Sunday, February 25, 2007

BUMP: Signs (and billboards, and spam) of the times

I found the following post while I was Googling for something else (never mind what).
I see ads when I watch television, or read a newspaper or magazine. I hear ads when I listen to the radio.

The football stadium in my city is Invesco Field. The baseball stadium is Coors Field. The basketball/hockey arena is the Pepsi Center.

When I surf the web I get hit with banner ads, pop-up ads, and an email inbox full of spam.

Companies buy product placement in the movies I watch and the video games I play.

I go to get the mail and come back with a fistful of credit card solicitations and other junk. I have to sign up for a no-call list to avoid getting a dozen telemarketing calls each day.

There exists something called the " Bowl."

Billboards litter the landscape. When I pump gas, an ad on the pump handle informs me that candy bars are 3 for 99 cents. NASCAR... 'nuff said.

Ads are stuck to the floor at the grocery store, spoken in pleasant tones over the sound system, and printed on the back of my receipt. An ESPN college football analyst casually refers to the late-December bowls as "Capital One Bowl Week". During the half-hour before movies, when people used to chat pleasantly, we are now shown continuous ads for soda and pop music.

Blimps and airplanes pulling banners turn the heavens into ad space. A Super Bowl champion announces that he is going to Disneyland.

Am I worth anything beyond my ability to consume?

My apologies to Lonnie Jordan and WAR, but the following "lyrics" popped into my head as I reread this post:

Don't you know that it's true
That for me, and for you,
The world is a billboard...
(from The World is a Ghetto, by WAR)

When I first found this blog post, two things came to mind. First of all, the poster was absolutely correct. Advertising has gotten entirely out of hand, and the recent boom in stadium naming rights fees is a perfect example. I remember when the indoor arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey was first built, and the area was named the Brendan Byrne Arena, after the governor whose efforts were instrumental in getting it built. Made perfect sense to me. But then some years later, when the naming rights craze came along, the arena was renamed the Continental Airlines Arena. I suppose it made a kind of sense, since the Meadowlands complex is right next to Newark Airport, but still, to discount the man who built the place in favor of the highest bidder just seemed stupid to me.

Then the whole naming rights thing caught fire. Now it's actually rare to see stadium names like Camden Yards, named after the section of Baltimore where the stadium is located, or Shea Stadium, named after Bill Shea, who was instrumental in getting National League baseball back in New York (in the form of the Mets). Who can work up enthusiasm for the ridiculously named 3Com Park, or Minute Maid Park? I would think the Astros (who play in Minute Maid Park) were probably happier, at least from a stadium-name standpoint, with the Astrodome. Too bad the former Enron Field (now there was a cool name) couldn't have been built as a domed stadium, and too bad about that Ken Lay business that forced the team to strip Enron's name from the building in favor of Minute Maid...

My New York Mets will begin playing in a new stadium in the 2009 season, and there was much public support for the idea of naming the new stadium after Jackie Robinson. Even the City of New York got into the spirit of things by giving Interborough Parkway the new name Jackie Robinson Parkway, since its northern end lies right next to Shea Stadium. But then the team went and sold the naming rights to Citigroup, and so the new stadium will be Citi Field, which sounds utilitarian if you don't know the story (or see the spelling).

Another thing that struck me with this post, was that that original blog, and the site that hosted it, have disappeared into the ether. I don't really want to go trampling on anyone else's "intellectual property," but is it wrong to repost a blog entry or article from a defunct site? I totally agree with the sentiment, but with the site being down there's no way for me to contact the blogger to get permission to repost...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

When the Past Comes to Visit

Reposted from a Yahoo mailing list related to writing...
One of the strange aspects of web publishing is that it's ethereal. Unlike books, where the public can usually get their hands on an original edition. How many hard print authors would like to expunge their earlier works if only they could? A lot, I bet. Well, I can to some degree, and I've been exercising that right to date. But I probably won't forever. It's just going to take a lot of work to sort out and remove references to some early writers, artists and models who have asked to be 'edited out' of the history, or I have chosen to remove. That's the real work -- honoring those wishes.

Of course, as all the Myspace and other social network participants are about to find out, it's hard to totally remove your presence from the Net. How many people in their 40's to 60's are going to be haunted by strangeness they posted on Myspace in their teens or twenties? A lot. Especially given that everything on the net has been archived since the relatively recent arrival of the likes of Google. I've read that they have vast disk farms which will allow future wayback machinery to dig it all out as a function of time, even if the system today is clearly focused on caching and delivery current content. That old stuff, uncounted terabytes of content, is getting stored. Future detectives are going to have some very interesting and rewarding work (like publishing something in 2038 about a congressional candidate's Myspace postings in 2006).

Imagine if the detailed records of our current politician's activites in the Frat house in the 1960's or 70's was possible to dig out? Down to every girlfriend, every drug taken, every beer consumed, not to mention their immature thoughts about
everything imaginable. Every forgettable event and mistake in their lives. Despite pseudonyms, real identities aren't hard to figure out. A person's foolish youthhood should be forgotten and forgiven, not recorded in intimate detail forever. But I guess the Myspace bloggers will also represent most of the voters and journalists eventually, so maybe that strangeness will just be accepted as part of the culture. But that seems hard to believe today.

When I asked Shadar, the original poster, for his OK to repost this here, this was his reply:

Feel free to echo my comments into any forum you wish... although please attribute it to me as you indicate below. I suspect you might get some heated discussions out of it on some forums.

Digital culture is changing so fast its impossible to predict the future, but I do know that I'm glad I (and more importantly everyone else) has forgotten most of the insanity of my first 25 years on this planet. Also that I've never had to explain away any of that stuff in an interview because it was never recorded (we're talking 1960's and 70's). . Privacy and the forgetfulness of time are wonderful, wonderful things. People could re-invent themselves, and unless you had a criminal record (those were recorded for all time), then the 'old self' disappeared to be be replaced by the new.

And our ideas definitely change during our lifetime.

Problem with digital is that its all there staring at you forever... every single bit. Even if you erase it, if it left your PC, odds are somebody's else is keeping it. And now we have Google's disk farms recording (or about to record) the entire friggin' world. Ouch.