Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hey lady, do you really need that Mr. Sticky?

"Our enormously productive economy...demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption...We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."
-Victor Lebow. The Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955.

Shopping. This is what happens when you've been suffering from insomnia for about 10 days - It's late in the evening, you're at Zellers, sluggishly pushing around a shopping cart, gathering goods for a birthday party you're hosting the next day.

A woman's voice is heard through the store speakers, "Attention shoppers, in 2 minutes, we will be giving away FREE special gifts that are part of a unique promotion. These products are not found in the store, but are only available FREE in 2 minutes where you see the laser lights. Don't miss this RARE opportunity to receive FREE products!"

And you think, "hey! FREE... FREE stuff! what can be bad about that? maybe they're giving away samples of face cream and hair conditioner, that would be good, because I'm almost out. Oooo, I see the coloured lights on the ceiling.... preeeeetty. I....must...go...there" And so you do, you and five other people. When you arrive, the smart part of your brain wakes up just a little, just enough to make you realize you will have to listen to some stupid, live infomercial, and why the hell are you there, because this is soooo not you, but then most of your brain goes back to sleep and you go on to fantasize about the amazing, free products you'll receive.

A pretty, young woman arrives and stands behind a little temporary counter. She whispers to the tiny audience, telling everyone to gather around real close, because you are special, you are now the chosen ones, the ones who have heeded the call, and only you get the free stuff, no one else is allowed into your special club. And your sleepy brain looks around to the middle aged couple, the two senior women, the college guy with the tattoos (?!) and you think, "yes, these strangers are my family now, thanks pretty infomercial lady for helping us bond"

Pretty infomercial lady (or PIL, as I like to call her) hands out the first free gift, a tiny cloth for cleaning the lenses of your glasses or computer screen. PIL says you can't buy the cloth in stores and it's made in Sweden. Your sleepy brain says, "ooooo.... Europe, that's C-L-A-S-S-Y". PIL then tells you, in her hypnotizing whisper, that you must hold onto the cloth, keep it visible, because that will be your ticket to get the truly special free products. Only your exclusive, elite, new Zellers family holding these cloths are allowed this privilege. You hold the cloth close to your heart, waiting attentively for the moment when you will wave it in exchange for fabulous goods.

PIL then introduces you to Mr. Sticky, a lint roller, unlike any lint roller you've ever seen. You watch as Mr. Sticky's sticky rubber core effortlessly picks up lint and hair and even pepper from a black velvet cloth. You're sleepy brain believes Mr. Sticky could even pick up a 200 lb sleeping St. Bernard off your carpet. Mr. Sticky is impressive, and lucky you is about to get your very own Mr. Sticky. But NO! PIL says she can't give Mr. Sticky away for free, and you can feel her heart-sick regret, because if it was up to her, she'd give you Mr. Sticky. But don't despair, because there's travel Mr. Sticky and you brighten and think, "oh, I can then carry Mr. Sticky in my purse!" But you don't get that either! but wait....there's... BIG MR. STICKY and PIL pulls out a broom size Mr. Sticky and you gasp and think, "NO WAY! we REALLY get to have BIG MR. STICKY! OMG!" and you tighten you're grip on your precious cloth ticket." Just then, PIL's enchanting powers fade as she says, "little Mr. Sticky and big Mr. Sticky are free when you purchase regular Mr. Sticky for $29.95, just bring your 'ticket' to the cashier to claim your package."

At that moment, the smart part of your brain, the one that's been tossing and turning throughout PIL's performance, abruptly awakes and says, "Don't be an idiot, what did you expect?!"

The two seniors were visibly excited and bought Mr. Sticky. At $30 bucks, it's not even a deal for some sticky rubber and plastic. Just more useless junk to fill our houses.

I first heard the quote (on the top of this post) from a great little film, The Story of Stuff which you can watch online. It's eye opening and worth a watch. I'm finding the more time I spend reading and thinking about the connections and consequences of our consumer culture, it becomes harder and harder to turn off that knowledge. The suburban wasteland, with it's houses jammed with stuff and a Walmart always close by, is the great model of consumerism.

PIL's performance is a blue pill, contained, simple, superficial, never having to go beyond the wonder of a lint free house. Reality is the red pill.

As Morpheous said to Neo in The Matrix, "This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

(p.s - I don't have insomnia anymore thank god.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Little One

My oldest daughter is turning 9 this week. When she was 7, I promised her I would redecorate her room for her 9th birthday. I'm sure that was only 4 weeks ago! (my perception of time frightens me). She wants her room painted bright pink, orange and lime green. I'm devising some kind of eye protection, surely my retinas will burn during this project.

She also has this new chair which she has decided to live in for the past 2 days.

As she rolled down the hall, she shouted,"Look mom! I never have to use my legs again. I can just wheel EVERYWHERE!"

I may have to install a safety bar beside the toilet after her legs atrophy.

I chose the above baby picture because it's cute (but as her mother I'm sure I can objectively say every picture of her is just so cute and beautiful) and, doesn't her sun hat put on backwards make her look like a baby Storm Tropper? Appropriate as dad is a bit of a Star Wars fanatic. And related to this, here is someone who had put their Storm Tropper collection to good comedic use.

Now I'm off to bed to get ready for that big painting project tomorrow. G'night

More Traveling Sketchbook

"The Pearl"

This is my contribution to Katie's traveling sketchbook. I'm a bit late in posting this, it's been sent off to Australia and I'm in the midst of working on Dinah's now. If you double click on the image, it becomes actual size. Katie, an artist who works with stained and fused glass, painted a vibrant, geometric, abstract design on hers and added stamping and string. I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture but you can see it here.

My youngest daughter enthusiastically posed for me for this illustration. I'm working on another illustration with my older, 8 year old daughter, but she keeps trying to negotiate some form of payment, "A dollar a minute mom, so for every 5 minutes I pose, you give me 5 bucks okay?" The big payout of course, didn't happen, but I admire her audacity. She has all the makings of a lawyer or politician (god forbid).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blogging Intermission

My sleepy, uneventful summer suddenly became busy with a camping vacation and lots of outdoor day trips around Vancouver. The computer was mostly forgotten. I'm still not quite 'back' mentally, so forgive me for all the unanswered emails or blogs I haven't visited lately.

Yesterday I was back at White Rock. The air was balmy and the ocean felt like bath water, it was so relaxing. I realize I've become pretty attached to this place. Now if I just had about a million dollars, I could buy myself a little ocean front condo to breath in this air every weekend.

I spotted this 'dog' walking by with it's owner.

It may not be so recognizable in this picture, but seeing him in person you can tell this dog is mostly a wolf. I stopped the owner to ask for sure and she said he was a rescued dog and yes, mostly wolf, a little bit husky. When I asked to take a picture, she noticed the book I was reading about crows and ravens and said it was a great book. She happens to be a zoologist and had read the book. Ravens and wolves have always been associated with each other as the ravens follow wolves to get food from a successful wolf hunt. A chance meeting with a zoologist and her pet 'wolf' who has read the same obscure book on crows and ravens as I had in my hand, it gave me some kind of fleeting 'geek' high. Sometimes it's a small, synchronous, connected little world in which we live.

I also noticed this shoe along the shoreline, luckily no foot inside.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cowboys in Suburbia

Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 words that would make me flee-

1) Fire!
2) Bomb!
3) Rodeo!

And rodeo it was last weekend. As much as I wanted to run away, I stubbornly stayed put, because having wasted that much money on admission, overpriced toxic food and carnival games, I was damn well going to see more than sheep and goats looking bored in barns (note to self: do not wear sandals to these events, hence the squishy stuff on the bottom of them).

We didn't last more than 15 minutes into the rodeo. When it comes to cowboys, I've discovered I'm not the only one with this aversion, at the very least, people don't seem to like hearing songs about them. Dave Soldier composed "The Most Unwanted Song" based on a poll of over 500 Americans. He concluded:

The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and "elevator" music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population would enjoy this piece.

I challenge you to listen to it here. It won't be on any of my playlists but I appreciate the concept, absurd and ridiculous, words I relish.

If the world doesn't like cowboy lyrics, they must like cowboy photography. This photograph by Richard Prince sold for $1,280,000.

This print is "re-photography", appropriated from the Marlboro Man advertising. It's not so much about cowboys as it about pop culture and iconic images in American culture.

Now that you've had your fill of Cowboy conceptual art, I reckon this little lady better git herself some shut eye. I'm plum tuckered out. Before I do, if you want to insult some one in Old West slang, you can find what you need here. I think my favorite is, "His mustache smelled like a mildewed saddle blanket after it had been rid on a soreback hoss three hundred miles in August". Having been away from the internet for a while, I realize after coming back, I've gone a little crazy web surfing. I'm pretty sure I'll never look for another cowboy related link again. Later partner...