Jul 25, 2007

Masters of the single entendre

This poem appears on the sidewalk near the building where I work. It's very simple, some might say too simple and safe even for public art in Seatte, but I've always liked it. The idea is that art can be changed, even slowly destroyed, by its own audience. It can be as simple as a lame punchline etched in cement, subject to the ignorance and abuse of all who pass by it. Art doesn't always have to be precious or even profound, and that often makes it more beautiful.

So I'm walking to the bus stop after work, a few feet behind three amicable-looking dudes (yeah, pretty much dudes), and they notice the poem on the sidewalk:

Dude #1: "A Poem To Be Worn". How do you wear a poem?
Dude #2: I don't know. Is it supposed to be like fashion or something, maybe?
Dude #3: You just lie down on it! That's how you wear it!
Dude #2: No, 'cause then it would be wearing you!
(more laughter)
Dude #1: Seriously, what the hell does that even mean...?

I had to stop listening at that point, otherwise I would have torn off my own arm and clubed them to death with it.


Is this what art critics feel like all the time?

Jul 10, 2007

I'm not lovin' it

McDonald's, your advertising confounds me lately. And before anyone asks:
Yes, I pay attention to commercials. I find them interesting barometers of what people who want to sell me stuff think of me. I am very sensitive to what people think of me.
And yes, most commercials are shallow, pandering and infantile, but at least I can understand what they're trying to say without having to use my brain at all.

So I must ask, what is happening over in the McDonald's ad department?

Example #1: The Cold Guy and His, um... Lady-friend
Setup: Man & woman sit on couch. Their relationship is unclear. Husband/wife? BF/GF? Roommates? First date?
Woman is dressed in tank-top and shorts, drinking cold McBeverage. Man in tight shirt (relationship to her still unclear) is obviosly freezing.
He gets up to turn up the thermostat. Relationship still and again unclear.
She comes over and turns it back down, saying "I like it cold" while sipping coyly on her straw.
Man is visibly "smuggling raisins" (see also, tight shirt + cold) and miserable but reacts by sheepishly turning the thermostat ALL the way down, apparently in deference to his...
What, dominatrix? Sister? Student? Pastor? Cleaning lady?

Who are these people and why don't they talk to each other like normal human beings?

"Are you cold?"
"Well, I'm freezing"
"Put on a sweater, then"


Moreover, is his - uh - physical reaction to the cold supposed to lead us to believe - "Dude! If HE'S nippin' out that much, SHE must be popping out of her shirt!! Think about it! Right ON!"?
Is that it?
Because 1) That's a big leap for me to make in order to have even slightly dirty thoughts about the woman. I need to, you know, think about stupid stuff like relationships and physics and biology first, not cold drinks and hot chicks, and B) Since when was McDonald's ever sexy?
And why DOESN'T he just put on a damn sweater? Stupid American.

Example #2: The Breakfast Buddies
Setup: Two guys eagerly eating McDonald's breakfast sandwiches. They talk about how great they are. They get really into how great these sandwiches are. Really REALLY into how great they are. Okay, got it. And then for no reason, the camera cuts to a wide shot and we see a third person at the table: A young guy, ostensibly their chum, in a full neck-brace-type getup. He is miserable. He eats no such breakfast sandwich and mutters, "I hate you guys."

This, people, is not only inaccurate (um, his hands can still reach his mouth right? Or is his jaw wired shut too, and HOW WOULD WE KNOW THAT?!), it's offensive (to, you know, people with real disabilities who can't actually feed themselves) and just plain mean. Who makes fun of their friend for breaking his neck? And why would they bring him along just to sit there and not eat? I NEED MORE INFORMATION!!

Does McDonald's not know this is happening?
My guess is they just don't care: They're McDonald's. People would still eat there if their ads were 30 seconds of footage from the Chicago race riots or a mall security camera or a rerun of "So You Think You Can Dance".
Who cares? Just slap on the golden arches and that insipid jingle at the end and watch America get fatter.

The least they could do is keep their advertising predictable, forgettable and marginally tempting. It seems to work for everyone else.
I just hope they don't go with the whole giant cartoon head thing like Burger King. That stuff creeps me the heck out.