Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Super Bowl of Crap Edition

Originally Posted on Sunday, February 09, 2010, at The Albany Project...sorry I'm late!

Welcome to the return of Soundpolitic. I began blogging here nearly two years ago to the day to cover Democratic politics in NY-21 and SD-46. Back then, I would pompously opine most of the time, and other times engage in what I egotistically called "citizen-advocacy journalism."

Nowadays, after a years' worth of depression "due to" unemployment in my chosen field of paralegal studies and growing and frustration for lack of professionalism in indie rock, I've got the writing bug again. Out of respect for all living beings, I refuse to swat it. I've been feeding it like a fiend.

I had big plans for my return. Summarizing the Talking Heads shows, going topical again, ect., ect., ect....but this proved to nothing more than some intangible idea to make a move back to wind-baggery. It wasn't real.

What follows below the fold certainly is: I just starting writing an e-mail to a very dear friend of my father while he generously offered use of his computer to compose a freelance piece on traditional-string-based contemporary rock. The two of us had gone to dinner last night and spoke a bit about the Big Game coming up today. Naturally, we talked more about commercials than about football.

I decided to shoot her a quick e-mail link to the famous Apple 1984 commercial on YouTube. Then I added a couple of blurbs from the web to give more information. Then I kept writing and, voila! I was blogging again, just for the love of putting words together. I blind-copied it to a bunch of friends, but then decided if I left it at that, I'd have left all of you guys out. So no fair...read on for the first installment of Soundpolitic Sundays.
(The Albany Project has limited space on it's front page, so I put the above in the Main Text section, and waste all sorts of space to get people to click on "Read More..." which is uncessary here...so is this!  Without further adeui...read more!)
Here's the body of the e-mail I beat out. Commentary unique to this diary to follow:

Here is the YouTube link for that famous Apple Super Bowl advertisement we talked about last night. This email is also kind of an example of what blogging is like - nothing more than finding information on the web, posting links in the body of the blog to increase the interconnectedness of the 'net as well as provide instant journalistic sourcing.

More information from Wikipedia:

• 1984 - Perhaps the most renowned Super Bowl ad ever, the ad for Apple's Macintosh followed a 1984 theme. Directed by Ridley Scott, the ad featured a woman wearing track-and-field clothing sprinting into a large auditorium and hurling a large hammer into a screen right before security guards can subdue her. On the screen was a large Big Brother-type of face speaking to a massive assembly of drone-like people. His last words were "We shall prevail," before the screen explodes and leaves the audience enraptured in gazing at the spectacle. The ad ran just one more time on television, perhaps compounding its renown.

The spot is rife with symbolism and double-entendres that only grow with age. I recall learning in my media course in SUNY Oswego just how legendary and influential this commercial was; most spots at that time were straight-to-the-point, introducing a specific problem in a familiar setting and then introducing a full, pristine version of the product and generating instant gratification at a surprisingly low price.

Scott and Apple took the opposite approach. Here, we never even see the product. They treated the ad more like a trailer for a motion picture, and the production values reflected this. Everything about the product is implied, quantifying nothing. The images and the script are pure symbolism. Moreover, because people were not used to this, audience members reacted much as they would to, say, an avant-garde foreign language spy film. That is, they may not have been able to vocalize the actual plot line or be able to figure out who was who. But they could walk away wishing for an English dub without even realizing that the cinematography, lighting, and physical performance of the actors gave them all the clues they needed to walk away both satisfied and wanting more.

The not-so-obvious irony here is the symbolism of the film: the big head on the screen represents the idea of George Orwell's Big Brother as it applies to Apple's competition, International Business Machines. This was probably the most effective and literate dig one company ever took at another with such success; the release of the Macintosh had IBM freaking out in all departments, from R&D to marketing.

In the end, the hero (athlete with the hammer) is obviously the future purchaser of the product (the hammer itself), is an influential image because cuts to the core of commercialism. While I cannot recall the exact author or name of the study, a book called Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume highlights a study in which concludes that all commercials boil down to one all-encompassing theme:

"You are the most important thing in the world."

Isn't that and all of this absurb beyond belief? Super Bowl Sunday now is more about commercials than it is about the game. Only so many players take the field, and only so many managers and stadium crewmembers make the actual event. If aliens land in the future and study this culture with unbiased eyes, I have a feeling they will record it as the most important holiday of American culture. They might call it Commercial Day. The event now employs thousands of countless advertising producers and media professionals who work in blue collars and white collars, some who put in long hours to do the heavy lifting and a handful that just sit back and watch and laugh all the way to the bank.

It gets bigger every year, and it always seems to occur just after a major political event. The last big show that "interrupted" the flow of televised entertainment was President Obama's State of the Union address. In that speech, he asked us to look past our political differences in an ideological sense with an eloquence that few Presidents have expressed. Yet somehow, I doubt the Neilson company is going to rate his on-air appearance as high as the Super Bowl or that many people will not even realize that the speech was broadcast without commercial interruption. They rarely realize that much of the Super Bowl broadcast has been about commercial interruption, and no longer football! It seems the percentage of Americans who watch "the game" and actually tune in for the consumerist spectacles is growing as if it were a Hollywood film preview on their own beer-stained red carpets.

The other percentage that's growing? Pres. Obama's disapproval numbers. Could conservo-populist broadcasting have something to do with this? I listened to the local Clear Channel talk radio the day after the SOTU. The local-yokel morning talk show host dubbed it "State of Confusion," and criticized the President and the Joint Session simply for wasting valuable air-time; this sentiment was repeated ad nausea by Rush during lunchtime, Hannity (might as well be called Rush Hour), then on Savage and Levin straight past midnight. "How dare our 'leader' try to sell us ideas about putting our finely tuned, all-important selves aside and actually consider placing importance on those we consider separate from ourselves?" they demanded. I heard no such thing on these programs during the last State of the Union...

I digress. This nation is set in its ways and is only digging itself deeper into a shallow grave of bread and circus. All I can do is write about it, try to call in to these local radio shows and hope somebody out there is actually listening and thinking critically about my guerilla interruption. And I do it for free, and of my own free will. That's what my three-week write-in campaign for Town Supervisor was all about when it comes down to it, not about parties that go through cycles or issues that rise and fall out of the public eye like so many new and improved products.

Talk to your doctor about civics and see if it's right for you; he's likely to write a prescription for some free texts at your local library, and will advise you to try to cut out commercials cold turkey. Too bad there isn't an epidermal patch for that. But I hear that if you sleep with a copy of the Tom Paine's "Common Sense" under your pillow, you might just learn some. Spending 15 minutes or less with some of these writings might save you 15 percent of your tea bags.

Enjoy the game...I'm rooting for the Geico Geckos!

So ended my e-mail. My writer's block is cured, and I didn't even need to pop a pill. I've recently discovered that my inaction all year was in direct contrast with the philosophy of action of Zen Buddhism. But I'm not here to preach...I'm here to practice.

Check my comments from those good ol' days when I was shilling about for candidates. I didn't get it back then either. I was argumentative, opinionated, exasperating, confrontational...and decidedly non-conductive to getting down to the true heart of things.

In other words, I wasn't living up to my alias. I crafted an alter-ego for myself that was even more self-absorbed than my true person was. This was precisely the opposite of what I'd hoped to achieve back then, and my return is an attempt to get back to the beginning as both a blogger and a human being.

I've thrown both dudes, the Old Soundpolitic and the Old Colin Abele, into the recycling bin to get our collective nickels back. I chose to write under the name "Soundpolitic" because I'm passionate about music and politics and writing. I wanted to truly blend the true nature of all three into one piece and just write for the sake of the action of tippity-tappity-clickity-clacking away at a keyboard. I let the words flow like the keyboard is a piano; I feel little notes and sentences coming together in a composition, and aspire to craft symphonies that leaves the reader thinking about the boundaries we have yet to reach with regard to harmony and co-existence in this great country.

A good friend of mine has a great voice message: After apologizing nicely for missing the call and offering a prompt reply, she offers this bit of advice: "Remember to be happy, not hostile. Be swell!"

That's good sense we should all find in common as we get together for the Big Game tonight. As for me, I plan to keep on writing until just before kick-off to do just that. I hope you all do to.

In closing, I'll note that I am one of those folks who watches the Bowl religiously every year. I like to excercise my critical viewing skills by watching the debut commercials, which are often most humorous and refreshingly creative in the same way Ridely Scott's 1984 spot was. I hit the fridge between the commercials. But I'm still concerned about the game...of beer-pong I'll be losing miserably with some of my best friends. We'll pay for it in the morning.

Thanks for reading...stay tuned for next week's installment, whatever it may be...and keep up the good work!


Soundpolitic said...

It's great to be back blogging again. Writing makes me feel alive and well, and it was a tough Lost Decade.

Thanks for commenting!

Lesson: Don't forget to thank yourself every now & again.

politics64 said...

Great to read your new blog and I wish you all the best. I missed your writings at the Albany project and look forward to following you here!