June 21, 2004
Ray Charles was the greatest rock'n'roll singer; in fact, he was in
some ways the inventor of the category. Somebody challenged me on that
statement today, and I said, "Okay, he was the greatest of all the
rock'n'roll singers who tried to sing like Ray Charles." The guy
admitted that was true. Then he tried to figure out who was not one of
Ray Charles used to say he was a Republican; so did Elvis (I don't mean to cheapen the views of either of them, y'know?) Watching all the commercial drivel spooned on by the media, you would think that Ronnie R. was as popular as Ray and Elvis. Not so, except for perhaps right this minute, as Americans are being instructed what to do on the occasion of Ronnie's long-awaited death. We are told to talk about how Reagan bucked up the country with his confidence. Then, on TV, that's what we talk about.
In terms of commercial advertising, the Acting President was a perfect piece of casting. "Let's find an actor who is already well known, who is charming, who can play the part of leader, and who can actually appear to believe in the script. Hey, here he is! Let's sell some cheeseburgers!"
But now we have Dubya, the Joe Isuzu to Reagan's Mr. Whipple. Bad casting. Except for the excellent way he wears a suit, this twerp is not a good salesman. Many dimwitted Republicans like him, because they're well-trained consumers and have learned to love only advertising slogans. The rest of us, who never believed that all those doctors recommended Camel cigarettes, distrust the blatant falsity of the campaign, and the obvious incompetence of the spokesman. How long do you have to live before you can recognize a pile of horseshit heaped in front of you on the street?
Well, if you've been raised on television, horseshit is only another image in the passing flood of briefly interesting stuff. Wars and lies about them are only plot points in the grand, endless saga called "Here's What to Buy Next." The "Consumer Society" -- this is what we're said to live in -- tells us that we must line up and buy, quickly, before the moment passes and The Market is harmed. "I'll have one of those" is considered the only decent response to a sales pitch.
This little rant started out to be a tribute to Ray Charles -- a truly great Republican (if he was indeed a Republican) -- but it just natcherly became a diatribe against the hideous Republican Party which continues to make me ashamed of being an American. The Republican Party can take John Calvin and Adam Smith, roll 'em up into a nice, fat tube, and shove 'em where the sun don't shine. I pray that none of their egregious hustlers will try to take possession of the wonderful legacy of Ray Charles. But I bet they will. They'll see it as good advertising. Advertising (con games) is all these hustlers have.
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Garry Goodrow is a reader of and contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser. This contribution was published in the June 16, 2004 edition of the weekly. It is re-published with the permission of Bruce Anderson, the AVA publisher.
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