Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Mocking Horror of Fake Realities

The Last Exorcism film poster (2010). Image Source: Wiki.

I recently saw a mockumentary horror flick, The Last Exorcism (2010), about a disenchanted exorcist who agrees to take part in one last exorcism, while bringing along a documentary crew to expose the ritual as a fraud. This film employs the usual tropes of Catholic exorcist and devil movies; the only novelty is the heavy irony about reality, typical of Millennial perspectives. The film's acting says this isn't real over and over, indicated by the actors ending every sentence on a sing-song, upward note. There are some scary bits, but they're overwhelmed by docu-gimmicks. The film also employed the 'found footage' motif and viral marketing. Strike Entertainment and Studio Canal used the chat site Chatroulette to market the film (see Chatroulette reviewed here, here and here). It presented site users with a girl starting to undress, then becoming possessed (see below).  This marketing ploy twists a potential audience's virtual realities, which are now the unsettling standard of their actual realities.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fans Capture Prehistoric-styled Legends

Cathy Baron, a fantastic Dewshine. Elfquest: A Fan Imagining (2011).

I have an earlier series of posts on Prehistory and how it is retro-futuristically alive and well, either in real pockets in the Amazon or through legends and fantasy that are brought to life, courtesy of CGI and transmedia.  This temporal jump is true of Tolkien's works, and arguably true of the pagan comics myth, Elfquest (see my post on the series here).  Elfquest has always been on the radar in one corner of comics fandom, but it hasn't been a hot title since the 1980s.  That's changing now that Elfquest fans have done a short film in the style of The Hunt for Gollum and  Born of Hope - two huge non-profit fan undertakings; these are made possible by digital film techniques, and are permitted because fans don't make any money from their sophisticated tributes. The main site for Elfquest: A Fan Imagining is here; the film was first screened online on 6 April 2011.  I never thought an Elfquest live film would be possible, but this project changed my mind.  You can see it below the jump.

Casey McKinnon as Brownberry.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Lament for Strawberry Ice Cream

Image Source: Evernew Recipes.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi - thus passes the glory of the world. Worldly things are fleeting.  I was going to do this post on goods that are made to break (all of today's so-called 'consumer durables') so we'll buy more of them.  It's amazing that there is such hype around our environmentally-conscious recycling culture, yet we are completely surrounded by throwaway planned obsolescence. Fleeting fashions. Problems with backwards compatibility.  I remember Michael Franti's commentary on how technology inspired cognitive dissonance back in 1991. I keep pondering oxymoronic language that persists in this atmosphere, like 'disposable income,' 'approach avoidance,' 'arrested development,' and 'accelerated decrepitude.'  I don't wonder what Franti thinks now of the Internet, a drug more potent than the "methadone metronone": you can see the video for his song, Television, the Drug of the Nation, here.

However, rather than talk about planned obsolescence, I thought I would talk about planned eradication of some products that were perfectly good.  These products have been eliminated for no other reason other than they 'don't fit' with the mythologies relentlessly churned out by up-to-the-second marketing minds.  Another, related, phenomenon is Millennial rebranding. Examples:
  • I started thinking about planned eradication when DC Comics began hemming and hawing about whether it will or will not erase its Titans pop culture canon because the comics medium is going digital.  Gen X heroes 'don't fit' the visions demanded by new media, apparently.
  • Another giant 'rebranding for the Millennium' exercise took place at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, wherein the public broadcaster disposed of its classical music radio offerings and replaced them with alternative rock.  There was a national outcry against this in 2008, but the rebranding went ahead.
  • The Washington Post reported in late 2010 that Steven Spielberg is advising Nancy Pelosi on how to rebrand the Democratic party in the US to make the Democrats more appealing to Gen Y and Gen Z (Hat tip: Elite Trader): "Lawmakers say she is consulting marketing experts about building a stronger brand. The most prominent of her new whisperers is Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood director whose films have been works of branding genius."  Spielberg's rep denied this report.
  • There is an article here by Charlotte Werther about Britain's Millennial rebranding as 'Cool Britannia.'
Wiki on Millennial rebranding:
Rebranding has become something of a fad at the turn of the millennium, with some companies rebranding several times. The rebranding of Philip Morris to Altria was done to help the company shed its negative image. Other rebrandings, such as the British Post Office's attempt to rebrand itself as Consignia, have proved such a failure that millions more had to be spent going back to square one.

In a study of 165 cases of rebranding, Muzellec and Lambkin (2006) found that, whether a rebranding follows from corporate strategy (e.g., M&A) or constitutes the actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), it aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or recreating the corporate brand equity.

According to Sinclair (1999:13), business the world over acknowledges the value of brands. “Brands, it seems, alongside ownership of copyright and trademarks, computer software and specialist know-how, are now at the heart of the intangible value investors place on companies.” As such, companies in the 21st century may find it necessary to relook their brand in terms of its relevancy to consumers and the changing marketplace. Successful rebranding projects can yield a brand better off than before.
Corporate Rebranding: Impact on Brand Equity (2006) © Laurent Muzellec and Mary Lambkin.

Rebranding often leads to the discontinuation of products, which has been going on for decades.  There are many sites devoted to discontinued products that consumers want to be able to buy again: see here, here, here, here and here. What strikes me is the helplessness of consumers in this instance - there is even a lobby group devoted to the problem. Marketers and managers have decided what consumers 'want,' even if that's not what consumers want. They ignore real demand and replace it with fake demand.

But what happens when planned eradication transcends specific products and even whole brands?  Never mind publishers, corporations, power brokers and governments. Here is a much more common product: Strawberry Ice Cream.  Try finding it in your local grocery store.  Yes, you can get yuppified flavours like Strawberry Cheesecake Low Fat Frozen Yogurt; or Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream; Strawberry Red Bean Vanilla Ice; Strawberry Rose Chocolate Ice Cream, or Strawberry Azuki Beans Ice Cream.  You can buy Black Cherry Ice Cream or Raspberry SorbetBut for some reason, regular strawberry ice cream 'doesn't fit' in the new Millennium.  I find this very strange. Of course, you can still get it somewhere in a decent gelateria. I'm talking about mass consumption.  There are hundreds of recipes online so that you can make it yourself, meaning that a high demand for it is still there. When did it disappear from stores? 

There is a Facebook group devoted to the loss of strawberry ice cream.  Why can't you buy JUST strawberry ice cream?? The group founder: "I love all types of ice cream it's true, and ... I love strawberry ice cream the best. After many late night discussions over this creamy dessert I have come to the shocking conclusion that there is an ice cream conspiracy - for no matter how hard I search, I can never find simply strawberry ice cream." Group members suspect the Neopolitan ice cream makers. There's another Facebook group on the disappearance: Strawberry Ice Cream: The Great Conspiracy.

It's not like strawberry ice cream was a one hit wonder. It existed for a long time before it vanished from grocery store freezers in the recent past.  It made it into the top ten ice cream flavours, squeezed in behind the likes of Cookies 'n' Cream ice cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.

Frivolous?  Yes.  But the larger point is valid.  What criteria do marketing consultants use to decide which products 'fit' the current moment and which ones do not? And why?  Perhaps in this case, a basic classic disappeared under too much choice, too much complexity, too much competing noise; marketing gimmicks fancied up the source product until there was no source product left.

Breathless ADDENDUM: I found some strawberry ice cream yesterday at a gas station convenience store.  But as far as I can tell, it's still no longer ubiquitous in grocery stores.  Please write me if you find otherwise - I'd love to be proven wrong!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self

Revlon ad altered to highlight seeming subliminal death imagery. Image Source: Subliminal Manipulation.

The other day, I caught a telltale momentary flicker on the television and wondered - with some uneasiness - what subliminal message I had just seen. The history of subliminal messages is bound up with the rise of mass democracy. The manipulation of the hidden depths of individual psychology, the cult of the self, the obsession with subjectivity, moral relativism and self-love that intensified through the 20th century and crested with the movements of the Baby Boomers, all involved techniques to manipulate, control, and profit from, the masses. Now, we should wonder how those techniques and ideas are carrying over into the virtual reality that the Web is becoming.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back to Black

Image Source: iGossip.

Yesterday, Gen Y lost an old style singer reminiscent of Nina Simone, known for her dark love songs, who artfully embodied early 1960s' fashion mashed up with apocalyptic Millennium.  A Google search of images of Amy Winehouse produces a catalogue of fame and suffering.  She joins the list of famous musicians and entertainers who died at the age of 27 (see here). Addiction is a mortal matter, a love affair with death, one day at a time. The official video of Back to Black is below the jump.

"BACK TO BLACK" (Winehouse/Ronson; 2006)

He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy

You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I'll go back to black

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to.....

I go back to us

I love you much
It's not enough
You love blow and I love puff
And life is like a pipe
And I'm a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside

We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to

Black, black, black, black, black, black, black,
I go back to
I go back to

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black