Monday, May 16, 2005

The Road to Nowhere pt1


One of the things I’ve noticed now that I’ve passed Life’s halfway mark, hopefully just past, is that a lot more is coming out of my head than going into it.

That’s only natural I guess. The senses are beginning to dull, the number of available brain cells gradually diminishing and what storage capacity remains is already full. Being older also gives you more perspective. You are able to classify ‘new’ experiences based on similar experiences from your past. You start to perceive patterns and rhythm. There are a finite number of stories under the Sun and you’ve learned a fair few of them in the course of your travels.

So, instead of asking ‘Why? Why? Why?’ like a child, you find yourself stalking people at social occasions, or the Internet, and crying out ‘Bastards! Bastards! Bastards!’. Only you can’t shout as loud as you used to.

It’s the natural order things.

Being older means you’ve also had time to see the future realised

… and see what a let down so much of it is.

No personal jet packs. No Elixirs of Youth. No paperless offices. No leisure society. No Peace Dividends ...

and is it just me or is everyone working longer hours, doing increasingly tedious, soul-destroying, and insecure jobs that we'll all have to continue to do till the day we die? Only we can't because we'll be made redundant long before then and have to spend the last twenty five years of our lives eating dog food.

I don't remember those developments being predicted in Tomorrow's World.

I’m also old enough to remember when we British used to laugh at other countries and congratulate ourselves for having the good sense to be born somewhere as wonderful as Britain. How we laughed at the state of French public lavatories, chuckled at images of Japanese commuters packed into trains like sardines, sniggered at the same Japanese people working out their frustrations by watching sadistic game shows, and pitied America, a nation of obese, brain-dead consumers, glued to their couches, slurping down processed shit and watching endless TV commercials.

We’re not joking about that stuff anymore are we?

It’s all gone a bit pants really. And, I swear, people on the street seem unhappier than at any point that I recall in my lifetime.

Hands up anyone who doesn’t think consumerism has something to do with it.

… and all the advertising that goes with it; ad after ad after ad.

Take television advertising. In recent years programs have been getting shorter and ads have been getting longer, and louder. It’s getting to the point on some channels that we have genuinely half-forgotten what we were watching by the end of the commercial break. Attention spans being what they are these days, the TV Channels really ought to start each program segment with a quick recap of the story so far. A few times recently I’ve taken to standing in front of the box during commercial breaks and performing little erotic dances or a few rudimentary coin tricks to keep Tracy amused but I’ve given up on that because she won’t take her turn.

I thought it was a cracking idea though. Shame.

So we end up watching the ads. Fortunately for me, I see my own basic insecurities as being a key part of my character and am therefore immune to 99% of all TV advertising. I’m a tubby, balding short arse and came to terms long ago with the basic truth that no product would ever change that reality, and nor would I want it to. Tracy is less resistant so I occasionally have to throw a blanket over her head or feign a violent coughing fit. The Sirens’ call is strong and there is no beeswax or stout rope in the house. There was a time when I would switch channels during ads but the TV companies got wise to that and they synchronise their commercials now.

There’s one ad on at the moment that annoys me above all and, no, it’s not the one for the singing chick and frog ring tones (alternative version here – it’s extremely obscene and plays through your speakers, so don’t say I didn’t warn you). No, there’s something even nastier and more insidious than that.

It’s the one for a new women’s magazine, Easy Woman or Woman’s Lebensraum or something like that. I’ve deliberately forgotten what it’s called. The ad features a group of women giving their order to a waiter in an upmarket restaurant …

‘I’d like the perfect pair of black trousers’

‘I’d like celebrity gossip’

‘I want lipstick that never smears’

‘I want a small handbag that can carry all the shit I’ve bought’

and toss like that

Not one of them has to good sense to ask for the perfect anti-depressant prescription for those tricky moments when buying lots of mass-produced junk leaves them feeling all empty, desolate and lonely; particularly when the credit card bills come through.

It’s not that this ad is any worse than all the other ads and TV shows out there. It’s just that, to me, it is so typical of all the other ads and TV shows out there that I hate it so very, very much.

Themes and ideas that won’t be explored in a television advert or program near you today, or any other day, currently include …

  • How to feel worthwhile as person without spending any money

  • Plastic surgery fools nobody and usually leaves you looking like a dickhead. Don't bother

  • Have you stopped still and really looked at a flower lately?

  • If you are nice to people they are nice back. Why not try and avoid being an arse on the train or in the car today and see how that works out for a change

So, what’s the deal? Am I advocating that everyone should be forced to watch It's a Wonderful Life (alternate non obscene, bunny version here), The Shawshank Redemption and Forest Gump whilst strapped in a chair under the influence of suggestive drugs; Clockwork Orange style?

Well, actually, yes.

And, as special reward for getting to the end of this post, here's a link to pictures of people who use their pets for transport.


Peter said...

One particularly foetid campaign has a dentist remarking that more people with sensitive teeth should realise that all they have to do is change toothpaste, followed by text advising we consult our dentist about sensitive teeth. A government-funded advert surely. Apart from the tiny (mandatory) "Glaxo Smithkline" in the bottom corner, invisible, I'll wager, on small TVs.

Then later in the same break, an advert for Glaxo-produced 'sensitive' toothpaste, big and bold.


And don't get me started on lifestyle ads. Buy yoghurt and you'll have the happy life you might lead if you didn't work so damn hard trying to afford things.

Sky+ means I don't have to suffer the ads - I can forward through them. Although all that means is advertisers will just find some more of my personal space to invade. I despair to think how many advertising snapshots I see in an average day. Luckily I'm broke so they're wasted on me.

Ian said...

I was in the countryside on the weekend and we drove into, through and out the other side of a village, and there were no billboards advertising anything anywhere to be seen.
It was nice.

Stef said...

We've always had ads of course but it's getting worse isn't it, much much worse ...

Ian, you were in the countryside? Did you take any pictures? I'm begining to forget what it looks like

zenyenta said...

I don't know what to say, Stef, except that this post is so spot on. (I hope that's a correct use of British as a second language.)

If you were laughing at the rest of the world in the UK, imagine how we arrogant Americans looked at other countries. We, too, haven't got a lot to laugh about these days. At least you guys have healthcare. You still do, don't you?

I have to go get ready for work now, which I'll be doing daily until I'm dead, as you so rightly pointed out. I'm going to reread the this and the newer post as soon as I have the chance.

Stef said...

Spot on is spot on

and, yes, we still have socialised healthcare but we're working on screwing that up in all sorts of inventive ways

re. working till your dead. Don't worry, I'm spending a large amount of my time thinking about a solution to that problem and, naturally, regular visitors to this blog will be the first to know once I've figured it out - at a special introductory rate too

David said...

You're dang right about life becoming more and more like hell (I summed that extrapolation myself). That's why I meditate and have dropped out as far as anyone can while still living in Kingsbury.

And I SO wish they'd play that ringtone version every 3 minutes at my gym on 3 different TV sets instead of the regular ones. If Viz did ringtones they'd crap on all the others!