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I looked down and realized that my old sneakers had given up the ghost. There was no saving this patient, not with three toes sticking out. So it was off to the latest shoe megasaleasaurus for some new shoes.

Right away I realized I was in trouble. There were oodles of shoes, all with names which semeed to have no relation at all to the shoe's intended use. Terms like 'walker's' 'jogging shoes' , 'deck shoes' etc seem to have no place in today's shoe marketing. Today's shoes are named the way people name real estate developments Instead the whole point is image.

Granted I was seventeen once. I would have killed for cool as I had none of it. I was a geeky kid with glasses, mega braces and I wanted to be a hippy which meant that unless I'd come immediately from a blow dryer I had a semi-fro. Which is even worse than a mullet.

Is it any wonder that I never got laid?

But I'm not seventeen now. Sometime during the past three decades I got laid. Shoes are an appliance not an accessory. Function trumps form. So I ended up searching my way through the shoes, looking at the tread to see if it would work on varied surfaces looking at the contruction to see if the shoe looked decently made, and looking to see if the shoe rightly belonged in the art deco movement.

Finally I settled down on what seemed like a decently made shoe that looked pretty good. Then I pulled out the box and realized the brand was 'Gorrillaz' or something like that. I realized that I was holding a shoe where the marketing department had deliberately used bad English in order to make the shoe seem 'cool'.

I set it back on the shelf. No sale. There were two other brands that used the same ghetto' marketing technique. No sale there either.

Now maybe they don't want me buying their shoes. After all, I'm middle-aged, no body builder, and not interested in recapturing my youth. On the other hand, unlike the kids they market to I can actually afford new tennis shoes, even though I'd never drop $100 on them.

If anything is bringing the culture down it is the free markets conservatives are so enamored with. It isn't liberals who designed panties for pre-teens with suggestive sayings, it was the marketing department. It isn't us who decided to try and remake 'spending' into 'saving', or who constantly promote heroes who 'break all the rules'. How about the gun companies who marked 'cop killer' bullets and guns with a fingerprint resistant surfaces? Rather it's a greedy capitalist who realizes that while people talk about socially responsible marketing, we buy the other stuff in droves. H.L. Mencken observed that "No one ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American people." They market that way because it works. Politicians run attack ads because they work. They tell us we 'deserve' their product because we're great and we eat it up.

To the free markets the only thing that has any value is money. Starving children don't matter. Parents who don't want their children to starve --- and have money to spend matter a lot. We have fifty five types of acne cream but there's a fatal illlness no one makes medicine for, because the number of victims is too small to ensure a profit. We dress ourselves with swooshes and corporate logos sometimes festooning our chests with brand names. We do this because we want to be seen as the kind of person who uses that brand. Remember when Busch Beer ran it's famous ''Be a mountain man' campaign suggesting that status comes from the right beer. Today, you are what you buy.

Okay, Ferraris are cool. But buying one won't make me cool. Buying one will make me a middle-aged guy with a gut who wants to impress women with his money. Granted a 512 or 360 would be a gas to drive at the race track, but a D sports racer will cost a lot less and get around the track a lot quicker. And no one will give me a ticket for speeding at an SCCA event.

But no thing in the world will make you 'cool'. This kind of marketing doesn't sell cool, but the idolatary of things. They want to make you think the best way to establish your independence through buying a corporate product.

Well, I'm not buying.

I was on the Metro tonight coming back home. I was standing since it's only a few stops, and near me were 6 girls who for some reason looked really young, like a 15 year old girl trying to look all grown up and not quite pulling it off. I would guess them for more like 18 or 19, realistically. In any case, since I had nothing better to do, I eavesdropped on bits of conversation.

One of them, who seemed like the alpha-girl (just guessing based on their body language and how the conversations went), was explaining to the others about how to act cool when ordering drinks, explaining how they shouldn't try ordering shots right away and things like that. As an aside, any bartender who would serve alcohol to these girls should have his eyes checked, even if they all did have fake ids. Then she started talking about how there was some Mexican place where they were going (which turned out to be Dupont Circle, a stop before me), which was, "Oh my god, so so good, it's even better than Chipotle", an idea which all the other girls expressed amazement at. It was all I could do not to just start laughing right then and there. Thankfully I didn't - I'm sure these girls would have been a little freaked by me laughing for apparently no reason right next to them. Nobody likes a crazy person. Nobody.

Now, I'll admit that I am probably pickier about Mexican than most people. I love both Mexican and New Mexican food, and can cook New Mexican reasonably well. And I've been lucky enough to live in or visit a number of cities with really good Mexican restaurants in them. But still, it seemed so ludicrous to me that anyone in an actual city could think Chipotle was really good Mexican cooking. Sure, sure, it's fine, better than most fast food places. But I've only lived in this city a short while, and I've already found several places to get really good Mexican. How could you have lived here for so long and not been to any of them?

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