Was 2014 more obnoxious than previous years? It seemed pretty obnoxious, but was it as annoying as the year when an asteroid killed off all the mammoths and everyone had to subsist on boiled dirt weed? Hard to say, I must consult the oral histories. But 2014 definitely had some things – trends, phenomena, people, machinations of the zeitgeist – we would prefer to leave behind as we bravely soldier on towards entropy. I don’t mean the big, obvious stuff, like pollution and war and bullying, just the persistent, vaguely annoying pebbles in the collective shoe, so to speak. Here’s a brief list.
I turn on the television, I get Geico ads. I try to watch a YouTube video, I get Geico ads. I watched planes fly around during Fleet Week in San Francisco, and no joke, there was a goddamned skywriter making a Geico ad in the sky. I literally can’t even escape Geico while drinking in a park.
Aside from the fact that most of Geico’s ad concepts are so idiotic they shouldn’t have made it from someone’s brain to their mouth let alone pass vetting from multiple adult humans (that “Old MacDonald can’t spell” ad, holy hell), they have an entire series of ads whose entire premise is how oversaturated we already are with their ads (“Did you know about Geico?” “Of course, everyone knows that”). First of all, no one with this much ad money to burn could’ve made it without raping their customers. They’re essentially admitting, “Yes, this business is absolutely a racket.”
Don’t hate them as much as I do yet? Watch this video where the ad creators congratulate themselves for their brilliant concepts:
They seem to have gotten rid of the guitar/mandolin duo in 2014, which was a great first step. Now, let’s finish the job and bulldoze the entire company into a volcano.
By the way, if you want to know how to make commercials that don’t annoy the piss out of everyone, take a note from Southern Comfort, who has the best ad department in the universe.
I don’t know if hops obsession in other places is as persistent a problem as it is in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, but around these parts, four out of every six beer taps is dedicated to an IPA. So many choices! Hmm, let’s see… do I want an IPA, a double-hopped IPA, or the quintuple-hopped hopsplosion limited edition dry-hopped hops growler served in a pine tree? If I ask a waitress what’s on tap, eight times out of ten the first words out of her mouth are “well, we have a really good IPA…” and almost every self-described “beer snob” lists five different IPAs as his/her favorite. Look, nothing against an IPA from time to time, but guess what! There are other flavors besides hops! If you’ll permit me an analogy, drenching everything you eat in hot sauce does not make you a Mexican food aficionado.
Most of their video concepts are based on finding some half retarded shut-in to sample something all normal humans have experienced. Then they zoom in on the person’s dumb face as he or she tries to come to terms with the concept of “Swiss cheese” or whatever. “It has… holes in it? Gosh, well that’s kind of… weird.”
Money quote: “I’ve never had syrup before.”
Nothing like watching a group of grown adults so intellectually uncurious they need a camera on them to try, say, drinking from a glass, or reading a book. “Gosh, I never thought to pet a dog before, is that what the fur is for? It never occurred to me.”
Other videos, you can’t tell if they’re just stupid, or actually offensive.
The worst part about them is that you wind up so infuriated that you want to send them to everyone you know as the perfect example of the decline of civilization, and then you realize your reaction was probably the point all along. Outrage sharing is baked into the business model. Now I have to feel guilty about my own indignation! Buzzfeed even manages to ruin hate-watching.
Corporate Drones Being Taught To Empathize
In case you missed it, this week brought us yet another nightmarish Comcast phone call.
Most of the focus seems to be on the fact that Comcast won’t honor their own promises even when you record them. Which is terrible, certainly, but not enough attention is being paid to the fact that every time the caller outlines a problem, the Comcast rep says something like “Well yes, I can certainly see why that would be a problem. I would be angry too if I were you, I am also a customer in many situations. I AM CURRENTLY EMPATHIZING, MR. ____. IF YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH MY EMPATHY PLEASE PRESS 4 TO TAKE A QUICK SURVEY.”
Comcast is probably the worst offender (in all things), but it seems as if someone in corporate saw their customer service ranking consistently plummeting, and decided the solution was to not actually solve problems, but to train their drones to constantly reiterate how much they commiserate with the problem havers. You’d swear they have Rosie Perez from White Men Can’t Jump training their call center employees.
If anyone in charge of such things is reading this, every second you spend empathizing with me is another second I waste on the phone with you. I’m trying to minimize the amount of time I spend talking to people on headsets, can you empathize?
The Paleo Diet
This is a tough distinction to make, because pretty much everyone should shut up about their dietary restrictions forever, whatever they are. But most other diets don’t have a special magazine devoted to them that I have to see at the checkout counter every time I go to the grocery store. And paleo dorks get a special slot on this list by virtue of having possibly the most idiotic philosophical underpinnings of any diet. To argue about whether or not cavemen ate beans or grain is to miss the bigger picture. You’re basing a dietary restriction on the one thing I’m pretty positive cavemen didn’t have: dietary restrictions. Also, your mother is a caveman.
Subnote: Is “eat clean” a paleo thing? Because that has to be the most psuedo-scientific white person delusion I’ve heard since cutting out “toxins.” Naturally, I’m aware of this trend mostly through people putting pictures of their food on Instagram.
It’s hard to criticize thinkpieces without sounding like a white dude who thinks people with less privilege should know their place. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the long rambles where a writer has some vague problem with a pop culture phenomenon that they can’t quite put their finger on and so they sort of ramble for 11 paragraphs before deciding to call it “problematic.” Which I guess is more official sounding than “I don’t like this.”
Again, I think outrage sharing must be a big part of the business model, but thinkpieces may have finally hit a tipping point this year when a Huffington Post writer wrote a treatise on why the “Mail Kimp” lady at the beginning of the Serial podcast is racist, having assumed the person saying “Mail Kimp” was an Asian woman and that the ad was somehow making fun of her. Soon after it was posted, a Serial producer pointed out that, no, the person saying “Mail Kimp” wasn’t Asian at all, and the writer apologized and took down the piece.
That the writer actually apologized for basing her entire lecture on a flawed premise that a tiny bit of research would’ve confirmed and retracted the piece is actually a big step forward. Most of the time they’d say “Okay, well this example was certainly a poor illustration of it, but the thing I’m talking about is still a huge problem!”
Look, not everything is a “teaching moment.” And it dehumanizes the people involved in your example to just yadda yadda the facts of their situation to illustrate your agenda. Stop writing essays about something you claim is a serious issue where the framing device is something Miley Cyrus did.
Jesus Christ, I get nine or 10 Change.org emails every month, you’d think I’d bought something from them online or something.
I mean seriously, how hard is it to find a plane? Planes are big.
I’m not sure what’s worse, people using dumb pranks to sell you something…
…Or people constantly “pranking” their family and friends, or tricking strangers into thinking they’re in legitimate peril.
It’s bad enough I can’t walk down the street without someone starting a fake conversation with me to get me to sign a petition, now I have to worry about being “pranked” on YouTube. Eventually we will all have our headphones turned up all the way and refuse to make eye contact with anyone, just in case. Imagine you’re just trying to run a grocery store or news stand and every few days you have to chase away the next Improv Everywhere with a broom. I DON’T WANT TO BE IN YOUR FLASH MOB, BRO.
All prank videos should end like this one:
Social Media Gurus
Your job title shouldn’t end in “guru,” “prophet,” or “rock star,” unless you are an actual cult leader or musician. Please, God, let this be the last year we ever have to hear the name “Shingy” (pictured).
A lot of these gurus are so dumb they think they’re inventing things that have already existed for years. You may remember 27-year-old Emerson “Passionate About Virality” Spartz from a few days ago (who we also know about because of a New Yorker profile, maybe that’s part of the problem… er… problematic).
He went on, “If I were running a more hard-news-oriented media company and I wanted to inform people about Uganda, first, I would look it up and find out exactly what’s going on there. Then I would find a few really poignant images or story lines, ones that create a lot of resonant emotion, and I would make those into a short video—under three minutes—with clear, simple words and statistics.”
You mean… like TV news?
A Katy Perry song was playing on the radio. “Art is that which science has not yet explained,” he said. “Imagine that the vocals are mediocre in an otherwise amazing song. What if you could have forty people record different vocals, and then test it by asking thousands of people, ‘Which one is best?’ To me, that’s a trickle in an ocean of possible ways you could improve every song on the radio.”
You mean… like focus groups? This is a guy who gave a TED talk.
“I study virtual trends” is just a fancy way of saying “I keep living my life, trying to figure out what the f*ck’s going on.”
It’s almost hard to enjoy things nowadays without imagining the inevitable thinkpiece or outraged right wing email forward about it. Speaking of outraged right wing email forwards, I’m sure there were plenty about the guy who got kicked off a flight when he flipped out after being wished a Merry Christmas. Which just as easily could’ve been someone flipping out about being wished “Happy Holidays” as part of the “war on Christmas.”
Hey, someone was trying to tell you to have a nice day. Maybe take it in the spirit in which it was intended? Can we not wage the culture war through pleasantries?
Phew, okay, I think I’ve just about run out of steam. I trust that this airing of petty grievances has brought us all closer together.