Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Long and Winding Rude.

One of the great privileges of being as old as the reptiles, and working for yourself, not directly for a corporate behemoth, is that you have something of a chance--if you take it--of looking at the world from a distance, not from up-close.

If the good graces of the world had given me the patience and the scholarship money and I had somehow become an academic instead of an advertising man, I probably would have toggled back and forth between teaching English and teaching history. The two were always tangled in my mind and like my daughters' long, thick hair. I was never able separate one strand from another. They were interwoven like mammon and cruelty.

How can you read "The Goophered Grapevine," for instance by Charles W. Chestnut with no historical understanding of American history from 1619 to the early 20th century when the book was written? How could you read "The Grapes of Wrath," by Steinbeck, or "Heaven's My Destination, by Thornton Wilder devoid of the elucidation that comes from knowing something of the times in which they were written? 

That goes for just about any piece of literature that I can think of. Columbia professor James S. Shapiro probably agrees with me. He's written dozens of books about literature, historical context and why those book are important today. If you think things are rough in amerika in 2024, you might want to read Shapiro's "The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606." Order here.

All this is to assert, I've managed to enter my dotage with my faculties intact, a decent book of business and more clients than I can shake a pay-stub at. That allows me the privilege of trying to piece together something people above my pay-grade call "long history." That is, not an historical account of the Franco-Prussian war, which lasted little less than a year, but instead at the tectonic movements of people, empires, technologies and ideas that shape history, not over the course of a human life-span, but across centuries or even millennia.

It's easy with our quotidian "we're about to be wiped out for all time" mindset to think we're about to be wiped out once and for all. At the height or the depth of the cold war I remember reading a small item about some experimental anthrax that escaped from a Soviet laboratory and killed everything in a swath as broad as trump's cranial merkin. 

After reading that article, I spent years looking over my shoulders for an anthrax attack, from russia from our own government from walmart from verizon from wpp or from some other malign force beyond my control. I still have unnatural worries about anthrax, it must be said, or half-a-dozen other things that you can read about in the paper or hear on the news about as often as you encounter a sequin on Taylor Swift's pupik.

Long history encourages, as the name indicates, a long view. A view that is positively Faulknerian in outlook. That mankind will not only endure, we will prevail. Sure, I can counterpoint the fuck out of that, and so can my myriad readers. But as Hank Williams sang, and you should sing now and again, "I've been down that road before."

Mankind, for what it's worth, have survived everything we've thrown at ourselves and has been thrown at us by cosmic and pathological forces. Damn, we survived the Antonine plague, the Justinian plague, two bouts of the Black Death, the scourge of smallpox, AIDs, Covid and Gilligan's Island re-runs. We've survived more wars than you have hair on your arms and more advanced weaponry too. We've survived leaders who would make Vladimir Putin look like Florence Henderson and I suppose we'll have to do so again before too long. Things might really suck for a while--there might be no chunk light tuna in the grocery store, but somehow we'll get through.

Right now I'm ensconced in some client work and I've written a sentence or two about a company and their ability to hang onto their clients for a long-time. I said something like, "they don't work quarter to quarter, they work quarter of a century to quarter of a century."

In our business we live under the thrall of a belief system that proclaims that the latest is always the greatest. We look for the hottest trends, the hottest technologies, the hottest VO's., directors, colorists and more. We chase trends like priests chase pre-pubescent children during a "friendly" game of tag.

That's the sort of apoplectic history that is all too much with us. So we produce ephemeral thinking following transitory trends because we deal in nothing that isn't of the moment.

In most cases the depiction of life as I see it expressed in television commercials and online advertising is so far from the reality of the life we all lead it would be comical if it weren't so horrifying. The verizon spot above is one of the worst assaults on humanity that humanity has ever contrived. In terms of realism, it makes bad AI look like something painted by George Bellows or another ashcan school artist.

All these so-called "we're here for you" monopolists who rip you off willy-nilly produce crap like the above. Their spots and other bullshit blandishments remind me of Hieronymus Bosch reconfigured by Edward Bernays. 

Maybe our current advertising palette is so well-focused-grouped we interpret it as "show people happy, dancing, slim, and worry-free at all times. Never show anyone with a problem, a need, a care or a bill to pay." 

Our avoid-the-moment, plasticine the smile advertising is based on alternate facts, because we can't bear to even think that the real ones are real. The best thing I ever read about lies is this: "it's terrible to lie to people. But the worst lie is lying to yourself."

We do advertising that avoids humanity, that ignores history, that's cognizant only of pay-for-play awards. 

Etiam si omnes, ego non. Or

h/t harry.

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