August 17, 2001
Is it just me or is advertising increasingly overtaking our lives? It seems everywhere I go I see advertising. On the gas pumps there are little ads that say, "Nothing whets the appetite like gas fumes, so while you’re pumping, buy a Munchi Bar!" Actually that’s not what they really say. Advertising is written in a sort of semi-subliminal shorthand so that ads for, for example, women’s perfume may seem innocuous but they’re really conveying the idea that, if you’re a woman and wear this perfume, you’ll not only spend all your time on the beach, but you’ll be in black and white as well. Ads for cars throw a lot of fast-moving images at you and throw out a lot of confusing, unimportant facts. What they’re really saying is, "Rush down to your dealer right now and trade in the car you bought three months ago to buy our new car, and we’re going to tell you it won the Bjorn Schljorg award for most springy seat padding material so you’ll ignore the fact that it costs as much as four years’ tuition at an Ivy League school!"
Then there’s the increasingly blurry line between movies and commercials. You can’t go to a movie now without seeing some super-slick spy stop with his attractive, perfume-wearing (but not black-and-white) companion and say, "Thank goodness my new Tunica Blaab can do from 0 to light speed in less than three seconds so I can stop and tell you about its amazing sound system and seats that it won the Bjorn Schljorg Award! And while we’re driving, how about a nice sparkling water? If that gives you heartburn, try taking this little orange pill. Side effects may include diarrhea, nosebleeds, and abdominal distension."
And increasingly some commercials seem like movies. I get so wrapped up in the stories I have no idea what they’re selling me. I’ve seen this commercial of a girl watching a guy in his apartment at least eight hundred times and still can’t remember what it’s trying to sell me. Floss? Surveillance equipment? The guy sets stovetop popcorn on fire. Maybe it’s for microwave popcorn, which would seem pretty useless because the last time I saw stovetop popcorn was about fifteen years ago. The only kind of popcorn you can buy now is microwave popcorn, which raises the question, How long had that popcorn been sitting in his closet?
Here’s the irony of blurring the line between movies and commercials: you pay to go see movies, but commercials are free. Okay, they’re not REALLY free because you had to buy the TV and pay for cable if you’ve got it, but is anything completely free? You can go out in your back yard and dig up dirt and say that dirt is free, but at some point you had to pay for that dirt. And think about all the animals, insects, and plants that gave up their own lives so they could be broken down into the detritus that dirt you’re so casually slinging around is made of. Oh, cruel, heartless person, do you have no shame? Do you have no conscience? And, if so, have you considered a career in advertising?
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
A big-city lawyer, from Washington, D.C., went duck hunting in the South Carolina Low country. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of a fence. As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing.
The litigator responded, "I shot a duck and it fell in this field, and now I’m going in to retrieve it." The old farmer replied. "This is my property, and you are not coming over here." The indignant lawyer said, "I am one of the best trial attorneys in the US and if you don’t let me get that duck, I’ll sue you and take everything you own."
The old farmer smiled and said, "Apparently, you don’t know how we do things in South Carolina. Down here we settle small disagreements like this with the Three-Kick Rule." The lawyer asked, "A Three Kick Rule. What is the Three-Kick Rule?" The Farmer replied, "Well, first I kick you three times, and then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives up."
The attorney quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old codger. He agreed to abide by the local custom. The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the city feller. His first kick planted the toe of his heavy work boot into the lawyer’s groin and dropped him to his knees. His second kick nearly wiped the man’s nose off his face. The attorney was flat on his belly when the farmer’s third kick to the kidney area nearly caused him to give up. The lawyer summoned every bit of his will, managed to get to his feet, and said, "Okay, you old coot, now it’s my turn."
The old farmer smiled and said, "Naw, I give up. You can have the duck."