Sunday, 28 November 2010

Adland - A global History of Advertising - Mark Tungate

Promising title but the book was not that exciting. The history of England and the USA are very interesting, whereas it seems that the other countries either do not have that much of an exciting history, or the author did not care that much (I can speak for Germany only, where the former seems to be the case). Anyways, here are a couple of nice quotes nevertheless:

“Leo (Burnett) told staff he wanted his name to be removed ‘when you spend more time trying to make money and less time making advertising – our type of advertising” (Tungate, 2007, p.75).

BMP’s Webster had a special approach of creating iconic characters for his campaigns instead of using celebrities: “but if you create you’re your own characters, as we did, people associate them with the product” (Tungate, 2007, p.92).

Maurice Levy: “If they think I’m the best person to run this agency, I’m at the wrong agency.” (Tungate, 2007, p.123).

“One thing is certain: advertising is not going away. As long as somebody has something to sell, adland will always have a place on the map.” (Tungate, 2007, p.268).

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Rene Girard - The Scapegoat

Girard argues that human history is based on the scapegoat principle: there is unrest in society, borders and differences have been abandonded and thus mimetic violence spreads. Someone, just anyone, is sacrificed, no matter whether he is guilty or not. Just by everybody believing in his guilt in causing the unrest, will solve the problems. And since the scapegoat solved the problem, he is declared sacred with hindsight. That is mythology.

The more societies still believe in this principle and havenot uncovered its injustice the more primitive they are. To Girard the bible is not a myth among others, because the passion uncovers this principle by taking the side of the victims for the first time. “reject sacred ambivalence in order to restore the victim in his humanity and reveal the arbitrary nature of the violence that strikes him” (Girard, 1986, p.104). Thus the bible doesn’t even use the term ‘scapegoat’ but the term ‘lamb of god’which clearly indicated innocence (Girard, 1986, p.117).

“The victim of the Psalms is disturbing, it is true, and even annoying compared with an Oedipus who has the good taste to join in the wonderful classic harmony” (Girard, 1986, p.104).

Moreover, the victim breaks the cycle of mimetic violence by claiming: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”

“If it is by the spirit of god that I cast out demons, the soon there will be no more demons or expulsions for the kingdom of violence and expuslion will rapidly be destroyed. (…) Instead of casting it out he (Jesus) is himself cast out, thereby revealing to men the mystery of expulsion” (Girard, 1986, p.190).

Mark Twain - The adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The best book I have ever read about morality:

“They went off, and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do right (…) Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on, - s’pose you’d a done right and give Jim up: would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad – I’d feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I couldn’t answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn’t bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time.” (Twain, 1884).

“’Well,’ says Buck, ‘a feud is this way.A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins chip in – and by-and-by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud. But it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time.” (Twain, 1884, p.167).

„So we poked along back home, and I warn’t feeling so brash as I was before, but kind of ornery, and humble, and to blame, somehow – though I hadn’t done nothing. But that’s always the way; it don’t make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person’s conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him anyway.” (Twain, 1884, p.302).

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Jonathan Franzen - Freedom

This book is actually not that good looking. And it is a classic ‘high-concept’ book and the concept is obviously freedom, our hunt for it and the attempts to maintain it.

“Where did the self-pity come from? The inordinate volume of it? By almost any standard, she led a luxurious life. She had all day to figure out some decent and satisfyingwayto live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable.” (Franzen, 2010, p.181).

“People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don’t have money, you cling to your freedom all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can’t afford to feed your kids, evenif our kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing noboday can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.” (Franzen, 2010, p.361).

The book shows how this leads to avoiding and doubting any commitment and the constant urge to try out more options in life. Thereby we are never happy with the life we are leading. This simply concept is then blown up with stories from theBerglund family over 500 pages.

Towards the end, the book presents a solution as simple as the problem posed: commitment.

“There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it’s the right unhappiness. Gene no longer had to fear a big disappointment in the future in the future, because he’d already accomplished it; he’d cleared that hurdle.” (Franzen, 2010, p.447).

This solution then leads to a simple, rather dull Hollywood happy ending. If we all commit ourselves to something, anything, preferably private, everyone’s home will be a great place.