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: Wondering what was behind that parade of elephants and dinosaurs down Shattuck yesterday in Berkeley? It was to celebrate Sumana's graduation! The Berkeley City Council itself took time from debating a vital measure that would ban all eating utensils except for chopsticks and drinking straws, to congratulate her on obtaining her degree. And so I add my voice to the multitude: congratulations, Sumana!

: I have a problem: I hate advertising. Under most circumstances I would not consider this a problem, but I'm starting to think that my hatred of advertising is neurotic. I will go out of my way to avoid doing things that I want to do because of advertising.

Example the first: I need to get a credit card. For most purchases I use a debit card hooked up to my checking account, but my debit card has a limit of about $500, so I can't buy expensive things like computers on it; for such things I need a credit card. I am apparently in the prime credit-card-getting demographic, and as such I have spent the past five years being deluged with gimmicky offers for credit cards. I get at least one such offer in the mail every week. I doubt it will ever get to the point where my seething rage at credit card companies subsides enough that I can bear to apply for a credit card.

Example the second: I'd like to get a cell phone (ironically, one of the reasons I want a cell phone is so I'll no longer have to answer the phone at my house hoping it's for me, when most of the time it's a telemarketer). But I also get offers for cell phones in the mail all the time! And what's worse--should I ever go to a mall, there's inevitably a cell phone salesbooth in the middle of the floor populated by postadolescent male sirens in ties, holding out cell phones and trying to get my attention. I will seriously hide behind other people as I enter the mall so that the salespeople will be distracted trying to sell those people cell phones and they won't notice me. There's no possible way I could go up to those people and say "Hi, I want a cell phone." It's like saying "Your film cycle on Lithuanian autocannibalism was transgressive and intertextual! I'd like to give you a grant!" It encourages behavior I don't want to encourage.

Example the third: anything that sounds like advertising or a prelude to a sales pitch makes me grit my teeth and seethe. When I walk into a Radio Shack or other store and the salesperson asks if they can help me find anything, I say "No", even if they really could help me find something! I resent them for trying to be helpful, because I'm afraid it'll turn into a sales pitch!

Example the fourth: this is where it goes beyond my self-centered world of electronic gadgets. I love the charity Heifer International. I want to give them a lot of money. But they keep sending me stuff in the mail, and just as with the credit cards and the cell phones that stuff triggers seething rage inside me! I know they're trying to push my buttons with the case study sob stories and whatnot, and I automatically decide on a visceral level that my buttons will not be pushed, that these people will not get my money.

It's as though every commercial and other piece of advertising I've ever seen has secretly wreaked its Hidden Persuaders doing on my helpless mind, but that rather than a plethora of tiny messages I've taken away a lowest common denominator message of "advertising is evil and its practitioners will not by me be rewarded", which is activated with the knee-jerk reliability by which the brainwashed-by-advertising drone of comic hyperbole feels an urge to purchase FooBar products after seeing the appropriate commercial.

I don't really have a solution for this, though the obvious first step is to somehow get off Heifer's mailing list so that I'll be able to keep sending them money.


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