fees and props.
"We had to ship the groundhog suit back and forth to Philadelphia" so it could appear in a Pennsylvania tourism commercial, Powers said. "Overnighting it cost $100."
Fit for Facebook?In a perfect world, Powers would have slapped the video up on YouTube and MySpace, and watched it take the Web by storm. But state law prohibits her from doing that - something about government not being able to indemnify the sites.
But what if someone else posts it? That, apparently, is OK with the lawyers. As of yesterday, 21 people had clicked on the G-Hog on YouTube. An Internet sensation in the making? You never know.
After countless viewings, I came to the conclusion that the video falls into the so-bad-it's-almost-good category. But I'm hardly the target audience.
So I sent G-Hog to a friend who teaches high school health.
"My students would have nothing nice to say about this," she told me.
"Attempting to make medical career choices more accessible to [teenagers] by having a human-sized rodent dance around in scrubs is akin to trying to entice someone to enter the fashion industry by dressing Bratz dolls."
"It pained me to watch. If you ask me, it was a waste of a good groundhog suit."
Monica Yant Kinney | For Information
For more information about Health Careers Week, go to www.state.pa.us, PA keyword: health careers.
Monica Yant Kinney |Monica Yant Kinney: Unusual G-Hog raps to promote careers in the health. Page B6.
Contact Monica Yant Kinney at email@example.com or 215-854-4670. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/yantkinney.