11.20.2008

urine and acetic acid

Let's play a game.

Let's say that you, an average, modern Canadian are laying on your deathbed in a clean hospital room with that sanitized smell. You're surrounded by your tearful loved ones who squeeze your hands and pour out their hearts to you with the look in their eyes, while a doctor is explaining to your spouse just outside how sorry she is that she can do no more than ease your pain in these final hours.

Let's say that a stranger intrudes on this most intimate of moments with an offer so fantastic you can't even begin to imagine how it might be true. The stranger tells you that you can have another sixteen months of healthy life, but it comes at a price.

Let's say this fantasy offer truly could be made real if only you loosen your purse strings. How much would you pay? How much would your family pay? How much would you borrow, or beg for, or steal to cover this cost? What number would be too high?

Of course, no stranger that I've ever heard of could make such an offer. However if you are an average and modern Canadian, then statistically by the time you reach the end of your days you will have spent at least (I'm rounding down quite a bit) sixteen months of your life watching commercials on TV.

Now having played our little game, how much more than you currently pay would be willing to part with for one hundred percent commercial free television? Fifty percent more? Double?

It doesn't matter. Since no cable provider anywhere offers such a service, this question will have to remain part of our little game. But it does compel me to share a story my mother told me about how excited she was as a girl when she heard about "pay TV".

In the days of rabbit ears when no one payed for TV, broadcasters had no choice but to make their profits from advertisers. But when pay TV came along it brought with it the promise of commercial free programming. I have no idea if that ever actually happened, but you certainly don't need me to tell you it's not around today. We pay for the privilege of being advertised at all over the place.

Brand name articles of clothing with large logos will cost you top dollar. Commercial DVDs are almost exclusively shipped with not only trailers for other movies and TV shows but also spots for cars and prestige perfume lines that cannot be skipped or bypassed easily. Most perversely if you pay to see a film at the theatre not only are you subjected to threats about piracy, you'll sit through upwards of thirty minutes of ads before the show even starts. If you'd stayed home and pirated it you'd have those thirty minutes of your life back, plus an extra twelve bucks!

Why do we tolerate these intrusions into our leisure time from some industries and not others? What would you do if you bought a CD and when you played the first track discovered that it had a thirty second radio spot advertising car insurance? What if every time you went through a checkout at your local department store the clerk first told you about how many months of jail time you'll do if you try to shoplift something and then went on to describe every item in their weekly flyer before ringing up your purchases?

I wrote last week that I haven't owned a TV in years, not because I dislike TV but due to my deep loathing for commercials. I will never pay to watch a commercial again. I'm that asshole who rolls into the theater twenty minutes late every time and makes you get out of my way so I can get to the only available seat beside you. I'm the guy who keeps the folks manning kiosks laden with bootleg copies of next weeks blockbuster movies in business. I'm the guy who refuses to buy anything with more than a three centimeter logo on it.

Want me to wear your swag? Fine, pay me like you pay the billboard industry. You can't shovel shit into your customer base like they're nothing but mouths with wallets and then cry foul when they find a way to make you obsolete. Find a way to sell me what I want or file for chapter eleven.

Game over.
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