Earthquake Rations

I think it’s time to start laying them on.

I thought Western civilization was coming to an end when I learned that high schools no longer require students to write using cursive script…and that in fact they require them not to. But now I’m really worried. Because today I was walking down the street, and made the mistake of looking down at the sidewalk.

Where I saw, of all things, an ad.

Yup; an ad. For Telus Mobility cell phones.

Someone had laid out a stencil, and then run a pressure-washer over it. Result? Nice clean freaking AD, right there on the sidewalk. ON THE SIDEWALK!

I now have a new way of telling if I’m going to bother talking to someone. If they shrug or say “so what” to the idea of advertisements on the SIDEWALK FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!…

Then I’m just going to wash my hands of them. Because from that point on, they’re the enemy.

Because clearly, clearly, CLEARLY…

This is how it all starts.


14 responses to “Earthquake Rations

  1. So you do not share the vision, then? Of the whole world as one great advertising space, full of wonderful new needs for us all to have? Such a pity.

  2. I think there will be people who defend it; if we can go by the opinion of my old friend who said “you really think people want more time in their lives? you think they would live the way they do, if that’s what they really wanted?” it seems frightening yet logical that there would be many people out there looking less for mental diversion and more for mental preoccupation — and often therefore, if I can stretch the point a little, opportunities for allegiance and protection, especially when the two arrive simultaneously. George Romero’s shopping-mall zombies are now, sadly, out of date; shopping is being replaced by cell-phone use, and the streets are now littered with those new zombies, whose brains are evidently elsewhere. Consumerism as we knew it is passe — I would not be surprised to learn that many of them are wearing rented shirts, that bill by the hour to your credit card.

    I think such people as these would be delighted to see advertising on the sidewalk. I wouldn’t be surprised if they welcomed it, as another necessity they didn’t know they had.

    Good Lord, do I need a coffee.

    Although one good thing that comes out of this New Zombie realization — walking down my street at noon, it’s obvious to me that if there were a Zombie Apocalypse, we’d all be pretty safe: in real life, zombie reaction times are a lot slower than they are in the movies. Zombie cats might be a danger; zombie humans, never.

    Although crossing the street would not be even remotely safe, with zombie humans around.

  3. I gotta say I don’t find this as momentous as you do. What I notice about people with their mobiles, is that snippets of stuff that used to go on behind closed doors – domestic arguments, business calls – are suddenly out in public space. I could fret that these people are overlooking the quality of the public space – and I would, if we were out in the middle of nature. But the city always was utility space, that everybody walks over, so no loss. And I don’t fret that they’re ignoring me, because we’re supposed to ignore each other anyway. Which can be hard work. It’s actually a bit of a relief when they have something else to attend to.

    I’d certainly not worried that a wave of cretins was going to overwhelm the public space with their zombie lives.

    There’s something else implicit here. Have ye identified your real target, matey?

  4. When this practice first manifested itself via full-color adverts being laminated to the floors of grocery & department stores, I was aghast!

    Yes, it was a nifty utilization of previously fallow ground, I’ll admit, but it was one step closer to the inevitable billboard proliferated “Blade Runner” / “American Flagg” future that is barreling down on us like a freight train. “Yes”, I thought. “I can see the boardroom faces all aglow at this concept. But then what’s the NEXT step?”
    As it is, these new digital motion-picture billboards that are everywhere fill me with despair and dismay. Soon no surface will remain pure.

    So, now someone is using power-washing a stencil onto the sidewalk as a method of advertising?

    It’s bad, yes.
    BUT, it’s got 2 “upsides”.

    1) It won’t last more than a few rainstorms.
    2) They’re actually CLEANING the sidewalk to make the artwork.

    It reminds me of a recent incident. There was an artist who was powerwashing artwork onto soot covered tunnels so that cars/trains would see his art as they drove by, and be aware of the pollution they were creating (his paintings were rows and rows of stylized skulls).

    The police wanted to arrest him for defacing property, but when he showed that he was actually CLEANING the areas, they were shamed/forced into powerwashing the ENTIRE area and cleaning the surfaces completely.

    Of course, that was art with a message, and your situation is advertising AS the message.
    Apples and poison-fruit (not oranges).

    I was going to say that if this practice was tried in NYC it would fail due to the lack of people who would notice, before trampling the ad.
    But, in SOME places, where foot traffic is less frenetic and herd-like, they might be seen.
    Also, I think there were similar designs (but of an artistic nature) several years ago in Greenwich Village.
    Of course, there, it was more self-promotion of an artist and not a corporately-driven campaign.
    Again, hand-picked apples vs ones offered by a serpent.

    But, when all this become more prevalent, it WILL beg the question:
    What’s NEXT?

    Will corporations start campaigns to lease/buy our bodies?
    Get a corporate logo tattooed onto you and get a sponsorship deal?
    Big companies have ALREADY paid to NAME YOUR CHILD after them.
    So why wouldn’t the “Tattoed man” scenario be any stranger?

    An incentive scale will be more $$ for a better placement/larger spot (Forehead’s will be branded so you can butt heads with a rival companies ink-model. The ultimate cola war).

    People who can prove that they are seen more can generate more $$ than hermits like myself.
    And with the domination of security cameras everywhere & personal G.P.S., these walking billboards will be able to be monitored.

    The sandwich-board carrying man in the 1900’s was the spawn of it all. He carried much more than that painted plywood placard on his back.
    He carried the future of advertising.

    “EAT AT JOES” indeed.
    It should have read:



  5. My God. It’s like Blade Runner without the floaty cars and flaming pyramid skyscrapers. It’s like the corporations watched films like that and decided all the wrong things were the cool stuff the real world should emulate.

  6. Sorry to hear about your pedial pronouncement problems, Plok! You may want to stay away from the University of Washington just to your south. A collegiate MMMS member sent me a pic of the spray-painted stencils they’ve been saturating their sidewalks with (well, at least one sidewalk anyway). Honest Irv posted it on one of those link site things (you may want to avert your eyes):

    Hoping that shameless sidewalk self-promotion doesn’t unduly upset you,

  7. I used to think that advertising didn’t work on me. I mean, I see ads, I don’t buy what they advertise, therefore they don’t work. In fact, I’d treat ads more like art, appreciate their technique, criticise their assumptions. I said, I can still remember such and such an ad from yay many years ago, but I can’t remember what it was for, so, advertising doesn’t work. I was wrong. I didn’t buy the junk food, but I bought the junk thought. And advertising, in a Spinozan sense, decomposes whatever it encounters. Public space—footpaths, buildings, trams, the sky—ceases to be passive, ceases to be your environment. Public space becames demanding, aggressive. Advertising’s environment. Private space too. We wear advertisements, what we read is covered in advertisements (magazines, newspapers, weblogs), sporting events are nothing but another environment for advertising. Television shows get shorter, more broken up, more advertising-filled and advertising-like themselves. And so do we. It gets harder to carry on a thought, with all this distraction. Neil Postman would have been closer to the mark if he’d said we’re being amusingly advertised to death. Borges would have been closer to the mark if he’d written a short story Tag Heur, Universal, Coca Cola. Advertising works on me, and I hate it.

  8. You’re right on about the zombies, Plok.

    M John Harrison wrote on the topic of fantasy worldbuilding:

    The act of narcissistic fantasy represented by the wor(l)d “L’Oreal” already exists well upstream of any written or performed act of fantasy. JK Rowling & JRR Tolkien have done well for themselves, but—be honest!—neither of them is anywhere near as successful at worldbuilding as the geniuses who devised “Coke”, or “The Catholic Church”. Along with the prosthetic environment itself, corporate ads & branding exercises are the truly great, truly successful fantasies of our day. As a result the world we live in is already a “secondary creation”. It is already invented. Epic fantasies, gaming & second lives don’t seem to me to be an alternative to this, much less an antidote: they seem to me to be a smallish contributory subset of it.

  9. Stan’s swingin’ subliminal sidewalk salesmanship aside…

    Hmm, Jonathan, is there something else implicit, here? I seem to have toggled from the cell phone ad to cell phones themselves rather effortlessly…must take another look at this post, I think! David’s comment about the decomposition of passive space interests me too…because what is the “junk thought”, exactly, you know?

    The other day I was thinking about the tremendous uniformity of different people’s idea of “the dream vacation” — sun, sand, immobility, right? But everybody says this, and they can’t all mean it: that isn’t their dream vacation, it’s just the imbibed awareness of what you say when someone says “dream vacation”. But…why that? Why not something else, you see? Many people talk about early retirement who simply wouldn’t know what the hell to do with themselves, if they weren’t working…

    Oooo, sleepy now. Must return to this later…

  10. I think there are two kinds of dream vacation for two kinds of people. You point out one. The other would be me: I don’t like all that sun, sand, immobility. Give me cities, art, food, travel! And I know a lot of people just like me. If I want sun, sand, immobility, I can do that locally.

  11. Oddly enough, my personal “dream vacation” would entail very few people, and not much in the way of sun or surf.
    I prefer a remote location; consisting of hills and mountains.
    And I lean towards cool, mist-shrouded, than sunny climates.

    Highlands of Scotland
    hiking in Tibet.

    I really AM a recluse.

    Explains why I live in a house in the middle of the forest in the mountains.



  12. Been thinking about all of this….

    Obvious advertising as a profession is whoring, plain and simple. Only the goods on sale are people’s creativity. Behind every clever advertising campaign, the soul of a clever, inspired person is sucked clean through their braincase.

    And its getting more intrusive. Once upon a time, football games had static backboards advertising the local pie shop. Now there’s multi-coloured flashing abominations with the ‘inspired’ thoughts of Nike and Pepsi, so bright you can’t even watch the game any more. Maybe the advertising has to be more intrusive because the majority of us have every single thing we’ll ever need. There’s only wants left, and to get us to want, you’ve got to create it. Who needs an i-phone? A 42-inch plasma TV? A 200 mph car? Companies have to keep ratcheting up sales, because that’s how it all works. To move up sales, you’ve got to increase advertising. The existing channels are filled up, so they need to find new forms. Stencil the damn pavements, if that’s what it takes.

    Yeah, that’s probably what it’s going to take.

  13. Clone,

    So glad that someone else shares my feeling on the evils of ad-work as a profession.

    Over the many years of my professional life as an artist/writer, I had turned down ad-work and offers to work at various agencies on several occasions.

    For a time, I had worked in a creative arena where I would frequently meet these guys and would, off the top of my head, throw them golden nuggets of ideas in the course of the conversation.
    They loved my work and creativity, but couldn’t understand my reticence on making money off of it.

    Of course, I soon felt guilty at helping them with it AT ALL, and so quit that practice.

    After I hit 40, (I was 10-years behind the “don’t trust anyone over 30” curve,) I found that money would be a nice thing to have “aplenty”.
    But, when I think about it, I STILL wouldn’t take a job doing advertising.

    I just can’t do it.


  14. More to say about advertising shortly, but first…

    That’s interesting, David and P-Tor: one is about culture and stimulation, one is about vista and (I take it) reflection.

    So what’s the sun-soaked immobility of the beach about?

    Sorry, rhetorical question…once again I’m up far too late to do myself any good. More later.

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