Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Best Freaky Hippy Cult That For Some Reason Is Used To Sell You Stuff.

Showdown September Continues!

America has a love-hate relationship with two things: advertising, and cults.

We say we hate advertising -- well, you all say you hate advertising. I say I love it but then I also point out that I love technology that lets me skip advertising, and then I balance that all out by coming up with a way to get advertisers to make ads that I can't skip. So I guess I have a love-hate relationship with my relationship with advertising.

Really, there should be some sort of prize for living with me.

The point is that everyone says they hate advertising, but they actually like it because they pay attention to ads and buy things that ads tell them to buy and, if you are the kids in my house, you even click on those pop-up ads that promise you a free iPod just for figuring out which Teddy Bear is hiding the pinwheel, which then makes me pay attention to ads for spyware removal programs and for new laptop computers, and also ads for places that will let me sell my blood or maybe a kidney to pay for the spyware programs, new laptops, and also the "graphing calculators" I have to buy every year at the start of school and which cost upwards of a hundred bucks and which prompted me to wonder why calculators are used to graph stuff, instead of simple, cheap "graph paper" like we used to have.

Also, what did the "Trapper Keeper" do to make schools so angry that teachers send notes home telling parents they're not allowed? How did it go from innocent product that needed a lot of explanation:

To forbidden product? Why don't schools want kids to be organized? Or is Mead a sweatshop or something? What am I missing, here?

Another thing Americans say they hate but really they love? Cults. Not scary cults that hurt people and talk about comets, but cute, funny cults that we can embrace. Cults like "Trekkies" and "hippies" and "people who watch Oprah and appear to worship her" like that one lady who shows up on Oprah clips and who, when Oprah announces she's going to give stuff away, holds out her arms and closes her eyes and looks up to Heaven as if to say thank you, Lord-Who-Hopefully-Resembles-Oprah, for giving us Oprah-- who you hopefully resemble.

We Americans loves us some cults. We are only in theory a nation of rugged individualists; in practice, we are a nation of joiners. Drive into any community anywhere and odds are you'll see a sign telling you all the weird cult-like groups that operate, sub rosa, in that community -- groups like "Jaycees" and "Optimists' Club" and "Masons" and "the City Council," groups that you never actually see anyone be a member of, or actually see meet anywhere, or otherwise know about. People just belong to them and don't say anything about it; that's a cult, in my book.

Then there are the bigger cults, ones that have more fame and presumably more power than the "Jaycees." (Not that I'm downing the Jaycees! Don't come to my house and... do whatever it is Jaycees do when angry!) These are cults like the one I mentioned -- Trekkies-- and even more nefarious cults like "The Republican Party" and "Whoever it is that keeps American Idol on the air." They have membership in the billions, maybe, and their power reaches into our very homes to force us to keep living through Star Trek movie after Star Trek movie, or at the very least force us to hear, when we wake up on Thursday mornings, "news" about which interchangeable person is doing good on "American Idol" this week.

I don't know why they bother anymore. Has any person from "American Idol" made any song that anybody listens to anymore? Anybody besides my kids, anyway? Try this: Name three American Idol winners who aren't Kelly Clarkson. I bet you couldn't do it. I bet, in fact, that you said There've been three? And the answer to that is I don't know, because I don't watch the show because I am not a part of that cult.

I am not a part of any cult, which results in me feeling a little left out of American society, and a little relieved to have been left out of American society. Maybe the rest of you want to be a part of a group, but I don't. I've done everything I can to resist joining any more groups than I have to, with the result being that I'm not a card-carrying member of anything other than my library. (I also have a t-shirt from my library, so I am a card-carrying, t-shirt wearing library user.)

But even I understand the allure of cults -- I understand it because I, too, have felt the power of the cult and felt myself nearly swayed into its power and I didn't even realize it until it was too late and I'd bought a CD online.

The year was 2004 -- about this time in 2004, in fact-- July, 2004, almost exactly four years ago. I had just quit smoking and was looking for ways to keep having quit smoking. At the time, I was looking for anything to distract me from smoking. Some people would have thrown themselves into their work. Those people are not me. I threw myself into looking at things on the Internet-- a habit that I keep up, to this day -- and found a website about something called "The Polyphonic Spree."

At the time, the site wasn't quite like it is now-- now it's got that circus-y vibe going and a lot more information. Back then, in 2004, it was more mysterious and had less information. But it did have music that I could listen to while watching hypnotic visuals unfold and refold, and I began to listen to that and watch the stuff periodically, and then more than periodically. And then almost continuously. It was like Sand Game with less interactivity and more music.

It worked, though. It kept me from smoking, and then it worked some more and I ordered the CD online, and then it worked some more and I listened to that CD over and over again for about two weeks, getting more and more into the music...

... until I stopped myself just short because it was too hypnotic and too groovy and too powerful, and also because the next thing I bought to distract me from smoking was an iPod mini (when you stop smoking you have a lot of extra cash suddenly) and I then had 1000 songs to listen to and create playlists, which got me out from under the spell of The Polyphonic Spree.

Or so I thought, because I am not out from under their thumb, and neither are you, as evidenced by the fact that The Polyphonic Spree has successfully combined America's twin love-hates, cults and advertising, and are using them to take over your mind.

They're not the first cult to try to do that. The first Freaky Hippy Cult to try to take over America through freakiness and music and a message of love and peace was "The New Seekers." "The New Seekers," based on my exhaustive research consisting of watching videos of their commercials on Youtube and also having "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" on my iPod, are a group of people who wanted to teach the world to sing and buy them a Coke and take over your mind by staring into it hypnotically:

And they almost did it, only they forgot a key element of what is necessary to draw us into a cult, and that is robes. So while "The New Seekers" were moderately successful in the sense that the song from the commercial is genetically encoded into humans -- I bet if you sang the first few bars to my twin boys, who turn two on Friday, they would sing the remainder of the song, after they finished pulling pictures off the walls and throwing them at each other -- but only moderately successful because they didn't ultimately become the spokesperson for everything.

That role fell to, you guessed it, The Polyphonic Spree, who I'd never heard of before they helped me quit smoking, but who, as I've since then become aware, controls a significant portion of our economy.

You don't believe me? Perhaps you've heard a car commercial that featured a driving guitar line and then a choir singing about "light... and day..." while the car drove around? Here's a version:

a version with a song originally sung by The Polyphonic Spree. And that's not all. The Spree is also selling both perfume:

And selling that staple of American society, local news:

Uh-huh. You heard me right: when you get up in the morning to find out whether the day's going to be hot and what members of the local community are selling what sausage products to benefit what high school in your area, that is all being brought to you by The Polyphonic Spree.

Which wouldn't be half so scary except they are obviously a cult, and obviously enjoying themselves, and obviously making great music that can entrap you into their way of thinking, and also they wear very-comfortable looking robes that make the thought of joining The Polyphonic Spree more seductive than ever:

All of which makes The Polyphonic Spree a very powerful force and should be quite frightening to us all, except that it's not because we like ads and we like cults, which gives The Polyphonic Spree quite a bit of power over us, dictating what we drive and what is news and even how we smell, and making them The Best Freaky Hippy Cult That For Some Reason Is Used To Sell You Stuff, a status that should in no way cause any sort of concern in anyone, because even though The Polyphonic Spree is obviously very very powerful and obviously very much ensconced in our lives, we have nothing to worry about, because it's not like they have actually realized that they have all that power and become determined to act on it by transforming themselves from a loveable, cuddly-robe wearing cult into some sort of bizarre paramilitary group that is seconds away from overthrowing our current government... aw, crap:

Showdown September features competitions for The Best in categories where there are ONLY TWO possible nominees. Prior Showdowns:

The Best Celebrity Who Remains Unspeakably Cool No Matter What He Does

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Make out:

Thinking The Lions is the only website where you can find out why Velociraptors are fake, learn how to play "Cloverfield," and otherwise follow the hilarious adventures of a guy with a lot of kids, a lot of love of 70s music, a lot of time to watch Battlestar Galactica, and a very patient wife. Life, only funnier.

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