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city without ads

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Amazing little piece in the Times today, reporting that São Paulo will ban outdoor advertisements of every sort come January 1:

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Imagine a modern metropolis with no outdoor advertising: no billboards, no flashing neon signs, no electronic panels with messages crawling along the bottom. Come the new year, this city of 11 million, overwhelmed by what the authorities call visual pollution, plans to press the “delete all” button and offer its residents an unimpeded view of their surroundings.

But in proposing to transform the landscape, officials have unleashed debate and brought into conflict sharply differing conceptions of what this city, South America’s largest and most prosperous, should be.

City planners, architects and environmental advocates have argued enthusiastically that the prohibition, through a new “clean city” law, brings São Paulo a welcome step closer to an imagined urban ideal.

The law is “a rare victory of the public interest over private, of order over disorder, aesthetics over ugliness, of cleanliness over trash,” Roberto Pompeu de Toledo, a columnist and author of a history of São Paulo, wrote recently in the weekly newsmagazine Veja. “For once in life, all that is accustomed to coming out on top in Brazil has lost.”

As you might guess from the title of this site, I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to advertisements, but this seems like an amazing, almost revolutionary idea, at least to this American.

….but then again, one might start to wonder how exactly the Paulistanos will find a way to navigate the city…

(think I’ve posted that video before… sorry if so…)

(There’s an update here…)

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December 12, 2006 at 9:32 pm

serving size

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From an interesting interview with Geoff Manaugh, the guy behind BLDGBLOG, at Ballardian.

Ballard’s book don’t sell well in the U.S., but that’s entirely a top-down problem. I think the American publishing industry is in a state of free-fall, marketing all the wrong books in all the wrong ways. Trying to market Ballard would never occur to them. They want to sell people John Updike novels in hardcover — despite the fact that no one wants John Updike novels, and hardcover books are completely obsolete as a format. So they ‘experiment’ by publishing 900-page hardcover epics about farm life in 1920s Nebraska — and then still seem surprised that no one’s reading fiction in this country.

Short, good, fairly priced, intellectually progressive paperback books — that’s all you need.

Just so. If, seriously, I can’t bring myself to read those monsters – and I’m a professional for god’s sake, who exactly do they think will?

Xmas presents, xmas presents, and stuff for pretentious college-aged New Yorker readers… But not for immediate and actual consumption…

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November 12, 2006 at 11:38 pm

Posted in literature, marketing

hors-texte

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Perhaps “on n’a pas besoin de” rather than “il n’y a pas de,” in this case:

(There’s a better version here).

via City of Sound, where a commenter nails it: “That’s wonderful. Amazing to realize that you could pretty much navigate this context–a train station–entirely by media/logo/ui.” The fact is, we don’t feel entirely lost while watching this film, despite the fact that the unwritten world has faded to black…

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September 3, 2006 at 10:37 pm

Posted in distraction, marketing

my american adolescence as congealed within a braniff airways tv ad from the decade of my birth

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When you’ve got it, flaunt it!

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August 22, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Posted in america, marketing, sport

voigt-kampff test on youtube

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No, seriously, how grating, how absolutely symptomatic, of the slip of paranoid resistance under the fold of herbal essence “cool” in this video, friggin urban outfitters truckstop simulation, as it flashes from Dick himself, grubby and incessantly ticing, to these, what are they? Do we even need the missing labels?

Seriously, seriously. It’s a brilliant video. The human correlatives of Dick’s maddening prophesies respond to prophet himself with all of the inanity that he might have expected, feared…

UPDATE: Sorry. Was I unclear? My wife didn’t get wtf I was talking about either. I think it was my fault. But finally, after expanding a bit on my QEDing this video, she pointed me toward this, which is everywhere. Yes, that’s sort of what I meant. Am I being mean, a bit bitchy? Oh yes. But, really, it’s not just that. Rather, come on now, like the Foer that she is already incessantly compared to, the issue is what they’re picking for the big bucks, the mega-sophisticated marketting campaigns, our corporate guardians of culture. Pretty face, young, sure. But what troubles is the lack of interventional import, timeliness, human response. (It’s not in them. Look what happens when they try.) Bleach washing the f’d up stuff of the past, post relevance, to ensure a completely winterfresh and saltine reading xperience. Dick. Nabokov. Alan Moore. You name it. I mean, these are the big vehicles. I don’t know why I expect anything better, but… God, the cleanliness of these people. We are sure, at least, that they won’t make trouble. Spawn of the meritocracy (uh oh – getting close to home now), they multitask, they moon, they Brittany-up before the Obvious Issue. No. I just don’t know why I expect any better,here in ‘merica.

(META-UPDATE: Sorry, been struggling thru Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory at whole pages / hour. I think it’s starting to rub off on me, a bit.)

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August 17, 2006 at 12:27 pm

close reading

Ron Rosenbaum’s upset that the NY senators have failed to lead on gay marriage. (Behind the NY Observer’s paywall, unfortunately). Check out the mot juste triangulation that he sniffs out here:

So let’s look at little more closely at why New York’s liberal Senators are not taking a leadership position on this. Hillary Clinton’s extremely guarded statement on the subject can only be called classic Clintonism: She has limited herself to the somewhat cryptic formulation that “I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been: between a man and a woman.”

Cryptic because it could be taken as merely descriptive. As if, 100 years ago, someone had said that “voting is as voting has always been: something done by men” – not necessarily an endorsement of one-sex voting. Or is it meant to sound prescriptive, a dog whistle to potential red-state Presidential voters: Marriage should continue to be as it “has always been: between a man and a woman.”

It’s remarkable, isn’t it – with the Clintons, everything always seems to come down to the ambiguity of what “is” is. Here, is “is” an observation or an affirmation.

For another post, but not without relevance here: I cringe every time I come across a left / liberal blog with a snippet like “Proud member of the reality-based community” stapled beneath their title. For me, Clinton’s delphic talking point is a perverse or not so perverse instantiation of “reality-based” politics. But that’s for another day…

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July 28, 2006 at 10:02 pm

ballard: the aesthetic, boredom, and neo-fascism

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J.G. Ballard. from a slightly dated (June 2004) interview in the Guardian (again, via BLDGBLOG):

Today’s art scene? Very difficult to judge, since celebrity and the media presence of the artists are inextricably linked with their work. The great artists of the past century tended to become famous in the later stages of their careers, whereas today fame is built into the artists’ work from the start, as in the cases of Emin and Hirst.

There’s a logic today that places a greater value on celebrity the less it is accompanied by actual achievement. I don’t think it’s possible to touch people’s imagination today by aesthetic means. Emin’s bed, Hirst’s sheep, the Chapmans’ defaced Goyas are psychological provocations, mental tests where the aesthetic elements are no more than a framing device.

It’s interesting that this should be the case. I assume it is because our environment today, by and large a media landscape, is oversaturated by aestheticising elements (TV ads, packaging, design and presentation, styling and so on) but impoverished and numbed as far as its psychological depth is concerned.

Artists (though sadly not writers) tend to move to where the battle is joined most fiercely. Everything in today’s world is stylised and packaged, and Emin and Hirst are trying to say, this is a bed, this is death, this is a body. They are trying to redefine the basic elements of reality, to recapture them from the ad men who have hijacked our world.

This opposition between “psychological depth” and the “aesthetic” is truly intriguing. It’s certainly not the way that I usually think of it – that we suffer from deprivation of psychological depth and an overabundance of the aesthetic. And if what I’ve argued recently about Proust – and really I mean eventually to say about most literary modernism in general – could it be that there’s been a reversal in the poles on this front over the past century?

Can art be a vehicle for political change? Yes, I assume that a large part of Blair’s appeal (like Kennedy’s) is aesthetic, just as a large part of the Nazi appeal lay in its triumph of the will aesthetic. I suspect that many of the great cultural shifts that prepare the way for political change are largely aesthetic. A Buick radiator grille is as much a political statement as a Rolls Royce radiator grille, one enshrining a machine aesthetic driven by a populist optimism, the other enshrining a hierarchical and exclusive social order. The ocean liner art deco of the 1930s, used to sell everything from beach holidays to vacuum cleaners, may have helped the 1945 British electorate to vote out the Tories.

Interesting, again, to think of Blair’s appeal as “aesthetic.” We’re familiar with fascism as the “aestheticization of politics,” per Benjamin and others, but neoliberal third way-ism? I sense that Ballard’s right about this too, but how would we describe the “aesthetic” that Blair personifies or plays upon? And this bit about art deco and the advent of the welfare state is wild:

I assume by “ocean liner art deco” he means the advertising posters, available for sale now at the “art store” in every mid-rent mall. What is it about these images, so aggressively futurial and devoid of human mess, that would point the way, in Ballard’s mind anyway, toward the nationalization of utilities and long-distance transportation?

My real fear is that boredom and inertia may lead people to follow a deranged leader with far fewer moral scruples than Richard Gould, that we will put on jackboots and black uniforms and the aspect of the killer simply to relieve the boredom. A vicious and genuinely mindless neo-fascism, a skilfully aestheticised racism, might be the first consequence of globalisation, when Classic Coke® and California merlot are the only drinks on the menu. At times I look around the executive housing estates of the Thames Valley and feel that it is already here, quietly waiting its day, and largely unknown to itself.

So… The distinction between the art deco liner, an announcement via capitalism’s marketing jabber of the possible subsumption of capitalism itself, and the jackboot and shiny leather belt, would seem to be essential. Between the commonplace object, like something out a children’s book, monumentalized and the banalization of the exotically vicious, the hideous adornment of the self in the sartorial correlative of the self’s worst impulses.

In short, an elective psychopathy will come to our aid (as it has done many times in the past) – Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, all those willed nightmares that make up much of human history. As Wilder Penrose points out in Super-Cannes, the future will be a huge Darwinian struggle between competing psychopathies. Along with our passivity, we’re entering a profoundly masochistic phase – everyone is a victim these days, of parents, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, even love itself. And how much we enjoy it. Our happiest moments are spent trying to think up new varieties of victimhood…

Starts to seem as though our task, if we have one, is to combat boredom, but in an (exacty, impossibly) right way….

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March 28, 2006 at 11:17 pm