“Bouncing Off the Walls”
Welcome to my WebLog. (I won’t call it a “b--g”;
I don’t like the word.) Way too much information about my
life, my thoughts, my fears, and my ever-evolving politics. For
those of you who care (or for those who just accidentally found this page
due to a web search).
12:51 pm / Friday, December 19, 2003
On some level, spam e-mail is just like junk mail. Why can’t people just use their Delete key and get rid of it? That’s what I do. (And it doesn’t even waste paper.)
On the other hand, let’s look at some of the negative issues which surround it:
In the end, most (99.9%) spam is intended to mislead, to block the ability of ISPs to send and deliver legitimate e-mail, and generally to bring down the infrastructure of the Internet. Somewhere between malicious and terrorist, frankly. (Yeah, that last term is extreme, but realize the effect these spammers have. While not intending to cause fear and terror, they are attempting to disrupt international communications and destroy legitimate commerce. That ain’t the equivalent of jaywalking.) I met one of the spammers (as he called it, “e-mail direct marketing”) who was active around 1997 or so. He tried to use marketing “Dilbert-isms” to explain why his sending unsolicited and unwanted e-mails was a good thing, but in the end, he was unconvincing: the spammer was just a scammer. The ones today deserve to have the book thrown at them. (Make it a heavy one, please.)
[Weblog title reference: Monty Python’s Flying Circus did a sketch involving the breakfast meat SPAM. It involved Vikings in the background singing about how lovely and wonderful SPAM is, until they get so loud and abundant that they drown out the rest of the sketch. And thus junk e-mail is called “spam”.]
3:05 pm / Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Mistress Matisse writes the “Control Tower” BDSM column in The Stranger. I wrote to her back in August [slightly edited here]:
I enjoy reading your column in The Stranger each week. I especially like the recent one on “fetish etiquette,” all-lowercase names, and so on. While I do my best to respect the stated desires of others in such arenas – if Joe wants to be referred to as “boy joe”, I’ll try to comply – I find that it’s easy to cross the line from submissive into pretentious.
That said, a question for you which perhaps you could address in your column.
My boyfriend’s imagination has been captured by the (gay) “leatherboy” movement of late, and as part of that, he wants me to “collar” him. While I’m perfectly willing to – I love him dearly, and the thought makes me hot – I also want to take this idea slowly enough that we are both sure of what we are doing, what it will mean to us, and what it will mean to others.
When I go online for some research, as you observed in the earlier column, I find a whole bunch of stuff dealing with kinky het slave relationships, elaborate rituals for collaring (some including blood exchange; thank you, but no), “collar of consideration,” and so on. In other words, not a lot of info on the meaning of collars in a daddy/boy (or equivalent) relationship and a lot of pretentious crap (although perhaps quite important to some couples, I’m sure; I despise some elaborate wedding vows, too).
I’m hoping you can devote a column to some discussion of this topic, as I suspect it would be both interesting and enlightening, especially if you could include something about how collaring differs along the straight/gay and slave/boy axes. Hmm, and maybe goth vs. leather?
I’m sure that he and I will wend our way through on our own just fine, of course. But if your thoughts help enlighten and guide us, so much the better.
In the December 11 issue, she largely replied to the general parts of my query. I still haven’t formally collared my boy, but I think we both have come to understand a lot more about the matter in the intervening months.
Comment from Troy (of Seattle, WA) / received December 16, 2003:
[When I saw Troy last night, he held up his hand
and pointed to his wedding ring.]
[Weblog title reference: From a song by Elvis, of course..]
11:17 am / Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Click here for part 10.
I’m sure it’s purely coincidence.
But there’s been this rumor for some time that the U.S. government has actually had both Saddam and Osama for a while, just waiting to announce their capture. And since this story should have good legs for just over a week, the date of the capture looks suspicious: twelve days before Christmas and capture on a Saturday ensures that the story keeps hitting strong for the first couple business days following, and then slopes off just right to ensure that people have a good feeling about the conflict and the Troops (and the President, of course) right up to and thus through Christmas.
A few days earlier and there would have been a news focus gap before Christmas during which something anti-Bush could have snuck in. A few days later, and the media would have had to force the story to die off quickly so as to not impact the feel-good crap that has to be projected for Christmas. (Can’t have war impact the holidays!) A few days further yet and it would have had to be reported at Christmas, which would be a double-big no-no.
Okay, fine, so they caught him. Now would you please get the country stations to stop playing that damn Toby Keith song, “American Soldier”, every time I turn around? How about a nice piece of Lee Greenwood über-patriotism instead?
Click here for part 12.
[Weblog title reference: Hussein was the Ace of Spades in the deck of “most wanted” cards issues by the U.S. military, and Hussein was found in a “spider hole.” “Ace in the Hole” is a country song by George Strait.]
3:22 pm / Friday, December 12, 2003
The Death Penalty has always been one of the more controversial pieces of our penal system. On some level, it hearkens back to Biblical punishments: “An eye for an eye.” Some deem it as a way of providing closure for victims’ families, especially in light of our system’s parole methods, whereby a killer can sometimes eventually win free, even before having served an entire term.
Opponents like to put up four primary arguments against it.
First, that we know our system is flawed, and we sometimes unfortunately put innocent people in prison. That is bad enough, but how much worse to kill someone for a crime that they did not commit. This is really the most cogent argument against the death penalty, that it raises major moral and ethical dilemmas. I tend to think that we should not use it if there is the barest shadow of a doubt; in my college days, I was much more willing to to discard some innocents in the name of disposing of the truly bad ones, but I know more about the real world today. Fortunately, with DNA evidence techniques and such, we are increasingly able to toss that shadow of a doubt.
The second standard argument is that European countries have almost to a one done away with the death penalty, and so should we, in order to become more civilized. Unfortunately, this ignores the question of why the Europeans have discarded it. I don’t think it is only because they are more “civilized” (whatever that means). I think that because of their smaller societies, more diversity of populace, language, and thought, different legal structures, and so on, that they simply have a lower incidence of such extreme violent crimes. (Statistics bear this out, from what I’ve seen.) As a result, they simply don’t have either the number or percentage of criminals involved in death penalty-level crimes, and thus less need to deal with them in extreme ways.
Third is the claim that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Hello? The person (assuming actually guilty) killed someone. (In most cases. I don’t know that the death penalty is appropriate for violent or serious non-death crimes.) I suppose you can argue that some of the death penalty methods (electrocution, hanging) may be more painful than others (but then again, some death crime methods are also more painful than others), and thus more “cruel”, but in the end, the criminal is getting what he or she dished out.
The fourth – and my “favorite” – argument against the death penalty is that it doesn’t work. Not that it fails to kill people, but that as a deterrent, it doesn’t work. Follow that thinking through: despite having the death penalty available as an option (in most states), people still kill, and thus the death penalty doesn’t serve to stop anyone. Do you see the fallacy in there? Let’s try it with a different violation of the law and a different penalty.
There is a fine associated with automobile speeding. The more you speed, the higher the fine, and it may be doubled in construction zones, school zones, and under other circumstances. But people still speed, don’t they? Does that mean that the deterrent of the fine doesn’t work, that the existence of the fine doesn’t stop speeding? What if the fines were ten times as high: speed and you face a $2000 fine. Would that stop speeding altogether? No. What if the penalty was the extreme: death. Would no one ever speed again? Heck no. What you would find is most people would pay really close attention to their speedometer, and a heck of a lot of people would abandon their cars completely, to prevent the accident. A small minority would still speed, most of them probably only a little (like many of us do now, 3-5 miles over the speed limit), with the expectation that they would not get caught, or they would be able to legally wrangle themselves out of the extreme punishment. But so long as there are cars and speed limits, people would do it, no matter what the penalty.
So back to the death penalty for capital crimes? The question isn’t whether the death penalty is a deterrent at all, it’s whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent. We know there will always be extremists (of whatever stripe) who will commit the crimes. But will the existence of major penalties slow them down any? Will it stop any of them? Has there ever been a single person who, because of the death penalty as a potential result, decided to cool his or her head and thus did not kill someone? I don’t know, of course, but I sure do believe that it’s likely to have happened at least once, and thus probably actually fairly often. (On some level, every time you, a non-criminal, give any thought to the penalty, it is doing its job as a deterrent, reminding you of the extreme result that extreme actions can have.)
So then were left with the much dicier question: given that the death penalty presumably does act as a deterrent, for some people and in some cases, can we measure how good a job it does? (I suppose we could try to find similar populations in states which do and do not have the penalty and compare violent crime rates, but I suspect that the cognizance of “There’s no death penalty in this state, they can’t kill me for this crime” really doesn’t enter into things to the degree that “The death penalty means I could get killed for this crime” does. Even if a given state doesn’t have the penalty, the thought probably is that the country as a whole does, and that’s sufficient.) And the parallel question: is it possible to shift the way our system operates so that the deterrent of the death penalty is more effective, such that people will both be aware of it and won’t believe that they can get off with a lesser penalty for the crime.
Needless to say, I don’t have an answer for these. So I’ll just settle for recognizing that the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent is flawed and doing my best to make sure the opponents of it are aware of that, that they have genuinely thought through their opposition to it (which is a fine thing) rather than just parroting a simplistic phrase they got from someone else, someone who had an agenda to conflate a deterrent which isn’t 100% effective to one which isn’t effective at all.
4:35 pm / Monday, December 8, 2003
4:00 pm / Monday, December 8, 2003
Click here for part 9. It’s been a long time since then.
On Thanksgiving Day, President Bush made a covert visit to Iraq, to have Thanksgiving dinner with a selected group of soldiers. The event was done under heavy security, with many in the White House itself not aware of what was happening, nor the President’s own family, and only a select group of aides and reporters were taken along.
To hear Talk Radio go on about it for the next few days, you would have thought he bit the head of a puppy on live television. The lefties ranted about how the event was a superficial photo op, pure politics. The righties ranted about how Bush was a “stud” for doing this (yes, that term was used) and how the lefties were just trying to co-opt the event. (And then they went on to decry Hilary Clinton’s trip to Afghanistan as superficial photo op, pure politics. And the same thing about Howard Dean and his brother’s remains in Laos.)
In reality, they are both right.
We’re less than a year out from the next Presidential election. Everything that Bush does is geared for maximal political effect. The administration was to direct and control the media as much as possible, and to get big impact out of every event they can. Don’t be surprised to see further big “events” occur every couple months – at Christmas, at Memorial Day, at July 4th – any time that Bush & Co. see their numbers needing to be propped up. Expect most of these to involve the Troops, which plays to both the pro-War side and the “Support the Troops” folks.
At the same time, everything that the Democrat candidates do is also geared for maximal political effect. (In the Dean case, the 30th anniversary of the death of his brother was in mid-December, but Thanksgiving week plays better.) Nothing will be done without the impacts – both Democrat-positive and Republican-negative – being carefully scoped out, maximized or minimized, and targeted to where the largest impact will be. Expect to also see some attempts by both sides to pre-empt the stunts of the other.
On the other hand, Bush’s visit to the soldiers in Iraq was, without a doubt, the right (ahem) thing to do. Discarding the political photo op side of things, it was a brave action to visit a strife zone like that, and it is bound to be a morale boost for the Troops, to know that the President is willing to take that sort of an action and show his direct support for them. (I’ll stop short of calling Bush a “stud”, though.)
(As for Hillary’s visit to the Troops in Afghanistan, some pundits said it was yet another overture on her part to test the waters for a 2004 Presidential bid, but I think that she would have to have declared by now if she was going to do so. It was definitely a photo op, and arguably a really good thing to do for the morale of the Troops who are being forgotten about in Afghanistan, what with 99.9% of the media focus having turned to Iraq for the past year. I can’t help wonder, though, if she didn’t somehow get wind of Bush’s trip, and did hers to suck some of the wind from his sails.)
Click here for part 11.
3:27 pm / Monday, December 8, 2003
Click here for part 1.
I’m on the Legal Marriage Alliance mailing list for Washington State, and after the Massachusetts decision was handed down, someone asked::
If I interpret the decision correctly, in six months time, same-sex couples in Massachusetts will be able to marry. How does this impact out-of-state couples?
I responded with a number of bullet points, and I’ve added a little more to them here.
I’ve often personally wondered why the religion card has never been played on the gay side of this puzzle before. If MCC marries a same-sex couple, then DOMA and other laws are Freedom of Religion violations (“Congress shall make no law…”) in refusing to recognize those marriages and give the benefits accruing to them. (Of course, non-religious performed marriages would not be covered, so it’s not a slam dunk for everyone.)
Click here for part 3.
10:42 am/ Tuesday, November 25, 2003
In the long run, I don’t care if he did it. But some of the media hoo-hah surrounding it this time brings up some things worth commenting on.
7:18 pm / Sunday, November 23, 2003
The opposition to same-sex marriage is composed of almost exclusively misdirection. In the end, there are no rational reasons for the opposition, only emotional ones, and thus the arguments put forward are typically intended not to counter same-sex marriage but to derail the discussion, driving it off course and getting it stuck in a swamp.
First is the partial misnomer, “gay marriage.” The proper term is “same-sex marriage.” To call it exclusively “gay” is a convenient shorthand, but it also allows the discussion to focus exclusively on the male-male side of the question, and thus male-male sex, which is a subject which squicks a lot of straight America (certainly more than are squicked by girl-on-girl sex). In focusing on the male component, it also thus renders half or more of the marriage seekers somewhat invisible – and its those “invisible” ones who are often in the most stable relationships and thus more likely to be raising children within their relationships. And speaking of “invisible”, let’s not forget the bisexual men and women who might be in a longterm same-sex relationship: just because you can’t visually tell that they are exclusively homosexual doesn’t mean that they are.
Second is the “slippery slope” argument. If same-sex marriage is approved, won’t that lead to triad (or more-ad) marriages, to intra-family (mother/son or sister/brother) marriages, to adult/child marriages, or to human/animal marriages? The answer to this is that those questions are different from (but parallel to) the same-sex marriage question. One type of marriage will not automatically lead to another type, just as mixed-race marriages didn’t lead to other changes when they became fully legal, nearly 40 years ago. The laws which specifically prohibit same-sex marriages (DOMA, et al) don’t address these other types of relationships, and there are already separate laws relating to those which don’t touch on the same-sex issue.
The opposition likes to put this strawman up as a question to same-sex marriage proponents: “Well, if gay marriage is accepted, what will you say to the man who wants to marry his sheep?” The best answer is “I don’t care. That’s a different type of marriage. Let him fight his own battle.” Keep the discussion properly and narrowly focused.
On the other hand, maybe same-sex marriage would lead to other marriage shifts, but in a completely different way. (And by extension, the mixed-race marriage issue may be a lead-in to same-sex marriage after all.) Without passing judgment on any given type of relationship where those involved might like it to be a full-fledged marriage, we see in both the mixed-race and same-sex cases that some of the laws governing them were (are) regressive, hateful, and downright wrong. Once we take the time to examine those laws closely and see them for being the bogus laws they are, we may also find that other laws governing other sorts of relationships are equally as regressive, hateful, and wrong, and thus need to be changed. (Or we may not. I don’t foresee marriage being approved for those who cannot give informed consent, such a children and animals. But that’s merely one example, and there are many other laws relating to such relationships.)
Third is the “marriage is for procreation” argument. There is absolutely nothing about procreation itself which is improved by the presence of a formalized bonding of exactly two opposite sex, unrelated people; the wife is not more fertile as a result. And there is nothing about marriage which requires that progeny result from the union. This is actually a confusion of procreation with heredity. Procreation is deemed to be best when it occurs within marriage because then the spouses have better control over one another (more specifically: the husband knows who the wife is having sex with), and thus the line of descent (and of inheritance) is made clear. In the end, ensuring proper inheritance is a goal of both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.
(Note that this does not make any statement about the raising of children by anyone. I’ll discuss my thoughts on that at some point. The state opposition here is only about procreation, so that’s all I am addressing in my counter-argument.)
Fourth is the “thousands of years of tradition” argument. These traditions never actually applied to exclusively“one woman and one man,” because two of either gender just wasn’t an option. When society is unable to conceive of the existence of homosexual people, much less of ongoing relationships between such people, society doesn’t have rituals which apply to such people and situations. Let’s face it: society changes over time, and when it does, so do its traditions. Holding to “thousands of years of tradition” would have our sailing vessels never leaving sight of land. It would have us using human and animal power for all our transportation needs. It would have our systems of government be non-democratic monarchies. It would have us treating women and children as property. It would feature multiple wives for each man. It would have us worshipping a multitude of different gods. It would have us huddled in caves, painting on walls.
Click here for part 2
2:56 pm / Friday, November 21, 2003
You know what annoys me? (This week, anyway.) The abuse and misuse of math, specifically in number metaphors.
Lately, I’ve been hearing an add for Carter Subaru which claims that they are in the Top Three (which means they are #3, because otherwise they would say they are #1 or #2) out of 500-and-some dealership teams in the nation in sales. All well and good. Then they go on to brag at least twice in the commercial about how proud they are to be in the top 99.5% of the sales teams in the nation. SCREEEECCHHH! Everybody except the bottom 3 or so would be in the top 99.5%; it’s nothing to be proud of. (What they really mean is that they are in the 99.5th percentile. Ah, the subtlety of a single syllable.)
Twice in the past month or so, I’ve seen misuse of “360 degrees”. Once was in The Stranger, comparing something to a drag queen making a 360-degree spin on one heel and going the other way, and once was in the Seattle Gay News (never noted for their skillful editing anyway) about Mary J. Blige’s latest album being a 360-degree change from her previous one. (Unfortunately, web searches won’t bring up either reference.) Girls, “360 degrees” is a full circle; you can’t go the other way out of a 360-degree spin, and a 360-degree change means that Blige’s latest album is no different from the previous one! (What they both meant, of course, was 180 degrees.)
In the same vein, but not using number per se, are Disneyland references to when they used to use ticket books for the rides rather than an all-day pass. (They changed around 1980, I think. I had been to Disneyland maybe a dozen times as a kid, and I recall being enthused about not having to have a ticket book when I went to Dollywood in 1979. We had a simple pass when we went to Disneyland again in 1982 or so.) The ticket books featured A Tickets, B Tickets, and so on up to E Tickets, each type being good for a different class of rides. The really cool ones (the Matterhorn and such) were E Ticket rides (and you never got enough of those tickets in the booklet!), while the A Tickets were the extremely tame rides like the carousel and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Today, 20-plus years from the end of the ticket books (and even a decade ago, only 10-plus years out, when I wrote one of my earliest letters to the editor on the subject), people forget this and they assume that “A” was the best thing, perhaps like getting grades in school. And thus, when someone refers in print to some experience being “a real ‘A Ticket’ ride,” I can only roll my eyes and bitch quietly to myself.
4:40 pm / Tuesday, October 21, 2003
When I still lived in California, up through November 2000, I was registered with the Green Party. That wasn’t necessarily because I agreed with all of their platforms and directions – it worries me when someone says they do agree with everything some person or group says or does – although I did agree with a fair number of them. In part, it was to keep the Democrat Party off my back: as a donor to gay causes but not registered with any party, I got way too many presumptuous mailings from them. Mostly, though, it was to help ensure that there was some added variety in the California electoral process, something beyond the double-headed coin of Republicans and Democrats we usually had.
(Living in Washington, I’m not registered with any party.)
In the 2000 Presidential election, I did not vote Green. In the primary, I voted for McCain. At one time, California had an open primary, where anyone could vote for any candidate, but the state had recently (after a court challenge) shifted to a semi-open primary, where anyone could vote for anyone, but only the registered Republican votes counted for the Republicans (and so on). This is probably a good thing for the parties, especially in states which lean heavily to one side of the coin: if enough Democrats (and Greens and Independents and…) wanted to in the previous system, they could have thrown the state primary to McCain rather than Bush (and left the core Demos to nominate Gore, already a foregone conclusion); with a state like California, this could have tilted the entire national scene. So that option precluded (alas), I still voted for McCain in the primary as an “advisory” vote, a note to the state party and others that a heck of a lot of people who weren’t registered Republicans (for whatever reasons) still cared enough to send a message that McCain and his policies were preferable to Bush’s, which might end up coloring the national platform beneficially.
(Update: The down side to this is that if your party had no one running for an office, or if you weren’t registered for a party at all, you ended up with no vote in the primary at all, even if you actually favored one party or another. This has the bonus effect of convincing people not to vote in the primary at all, since not being able to vote for some of the races lessens your interest in voting for any of them. Variations of the “blanket” primary are still an option in some states, including Washington. You apparently have the option of choosing a singe party slate to vote for the in the primary. T hat is, if you choose the Democrat slate, you only get to vote for Democrats in all pertinent races on the ballot, even if you are registered Republican; you don’t get to choose from all the candidates, but you at least get to choose in some fashion.)
Come the general election in 2000, I ran scared. I voted for Gore rather than Nader. I didn’t think Gore was a better candidate than Nader, but I knew Nader could not win and I was scared that Bush might in California if Gore didn’t get enough votes.
So now we turn to Florida in 2000, where the popular vote was close enough to cause recounts and grudge-holding and claims of election theft years later, and where the small percentage of Green voters, had they voted for Gore instead (they sure wouldn’t have voted for Bush to any significant degree!), would have solved the whole matter and kept Bush out of the White House.
Thus the question: Should the Democrats blame Nader and the Green Party for Bush winning the White House?
And then the answer: No,. They should blame themselves. If anything, the Democrats deserved to have 3% or so of the electorate (6% of their base; the most progressive, extreme, and dedicated-to-their-ideals portion) pulled away from their voting bloc. One of the most depressing facets of the 2000 campaign wasn’t that Bush beat Gore, but that Gore and Bush were the best candidates either party could put forward. (If nothing else, that should shine a light on the folly that is an automatic granting of Chosen Candidate status to the incumbent Vice-President. The only thing worse than Gore in that regard would have been Quayle!) If the Democrats could not offer up a decent candidate, one who could overcome the inadequacies of Bush with a loss of just 3% of the voters – less than that, given the small number which Buchanan pulled away from Bush – then perhaps the Democrats truly didn’t deserve to win. They made the bed, but we all have to lie in it.
And there’s a corollary: The Greens need to pay attention as well. Nader was never electable; no one will seriously claim he was, no projections would have ever given him more than a tiny percentage of the votes (enough to affect the overall outcome but not to win himself). With the result of Bush winning – someone even further from their position than Gore – Greens who voted for Nader in Florida (and anywhere else where the vote was very close) should be taking cold comfort in the idea that by holding to their ideals, they allowed Bush to win.
Ideals are great things to have, but they are even better to have when the country is in a state where you can enjoy them.
[Weblog title reference: “It’s not easy being green” was a song sung by Kermit the Frog.]
11:16 am / Tuesday, October 21, 2003
A few years ago, a friend of mine was the publisher of a fetish-oriented magazine (In Uniform Magazine; not hard-core porn, but still “adult”), and he sometimes used other people whom I knew to do illustrations for the magazine. I didn’t buy the magazine regularly (uniforms aren’t my thing), but if it had art from one of the people I knew, I would pick it up.
One shop (A Taste of Leather in San Francisco) I went into had the latest issue, which I hadn’t seen yet. They kept the new magazines wrapped in plastic, in a rack behind the counter. This was fine; if you saw the condition of the thumbed-through magazines which they didn’t herd that way, you would understand how unsellable such things quickly got if not tended to. (It was probably worse in that shop that just about anything outside a stuffed-full comics spinner rack, though, indicating that they considered that other magazine rack a lost cause and didn’t monitor it at all.)
I asked if I could leaf through the latest issue. I was told that I had to buy it first. I explained my interest in only selected issues, and thus that I needed to briefly see the contents before buying. I was told I would have to buy it first; they didn’t want the issues damaged like the ones on the open rack. I promised to buy it if it had the content I was after, and offered to leaf through it quickly right there at the counter in front of the clerk (and the store was otherwise empty, so that wouldn’t have been a drain on his attention). Nope: I could only see the interior if I bought a copy first, and there were no refunds for any reason.
Needless to say, I left the store. I then wrote a letter of complaint to the store management. They sent me a letter back in just a few days, which impressed me until I read the content: “That is our store policy. You’re welcome to shop elsewhere if you don’t like it. We don’t need your business.” (That’s a paraphrase, of course, although the last sentence was explicitly in their response.) (Note that I don’t blame the individual clerk for adhering to the store’s policy.)
They don’’t need my business. Let’s hope not: I’ve never shopped there since.
(I don’t necessarily bring up old grudges like this regularly. The subject of shrink-wrapped CD’s and thus the eventual potential of shrink-wrapped books which would have to be bought to be read – or accessed at an in-store “reading station” – and which then could not be returned except in exchange for a copy of the same title came up on a mailing list I participate on today.)
1:50 pm / Monday, October 20, 2003
A couple years ago, there were billboard ads all over the place, asking “What is mLife?”, but never cluing you into what the product or service or whatever was. After seeing the umpteenth billboard ad – actually, after seeing probably the third one – I stopped caring. If they couldn’t bother to tell me, I sure couldn’t bother to buy their service. (Apparently, it was merely wireless phone service from AT&T. Big whoop.)
A couple years before that, I saw a couple billboards in the Bay Area, black text on white, saying “Protect me from what I want.” Again, no information about what comp nay took out the ads, what the product or service was, whether it was a political statement, and so on. (A web search on the phrase today finds dozens of sites with lyrics from the band Placebo, but not much beyond that.)
The Seattle gay bar C.C. Attle’s reframed part of itself a couple years ago as “The Men’s Room.” The led off the remodel with a series of ads in the local gay newspaper, asking “Where is the Men’s Room?”, two or three small display ads per weeks for three months or so. For the first couple weeks, it was cute: “It’s down the hall and to the left!”, but it quickly grew stale as the weeks dragged by. “If you can’t find the Men’s Room by now, just pee in the damn bushes!”
Currently, there are a series of billboards and bus ads up around Seattle with the tagline “Five As One.” They feature body parts – an eye, a hand, the x-ray of a foot – split vertically into five strips and reassembled, each one coming from a different person, usually each one from a different race than the one next to it. Is this a race relations thing? (Let’s see: white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American…?) Based on the x-ray, is it something medical, maybe a uniting of five hospitals? Is it a new nightclub, or somebody’s new wireless plan? Since there is a city election coming up, does it have to do with the five City Council positions which are not up for election? Beats the hell out of me: as with the other ad campaigns, not one whit of guiding information on the ads, and even when I go to Google to search on key phrase, nothing comes up pointing to the ads.
(Update: these are apparently ads for the Seattle Supersonics pro basketball team, as one of the billboards – but only one that I’ve seen – now has a Sonics logo on it. The others are still without any identifying logo or text. Here’s an article about the ad campaign.)
I suppose you can make an argument that on some level, ad campaigns like this work, since I remember them even years later. On the other hand, I only remember them because they annoy the fuck out of me and pretty much ensure that I will have nothing to do with the product or service. Having your ads remembered only so that people avoid the products doesn’t seem like the best tactic. (Exception: I go to C.C. Attle’s – aka the Men’s Room – once every three or four months. The ads didn’t drive me away, but they certainly didn’t bring me in, either. I go to bars in other states [and countries!] more often than I go to the Men’s Room.)