I experienced a brain-pop during my morning commute, I think it was Thursday but it could’ve been Wednesday. What with moving all our stuff into the house and so forth, there’s been a lot of mental stimulation over this & that, seven days a week, and you know what Scott Adams said about how we require & crave boredom even though we maybe don’t realize it.
My moment of inspiration was with turning off the radio, and the inspiration itself was about bad ideas. I turned off the radio because the show had been interrupted by an advertisement, the advertisement was for some kind of new car dealership. And then the legal guy came on with the disclaimers, and you know how that goes. It sounds like a dachshund on crank chasing a cheeseburger across a sheet of thin plastic. Like they sped up the audio artificially, except legal-guy wasn’t talking like a chipmunk or anything. Makes me wonder if they recorded it in a very low but calculated pitch at normal speed, then sped up the playback so the narration is in a normal pitch but at 3x or 4x so they manage to cram all the words into that tiny space. But the other thing that was going on was that the consonants had an unusually high impact quality to them, an odd percussion suggesting strongly that hurting the listener was of paramount importance to the exercise.
Whether this is real or imagined, and it’s probably imagined, it always makes me indescribably angry. Here I am tuning in, being part of the audience, the reason for this all happening — and they try to give me a headache?
So off went the radio, and my creative lobe, like a man dying of thirst in the desert finally chancing upon an oasis, went nuts. Not very productively I must say. My self-tasking creative exercise was to imagine myself searching for the jackass who thought it was a good idea to air the legal disclaimers that way.
Well, this has been a busy summer for dealing with bureaucracies so this didn’t take a lot of imagination. The idea is as awful as an idea can be: Put all these syllables into the ad, nobody will be listening to them, nobody will make any decision any differently because of them, they might as well not be there, and it’s annoying. It probably has the opposite effect from what “advertising” is supposed to do; people will tune out. Some might even take note of the dealership’s name and say to themselves, I will never, ever, ever buy a car there no matter what. So I would be coming across people willing to defend the awful idea, and/or making a living according to some process that involves implementing the awful idea. And we know without experimenting exactly what I’d get told: It’s necessary. We have to do it. We’re required to. If we don’t, bad things will happen. That other guy, over there, he’s making us do it. Because of this, we know someone can point out over and over again “this is a bad idea” and it will never have any effect, the most attention he will ever attract is when people look at him and say something to the effect of, “Well, isn’t that adorable.”
At this point, we veer away from the subject of legal disclaimers in radio commercials. We veer into the realm of the generic. How many awful, rotten, terrible ideas have we been doing, that we will continue to do, no matter what, no matter how many times it’s pointed out to us that the idea is bad, and why; bad, awful, terrible, rotten ideas, that we know for a fact will continue to be applied tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
Nobody actually defends them, because they aren’t defensible. When they’re defended, they’re defended in passive voice. I touched on this in the Candy Crowley rant:
…conclusions drawn, with the weight of authority thrust behind them, and within that weight of authority a busy patchwork of functionally anonymous busybodies, pointing to each other, nobody ever burdened with the chore of crisply explaining a justification or rationale. Candy Crowley’s great, because this guy says she’s great, because that other guy says so, because those people say so. No one explaining why, and meanwhile, she sucks.
A legal disclaimer during a car commercial giving me a morning-commute migraine, is not going to pose any threat to our society. But the phenomenon itself does. A society becoming more and more technologically advanced, and as a consequence busier, speedier, hyperactive, manic — more and more addicted to the passive voice statement, since the active voice takes too much time. And the ideas becoming systematically more and more execrable, the actions becoming systematically more and more indefensible.
The point is, we start to worship the ideas as being inevitable, and frown upon any attack upon them as examples of the very lowest depths of what our busy, sophisticated society can tolerate the least, wastes of time. I’d applaud that last one, if after we were done chastising each other for wasting time, we made a point of turning our own resources toward something constructive. But that is not what our sophisticated society has been doing lately. Instead, it has become our way to upload trollish comments like “Guess you must have WAY too much time on your hands,” then we go back to playing Angry Birds or whatever.
Or, record assaultive legal disclaimers for car commercials.
We check the direction in which we move, not by observing the landmarks we are passing, but by defining what the direction is — and, where it’s going. Without any change in course, it’s leading toward a more and more militant approach toward optimizing how we’re spending our time, for the benefit of less and less practical purpose. Accountability is the first, and arguably the only, casualty. We still have time for just about everything else we can imagine, except for the questioning of these bad ideas. Questioning bad ideas is often the first step toward forming a good idea, so this all but eliminates the possibility that we’re doing all this optimization of time management toward the objective of coming up with more good ideas. That isn’t what we’re doing, if we continue to tolerate bad ones.
I got a feeling our economic climate is going to improve mightily, if & when the time ever comes that we start to obsess over doing things that actually make life better for one another. Maybe I’m reading too much into a few inconvenient syllables I allowed to pound away at my eardrums during a morning commute, but it seems to me we’re not quite there yet.