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Friday, September 08, 2006

Notes for the underground

The internet is a fountain for serendipity, if nothing else. Certainly from my side there has been no money to be made. But every once in a while you have stimulating dialogues, or even nascent projects as a result of a random search and the right combination of hypertext.

So, a story I wrote a few years ago - transposed from another story I personally experienced a few years before that - is now making its way through London’s subway system. I’ve never even been to London, but thanks to the editor of Litro, who found my story on 3ammagazine.com, somebody in that illustrious city might be reading it - some dude might even be wiping his ass with it for all I know. But I like the idea of random commuters picking up a copy. There’s always the off chance someone might actually dig it.

No I didn’t get paid for it (neither of the two times the story got published). But that’s not the point.

You can download it and comment on it via their website. Here's the link to the pdf. This zine is literally and figuratively underground. They hand out a different story every Friday morning to commuters entering the subway (be sure to check out past editions). It is a labor of love. My hat is off to them for starting it.

Of course, labor of love is something alien and frightening to many people. How on earth can you do something without monetary reward? “Like dude,” people tell me, “you gotta make your web a portal, put banners and shit on there ….” Well, no, quite frankly I think that kind of thing would be tacky. I’m not against making money, but there’s a difference between inspired craftsmanship – be it painting, or music, or writing – and what simply is advertising.

Advertising is not art. Marketing is not art. For example (this is a based on a conversation I had the other night), I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people tell me they make commercials as an inroad to make movies. As if the one had to do with the other. The problem is most people in advertising, because of the common medium being used – print, multimedia, television – think they are creating art. I’ve worked with these people, I’ve even edited commercials, and I can tell you from experience that they are among the most clueless individuals I’ve ever encountered. Fueled by a desperate need not to feel superfluous, they trick themselves into thinking they are creating art – i.e. something transcendent. My friends, if you are making a commercial for Coke, no matter how hip are snappy it is, no matter how many Argentinian tap dancers you throw in there, it is still a vision distilled through the eyes of people that think about one thing and one thing only, and that is to make money.

It is parasitic really. They see an idea that is becoming universally accepted or appreciated and exploit it. They take no risks. I can’t respect a drone, which is what most of the people in advertising are. Yes, I suppose there’s an art in everything, and they are artists in making money. But they do not create, or sacrifice. Everything is too calculated for that. Self-delusion, desperate hipness, tacit acceptance of the norm – this defines their little subculture.

I prefer someone who is straight up about what they do. You make money. You advertise. You consult. Whatever. Just don’t be pretentious about it..

Anyway, that’s why I appreciate what they’re doing with Litro Magazine. I’m sure it will form into something and pay for itself one day.

Excuse my little rant. Actually I have some friends in advertising, but they probably won’t even read this post.