All Turkmenbashi On This Bus
by Mad Dog
messages, for those of you who have never wondered why you suddenly
booked a trip to climb Mt. Everest after watching the Anna Nicole
Show, are short, barely perceptible images which are flashed on a
||As of January 1st, Russian
TV stations will have to stop inserting subliminal messages into their
programming. Apparently they’ve been doing it a lot. According to the
Russian news agency Itar-Tass (motto: “All the news, when we have
electricity”), as many as one-fifth of the TV programs have extra
frames inserted, some with messages suggesting viewers not change the
channel, others with political ads, and still others with a photograph
of American Idol judge Simon Cowell with the word Satan superimposed on it. Right, like
everyone doesn’t already know that. This will change life in Russia.
Vodka sales will plummet, people will stop standing in line even though
they know there’s no food to be had, and everyone will finally quit
repeating that stupid joke asking who’s buried in Lenin’s tomb.
Right, as if we don’t all know it’s Grant by now.
Subliminal messages, for those of you
who have never wondered why you suddenly booked a trip to climb Mt.
Everest after watching the Anna Nicole Show, are short, barely
perceptible images which are flashed on a screen, embedded in a
photograph, or worked into artwork. Supposedly the message sinks into
your subconscious, swims around the murky bottom searching for wrecked
mental Titanics, then bubbles up to the surface where it gasps for air
and makes you crave things you never even considered wanting before.
This may help explain the popularity of those Chicken Soup books, Elimidate,
and green colored ketchup, though not well.
Saparmurat Niyazov decided it was too much to ask of citizens to
remember the name of their country, its leader, cities, airports, and
that confusing first month of the year, he decided to take the easy
path—he named them all after himself.
Subliminal advertising was first brought to our attention by
Vance Packard in his book Subliminal Seduction, which sold well
thanks to the hidden message on the cover which caused people looking
for The Oxford English Dictionary to buy his book instead. Just kidding.
Actually no one looks for the Oxford English Dictionary. At 20 volumes
you don’t have to look, it takes up the whole room. Packard claimed
movie theaters were flashing “Buy popcorn” in the middle of the
feature and advertisers were having artists
subtly draw the word "sex" as part of an ice cube in liquor
ads. He claimed these subconsciously made people want to spend a
ridiculous amount of money for a tub of popcorn larger than their car
and say really cheesy pick-up lines to the ice cubes in their gin and
Scientists have always debated
whether subliminal messages actually work. A couple of years ago a
psychology professor at the University of Washington (motto: “Not that
one silly, the other
Washington”) released a study claiming it doesn’t. His experiments
showed that students who were exposed to a letter flashed on a screen
only retained the information for about one-tenth of a second, or about
the same amount of time most of the male subjects thought foreplay
should last. In other words, it’s gone before you can even think about
asking for extra butter-flavored soybean oil.
But that’s not stopping the Russian
government, which plans to have special equipment monitoring the
airwaves. It also won’t stop those sponsoring the subliminal
advertising. You can bet they’ll find another way to get people to do
their bidding. One way they might consider is to imitate their former
Soviet Union republic-mate, Turkmenistan.
Considering the average life expectancy there is 60 for men
and 65 for women, there will be precious few Senior Citizens around with
bad memories to forget the new days of the week.
When President Saparmurat Niyazov (motto: “I’m not Idi Amin
but I play him on Turkmenistan television”) decided it was too much to
ask of citizens to remember the name of their country, its leader,
cities, airports, and that confusing first month of the year, he decided
to take the easy path—he named them all after himself. First, he
decreed he would be known as Akbar Turkmenbashi, the Great Leader of All
Turkmen. Then he named a city, various streets, factories, mosques, and
even a meteorite Turkmenbashi. A few weeks ago, in a fit of public
spirit, he proposed they rename the months of the year, beginning with
January which—hold onto your calendars!—would be known as
Turkmenbashi. Who needs subliminal messages when you have redundancy?
The assembly quickly went along with
him, even though two of the other months are to be named—True Fact
Alert!—Flag and Mother. His latest proposal is to rename the days of
the week, but since oddly none of them are to be named Turkmenbashi it
will never fly.
“But if none of the days are named
after him, how will people in their old age whose memories aren’t as
sharp as they once were remember the new names?” you might ask.
Don’t worry, they don’t call him the Great Leader of All Turkmen for
nothing. Last week he decreed that the various stages of life would be
restructured. Adolescence would officially be from the age of 12 to 25.
Maturity would be between 37 and 49. And old age would begin at 85.
Considering the average life expectancy there is 60 for men and 65 for
women, there will be precious few Senior Citizens around with bad
memories to forget the new days of the week. See, things are simple when
you think them through. The other 12-year life cycles include prophetic,
inspirational, and wise. Amazingly, not one is named Turkmenbashi.
This is a much better system than
subliminal messaging. For one, it’s easy to remember. For another, it
doesn’t waste a single precious frame of a TV program. Besides, the
truth is anyone with a lick of sense [send
money] knows that subliminal advertising couldn’t possibly work [send
lots of money] because we as human beings [send
all your money] just aren’t that gullible
[care of this newspaper]. Right?
©2002 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read between the lines.