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"To whom it may concern, your reality is inspiring"

October 9th, 2008 (02:30 pm)
current mood: depressed

The above is the text written on a sign that was hung in a tree on the Columbia lawn in front of Lerner Hall.

I had hit up the Thursday farmer's market for a late lunch and was eating it on the lawn. I had probably been sitting there for ten minutes before I noticed the sign. It was painted on a smallish piece of cardboard, and a drawing of a skeletal fish was attached to the bottom of it. The wind, though only a light breeze, set them both to dancing and spinning, so that it was some time before I was able to make out the words.

After that, I had a lovely few minutes in which my faith in humanity was somewhat restored. I sat in the sun, watching small children playing on the lawn, and pondered the person who wrote that message, the power of art, and the essential goodness of humans.

Then a group of three or four guys in Facilities uniforms came over to take the sign down. I tried to tell them they should leave it up, but they just said "It's policy, it has to come down." They took it down with a broom.

A woman who had been sitting on the lawn near me said that she agreed with them that it had to come down. "This is why they shouldn't allow non-students on campus, and they should do a bag check," she said. I told her it probably was a student, but she seemed to think that was very unlikely for some reason. "Anyway," I said, "it's such a beautiful sentiment. It's not a Coke ad or some political statement. Isn't that a nice change?"

She just shrugged. "This isn't the place for it," she said.

If a college campus "isn't the place" for random acts of beauty, what is?

I swear, I know it sounds cliché to say so, but sometimes I feel like I was born into the wrong world. People spend their entire day, every day, bombarded by the ugliest advertisements -- for TV shows, soft drinks, political candidates, clothing lines. Uncomplaining, oblivious. But something like this happens, and this is how they react? It's depressing.

To the anonymous artist behind this sign: I love you. Thanks for that moment of beauty and hope, even if it was only a moment.

I should do things like this.

(P.S.: The sign is now in my office. Facilities told me I could take it instead of them throwing it away. Now I just have to figure out a worthy thing to do with it -- I would just go put it back up, but it makes me sad to send it to its doom like that.)

musings on advertising

September 15th, 2008 (03:56 pm)

this new bus shelter was put in front of my house about a week ago. it's amazing to me how beautiful it was without advertising or graffiti. (sadly, it now has meta-advertising in that spot, a "your ad here" kind of ad.)

seeing it, i found myself imagining what the world would be like if companies didn't feel the need to constantly clamor for our attention and our money. if every blank space we encounter during the course of a day wasn't plastered over with ugly, garish, distracting visual clutter. and think how much cheaper products and services could be if the cost of all that crap didn't get passed down to the consumer!

now, i have a strange relationship to advertising. i think i notice it more, and am less susceptible to it, because i am exposed to less of it -- i don't watch TV, listen to radio, read magazines or newspapers, or even see ads on the internet (thanks adblock!). and since i live in NYC, when i eat out it generally isn't at chains like Applebee's or Taco Bell.

i'm a company's nightmare when it comes to advertising. if i notice it at all, i find it aesthetically displeasing at best, and actively offensive at worst. i have definitely been known, in making purchasing decisions, to consciously decide against companies who have annoyed me in particularly obnoxious ways. i often notice ads but then am unable to recall what company was being advertised, even a few minutes afterward. Pepsi or Coke? Nike or Reebok? Washington Mutual or Wachovia?

with a very few exceptions, brands and companies are basically interchangeable as far as i'm concerned. at the grocery store, i mostly buy the cheapest brand, the generic version or whatever happens to be on sale. for anything else it's a combination of my own evaluation of the product (including my emotional reaction to it) vs. how much it costs, and if i need recommendations or advice i read customer reviews on the internet and ask my friends and family.

it's funny, i recently had to call my credit card company to activate a new card, and they took the opportunity to attempt to get me to take them up on a balance transfer deal. now, the deal she offered me over the phone was one that they'd offered me online for some time, and i was seriously considering taking advantage of -- but i wanted to get them to waive the fee, so i told her i was kind of interested but wanted to think on it. well, she didn't budge on the fee, but boy did she not want to take "no" for an answer! in the end i'm left with a hugely negative feeling and am thinking i won't actually use that balance transfer, after all.

tangentially, i think this may be why i so dislike politics and am so disinclined to "follow" the pre-election lead-up the way that many people do. you may be surprised to learn that i have yet to see any video of Obama or McCain, and i'm not sure i'd even recognize McCain in a photograph. basically, political speeches are just advertising, and a particularly nasty sort of advertising at that. when it comes time to vote, i'll read up on their histories and voting records and read their stated platforms -- but i have no desire to listen to them trying to sell themselves to me, especially because i pretty much assume all politicians are dishonest and will say anything they feel will get them votes. as far as i'm concerned, it's content-free and annoying (because it tells me nothing "real" about the candidates and is also a too-blatant attempt to manipulate my actions).

maybe this is an introvert/extrovert thing; i don't consider myself a good judge of character (or at least, not of someone i'm not actually meeting in person), and prefer to make a decision based on facts, not emotions. i think that the only effect keeping up with politics would have is that i would be biased by emotional reactions to the candidates (which is exactly what they're trying to accomplish, after all), so i avoid exposure to that as much as possible.

i guess i just have a "pull" model for this sort of data; if i want to know, i'll do my own research, thankyouverymuch. i don't see an ad and then go "oh, i need one of those!"; if i have a need, i shop for it, but not otherwise.

is the internet going to change this business model? we're already seeing things like referral bonuses, Facebook applications, fake testimonials. "viral marketing" has become common parlance amongst the business-school crowd. but somehow, i don't see billboards ever going away.

which is sad, when you see something like this bus shelter and are reminded of all the beauty we're covering up. it's almost soothing, isn't it? so clean and modern. i was talking about this with squishyent and we came up with the idea of taking out advertising space in order to put art there. it's been officially added to the list of things i'm going to do if i ever become filthy rich.


September 10th, 2008 (11:54 am)

mmm, chocolate.

September 8th, 2008 (05:00 pm)

a certain "Mr. Kollen Pollen" has written to inform me that, backed by the UN, Parliament, the EU and a grab-bag of other world powers, Nestlé has decided "to make a notable change in the standard of living of people all around the Universe" by distributing free money. two million dollars for my own "personal, educational, and business development". that'll buy a lot of chocolate milk!

spam followsCollapse )

... i just went to Nestlé's website and realized that their "brands" are comprised of two major categories: snack food and pet care, including cat and dog food, dog treats, and cat litter. o_O;;

taboo topics

August 4th, 2008 (06:33 pm)

this is pretty interesting: creditcards.com conducted a poll and found that people are less comfortable talking about credit card debt (with someone they've just met) than about a variety of other topics, including the death of a loved one and their weight.

the question was: "Sometimes when people first meet, they're comfortable talking openly about some topics but not others. I'm going to ask your opinion about a series of topics. But first, just assume for a moment that this topic came up between you and that person during a harmless conversation. Please tell me how likely you would be to talk openly to someone you've just met about this topic."

here are the results of the poll, ranked from "most taboo" to "least taboo":

1. Amount of credit card debt
2. Your love life
3. Your salary
4. Your mortgage, rent payment
5. Your health
6. The death of a loved one
7. Your weight
8. Your religious views
9. Your political views
10. Your age
11. Gas prices
12. The weather

my own personal ranking would be more like:

1. religious views
2. political views
3. death of a loved one
4. weight
5. love life
6. health
7. salary
8. gas prices
9. age
10. weather
11. credit card debt
12. rent payment

analysisCollapse )

so... what would your list look like? TALK TO ME INTARWEBS.

i would like to provide you with the following valuable insight into my relationship.

July 29th, 2008 (03:14 pm)

[13:44] flooey: Guess what?
[14:00] _wirehead_: what?
[14:04] _wirehead_: ohgod what???
[14:04] _wirehead_: the suspense is killing meeeeee
[14:09] _wirehead_: and i have to go do an interview in a minute or two
[14:24] flooey: Hi
[14:24] flooey: Still there?
[15:06] _wirehead_: back now
[15:07] flooey: Guess what?
[15:07] _wirehead_: um... what?
[15:07] flooey: CHICKEN BUTT!
[15:07] _wirehead_: ...
[15:07] flooey: ::runs away laughing::
[15:08] _wirehead_: please tell me you had something else to say to me ;p
[15:08] flooey: That was actually all I originally had

(no subject)

May 13th, 2008 (12:07 pm)

last night, i finally sat down and (re-)learned how to fold paper cranes. i'm very pleased with myself. i don't know why, but there's something so satisfying about the creation of these tiny objects. plus it was something on my 43things, and it's always very satisfying to close out one of those.

btw, the Revolution Money Exchange referral thing i posted about is only good for another couple of days (it expires May 15th). so if you want a free $25, sign up now.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

April 30th, 2008 (03:00 pm)

i just finished reading it. i don't have words for the amazingness. best thing i've read in ages.

you should all read it. right now.

and if you don't believe me, how about Mr. Gaiman?

'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow — a delight to read, both for the elegant and precise use of words, which Ms Clarke deploys as wisely and dangerously as Wellington once deployed his troops, and for the vast sweep of the story, as tangled and twisting as old London streets or dark English woods. It is a huge book, filled with people it is a delight to meet, and incidents and places one wishes to revisit, which is, from beginning to end, a perfect pleasure. Closing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell after 800 pages my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length.' NEIL GAIMAN

(can be found, with many other reviews, here.)

(no subject)

April 21st, 2008 (12:14 am)

the committee for driving to and from NYC would like to report that Pennsylvania is still unreasonably large.

there is an official sign on the highway into NYC that says "New York City Papal Visit -- Take Mass Transit." i'll just let you think about that one for a second.

anyway. there was a Carnival. it was awesome. Pittsburgh is full of good humans.

i was going to upload pictures tonight, but it is later than i thought it was. pictures soon.


April 17th, 2008 (10:55 pm)

the cat broke my favoritest mug. it had dragonflies on, and was a gift, and damn it.

i should not be devastated about this, but, augh. it sucks. i know it's just stuff, but i fucking loved that mug. and i'm so mad at myself for leaving it on the counter even though i knew he would do that if i did, and i reminded myself not to, and... augh.

stupid cats sometimes seem to mean i can't have anything nice.

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