Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Depressing Shit (to me): Part 2

I recommend you see part 1 and read my original disclaimer here; now here's installment 2.

Some more depressing movies:
◦Army of Shadows [about the French resistance during WWII]
◦Blood Diamond [about blood diamonds and other depressing things that have happened in Africa]
◦The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [paralysis]
Flame and Citron [about the Danish resistance during WWII]
◦The Magdalene Sisters [Watch this if you want to see what happens when you let the Church run society, and you ban real sex education, birth control, and abortion.]
Rabbit-Proof Fence [See this if you need a big dose of white guilt! Fun fact: I saw both this and The Magdalene Sisters when I was in the hospital for a few days, long ago. I'm better now.]

Is it just me, or are a lot of these depressing movies based on true events?
And once again, like I said in my earlier post, these are not bad movies; they just made me sad and/or depressed. It doesn't mean they're not worth seeing; no, they can be very worthwhile, especially if you are under-educated on any of the topics they address.

Some more depressing music:
◦the song at the end of the movie Ghost Dad [This falls into the category I brought up last time of "70s and 80s schlock." I actually enjoyed Ghost Dad up until the last moments, when this song started playing. And no, I don't remember what the song was called or who did it, and I don't care to look it up.]   
 More coming sooner or later! Please comment if you have anything to add.

How to Be More Creative & Make Money! or: How advertisers come up with their campaign ideas (my non-expert musings)

     First, let me say I am by no means anti-advertising; I appreciate really creative ads a lot, and I think the people who come up with such stuff deserve admiration. And secondly, I pulled this essay, which might sound knowledge-based, out of my ass (which is excellent!).
     So, how do they come up with their ideas, those ad people?? On Mad Men, which I take as a historical document and gospel truth, they were always drinking. Well, that Draper was, anyway. But the thing is they had to hire some creative people to come up with those winning (or not) ad campaigns. The agencies valued these creative people immensely-- the creative people were magic geese laying golden eggs, and the agencies couldn't do without them.
    In the 80s, they had cocaine. Quite a bit of it, I'm told. And they'd do coke and come with ideas and think all their ideas were great because good, top-shelf coke apparently makes you feel like you can do no wrong. Still, specific people were hired because someone thought those people were creative enough to come up with winning campaigns. You couldn't hire just anyone to do the creative work. These people were seen as special, with or without their magic powders.
    Since then, a lot of how-to books have been written and seminars have been given-- given greedily, paid for handsomely, and taken hungrily-- on how to be more creative, how anyone can be (more) creative, how to "unleash the artist within," the magic secrets of great marketers, and so on. Some of the advice they dispensed may have been of the blowing-smoke-up-one's-ass variety, but some of it was legitimate. A lot of it, probably. And they taught have people, those who were listening and willing to actually try things, many processes and tricks for coming up with and developing ideas, with the aim of turning this inner human magic into marketing gold. Tricks. Lots of tricks. Parlor games, you might say.
    So how do people nowadays come up with their advertising ideas, whether brilliant or not? Probably some still use liquor, coke, Adderall, or who knows what else; undoubtedly some people just have a natural or studied "knack" for spitting out ideas.
    I know how at least one "Creative" person at an ad agency does it. I doubt I've met this person, and I have no first-hand knowledge of any of this, but I've seen many of the end products of their creativity. Somehow I know that at least this one person, if someone asks them how they come up with their campaign ideas, and if this person is actually willing to let on any of their secrets, says "Easy. I've got a trick. It always works."
    One of these easy tricks is just to close one's eyes and let pictures come in to one's mind. And then they just brainstorm ways to relate these pictures to the product they're aiming to advertise. This can be remarkably effective, and can be tried and retried all kinds of different ways. The results are not always genius, of course, but they are often mistaken as such by the non-creative people who employ them, people who never bothered to learn how to be creative or how to apply creativity to things like marketing. And the "creatives" come up with this stuff because it's their job to come up with ideas, not because any of their ideas will necessarily any good. Because the non-creatives see creativity as a mysterious black box, and they really don't want to know what might be inside, so they farm this task out to others who won't be afraid. These others get paid to be unafraid.
    And that's why occasionally you will see some ingenious ads on TV, and much of the rest of the time... Oh, I don't know... You might see a bunch of app icons floating over a town, and that's supposed to be really exciting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Depressing Shit: part of an ongoing series (though not too ongoing, Allah willing)

   This is an installment of an ongoing list I've been keeping for several years, and now I feel the need to share. I am only including things like movies, books, TV shows, and songs on here-- if I included actual events and phenomena from reality, this list would never end and I'd never stop thinking about depressing shit. Unavoidably, some of the items on this list touch on depressing stuff from reality, and that's part of what makes them so depressing. I am also not devaluing the quality of any of these artifacts; many of them are quite good, even great: touching, well-made, intelligent, and so on; but nonetheless, they bum me out. I'm sure it's at least partly because of the high quality that they depress me so.
   And these choices are all subjective, of course. If any of these things happen to not depress you, maybe you're just having a less depressing life than I (wink, wink). Lucky you! Also, some of the items on this list were suggested by friends (Thanks, Larry!).
   I've alphabetized the items in each sub-list. If I tried to rank them some other way, that would depress me further.
   Maybe this list will help you avoid some things that could depress you, too. Or maybe not. Enjoy.
Some depressing movies:

◦Darwin's Nightmare [didn't even see this, but just reading a review put me in a tailspin.]
◦Edge of Darkness [UK version-- I haven't seen the other]
◦Frozen River [sad, but a great movie-- no need to avoid this one!]
◦The Girl Next Door [2007 child abuse flick; my Netflix review: "An honest-to-God nightmare, and I don't mean the quality of the production or anything like that. This purports to be the true story of a mom who tortures young girls and teaches little boys to torture and rape the girls while a bunch of other kids watch. Maybe people who have no clue about the realities of child abuse should see this movie (or even just part of it) to get an understanding of the things people do. Having a mom who worked in juvenile court, I have heard countless stories about real cases of child abuse, so I REALLY didn't need to see this. If you have a shred of conscience, this movie will make you ill. My husband got angry that I picked this movie for us to see. But we both had a little brandy afterwards and now we're going to watch some light comedy, so maybe we can recover someday. You have been warned."]
◦Kids [had to turn it off after the first 5 minutes; was already at a low point in my view of male-female relations, and this just made it worse]
◦Letters from Iwo Jima [didn't make it through the whole thing here, either; made me too sad]
◦Heater [don't actually remember seeing this, but on rereading the Netflix description, figured it was on the list for a reason]
◦Panic in Needle Park [haven't seen this; a friend suggested it for the list]
◦Requiem for a Dream [This damaged me forever; or at least I haven't recovered yet, all these years later]
◦Savage Grace [Julinne Moore drama]
◦A Single Man [didn't see it; a friend warned me it was depressing]
◦Sneakers [maybe more irritating than depressing, but it brought me down one way or another]
◦The Squid and the Whale [great movie and even has some laughs, but still]
◦Tideland [like a nightmare with great production design]
◦A Time for Drunken Horses [my Netlfix review: "This movie is beautiful but VERY upsetting, especially if you have a soft spot for children or animals. After watching this, I'm going to have to stick to light comedies for a while."]
◦The Wrestler
Some depressing music:
◦Elliott Smith [a friend's suggestion; I personally don't know his music well]
◦Failure [a Larry suggestion; I don't know their stuff, either]
◦The Replacements and/or Paul Westerberg [not all their music, but a lot of it; I nominate "Here Comes a Regular" one of the most depressing songs ever]
◦a lot of 70s and 80s schlock [I'll post some specific examples later]
Some depressing TV shows:

◦Nancy Grace
◦Showbiz Tonight [on CNN; the commentary could kill a person or horse]
◦16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom
◦any show about storage units or pawn shops
To be continued and added to later! I welcome your suggestions, because I'm always looking to avoid other things that could depress me (instead of actively looking for things to make me more depressed, like I used to)... though I hope we won't find TOO many more depressing things. I hope.

EDIT: I thought of more depressing stuff! Read Part 2 here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Little Men on the Wall Are Always Right

I hate being quizzed. I hate being made to guess at something by some person nearby who knows the answer already and who's smirking and twirling on one foot while waiting for me to come out with the magic words.
    This happened to me recently, in my lifetime. I was at a restaurant that thought it was Greek or Italian or Greco-Roman or something, and like many such places, it had some funny and yucky "decadent" ancient Roman-style schlock on the walls, as "decor." Good for scaring the little ones, I've always thought. Lots of eyeless masks making capital-T Tragic faces, hanging here and there, and lots of plaster or plastic bunches of grapes. Very cute, in their way. Makes you not want to eat the table cloth so much.
    But the centerpiece of this horror extravaganza was a mishmash mandala of relief figures on the wall you see as soon as you enter the place. There are smallish nude male figures, about to throw the discus or something, and a massive, barfy mask of a bearded man who appears to be screaming. There are plaster worms coming out of his mouth, coiling up around his beard and intertwining with the disproportionately tiny man bodies. The little men don't care about the giant worms, of course. Too busy doing track and field events. I guess the mask is supposed to be the face of one of their displeased gods. It really tends to erode the appetite, this centerpiece.
    And not only that, but also the waiter gleefully tried to goad me into guessing what other picture was hidden in the thing.
    "Turn your head and look at it sideways, and see what you can see," he said. So I turned my head, and I looked and looked, and it still looked like ugly plaster mush, and I turned my head another way, and also saw this restaurant refuse [that's the noun REF-use, not the verb], only sideways. Maybe the giant tragedy mouth looked a touch more obscene this way, but not enough to say it was a hidden picture. Was this some kind of sex thing? The way Waiter Guy was acting, I should have either gotten a big chuckle or been deeply offended by whatever I was supposed to see.
    These games irritate me, especially when the person keeps telling me I'm doing it wrong even though I'm following all their instructions exactly. I wanted to whack this guy in the head-- only very gently, of course-- but you can't do that. It just isn't done. We weren't even friends, and I only whack people I'm close to.
    Anyway, I just kept seeing the same ugly face, the same athletic little Olympians, and the same feeble, pudgy worm-snakes. So what did I do? I left. No, wait-- before I did that, I just lied to the guy.
    "Oh, yeeeeeeeeeaaahhhh...," I said, as if making a great discovery. Like it was the dawning of a new era in seeing things on restaurant walls, things that had always been hidden before.
    "Uh-huh," said Waiter Guy, with a bigger, more annoying smirk than before.
    Wow, I thought. I just made his night.
    So then I left, feeling dirty, as usual. I hate how agreeable I am with people. I could really have some awesome disagreements, maybe even some fistfights, if I just had the heart to be contrary in situations where it doesn't matter one bit. Other people seem to do this really well, making a big deal out of trifles and causing bad feelings needlessly.
    OK, that'll be my New Years resolution. Disagree more for no reason other than just to be right. I'll get working on it right away.