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Sunday, February 26, 2017

ALL RUSSIANS CAN HACK


The saying used to be "you have to spend money to make money." The line was delivered by my teenage idol, Richard Tyson, in the movie Two Moon Junction when his character (Perry) is trying to get the owners of the carnival he works for to invest in repairs lest the whole show come down around them. They didn't. So the carnival did. 

But nowadays the saying is "to make money you have to make other people spend money." Witness the deluge of advertisements you encounter everywhere. 

Yesterday while driving to the market I became so mesmerized by a larger-than-life billboard that I almost missed my turn. To make my right I had to cross a bicycle lane hastily, without really making sure the lane was clear. It was. But had it not been, I'd have had only my wayward eye to blame. But who can avoid eye candy, and advertisers have impunity. They are free to bombard the unsuspecting eye with desires it didn't even know it had, while distracting your from work and relationships and concentrating on the road. You browse the Web and your browser embeds advertisements based on your search history everywhere on the page. Facebook does this. Search engines too. 

This evening the annual Oscars airs on network TV (ABC at 5:30 PST). I like watching celebrities traipse about in tuxedos and evening gowns. I entertained screenwriting in my twenties and always fantasized I'd one day be at the ceremony to earn a best screenwriting Oscar myself. But my dreams have faded and with it the stars' appeal. The real reason I'll refrain from watching is to avoid those irksome commercials, which seem to occur every ten minutes and bark orders at you to purchase the next car or drug or happy meal - and at markedly increased decibel levels. 

And then there's the Barefoot Blonde, a mother of two who lives in New York with her blog-dad husband. Like other bloggers of her ilk, and there are only a handful of these lifestyle brand princesses who were not already celebrities, Amber Fillerup Clark has made a fortune chronicling her life and getting readers of her blog and watchers of her videos to buy the products she endorses, from shaving creams to fitness equipment to hair extensions. Fillerup is an apt moniker: watch her and you are likely to "fill up" on some item you don't really need, whether a beauty product or unrealistic pictures of her family's fun days at the zoo. And anyway, who can have fun at the zoo with all those animals cooped in cages. It should be called the coo! 

Blondie purportedly makes as much as six million a year. Can you believe it? Six million, just for peddling the wares of her sponsors. To do so of course she relies on hundreds of thousands of impressionable subscribers, people (mostly women in their 20s and 30s) who want to be the best versions of themselves and look to Ms. Fillerup Clark for life guidance. The Barefoot Blonde is twenty-six. And despite deploring what she does I just gave her a plug. You're welcome.

Where is society headed? Why is there so much greed? We seem to be motivated more by consumerism and status than love of our fellow beings, kindness, or the quest for God consciousness. I read philosophy, the works of Spinoza and Pascal and Liebniz, whose pressing urge to understand the Creator is stamped on every page. Nowadays the search for truth seems old-fashioned. We have given up. We are like kids lost in the amusement park after dark and past our bedtimes on a sugar kick that will not end because the vendors never close. We won't tire until we die. I've taken the analogy as far as I can. I wanted to include something about how lost at the fair that is like a cage, like a coo, we'll never get back home to our parents who are the only ones that really care.

We equate becoming better with having more things and newer things, and as a result we walk around buried in debt, months behind our credit card and lease payments, but living like shiny happy people and looking the part. Until it all goes kaboom. 

But maybe it won't. I'm an optimist. I believe with Liebniz that we live in the best of all possible worlds governed by an infinitely benign and infinitely just Maker and all will turn out okay, is okay, has always been okay. But justice means purveyors of false idols will get their due. What is their due? I'm not sure. I am not the omniscient Lord of the Universe. And even false idols, so much fitness equipment that just gathers dust in your garage, has a part in the great drama of life.

Unlike BB's cash cow, this blog makes no money. I don't advertise, nor could I even if I wanted to, because this page wouldn't get enough traffic to attract sponsors in 18 billion years, which is the age of the universe. Sometimes nobody pays me a visit but you, and if the stats page is correct then you are some stranger in Russia who I'm not sure is reading my words or merely absorbed in trying to insert a link to a virus. Because like Asians and math, and like black athletes and track, all Russians know how to hack. I'm just kidding. But you know what they say about every joke. It's on me!

Thanks for reading.

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