Practical Joke #6

Photo by Greg W.

(Inspired by the little blizzard that blew through here a couple of weeks ago.)

1. Acquire an arm from a department-store mannequin.

2. Wait for a fairly big snowstorm.

3. While shoveling snow, place the arm in an upward-directed position and then pile snow around and on top of it.

4. Wait several weeks or months until the outstretched hand emerges from the melting now.

Dressing the arm in a coat sleeve and mitten is optional.

A Mind-Control Conundrum

"Mind control" as in advertising, that is. This and similar TV commercials have me bewildered:

Ostensibly the idea is that a man is supposed to go out and buy some expensive jewelry for the woman in his life (and hey, I'm all in favor of that). So why then is this ad designed to be so uninteresting to men? Trust me, ladies, on this one. Learning sign language would be interesting but in every other respect this insipid, charisma-deficient man-child is the opposite of what every man aspires to be. It's easy to predict the eventual fate of this couple: to be accosted by a gang of motorcycle toughs while walking a city street one night. The man winds up flat on his back from a punch in the nose while the woman rides off on the back of a motorcyclestill wearing her new jeweled wristwatch.

And it's not just this one. In other jewelry commercials the excited girlfriend shows off her new diamond to her envious friends. Apparently this is more rewarding than actually spending time with her pathetic loser boyfriend (nowhere to be seen), whose sole important contribution to the relationship now sits on the girlfriend's finger.

So what's the story here? Is it mass incompetence in the advertising industry or rather some subtle psychological master-stroke way too clever for me to recognize? Has the jewelry industry decided appealing directly to men is a waste of time and chosen instead to encourage women to nag their men into buying something? Or maybe buy things for themselves and then pretend to have received them from an admirer?

Not being a woman, I hesitate to judge the appeal of messages such as this to women. On the other hand I see perfume commercials, which I assume are targeted to women, and those (unlike jewelry commercials) are usually charged with some real sexual energy.

If you want to sell men on doing something nice for women, here's the right way to do it:

I don't drink vodka, but I like the message here. Gallantry is cool.


Photo by katiew.

My train of thought while showering this morning...

...was provoked by Gershwin's "Concerto in F", to which I was listening at the time. Gershwin reminded me of "Porgy and Bess." I listen to this occasionally, but I haven't seen it since watching the film version on TV as a young impressionable child. My visual impressions of the story are therefore hazy, selective, and imperfect. These conflict with my listening knowledge of the opera, which carries a pretty grim plotline. My distant childhood impression, on the other hand, is of something altogether more playful and frivolous. Hmmm... whence the discrepancy?

Then again, some years back, I was on a hike with the Boy Scouts, along a trail which went through the wilderness in stretches, and along a highway in others. Crossing a bridge, we saw riverfront homes. One such was particularly interesting to see, having fallen victim to the encroaching river, radically slumped over, roof caving in, one wall missing. On seeing this, my main emotional reaction was not I'd hate for that to be my house, but more: Gee, that looks like a fun place. Seems an odd reaction, right?

And then I had it--one small piece in the puzzle of the human mind. Maybe it's not such an odd reaction. The characters in Porgy and Bess live in a rather seedy world (as I recall) of houses with sagging roofs and leaning walls. What previous experience would a child have had in such an environment? The closest would have been the world of Lil' Abner (this is an old-timey comic strip about hillbillies, for you young punks out there), or maybe Pogo (another classic old comic strip)--which were fun places. Only slightly farther removed would be the world of Popeye. And a bit further down the road is the world of Dr. Seuss.

In comics, cartoons, and children's books, houses show curves and bulges. Dr. Seuss's architecture never makes use of a straight line. In the real world, on the other hand, houses are rigid, straight, and angular. Except on the rare occasions when you come across a deliciously ramshackle old ruin--and then you never know--Popeye or Daisy Mae might come strolling out.

I ought to watch Porgy and Bess again. Although I rather hate to lose the child's wacky fun version....