May 26, 2005
I read a Matt Taibbi piece a while ago about the disturbing use of mannequins in advertising. Here in Sydney just recently we saw the re-emergence of a similar campaign that had seemed so wrong-headed the first time it came out it seemed impossible that the commercials could have been successful and, yet, here they were again. The campaign first ran a few months ago to publicise the opening of a local multi-level suburban mall, and involved television and poster ads featuring a young woman shopping while accompanied by a talking ventriloquist dummy. (Or possible a puppet without strings, it's not entirely clear.) She'd look at products and the dummy would say obsequious things like "Of course you need a pair of diamond stilettos", or (as she peruses a menu) "What looks good, apart from you?", or - my personal, skin-crawling favourite - "If it makes you feel good, it's a bargain." Even if we discount the longstanding horror-movie tradition of animated puppets, what normal person could not find these ads anything but irredeemably creepy? My local bus stop sported the most grotesque example, in which the dummy watches our heroine while she sleeps (Caption: "Your hair looks beautiful on the new sheets"). This is supposed to encourage people to shop? As opposed to, say, awake screaming in the night, running with sweat and clutching at the covers?
What disturbs me is that the ads must have worked with their target demographic because they were brought back, at least as bus shelter posters. Perhaps there's
some everything about the advertising industry that I don't understand. I'd hate to think this was the average woman's idea of a perfect man, a fawning marionette that follows them about and validates their purchases.
At any rate, the posters have gone again now, the bus shelters now feature the teaser campaign for Hollywood's most recent exploration of the theme of beautiful people with guns, and the world seems a sunnier place.
May 25, 2005
Two Idle Thoughts
This refusing to comment on current events is working out just swell, isn't it? See, this is why I can't make small talk at parties - I'm only really interested in religion and politics.
I think I'm going to have to significantly lower my threshold of what I consider non-trivial enough to post. This will likely involve me simply posting every nonsense thought that occurs to me. Two examples should suffice to illustrate why I have resisted this approach so far:
I was ruminating, for no reason at all, on the legend of Cassandra. Beloved by Apollo, she was granted by him the gift of prophecy, to see the future with perfect clarity. However, for spurning the god's advances, she was cursed with the proviso that her prophecies would never be believed by anyone.2.
It occurred to me that if Apollo's original gift had been bona fides then his spiteful codicil would have been superfluous, because it follows naturally that a prediction, at least of events other than natural disasters and similar phenomena beyond human control, can only be accurate if it is not believed. Had the people of Troy accepted Cassandra's forecasts of doom, they would have acted to prevent these events from occurring, thereby making her prophecies false. A prophetess can only correctly perceive the future actions of people if these actions remain uninfluenced by that perception.
If I had the necessary theoretical grounding, I could perhaps proceed now to compose some monograph on pre-Homeric conceptions of the Uncertainty Principle, but, thankfully, I don't.
Reading through some neglected back issues of Interzone, I discovered in David Langford's list of brief obituaries that the number of the year of Christopher Reeve's birth (discounting the century) was the same number as his age at death, that is, fifty-five. Morbidly, I began to consider how the number of people of whom this would also be true would fluctuate over the years of any century.And there you have it.
In most centuries, including the 20th, and, for that matter, the 21st, there would be a significant peak at the beginning of the century accounting for the deaths of the very young. I would guess - students of infant mortality statistics should be able to make a better calculation - this peak would sharply decline at about '08 to a very low figure which would remain low throughout the rest of the century before rising again in the decades of the '50s to '80s (earlier centuries would have earlier inclines, but even in the 20th the impact of Third World lifespans on the average would bring the first appearance of a peak quite early). I was born in 1966, and so have only a moderate, and not extreme, chance of fitting into this numerological quirk myself - touchwood. After the '80s, the numbers steeply decline again.
Depressingly, the 20th Century is marked by a prominent peak in the first three years of the 1920s, these being the birth years of those who turned 20, 21 and 22 during the years of, respectively, 1940, 1942 and 1944. This spike is most noticeable for the populations of Europe and the Mediterranean regions, the Middle East, Asia, Australasia and North America, before disappearing almost entirely in these areas, although parts of South East Asia would have such a peak also appearing in the 1930s.