Somehow I wound up with a copy of Vice Magazine under my bed. It was lying face down on the floor, gathering dust; the corner of the cover beginning to curl.
I'm not exactly sure how it got there. Surely no sordid explanation, other than that I'm not good at saying no when it's free.
I dropped my ID badge; it ricocheted off the coffee-table, off into the dark. I was a bit surprised, at seven thirty in the morning, to find myself face to face so suddenly with a scantily clad twenty-something. American Apparel, come let us adore thee.
The notoriety of these American Apparel ads, like the notoriety of a reality television personality, has served them well. It points to an unprecedented sophistication in communication. Advertising has become so good that it doesn't have to be good anymore.
It has built an intimacy with its audience that waives the need to stand on ceremony, to beat around the bush. We trust this form of communication like ducks near a blind. It no longer needs to dress itself up in appeals to dignity, to subversive innuendo, to aspirations, to taste. We all know what's going on, so let's put away the silverware.
The endless barrage of American Apparel ads are consciously sleazy, in the effort to exude authenticity. They speak more directly, like drunks, even if they might be a bit vulgar about it. They are more assuredly real for their visible shortcomings. If advertising mirrors an age, what do we see in ours?
Advertising is communication, but not that of some person or group to another. It is a direct relationship between the product and the individual. The product speaks to us as if it is a person, but we know that it is not.
I heard someone on the the train the other day telling her friend about naming her snowboard. The choice of "Emma" as a snowboard name was called into question. It is a far cry from that bit in Genesis. "All that creepeth upon the earth, and carveth sick powder?"
In a sense it is a perverse parody of the Platonic ascent. Moving through conversation towards an understanding of the constant. Only, we know the whole process to be entirely of our own fabrication.
If you jettison a philosophy of time, what else is left but a philosophy of the self? The search for meaning in the minutiae of consciousness. The spectre of seeking meaning in the truth advertising represents is a daunting one. Far better to turn away from this chasm, to turn inward, to look to the ground rather than to the infinite void of the heavens.
As Billy Bragg, of all people, once put it: "It's wrong to wish on space hardware..."
If our depictions of the gods echo the relationships we desire to have with others, then surely a religion of utter narcissism is particularly troubling. The danger of inwardness is, and always has been, the political danger. It works a disruptive sorcery on the world we hold in common; for one is necessarily quite lonely atop the lofty summits of the ego.
Lonely people, as we all know, tend to make their own rules.