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Saturday, June 21, 2014

I Ate'nt Dead

...in fact, I have two posts in the works, one of which should be up later this weekend and the other of which I want to put up on the Fourth of July. I think I'm done with the tweaks to the blog, though I think it needs a logo of some sort and I want to change the URL (though chasingtherabbit dot blogspot dot com seems to be taken--lagomorphpursuit, perhaps?).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

We Interrupt Regular Programming for a Special Announcement

Sometime last night or this morning, I passed 2000 views. As of this writing, the counter is at 2012. Thanks a lot, all, and here's to the next 2000 readers.

We now return to our scheduled programming, already in progress.
--Alex Adrian, 4/8/'14

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Disney's Frozen



****1/2 Another worthy entry to the Disney Animated Canon. A well-made blend of action, humour, pathos, and the old Disney Magic. The songs are good, too.

After last week, I figured that we needed a breather, and what better breather than the latest Disney movie? I recently watched Frozen with my family and–oh, boy. I mean–wow. I'm not ready to declare the 2010s a new Disney Renaissance or anything crazy, but gee, that was good. The animation, the acting, the characters, the songs–Frozen is my new favourite Disney movie[1].

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fred Phelps, 1930-2014



A titan of hatred has fallen. Fred Phelps, founder-leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and homophobe par excellence, is dead. I don't know where to go with that. Fred Phelps, dead. Fred Phelps, dead. How do I take that? Do I mourn or rejoice? Should the LGBT community picket his funeral as a last "fuck you" to a man who made so many's lives Hell, or give the Phelps family and Westboro some respite, time to grieve and mourn?
[Fair Warning: When discussing Westboro, homophobia comes up, as do anti-Americanism and simple bigotry. If these offend you or are triggering, move along. The rest of you, click away…]

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm on hiatus for the first fourth of 2014; regular posting resumes in the Spring. Life once more got in the way; I started college and moved across Washington this year, so I've been in a bit of a vortex--perhaps "maelstrom" would be a better word. Once I get into the swing of things (and without classes which require vast essays to preoccupy the writing part of my brain), I should be able to devote more time to this blog.

Thank you for your patience and once again, Happy New Year!

--Alex Adrian, 12/31/'13-1/1/'14

Friday, April 12, 2013

Which Government Works Best?

I am a severe political junkie. This is probably bad for my mental health but I still am. I wake up to NPR, read the opinion and national/world sections of the paper with the same enthusiasm as that of my brothers for the funnies, receive weekly e-mail bulletins from Truthout, and generally stay well-informed, or try to. Politics is my obsession, my passion; I devote more time and thought to it than to anything, save perhaps this blog or my studies[1]. Consequently, I’ve been following the budget debate in the United States with some interest, and one thing has become clear to me: This isn’t about entitlements, or defence spending, or CCL adjustments, or what-have-you at all. This--the debt ceiling, sequestration, the fiscal cliff, the Ryan budget, all of it--is a great debate over what form of government is the most effective.
Think about it for a moment. On the one side, you have the Democratic Party, led by the President and Senate, for whom the ideal state is a liberal democracy, backed by a strong federal safety-net of the kind that existed between 1932 and 1981 or so. On the other, the Republicans, by which I mean the House of Representatives, who want to dismantle the social safety-net altogether, rewrite the social contract to exclude the parts concerning welfare, and incidentally balance the budget. In the middle, the citizens of the United States of America, 315 million strong, black, white, gay, straight, middle-class, working-class [2], Hispanic, descendents of English Puritans who came ashore from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, just arrived last Thursday, speaking English, Spanish, French, German, Swahili, Arabic, young, old, the pluribus that makes the Unum. I applaud the executive and legislative branches’ audacity but not their methods. A nation of 315 million is not a small thing; 47 percent--to borrow Mitt Romney’s infamous statistic--of 315 million is still quite a significant number, and they’re not controlling any variables, as countless science teachers have warned[3]. Still, the question does need answering, even if not in a nation of this size and complexity. To this end, I propose a small experiment:
Find a parcel of land somewhere uninhabited, or at least sufficiently sparsely populated that you needn’t worry about uprooting too many people. It doesn’t have to be very large--for our purposes, an area about the size of Belgium will do. Buy it. Now, cordon it off. As of now, this is an independent, sovereign nation, with its own laws, borders, and economy. Actually, it’s four microstates, for reasons I’ll explain in a second. Now that you’ve divided it up into these states, get people; you’ll need them. Control for population, population density, gender parity, racial/ethnic diversity, distribution of people, and age distribution. Also control for form and structure of government; each country will have a legislative assembly--call it the National Assembly, Congress, Parliament; the names are at present irrelevant--divided into an Upper and a Lower House (again, the names are irrelevant), a central Executive (probably best to call him a President--after all, these will all be republics), and a judicial branch and will be unitary, divided for administrative purposes into a number of districts--call them municipalities. But these are the only things for which you’ll be controlling. For beyond these simple factors, everything about the government will be completely different. Remember how I said earlier that this land would be divided into four countries. (For simplicity’s sake--and also because I’m lazy, so can’t be bothered to come up with better names--let’s call them Countries A, B, C, and D.) Each one of these will be run according to different principles of government, running the gamut from libertarianism through to Communism.[4]
Herewith, in alphabetical order, the individual countries:

 Country A

Country A is the only country that lacks a precedent outside of Ayn Rand’s brain and the tracts (I hesitate to use the word “writings”; it implies some level of conscious thought) of L. Neil Smith[5]. Yes, Country A is a state run according to the principles of laissez-faire economics, that the government that is best, governs least, and that the free market will solve all problems--in short, a libertarian (perhaps even an Objectivist) utopia. It is a state marked by:
  • The precept that government is all well and good in its place--out of the bedrooms, gun-lockers, and (especially) board-rooms, and preferably guarding the frontiers or building a road or a canal or something. Government interference is kept to a minimum, on the theory that ordinary decent law-abiding people will by and large do the right thing without some God-damn government bureaucrat somewhere telling them what to do. As a result, the government’s regulatory powers are in theory limited and in practice non-existent.
  • The government’s powers in general are limited; the only things it can do are protect the interests of the people (enforcing laws, of which there aren’t many, and settling disputes over property--and a lot of things are classed as property), maintain the country’s frontiers (raise a standing army and/or militia), and pay for those portions of infrastructure that private citizens can’t subsidize out-of-pocket (roads, canals, and the like--and the roads are for the most part funded by tolls). 
  • Given the lack of governmental support services, welfare is privatised, as is most of the other services a government provides in liberal democracies--schools, broadcasting, etc. The market is the final arbiter in all areas of life.
  • Taxes are low, limited to a single flat tax wherein everyone pays five percent of their income, no matter what they earn, and possibly also a national sales tax. The government is forbidden from collecting property, income, or any other kind of tax, besides those mentioned above.
  • In fact, the government is limited in what it can own--no more than, altogether, ten percent of Country A’s total surface area and whatever supplies and arms the army and national police force (assuming one exists) require. (Alternately, all land is privately owned; the national and local governments lease whatever space they require. Even by libertarian standards, though, that’s weird.)
  • Thanks to the aforementioned low taxes and massive privatisation, the country is a business heaven. Corporations flock there.

Country B

At the exact opposite end of the political/economic/statist/libertarian spectrum, we have Country B--perhaps a better name for it would be the People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of Country B. Country B is a Communist state--honest to Engels, Marxist-Leninist, possibly also Stalinist.
  
  • The economy is entirely planned, top-down. The state--through the Ministry of Economic Production--runs everything. Rationing is the primary method of conveying goods to the populace. You don’t like it, go to Country A or Country C, counter-revolutionary traitor scum!
  • The state owns. Absolutely. Everything. All industry is nationalised; all property is publicly owned, save for sundries such as toiletries, a suit of clothes or two, whatever food you’ve been allotted, and maybe a bicycle.
  • In addition, privacy, while not illegal as such, is looked upon with suspicion, as is a liking for solitude. After all, if you spend too much time alone, out in the countryside whilst not on a community hike, you could be plotting with the imperialist capitalists in Country A, Country C, or (gasp, whispering) Country D!
  • There is only one party, making elections somewhat pointless. They carry them out regardless.

Country C

“C” is for cookie, Communism, cats, Congress, and control--as in “-led variable”. Country C is the “control country”, a liberal democracy with a rather strong social safety net. It is probably the most “normal” of the four, marked by the following characteristics:
  •  As I said, there’s a strong--or at least decent--governmental safety-net, like that which exists in most of Europe, Canada, and Australia. Welfare, the dole, universal health care, the works.
  •  There exists a progressive tax structure: a national graduated income tax (inverse-pyramid wherein the rich pay more than the poor) value-added tax (no idea why), property tax, and perhaps a national sales tax for starters, though who’d be in favour of both VAT and a sales tax is beyond me.
  •  Note that “for starters”; government is fully capable of levying more taxes as it sees fit, unlike the Land of Everyone Pays Five Percent and Only Five Percent, Now and For Ever, Amen.
  •  Like Country A, Country C is capitalist and has a market economy; however, the government has broadly defined regulatory duties and powers (no horsemeat-contaminated beef here, no sir!) and some industries, though not all, are nationalised (tantamount to treason in Country A)--the post office, coal mining, rail transport, etc.
  •  Government has all the duties it has in Europe and America: it runs most of the schools, the postal service, some of the broadcasters, the military, the roads, the police and corrections[6], the utilities...


Country D

Stand back; this is where it gets weird. Country D is a fascist dictatorship, as existed in Italy under Mussolini, Germany under Hitler, and Spain under Franco[7]. This means:
  •  All power is centralised in the office of one all-powerful Leader. (Hail, Leader!) This Leader can declare war, order citizens arrested, unilaterally appoint judges and ministers (and dis-appoint them), and dissolve and call Parliament. (The Leader’s such a great guy!)
  •  While there is indeed a Parliament, it’s essentially pointless, existing only to approve the Leader’s every command and directive and generally burnish his ego and further his cult of personality.
  •  There is only one legal Party, that of the Leader. (Hail, Leader!) This makes elections even more pointless than Parliament.
  •  The State (in the form of the Leader[8]) is the paramount power; serving the State--preferably in a manner that involves a heroic death in one of the wars that the Leader (Hail, Leader!) is always fighting--the ultimate glory.
  •  Government employment carries with it some perks, namely sweet threads. Every civil servant and soldier, from the Leader (Hail, Leader!) down to the lowliest clerk, wears some class of uniform[9].
  •  The military is the most powerful force, political or otherwise, in Country D. The Leader (Hail, Leader!) is the commander-in-chief of the military, and holds the ranks of Leader (Hail, Leader!) and Supreme Marshall[10]. All able-bodied adult men must serve for at least five years in the military; if they do not, they’re labelled traitors to the state and sent to the salt mines[11] or somewhere equally unpleasant.

So...what happens next? Heck if I know; that’s the interesting bit. History, however, is an excellent precedent. Using what actually happened [12] in the real-life analogues of these four countries (for they do indeed have analogues insofar as governing is concerned, save Country A), we predict what will probably happen. Thus, I can predict with some certainty that:
  • Country B will have a thriving black and grey market to supply those things that the Ministry of Economic Production will be unable to supply, for there will be shortages of small things: Stockings, razor blades, bootlaces, deodorant, bread, that kind of thing[13].
  • Country A will most likely have massive economic inequality, with a few very, very rich people at the top controlling everything, the masses struggling to survive on a few dollars a day, and a very small middle class constantly getting screwed over[14].
  • Country D will be nearly bankrupt, gouging its citizens to pay for the wars the Leader (Hail, Leader!) is constantly waging and to upgrade its hardware to the newest, shiniest models. In addition, some percentage of the populace will have become radicalised and at least plotting against the Leader (Hail, Lead-Oh, forget it), if not in outright rebellion.
  • I have no idea what will be going on in Country C.
These are only things that will probably happen; and besides them, who knows? Country D could conquer the area entirely, Country A could undergo a Communist revolution and union with Country B, Country B could have a counter-revolution and embrace capitalism--I seriously do not know. That’s the beauty of thought experiments--you’re not constrained by the limits of practicality and probability. Anything could happen. These are just some thoughts.
 --Alex Adrian, 4/6/13
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[1] Just to prove my point, I offer the following evidence: We’re reading 1984 in my English class and were trying to come with three questions for discussion. I wanted to compare Ingsoc--the official Party ideology in the novel, Newspeak for “English socialism”--to various historical variants of socialism and Communism. My classmates didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about, and I flew off the handle, ranting about how apathetic Americans are and how in two to three years they’re going to affect public policy and on and on...My mom convinced me that maybe architecture is a bad idea for a future career and that I should think about going into public policy.
 [2] I’m not counting the rich into this discussion; they get enough help and attention already.
 [3] Hey, wait a second; if the GOP ignored their science teachers in high school, maybe that’s why they don’t seem to believe in evolution...
 [4] Yes, you probably could do this experiment over a few months or weeks with several thousand college students, but where’s the fun in that?
 [5] Haven’t a clue as to what I wanted to write here.
 [6] Does anyone else think that it’s a bad idea to privatise the prison system? What you’re doing essentially is creating a market and demand for prisoners.
 [7] Let’s not argue over whether the Soviet Union under Stalin was fascist or not, shall we? It’s a decent debate, but I don’t want blood on the carpet; bloodstains are very hard to get out. 
[8] Hail, Lead--Oh, you know the drill.
 [9] Basically, at least forty percent of the adult male population.
[10] Or, if we’re going to be Roman and shit about it, Dux; perhaps Duce, like Mussolini. Point is, Leader needs a fancy title. 
[11] Oh, yes, there will be salt mines. Y’ever hear of a totalitarian dictatorship where they didn’t have salt mines? Note: Find location with salt mines.
[12] Country A doesn’t have any real analogue, although it may, if the R’s have their way. Country B is based on any number of Communist countries; I’m thinking specifically of the Soviet Union. Country C is a moderate social democracy, probably closest to modern Germany. Country D is of course fascist, so probably looks a lot like Nazi Germany.
[13] Of course, there’ll be shortages. One of the problems of a command economy; it’s impossible to know what demand will be beforehand, so you guess. Generally, you low-ball it...
[14] You say this wouldn’t happen? That the free market, left to its own devices, will always make all people equally prosperous? Look around at America today; look at the inequality out there. Look at what thirty-odd years of free markets, absolutely unregulated, have brought, friend.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sloganeering



    What makes a slogan great? (Alex Adrian, Diary of an Atomic Man; you know the drill.) What is it that, simply put, causes a slogan to "stick" in our brains, causing us to remember it? And what causes one to become embedded in popular culture--essentially, mooring it in the cultural consciousness for all eternity? And are they all improved by the addition of the word "bitch"? Answers (sort of, and possibly with the exclusion of the "bitch" thing) to come in this week's exciting[1] installment of...The Diary of an Atomic Man!

    I must confess to some slight deception in the above paragraph, for while this is partly a look at the topics mentioned above, but mostly a sort of free-form, jazz-like--perhaps even improvisational...reflection, I guess you could call it...about them. Anyway, on with the show...

    Due to a minor case of writers' block, and because it has the most examples--that stick in my mind, at any rate--I'll start with Coca-Cola, the largest and most successful soft drink in the world. And it didn't get that way cos of any marketing gimmicks, no siree![2] No, indeed it did not--it's the slogans that stick, along with the distinctive bottle shape and logo design, which are out of this post's purview. Think about it: "The pause that refreshes"--one of the longest-sticking-around slogans, dating to 1929; "It's the real thing"--somewhat younger, but even stickier; "Enjoy Coca-Cola" or "Drink Coca-Cola"--a simple command, but everyone remembers it: the latter dates from the drink's creation, 1886; "How about a Coke?" dates from the Second World War and is simplicity itself.[3] 

    Or how about car companies...? While examples of single auto-makers and marques having multiple shifting slogans and said slogans sticking are thin on the ground--companies in this field are more likely to either pick one iconic slogan and stick with it or shift through slogans but only have one remembered; unlike soft drinks, a car is a Commitment, something you want to have around in ten or fifteen years, not something purchased for sixty-five cents and then casually tossed out--but the Ford Motor Company is a major exception, having not one, not two, but three--count 'em, three--major slogans in rotation at any one time. Lessee...there's "Built FORD Tough", a classic, though I'm not entirely sure as to whether or not it's for the line of trucks alone or not; in any case, it's what I always remember it as being for. Then, there's "Have you driven a Ford lately?"--a question, simple, clean, and elegant. Perhaps the simplest yet--and a canny restaging of the preceding, in my opinion--is this command:"Ford. Drive one." It's brief, blunt, and to the point: there's no circumlocution, no "You see, this car is superior cos...", no bull, just "Drive our cars."
    Other car-makers, however, lack the plethorae of slogans that Ford offers us--but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in lastingness. "Love. It's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru"--a good one, as it associates something everyone is theoretically in favor of--love--with the superior quality of Subaru's cars. "It's not oil. It's liquid engineering"--the sort of thing that absolutely demands to be said in a thick Germanic accent: "Leek-veed ehnchenheerink". Chrysler is another special case; while it's famous under the slogan "another fine Chrysler product", it recently shifted to "Imported from Detroit", which is factually questionable, as most of the parts aren't even made in America, let alone Detroit; however, in that it appeals to American patriotism, it's rather good–look at what we used to be, it seems to be saying, and look what we can be. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, and on a slightly sillier note:"'MURRICKA!"
     Saturn (GM's hip, with-it, youth-orientated marque–and if you're wondering why a car company would need such a thing, you're not a GM marketing executive) is, from this point, something of an outlier as it had during its twenty-odd years of existence a multitude of slogans, including "Rethink."(yes, that's the actual spelling and punctuation; it started out as "Rethink American.", which not only sounds rather odd and disturbing to me–Why should GM, a car company, tell me how to define my national self-identity? I mean, I'm familiar with the expression, "What's good for General Motors is good for America", but even so–but is also a nice example of the car companies=AMERICA! trope I've noticed); most before this final one, though, focussed on the oh-we're-so-innovative-and-completely-different from-other-car-companies angle, with, in chronological order:"What kind of car is that? It's a Saturn[Oh, I thought it was a Ford]!" being used for the first year of its existence; from 1989-1994 "A different kind of car company." (US–and how is this company different from other car companies? In what ways do the cars differ? Do they run on unicorn-power and have rainbow exhaust fumes that don't pollute? Cite your sources! Show your work on a separate piece of paper!) and "We've reinvented the automobile" (Canada–And if anything, this is even more idiotic than the American slogan. You've reinvented the auto, eh? What aboot it? It looks like any other auto to me; it still has an internal-combustion engine, four wheels, and an interior. Plastic body-panels do not a reinvention of the automobile make! Anyway…); from 1994-2007 they abandoned the idea of separate American and Canadian slogans altogether, using "A different kind of company,a different kind of car" for both markets, a trend that would continue until 2007 with the use of "It's different in a Saturn(HOW!?2002-'04)", "People First(I have nothing to say to that; '04-'06)", "Like always. Like never before(How's that humanly possible? '06-'07 US; '06-?? Canada)", and the above-mentioned "Reinvent." This last would prove to be Saturn's final slogan, as the marque was shuttered, along with Pontiac and Hummer, in the Great General Motors Reorganization of 2010.

    I recognize that automobiles are not essential for continued human existence, Twenty-First Century American culture and urban design notwithstanding. Food, however, is, and not everyone can hunt or grow their own. On account of this fact an industry devoted to the sale, manufacture, and marketing of food has arisen. Okay, statement of the perfectly, blitheringly obvious over. Now, the slogans. Weirdly popular is "Good things come to those who wait", which has been used by both Heinz and Guinness at various times and in many other contexts by many people. Fast food restaurants are famed for having memorable slogans: "Have it your way", "I'm lovin' it", "Where's the beef?", to name just a few. Arby's, having long been an underdog of sorts in the Fast-Food Wars[4], have recently upped the game; whilst they retain their traditional roast-beef and comfort food menu, they've rolled out the slogan (sung, of all things):"It's Good Mood Food". What does that even mean? Is it an equation of Arby's food with good feelings? Does Arby's contain special endorphins guaranteed to cheer you up? If I feel sad or depressed whilst eating Arby's, can I sue the company for false advertising? All in all, it's a pretty stupid slogan. Wendy's "Where's the beef?" has had considerably more cultural impact–indeed, it could be called a meme–owing to, among other things, its use during the 1984 presidential campaign–in context, questioning Gary Hart's qualifications–though it didn't help Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, who ended up losing to Ronald Reagan by the largest margin since Franklin Roosevelt beat Alf Landon in 1936; Wendy's resurrected the slogan–sort of–in 2011, answering its own question with "Here's the beef". In the intervening years the slogan has become a catchphrase in the United States and Canada, carrying with it a connotation of "There's something fishy, here; what gives, Mac?"
     On the subject of beef, I suppose I ought to mention a certain very famous beef slogan, the American Beef Council's "Beef. It's what's for dinner."(You don't know that–I could very well be having chicken, or fish, or a green salad.) Taco Bell's "Think outside the bun" is…odd; Mexican food is one of the most popular varieties of restaurant food in America today (for which I've no doubt Taco Bell would take the lion's share of the credit), and tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, salsa, refried beans, and other Mexican staples are stocked on supermarket shelves alongside ground beef, chutney, and cream of tomato soup. This has happened for a number of reasons; firstly, because of the many Mexican and Central American immigrants who have came to the United States in search of economic opportunities and a better life for themselves and their children and grandchildren[5];secondly, because it is delicious, filling, and easy to prepare;and thirdly–though this last be going out on a limb–because of the increasingly broad and sophisticated taste of the American consumer. I can see, though, why Taco Bell would go out on a limb to advertise its menu; though I cannot claim to understand or speak for the average American consumer–indeed am probably not "the average American consumer", as marketing companies and pollsters and Gallup have defined him–I can see why a fellow, wanting cheap sustenance, but unsure of whether to go with Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, or Taco Bell, would hesitate over the latter choice. After all, that's Mexican food; Uncle Gary was once laid up for three weeks after eating some chili de la Dios in Guadalajara[6]! I guess (he thinks) I could give it try; once never hurt anyone, and Grandma always said it never hurt to try something new…

    Now, to broadcasting. Since the turn of the last century, broadcast media has metamorphosed from a tiny group of crackpots with crystal radios into the largest industry, hands-down, in the United States. To this author at this time, however, the circumstances under which this rise to dominance occurred are immaterial; only one thing, here and now, matters, and that's the slogans that networks have employed over the years. "This–is CNN, Cable News Network", while it can't possibly be the only reason for the cable network's success, must surely have factored in it to some degree, owing to (a) its simplicity–CNN's not trying to be cutesy, coy, or humorous about its existence; it's just telling you who and what it is; and (b) the fact that the announcer is James Earl Jones. This last may be as or more important than the first, as, well–it's James Earl bloody Jones. You know, Darth Vader? Mustafa? The owner of, without a doubt, the richest, most melodious voice in America–nay, the world–today? If Jones's baritone proclamation that This. Is. CNN! isn't reason number one for its success, it's certainly in the top ten.  
 Other networks, of course, have slogans, memorable ones, though the "this is___" format is among the commonest; what this is caused by–uncreativity, laziness, a desire to reiterate what the viewer is reading in the lower left-hand corner of the screen–is beyond me. Take, for instance, the USA Network's "Characters welcome". USA has been one of the pioneers in the cable TV revolution of the last decade, along with AMC and HBO; the slogan has (I think, and I've not checked with anyone at USA for confirmation of this) a double meaning, referring to both the character-driven dramas with which the network made its name, and "character" in the sense of someone eccentric, unusual, or memorable. Again, that's only a theory, and a half-baked one at that, but I'd not be surprised if it's true. A&E, the Arts and Entertainment People Yelling at One Another for teh Dramaz with Occasional Biography Specials Network, reflects its priorities with "Real Life. Drama." Yes, A&E; we get that you're all about the drama, now give us something other than reality TV7! Speaking of reality-TV cable schlockmeisters, who says "I want my MTV" anymore, except for lunatics who suddenly start spouting TV catchphrases during breakdowns and time-travellers from the 1980s (two groups which, admittedly, have very little else in common)? For most of the past decade, it's not shown any music videos whatsoever, relying, instead, on so-called "reality" shows of varying but oftentimes low quality, Jersey Shore the show that must under no circumstances be named starring annoying orange people and that defames the good names ( let's not joke) of both Italian-Americans and residents of New Jersey. (The Garden State itself, of course, has done little to improve its reputation as the armpit of the nation, as the primary things the state was known for before The Unspeakable premiered were: (a) being the state near New York that wasn't New York; (b) Mafia; (c) industrial parks; and (d) interstate highways. Maybe, maybe, you knew that Frank Sinatra was from Hoboken; maybe not. Oh, and Princeton. Anyway…)

…And All the Rest!

    The following paragraphs are my flailing, desperate attempts to cover everything I didn't get to above. First, for no discernable reason, one company–Ivory Soap. The story of how Ivory obtained its trademark buoyancy–of how a worker one day overmixed the soap/air ratio, causing the resultant product to float, and how this was an unexpected, rip-roaring success–are well-known enough that I feel no need to repeat them, here; it is, of course, that same property which inspired the slogan "99 and 44/100 Pure–it Floats", in a canny example of changing an apparent flaw into a product's main selling point.
    If one thing has completely and utterly altered life, art, commerce–anything you can think of, really–over the past twenty-some years, it would have to be the Internet. From a bunch of geeks in universities to the biggest thing ever, it now permeates every facet of our life. Now, the slogans. Apple Computer, though it's never had a majority market-share–its representation in the movies and on TV notwithstanding–has nonetheless made one of the most memorable commercial campaigns in the Twentieth Century, with "Think Different"–O dangling, ungrammatical, lopped-off adverb!–accompanied by a picture of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and cetera. Wikipedia has called itself "the free encyclopedia" for years–its entire existence, in fact.
    Insurance companies have been at war with each other over which one of them is best at keeping the cars, loved ones, and assets of Johnny and Jane Yank from fire, theft, and other disasters. In this war, they have deployed various slogans–long-lasting ones, memorable ones–to advance their products. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there", has managed to last for decades, though when it was introduced, I've no clue. Of course, there's no need to mention GEICO and "fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or less on car insurance"; while the claim that switching to GEICO is "so easy a caveman could do it" (cue image of an urbane, well-dressed caveman enjoying the life of a hip bachelor) has been and gone–however, it became a mercifully short-lived national craze, inspiring a mercifully short-lived ABC sitcom–it's been replaced by two concurrently running campaigns alongside the longer-running Gecko adverts: Firstly, a stack of dollar bills with googly eyes (representing, apparently, "the money you saved by switching to GEICO), and secondly, a smooth-voiced chap who asks, "could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance?" then presenting a rather odd rhetorical question–along the lines of  "Is the Pope Catholic?" but much weirder. Allstate, meanwhile, has eschewed the silliness that is GEICO's stock-in-trade, presenting a baritone-voiced black man talking about, amongst other things, why it's a bad idea to allow teenagers to drive unsupervised (teens' brains aren't fully developed, and won't be until they turn twenty-four); the spots invariably end with "That's Allstate's stand. Are you in good hands?" Farmers Insurance has the inexplicable "We are Farmers–Bumbumpabumpabum"; what does that mean? Are they trying to say that they're farmers, that their employees spend their time that's not spent selling insurance tilling the soil? Alternatively, are they trying to state that their identity comprises solidarity with the workingman, the farmer, and the farmhand?  The mind boggles as to the possibilities.

    Conclusion

    I could go on. However, this post is beginning to get a bit long, and I will clearly need to revisit this subject. I have begun to realize that a product does not get sold on slogan alone, that it takes a combination of a clever ad concept, memorable campaign7, and also a slogan, as a part of the other two, to sell a product. Whether you're selling soap, jeans, soda, or cars, the rules–in broad strokes, at least–are the same.

I dreamt  I wrote this post in my Maidenform bra (not really ;)}
--Alex Adrian, twilight hours of 7/16/'12 and 7/17/'12
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1. Yeah, right.
2. Indeed, whenever Coke introduced marketing gimmicks, the results have oft been abject failures. Besides the New Coke fiasco–next post, I'll get to that–as Bill Bryson relates in his fantastic Made in America, the company apparently once rolled out Coke flavored cigars.
3. I have absolutely no idea what this footnote is for. I'm serious.
4. You joke about this, but it really happened. Mayor McCheese's heroic last stand before the Burgerian Royal Army, Ronald McDonald and the Burger King in single combat, Wendy tussling with the Hamburglar–Death to McDonald! Find McNinja–he'll help us! We must never forget.
5. I find it ironic that many of the talking heads, politicians, and pundits now expressing anti-immigrant sentiment are the descendents of immigrants–from Europe, yes, but still immigrants–and they presumably came to the States for much the same reasons undocumented immigrants now head north. In conclusion, this is why you should support the DREAM Act of 2010.
6. The story of Gary Smith, who, after eating the Chili de los Dios in Guadalajara, developed severe diarrhea and was rushed to a hospital, whereupon he spent over three weeks confined to bed rest and an additional five weeks with a severe burning sensation in his mouth, is, while an interesting one, a story for another day.
7. However, this can be an two-edged sword; if a campaign is sufficiently memorable, the product that it was selling can be forgotten altogether, with no increase in sales.