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Entries in commercialism (5)




On The Road: Vehicles I Despise

Yawn. I saw four Lamborghini cars today. Either that or I saw one black one and a yellow one on three occasions in different parts of town. In 1985, I would have shot a load at the sight of such a thing. Apparently, some people still have the same response, or the closest response allowable in public. It seems that 40-something guys can't refrain from gawking and taking pictures. It's just a friggin' car, and one that can't do much but look good and go just as slow as the rest of us in bad traffic! As for me, they are rather too prevalent and have lost their gimmicky charm. I'd rather have my old truck. At least it has space for a backpack.

Why the fuck are these on the road?Example two is those medium duty trucks you see that only exist to be roving billboards. I think it is ludicrous for those things to be clogging our roads while performing no actual useful work—i.e., not actually carrying anything or anyone. Yet I see more and more of them, and often at the most crowded spaces—Gaslamp, beaches, Coronado, etc.—where most drivers are already captive to begin with. Gas prices must not be high enough yet to eliminate this useless shit. Can you think of anything more useless on the roads, burning up gas that won't ever come back? Or, even if those trucks were solar powered, their presence alone still clogs the road and causes more traffic to sit idle. More than a few times, these ad trucks have been distracting for me. They are big, after all. They are designed to draw your attention. The laws in this state can dictate you need a hands free cell phone to avoid distractions, but these trucks are free to roam and lure attention with not only their sheer size, but with their more and more elaborate presentations: the types with three images on rotating triangular columns; the diorama box type with stuff inside a clear box enclosure; or, another one based on that design, but with vinyl wrapped all around box with scrolling images in the windows. There are a few insurance companies that use these things. I wonder how many accidents result from the distractions these trucks create. Hmmm. And should one buy insurance from one of the companies that uses them? Isn't that like the doctor poisoning the patient so that he needs a doctor?


Extreme TV Commercialism

Tonight's ABC Extreme Makeover Home Edition show was the typical tearjerker that it usually is, selecting a family with some sort of below standard home, and usually some pressing crisis such as a dead dad or a disabled brother, or tonight a family with a ruptured septic system spewing filth underground. I have taken to calling the show Extreme Sears Commercial: Home Edition. Sears of course is the supplier for all the appliances and furnishings and stuff, and apparently the tools used to remodel the house. So its a one hour long commercial for a company that is losing ground to WalMart and Target, and has been forced to merge with K Mart. Imagine that! A one hour commercial.

But then there was—get this!—a regular 30 second commercial for Sears during the commercial breaks! What the hell? Is that the Sears commercial for those on the run? I can just hear the stentorian announcer's voiceover: Got no time for the full one hour version? Why not watch this ultra compact 30 second version? The exact same thing happened with the Disney commercial that was during the same hour. (The Home Makeover people always send their lucky recipients to a Disney theme park for the period when the house is being rebuilt. Disney owns ABC. What else shall I expect?) This is about the same crass commercialism that one experiences when one goes to the movie theater, pays $9 and then goes in to watch a movie that is preceded by 15 minutes of ads, then may have a range of product placements tucked within the drama itself. Commercialism is so advanced now that the world of advertising has figured out how to make people PAY to see their ads. And let's not forget that the movie itself is a loss leader for the concession stand, where the theaters must make BANK off getting people their sugar, fat, and salt kicks for the night. Most of the movies made now seem to be made just to keep actors, crew, directors, and writers working year round while producing not much in terms of culturally redeeming output. It certainly isn't art they are selling.

Anyway, back to my commercial watching. There was another commercial that popped up twice in the hour. It was for some Ford car (the 500). There was this shiny, classy looking sedan that was driving down a herringbone cobbled road in a town that looked like it was in New England or maybe someplace in Europe. It was a beautiful town with the small streets and classic architecture that existed in abundance before the auto got to be commonplace. It's exactly the sort of place you don't need a car to get around in. A single car was in this ad—in a place where a car is not needed! It's amazing how the advertising world will work on us. They never show you the gridlock, or the fate of the car at 100,000 miles when the computer fails and all the mechanical parts go to shit at once, or the parking hassles at WalMart or Costco. They never show you the car accident you will have three miles from home, or the bored and faux-angry suburban youths that will key it if you tell them to stop loitering (because suburbia is mostly devoid of redeeming things to keep young people integrated in society). And they never tell you that you are using a resource that will never again be plentiful as it is now, and is depleting at an alarming rate, with demand rising ever higher with every auto sold. And they certainly don't tell you that the core of our terrorism problem resides in our unrestrained use of cars for needless activity. As nice as that car looked on that classic town, I just have to wonder what that classic town would be now that in reality it is inundated with cars. I'm pretty sure they had to build this town for the ad, because towns like this are basically out of style and illegal, and usually crippled by growth and traffic by now. They are the sort of places that were destroyed by pragmatic engineers and city planners in the post war era, just because they were part of the "old." People are terrified that bad men will come from across the seas to destroy our way of life. Nonsense. We do that for ourselves, with a good bunch of persuasion from the world of commerce. Advertising is the most successful form of propaganda the world has ever known, methinks.

The irony is, the house that was built tonight on the makeover show was made to look like it belonged in a classic European/British town. It was lovely, to be sure, and it was made to look like a country mansion, with stone work, timber, and all. I suppose not a lot of people think of the irony here: we long for a place that reminds us of old and familiar established places that weather the test of time, but we systematically destroy them in our lust for new stuff that drives these places to extinction, while replacing them with substandard structures that aren't going to last more than a couple generations. The commercials portray the peace and comfort that the countryside affords us, but a following commercial is advertising a big truck that is the epitome of the American Way of Life—the very thing that is going to destroy even more of that lush countryside with its unchecked growth that destoys open land so wantonly.

I wish I could teach a class on American "civilization." The materials are simple: spend an hour watching TV and look at all the contradictions that are presented to us in the name of commercialism and the good life.


Orwells That Ends Well

I just saw a movie called Orwell Rolls In His Grave. It is quite a lot like some of the other movies I have seen this year: Outfoxed, The Corporation, The End of Suburbia, Fahrenheit 9/11. This movie, as you may be able to tell, is about the realization of the Orwellian state in modern America. The website says "1984 is no longer a date in the future." The thing about this movie and the others I mentioned is that they all sort of have one thread that runs through them. Each movie cites the media as the ultimate co-conspirator in just about anything that is reported as news. The megaconglomerates of the media world are literally ruining our democratic institutions. They have not just fallen asleep at the wheel, they have drugged themselves before getting into the car! But what matters to you and I is that the car is about to go careening off a cliff.

The media is supposed to be our protector. Their job is to give us information we need so that we can make informed decisions. Period. These informed decisions are what makes our country run. Notice today our country is barely running anymore. Entropy has set in. Every day, we hear about corporate scandal and bankruptcy, mismanagement, morally corrupt warmongering, negative political ad swipes, depression, partisanship, fundamentalism, corporate/political buddy system (aka fascism), cover ups. You name it, we got it. Not all of it will make it to the news. And that which does make it to the news is bound to be watered down and nearly useless under any current popular outlet, and at worst, it would be slanderous or outright lying.

Someone in this movie said that Josef Goebbels would be proud of the mind control we have established here in America through the collusion of politicians and media outlets. Wait a minute. Since when did the Nazis become our role models? Or since when did we eclipse even their elaborate and overt political propagandizing? Some would say that was a bad thing. There is this saying I see in these liberally-biased circles of which I find myself a part: "if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention." Bingo. It's more than just a bumper sticker slogan. Like I said, any of these movies I listed have a common thread. In fact, you could slice and dice parts of them into a single film and make a real convincing film that way. They are all telling a similar story. The media and the politicians are in bed with each other, sucking each others' dicks. And the people pay. They don't just pay money. They lose the nation they cherish. And the irony? They get behind it! All this Orwellian shit plays on patriotism. You can tell a lot of lies to people and they will believe you if your wrap yourself in the flag. As Goebbels said, tell a lie often enough and it will become truth. There are people who believe some really lame but disproven shit. Stuff like Bush "winning" the 2000 election, or thinking there was a connection between Al-qaeda and Iraq. These things simply just are false, but people actually like to believe it because believing otherwise would somehow signify their failure as an American, and what could be more un-American than not believing your president?

Well, ever since my brain turned on a few years ago, I have been outraged. Kelli and I were reflecting on the state of things. All this collusion between media and corporations and politicians has been around since about the time we were born. And we marveled at how we have never really known a world where this wasn't the case. It makes it really hard to reflect back on critical times in our lives, as we would then question everything we were told. Not that that is a bad thing; this sort of stuff needs to be done all the time. I had a fourth grade teacher who was reading "1984" in my classroom. This was in 1982-83. I was nine. I had no idea what the book was about. Of course, had I known and maybe even read it, I may have been more awake for the last 20 years or so. For me now, even reading things about what happened while I was a 25 year old is a risky proposal. History can get rewritten. Well, you know what the official story will be when it comes to telling the 2000 election story. I was 27 then. The facts are already skewed in favor of the liars and cheats. What do you think has been changed since I was a boy? Shit, before all this history of mine goes missing or rewritten by fascists and totalitarianists, I had better get a grip on it. You too. This is one reason why I am glad I work with/for old timers. It is one of the last opportunities to talk to Americans from an age when this stuff was not the standard MO.

I think I actually want to smash my television. I have already gone seven years without really relying on it for entertainment or news. Some cable will suit me, but I refuse to pay for it. The TV really is mind control, pure and simple. It requires no imagination or response (except to go buy stuff). It only wants you to worship it. It's a one way deal. People ask me why I don't just lighten up and chill out and get off my high horse about all this political shit. Well, to do so would be to cave in. And that is exactly what Big Media wants. People who stop thinking are easy to make into drones. And, since TV is so damned alluring with all its series and cliffhangers, people give into it all too willingly while real life slips on by. You want to see reality TV? Go watch all these movies I listed (and a few more). That is the state of things. That is how life is really being lived. The content in these movies is exactly the stuff you and I should be seeing on the nightly news. This is the true journalism of today. It's a bummer that we need to pay to see it, but see it we must. The newspapers, TV, movies, and even some parts of the internet have totally rolled over. They are failing us big time. Don't take the bait. Don't settle for the censorship and revisionism. Democracy is only possible when informed citizens take part. There is a lot of stuff that you or I didn't vote for because we didn't know about it.


Signs, Signs...

In San Diego, we have this battle that has been going on for a decade and a half. It concerns the rather large cross placed on the most prominant hill in the city. It has been there in a few forms since the 20s, which in SD is a long time—long enough to have achieved landmark status. Some athiest dude decided it was offensive and blurred the line between church and state. Fine. It is a cross on public display. So the city tried a few ways to offload it. I believe they sold it to the same organization that already had put it there, but went ahead and made it into a Korean War vets memorial. Then some went on to claim that that was corrupt too. Not because of the memorial, but because the city profitted on a sale that ultimately allowed the thing to remain standing, which of course, made it seem like even more unfair. So, now there is yet another round of battles going on. Some still want it taken down, some say that as a Christian symbol, it doesn't represent the non-Christians in the Korean War.

But what the fuck? It is a San Diego LANDMARK. San Diego is here only because the Catholics set up camp here hundreds of years ago, soon doing the usual program of making the natives conform to their way of life, their religion—all of which relegated the natives to second class citizenship. The name "San Diego" is a church related name, as is any of a number of place names all over California. But there is not a popular movement to change that. Or maybe there are other Christian structures that steal too much thunder from the athiests. Should we remove the Presidio monument from Old Town? Or the San Diego Mission? I don't believe those are too representative of the Jews and Muslims and athiests. I don't see why we can't just leave well enough alone. There are other hills here. If someone wants to erect a Star of David or a Crescent, well, why the hell not? I guess the Jews and Muslims didn't kill enough people to warrant a symbol of their choosing on the local peaks. So should we just err on the safe side and erase anything about our past so that all could feel equal in today's world?

We have already done that.

What people are missing altogether is that there is obscenity and unfairness and divisiveness all up and down every major boulevard and freeway in this town, and every other town in the nation. There are signs and symbols of another religion that I personally object to, and I think maybe I am right to pursue legal action to force change. It would be a miserably failed campaign though.

No one ever talks about the billboards and advertisements that grace benches, bus stops, bus sides, murals, and all the other places that can serve as host for an advertisement. No, the religion of capitalism is alive and well, and the symbols are all around me. Not just perched prominantly on a hill for all to see if one looks in the general direction. Not that at all. No, in every direction I turn, at far more places both high and low, there is the eyesore that is the advertisement for a good or service I don't need or want, all promising a better way of life if I just get on my knees and pray (or open up my wallet and scan my credit card). We are literally pummeled with advertisements hundreds of times a day from the time we wake till bedtime. But there's no outrage at that. In fact, capitalism is the only religion we all practice, like it or not.

I am outraged at the sight of the golden arches, the happy star, the swoosh, the shell & chevron, the bullseye, the "K" (both mart and circle), the ram, the wave, and the colonel. Who do I sue to get that shit off public land, or out of the public eye? Do I need to be a card carrying member of an anti-capitalist organization to carry any weight in this argument? What politician do I vote out of office for letting this happen? If the cross is offensive, and it represents a righteous man who has been dead for two millenia, well, can someone please acknowledge my disgust at the symbols of the new religion that isn't content with one well-placed location for their symbols? There are only three hilltop crosses in the San Diego area. But how many McDogfood's and WalMarts are there? How many ARCOs or Jack In The Boxes? Within about one mile in my home turf of Clairemont, there are two Jack In The Boxes. Within a few steps of each, there are corresponding taco stands named "El Cotixan." I won't knock Cotixan because I dig their chow, and they are only a small chain of five or so in SD only, but you see where I am on this? JIB and El Cotixan, happening twice within about a mile of each other? The JIBs were built in the same summer of 1992. It was not an accidental occurrance. My friend (and drummer on my CD Receiving), Mike Bedard, was a laborer on those crews.

So how does this happen? His people can be real assholes sometimes, but the cross is a symbol of peace and unity and self sacrifice for the greater good (I know, there has been some question about that, but its in the original account. Remember, Jesus wasn't a Christian, nor was he a patriot). So now we, a place that sometimes likes to (errantly) think of itself as a Christian country (bullshit, never was), want to banish a symbol that really only has the power that people let it have over their lives. But on the flip side, we just let corporate interests (who have the REAL power to turn our world into true HELL) march all over us, with their signs and posters, billboards and icons filling every inch in our field of vision day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. No one is here to protest that! On the contrary, we celebrate it and call it "progress" and the sign that everythingisworkingjustfinethankyouverymuch.