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Vulnerable Doesn’t Equal Victim   9 comments

August 5,2019

What is your writing Kryptonite?

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I LOVE this topic because it bumps up against a theme in my work in progress “What If … Wasn’t.” More about that in a few paragraphs.

On the surface, kryptonite is easy. It’s what makes Superman weak. But of course, there’s several different kinds of krytonite. All of them affect him in a negative way, but red kryptonite makes him feel strong as it also overwhelms his morality. Interestingly, green kryptonite is the anecdote – judiciously applied, of course. You don’t want to kill the superhero while attempting to save him.

“It’s your krytonite,” Ben observed.

Peter sipped coffee, frowning.

“Not unless it’s red kryptonite. I feel so strong and capable when I drink. I can fly and take on that dude from the Phantom Zone.”

“Colonel Zod.”

“Yeah. It’s a powerful feeling.” Peter smiled at the memories, and then shivered. “And then the consequences hit.” He looked haunted.

“Are the consequences your green kryptonite?”

“That’s where your metaphor breaks down, Ben. Green kryptonite only affects Superman. It doesn’t kill humans. Mine does.”

Peter’s self-hatred oozed from every word.

“I don’t have a future as a comic book writer, but — Peter, it seems to me you’ve learned to leave the red kryptonite alone. Five years sober! That’s odds defying, from what I’ve read. So why can’t you forgive yourself?”

Peter sighed, looking for answers in the bottom of his coffee mug.

“Maybe that’s my green kryptonite – shame. As long as I take a dose of it everyday, I leave the red alone.”

“Maybe, but I’d recommend you reduce the dose below lethal levels.” Peter rubbed the back of his neck, clearly uncomfortable with the suggestion. “Isn’t there a happy medium between red kryptonite ego-maniac and green kryptonite self-hatred?”

Peter shrugged, then shook his head in self-mockery.

“If it exists, I wouldn’t recognize it if it bit me on the ass.”

The last of Ben’s anger at Peter dissolved like ice in the hot sun, scorched by Peter’s brutal self-assessment.

“Do you trust your friends enough to recognize it for you?”

“Do you trust me enough to be my friend again?”

For the first time, Peter made eye contact with Ben. Telling the truth was hard for him because it made him vulnerable and right this moment, Ben had never seen Peter more vulnerable. Shame wasn’t his only green kryptonite.

From “What If … Wasn’t.”

Krytonites exist all around us and I think we humans have a lot of individual kryptonites — that which makes us weak and those may be far less dangerous than that which makes us feel strong, but will also kill us. I could spend several novels exploring the various kryptonites that affect a whole range of characters.

So the question is, “What is my writing kryptonite?” and clearly I’ve recently given some thought to the kryptonite subject … but not so much as it relates to writing.

When I googled the topic of writer’s kryptonite, the first five articles said “distractions connected to the Internet” (e.i., research that becomes online shopping, social media, etc.) And I admit, I do get distracted that way sometimes. I start to do research and I answer a comment on Facebook and I get back to writing hours or days later and look what time I’ve wasted.

The sixth article mentioned worry about what people will think of your writing or the story you share. Yeah, that’s there too, but I’m a writer who hopes to be a bit subversive, so I recognize the desire to live in the good estimation of others as a green kryptonite and I’ve learned to recognize its effect and either move away from or overcome it in order to be a published author.

Too much creativity has been a kryptonite for me in 2019. Yeah … TOO MUCH creativity. I’ve started about six books, including choosing to develop “What If … Wasn’t” into a series, in the last eight months, interfering with my ability to write my primary project “Gathering In” (Book 5 of Transformation Project. (The manuscript just went to the beta readers yesterday. I’m only a month behind. It’ll be fine.) Creativity surge-tides are definitely a red kryptonite because I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of creative genesis. I’ve just had to force myself to concentrate where my focus needs to be. Book 6 (tentatively “Winter’s Reckoning”) may have a different schedule to accommodate my new projects. Sometimes kryptonite shows us where we need to adjust our course a little.

Transformation Project and “What If … Wasn’t” are teaching me that my true kryptonite is vulnerability. When we bare ourselves in our books, we risk ending up covered in goose flesh and embarrassment, which might be why too many people use fake vulnerability to garner attention as a victim rather than a purveyor of truths that should be revealed. Victimhood acts like fig leaves, leaving our vulnerability inadequately covered by the flimsiness of sympathy. Truth should always provide some nice leather garments to strengthen us in our weakness, so we can move beyond the pain and hopefully bring the reader to the point of empathy, which is so superior to sympathy.

The end of “Gathering In” is all about grieving and the next book will build on that by exploring the pain of post-traumatic stress disorder. “What If … Wasn’t” is all about the consequences of bad decisions. At every creative turn, I am called to be vulnerable through my characters while I don’t naturally want to be vulnerable because I long ago decided that my life is not about being a victim. Yes, I’ve experienced pain. If I’m honest, I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy in my life. No, I am not a victim. I’m a survivor and survivors don’t ask for tea and sympathy. Overcoming tragedy has made us strong and we have developed scar tissue that makes us seem invulnerable. And yet, good novelists expose our vulnerability through our characters. We open up the scar tissue to reveal our innermost frailty and, if we have truly learned the lessons of adversity, we can show where strength comes from.

Whether in writing fiction or interacting with the people around us, when we are vulnerable, we give someone else a piece of our self, not knowing how it will be received or reciprocated. We’re opening a vein to another, hoping for appreciation or empathy in return as we reveal the tragic beauty of a beating heart — hoping our readers won’t run screaming in the other direction.

Some people will run screaming, by the way. The world is filled with shallow people who only want to interact with shallow ideas. How dare I ruin their apocalyptic fiction with feelings. My vulnerability through my characters risks them feeling vulnerable and entertaining thoughts they’d rather not have. But I’m banking that some people will thrill to the vulnerability of an “invulnerable” character like Shane, because it makes him human and if they stick around, they might get to see a phoenix rise —

IF I don’t kill him, because nobody is guaranteed to live through my apocalypse – well, except JT Delaney who has opened every book with thoughts on what went wrong and is clearly writing from the future. Who is this person? It’s a mystery. I’ll give you a free e-copy of “Gathering In” (when it publishes) if you can guess. Email me at lelamarkham@gmail.com if you want in on this guessing game.

And Peter of “What If … Wasn’t” — vulnerability is the only way he can move beyond the consequences of his past to reconnect to other human beings again. He doesn’t have strength to rely on. He’s vulnerable because he’s broken, but what he’s done means he can’t claim to be a victim. He’s not allowed to feel sorry for himself. He has to be a survivor because no one will ever forgive him if he claims to be a victim. Writing him in his vulnerable state is scary painful, but it also makes me feel wholly alive — invigorated by a kind of truthfulness that you just can’t convey without bleeding a little of your soul onto the page.

When we’re vulnerable with others, we create an imbalance in the relationship. We admit we struggle in some way, knowing that truthfulness might engender ridicule, fear or dislike of us or our characters. That imbalance, however, leads to connection and connection – that’s where novelists should live. We become more compassionate human beings when we share stories of pain and struggle. Not all people can be the creator of such stories, but if the writer shares with the reader, the reader reaps the benefits of our honesty.

But I don’t want to be vulnerable. I don’t want to get naked before my audience. I don’t want to shine a bright spotlight on the beauty and sorrow of my humanity. Like everyone else, I prefer to be invulnerable — the superhero of my own life — and many of my characters wish the same. I have to force vulnerability on them for the sake of the story, as other writers have forced it on their protagonists.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Without the potential for contact with kryptonite and the dilemma of juggling two identities, is there any conflict or tension to Superman’s story?
  • Without the looming possibility of Holden Caulfield’s suicide, would we care about his whiny school-trip diary?
  • Without Romeo’s often-blind passion, wouldn’t we just wince at his and Juliet’s inevitable teenage romantic train wreck?

Our characters must be compelled by a need or desire they are desperate to fulfill. That desperation, the willingness to risk everything, is vulnerability. Readers delight in character kryptonite. Journeying alongside a vulnerable character as they find their way toward peace and healing allows us to experience uncertainty and risk without having to abide it in real life. Writers really are doing the human race a solid by giving our readers the opportunity to experience vulnerability without the personal tragedy.

And, yet, being vulnerable is my real-life kryptonite, which means I must willingly expose myself to that which makes me feel weak in order to be a stronger writer.

Selecting Roses   19 comments

How do you select the names of your characters?

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I admit I’m a name geek. I’ve always loved looking up the meaning of names. There’s an old Celtic tradition that your name gives power to those who know it. That might actually be the origin of nicknames – a name you use every day that doesn’t have the power of your true name.

I chose names depending on the setting of the book. So, for example, Transformation Project series is set in rural Kansas. I chose a town that really exists as my exemplar so I could research utilities, civic buildings and history. Although I renamed the streets, I use the map of the existing town for the most part. Emmaus is not that town, but it seemed smart to have a real-life research focus.

While I was at it, I took advantage of the local online telephone book to pick a lot of the last names. Often the cultural background of that last name dictated the first name of the character. It made sense that the Delaneys – Jill Faraday married to an Irish-American with an American Indian ancestor — would favor Celtic names – thus Shane and Keri. I researched for Celtic names and I just liked those. Shane’s character predated the book and the name. I didn’t like the name my daughter gave him on our road trip where the character was created, so I found one I liked better. Keri is the name of a daughter of a friend of mine. I liked the Celtic origin, but I changed the spelling. Cai is a nickname for Malacai – a Biblical name meaning “message bearer”. I was scanning through the baby name book and saw that, thought it was perfect for a lawyer who is also a faithful evangelical Christian, but then the full name just felt too heavy and Cai goes back into Celtic traditional names.

I decided the Lufgrens would favor Biblical names. Why? It was just a decision. I could have chosen Swedish names, but the family is Deaf, so I posited they weren’t attached to their Swedish heritage. But I decided Alex’s mother was an outlander – Dad brought her home from Deaf school and so she named her children differently from the other Lufgrens. Poppy because I found it in that telephone book and because you have to be an awesome young person to carry a flower name and I gave it a backstory of a famous Deaf woman in the town’s history – I might use that someday – and Alex because it sounds heroic and I envision Alex as being a sleeping hero who will one day show Shane what a true hero is.

A nearby town had a lot of Polish names and so I picked first names that came from Polish heritage for a lot of the people living in Mara Wells, also loosely based on a real town.

I have some Hispanic characters and their names also come from the baby name book – except Javier (Javi) whose name was borrowed from one of my son’s friends. I just like the nick-name, so I used it.

On the other hand, it is sometimes fun to play with names. For example, I know a real life person who was born in Columbia whose name is Kenji. Yeah, that’s a Japanese name. Put a name on a character that doesn’t match their ethnicity and you can add immediate mystery and hint at a back story. In Transformation Project there is a character who seems to have three names — different people call her two different names and she calls herself another. Why? Ooo, yes, there’s a back story. She’s not a major character so I may never get to it, but it’s there for exploitation if I ever want to use it.

People always ask me where I got the name Jazz for Jessica Tully. I worked with a Jessica who was called Jazz because her older brother couldn’t say Jess right. I liked the sound of the name and I liked the spirit of its bearer, so I borrowed it for the character who is not based on this woman I know, but who has a similar gutsy style. I even borrowed the mispronunciation as the back story on her nickname.

In my fantasy series Daermad Cycle, the names of the Celdryans also come from a Celtic region of Europe, and so I get the names from a baby name book, but then I tweak them slightly to meet the naming conventions I made up for Daermad. The Kin have very long complicated names (based on Asian naming conventions), but I try to keep their first names in view to cut down on reader headaches.

In other genres, I mainly just select names I like, often names I would have used if I’d had a dozen kids. I still go back to the baby name books occasionally for inspiration and to wonder if the name I want to use suits the character.

After all, if names have power over us, it probably matters what you name a fictional character you actually do have power over.

Posted June 24, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Finding Time   10 comments

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

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This is kind of an easy question for me because I can almost not sleep during the “midnight sun” period of May 15 through July 15. I can sleep two or three hours a night and feel just fine, energized by the sun, which only goes below the horizon for about two hours a night. We barely experience civil twilight.

Unfortunately, it’s a trick you can’t sustain. You do have to sleep occasionally. The human brain requires sleep because you need to dream. If you don’t dream while you’re sleeping, you’ll start to hallucinate while you’re awake. So while you can stay awake fairly easily here above the 70th parallel during the summer, sooner or later, you have got to sleep to replenish your acetylcholine levels. If you don’t do that, you’re going to end up in the psych ward. It’s usually what happens to bipolars who crash and burn.

I only need about six hours of sleep a night and I can function just fine. In the summer, that stretches to two or three hours a night with about every third night needing six hours. A psychiatrist I worked with in Community Mental Health had a theory that people like me can short ourselves on sleep because we are very imaginative and that is sort of like dreaming while awake. And maybe that’s what’s going on. I don’t know for sure. During those times when I’m not sleeping and other people are, I am … of course, writing or researching for writing. Sometimes I’m reading a book by another author.

The Alaska lifestyle is a little different. It’s not unusual for us to get off work at 5 pm, grab some food from the grocery store and set out on the hiking trail. The wilderness is so close here, we can be in the woods within an hour. And we can hike until midnight because the sun doesn’t go down until about 1 am during the solstice. Then we’ll flit home and sleep until 7 am. It’s not unusual. Lots of people walk around with that glowy look that says they haven’t sleep a full night in weeks. It’s just the way it is.

Therefore, if I didn’t have to sleep at all, I’d probably expand what I am doing now – read, write, research, hike, maybe quilt (in the winter) – although maybe our lawn would get mowed more often or our car washed occasionally. Eight hours more of life would be quite a gift. And, I would definitely need to build some more bookshelves because I’d spend a lot of that extra time reading.

I wonder what my fellow authors would be doing if they didn’t need to sleep.

Posted May 13, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Oh, What a Boring World!   3 comments

December 3, 2018

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

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That sounds like a boring life. I don’t think I’m in favor of total-transparency living, but I agreed to do the topic, so ….

  1. I would testify more boldly of my faith to everybody I care about knowing they will not reject my testimony. Then I would testify more boldly to strangers as well.
  2. I would continue to advocate for smaller government and no government, knowing that I will one day be successful.
  3. I would invest in a startup business that I believe in knowing that it will grow and become a business that can support me through investment income.
  4. I would advertise my books in a big way knowing they will become best-sellers that will support me in retirement.
  5. I would invest in my daughter’s musical career in a big way knowing that my investment will assure her success so that she can return my investment.
  6. I would invest in my son’s rock-climbing interest in a bigger way for the same reason.
  7. And, judging from the photo above, I might go sky-diving.

Generally, I think I’d be more willing to try new activities and ventures because I would know they wouldn’t become a waste of time since success would be assured.

But I also think I would eventually become bored and stop trying new activities because the assurance of success would take away some of the enjoyment of the attempt.

Posted December 3, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Transcending this Lifetime   6 comments

What do you want people to remember about you?

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We all hope to leave a legacy. It’s sort of a human ambition to leave behind something that has people remember who we were a decade after our deaths or a century. It’s mainly only the infamous who are remembered millennia after their deaths. Alexander the Great is not remembered because he was a good guy who promoted peace and love, for example. Had George Washington not headed the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he would be no better remembered today than Lemuel Haynes or Roger Sherman.

Proverbs 31 womanAt not-quite-60 I probably have another 20 years to forge my legacy (my mother’s family routinely push 90 when they pass to the next realm), so I am thinking more and more of what I want people to remember about me. I don’t do bucket lists, but today’s post calls me to consider this, so, here goes!

I would want people to remember me as an imperfect (that’s actually important) mother who loved her children enough to let them find their own paths, but who imparted saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to them. If our daughter ever fulfills her potential and God’s leading, you will know her name and not because she’s infamous. To say more would sound arrogant, but there are reasons having nothing to do with me or her for why I believe she could light up the world stage … or that she might be one of those people who is not famous in her own lifetime, but whose work will transcend her own life.

When folks stand around at my memorial service, I hope they remember my faith was in Jesus Christ and that I lived that out in my life even when it was sometimes hard and I wasn’t rewarded for it. Yeah, I think I’m on a theme here.

I would like people to remember my books. I put a lot of myself and my faith into them and so, of course, I want them to live on beyond my lifetime.

Last, I hope my blogging is remembered by the people who have read it (or might read it in the future) and that it helped them to see new and better ways of doing things that leads us away from the current vitriol and insanity of our present schizophrenic society. I’m not alone in occupying a 3rd way that is neither Republican nor Democrat, but seeks to align with economic reality and individual liberty and I pray God that people turn more in that direction before the whole mess slides off a cliff.

So, I think that’s about it. A faithful Christian, an effective communicator, an entertaining novelist and a good mom. Basically, I want to be remembered as a humanized Proverbs 31 woman.

Alaska Chic   8 comments

Featured Image -- 57641July 23, 2018
Let’s talk wardrobe. Do you gravitate to one color? What is your go to style? What shoes do you prefer?

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Alaska is still a frontier and so, like many frontier folks throughout time, we tend to dress casually, in keeping with the lifestyle we lead. In fact, my office is so casual that we have dress-up Mondays because a Jeans Friday would look like any other day. There’s really no place in the Interior where there’s a dress standard – no restaurants that require you wear a tie, for example. Such a restaurant wouldn’t have any customers, so they wisely don’t think too highly of themselves.

Glacier ChicWhich is not to stay that we don’t dress up if we feel like it. This week is our version of Founders Days – we call it Golden Days, and men and women both dress in the clothing that was fashionable in the 1910s when Fairbanks was founded. I am walking in the parade tomorrow and will probably wear my Golden Day dress, but I’ll wear tennis shoes under my shirt. That will be the most dressed up I’ll go all year … probably. (We woke up to the brightest and hottest day of the summer so far and so I wore shorts and a sheer blouse because, much as I celebrate our town’s past, I celebrate not getting heat stroke more).

I really am not a big “style” person. I’m small for one thing, so finding clothes that fit and don’t wear me instead of the other way around is a challenge. I’ve never understood some women’s obsession with shoes. I own about three dozen, but that includes summer shoes (can’t be worn in winter), hiking boots (two pairs), and winter boots (five pairs, including bunny boots and muck boots). My dress shoes might have a kid heel, otherwise I prefer flats or a slight wedge. I made peace with being 5’1″ a long time ago and decided to be kind to my spine, knees and phalanges.

Bunny bootsI have two very different styles for work and leisure and they vary by season because we have real winter and real summer here and transition seasons that last about a week each. Additionally, my job interacts with the public, so though the office culture is casual, I feel personally responsible to present a professional appearance. In the winter, that means business casual suit jackets over a nice top and slacks. In the summer, that means a dress or a nice top and a skirt. I dress these up with scarves. But I do relax my standards for Fridays, though I doubt more than my coworkers notice because I basically dress like they do. On dress-up Mondays, they dress like I do on a standard day.

Fabrics are important in a town where there is always construction in the summer — so even my officewear is machine washable. It’s just too expensive to dry-clean outfits every week. We do have a couple of women in the office who do that, but I prefer to spend my income on something that doesn’t need to be done again next week.

During my off-hours, I wear jeans (or shorts in the summer) and t-shirts with sweaters or fleece over that for the winter. I generally wear this casual attire everywhere — including church because I feel I’ve done my time with dress-up at work and Alaskans are so casual about clothes that people in three-piece suits will sit non-judgmentally next to someone in jeans. My favorite color is green, but shades of orange are a close second and blue is a close third. Often, I mix these colors together and I like bold shades to offset the prohibition against ruffles and strong patterns that overwhelm small people.

Fox trappers hatRounding out any Alaska woman’s wardrobe is outerwear – coats, hats, gloves, etc. And we really have three seasons for that — summer, fall/hunting and winter. I don’t have a distinction between work and casual in this gear — except for fall. I would refrain from wearing my blood-stained hunting jacket to the office — though some of my male coworkers would not. In the summer, I usually carry a sweater or light fleece jacket with me because even on hot days, you just don’t know that the weather might turn or that a public building is overdoing the air conditioning. The sun is up most of the night around here, so you can go to a movie at 7 o’clock and it could be 90 degrees out. Inside the air-conditioned theater, you need a sweater. Then when you come out at 9:30, it’s still 75 degrees, so you take the sweater off.  In the fall, that sweater gradually gets layered with another sweater or maybe a water-resistant jacket. And then winter comes and it’s time for the heavy coats – usually hollofill coats to my knees with hoods. But I also have a Carhhart coat for outdoor work and my own pair of bunny boots.

But no Alaska woman’s wardrobe would be complete without fur. I do occasionally wear the mouton parka I inherited from my mother (pretty heavy), but my fox trapper’s hat is only appropriate when it’s really cold out, I’m going to a dog mushing event or I want to tweak the political sensibilities of people who really need to mind their own business.

Now for a funny Alaska story – too bad I don’t have a photo.

We went to an orchestra performance one really cold January. Cold to us is -20*F (-29*C). It was colder than that, maybe -40. I wore a green woolen dress, fancied up with an ivory scarf. Under it, I wore my thermals and a pair of my daughter’s leather boots with wool socks (because her feet are two sizes larger than mine so I could actually get the wool socks in the boots and because it was COLD). There was this woman down by the stage dressed in a glittering red sequined evening gown. She really looked the part with a fur coat and jewelry. But during the interlude, we met in the bathroom and I looked down to realize she was wearing bunny boots. She blushed and laughed and explained she’d left her shoes at home by accident and so it was either wear her outerwear boots or go barefoot. To which I said “It’s Alaskan chic. We should have the consignment store feature it as a hot new trend.” Apparently she told that story enough that it got around because a local boutique actually did feature that as a display the next winter with the caption “Alaska Chic.”

Media & Messages   Leave a comment

March 19, 2018 – How much is too much? We know repetition is important to remember things. That’s why we see the same commercials over and over again. But, how much is too much? What’s your favorite ad and what’s your least favorite ad. (Can be television, radio, billboards.)

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Image result for image of a really great advertisementSo, I have to confess that I don’t watch advertisements very often. Broadcast television is and always has been limited in Fairbanks, Alaska, so first we had Dish (mostly advertisement-free) and now we have Netflix. The closest we come to ads is the very ad-like sponsorship spots on PBS during Friday news night. If I hear that BNSF Railway spot one more time, I may just run screaming into the Alaska night.

My very first journalism class in college studied Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, which came out in 1964. It had been out about 15 years, but there was no denying the freshness of his perspective nor the prescience of McLuhan, who loved advertising. He was among the first to celebrate unreservedly what he called “the Madison Avenue frog-men-of-the-mind.” The business of trying to sell people more stuff neither frightened nor appalled him. He didn’t look down on it, as so many of his contemporaries did.

“Many people have expressed uneasiness about the advertising enterprise in our time,” McLuhan also wrote in Understanding Media. “To put the matter abruptly, the advertising industry is a crude attempt to extend the principles of automation to every aspect of society. Ideally, advertising aims at the goal of a programmed harmony among all human impulses and aspirations and endeavours. Using handicraft methods, it stretches out toward the ultimate electronic goal of a collective consciousness. When all production and all consumption are brought into a pre-established harmony with all desire and all effort, then advertising will have liquidated itself by its own success.”

Further proof, as if any were needed, of Marshall McLuhan’s prescience. In 1964, he wrote:*

“The classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.”   *Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (ARK edition, 1987) p.207

“Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century” according to McLuhan.

Now there’s a thought. It is certainly true that many of us remember the ads that separated the shows better than the shows themselves. “Where’s the Beef?” … “Let Mikey try it. He won’t like it.” … the Maytag Repairman … Madge the Dishwasher … Mr. Clean … the coffee commercial with the guy who became Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer … all that Coca Cola memorabilia.

These ads played in the background and many of us got up to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich when they were playing, but they still stuck with us because …

“Ads are not meant for conscious consumption. They are intended as subliminal pills for the subconscious in order to exercise an hypnotic spell, especially on sociologists.”

McLuhan had some interesting observations about advertising in his day that speak to the situation in our own.

“After the Second War, an ad-conscious American army officer in Italy noted with misgivings that Italians could tell you the names of cabinet ministers, but not the names of commodities preferred by Italian celebrities. Furthermore, he said, the wall space of Italian cities was given over to political, rather than commercial slogans. He predicted that there was small hope that Italians would ever achieve any sort of domestic prosperity or calm until they began to worry about the rival claims of cornflakes and cigarettes, rather than the capacities of public men. In fact, he went so far as to say that democratic freedom very largely consists in ignoring politics and worrying, instead, about the threat of scaly scalp, hairy legs, sluggish bowlers, saggy breasts, receding gums, excess weight, and tired blood.”

I think it’s striking that advertising has largely gone the way of the dodo bird in the 21st century. We hit our mute buttons or channel surf or we choose media that have no advertising (one of the beauties of streaming). And as we lose that “cave art” we turn our minds, perhaps not surprisingly if we’ve read McLuhan, to politics. We don’t pay as much attention to product brands today, but wow do we know everything there is to know about President Trump. We obsess over whether Melania wore high heels or tennis shoes. We hang on every trolling tweet. McLuhan would say we’ve gone backwards … that freedom is found in the stuff you can buy, not the blood sport of politics. And, yet, here we are … once again refusing to learn from history so that we’re doomed to repeat its uglier segments.

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