Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Nucleus Friend, Prepare, I Return Again

So I’ve made up my mind and decided to go to watch the big Germany-Turkey football game instead of seeing the Staatskapelle play Janacek’s Sinfonietta. Back-tracking a bit, that means my last concert in Berlin was the Schnittke/Shostakovich shindig. Not too shabby a way to go out. So with the close of the Berlin concert season, my blogging should dip down to a less frequent pace (“at a medium pace,” I say to myself, in the same Adam Sandler voice that’s been familiar to him since 7th grade and the second great milestone of swearing-is-funny that was reached with the release of the SNL star’s first comedy album in my formative years (the first milestone being my “first swear ever” in 3rd grade, playing kickball at Franklin Elementary during recess, when I said “pitch the damn ball” and everyone around me laughed and thought it was awesome (the third being Dirty Weekend/The Frank Sanchez Band)) (And speaking of swearing, let me just also parenthetically note the passing of George Carlin, who was of course the Godfather of contemporary comedic swearing (though one of my favorite jokes of his, from one of his later HBO specials, during one of his opening monologue-rap thingies, is swear free, where he's going on about contemporary existence and gets to the statement "I'm an alpha male on beta blockers," which I think is great example of smart funny word play (and there's a short bit a little later on in that same special about corn-holing, which is also funny (and sweary)))). In fact, it will almost certainly be the case that I take a vacation from blogging for a little while, if for no other reason than I’ll have nothing to blog about (though I have enjoyed blogging this summer, and hope that all of you have enjoyed reading my vague and half-assed attempts to (b)log my concert-goings (all, what?... n+7 of you?)).

There’s a great joke in the “Mr. Plow” episode of The Simpsons, where Homer goes to an ad agency to buy a commercial to revitalize his business, and the ad agent tells Homer that Homer is in good hands, since he (the ad agent) invented that annoying radio commercial where one guy is in the know and the other isn’t, and then Homer punches the ad agent, and the ad agent says that Homer’d be surprised to know how often that happens (I think I’m remembering this correctly (gee, I really don’t type out Simpsons references too often)). This evening – and this is, I guess, my closing anecdote for Berlin2K8 – I was hanging out with a bunch of Canadian and US ex-pats at a couple of bars that were obviously ex-pat bars (I think I’ve actually had about as many interactions with the ex-pat community (or some segment of it) in the past week as I’ve had in the entire 3 other months that I’ve lived in Berlin. Not sure what’s up with that exactly (except for my apparently kind of annoying desire to speak in German even though I can’t actually speak all that much German – that definitely keeps me from hanging out with too many English speakers (oh, and also my lack of money – I can’t really afford to drink in bars very often (it being about 3 times as expensive as drinking out of corner stores, and 4 times as expensive as drinking bottles of beer from the grocery store))).). Two of the people I was with, whom I had just met this night, a man and a woman, worked for an advertising company. (I try to keep my generally better-left-undiscussed political opinions off the blog, but a couple sneak in during the following anecdote. I apologize.)

At first, thanks to hole that I live in pretty much year-round, I didn’t really see what the big deal was, except that it was weird that the woman whispered the name of her company. I did soon enough find out that she (and the dude, who I didn’t really interact with much at all) worked for one of those companies that advertises and then sells ringtones for cellphones. Apparently one of the biggest purchasers of advertising space on MTV these days (don’t have a TV, haven’t watched MTV much ever, and pretty much not at all since probably 1999 or so). My initial reaction was not to punch her, but to make the Simpsons reference to Homer punching the ad guy – since those cell phone ringtone ads are pretty much the most annoying advertisements currently in existence, I think (I don’t really know, haven’t seen much of them). I didn’t really have a chance, because pretty quickly the woman, who I think was drunk, started to rant to me and a friend of mine about her business smarts, and launched into a whole-hearted if non-sensical defense of the company she works for. Not that I could have launched any kind of offense against it – except that, yeah, you know, I probably would attack it if I had any real sense of the wrongs enacted by them—though I certainly do have a better sense now of the evil of her company after her attempted defense thereof. (The woman, a self-proclaimed proud American, was clearly used to preemptively striking in terms of discussing her vile employers.)

I pretty quickly said something to the extent of “Wow, well, I understand where you’re coming from, since I believe exactly the opposite of you.” – she had said something to the extent of “If you can’t make money doing something, then it isn’t worth doing.” and backed out of the conversation, hung around just to observe (though the bluntness of my statement was noted by both the woman and the surrounding people (what’re you gonna do?)). My Canadian friend, however, decided to jump in and “have a conversation.” I’ll spare the details of the conversation itself (ask me in person, I’ll give you the longer (though probably more righteously indignant) version), but it was a very cool window into the world (though probably, again, a version of this world under the influence) of someone who does bad capitalist things for a living and tries to feel good about doing them. The main moral was something like, in a paraphrase of the woman’s own words “[This woman] has worked jobs since she was 14 years old, so it’s completely legitimate work to design advertisements that induce current 14 year olds to sign up for an initially free ringtone service which automatically ‘sells them up’ to a for pay service (essentially the old ‘bait and switch’ [her words, as if it was something she learned back when she was earning her Associate’s Degree in business]), even if they have to forge their parent/guardian consent in the process, and [her company] should not be liable for any damages to bank accounts there-wrought, because it is their (the 14 year olds) money, and individuals have the right to spend their money however they want.”

That’s just a highlight. Really pretty amazing. Unbridled incoherent senseless capitalist (I actually feel like 'capitalist' is the wrong word here, but am not sure what the 'right' (nyuk nyuk) one is) apologia at its finest. The woman at various points mentioned that since we (my friend and I) hadn’t studied business, we didn’t really have a right to an opinion in the first place. Also, we were mooches who just lived off of our friends (I had claimed, for the sake of simplicity, to be an “artist,” which apparently means “someone who tricks people who want to feel ‘cultured’ into giving him or her money”). And eventually she even accused my friend of being homeless. I tried to get a hook-up for some free kick-ass ringtones, but by then the bridge-that-never-was had already burnt. Fitting that the first genuinely unpleasant person that I meet in Berlin is actually an American.


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