Saturday, July 23, 2005

Yours to Discover

Taking the bus from Ottawa back to Steeltown is about a five hour drive through the backlands of Ontario. You pass through the proud little town of Tweed, then Perth, and half way through the journey the bus stops at a cute lakeside truck stop that sells tasty homemade sandwiches, wraps and butter tarts. The landscape in between these settlements is mostly trees and swampland punctuated by small lakes, and you almost expect to see a moose or deer grazing in the marshes.

Problem is, the bus I was riding had a giant advertisement for Ontario tourism covering both sides of the vehicle. You could still see through the window, but it was like looking through the screen on an old oven door--everything was cloaked in a gray halftone that dimmed the view a good twenty percent.

I thought it was quite ironic that the landscape should be obscured by its own advertisement, and I felt like a prisoner being escorted to detention in one of those vans with the tinted windows. At least I was shielded from the blast furnace of the sun, but I wondered at the justness of tampering with the view of the passengers in such a way. Maybe the coach should issue discounts in accordance with how much of the scenery is obscured by their advertisements. Of course, according to this line of thought, people sitting in the aisle seat should pay less than those by the windows, and blind passengers should get to ride free.

Maybe we carry around grayscale screens in our brains as well--halftone patterns of thought and perception that dull our views of the world and sap the intensity of our experiences. Our minds, like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel before its restoration, might be so layered with the smoke and soot of ritualistic devotions that once brilliant colours are dimmed, and the hands of God and man, stretched towards each other, never quite touch due to the intervening membrane of grease.

Than again, maybe the masterpiece, as some have argued, looked better that way--steeped in the accretions of history--and should have been left alone. Or maybe all we need is a pair of 3-D glasses and a tab or two of acid to better appreciate the wowness of the now, the is-ness of the biz, and all the fantastic colours. I dunno. This whole metaphor is spiraling out of control like the meandering musings of a senile metaphysical poet.

What I do know is that subliminal advertising, as described by Wilson Bryan Key in the seventies, is passé. Like the advertisement for the splendors of Ontario plastering my bus window, what used to be a dimly perceived background is now foreground, and it is the original object of perception, the world itself, that has been relegated to the subliminal realm like a great, undiscovered continent.

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