Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pure Joy

(Nevermind the copyright info) 

it's a Zombie advertisement. Consume consume consume.

If you recently ordered to-go food at McDonalds,  this was on your bag. Do you really get pleasure out of a Big Mac? I also think it's funny how they've distressed the text, making it more Zombified/Post-apocalyptic. It's a very aggressive text as well, especially on the red. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Advertising

Google Search Stories
Google only recently started running advertising campaigns. Most of the commercials focus on Google's secondary projects (Chrome, Google+, etc), but the Search Stories highlight people actually using the search engine. Why? To create a community centered around Google. The Search Stories highlight individuals who discover, explore, and otherwise break boundaries, and contribute their findings to society (through Google) for the greater good. Aligning yourself with Google gives you access to these individuals and allows you to become one of these individuals (astronauts). 

"It just started as an idea, then something that wasn't there before was suddenly there."

Imported from Detroit Capaign

Imported from Detroit Campaign

I do not need to point out how Chrysler's Imported from Detroit Campaign captures the cowboy archetype. Just watch the video and Clint Eastwood will give you a pep talk that includes juxtaposes uncertainty with kindred spirit. Starting at 0:39s, Eastwood describes how we (Americans, Detroit) despite the hard times, we can overcome our hardships with our fighting spirit. Instead of casting the individual as cowboy, the commercial casts the abstracted whole of America as a cowboy. It's not the individual trying to succeed in this world, but the country succeeding over her foreign competitors.

"This country can't be knocked out with one punch, We get right back up again and when we do the world will hear the roar of our engines. Yeah."

((Of course, by purchasing an 'Imported from Detroit' vehicle, you (the individual) align with Cowboy America, while perpetuating your exotic, wild persona. ))

Ford Tire Commercial

"Its happening right there, every five seconds.... You aren't going to run out are you?"

In this commercial, Mike Rowe explains to viewers how Ford Dealers successfully sell tires. Every five seconds they sell a tire! Amazing! Every five seconds in the commercial Rowe points out when a theoretical tire is sold. This implies that, you, the viewer, should buy here too, since everyone else is buying here. So come buy! buy! buy!

The commercially subversively attempts to turn the viewer into a zombie. No reasons, facts, or logic exist in the commercial, other than 'we sell lots of tires'. Even then the salesperson never explicitly states that they actually sell those tires. She says "Well we purchase three million a year," in the hopes the viewers assume they sell them all. The commercial offers no evidence of quality (other than unnamed 'brand names') or price advantage. It relies on hoard mentality to bring the viewer to the dealership. 

The final lines of the commercial cement it in the zombie category. " 'You aren't going to run out are you?' 'No.'" (As if people rush to buy all the new tires they can to put into storage.) They creators of the commercial imply an endless supply of tires that simply appear in the dealership. They do not acknowledge the people, technology, or resources that contribute to the tire's creation. Simply, the commercial, with the help of Mike Rowe, makes the viewer desire a tire with no considerations other than Ford Dealerships sell them. 


American society’s doctrine constantly fluctuates. They pass their beliefs on through a combination of oral, visual, and written historical mythology that has been combined with hyperbole and fantasy. The resulting stories convey a multitude of ideas, often conflicting and often repetitious. Instead of choosing a single story as absolute, however, Americans choose to create multiple versions of these myths. Rearranging the circumstances of a generalized story allows repetition of beliefs, themes, and actions while altering the overall message. In doing so, Americans can reinforce ideologies with updated content that new generations can understand and relate to. 


Reinterpretation of older stories, either by rewatching or recreating, often produces different conclusions than what was initially intended. Most often the original value becomes completely irrelevant, making that narrative null to the current society. Occasionally, the value mutates into something wholly different, especially in remakes.  This change may be an action, type of individual, or belief that shifts from mundane to idealized/demonized, or vice versa. Most rarely, but most central to American doctrine, the new conclusion is exactly the same as it was in the past. These reinforce the core of their belief system.


Monologues, one liners, and catchphrases from such story become a part of daily practice. These mimemes carry America’s cultural ideas, symbols and practices. The proverbial phrases impart knowledge and understanding even without context.  An individual not knowing where the axiom comes from still accepts it as a truth of American mythology. 


BEARBULL is an important figure of American Mythology, albeit a lesser known one. This trickster shows up in many tales, often as an instigator. BEARBULL, or one of his allegorical forms, influences an individual to compromise his or her morals in order to gain something. In this way, BEARBULL is a trickster not unlike the Raven of Haida folklore. He is an omnipresent entity that represents power and/or wealth.
BEARBULL often shape shifts to keep his appearance a secret, and shamans don't openly or directly talk about him. What is known about BULLBEAR, comes from skewed oral, written, and pictorial traditions. The only definite fact known is BEARBULL’s colors: either green, or composed of precious materials. It is commonly believed that BEARBULL is a combination of the two creatures, but it has been suggested that he has two, six, seven, or thirteen faces. Alternatively, the multiple faces may be alternative BEARBULL forms. It must be noted that although this author genders BEARBULL as male, it may actually be female, hermaphroditic, or genderless.

In ritual, inviduals either give or receive a fetish BEARBULL, usually in exchange for an object or a service.  One end of the exchange gains wealth and the other power, but which benefits the most or how is still under dispute. We can also rephrase the exchange as one end gives wealth and the other gives power. The two parties either refuse to acknowledge or to admit who gains/gives what. The exchange’s ambiguity takes BEARBULL out of the good versus evil deity conversation. 

          To summarize, BEARBULL is a omniscient, omnipresent trickster. We do not understand, as of yet, his origin or purpose. The daily BEARBULL rituals exchange a BEARBULL respresentaion, often multiple times a day. More investigation is needed in order to better understand BEARBULL and how he fits into the greater mythos. 

States of Being

Like many cultures, New Americans distinguish moral from immoral behavior through allegorical existence. However, instead of a separate planes, like heaven or hell, they emphasize how the individual lives, his state of being.  In essence, the individual becomes one of three archetypes: the astronaut, the cowboy, or the zombie. It is hard to say whether the states of being are incentives for living morally, or merely a way to explain how the world works. Through the story ceremony, individuals identify the archetype, and often attach to one, revering it more than other. The individual then aspires to become more like that archetype, changing his or her behavior and outlook on life.
It is speculated that an individual can 1) transcend into the state of astronaut, 2) descend into the state of of a zombie, or 3) continue living in the realm of the cowboy. However other scholars speculate that the states of being are analogous to the Hindu states of consciousness, where individuals reside in particular states of being depending on their individual awareness and actions. This model suggests astronauts as the enlightened, zombies as the unaware and ignorant, and cowboys somewhere in between. Regardless of the believed purpose of these archetypes, we see them appear not just in the story ceremony, but in most all aspects of the society.
Before proceeding with the descriptions I would like to clarify several points. The archetypes are just that, archetypes. Unlike a god, there is no absolute set of rules that define each state. There is a generalized belief that separates the three, but even then we see the roles overlap, especially in the cowboy archetype. Similarly, typified realms exist for each state, but they act as scenery and each state is found in multiple realms within the mythology. That is, we usually see the cowboy in the open landscape, but that does not exclude the possibility of the cowboy in space. Finally, these archetypes are found cross gendered, but for simplicity sake I will be using the pronoun ‘he’.

[This is not the final post on the archetypes. Eventually, I will explore the two archetypes more in depth and specifically. ]

The Astronaut
The astronaut may be the most revered archetype among American society. Key aspects of the archetype color the astronaut as self-contained, alone, and existing within an infinite realm, yet aware of his dependence on others and the importance of whole. Characterized by innovation, initiative, and investigation, the astronaut contributes to society from afar; physically or psychologically existing within an infinite space. His discoveries reveal the unknown and unexplored, but often with more questions than answers. Cognition and the constant need to explore is the foremost concern to the astronaut.
Technology, seen as a representation of collective knowledge combined with cooperation, ties itself with the astronaut archetype. An individual transcends into the role of the astronaut through technology’s ability to carry (physically or psychologically) him into the unknown. In return, the astronaut sacrifices security in order to gain knowledge, which he then passes to the whole again. Occasionally, the astronaut himself creates the technology, negating the society’s contribution to the individual. However, even in this case the astronaut strives to better humanity or expand the wealth of knowledge through his actions.
Isolation sets the astronaut apart from typical society, signifying both transcendence and solitude. Seclusion gives more credence and sanctity to his discoveries, indicating them as more important than everyday findings. Solitude implies the individual’s importance within the collective efforts of the whole, rather than an ascetic’s self imposed exclusion from the whole. In a sense the solitude is a way of lifting the individual up from the masses, denoting the astronaut as a higher being. His actions, therefore, influence everyday life directly or indirectly. Influential actions the astronaut takes, however, must be selfless; to do otherwise places the individual within the cowboy’s realm. The astronaut must reside in a place between humility and bravado.
The collective turns to the astronaut for revelations in order to better understand the world. This never ending quest drives the astronaut further into the unknown, sometimes to the brink of no return. The astronaut must explore this unknown with the understanding that he may lose his life or ties to the Earth. This is the most important component of the archetype; knowledge before self. The astronaut has the capability to sacrifice his individual needs to explore beyond the current boundaries for the greater good.
In the story ceremonies, we sometimes the astronaut’s resolve tested. He must choose between further discovery or returning to Earth (the collective whole). Abandoning Earth may seem like a selfish act, but we can liken the action the transcendence into a buddah. The astronaut’s bodily possessions become irrelevant, and he completely gives himself to the unknown. A parallel option has the astronaut sacrifice his pursuits in order for Earth to survive. The second option, the act of returning to Earth, also becomes a positive choice. The astronaut brings new, useful knowledge back to the collective in order to bring a new era. This options encourages a astronaut-oriented community that prospers and lives peacefully. Some interpretations believe the returning astronaut akin to the returning of Christ.

The Cowboy

If society reveres the astronaut the most, they celebrate the cowboy most often. Part of cowboy's popularity derives from its broad definition. Essentially, the cowboy questions authority, follows his own morality, and controls his own destiny. The self always comes first and foremost, favoring self preservation over most anything else. His surroundings mix natural/chaotic and man-made/ordered elements to create a visual tension that he struggles with and against at various times. He prefers the untamed and unexplored because of its potential, but unlike the astronaut he must return to civilization. Distinctly human obligations (family ties, addiction, sustenance, or legalities) bring the cowboy back from the wilderness. In other words, the cowboy struggles with what it is to be human and must balance between expectations and natural inclination.
 As the most variable archetype, the cowboy never conforms to a single cannon, which plays up his  chaotic aspects. His natural instinct governs most of his actions, which strive for self preservation and glorification as well as the propagation of his ideals. In a sense the cowboy exists in a purgatory state, where he can define himself as good, evil, or neutral. His actions determine where he lies on the morality, but they can fluctuate and adapt to his situation.Lawlessness emphasizes a need for personal morality over societal, which informs his questioning of authority. If he deems his surroundings as immoral to his own, he will fight to change this.

Unlike the astronaut, the cowboy exists only as an individual, unconnected to a group and unwilling to sacrifice for the greater good. Because of his individuality, the cowboy remains open-eyed his surroundings. The cowboy has the ability to recognize social disparities, mendacious intent, and other easily overlooked conduct around him. Whether or not he acts upon his observations depends on the particular cowboy.

If the cowboy chooses to act upon his surroundings because he disagrees with them, he incites chaos and fights for his beliefs. Alternatively, he can choose to leave and enter the chaos of the unknown landscape in order to create a new order. Deeming his actions good or bad depends on the particular situation and his intentions. Either way, the fight or flight options highlight the cowboy's instinctual nature.

The Zombie

Lastly, we find the zombie as the most deplorable archetype. Mindlessness, consumption, apathy, and a non-influential lifestyle characterize the zombie. He does not contribute anything to society, and takes from it more than necessarily. The hoard mentality of mentality influences his actions: following whatever orders or actions the person near him does without regard to individual wants or needs. Personality decays into lustful coveting until only the shell of a person remains.

Lacking vivacity, the zombie shuffles along life without point or purpose. Occassionally, the zombie sees something it wants. A rash pursuit of the object proceeds, until the zombie obtains and obliterates the object. Sometimes this chase turns towards non-zombies, who can turn into zombies themselves if caught. Non-zombies ostracize such mindless, cosuming individuals in order to reduce their chances of becoming one.

The zombie usually finds himself in conjunction with astronaut or cowboy. In stories withe the astronaut, the zombie reverts back to consciousness through technological means. More often than not the cowboy kills the zombie, ridding the world of its presence. In addition to further defining the astronaut and cowboy roles, these actions encourage viewers to foster a personality, take action, and not to covet. The zombie can also be seen as obedient, acceptable, and unobtrusive. Americans, however, do not consider these positive values.

As a representation of the undesirable, zombies do not appear in American Mythology as often as the first two archetypes. It is also the newest archetype (cowboy the oldest), and not as nearly recognizable as the other two. That does not make the zombie irrelevant. Contrastingly, its youth shows America's recognition of new ideologies within the society. From the observer's viewpoint, the zombie must be the most important of the archetype.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Story Ceremony - Passages into Adulthood

The transcendence into adulthood from child occurs in stages during story ceremonies. Groups of children gather together in a darkened room and sit in rows facing a single direction. In the front of this room a projection of a story imparts age-appropriate cultural knowledge. Each story focuses mainly on one of the following: an explanation of an event, a illustration of a value, a definition or distinction of a group’s identity, an explanation of ritual origin or purpose, or as pure entertainment. We can distinguish four distinct age groups from these ‘story ceremonies’: from birth to about the age of seven; seven to thirteen; thirteen to eighteen.

(Birth - 7yrs)
The youngest of children learn from basic stories, although without as much ceremony and ritual found ceremonies for older children. At this level, the rituals functions as an introduction to the ritual process for the child. The stories present themselves in a visually fictional aesthetic, clearly defining this act as separate and more special than reality, and remain simplistic and short. They share basic knowledge or value typical to any society would want to impart: concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, masculine and feminine, etc. In a sense, the ceremony at this age prepares the child for future initiations.  

(7 - 13 years)
More complex ideologies emerge in the seven to thirteen age stories. We see more definitions of group identity and clearer value systems. Themes focus on working together, the importance of self, distinctions of social class, rising above social class, acceptance of an unknown, and exploration of the unknown. These seemingly contradictory values become the base of what we see as distinctly American ideology (discussed later). The imagery for this age group ranges from serenely fantastic to harshly realistic, but usually incorporate an element of realism not found in the younger age group. Through multiple ceremonies, children come to understand how the world around them operates, and how they should operate within it.

(13 - 18 years)
As in most societies, entering into puberty gives individuals access to the most important cultural knowledge. The story ceremonies at this level contain the most variety and mix realism with fantasy and censorship. Arguably, from this level the most potent mythology emerges. For Americans, becoming a ‘young adult’ imparts higher social significance to the story ceremonies and could be called the only initiation ceremony. What previously was an entertaining distraction or topical education transforms into a way to distinguish identity and create personal significance in life. All the purposes for the story ceremony (origins, values, group identity, reasons for rituals, and entertainment) exist in at this level, and the majority of story ceremonies fall into this category. Most notably, the essential archetypes astronauts, cowboys, and zombies become a central focus.

Interestingly, because group and individual identity emerges at the ages of thirteen to eighteen, parents allow their adolescents to participate in the story ceremony without supervision. Younger individuals (13-16) often attend in gender-specific groups in order to align themselves to a certain coterie that extends outside the ceremony complex. It is not entirely known why this factioning occurs, or whether it has a perceived or actual purpose. Older individuals within adolescence (16-18) partially abandon this mode of attending ceremonies and instead opt for cross gender groups or pairing. It is clear that the exploration of possible sexual partners is the cause for this change. 

Couples do not abandon there coteries, however; simply the coterie no longer attends ceremonies together. Two individuals interacting at the ceremony can elevate the two's coteries social standing outside the temple. Possible, the coteries and the couple corroborate an individual’s identity choices, and the attending of ceremonies in turn reinforce the group identity within everyday social interactions. Because of this cyclical, internal feedback system, the content of a coterie’s chosen genre of ceremony deeply impacts their social standing among other, unrelated coteries and therefore the group individuals' potential as socially approved [potential] sexual partners. The ceremony, therefore, determines how outsiders view the coterie and how the coterie view themselves.

The final level into adulthood occurs at the age of eighteen. Here the individual's identity becomes of utmost concern. Society at this time does not necessarily recognize the individual as an adult, but rather recognizes the individual’s ability to form a unique identity. Ceremonies at this level often explore the darkest themes and utilize the most realism compared the the younger ceremonies. Although individuals rarely go to story ceremonies alone, the social significance dramatically decreases at this level from previous ages. Instead the ceremony takes on either a introspective role or initiates a small dialogue among a group or pair. From the experience, individuals can better understand who they are or who they want to be. 

Although story ceremonies have age ristrictions, individuals may enter story ceremonies of a younger class if they so choose and various reasons exist to do so. For example: Revisiting childhood can reconnect the individual to essential values they may have forgotten. Or: A reinterpretation of an old story allows a old myth to fit within present ideologies while preserving a sense of history allows the individual to reconnect to the past. Allowing elders to participate in younger ceremonies also reinforce the validity and value of the stories to the society.

The Story Ceremony

The Story Ceremony

Going to the story ceremony no longer carries the importance as it once did, but people still revere and practice this ritual across America. All tribes, classes, genders, and ages partake in the story ceremony. Communities must build a specific type of temple in order to view new story ceremonies. Screening new stories in non-approved venues is absolutely forbidden. The procession of entering the temple builds up the importance of the story.

Admittance requires an exchange of goods, carefully collected by a temple novice who often physically separates herself from the ceremony goers. Society discourages individuals from going alone, so people usually enter in familial, social, or sexual groupings of two or more. The group proceeds from the entrance to a large nave. Here groups can purchase a sacrament, usually specially prepared corn and a carbonated beverage, to consume before and during the ceremony. Bringing outside sacrament is absolutely forbidden. When ready the group enters a darkened labyrinth and must find the correct ceremony room. Several ceremony rooms exist within each temple. It is forbidden to enter a ceremony room that an individual is not of age to enter, or any other room besides the one chosen before entering the temple. The entrance to the ceremony room itself is at the back of the room, but a hallway leads to the front of the room. Groups must then turn around and walk up stairs to choose their seats in the room. The seating is arranged in rows looking toward the front of the room. At a predetermined time, the ceremony begins. Ceremonies can last from an hour and a half to over three hours.Once over, the participants exit the temple through a door located within the ceremony room.

In addition to being a way to impart or reinforce values, the whole procession is an allegorical ritual of rebirth of each individual. Each must gain admittance, travel back to the room, gestate, and then reemerge with a higher sense of being.


First and foremost, I am not an academically accredited anthropologist, sociologist, philosopher, or historian. No formal training informs the posts in this blog; just observations of the society I live in. Some of those observations come from academic resources, others from dialogue between peers, and a good portion of it from just watching the world around me with a certain mindset. I do not intend readers to see the posts as Absolute Truths. The posts will be biased, they will be presumptuous, they will be brazen. Observing life, culture, as it happens demands quick assertions that will occasionally turn out incorrect. I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am trying to define and understand American culture in the twenty first century and how it influences people for personal reason. I welcome you to come along and play a part in these thought experiments.

Buckle up, Buddy, and let’s go.