December 1997
s m u g
by Leslie Harpold

In the interest of the Holiday spirit, and the haven for meta discussion that is the Internet, a few observations have to be made as we pull the curtain down on the past year. It's been an interesting year, both on and off line, and I'm glad to see it end. My favorite part of this year was - you guessed it, meeting all of you; the Smug staff and I had all this extra digital love this time last year and no place to put it. We're glad we found you.

We're not going anywhere. Once you do something for a year, and the anniversary is upon you, the painful process of self examination begin. We're skipping that. Trying to keep our feet firmly planted in reality the only questions we asked were a) can we still move our fingers? and b) are we out of things to say. Yes we can and no we aren't. We will continue to deconstruct the media, listen to better music than most people, and obsess over things like sex and the human condition, consumer goods actually worth consumption, and how to fake your way through uncomfortable social events.

Enough about us. What about everyone else? As part of the OJ backlash, we have become a nation of watchers. We watch reality on television and the only thing that surprises me is me how surprised people are by things that aren't that shocking. It seems Americans spent more time this year watching infotainment like the English Nanny and the Diana funeral - a disturbing trend indeed, that a nation which struggled long and hard to separate from the the British Empire would be so suddenly enamored of things British.

The Diana spectacle was the most distasteful. While I'm sorry two children lost their mother, I'm appalled at American celebrities who used tragedy to advance their own agendas decrying the very paparazzi that made them the celebrities they aspired to become. Their chosen tool? The press. So, they used a medium to chastise a medium which elevated their celebrity in the same medium. This is increasingly commonplace. Buzzwords and catch phrases were bandied about with little thought as to meaning, also not unusual. The news repeated ad nauseum how being Princess Diana was every little girls dream. Seeing as this was American news, they might as well have said every American girls' dream, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Come now, was I the only person who remembers History class? The big tea party? America was started in direct response to Britain's tyranny, if you recall. Capitalism is the opposite of monarchy, because, theoretically, in America, everyone could be the King. Why then 221 years later are we having a change of heart and dreaming of royalty. Sympathy - as a media device has little use for facts.

Maybe Louise Woodward did kill the child and maybe she didn't. Again, having been tried in the media, all anyone remembers is that the child's Mom seemed like yuppie scum, not sad enough for anyone's taste, and Louise got a make over for TV. Guilt or innocence has little to do with justice on television, it's all about flattering camera work and catchy theme songs. Like the OJ trial, it wasn't about who did what to whom and the moral question, it was about who had the cutest lawyers.

Advertising has started self mocking in an effort to get a little cleansing postmodern irony on itself, and it came out sullied. The success of Miller Lite's "Dick" campaign spawned a slew of advertising that mocks advertising, but the joke is the joke they are playing on themselves serves to further raise suspicion. "I know it's dumb to say this but it's my job to tell you to buy this." Most ad jockeys missed the real point that they created a human character (in the form of stock photography) who clearly believes in his product. It is the lack of glitz and pretense and clear voice that people are responding to, not the un-advertising sentiment.

Next year though, we'll see ads that go something like this:"Whatever you do, please don't buy this product because it's so good I want it all for myself" and it will work. Nature abhors a vacuum. Collectibility will be even more in, and soon, other non-durable goods will take a lesson from Tamogotchi and start making limited edition Downy with no bluing for little whiteness and limited edition pink foil with hologram Green Giant Frozen pea packages. We'll collect and pay premiums on things we might have needed anyway.

Whether Wired gets their IPO, Apple sinks or swims, and Cool Site of the Day disappears, Smug will still be free, still have those cute little icons, and still assert that no one is sexier than you.


in the junk drawer:

November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

and such
and such

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