Thursday, August 18, 2005

Aaron vs. Consumer "Help"
You've all noticed it. The snide comments and sniggers from the executives that you'll never have the priviledge of overhearing through that impermeable glass ceiling... well, those you might not have noticed. But the signs, omens, portents and shards of disrespect falling like stalagmites upon us are clear: consumer help and the advertisements designed to guide us are - unsuprisingly - of no help at all.
Take this nugget of wisdom, for example, that stands resolute in a local McDonald's, defying grease stains and graffiti to announce: "All purchases will be packaged 'to go' 20 minutes before closing. This policy is for the the safety of our employees and customers. [sic]" I threw the [sic] in there just so you know that's word-for-word what's written, "thus" to be specific for the Latin (yes, someone has been studying grammar, and it is - sadly - me). Now, pay close attention to the latter portion of that cloying remark: "for the safety of." How does making everything "'to go'" help serve and protect the average McD's consumer? (Average, of course, being all of us.) No, this is an extra serving of lies to go with your fries, as much smoke blinding you as there is ice in your coke. I hope you enjoy this first of many qualassurpurps (quality assurance purposes), as Safire mentioned recently. In case I've lost you in all the parenthetical packaging of this paragraph: good, that's the point. Because what the hell are we even talking about, anyway?

Let's move on to further obsfucation: AOL, Belkin, &c. technical support. We actually broke a phone yesterday in the Riccio household, trying to get a goddamn human voice. Sorry for the strong language, but you aren't hearing the half of what foul curses spilled out during our electronic exodus. Forty days and forty nights are nothing compared to the pain and suffering of digital limbo. An example of conversation might go something like this - and I swear AOL's computer voice is smarmy and tongue-in-cheek:

"Now, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your computer," here I am, jamming on the 0 button. "Well, I could connect you to a human operator, but THAT'S... going to take a while. I, on the other hand, am ready to advise and assist you with the same capacity. If you'd like to continue my services, please say ye-" "No! No, absolutely not." I'm pressing 0 like a madman now, until finally... "I'm going to have to ask you a few questions first..." The pre-recorded voice has returned, and not only isn't it listening, but it's smug about that. Are we really that cocky, AOL, that we can assert our computers are as efficient as human help? Or have you outsourced so much that in fact you know computers are more effective, or at least more understandable? Either way, you still aren't telling us anything.

One final example of how you've managed to pervade our society without actually giving us anything. Check out this week's "The New Yorker" - the actual print copy. You'll notice immediately from the three inside and back covers that there's some redundancy. In fact, I would go so far to assert that every advertisement in the magazine is for Target, each drafted by a different artist as part of a special "project." The name of that project? Brainwashing, perhaps. Either way, there's nothing redeemable about the campaign: it's pure product placement, with only those hypnotic red target signs suffusing (and here's the 'meta'-art) all of New York City.

No matter where we turn, fiction or reality, we're going to come face-to-face with the same old campaigns and disassociative cognizance, the stuff brought about by these villanous (and for the most part unseen) CEOs. I group them all - yes, all - into the same category. Whether you're lying blatantly through non-informative messages, doing the same through sickening adverts or preventing us from ever contacting the human voice behind it all, advertising and the consumer "help" it promises is nothing but a wet dream, and one that we only think (through years of commerical programming) is going to be enjoyable.

HERE'S A MUSIC VIDEO! "A Million Ways," by OK Go!

boo-yeah to: Friends. I mean, where the heck would I be without people willing to help me revise a new bridge bidding system? Or people to hang out with on a lazy Wednesday afternoon? Or a sultry Friday evening? You guys are all so completely different, I don't think I could ever have a party and bring you all together to do something. But it sure would be interesting.

MY LIFE (an update): I have purpose, namely to get my portfolio of creative writing up to 150 pages, double spaced, so that I can get it entered in the Iowa contest (judged by one of my idols, George Saunders). I have a feeling that they'll be looking for stuff more extensive than what I've got, but I'll make up for it with some awesome diversity. At the least, I'll be writing a lot of stuff over the next month, and thankfully, I've got a muse back in my life. Let's hope that I can go completely bliztkreig on the keyboard (the one I haven't broken from frustration from two days worth of customer "service") and churn out some fantastic stuff.

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