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The Expansionist
Thursday, July 26, 2007
 
Insane Commercials. New technologies have given advertisers the ability to create extraordinary images and sounds that bear no relation to reality. Being able to do something is not, however, reason enuf actually to do it. Levi Strauss & Co. is currently running an extremely bizarre and incomprehensible commercial for 501 jeans.
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(I pass over the fact that 501 jeans have a button fly, which is probably the stupidest affectation in men's clothing today. The zipper was invented 90 years ago. Isn't it time to put it into all of Levi's jeans? 505's have zippers. Let's retire 501's to the graveyard of once-useful devices like the buggy whip. Of course, some old things can become new again, like the nonpolluting, eco-friendly, non-greenhouse-gas-producing treadle-drive for sewing machines. Indeed, might we put treadles or similar human-powered drive systems into use for multitudinous other devices? If we had treadle TV's, this country wouldn't be nearly so fat.)
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In this puzzling but visually striking — if destructive — Levi's commercial, a young man starts to pull up his jeans, and his tugging on his jeans starts to pull a telephone booth and a whole other world up thru the floor of his room. He lowers the jeans a moment, and all the intruding things from the outside world lower back down thru the floor, out of sight. But he does need to put on his pants, after all. He also wants to see what happens. So he pulls his jeans up all the way, and the outside world smashes his floor to splinters and he is in the other world, with a young woman who saw him pulling up his pants and presumably liked what she saw. What the hell is all that supposed to mean? Why on Earth would such a grotesque and insane commercial be created, paid for, and aired on national TV?
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(There is, I see, a gay version of this same commercial, in which the person in the telephone booth who sees this guy with his pants partway down is a goodlooking young man, and after the first guy pulls up his pants, the two young men go off together. That version apparently airs only in places like the supposedly 'gay' cable channel Logo — which, however, is actually militantly antigay, endlessly pushing women at men and indicating by word and deed that women are the only important thing in the world. I wonder if Levi Strauss & Co. has any idea how few gay men can stand to watch Logo, which is 70% female, 10% "transgender", 10% transvestite, and only 10% male.)
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There is a similar grotesque commercial for some beverage in which what looks like a Transformer or aggregation of trash jogs thru streets, destroying things along the way, and progressively shedding bits of trash until a single human being, an athletic male jogger, is revealed. The commercial is apparently for some energy drink, but I can't remember which one — which is something the advertiser needs to consider. Yes, we notice strikingly bizarre commercials, but we don't necessarily know what they're supposed to be selling.
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A Lexus commercial followed the insane Levi's commercial in some program I was watching tonite. In that commercial a sea of what appeared to be gray, marble-sized balls or globes of indeterminate composition is scattered by a speeding car, which swirls them out of the way, in wake-like fashion. Why? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I was so puzzled as to what that commercial was for that I watched thru the end to identify the advertiser. But that 's the only reason I knew the ad was for Lexus. The striking visuals said absolutely nothing about the quality or performance of that particular brand of automobile. So why would it persuade anyone about anything?
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We are surrounded by techno-crazy infants in advertising and media who surround us with swirling images of violence, destruction, and incomprehensible, pointless movement and noise, as entertainment and advertising. What does any of it mean? Nothing, for the most part. It's just an attempt to capture attention. But if it says nothing, we are left puzzled and irritated. Why are you wasting our attention on this nonsense, this crazy, meaningless, extravagant, and pointless motion and sound? We may be couch potatoes, but we are not infants lying on our backs looking up at a mobile. At least a baby's mobile familiarizes an infant with basic three-dimensional shapes, visually and tactilely. The ultraviolent and destructive, explosive images we are now assailed by in advertising and entertainment do nothing useful for us. Shakespeare said it 300 years ago: this crap is but "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing". (Macbeth, Act V, Scene v)
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,645 — for Israel.)



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