Anyone who’s read my blogs for awhile or seen my Flickr knows that I grew up around horses and am still a bit horse-crazy. When I played dress-up as a kid, I would put on ridiculous high-heeled shoes that were 12 sizes too big for me and teeter my way across the gravel road to the horse pasture:
My family spent lots of time at rodeos or on extended camping trips that were basically excuses to go riding for days in a row. Since then I haven’t really had anything to do with horses, except for daydreaming about them and living vicariously through movies and, more recently, video games. Or, I should say, just one video game: Red Dead Redemption, of course. I’m really close to beating the game, but I suspect I might just come back to it and ride around on my horse, rescuing ladies and shooting crows. All the virtual horse-riding is relaxing. Of course not as relaxing as riding a real horse, but I’ll take what I can get.
The animation of the horses in this game is really amazing. My pardner and I both got cowboy fever thanks to spending so much time in the virtual Old West. I had never seen any “spaghetti” Westerns, so we watched A Fistful of Dollars and will probably watch other Sergio Leone films once I stop wanting to indulge in season one of The Tudors.
What prompted me to make this post was that today, as I walked past the new book shelf at my library, I saw this book and immediately grabbed it. The first paragraph on the back cover is quite eloquent, so I’ll leave you with that in hopes that it will whet your appetite.
“A corral of cattle rustlers, outlaws, and other desperadoes ride the range in this bronco-busting anthology of nineteen tales set in the Old West. Spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the diverse stories prove there’s no ‘average’ cowboy, but a wide range of rugged individuals. Yet these vividly portrayed characters all seem to posses a sense of freedom, a strong relationship with the land, and a desire to live by their own standards. The result is an action-packed collection that’s a feast for anyone smitten by frontier fiction.”
One more time. Summer 1982. The weather in Pittsburgh is unbearably hot. Two weeks of high temperatures and high humidity. Nights not much better than the days. Nights too hot for sleeping, days sapping what’s left of the strength the sleepless nights don’t replenish. You get sopping wet climbing in or out of a car. Especially if your car’s little and not air-conditioned, like my mother’s Chevette. Nobody remembers the last time they felt a cool breeze, nobody remembers pulling on clothes and not sweating through them in five minutes. “Unbearable” is my mother’s word. She uses it often but never lightly. In her language it means the heat is something you can’t escape. The sticky heat’s a burden you wake up to every morning and carry till you’re too exhausted to toss and turn anymore in your wet sheets. Unbearable doesn’t mean a weight that gets things over with, that crushes you one and for all, but a burden that exerts relentless pressure. Whether you’re lifting a bag of groceries from a shopping cart into the furnace your car becomes after sitting closed for twenty minutes in the Giant Eagle parking lot, or celebrating the birth of a new baby in the family, the heat is there. A burden touching, flawing everything. Unbearable is not that which can’t be borne, but what must be endured forever.
Of course the July dog days can’t last forever. Sooner or later they’ll end. Abruptly. Swept away by one of those violent lightning-and-thunder storms peculiar to Pittsburgh summers. The kind signaled by a sudden disappearance of air, air sucked away so quickly you feel you’re falling. Then nothing. A vast emptiness rubbing your skin. The air’s gone. You’re in a vacuum, a calm, still, vacated space waiting for the storm to rush in. You know the weather must turn, but part of the discomfort of being in the grip of a heat wave or any grave trouble is the fear that maybe it won’t end. Maybe things will stay as miserable as they are.
On the other hand, I harbor no regrets whatsoever for eviscerating the most repugnant advertisers of my tenure: Benetton, for ostentatiously exploiting disease, war, religion and the victims of social injustice to push pricey mix ‘n’ match separates; Calvin Klein, arsonist, for using increasingly aggressive sexual images to ignite outrage, knowing that the media engines and ladders would inevitably race to the scene; GoDaddy, for trafficking in the most puerile and degrading T&A; Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, for smears of the ugliest kind (2004); Camel and Kool (1991), the lowest of the tobacco-marketing low, for using cartoon characters to cultivate children; Nintendo (1994), for telling adolescents to “hock a loogie at life”; and General Motors, for 1) jumping on the gruesome tragedy of 9/11 to sell Chevys and Pontiacs with its perverse “Keep America Rolling” 3,000-dead sale-a-bration (2001), and 2) having the gall on Earth Day, after decades of lobbying against emissions and mileage standards, to celebrate “environmental progress” (1990).
This, I said, was akin to “John Wayne Gacy celebrating the International Year of the Child.”
The AdReview staff was proud of that one.
After 25 years critiquing the ad industry in Advertising Age, Bob Garfield is retiring his weekly reviews. “For Ad Age, he will be extending his thought leadership on the digital revolution with a column titled “Listenomics.” He will also be launching a limited consulting practice in association with several strategic partners to be announced later in the spring. […] Mr. Garfield’s opinions on advertising, doled out in the weekly Ad Review, have challenged the industry, rankled creatives and rewarded great work.” (source)
This post was made possible by LibraryThing, where I tag books I’ve read with the month and year I read them, and keep track of what I want to read in the future. Now that I’m into the swing of it, hopefully the year in review for 2010 will be more complete.
The March 29 issue of Advertising Age has a feature on the history of advertising. One article is a reprint of a 1977 essay by Isaac Asimov, forecasting “what the advertising future would be like in 2000”. It’s impressive how accurate a lot of his ideas are. It’s also amusing how many sci-fi writings from the 60s and 70s mention microfilm as the media of the future. I remember reading old articles in library school and laughing at that. Asimov’s predictions focus on the personalization of media consumption and advertising, which has obviously become reality. The odd thing is that he describes it as if consumers would voluntarily subscribe to certain types of ads, instead of ads being targeted at consumers based on company-created consumer profiles. Excerpt:
Ad Specialties Inc. is, for instance, widely recognized among the advertising community representatives as being the wave of the future. It produces coded ads much as a library produces a coded catalog.
Its philosophy is that people who view ads as intrusions on their newspaper or on their TV programs do so because most of the time they have no interest in the product being advertised. If they were looking upon, or reading, an ad dealing with something that they very much want at that time, it would be the news or the program that would be viewed as the intrusion.
It is now possible, therefore, for subscribers to Ad Specialties Inc. to inspect an elaborate catalog of product listings (“from plasma lights to plastic leads,” one of its own ads says) and then code their TV sets for the reception of ads dealing with some particular type of product. They can inspect the various ads for that product, facsimile those they choose to, and be prepared for further inquiries.
Then the grandiose but equally prescient suggestion that advertising and marketing tactics can play a part in political and social change:
We must sell the world, through the persuasion techniques developed by advertology, on the necessity of reducing population, of conserving and recycling the Earth’s resources, of exploiting space to supplement Earth’s energy supply. Most of all, humanity must be sold on the necessity of employing its aggressive impulses not against itself, but in battling ignorance and folly and in extending the frontiers of knowledge and wisdom.