Tag Archives: communication

The Truth in Advertising

“WE SELL STEEPED TEA!” They make this sound as if it’s something special. Steeping is simply the process in which you turn water into tea. (Now if they could turn that water into wine . . .)  Or the commercial about how they sell beef that has been ‘grass fed’. What do you think they’ve been eating?

Advertisers understand that if you say something loud enough and with enough enthusiasm you can get a lot of people excited about it. Even if they don’t know what it is. And who can remember the jingles from your childhood about food? I remember more than I like to admit to. It’s the jingles that get people excited. And excited people buy stuff.  There are some truly amazing commercials out there that are touching and poignant and memorable. The polar bears, the Clydesdale horses, the puppy dog lost in the rain. You don’t forget these commercials.

“POP-A-MATIC POP A DICE!  POP A SIX AND YOU MOVE TWICE! I don’t remember the game but I can’t stop thinking about the jingle. Or how about:  “MY BOLOGNA HAS A FIRST NAME . . .” That’s how I learn to spell bologna!  I don’t hear many jingles anymore, at least not memorable ones. Commercials nowadays seem to be loud and annoying. And like so many people, I tape everything so I can fast forward through the commercials. I remember when I enjoyed the commercials, I was curious and entertained. But maybe the world has changed and it’s not quite so kind anymore.

I understand the job of an advertiser is to sell things. Hopefully in ways that are not illegal, immoral or unethical. That doesn’t say anything about telling the truth. But one can lie without actually doing so. It’s called obfuscation. I like this one a lot. Let me give you an example. A friend goes to a high price hairdresser to have her haircut for the first time. She spends 30 minutes in consultation before the scissors are even approached. Two hours later she comes out and is absolutely thrilled with her new do! And she asks you the inevitable… “What do you think?” Now do you tell her the truth: that her hair looks like it’s been cut by an eight-year-old on crack cocaine who has a twitching problem? Or do you obfuscate? “Wow”!  That could be a good wow or a could be an OMG wow. She’s not gonna know. Then you could say something like: “That’s a new look for you!” It’s all in the delivery and you have to sell it. This woman is happy with her hair, why would I want to change that. It may not be my taste but I’m not the important one here, she is.

To advertisers the buyers are not the important ones.  The clients that are selling the product, they are the ones that matter. They are the ones signing the cheques. So, we have that old adage: BUYER BEWARE! And that warning seems to apply to everything these days. Don’t take anything at face value and assume somebody’s trying to get something from you. What does that say about us?

 

Say What?

I speak English. I can say a smattering of  words in other languages but I am only fluent in one. And I must say I do enjoy this language. I enjoy it’s inefficiency, I enjoy it’s inexactitude. Let’s face it, it’s a bloody difficult language to learn. ‘We park on a driveway and we drive on a parkway’. Does that even make sense? We can use 10 words to say two and we can embellish like a master painter. It’s fun!

I admire people who come to this country with little or no English and they take the time and effort to speak well. I have met people that I did not know were not native born who spoke this language fluently. That impressed me. I think people who grow up here can be lazy. Oh hell, we can all be lazy! We slide into slang and we short form everything. And the double meanings can be hilarious. For example: ‘He wound a bandage around the wound’. And that’s not confusing?

I love to play with words. They are my sandbox. I was taught the rules on how to form a sentence, form a paragraph at a young age. Now, in some cases,  all of that goes out the window with me waving goodbye, jubilantly. Because sometimes the rules need to be broken. I’m not bending, I’m trashing.

While I definitely want to get my meaning across, I am also concerned with rhythm, with cadence. There is almost a musicality to my work. And I am not musically inclined, not by a long shot. But I hear these poems and stories in my head and they tell me where they want to go. Sometimes I go along for the ride and sometimes I fight them tooth and nail. I rarely win.

Now I know this makes me sound like a crazy woman. And maybe I am.(Are any of us actually sane? What is sane? Who decides? Sorry, tiny tangent, back on track.) I don’t know how my mind works but I know it spends a great deal of time moving words around. When I have a focus, an idea, my words tend to eddy around it like an embrace, a hug. I’ve written poems in 15 or 20 minutes simply because everything gelled quickly. Some of my best poems are written in far less time than would be expected. Other words need to percolate for a while. And then others sit for months, years and they won’t gel. And then one day everything falls into place.

Communication is the cornerstone of our species, of all species. Sometimes it is done well and unambiguously, other times it can cause wars. But we need more than just utilitarian communication. We need to sing. We need to reach for the stars with words and paint the planet with our prose. We need to plumb the depths of our psyche with expressions of our feelings, our wants and our desires.  We need to share our words. Together.

The Not So Simple Truth.

Last week I wrote a piece called The Art of the Lie. About how some people are really good at it and others not so much. So, this week I decided to write about the opposite, the truth. We desperately want to believe that the truth is simple, yes or no, one or zero but it is not. The truth is as malleable as wax on a hot sidewalk. Ask any police officer with three witnesses to a traffic accident, and you will find the truth of which I speak.  There will be three absolute, honest truths about what happened. They all saw the exact same thing but from different perspectives. And our perspectives are coloured by our history, our experiences and our beliefs.

Using the traffic accident as an example. A car careens into a pole. Sounds simple enough. One person sees a drunk careening across the road into a pole. A friend was killed by a drunk driver many years earlier. Another sees a person asleep at the wheel when the car plows into the pole. He had a friend who fell asleep on the way home from work. The third sees someone trying to commit suicide. A memory from his past.

As a species we are storytellers. Some go so far as to make a career out of it but each one of us tends to editorialize or to embellish what we see. We are not automatons; we use words to paint pictures. But what was it that our witnesses did not see? They could not imagine that the individual behind the wheel of the car had a medical emergency. A blood clot broke loose and travelled to his brain causing a stroke. His body reacted to the stroke by going into a full spasm forcing his foot down on the accelerator, leading to the accident. We can’t know what lies behind the truth. We either accept it at face value or investigate to learn the real truth, the whole truth. But most of us don’t do that. Most of us fill in the blanks with what we have experienced in our past. But what does that do to the truth?

The colour is yellow. Or is it Lemon? Gold? Canary?  We see the same colour but we interpret it differently. It is amazing to me that we can communicate at all. For the most part others understand what we mean when we use our words and yet some of our greatest humour comes from our misinterpretations. And also, some of our greatest tragedies. We don’t always understand each other’s truths. And it is open to interpretation.

Unsettled

When I sat down to write this post, I was a little flummoxed. There seems to be so much hatred seething about just below the surface. And some of it, of course, is erupting. Nothing subtle about it!  But we see too much of that on TV and I didn’t want to write about it, I wanted to write about joy and hope and prosperity. And then I wondered what I was smoking! Honey, life ain’t great at this particular moment!

I keep saying that I’m not suffering. And I’m not. I have my computer, books, TV, my food is delivered, everything is delivered. And yet I think I’m suffering more than I think I am. I’m relatively stable, psychologically speaking,  and yet who can say that with any authority except perhaps a doctor. And even that is sometimes questionable.  Sorry. What I am is unsettled.

I watch TV and yet I spend half of my time doing other things not paying attention. I have projects I want to finish but I just don’t have the initiative . I know what needs to be done and I am quite capable of it and yet I don’t do it. I have three books in a queue that I need to go through before I send them to the printer. A couple of weeks work at the most. I haven’t looked at them in two.

I’m not seriously anxious or afraid. I feel safe in the town I’m in but I don’t leave my apartment. When the weather was warmer, I would go out on my balcony. It’s too flipping cold now! I want to empty my apartment and reconfigure it with all new furniture. Don’t worry, that is not going to happen! The cost and inconvenience are insurmountable. So, I sat down at my computer and I designed a one-bedroom condo. It’s not a place that will ever be built but I rather like it. And it amused me for several hours. That seems to be my goal these days: amusement. That is a sad state of affairs. (I also designed a two-bedroom condo and a cottage with three bedrooms.)

I Zoom with friends and use FaceTime and Skype. I have Personal Support Workers that come in every day to help. Suitably masked and gloved but people nonetheless. I have a beautiful view of the Sky and a strip of the downtown. I’m warm and dry. I have nothing to complain about. There are people in the world that are truly suffering with circumstances and disease.

In Canada we have helplines to call if people are feeling overwhelmed. They are free and there are real people to talk to, to connect with. Sometimes it’s easier to tell a stranger then a friend. A study came out recently that said women are more psychologically affected by Covid then are men. I wonder if that’s true or maybe women are just more willing to talk about it. People are suffering in ways I cannot begin to imagine and all we can do is wait.  I can help through charities but that’s not enough. I will continue to help in whatever small way I can but I look forward desperately to some form of normalcy in the coming future. Did I mention that I am impatient? Maybe I’ll go design another building …

 

 

Whew!

I spent over an hour this morning posting a week’s worth of well, posts.  It usually takes fifteen minutes.  I have everything prepared in advance so all I have to do is plug things into the appropriate spots.  My picture is chosen for Wednesdays poem and I use the same icons for a year on my Daily and Shady Quips.

I knew the New Editor was here but the last time there was a change I was able to keep the old reliable Classic Editor.  I guess I got cocky.  And I got caught.  Why exactly did they make the decision to change?  The world is in an uproar.  People are getting sick and dying.  This is not a good time to change to something that is NOT user friendly.  I have a vision of tech savvy 20somethings sitting around a huge empty desk (social distancing of course) chewing wads of gum and diddling their phone.

One says “Like, I’m so bored!”  But it is in emoji speak so no actual sound emanates from his emaciated body.  (Computer nerds) And the next person responds with a stream of emojies that would impress World War II Code Breakers. The result of this fictitious exchange:  The New Editor.  It takes 4 times as long to do anything with 3 times as many steps.  Aggravation levels peak and irritation is at an all time high.

Perhaps they believe it is making our lives better.  It is not.

I have been shown how to get back to the old Classic.  I hope it continues to work.

Go to All Posts and then choose Classic Editor from the drop down menu at the top of ADD NEW?

 

Seeing

I was sitting on my balcony recently, causally glancing over the buildings in the near distance and I saw something I had never seen.  Now I have lived in this town, in this apartment building, in this apartment, for more than twenty-five years.  I have been venturing out on to this balcony literally hundreds of times. And I never saw it before?  It wasn’t the fact that it had been there decades longer than I have, it was that I hadn’t noticed it.

Our eyes may look but it is our brain that sees.  How many times have you walked into a room, looked around and missed seeing the person you were there to meet? They were standing in plain sight but you missed them.  How many times have you bumped into something or someone right in front of you?  Your eyes were open but your brain was distracted.

I was walking in a mall one day many years ago when I was startled by an old friend, just inches from my face.  He said that he had been waving and while I was looking at him, he realized I hadn’t seen him.  I hadn’t.  My mind, my brain was preoccupied.  So, while the saying ‘seeing is believing’ is catchy, I don’t believe it.

Four people see a traffic accident.  They will have four different accounts.  Ask any First Responder.  We all SEE things differently. Our eyes see and our brain interprets. And THAT is what we witness.

I look out over a pristine forest and I see great beauty in the flora and fauna. Someone who makes their living from cutting down those trees sees his children with food on the table and a roof over their heads. We are looking at the exact same thing and yet we ‘see’ something completely different. And therein lies the conundrum.

What is the truth? What is the truth to you?  There are some facts that are irrefutable and yet some people refuse to believe them. Why? Perhaps they are unable to handle the truth. And it is so difficult to sift through the masses of information and misinformation that we are bombarded with every day.  Sometimes it is easier to listen to whoever speaks the loudest.  Sad but true. What does that say about us as a people?  Mistakes have been made in the past that affected the entire world because the masses listened to the wrong voice. How can we ensure that doesn’t happen again?

Oh and what was it that I had not noticed?  It was the name of the building I was looking at in four-foot letters!

 

Subtext

 

Recently I was watching an old police drama. One character, that was being interviewed, was obfuscating and it dawned on me that it was all about the subtext. Of course, my little brain went wooooh!  My first thought was that kids today don’t understand subtext and then I realized:  that is how our youth speak to each other.  I am also not entirely sure they understand the art of communication. They can actually have complete conversations in 280 characters!  It used to be 140! And yet the average ‘text’ is usually only about 33 characters.  I can’t say ‘hello’ properly in less than 50.  And that is characters not words. When I was a youth, a text was a book, a sub was either a sandwich or a boat and characters were on the screen. Well, not really but those are the first things I think of.

Our language has evolved as our children have evolved. Today’s kids are in many ways much smarter than we ever were. But they are also dumber. Sorry that’s not fair.  But think about it:  how many have lost the ability to read cursive or tell time on an analog clock?  Good manners are no longer common place, good sense is lacking and good courtesy . . .

A proper conversation was fluid and accentuated with gestures and facial reactions, whole body movements. Dialogues today are via texts.  Heads down, eyes focused on a 4 x 6” screen.  And this is while they are sitting next to each other!  There is no sharing of emotions or reactions.  How can you experience the flavour, the intensity of a language if you are alone or unaware?  People who are blind or hearing-impaired use touch or movement to round out their talks.

Today’s conversationalists speak emoji. Teeny, tiny little figures that denote emotion. I think. I don’t really speak emoji. I know if I see a little yellow face with a smile that’s a good thing.  I have seen people use an entire string of these emoji creatures and they’re actually speaking a sentence. Impressive. But like so many languages, I can only speak a few words. But I can fake it really well!

I am afraid to look too far into the future. Will conversations become soundbites and emojis? Or will we regress to a time when people sat over a cup of tea and had long conversations with gestures and substance. I don’t want to spend an hour over lunch discussing some actor’s transcendental metamorphosis while he was grooming his dog. I like a real conversation about life, the world, the future . . .

For at least a little while we are going to have to be inventive in how we have our chats. But I truly hope we do not retreat to the little glass screen but we keep a dialogue going face-to-face even if it is at a distance. That to me is a conversation.